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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Anna Tivel “The Question” (Fluff and Gravy Records, 2019)

Of all the wonderful things rightfully said about Portland’s Anna Tivel, there is one that resonates perhaps more than many others, about how “you lean in to listen how she has put the words together.” It’s quite astonishing how her voice draws you in to really listen to the story she is telling. She creates recognisable characters in simple, uncomplicated environments and situations in her songs that we all understand, because we have all seen or experienced them. Stories written by an exceptional poet and delivered quite beautifully.
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Roseanne Reid “Trails” (Last Man Music, 2019)

With a diverse set of song styles – blues, upbeat country, traditional folk and roots – underpinned with an excellent blend of guitars, horns, organ and vocals – this is a very competent debut from Scotland’s Roseanne Reid. Produced by Teddy Thompson and featuring a guest appearance from Steve Earle (one of her champions), Reid has clearly made members of folk-rock royalty sit up and take notice early in her career with her songs which are full of bluesy southern soulful stock, complemented by Reid’s husky voice and simple but effective guitar playing. Continue reading “Roseanne Reid “Trails” (Last Man Music, 2019)”

Molly Tuttle “When You’re Ready” (Compass Records 2019)

Any artist who can secure the talents of someone such as Jason Isbell on background vocals for their debut album clearly has something going for them, and Molly Tuttle certainly has something going for her. Having already bagged a hatful of industry awards, Tuttle’s first full album release ‘When You’re Ready’ is an album of songs all written or co-written by her about the various stages of relationships – beginning, on the journey, break up, post break up, confusion – very radio friendly, and bursting with musicianship of a high standard. Continue reading “Molly Tuttle “When You’re Ready” (Compass Records 2019)”