Dave Desmelik with an Army of Love “Childhood Battles” (Independent, 2018)

As a music reviewer, one strives to approach each release dispassionately. However, on occasion it is nigh on impossible to separate an album from the story behind it. This is one such record. First, the personnel: Dave Desmelik is the journeyman songwriter and musician who has written and recorded all the material herein. The songs feature a stellar line-up of musicians from western North Carolina including representatives from such acts as The Honeycutters, The Steep Canyon Rangers and The Worthless Son-in-Laws to name but a few. The playing is first-rate throughout; the arrangements lend a sympathetic accompaniment to the album’s songs and help to make this an eminently listenable suite as opposed to it simply being a statement. Continue reading “Dave Desmelik with an Army of Love “Childhood Battles” (Independent, 2018)”

Neighborhood of Make Believe “Two Nighttimes” (Five Kill Records, 2018)

In this era of online overkill, it is refreshing to encounter a band that has seemingly no real internet presence. Certainly, a number of abortive Google searches have unearthed no biographical information about Neighbourhood of Make Believe. Their accomplished orchestral folk rock sound and well-produced tracks are suggestive of a decent degree of industry experience. However, if this is the case then they are doing their best to hush it up – all that can be said with any certainty is that they are a bearded five-piece from Albany, New York… Continue reading “Neighborhood of Make Believe “Two Nighttimes” (Five Kill Records, 2018)”

Loudon Wainwright III “Years in the Making” (StorySound Records, 2018)

After 45 years in the industry, Loudon Wainwright needs little introduction as an artist. Over 26 albums, he has created a diverse tapestry of music and has dabbled with a wealth of genres. ‘Years in the making’ effectively serves as an ‘audio-biography’ – it is a two disc compendium of rare and unissued tracks drawn from orphaned album cuts, live recordings, radio appearances and home demos. As such, it offers a fascinating window into Wainwright as both a public and a private figure. The presence of such luminaries as Kate McGarrigle, Van Dyke Parks and Steve Goodman (to name but a few) is an obvious reminder of his influence. Continue reading “Loudon Wainwright III “Years in the Making” (StorySound Records, 2018)”

Benjamin Folke Thomas “Modern Man” (Aveline Records, 2018)

Benjamin Folke Thomas’ musical career was kick-started when his second album – ‘Rogue State of Mind’ – caught the ear of Radio 2’s Bob Harris, who invited the Swedish troubadour to Nashville as part of BBC Introducing. An accomplished finger-picker, Thomas boasts a baritone vocal timbre that sits somewhere between Johnny Cash and Tom Petty. As a child, he was hooked on Americana by Kurt Cobain’s era-defining performance of Leadbelly’s ‘In the Pines’ on MTV Unplugged and he departed his native Gothenburg to hone his craft in the bars and clubs of London. ‘Modern Man’ was written upon his return to Sweden and, as he turns 30, sees him taking stock of his life as a singer-songwriter.  Continue reading “Benjamin Folke Thomas “Modern Man” (Aveline Records, 2018)”

Darren Jessee “The Jane Room 217” (Bar/None Records, 2018)

For much of his career, North Carolina’s Darren Jessee has contented himself with standing (or, more accurately – drumming) at the edge of the spotlight. Excerpts from his resume include: member of Hiss Golden Messenger, contributor to The War on Drugs’ ‘A Deeper Understanding’ and co-writer of Ben Folds Five’s biggest hit ‘Brick.’ ‘The Jane Room 217,’ though, represents his first foray under his own name. The genesis of the project was a series of Jessee’s demos mixed by long-time collaborator Alan Weatherhead. Continue reading “Darren Jessee “The Jane Room 217” (Bar/None Records, 2018)”

JP Harris “Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing” (Free Dirt Records 2018)

For this, his third full-length album, JP Harris has enlisted the production skills of Morgan Jahnig (Old Crow Medicine Show) to help capture some of his life stories. JP’s had a rootless existence, with a background resembling that of a latter-day hobo. But what of the music? The album’s songs can best be classed as country tales for the workingman. Harris has spoken passionately about the blue-collar nature of his genre and themes of love, loss and hardship proliferate. While such topics are ubiquitous in mainstream country, they are rarely presented in a style as believable as that evident herein. The artist – it should be noted – still works a regular job as a Nashville carpenter, which perhaps serves to explain the undeniable authenticity he brings to this selection; at times his vocal timbre has echoes of Joe Ely and John Prine. Continue reading “JP Harris “Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing” (Free Dirt Records 2018)”