Helen Raven “Helen Raven” (Phonic Box Records, 2018)

This four-track EP from UK based Helen Raven is her debut release with all tracks having been written, recorded and produced by the artist. Raven describes the genre of her work as “Folk Noir” which is presumably a reference to the heavy influence of the French chanson style which gives a melancholic tinge to the songs. Accompanied only by guitar, Raven’s at times erotic voice is very much to the fore, although her singing style means that the lyrics are often hard to follow especially on the opening track ‘La Rou Ronsard.’ Continue reading “Helen Raven “Helen Raven” (Phonic Box Records, 2018)”

Gerry Spehar “Anger Management” (Independent, 2018)

Despite the title of this excellent record Gerry Spehar is clearly a very angry man, the subject of his ire being mainly about a certain US President. However, this is not a one dimensional piece but rather a protest record in the grand tradition of years gone by with anti-war sentiment and concern for the downtrodden.  A little background for anyone who is not familiar with Spehar – he is from Colorado and started performing in the 1970’s, although having a family meant that financial necessity drove him to hold down a non-musical job for a while before returning to what is his musical calling.  This album of 13 tracks is co-produced by Spehar and Paul Lacques of I See Hawks In L.A. and backed up by most of that band. Continue reading “Gerry Spehar “Anger Management” (Independent, 2018)”

The Magic City Trio “Amerikana Arkana” (Independent 2018)

This is a somewhat quirky but truly original offering from London based group The Magic City Trio who, according to their website take their inspiration from pre-war country music, The Carter Family, through to modern hillbilly noir found in the novels of Daniel Woodrell. The band comprises Frank Sweeney (Guitar, Vocals and Harmonica), Annie Holder (guitar, vocal and kazoo) and Adi Staempfli (bass and vocals) and it seems that they have written at least some if not all the ten tracks that comprise the album. That being the case they have indeed been seeped in the music as the songs are intelligent, original and authentic. The opening track ‘Black Dog Following Me’ will immediately take you to the opening scene of a spaghetti western such is the sound landscape that accompanies this clever track about mental fragility. Continue reading “The Magic City Trio “Amerikana Arkana” (Independent 2018)”

Dan Hartland “Great Novels” (Independent, 2018)

It’s always good to come across homegrown talent which is what is firmly on show here with the first full length record from Dan Hartland. Intelligent lyrics, hummable melodies and some rather fancy top notch guitar playing all add up to a very listenable eleven track album. The title track ‘Great Novels’ is, as the title hints, all about writing and inspiration accompanied solely by Hartland’s guitar which on this track in particular is top drawer and indicative of the overall folk acoustic style. Continue reading “Dan Hartland “Great Novels” (Independent, 2018)”

Simon Linsteadt “February” (Stormy Deep Records 2018)

This album exudes relaxed California cool, which is just as well really as the artist is a native of that State. Without the knowledge that this was a new release it is likley that you would assume that the music here hails from the early 70’s. There are many comparisons that can be made such as America, Poco (indeed Linsteadt’s voice is not unlike that of Timothy B Schmit) Seals & Croft and almost all of the Laurel Canyon brigade. There is a gentleness to the whole work which is essentially acoustic demonstrating Lindsteadt’s guitar skills. Continue reading “Simon Linsteadt “February” (Stormy Deep Records 2018)”

Anjana Vasan “Too Dark For Country” (Folkroom Records 2018)

Anjana Vasan is an actress who now demonstrates a new side to her talents as a singer / songwriter with a really impressive four track debut EP ‘Too Dark for Country’. This is essentially an acoustic folk record with the essence of blues and country on show. Vasan has a strong and powerful voice which she uses to full effect on each track. Continue reading “Anjana Vasan “Too Dark For Country” (Folkroom Records 2018)”

Daisy Chapman “Good Luck Songs” (Songs & Whispers 2017)

Good Luck Songs is the third album from Bristol based Daisy Chapman who presents here an album of eight original songs and one remake of an old standard. With a distinctive soaring vocal she is able to set herself apart from other singer-songwriters with the opening title track being a perfect example. Effectively saying good luck in many languages the overall refrain is Kila la Kheri,  which appears to be that sentiment in Swahili, delivered over lush strings and choir. This really is a mesmerising and enchanting track. Continue reading “Daisy Chapman “Good Luck Songs” (Songs & Whispers 2017)”

Jesse Terry “Stargazer” (Jackson Beach Records 2017)

Jesse Terry  has lived a life even though he is still a young man. A teenage runaway he endured a difficult time which has certainly inspired his song writing although this album is no downbeat affair and is generally uplifting. The opener and title track Stargazer is an optimistic piece about facing your own fears and the world generally. Lushly orchestrated this has pleasing harmony and soaring chords. A US citizen, Terry is aware of the divisions in American society and sings of them but remains hopeful. His website carries a nice quote which is worth repating here: “I think I will always be innately hopeful, because I’ve seen how much life can change…and I’ve seen how much people can change, if they open up and allow themselves to do so.” Continue reading “Jesse Terry “Stargazer” (Jackson Beach Records 2017)”

May Erlewine “Mother Lion” (Independent, 2017)

34 year old May Erlewine is from Big Rapids, Michigan who remarkably has over 15 albums of original work to her name since the beginning of her career which was in the early 2000s although on occasion she has released work under the name of Daisy May. An undoubted talent she is a multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer and has had her songs covered by many other artists. This has the feel of a coming of age album and indeed it has garnered praise from many quarters including Ricky Ross who has played a number of tracks on his Another Country programme on BBC Radio Scotland. Continue reading “May Erlewine “Mother Lion” (Independent, 2017)”

Sunfields “Mono, Mono” (Exit Sign Music 2017)

Hailing from Montreal Sunfields is a group of four although their undoubted leader is Jason Kent who wrote all eleven songs on this album which is credited as being produced by the whole band. An antidote to the winter blues and dare it be suggested those who may not wholly take on board the Christmas spirit this is an uplifting and fun piece of work full of jangly guitars and addictive harmonies. Continue reading “Sunfields “Mono, Mono” (Exit Sign Music 2017)”