Home Life: Matt Hill

UK singer-songwriter Matt Hill’s latest album, ‘Savage Pilgrims’, is the first one he’s put out under his own name – his previous four releases were credited to Quiet Loner. He may no longer be a ‘quiet loner’, but, as his new record demonstrates, Hill will always be an outsider and difficult to pigeonhole – he’s part Americana, part protest singer and part folk artist. Continue reading “Home Life: Matt Hill”

Ismay “Songs of Sonoma Mountain” (Independent, 2020)

Ismay – aka singer-songwriter Avery Hellman – is named after a small US town in the Northern Great Plains of Montana, which, at the last count, had a population of only 19. But, judging by her debut album, ‘Songs of Sonoma Mountain’, you get the feeling that the place she takes her moniker from might just be a tad too busy for her liking, as this ‘back-to-nature’ concept record was inspired by the five years she spent living and working on her remote family ranch in rural California and it was also recorded there, on Sonoma Mountain, in a 100-year old sheep barn. Continue reading “Ismay “Songs of Sonoma Mountain” (Independent, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Bob Dylan “One More Cup of Coffee”

One of the things I’m missing most during lockdown is a decent cup of coffee – I have a local café that makes a great latte – so when I read last week’s Chain Gang article, which was written about ‘Instant Coffee Blues’ by Guy Clark, it really hit the spot, so much so that I wanted to get another fix of caffeine-themed Americana. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Bob Dylan “One More Cup of Coffee””

John Baumann “Country Shade” (The Next Waltz, 2020)

On his third album, ‘Country Shade’, Texas-based singer-songwriter John Baumann spends a lot of time pondering change – whether that’s the changing state of rural America, or changes in relationships and circumstances, but, after hearing the first few songs, you can’t help but wish he’d change things up a bit, rather than plough the same furrow of over-earnest, plodding, slick yet soulless, mid-paced and middle-of-the-road country rock. Continue reading “John Baumann “Country Shade” (The Next Waltz, 2020)”

A Choir Of Ghosts “An Ounce of Gold” (Greywood Records, 2020)

According to his press biog, Sweden-based, British-born ‘alt-folk’ singer-songwriter James Auger has spent several years trying to find his place in the world. Judging by his debut album, ‘An Ounce of Gold’, released under the pseudonym A Choir Of Ghosts, he still doesn’t know what, or where, he wants to be. Things get off to a strange start with the opening instrumental track, the unimaginatively named ‘Intro’, which begins with low humming and weird, garbled voices – a choir of ghosts? – but then erupts with huge, cinematic strings and massed, angelic vocals. It’s as if we’re being welcomed into heaven. Continue reading “A Choir Of Ghosts “An Ounce of Gold” (Greywood Records, 2020)”

Lawrence County “The Frailty of Humans” (Independent, 2020)

The title of Nottingham alt-country outlaws Lawrence County’s new album, ‘The Frailty of Humans’, couldn’t be more apt for these worrying times we’re living in – and, as if that’s not prescient enough, there’s even a song on it called ‘This Is The End Of It All.’ You could be forgiven for thinking there’s witchcraft at work, which, funnily enough, wouldn’t be too far from the truth, as this record is steeped in folklore and full of tales of fire and brimstone, death, the demon drink, preacher men and troubled souls. Pour yourself a stiff one before you settle in for a listening session. Continue reading “Lawrence County “The Frailty of Humans” (Independent, 2020)”

Jonathan Hultén “Chants From Another Place” (Kscope, 2020)

If you’re looking for an album to lose yourself in and transport you somewhere else during these anxious days of lockdown, then Swedish singer-songwriter Jonathan Hultén’s aptly named solo debut ‘Chants From Another Place’ should do the trick. Inspired by Acappella folk and church choir compositions, it’s atmospheric and mesmerising – in fact, it sounds like it was recorded deep in a Scandinavian forest, or hewn out of a mountain. Continue reading “Jonathan Hultén “Chants From Another Place” (Kscope, 2020)”

Amy LaVere “Painting Blue” (Archer Records, 2020)

‘No Battle Hymn’, the striking first single from ‘Painting Blue’, the fifth album by Memphis-based Amy LaVere, is a timely anthem for a world in crisis. “No one’s ready to admit we may be out of time,” she sings, over a slick, yet moody, blues-pop groove, with some chunky organ riffs and mean electric guitar licks, coming across like an edgier Sheryl Crow. Although its lyrics tackle defeatism, it’s ultimately a hopeful song, which calls for unification: “We need a victory march in our hearts.”

Continue reading “Amy LaVere “Painting Blue” (Archer Records, 2020)”

Matthew Francis Andersen “Pine River” (Independent, 2020)

The third album by Chicago-born Matthew Francis Andersen is a collection of songs themed around a fictional town called Pine River. From the off, it feels like this is a place that’s very familiar and has been visited countless times before. “Have you got another bottle?” he asks on the opener, ‘Absolutely’, a tired, bluesy, country-boogie shuffle that sounds like it was found lying on the floor of a touristy bar somewhere in Nashville or Austin – the album was recorded in the latter city. Continue reading “Matthew Francis Andersen “Pine River” (Independent, 2020)”

Matt McGinn “Lessons of War” (Binlid Records)

If there were an award given for the most earnest album of the year, then ‘Lessons of War’ by Matt McGinn would be a shoo-in. For his fourth record, the Irish singer-songwriter has collaborated with musicians from war-affected areas around the world on a 10-track collection of protest songs. The project, which took three years to complete, includes guest appearances by London-based Citizens of the World Choir – made up of refugees; Yazan Ibrahim, a flamenco guitarist from The Golan Heights, in south-Western Syria, and Seydu, a percussionist and philanthropist from Sierra Leone. Continue reading “Matt McGinn “Lessons of War” (Binlid Records)”