Sally Anne Morgan “Thread” (Thrill Jockey, 2020)

There aren’t many albums sent to AUK which mention The Third Ear Band in the promotional notes. Sally Anne Morgan is an Appalachian fiddle player (with Black Twig Pickers and the duo House and Land) and on her first solo album she not only delves into traditional Appalachian music but she expertly inserts influences gleaned from the golden age of English folk rock and exponents such as Shirley Collins and Nic Jones. The result is this intriguing album which places Morgan in the footsteps of The Holy Modal Rounders, Karen Dalton, Hillfolk Noir, Anna & Elizabeth and other practitioners of old weird Americana. Comprised of traditional covers and self penned songs, the join is invisible. Continue reading “Sally Anne Morgan “Thread” (Thrill Jockey, 2020)”

Classic Americana Compilations: Various Artists “Acres For Cents” (Zippo 1987)

What is a compilation album? A bespoke tribute to a singular artist might be considered to be a compilation, but for this writer it’s basically a bunch of otherwise available songs slung together for one reason or another. Usually the reason is to sell more records of course. Much has been made in these pages of Uncut’s series of Americana themed cover mount CDs. It’s like your friendly neighbourhood drug dealer wheeling you in as he whispers, “The first one’s free…” And ofttimes, that dealer was a record label. There’s an honourable tradition of labels selling compilations of their artists at loss-leading prices, sometimes with an otherwise unavailable track as an additional incentive. Some of those albums are now revered. Think of Island Records’ ‘We Can All Join In’, the CBS sampler, ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’, or Atlantic Records’ ‘Age Of Atlantic’. Here we’d like to make a case for this 1987 release to join that pantheon. Continue reading “Classic Americana Compilations: Various Artists “Acres For Cents” (Zippo 1987)”

Gillian Welch “Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol.1” (Acony Records, 2020)

Lockdown seems to have spurred Gillian Welch into action. Hardly a prolific artist, this latest disc comes hot on the heels of her covers album, ‘All The Good Times’, and a further two volumes of so-called “lost songs” are promised soon. ‘All The Good Times’ was a lockdown collection of fresh recordings with her long time partner David Rawlings, but ‘The Lost Songs’ series comprise a selection drawn from a cache of home demos and reel-to-reel recordings laid down by Welch and Rawlings in 2002. Apparently, this burst of activity was in order to release Welch from a publishing contract and the songs were then filed away. The three volumes will feature 48 new songs, a veritable treasure trove for fans. Continue reading “Gillian Welch “Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol.1” (Acony Records, 2020)”

Paul Kelly/Paul Grabowski “Please Leave Your Light On” (Cooking Vinyl, 2020)

When AUK reviewed Paul Kelly’s recent retrospective collection, ‘Songs From The South’, we remarked on Kelly’s magpie like ability to gather up elements from power pop, folk, rock, bluegrass, soul and country over a prolific career allowing him to be considered as Australia’s foremost singer songwriter. ‘Please Leave Your Light On’ however is a bit of a curveball as Kelly teams up with jazz pianist Paul Grabowski (a fellow Australian) for a set of intimate voice and piano duets. Continue reading “Paul Kelly/Paul Grabowski “Please Leave Your Light On” (Cooking Vinyl, 2020)”

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)”