I See Hawks in L.A. “Live and Never Learn” (Blue Rose, 2018)

How many bands have suffered the “sounds like the Eagles” curse? Even if being mentioned in the same breath surely means they must be onto something good, attempting to match the songwriting and vocal skills of Messrs Henley and Frey is surely an invidious task and is doomed to suffer by comparison. ‘Live and Never Learn,’ the first album in five years from I See Hawks in L.A., certainly has that early Eagles country rock feel running through the core of its 14 tracks. The title track offers up a microcosm of what is to come, rhythmic, mid-paced tempo, reverby Telecaster and easy on the ear. The quality of musicianship is spot on throughout the album and much credit for that must go to five-times Grammy-winning mixer Alfonso Rodenas. Continue reading “I See Hawks in L.A. “Live and Never Learn” (Blue Rose, 2018)”

Dan Israel “You’re Free” (Independent, 2018)

Dan Israel is going for it. After 13 albums as a part-timer Israel quit his Minnesota day job to concentrate fully on his music. So, probably not a coincidence that his first subsequent release is entitled ‘You’re Free’ and, as the excellent title track says “And all of the sky’s the limit now/Time to make good on your freedom vow/Promised yourself that someday you’d finally flee, so flee.” It is a joyful guitar driven celebration of this new found artistic freedom, years of confinement blown away in a song. Continue reading “Dan Israel “You’re Free” (Independent, 2018)”

Horse Feathers “Appreciation” (Kill Rock Stars, 2018)

Made in Kentucky but with nods to Wigan. Now that is a strange thought on which to begin any review but for this, their 6th album, Horse Feathers have built upon the guitars, strings and keyboards that have been their backbone until now and added just a touch of Northern Soul to the mix. 45 seconds into the opening track ‘Without Applause,’ acoustic guitars are joined by Hammond organ and these unlikely but highly impressive bedfellows are exposed for the world to see. Continue reading “Horse Feathers “Appreciation” (Kill Rock Stars, 2018)”

Kacy & Clayton “The Siren’s Song” (New West Records, 2018)

When an album cover brings to mind the swirling pop art of the hippy revolution of the 60s it creates an expectation of what might be expected from the music contained within. Hailing as they do from rural Canada, cousins Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum (ex Deep Dark Woods) have brought swirling guitars and haunting vocals to add to their obvious country and folk influences. The result is an album with definite nods to that generation defining era. Continue reading “Kacy & Clayton “The Siren’s Song” (New West Records, 2018)”

Don McLean “Botanical Gardens” (BMG, 2018)

Is it possible to review any release by Don McLean without reference to the past and how long it has been since those classic songs that made his name? The answer, of course, is absolutely not. The curse of providing the world with classic songs is that everything will subsequently be compared to them. ‘Botanical Gardens’ is McLean’s 19th studio album and his first in eight years. Continue reading “Don McLean “Botanical Gardens” (BMG, 2018)”

Beams “Teach Me To Love” (Independent, 2018)

Toronto based band Beams, are, by their own, admission, a hard band to define musically. The songs are led by the vocals and banjo of Anna Mernieks and, while the banjo is ever present and brings a distinctive sound to the table, it is the punchy rhythms, jangling guitars and crashing drums that provide a lasting impression. So it is that despite mandolin, lap steel and singing saw joining forces with Mernieks’ banjo, the obvious route into bluegrass or country has been body swerved and the seven-piece band have produced a body of work that has a much harder edge. Continue reading “Beams “Teach Me To Love” (Independent, 2018)”

Rosemary & Garlic “Rosemary & Garlic” (Nettwerk Music, 2018)

How the Dutch duo of Anne van den Hoogen and Dolf Smolenaers came up with the name Rosemary & Garlic is anybody’s guess.  Suffice to say that this own goal is best overlooked as it is the only aspect of this marvellous debut album that fails to impress. The opening track Birds opens with a gorgeous piano intro lasting close to a minute and a half before Anne’s vocals kick in and, if an opener was ever an advert for what is to come, then this is it. Haunting and brilliantly evocative vocals layered around Dolf’s memorable keys create a canvas rich in atmosphere and melancholy. Continue reading “Rosemary & Garlic “Rosemary & Garlic” (Nettwerk Music, 2018)”

Hunter Muskett “That Was Then This Is Now” (Limefield, 2013)

In 1969 The Beatles released Abbey Road, 150,000 attended the second Isle of Wight Festival, Lulu shared first place in the Eurovision with Boom Bang-a-Bang and, somehow absent from the Wikipedia entry for that year, Chris George, Terry Hiscock and Doug Morter formed Hunter Muskett. A year later, following a signing to Decca and the release of their first album, bass player Rog Trevitt joined to become the fourth musketeer. A second album followed in 1973 before the band called it a day the following year. Continue reading “Hunter Muskett “That Was Then This Is Now” (Limefield, 2013)”

The Sideshow Tragedy “The View From Nowhere” (DixieFrog/Borderline Blues, 2017)

Listening to The View From Nowhere it is extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that The Sideshow Tragedy comprises just two members in Nathan Singleton and Jeremy Harrell. The sound created by Singleton’s guitars and Harrell’s drums and percussion is akin to that of a full four or five-piece outfit. Heavily influenced by his father’s fanatical devotion to acoustic blues and National resonator guitars Singleton grew up playing in blues clubs in East Texas. Whilst devouring old blues music Nathan found himself similarly drawn to rock, punk, funk, new wave and, with influences such as Dylan, Iggy Pop and Keith Richards, the result is a duo with a heavy indie, blues, rock, roots sound. Continue reading “The Sideshow Tragedy “The View From Nowhere” (DixieFrog/Borderline Blues, 2017)”

Red River Dialect “Broken Stay Open Sky” (Paradise of Bachelors, 2018)

Red River Dialect have their roots in the depths of Cornwall. David Morris started writing songs in 2002 and, from 2006, most of these songs were performed as Red River Dialect, either solo or with a revolving configuration of local musicians. The subsequent years have seen the band grow and develop into their current guise of a six-piece delivering songs, that, in their own words, are ‘brewing a lightly carbonated folk-rock from the psycho spiritual malt of David Morris’s song writing.’ Continue reading “Red River Dialect “Broken Stay Open Sky” (Paradise of Bachelors, 2018)”