Hiss Golden Messenger “Terms Of Surrender” (Merge Records, 2019)

M. C. Taylor’s shape shifting collective, Hiss Golden Messenger, is very like a ship whose course is set by its captain’s moods and emotions. Pre release talk of Terms Of Surrender being, “Taylor’s journey through a tumultuous year of trauma and psychological darkness, hoping and working towards redemption and healing, and the conflicting draw of home and movement,” perhaps led some to expect a dark and brooding work. It’s true that there are moments here when Taylor is addressing some meaty issues (and that’s not something he’s shied away from before) but the album’s voyage is at time glorious with Taylor’s winning combination of glistening folk, rock, blues and soul engaging from start to finish. Continue reading “Hiss Golden Messenger “Terms Of Surrender” (Merge Records, 2019)”

Interview: Pete Gow – “Up close and very personal…”

Pete Gow, front man for the late Case Hardin, one of the UK’s foremost hard rocking Americana styled bands, surprised a lot of folk when he released his first solo album, ‘Here There’s No Sirens’ back in April. Gone was the rollicking and hard rocking thrust of Case Hardin, replaced by intimate stripped back songs, mainly acoustic and awash with bold brass and string arrangements. And while the sound of the album may have surprised many folk, it was praised across the board, with AUK’s review saying it was, “a deeply personal and intimate set of songs with some great lyrics and astute musicianship, all recorded wonderfully and delivered with heart.”  Already, in some quarters, it’s been mentioned as likely to be in the short list for UK album of the year at the next AMAUK awards ceremony. Continue reading “Interview: Pete Gow – “Up close and very personal…””

Red River Dialect “Abundance Welcoming Ghosts” (Paradise Of Bachelors, 2019)

Red River Dialect are a Cornish troupe, a vehicle for the songs of  David Morris, a man who seems to take life quite seriously as he finds inspiration in the nooks and crannies of Celtic legend and misty landscapes. An inward looking soul on a spiritual voyage of discovery, Morris took the band to Wales to record this disc prior to him undertaking a nine month retreat in a Nova Scotia Buddhist monastery and it has sat, awaiting his return, in order for the band to promote it on their imminent tour. Continue reading “Red River Dialect “Abundance Welcoming Ghosts” (Paradise Of Bachelors, 2019)”

Israel Nash + Leslie Stevens, Oran Mor, Glasgow, 26th August 2019

Coming to the end of a long series of tours promoting his latest album ‘Lifted’, Israel Nash and his road warriors are by now fully blooded and it showed tonight as they treated this audience to a magnificent 90 minutes of epic sounds. Freely trading on his Neil Young comparisons, Nash adds a splendid dollop of cosmic American music consciousness to his songs allowing them to spiral well beyond any accusations of being a mere copycat. There were moments tonight when the mesh of pedal steel, blissful guitar and glowering rythyms just about blew your head away. Continue reading “Israel Nash + Leslie Stevens, Oran Mor, Glasgow, 26th August 2019”

Book Review – Oliver Gray “Banjo On My Knee: Music Travels In The American South” (Sarsen Press, 2019)

Aside from being a music promoter and author, Oliver Gray is Americana UK’s very own version of Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent with his annual missives from Austin’s South By Southwest Festival. Surprisingly, for a man whose CV as a promoter is a veritable smorgasbord of vital Americana acts, Gray had never visited Nashville but on the occasion of his 70th year decided that it was time to attend the annual Nashville based Americanafest and follow that up with a road trip through the south taking in some essential sights and places. Banjo On My Knee is his equivalent of a “what I did on my holidays” report and is delivered in a fine, low key style, detailing his adventures but equally revealing on the foibles and phobias of this quintessential Englishman abroad. Continue reading “Book Review – Oliver Gray “Banjo On My Knee: Music Travels In The American South” (Sarsen Press, 2019)”

I See Hawks In L.A. & The Good Intentions “Hawks With Good Intentions” (Western Seeds Record Company, 2019)

California’s I See Hawks In L.A. and Liverpool’s Good Intentions met and became friends at a house concert in California back in 2012. Since then, the bands have shared stages in the States and here in the UK and along the way they began writing some songs together, the first fruits of their joint effort displayed on the Hawks’ last album, ‘Live And Never Learn‘, which had two songs co-written with Peter Davies of Good Intentions. Bouncing emails and mp3 files across the Atlantic they eventually came up with the ten songs on display here, sections recorded in L.A. and Liverpool with each of the bands’ contributions stitched together so well that the join is never seen. As it says on the sleeve, “Gleaming technology serving acoustic guitars and down home harmonies.” Continue reading “I See Hawks In L.A. & The Good Intentions “Hawks With Good Intentions” (Western Seeds Record Company, 2019)”

Static Roots Festival, Zentrum Altenberg, Oberhausen, Germany, 12-13th July 2019

It’s festival season for sure as hordes of music fans pack both wellies and sun cream as they head off for a weekend of unbridled fun. Be it the massive set up at Glastonbury or the rootsier confines of Maverick there’s plenty to choose from but for sheer unadulterated Americana joy then one need look no further than this unassuming spot in Germany’s Ruhr district, the small, post industrial town of Oberhausen, home to Static Roots. Now in its fourth year, Static Roots has grown from an initial invite only event to being sold out for the first time with several hundred fans gathered together in a converted zinc factory to see and hear 13 acts, most of them surely familiar to readers of AUK. There’s no corporate funding, no kowtowing to fashion, the line up purely a reflection of the festival’s director’s musical tastes  which are somewhat impeccable. Continue reading “Static Roots Festival, Zentrum Altenberg, Oberhausen, Germany, 12-13th July 2019”

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”