Andrew Combs “Ideal Man” (New West Records, 2019)

This is a very interesting album – not least because it’s asking you to expand the concept of what you consider “Americana”; and we’re not just talking about a bit of pop sensibility or some string washes. Combs is a Nashville based singer/songwriter, originally from Dallas Texas, and “Ideal Man” is his fourth studio album. Early comparisons, especially following his 2010 debut E.P. (“Tennessee Time”), likened him to Gene Clark and Mickey Newbury – and it’s easy to hear why when you listen to some of the cuts on this album. Songs like ‘Firestarter’ and album closer ‘You’re Like the Country’ are strong, narrative songs with great lyrical content and simple, tuneful melodies. Elsewhere on this album things get a little less identifiable and you might start to feel like Alice dropping down the rabbit hole! Continue reading “Andrew Combs “Ideal Man” (New West Records, 2019)”

Susan Gibson “The Hard Stuff” (Independent, 2019)

If the name Susan Gibson rings a bell it should come as no great surprise – her big claim to fame is being the writer of ‘Wide Open Spaces’, a sizeable hit for The Dixie Chicks and named as the CMA Awards Single of the Year in 1999. What is a surprise, particularly on the evidence of this, her first full-length solo album in some eight years, is that Susan Gibson’s name isn’t ringing a lot more bells in a lot more places! Hopefully this new album, ‘The Hard Stuff’, should go some way to correcting this situation. Continue reading “Susan Gibson “The Hard Stuff” (Independent, 2019)”

The Highwomen “The Highwomen” (Elektra, 2019)

The Highwomen are Country music’s latest “supergroup”. Comprising Brandi Carlile, Natalie Henby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires the group came out of an idea from Shires to form an all-women group as a homage to the legendary Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson) but also as a means to promote female artists on Country radio stations and at music festivals. The band claims to have been influenced, in part, by the Me Too movement and is aiming to raise awareness of female artists in the country genre in particular and in music in general. All lofty and worthwhile aims but do the band live up to the “supergroup” tag and will their music make the radio stations pay attention? On the evidence of this, their first album as a band, the answer has to be a, slightly qualified, yes. Continue reading “The Highwomen “The Highwomen” (Elektra, 2019)”

Forgotten Artists – Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band

Being a bit of a vinyl junkie I was indulging my passion for Record Fairs recently when I came across something of a lost gem – “Rick Sings Nelson” – and that started me thinking about a man who was one of the pioneers of the California sound; the brand of country rock that would make megastars out of The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and a host of other artists. Continue reading “Forgotten Artists – Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band”

Boy & Bear “Suck On Light” (Nettwerk Music Group, 2019)

Great art often comes out of personal suffering. This new album from Australian band Boy & Bear may not be great art but it’s certainly good music. ‘Suck on Light’ is the fourth studio album from the Sydney based band and it comes on the back of three years of battling debilitating illness for vocalist/guitarist Dave Hosking. Produced by the band along with Collin Dupuis, who’s previously worked with the likes of Lana Del Rey and The Black Keys, this is much more Indie rock than Americana. Continue reading “Boy & Bear “Suck On Light” (Nettwerk Music Group, 2019)”

Forgotten Artists – Steve Goodman

Every so often the world of roots music will deliver an outstanding talent – a Robert Johnson or a Bob Dylan – someone who really makes everyone sit up and take notice, someone you know will be a game-changer. And, every so often, there will be a talent who never quite gets the acknowledgement he/she deserves, someone who might have been a game-changer but who leaves us before the big spotlight can properly illuminate them. One such talent was Steven Benjamin Goodman, an American folk musician and songwriter from Chicago. Continue reading “Forgotten Artists – Steve Goodman”

Book Review – “The 33 1/3 B-Sides” edited by Will Stockton and D. Gilson (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)

This is a lot of reading for the money! I’ve reviewed a number of books from this series over the past few months; usually a 33 1/3 book consists of an in-depth assessment of a key recording in an artist’s collected discography by an academic writer, usually someone who can bring a broader historical and/or sociological perspective to a specific album. Continue reading “Book Review – “The 33 1/3 B-Sides” edited by Will Stockton and D. Gilson (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)”

E.G. Phillips “At Home At Sea” (Independent, 2019)

As a singer/songwriter it’s always considered an advantage to have a distinctive voice – but can a voice be a little too “distinctive”? You can argue that a very distinctive voice never harmed the sales of the likes of Tiny Tim, Tom Waits, Neil Young and many more – but it will often polarise opinion; for every fan of Tom Waits’ signature growl there will be someone who is less than enthusiastic. Continue reading “E.G. Phillips “At Home At Sea” (Independent, 2019)”

Book Review – Matthew Frye Jacobson “One Grain of Sand” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)

There are some records that just seem to find their place in history – Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ and the Kent State massacre, U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Country Joe McDonald’s ‘Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die’ and the Vietnam War – popular music has always tied in with political and social events but none more so than the album ‘One Grain of Sand’, a one woman soundtrack to the American Civil Rights Movement. Continue reading “Book Review – Matthew Frye Jacobson “One Grain of Sand” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)”

House And Land “Across The Field” (Thrill Jockey Records, 2019)

This is hard core American Folk Music – definitely not for the faint hearted! House and Land are Guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Sarah Louise and fiddler/banjoist Sally Anne Morgan and they draw their rich and fascinating material from Appalachia, the Ozarks and, interestingly, from the UK. Continue reading “House And Land “Across The Field” (Thrill Jockey Records, 2019)”