Matt Eckstine “Lil’ Blue” (Independent 2020)

Almost 20 years ago, songwriter and performer Matt Eckstine upped sticks from his native Ohio and settled in the Lowcountry of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. After some time fronting Savannah local band The Accomplices, in 2017 Eckstine released his first solo album, and ‘Lil’ Blue’, his second, recorded at his home studio in Savannah, paints rich images of the world he now calls home, with americana tunes telling tales of fishing, beach side cabins and his adopted home city. Continue reading “Matt Eckstine “Lil’ Blue” (Independent 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: The New Pornographers “Sing Me Spanish Techno”

Clint’s entry for the Chain Gang last week, Simi Stone, is also a full-time member of The New Pornographers, an excellent outfit from Vancouver, Canada, having been a touring member for some years. One of their most popular songs – certainly in our house, at least – is ‘Sing Me Spanish Techno’ from the 2005 album, ‘Twin Cinema’. A song that could be about not getting into a rut, not repeating the same things over and over, not listening to the same music all the time, trying different things…“Listening too long to one song/Sing me Spanish techno….” Or not. It could simply be about nothing at all. But it still gets my offspring dancing around the room at parties. Which has to be a good thing. And yes, perhaps it does veer a little to the indie side of the room, but there is enough twangy guitar on this bouncy slice of Canadiana to have kept my brood happy for the past 15 years.

Loudon Wainwright III “I’d Rather Lead A Band” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)

There can’t be many albums reviewed on these pages that have name-checked Irving Berlin, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, so this may well be a first. ‘I’d Rather Lead a Band’, the latest offering from six-stringed diarist Loudon Wainwright III, renowned as one of the most original songwriters of our times, is a collection of 1920s and 30s big band songs, including numbers written and/or recorded by the famous names above, as well as many others. Created with the backing of outstanding New York nightclub band, Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks, this album, at first sight, may seem to be an unusual choice for Wainwright, but is in fact an almost perfect fit. Continue reading “Loudon Wainwright III “I’d Rather Lead A Band” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

Select Captain “Comes in Waves” (Soundchest Records 2020)

As previously covered in these pages, ‘Comes in Waves’, the latest album from Select Captain (Danes Kristian Gaarskjær and Søren Vestergaard) has been drip-fed to its audience in the shape of three EPs, imaginatively entitled Part I, Part II and Part III, a process which has taken almost a year. Parts I and II have four tracks each and Part III just three tracks, but the whole – the finally released album – is greater than the sum of its parts, as there are twelve tracks. Clever, huh? Continue reading “Select Captain “Comes in Waves” (Soundchest Records 2020)”

Kris Delmhorst “Long Day In The Milky Way” (Big Bean Music, 2020)

The opening track on Kris Delmhorst’s eighth studio album sets the stall out nice and early in terms of identifying the source of the album title (the very first line) and the running theme of songs, of finding patience and persistence to manage a way through these darkened times. Delmhorst also remembers on the opening track “….saying to the harp player, that when it got to the last chord she should harp the sh*t out of it and that’s exactly what she did, in the best possible way.” Not a musical expression heard every day, that’s for sure. Continue reading “Kris Delmhorst “Long Day In The Milky Way” (Big Bean Music, 2020)”

The Avett Brothers “The Third Gleam” (Loma Vista Records, 2020)

The latest in their series of in-between-albums albums, ‘The Third Gleam’ (clue is in the title of how many there have been in the series) from The Avett Brothers continues to take a breather from the chaos and madness of our current world and also perhaps from the responses to the recent inclination to the poppier styling of their ‘regular’ music. Interestingly, the album was written before the world was ravaged by Covid-19 and then made to take a good look at itself in the light of the BLM movement and its aftermath, and yet a number of themes of the songs lend themselves almost exactly to many experiences of the past few months. Continue reading “The Avett Brothers “The Third Gleam” (Loma Vista Records, 2020)”

Irma Vep “Embarrassed Landscape” (Gringo Records, 2020)

Irma Vep… anagram of vampire – you saw that, right? – the name of a film made as a satirical look at the state of 90s French cinema and a musical vehicle for Edwin Stevens, originally from Llanfairfechan, North Wales now resident in Glasgow. For those whose French cinema knowledge is sketchy at best these days, we’ll focus on the final version of Irma Vep if that’s OK. Continue reading “Irma Vep “Embarrassed Landscape” (Gringo Records, 2020)”

Kathleen Edwards “Total Freedom” (Dualtone Records, 2020)

Kathleen-Edwards-2020In 2014, having released four studio albums, Kathleen Edwards returned home from yet another promotional tour for her 2012 album, ‘Voyageur’, put away her guitar and stepped back from the business. The hamster wheel of writing/recording/touring/repeat had lost its appeal and break time was urgently needed to prevent long term damage to her mental health and creative ability. She moved back to her hometown of Ottawa and opened a coffee shop, tongue-in-cheekily named Quitters. It took an out of the blue call in 2018 from long term fan Maren Morris, inviting Edwards to a songwriting session in Nashville to kickstart Edwards’ journey back, culminating in the creation of ‘Total Freedom.’ Continue reading “Kathleen Edwards “Total Freedom” (Dualtone Records, 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: Indigo Girls “Swamp Ophelia” (Epic, 1994)

Sometimes, arriving late to something like a previously unknown band or a music genre or perhaps an album that everyone seems to have owned and played forever is not always a bad thing. It provides the exciting opportunity to trawl through a back catalogue, to seek out live performances online and best of all to track when a newly discovered artist is touring locally. Living and working in Boston in about 1999, a colleague was playing songs in the office by a group unknown to me on her cassette player (young ‘uns….look it up). Upon enquiry, I was informed it was The Indigo Girls, the tracks being ‘Closer to Fine’ and ‘Hammer and a Nail’. My introduction to the musical delights of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray was complete. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Indigo Girls “Swamp Ophelia” (Epic, 1994)”

AmericanA to Z: Justin Townes Earle

When you are the firstborn of one of americana’s iconic roots musicians AND given the name of one of the great songwriters of his era, it’s kinda preordained that you will end up in this business, one way or another. Justin Townes Earle – JTE – son of Steve, named after dad’s idol, Townes Van Zandt, has carved himself a piece of americana that was perhaps unlikely given the number of chairs thrown in his path in the shape of addictions in his early years. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Justin Townes Earle”