Oh Susanna “Johnstown 20th Anniversary Re-mastered & Extended” (Continental Song City, 2019)

20 years after its original release, Suzie Ungerleider’s debut album as Oh Susanna gets a reboot. Following on from a vinyl only reissue earlier this year for Record Store Day, it’s now available on CD including five acoustic songs which were offered as a download for purchasers of the limited edition vinyl. On its release ‘Johnstown’ was critically acclaimed and it was championed here in the UK by Bob Harris. Back then it was tagged as folk-noir and there’s no reason to quibble with that as there are dark undertones on many of the numbers but what is remarkable is how contemporary the album sounds. Continue reading “Oh Susanna “Johnstown 20th Anniversary Re-mastered & Extended” (Continental Song City, 2019)”

Fruit Bats “Gold Past Life” (Merge Records, 2019)

Essentially a vehicle for Eric D. Johnson, a sometime member of The Shins, Fruit Bats deliver their first album for Merge Records with a fizzy, at times sugary, flourish. The 11 songs here are bathed in a nostalgic wash with Johnson inhabiting the summery breezes of those classic songwriters who delivered their wares in highly structured units. Thus, there are whiffs of Todd Rundgren, Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson and even the brothers Gibb secreted within the globs of synthesised pop laid down here although they are leavened with some cosmic country pedal steel stylings. Continue reading “Fruit Bats “Gold Past Life” (Merge Records, 2019)”

Interview: Jeb Loy Nichols on keeping it simple

Although he is now happily ensconced in the rural delights of mid Wales, Jeb Loy Nichols has a chequered past. Born in Wyoming, raised in Missouri and Texas, he grew up steeped in music and aged 17,  stepped out into the world, working in New York record stores before coming to the UK in the early 80’s and falling in with the burgeoning post punk reggae scene. He first recorded as the Fellow Travellers in 1990 with an intriguing mix of country, folk, soul and reggae, and that questing spirit has informed his subsequent solo and collaborative efforts. Continue reading “Interview: Jeb Loy Nichols on keeping it simple”

Terry Lee Hale + Chiara Berardelli, The Doublet, Glasgow, 19th June 2019

A worthy crowd turned out on a dreich Glasgow night to hear and see Terry Lee Hale in this intimate upstairs pub room. Although not a household name, Hale was at the forefront of the nascent Americana scene in the 1990’s, particularly in Europe through his relationship with Glitterhouse Records. This decade has seen him release two magnificent albums, both on Glitterhouse, ‘The Long Draw’, released in 2013, and then ‘Bound, Chained, Fettered’, from 2015 and tonight featured a fine selection from both along with a smattering of songs from earlier releases. Continue reading “Terry Lee Hale + Chiara Berardelli, The Doublet, Glasgow, 19th June 2019”

Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore “Working-Class Heroes: A History Of Struggle and Song” (Free Dirt Records, 2019)

You know times must be tough when an album of pre World War 2 working class American songs sounds topical. ‘Working- Class Heroes’ finds folk singers Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore revisiting 20 songs mainly culled from ‘Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People’, a book compiled by Alan Lomax with notes on the songs from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, which was published in the sixties. It’s a reminder that times were certainly tough back then and also that the American working class were much more radical with communism and anarchy popular while strikes were often broken with savage violence by the forces of capitalism. Continue reading “Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore “Working-Class Heroes: A History Of Struggle and Song” (Free Dirt Records, 2019)”

Paul Cauthen + Fenella + Julen Santamaria, Broadcast, Glasgow, 17th June 2019

Last time Texan Paul Cauthen was around these parts he was riding solo but this first date of a short UK tour found him with a posse of armed and dangerous Dallas cowboys well able to kick up a ruckus and lay down some deadly country music. With Rolling  Stone debuting Cauthen’s audacious video for ‘Cocaine Country Dancing‘, the first song to be released from his forthcoming ‘Room 41’ album, just a few days before the show, appetites were whetted for the full band experience and we were not disapointed. Continue reading “Paul Cauthen + Fenella + Julen Santamaria, Broadcast, Glasgow, 17th June 2019”

Dinah Brand “Thank You Driver” (Transduction Records, 2019)

A four-piece band from Dublin, Dinah Brand prove to be quite a seductive listen on this, their third album. There’s a dreamlike quality to much of the album, the songs almost translucent as they float from the speakers. Despite this apparent lightness of foot there’s a powerful engine room driving the music. A nice sludgy bass roots the band while percussion is spare and efficient. Over this bedrock, guitars glide, shimmer and occasionally, growl. It’s reminiscent of various bands and eras. Scratch at the surface and you’ll find traces of Neil Young, The Church, Dave Gilmore’s Floyd songs and other English psychedelia, while a closer look might remind some of obscure Americana bands such as Granfaloon Bus or Souled American. Continue reading “Dinah Brand “Thank You Driver” (Transduction Records, 2019)”

Mekons “Deserted” (Glitterbeat Records, 2019)

Forty years down the line, the Mekons remain one of the most credible bands to have emerged from Punk who are still drawing breath. One of the first outfits to recognise that authentic roots music could be punk in nature, they drew on insurgent country, folk and world music to forge a reputation as an ever-questing and energetic lot, their album releases still pertinent and welcome. A far cry from many of their early contemporaries. Continue reading “Mekons “Deserted” (Glitterbeat Records, 2019)”

The Mountain Goats “In League With Dragons” (Merge Records, 2019)

Do folk still make rock operas in the 21st century? Seems like it as The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle says that ‘In League With Dragons’ was originally supposed to be a series of songs about a “besieged seaside community called Riversend, ruled by a benevolent wizard.” Maybe Rick Wakeman wasn’t available to play the keyboards but the project morphed into this collection of slick songs which continue the sonic direction taken on their last album, ‘Goths’. Darnielle remains a whip smart writer, a cross between Willie Vlautin and Eef Barzley if you wish, with several of the songs here mini sketches of contemporary wizards such as rock stars and sportsmen. Continue reading “The Mountain Goats “In League With Dragons” (Merge Records, 2019)”

Interview: Jesse Dayton revives the mix tape

Up until a couple of years ago, Jesse Dayton wasn’t a name on many folks’ lips despite a CV which is somewhat staggering. In addition to having released 11 solo albums he’s played guitar, live and in the studio, with a host of luminaries who straddle the worlds of country and rock. These include Doug Sahm, Flaco Jimenez, Johnny Gimble, The Supersuckers, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush, Glen Campbell, and John Doe. He’s also entered the world of movie soundtracks collaborating with Rob Zombie on three of Zombie’s flicks (and appearing in one of them). Continue reading “Interview: Jesse Dayton revives the mix tape”