Snowgoose “The Making Of You” (Glass Modern, 2020)

Back in 2012, Snowgoose created some significant ripples in the Scottish music scene when they released their debut album. Based around the crystal clear vocals of Anna Sheard and the song writing skills of Jim McCulloch and backed by a who’s who of indie Scots musicians, the album, ‘Harmony Springs’, was hailed as a worthy successor to the likes of Pentangle and Fairport Convention. Eight years later and Sheard and McCulloch weigh in again with ‘The Making Of You’, an album which eclipses its predecessor in many respects. Continue reading “Snowgoose “The Making Of You” (Glass Modern, 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: John Stewart “California Bloodlines” (Capitol, 1969)

It’s February 1969 and while Woodstock is yet to happen, the sixties have peaked, psychedelia is a busted flush and Dylan and The Band are leading a return to more traditional American music. Dylan in fact is recording ‘Nashville Skyline’ and in the studio across the street, John Stewart, a folk singer who has spent six years with The Kingston Trio, is recording his first proper debut album with his producer, Nik Venet slyly stealing players from the Dylan sessions as he pulls in favours. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: John Stewart “California Bloodlines” (Capitol, 1969)”

Indigo Girls “Look Long” (Rounder Records, 2020)

There are few beacons of hope beaming from the USA these days but a new Indigo Girls album is surely one of them. Proudly gay and supporters of too many causes to list here, they have garnered awards galore over their career and ‘Look Long’, their first release in five years will probably gather more in the months to come given that it is on a par with their best work. Continue reading “Indigo Girls “Look Long” (Rounder Records, 2020)”

Steve Earle & The Dukes “Ghosts Of West Virginia” (New West Records, 2020)

There’s nothing like a cause to get Steve Earle all fired up so when he was approached to write a set of songs for a theatre production about 29 miners killed in a coal dust explosion in Raleigh County, West Virginia in 2010, it must have seemed like grist to the mill. The play, ‘Coal Country’, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, featured Earle on stage throughout with his songs delivered solo in a “Greek chorus” format. There were seven songs in all and Earle has reworked them with The Dukes for ‘Ghosts Of West Virginia’, adding three related songs to flesh out the running time. Continue reading “Steve Earle & The Dukes “Ghosts Of West Virginia” (New West Records, 2020)”

Jake Blount “Spider Tales” (Free Dirt Records, 2020)

Taking his cue from the likes of The Carolina Chocolate Drops and subsequent forays by Dom Flemons,  Rhiannon Giddens and Songs Of Our Native Daughters, banjo and fiddle player Jake Blount  peers into the past when folk and ountry blues tunes and songs, many with origins in Africa and transported via slavery, were popularised, in the main, by white entertainers. As with his peers, Blount reclaims these songs, emphasising their origins as he writes about them while the album title harks back to African folklore relating to a series of fables from Ghana featuring a mythical trickster called Anansi who often appeared in spider form. Continue reading “Jake Blount “Spider Tales” (Free Dirt Records, 2020)”

Brian Fallon “Local Honey” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)

On his third solo outing, Brian Fallon, by now well away from the New Jersey garage band sound of Gaslight Anthem, moves further into the realm of introspective singer song writing. ‘Local Honey’ is a short (just over 30 minutes) collection of songs, some personal from a man entering middle age, others drawing on the grand tradition of storytelling. Fallon says that the album was influenced by several of his favourite songwriters, citing Dylan especially along with the production values of Daniel Lanois. Continue reading “Brian Fallon “Local Honey” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

Zach Aaron “Fill Dirt Wanted” (Independent, 2020)

From the delicious black humour on the album sleeve to the 12 songs of down home rambles contained within, ‘Fill Dirt Wanted’, the third album from Texan Zach Aaron, is a delight from start to finish. Recorded in Oklahoma, the album finds Aaron seeking succour from that old Okie, Woody Guthrie while maintaining a fine Texas voice with songs reminiscent of Guy Clark, Willie Nelson and Terry Allen. Recorded live straight to tape with a small ensemble, there’s a vibrancy to the songs which range from humorous talking blues to songs addressing the human condition and its attendant woes. Throughout the album, Aaron shines, his voice honest and earnest, an engineer of the human soul. Continue reading “Zach Aaron “Fill Dirt Wanted” (Independent, 2020)”

Support Your Local Venue: The Railway Inn, Winchester

We’re only two items into our occasional series on those local venues which are the heart and soul of our music and of course, this damned virus has now shut them all down. It’s a blow to all of us who enjoy gig going but this inconvenience is minor compared to the real threat to the livelihoods of many. Musicians have had their dates cancelled but many have recourse to virtual gigs which have proliferated. However, the venues are closed, staff laid off, whether they worked at the bar, on the sound or lighting, in the kitchens or cleaning the place. Many owners and landlords don’t know if they’ll weather the storm or if, at the end of this nightmare, they’ll be able to reopen Continue reading “Support Your Local Venue: The Railway Inn, Winchester”

Waco Brothers “Resist!” (Bloodshot Records, 2020)

Cash meets Clash! The Waco Brothers, a mash up of Jon Langford’s punk sensibilities and cowpunk twang, are probably the only band still around who merit the term “Insurgent Country,” a trademark on which Bloodshot Records built their reputation. ‘Resist!’ is an excellent compilation drawn from their  20 plus years with the label with many of the songs being released on vinyl for the first time. The collection focuses on their songs about resistance and protest and one presumes it was compiled as a response to current US politics but, closing as it does with ‘Bad Times are Coming ‘Round Again’, it’s weirdly prescient. Continue reading “Waco Brothers “Resist!” (Bloodshot Records, 2020)”

The Song Remains: Steve Weber 1943-2020

The death of Steve Weber, one half of the fabled Holy Modal Rounders, progenitors of underground then psychedelic and eventually freak-folk has, for the most part gone unnoticed. The Rounders, a guitar, banjo and fiddle duo featuring Weber and co-founder Peter Stampfel, were a bellwether of sorts back in the sixties, blazing trails and opening the doors for acts such as The Lovin’ Spoonful while they became a touchstone for many in the freak-folk movement at the turn of the century. They were irreverent, sometimes obscene, always euphoric, putting the alt in folk and country long before the term was coined. As Rolling Stone called them at one point, they were gonzo traditionalists, they made folk music weird. Continue reading “The Song Remains: Steve Weber 1943-2020”