AmericanA to Z: John Cougar Mellencamp

This A-Z  is taking a small liberty. For ‘C’  we are looking at, and appreciating, the transformation of John Cougar Mellencamp from AOR-radio-friendly hit seeking pop-rocker, to gritty roots activist. Somewhere in the early to mid-1980s John Cougar seemed to lose his desire to emulate highly produced ‘heartland rock’ and emerge under his own name. And along the way he dropped the (much needed for this feature)[C]ougar too.  Maybe 1983 was the time he felt it right to assert himself and not pander to what record companies wanted. Maybe he cottoned onto the connotations of the term Cougar. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: John Cougar Mellencamp”

Joe Edwards “Keep On Running” (Tiny Mountain Records, 2020)

The natural inclination for Americana buffs may be to head SxSW to Texas in search of new and interesting talent to add to bulging collections. But hey, how about heading W-S-W from London instead, to the small market town of Devizes in Wiltshire. Perhaps not known as a regular stop on the trail of musical heritage, it does in fact holds its own for a town of less that 12,000 in rural England.  Bursting out of Devizes has come Andy Scott from The Sweet, as well as Jed Elliott from glam rocker reviving The Struts. That is before we mention Simon May,  who composed the theme for East Enders (not to mention 80’s yachting-based drama Howard’s Way; readers of a certain age may pause to reflect that their teenage giggling at the sartorial elegance of Ken Masters is less funny now their own tastes seem to be aligning). Anyway, the latest talent to hotfoot out of the musically thrumming Wiltshire town is Joe Edwards with his debut album ‘Keep On Running’. Continue reading “Joe Edwards “Keep On Running” (Tiny Mountain Records, 2020)”

Eileen Rose “Muscle Shoals” (Holy Wreckords, 2020)

Last year was a busy one for Eileen Rose. As well as writing two novels she recorded two albums; well, one double one really. Recording at the famous Muscle Shoals Sounds studio in Alabama spurred Rose on to not only put out an album of new songs (the ‘Eileen Rose’ part), but to add a ‘B’ side re-recording 10 songs from her back catalogue (actually 8 if you go for the digital version of the album making a total of 17 if you go for the feel-it-in-your-hands CD version). Continue reading “Eileen Rose “Muscle Shoals” (Holy Wreckords, 2020)”

Hello Emerson “How To Cook Everything” (KF Records, 2020)

Hello Emerson, of Columbus, Ohio and led by English Lit grad Sam Bodary, release their second album intriguingly titled ‘How to Cook Everything’ for us to contemplate, cogitate and digest. And sure, dip into it and you will find ten narratives about buildings (actually not many) and food (a scattering) and a few that generally explore coping with the slings and arrows of life’s outrageous fortunes. There are, I would wager, not too many songs in anyone’s record collection in which the story revolves around a book which, having given as a present, falls apart in the reader’s hands (‘Kyle Kerley’). Therein lies a taster for what this album offers.  The entrée ‘ The Last Dinner’ sets the mood, dressing up for a restaurant that is beyond the singer’s means forefronts the purpose of the farewell meal. Musically it sets the tone too, this is song-writing as story-telling set to a score that builds from a single acoustic guitar to a rich peak with pedal steel, brass, piano and strings. Continue reading “Hello Emerson “How To Cook Everything” (KF Records, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Tift Merritt “Another Country”

Last week’s chain gang featured Jason Isbell which could have led on to something by the Drive-By Truckers, or maybe Drivin and Cryin, or maybe a dip into the wealth of talent produced by Dave Cobb. Instead the thread takes us to Jason Isbell’s 2017 UK where show attendees would have seen the diminutively built but gargantuantally talented Tift Merritt. Here she is below with a live version of the title track from her third album ‘Another Country’ – it’s a beauty.

Roswell “Come Home EP” (Independent, 2020)

‘Come Home’ is the second EP from Indie Folk/Americana duo Roswell. Following on from the 5 track ‘Remedy’ (which won Fatea EP of the year in 2019) these 6 tracks will further whet the appetite for a proper full-length album. Having been writing and performing together for just two years, Zoë Wren and Jasmine Watkiss show astonishing maturity in their writing and performing. They have enough in their locker to appeal both to niche listeners and to cross over and charm a wider fan base. Carry on in this vein and they will be big. Both play and sing sublimely –  First Aid Kit, another duo, may spring to mind. The Staves and Wildwood Kin may be actually be a better point of reference, both of which of course have an extra voice, but, such is the strength and depth of the harmonies, that Roswell easily compete in that company. Continue reading “Roswell “Come Home EP” (Independent, 2020)”

Sam Lewis “Solo” (Loversity Records, 2020)

Three albums into a solo recording career Sam Lewis has released a stripped down, lay it all bare fourth called ‘Solo’.  The new release is a presentation of songs from his first three well-received albums, plus a small handful of new material. The album’s simple title emphasises that this is a man alone –  just him with microphone, acoustic guitar and studio audience. Lewis comes with a reputation as a soulful singer and story-teller. Having once been dubbed “a modern Townes Van Zandt” by Nashville heavyweight Chris Stapleton he has left himself no place to hide. Continue reading “Sam Lewis “Solo” (Loversity Records, 2020)”

Drive-By Truckers “The Unraveling” (ATO Records, 2020)

‘The Unravelling’, the 12th studio release by Drive-By Truckers pulls no punches, let us be upfront about that. As such it may well divide opinion as much and the increasingly bifurcated world on which it provides caustic comment. Musically it could make many friends. Some songs roll on a riffing piano superstructure that supports Mike Cooley’s and Patterson Hood’s instinctually complimentary guitar playing, others escalate the meter to full out rock and there is judicious use of acoustic guitar and strings.  The musical canvas on which the Drive-By Trucks paint their exhaustive observations of their homeland is first class. The usual band signature is evident – southern rock infused with country and filtered through Replacements-like brio. Continue reading “Drive-By Truckers “The Unraveling” (ATO Records, 2020)”

My Darling Clementine “Country Darkness Vol. 1” (Fretsore Records, 2019)

Country Darkness Vol. 1′ is a four-track EP of Elvis Costello songs performed by Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish AKA My Darling Clementine. The duo has been described by the Guardian as “a bravely unfashionable British Band who set out to play tribute to those great country duos Tammy and George, or Johnny Cash and June Carter. And they do it remarkably well”, and on the pages of this site as “one of the best bands the UK has offered in a good while”.
Continue reading “My Darling Clementine “Country Darkness Vol. 1” (Fretsore Records, 2019)”

Mail The Horse “Mail The Horse” (Baby Robot Records, 2019)

Three albums and an EP into their career, Mail the Horse are grabbing the present by channelling times past on a new album of county-tinged blues rock.  So used are we to viewing time as a linear, that we are conditioned to thinking that the passing of time is inextricably linked to progress. From this perspective the implication is that everything should be new, fresh and innovative. But though we live through time, we are just a bit too complex to rush forwards without hankering for the past and sometimes the metaphysical meaning in progress doesn’t fit, or even actually need to fit. Americana, rock, country, roots, psychedelic, folk enthusiasts perhaps, have a particular penchant for a more circular view of time where the appreciation is less the atomistic presence of ‘bands’ and more the re-birthing of a spirit. Continue reading “Mail The Horse “Mail The Horse” (Baby Robot Records, 2019)”