The Strumbrellas “Rattlesnake” (Glassnote Records, 2019)

This Canadian six piece seem to be popular on the US festival scene and even a cursory listen to ‘Rattlesnake’ will tell you why. The songs have a danceable quality to them while singer Simon Ward uses the popular Nashville pop trick of autotune from time to time. Add to that a kitchen sink full of massed vocals, crashing percussion and simplistic sing along choruses and you have a party band but what you don’t have is, in any sense, a country, folk or, God forbid, an Americana band. Continue reading “The Strumbrellas “Rattlesnake” (Glassnote Records, 2019)”

Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound, 2019)

While Jay Farrar might be considered as being pretty grounded when it comes to singing about familiar folk themes he’s never been a political writer. On ‘Union’ that changes as he here turns to topical concerns, setting out what is essentially his state of the union address. ‘Union’ is not a protest album, there are no street fighting anthems here and the names of the guilty are not mentioned, but when he sings, “Proud to serve but not this president,” on ‘Reality Winner’, it’s not hard to guess his inner thoughts even though the song is ostensibly about a whistleblower jailed for leaking classified documents. Continue reading “Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound, 2019)”

Interview: Phil Lee on how he finally saddled up with Crazy Horse

It’s taken a hell of a long time for Phil Lee to get in the saddle and corral his Crazy Horse buddies, Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot, into the studio to record an album with him. His online notes for his 2013 album ‘The Fall And Further Decline Of The Mighty King Of Love’ state, “This was to be the album I was going to make with Ralph and Billy of Crazy Horse. We had a couple of great rehearsals and could’ve done it if we had a mobile unit in Ralph’s garage. Logistics didn’t help as they live in California. Continue reading “Interview: Phil Lee on how he finally saddled up with Crazy Horse”

Crooked Weather “Are We Lost” (Independent, 2010)

Had this arrived in a vinyl format we would not be surprised to see a small palm tree on a grassy island decorating the label. Crooked Weather, a Yorkshire based duo, are unashamedly influenced by the folk rock sounds of the late sixties and early seventies as purveyed back then by the likes of the Island, Harvest and Transatlantic Record labels. As such, they can be compared (slightly) to the Pentangle family, John & Beverly Martyn and Michael Chapman along with some American contemporaries. However, much like, for example, Doghouse Roses, they don’t attempt to recreate their forebears’ sounds but use their influence as a starting point for their own singular music. Continue reading “Crooked Weather “Are We Lost” (Independent, 2010)”

Blue Rose Code + Roseanne Reid, The Fallen Angels Club, St. Lukes, Glasgow, 7th March 2019

The always mercurial Ross Wilson brought his latest incarnation of Blue Rose Code to Glasgow for a sold out show which was both a pleasure and a delight to be present at. One thing you can be guaranteed at a Blue Rose Code show is that familiar songs will be prodded, poked and bent into unfamiliar patterns. Not in a challenging or offhand manner (as can be the case with an artist like Dylan) but rather that Wilson’s songs are his offspring and we are privileged to see them grow and develop, all the while retaining their personality. A case in point tonight was the original gospel element of ‘Grateful’ transformed into a spongy reggae lilt, lovers rock almost with Wilson proclaiming, “I and I are grateful” towards the end. Continue reading “Blue Rose Code + Roseanne Reid, The Fallen Angels Club, St. Lukes, Glasgow, 7th March 2019”

Harmony Rockets with Peter Walker “Lachesis/Clotho/Atropos” (Tompkins Square, 2019)

Harmony Rockets is kind of a sideline project for Mercury Rev’s Grasshopper and Jonathan Donahue, allowing them to go off-piste as it were and indulge themselves. Here they team up with the little known but well respected sixties raga guitarist Peter Walker, an associate of Timothy Leary, for an album composed of three instrumental pieces which hark back to the times when Jerry Garcia was known as Captain Trips and flute players could record albums within the Taj Mahal. Continue reading “Harmony Rockets with Peter Walker “Lachesis/Clotho/Atropos” (Tompkins Square, 2019)”

Steve Gunn “The Unseen in Between” (Matador Records, 2019)

Maybe the best example of an “underground” artist coming to the fore that we’ve come across in recent years, Steve Gunn is perhaps best known as having been Kurt Vile’s guitarist. However, he has a healthy back catalogue of solo and collaborative recordings and with ‘The Unseen In Between’ gathering a great deal of media attention it’s unlikely he’ll be considered “underground” for much longer. It’s one of those albums which just seems to have been born at the appropriate moment.  A shimmering slice of psychedelic influenced folk, it talks to lovers of Tim Buckley and Michael Chapman (with whom Gunn has worked) and over its duration it simply envelops the listener in washes of reverbed guitars and cosmic layers of sound. With artists from opposite ends of the psychedelic guitar spectrum such as Israel Nash and Ryley Walker gaining momentum, it’s time for Gunn to step into the spotlight. Continue reading “Steve Gunn “The Unseen in Between” (Matador Records, 2019)”

Gordie Tentrees & Jaxon Haldane, The Doublet, Glasgow, 12th February 2019

Here for some winter warmth away from their native sub zero Manitoba, Gordie Tentrees and Jaxon Haldane kicked off what local promoters, Sounds In The Suburbs are calling their Canadian season, with an effervescent show which was high on energy and full of fun. The pair play a rootsy blend of folk, blues and country with Tentrees pumping up the energy via foot stomped tambourine and percussion while Haldane provides some excellent accompaniment on guitars – traditional and cigar box slide driven – banjo and, on one occasion, a singing saw. Tentrees’ rapid fire raps, introducing songs, interrupting songs and generally just giving us a very humorous lowdown on what we were hearing was invigorating and, as we have already said, a barrel of laughs at times. Continue reading “Gordie Tentrees & Jaxon Haldane, The Doublet, Glasgow, 12th February 2019”

RJ Chesney “Amateur Revolution” (Independent, 2019)

From the moment RJ Chesney and his band of assorted Los Angelinos and Norwegians clatter into the rockabillied country rock of ‘Splendors Of This Earth’ it’s evident that ‘Amateur Revolution’ is not going to be the most polished album to grace the decks this month. It’s all the better for that as the loose-limbed feel here runs throughout the 12 songs gathered, the sort of feel that one associates with The Basement Tapes or Doug Sahm, just a bunch of musicians having some great fun performing some great songs. Continue reading “RJ Chesney “Amateur Revolution” (Independent, 2019)”

Birds Of Chicago + Salthouse @Celtic Connections, Drygate, Glasgow, 31st January 2018

Long time AUK favourites Birds Of Chicago flew into Glasgow as Celtic Connections was nearing the end of its run. With core members, Allison Russell and JT Nero accompanied by the acclaimed producer and wizard guitar player Steve Dawson, the trio’s show was heart-warming and uplifting. Russell and Nero are a delight to see and hear. Their chalk and cheese voices (hers sweet and melodious, his, a sandpapered drawl) combine wonderfully with a definite sense of soul in its essence while the songs flow wonderfully with elements of bluegrass, folk, Celtic and Gospel all entwined. Continue reading “Birds Of Chicago + Salthouse @Celtic Connections, Drygate, Glasgow, 31st January 2018”