Don McLean, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, 4th May 2018

To the wonderful De La Warr Pavilion in East Sussex, a fitting location to see Don McLean. Much like the Pavilion, McLean has been an icon of his age but is now remembered more for the past than the present though, like the Pavilion, he’s stood the test of time particularly well. I’d hoped to be there in time to see support act, Jarrod Dickenson, about whom I’ve heard good things, but the Friday evening traffic on the A21 had other ideas! I can tell you that he delivers a first class version of the old Harlan Howard standard, ‘Busted’ and his own song that closed his set was also pretty good; one to see in the future perhaps. Continue reading “Don McLean, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, 4th May 2018”

Jess Vincent “Lion’s Den” (Kosternurka Records, 2018)

Jess Vincent and her partner, Jozeph Chowles, have achieved something quite amazing with this record. Between them they have written and produced every track on this album. They’ve also played every instrument and provided all the vocals. That would be impressive enough if we were just talking about a couple of singing guitarists but the list of instruments used on this album is extensive, without factoring in that they’ve been played by just two people. Yes, we have guitars (acoustic and electric) but we also have bass, drums and percussion, Banjo, Harmonica, Ukulele and Indian Harmonium. About the only thing they haven’t done is drawn the artwork! Continue reading “Jess Vincent “Lion’s Den” (Kosternurka Records, 2018)”

Hi Lo Ha “Ain’t Gone Tonight” (Heavy Setters Records, 2018)

This San Francisco based band take their name from the Woodstock home that Bob Dylan lived in when writing the songs that became the classic ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ album. It’s a cool name but that’s about where any comparisons with Dylan and his music stop. Hi Lo Ha are an Indie Rock band with the occasional nod towards Alt Country and this is their third EP release. It’s difficult to get much of a read on a band from an EP and it’s interesting that this seems to be Hi Lo Ha’s preferred format for recording, given that they’ve put out three EPs at roughly two year intervals since 2013 without recording a longer release. Does this mean that they’re not particularly prolific as writers or that they’re that bit more perfectionist than most? Continue reading “Hi Lo Ha “Ain’t Gone Tonight” (Heavy Setters Records, 2018)”

Gretchen Peters “Dancing With The Beast” (Proper Records, 2018)

A new album from Gretchen Peters is always cause for celebration. She has consistently been one of the finest songwriters in the Americana genre and just seems to go from strength to strength – it is quite amazing that someone can continuously turn out songs of this quality. This new album, ‘Dancing With The Beast’, is her first recording of all new material since 2016’s ‘Blackbirds’, which won her an Americana Music Association UK award for International Album of the Year as well as International Song of the Year for the title track. This new album is every bit as good. Continue reading “Gretchen Peters “Dancing With The Beast” (Proper Records, 2018)”

Brother Dege “Farmer’s Almanac” (Psyouthern Records, 2018)

You can feel the heat and humidity in this homage to rough, rural life; the grit, grime and sweat involved in dragging a living out of the ground as a poor sharecropper just oozes out of this latest release from Louisiana’s Brother Dege. Grammy-nominated for his contribution to the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’, Brother Dege, aka Dege Legg, is a genuine southern States diamond in the rough; a musician and writer whose slide guitar playing has been described as “Robert Johnson on thorazine”. This is modern, earthy, country blues at its best, suffused with a dark vein of Cajun craziness and American gothic storytelling that could’ve come straight out of a Washington Irving story. Continue reading “Brother Dege “Farmer’s Almanac” (Psyouthern Records, 2018)”

Okkervil River “In the Rainbow Rain” (ATO Records, 2018)

Chances are you’re not going to hear too many albums this year that open with a track about a surgical procedure! In fact, you probably won’t hear too many albums this year that sound quite like Okkervil River’s latest offering, ‘In the Rainbow Rain’. Based out of Austin, Texas and fronted by singer/songwriter Will Sheff, the band, in various incarnations, have been around since the late ‘90s; this is their 9th major album release to date and the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2016 album ‘Away’. Okkervil River are one of those bands that seem to be almost permanently on the cusp of breaking through to the big time and, on the evidence of this latest release, it’s a surprise that they still haven’t made that big breakthrough. Continue reading “Okkervil River “In the Rainbow Rain” (ATO Records, 2018)”

Steve Shiffman & The Land of No “Double Life” (Later/Clearly Records 2018)

One thing you can immediately say about Steve Shiffman & The Land of No is that this is a band that really likes to mix things up! Fronted by Canadian Shiffman the band hails from New York and also includes guitarists Dave Hollinghurst and Alec Ferrell, Kent Heine on bass, and drummer Dan Mintzer. ‘Double Life’ is their first full length album recording and it’s one that makes you sit up and take notice right from the start. Sitting somewhere between Indie & Art rock the band’s sound is one of jangly guitars and strident drums; at times dissonant and sometimes even discordant, it’s an album that challenges and fascinates almost in equal measure. Continue reading “Steve Shiffman & The Land of No “Double Life” (Later/Clearly Records 2018)”

Hannah Read “Way Out I’ll Wander” (Hudson, 2018)

This is a beautiful album. Beautifully written, beautifully played and sung, beautifully crafted. Hannah Read is one of those musicians who seem too gifted not to turn out perfection each time she records. This, her second album, is the follow up to her acclaimed 2012 debut ‘Wrapped In Lace’. Hannah Read was born and grew up in Scotland but is now based in the USA. This gives her music a very interesting hybrid sound, since the roots of her upbringing in Scottish and English folk music are clear to hear but they’re infused with a strong sense of Americana – she’s practically a one woman Transatlantic Sessions! Read has been honing her craft touring all around the US and Europe in recent years and was part of the highly praised Songs of Separation project that won a BBC Folk Award for Best Album of 2017.  Continue reading “Hannah Read “Way Out I’ll Wander” (Hudson, 2018)”

Frozen Houses “Frozen Houses” (Independent, 2018)

This is the eponymous debut album from Cornwall based singer/songwriter Alex Hill, aka ‘Frozen Houses’. It’s an interesting package, full of confidently delivered songs and some good musicianship but it is something of a strange confection. Consisting of eight self-written tracks the album definitely has an appeal. Frozen Houses is ably assisted by Ashley Height (guitar/harmony vocals), Lucy Hill (Little Lapin) on additional vocals and the assured drumming of Harry Harding (William the Conqueror and Yola Carter) and, for a debut album, this shows a deft touch in the studio. Continue reading “Frozen Houses “Frozen Houses” (Independent, 2018)”

Lloyd Cole, De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea, 4th March 2018

Lloyd Cole takes to the stage, looking more like a hip geography teacher than the brooding rock star of his youth, and launches straight into ‘Patience’, to the obvious approval of the capacity crowd at the De La Warr Pavillion. Once he’s finished his opening song he stops and takes a long, hard look at the crowd. After surveying the audience for a while he walks up to the microphone and delivers his first words of the evening; “Yeah….you’re not getting any younger either”. Continue reading “Lloyd Cole, De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea, 4th March 2018”