AmericanA-Z – Yola

When our esteemed editor assigned his worker-writers their alphabetical letters for this journey through the wonderful world of Americana, this contributor’s first reaction was “Well, what have I done to deserve X, Y, or Z?! What am I supposed to do with these letters??” Hmmm… Of course, with a little more restrained thought and review, it was clear the tail end of the alphabet provides an extremely rich vein of astonishing artists and albums from which to choose, so the next question becomes, OK….which one? Continue reading “AmericanA-Z – Yola”

Daniel Green “Vanish Like A Cloud In Sunlight” (Timezone, 2019)

It takes a brave artist to make an album with the main focus on death, particularly where family and close friends are concerned. Daniel Green’s 3rd solo effort does just that; as the marketing material states this record is all about “fear, loss and dying”. Which isn’t strictly true, there are songs about dementia and the city of Hamburg, so that’s OK. But largely it is about the hard topics of death and loss. In 2017, Green lost a greatly loved member of his family to cancer, followed by the loss of his grandmother and a close colleague, and these songs are his way of managing the consequent feelings of helplessness and trying to cope. Continue reading “Daniel Green “Vanish Like A Cloud In Sunlight” (Timezone, 2019)”

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors “Dragons” (Magnolia Music/Thirty Tigers 2019)

Based out of East Nashville, Tennessee, Drew Holcomb has been making excellent roots-rock music for around 15 years and in ‘Dragons’, the latest release, he has continued that standard. This is an album with lots of energy and positivity, covering a few diverse topics, but with the underlying thread of Family throughout. There are songs referencing his wife (singer Ellie, who features on the album), son, grandfather, brother and the Family itself, all of which extol the virtues of each of those relationships with Holcomb. He clearly considers himself to be a lucky guy in the family arena.
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Emma Frank “Come Back” (Justin Time/Nettwerk Music Group, 2019)

Being an ardent fan of (almost) all things Americana is fun, isn’t it? Highly talented artists, writing and playing wonderful creations, live on stage and on record, and all across an astonishingly wide spectrum of music genres. Everything anyone could possibly want is here….rock and country and roots and folk and on and on, even reaching the far boundaries of jazz. Which is tremendous news, as it is on this boundary that Emma Frank’s ‘Come Back’ is found. Continue reading “Emma Frank “Come Back” (Justin Time/Nettwerk Music Group, 2019)”

Nels Andrews “Pigeon and the Crow” (Independent, 2019)

This is only the 4th studio album from Nels Andrews since he was selected as a winner in the New Folk Competition at the annual Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas in 2002, which isn’t exactly prolific by any measure. Perhaps it’s his way of keeping standards high. If so, it’s working, if the quality of ‘Pigeon and The Crow’ is anything to go by. Continue reading “Nels Andrews “Pigeon and the Crow” (Independent, 2019)”

Black Tar Roses “Rebels, Rogues and Outlaws” (Independent, 2019)

There is sometimes a danger of folk albums – and especially those labelled in sub-genres such as Dark Folk, as the release notes for this debut offering from ‘Black Tar Roses’ describe the band – to be a touch homogenous, with songs too standardised and samey to enjoy listening to as a whole album. Fortunately, this is not the case with ‘Rebels, Rogues and Outlaws’, an album of songs with enough diversity to keep things interesting.
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Ardentjohn “Malin Head” (Adulation, 2019)

The album’s title is taken from the name of the most northerly tip of the island of Ireland, Donegal to be precise, the last headland before Greenland, where folks will tell you that more ocean liners and German U-boats have sunk off this coast than probably anywhere on the planet. It is a bleak but beautiful part of the world, and, coincidentally, featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. An interesting place after which to name your record. Continue reading “Ardentjohn “Malin Head” (Adulation, 2019)”

Rod Picott “Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil” (Broken Jukebox Media, 2019)

This is Rod Picott’s third album in almost as many years, but this one is a little different to his previous recent efforts. Songs on ‘Tell The Truth and Shame The Devil’ were written after a serious health scare that Picott experienced during the winter of 2018 and reflect on some of his life experiences and regrets – stuffed full of metaphors – and, as he himself says, has resulted in a “raw, honest and uncontrived” finished product.
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Forty Elephant Gang “Next Time Round” (Independent, 2019)

Naming your popular beat combo after a vicious gang of 19th-century thieves and robbers from South London – and female at that – may seem an interesting choice for an Alt-folk (their description) band from East London. However, this debut is one example of when to expect the unexpected. For ‘Next Time Round’ by the Forty Elephant Gang is a very enjoyable first effort, strong songs and good musicianship, with an underlying upbeat feel throughout.
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The Last InnHouse “Skimming Stone” (Independent, 2019)

The Last InnHouse describe themselves as an alt-country/Indie/Folk outfit which is quite a mish-mash of genres and their debut album, ‘Skimming Stone’, attempts to showcase the band’s songwriting and playing strengths in each. The heart of the band consists of original members Victoria Siddoway and Craig McDearmid, and since forming in 2011 they have been writing and performing, developing their sound, culminating in this album.
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