Top ten banjo tracks

The banjo has made a significant contribution to Americana dating back in its earliest forms to thirteenth-century sub-Saharan cultures. It almost certainly reached America with slaves during the eighteenth century and by the nineteenth century it was being accompanied by that Northern European import, the fiddle. Appalachian folk music adopted the instrument creating new interpretations of European folk tunes eventually leading to legendary banjo exponent, Earl Scruggs influencing many players of the twentieth century. Continue reading “Top ten banjo tracks”

The Lowest Pair “The Perfect Plan” (Delicata Records, 2020)

Lovers of Americana trivia may take delight in the link between The Lowest Pair and Glen Campbell. It is the fact that ‘The Lowest Pair’ is a poem written by country and bluegrass artist John Hartford who also wrote the Glen Campbell hit, ‘Gentle on my Mind’. Consummate banjo players, the duo of Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee have five albums under their respective belts including what has to be a contender for the best covers album title of all time: ‘I Reckon I’m Fixin’ On Kickin’ Round to Pick A Little, Vol. 1’. Continue reading “The Lowest Pair “The Perfect Plan” (Delicata Records, 2020)”

Littlemen “It’s a Beautiful Thing” (Independent, 2020)

Littlemen, emanating from the west of England, have previously released the well received album, ‘Long Road Home’. They now have a new line-up led by established songwriter and studio owner, Nick Allen. Other members of the band include: drummer & Grammy Award winning rhythm consultant, Robert Brain, (who has recently toured with Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt) and bass guitarist, Tyler Spicer who also plays with UK Country Artist of the Year, Danny McMahon. Continue reading “Littlemen “It’s a Beautiful Thing” (Independent, 2020)”

Eastbound Jesus “Full Moon Over Salem” (Independent, 2020)

The 2011 debut album from sextet, Eastbound Jesus was optimistically entitled ‘Greatest Hits Vol 1’. Three studio albums and one live album later, whilst we have not yet been regaled with ‘Greatest Hits Vol 2’, the release of ‘Full Moon Over Salem’ should assuage any longing there might be out there for any such hits related compilation. Continue reading “Eastbound Jesus “Full Moon Over Salem” (Independent, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z – Gordon Lightfoot

There are plenty of Gordon Lightfoot fans out there as attested by his ability to develop a touring schedule for 2020 having started his career back in the 1960s. Significant artists who have praised and been influenced by this Canadian songsmith include Johnny Cash, John Prine, Robbie Robertson and perhaps most famously, Bob Dylan. Lightfoot toured with Dylan including the 1975 ‘Rolling Thunder’ tour. Dylan has said, “Lightfoot became a mentor for a long time. I think he still is to this day” and recorded the Lightfoot penned ‘Shadows’. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Gordon Lightfoot”

Smoke Fairies “Darkness Brings the Wonders Home (Independent, 2020)

Darkness Brings the Wonders Home’ was recorded by the South London based duo, Smoke Fairies during a month-long sojourn in Seattle in conjunction with producer Phil Ek. The album is a departure from the earthy folk of their earlier work such as 2011’s ‘Through Low Light and Trees’ to a more rock orientated sound with tight harmonies floating over hypnotic electric guitar riffs. The repetitive guitar riffs feature as part of a homogenous soundscape which is augmented by a saturating bass and unobtrusive percussion. Continue reading “Smoke Fairies “Darkness Brings the Wonders Home (Independent, 2020)”

Della Mae “Headlight” (Rounder Records, 2020)

Earning a Grammy nomination for best Bluegrass album in 2014, Della Mae’s new album ‘Headlight’ demonstrates that they have moved beyond the conventions of the genre. Pushing aside expectations to use solely traditional bluegrass instruments: organ, Mellotron and electric guitar, amongst others, feature, speaking of a new-found independence and sense of freedom. The opening title track serves as a hymn to sisterhood and reflects Della Mae’s advocacy of women’s rights. Continue reading “Della Mae “Headlight” (Rounder Records, 2020)”

Kevin Daniel “Things I Don’t See” (Independent, 2019)

Prior to commencing a solo career in 2013, Kevin Daniel, a multi-instrumentalist, had played in a diverse range of settings from bluegrass quartets to big jazz bands. Daniel’s musical eclecticism is reflected in this album which shares with us twangy guitar, glorious three-part harmonies, Hammond B3 organ, strings and unexpected horns on some of the tracks. Tragedy haunts the title track, ‘Things I Don’t See’ which explores the moments before Daniel’s mother and step-father died in a plane crash.
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American Pleasure Dome “American Pleasure Dome” (Independent, 2019)

There is a Buddhist saying that, ‘The body ages, the mind doesn’t age’. At 53 years of age, Hans Schumacha, American Pleasure Dome’s leader and songwriter may have reflected on this saying when releasing this eponymous debut album. Hailing from Minneapolis, American Pleasure Dome are a four- piece band exuding a mellow rock tone with occasional shades of country.
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Matt Patershuk “If Wishes Were Horses” (Black Hen Music, 2019)

“Matt-Patershuk-2019”‘If Wishes Were Horses’ is the result of Matt Patershuk’s collaboration with award-winning string player and producer, Steve Dawson. This album presents an inspired blend of blues and country delivered by Patershuk’s intimate and soulful vocals. The characterful acoustic qualities of the recording were achieved at Vancouver’s Warehouse Studio which is owned by Bryan Adams. The album is punctuated by four instrumentals which land like scenes from some forgotten western; you can almost reach out and touch the rocks and cacti.
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