Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts “Nowhere To Go But Everywhere” (Independent, 2020)

The title of this album and now a readily used quotation is taken from Jack Kerouac’s novel ‘On the Road’“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”  In the wake of a divorce, Hamilton took a US road trip, of which Kerouac made many, and has used his experiences to inform this collection of songs. The songs themselves tell of heartache, longing and the requisite amount of soul-searching that might be expected under the circumstances. Don’t expect rawness and fragility in these pieces however, they are mostly slickly produced and have a radio-friendly feel to them. Continue reading “Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts “Nowhere To Go But Everywhere” (Independent, 2020)”

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald “Love Valley” (Treasure Island Recs, 2020)

With the release of his fifth album, ‘Love Valley’, Canadian singer-songwriter, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald has created a wistful dream of an imagined life that is both personal and universal. The songs could be described as a journey through this dream that use thoughts and impressions to generate a literal and emotional landscape. The dream resides in a valley, where there is a farm, dogs, children, a cosy kitchen with an FM radio which sometimes is heard playing Joni Mitchell, a truck, a Harley Davidson and a river to go swimming in. Continue reading “Michael Bernard Fitzgerald “Love Valley” (Treasure Island Recs, 2020)”

Bobby Lee “Shakedown in Slabtown” (Natural Histories Records, 2020)

Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Days’ opens with the question: “What are Days for?” Being presented with an album of instrumental tracks might prompt a similar, ostensibly ingenuous question, such as, ‘What are instrumentals for’? In the case of ‘Shakedown in Slabtown’, Bobby Lee’s debut album, these instrumentals serve a variety of purposes. Continue reading “Bobby Lee “Shakedown in Slabtown” (Natural Histories Records, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Little Feat “Willin'”

Last week’s stars of AUK’s Chain Gang were Southend’s finest, The Kursall Flyers. Former members of the aforementioned band, Paul Shuttleworth & Vic Collins are now part of The Ugly Guys, whose album ‘Senior Moments’ features a cover of Little Feat’s,‘ Willin”. The story of Little Feat takes us back to 1968 when lead singer and guitarist, Lowell George joined Frank Zappa’s, Mothers of Invention. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Little Feat “Willin’””

Sunny Ozell “Live at the Village” EP (Chitin Records, 2020)

Ozell’s album, ‘Overnight Lows’ witnessed the first airing for four of the tracks on this EP , to which has been added a cover of the Los Lobos track, ‘The Valley’. These tracks, recorded at  The Village recording studios in Santa Monica  are given an acoustic sparsity that whilst creating a feeling of space also generate particular atmospheres; what Ozell herself describes as a “Coffee House Take”. Continue reading “Sunny Ozell “Live at the Village” EP (Chitin Records, 2020)”

Ten Americana artists from Kentucky

If you were to find yourself cruising down Interstate-75 in the Renfro Valley area of Kentucky you may feel inclined to take a detour at exit 62 and head on down to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. A caveat at the current time would be that you may find some time to kill upon your arrival, as the said attraction will not reopen until September. That aside, within its hallowed walls are inductees aplenty including the likes of The Everly Brothers, Loretta Lynne, Bill Monroe, Merle Travis and Ricky Skaggs. Continue reading “Ten Americana artists from Kentucky”

My Darling Clementine “Country Darkness Vol.2” (Fretsore Records, 2020)

‘Country Darkness Vol. 2’ is an EP featuring songs originally penned by Elvis Costello, which are given the duet treatment by My Darling Clementine, AKA Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. Providing the deftly delivered keyboards, which form the musical bedrock of these songs, is Costello’s own keyboard player, Steve Nieve. King is also known for forming The Good Sons who took their name from Nick Cave’s The Good Son whilst prior to My Darling Clementine, Lou Dalgleish has worked with Bryan Ferry and The Brodsky Quartet. Continue reading “My Darling Clementine “Country Darkness Vol.2” (Fretsore Records, 2020)”

Ten americana songs of protest

An infamous Mancunian once thought that if you played the acoustic guitar, it meant you were a protest singer. Whilst the playing of that instrument may not earn you the right to musical protestation, the artists featured below would in most part be likely to agree that the six-stringed instrument helps with the cause. Protest songs with an Americana flavour throughout the 20th & 21st Century have used as their topic matter such issues as civil rights, women’s rights, economic injustice, politics and war; though prior these many negro spirituals from the 19th century are seen as protests against slavery and oppression. Continue reading “Ten americana songs of protest”

Ten covers of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe”

‘Ode to Billie Joe’ is a dark southern story, cinematic in its lyrics but remaining enigmatic. The story, tells of the preacher, Brother Talyor saying how he saw the song’s narrator up on Choctaw Ridge with Billy Joe, “Throwing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge”. The mystery remains of what that something might have been but in the words of, Bobbie Gentry: “The song is sort of a study in unconscious cruelty. But everybody seems more concerned with what was thrown off the bridge than they are with the thoughtlessness of the people expressed in the song. What was thrown off the bridge really isn’t that important”. Continue reading “Ten covers of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe””

Classic Americana Albums: Gene Clark “No Other” (Asylum, 1974)

Missouri born Gene Clark’s epitaph beautifully reads: ‘No Other’, the title of his 1974 magnum opus. It would be fair to say that fortune was not kind to Clark, his early demise at the age of 46 hastened by alcohol and drug dependency. In his few short years as a member of the legendary Byrds he wrote the glorious, ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Better’ and co-wrote the proto-psychedelic, ‘Eight Miles High’. Much has been made of the fact that it was a fear of flying that influenced him to leave the group at the height of their fame, though it is also true that Clark was a restless soul wanting to explore new directions through his own unique voice and vision.  Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Gene Clark “No Other” (Asylum, 1974)”