Stills & Collins “Everybody Knows” (Cleopatra Records, 2018)

Sometimes you can be genuinely surprised by an album for any number of reasons. In this case, it’s the surprise of seeing these two artists recording together in 2018. There’s no obvious reason why they shouldn’t but it’s odd that they never recorded together when they were a couple yet are doing so now, relatively late in life. Judy Collins is, of course, the subject of famous Stephen Stills songs like “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Helplessly Hoping”. Continue reading “Stills & Collins “Everybody Knows” (Cleopatra Records, 2018)”

Book review: Iain Matthews “Thro’ My Eyes” (Route Publishing, 2018)

If there was an award for the role of Godfather of Americana in the UK, serious consideration would have to go to Iain Matthews as a deserving nominee. An early member of Fairport Convention, recruited for his fine voice and ability to front a band, he was an early advocate of American singer songwriters like Richard Farina and Steve Gillette. Iain sang alongside original Fairport singer Judy Dyble but when Judy was replaced by Sandy Denny and Fairport started to move towards re-arranging traditional British folk songs, his position in the band became increasingly uncomfortable. He was dropped from the band in 1969, quite unceremoniously, but opted not to take it too personally; instead he made a musical point by forming Mathews Southern Comfort, a band built on the sound of American roots music rather than Fairport’s take on British folk, and went on to have a number one hit with his cover version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’. Continue reading “Book review: Iain Matthews “Thro’ My Eyes” (Route Publishing, 2018)”

Neilson Hubbard “Cumberland Island” (Proper Records, 2018)

Chances are, if you look up the term “world weary,” the name Neilson Hubbard would feature somewhere in the definition. There are times, on his latest album ‘Cumberland Island,’ that he makes someone like Leonard Cohen sound positively exuberant! On ‘Don’t Make Me Walk Through This World Alone’ he simply exudes lugubriousness – “Make me a picture to have and to hold, make me believe even when you don’t. Make me a liar inside of my home, just don’t make me walk through this world on my own” -wonderfully miserable stuff for those of us who like our songs drenched in sadness and self pity! In all fairness, the next track is ‘If The Sun Comes Up Tomorrow’ – upbeat and full of positivity, almost an antidote to the previous track. Continue reading “Neilson Hubbard “Cumberland Island” (Proper Records, 2018)”

Ned Collette “Old Chestnut” (It Records, 2018)

On first listening to this album it sounded like a collection of songs where you wait a long time for something to happen and not a lot does. But this is an album that rewards repeated listening because it really sneaks up on you and suddenly you find it’s very interesting indeed, with some good songs well delivered. Essentially it’s a singer/songwriter album drawing heavily on the folk tradition of the 1960s – often reminiscent of the excellent Incredible String Band but there are also elements of Roy Harper and early Donovan and even some material that sounds like some of Syd Barrett’s solo work. Continue reading “Ned Collette “Old Chestnut” (It Records, 2018)”

Picnic Area “No Country For Young Men” (Limefield, 2018)

No Country For Young Men’ is the third album from Mancunian alt-country rockers Picnic Area – and it’s a good one. Writing in the shadow of Brexit and the rise of Trump has given this band subject matters to really get their teeth into and they’ve risen to the challenge with some enthusiasm. Kicking off with the title track you can hear the anger and frustration: “There is no country for young men; Generations leading to despair….there is no country for young men, do we really take care of our own”? This is delivered against a bleak, stripped back drone of harmonica and harsh, grating guitar. It’s a powerful start to an album that lays down the marker of a band who seem to have a lot to say about world events and the current situations we find ourselves in. Continue reading “Picnic Area “No Country For Young Men” (Limefield, 2018)”

The Pinkerton Raid “Where The Wild Spirits Fly” (Independent, 2018)

Hailing from Durham in North Carolina ‘The Pinkerton Raid’ (great name!) produce an Indie/Americana sound based around the writing of the band’s frontman, Jesse James DeConto. This is their fourth full-length album and is based on a band philosophy that the answer to many of our problems lies in the importance of singing together. Not a bad philosophy really – we could all do with a bit more time spent singing together, a bit more time spent being a community. The songs on ‘Where the Wildest Spirits Fly’ have that community ethic; they sound like songs to be sung along with. As the band describes them, these are songs about hope against all odds and listening to songs like ‘Windmills in the Fog’ and ‘Sweet Pitchers of Mercy’ you can hear the positivity spilling out of your speakers. Continue reading “The Pinkerton Raid “Where The Wild Spirits Fly” (Independent, 2018)”

Marla and David Celia “Daydreamers” (Elite Records, 2018)

This album sounds so much like it was made sometime in the late sixties/early seventies that there’s a kind of time capsule feel to it; a little glimpse into a forgotten world. You can almost see Marla & David Celia sitting in a coffee shop discussing their latest gigs with Arlo Guthrie while they wait for Joni Mitchell to come and join them!  Daydreamers’ is an album that invokes the Hippy spirit. This is Laurel Canyon folk music dressed up for the 21st century – a sound infused with nostalgia for simpler times. ” Continue reading “Marla and David Celia “Daydreamers” (Elite Records, 2018)”

Various Artists “Restoration” (Universal Music Nashville, 2018)

Now this is a really interesting album. To give it its full title it is ‘Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’ and it does exactly that. Sixteen different acts from a country music background re-interpret thirteen songs from the massive back catalogue of two of the most prolific writers in popular music. The combination of country and Elton John could’ve been really cheesy but it’s actually quite glorious and the reason for that is the songs they’ve chosen and the artists selected. Continue reading “Various Artists “Restoration” (Universal Music Nashville, 2018)”

Parker Millsap “Other Arrangements” (Thirty Tigers, 2018)

One of the interesting things about reviewing new music is that, every so often, an artist will throw a real curve ball with a new recording; and that’s exactly what we have here on the latest release from Parker Millsap, ‘Other Arrangements’. In 2014 Millsap was hailed as one of the Emerging Artists of the Year by the Americana Music Association. He has been feted for his traditional approach to roots music, with his last two albums both going to number one in the US Americana charts and his 2016 album ‘The Very Last Day’ being nominated for Album of The Year at the Americana Music Honours & Awards. To date all his recordings have been about a simple acoustic guitar, bass and fiddle combination. Continue reading “Parker Millsap “Other Arrangements” (Thirty Tigers, 2018)”

Mashville “Another Place” (Coastguard Records, 2018)

The UK Americana scene really is in very good shape right now. We’ve seen a number of excellent UK produced Americana albums so far this year and here’s another one. Mashville hail from Kent and their latest release, ‘Another Place’, is their third album since forming back in 2012 – quite a substantial output for a relatively new band. At the heart of this outfit is the songwriting duo of Berin Riley and Graham Loft and this is the band’s great strength, as it’s the quality of their songs that stand out. The standard of their songwriting really is impressive and to have sustained it over three albums in a six-year period is quite something. Continue reading “Mashville “Another Place” (Coastguard Records, 2018)”