Vetiver “Up On High” (Loose, 2019)

A few ready guides spring to mind that could be used as a quality yardstick to help broaden listening habits and experiences. How about exploring any album produced by Rick Rubin, or collaborations with Dan Auerbach? Or, what about making it a point to listen to any artist signed to Loose Music. Loose must surely have, pound for pound, one of the best rosters of artists you may care to find. And so, welcome to the first album for the label by Vetiver. Hailing from San Francisco and largely a vehicle for the talents of Andy Cabic, Vetiver have been releasing albums since 2004 with ‘Up On High’ being the band’s seventh release. Cabic has been moving around labels for most of his career including a brief spell with Sub Pop, but this release feels like he has laid his hat and found his home.
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Jesse Malin “Sunset Kids” (Wicked Cool Records, 2019)

Next time you feel the need to reach for a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get does-exactly-what-is-says-on-the-tin’ record you could, in all honesty not do a lot better than Jesse Malin’s new album ‘Sunset Kids’. Don’t come knocking if you want surprises, but feel free to spin if you want the kind of solid rootsy rock ‘n’. roll that’s been round the block, seen it all and still knows damn well how to please. This is a great album of 14 hugely enjoyable songs. Continue reading “Jesse Malin “Sunset Kids” (Wicked Cool Records, 2019)”

Mean Mary ”Cold” (Woodrock Records, 2019)

There is, it seems, no limit to Mary James’ (Mean Mary is a stage name) talent. This native of Alabama has, astonishingly, been writing songs since the age of five. She could read music before she could read script and can play eleven instruments including the banjo, fiddle and guitar. She has also written novels and a spiritual memoir, and was, as a child, a regular on a local Alabama TV programme The Country Boy Eddie Show. It was one of the songs she regularly performed on the TV, ‘Mean Mary from Alabam’ that inspired her stage name. Sometimes the only thing that can be done is to sit agog at the breadth and depth of talent some people are imbued with. Except it isn’t, because when that talent translates into recorded output such as we have here, we can all enjoy it. Win win. Continue reading “Mean Mary ”Cold” (Woodrock Records, 2019)”

Matthew Squires “Visions Of America” (Independent Release, 2019)

As the world continues to pick up pace and we struggle not to be left behind, it’s sometimes almost panic inducing to contemplate the impossibility of listening to all the new music available. Artists also have to clamour for attention, the ‘back in the day’ ritual of flicking through album covers in the local record shop having long been replaced by the casual thumb-flick-scroll through playlists. What makes us stop and play? For an artist like Matthew Squires, noting that ‘no one buys CDs anymore’ putting out material has ceased to be a physical thing (he will DIY burn you a copy if you want, and don’t mind it not being shrink-wrapped). He doesn’t make much money from his albums of course and he doesn’t see that as a problem until he wants to make a new one. ‘Visons of America’ comes to fruition as a self-released, crowd-funded effort. This is music as co-production, a community of artist and supporters and, as a small measure, the Americana UK pages as part of that to offer sign-posting in the increasingly crowded music digitalverse. Continue reading “Matthew Squires “Visions Of America” (Independent Release, 2019)”

Nicholas Altobelli “Vertigo” (Dalton Records, 2019)

“My name Nicholas. I write sad songs”. It’s an honest salutation written by the man himself on his Bandcamp page. And if first impressions stick, it seems to be the light in which Altobelli feels comfortable being illuminated; read past interviews and a certain self-deprecating melancholy figures almost as much as people conversant with his music throw in Woody Guthrie as a comparison and reference point. Continue reading “Nicholas Altobelli “Vertigo” (Dalton Records, 2019)”

Karen Jonas “Lucky, Revisited” (Independent, 2019)

“Hang on to your hats boys”… and so begins the first bit of advice from Karen Jonas at the start of ‘Ophelia’ the first song on ‘Lucky, Revisited’. It would be well to take heed because what follows is a rip-roaring hoe down played with the sort of gusto any thrash-metal band would be proud of. But instead of de-tuned distortion imagine Albert Lee circa ‘Country Boy’ backing the hollering lungs of Maria Mckee. The song offers guidance (Jonas’ second piece of advice on the album) to one of Shakespeare’s ‘you fell for a wrong’ un girl’ characters: Ophelia + Hamlet with enough fervour to make the bard’s quill quiver. The question to Ophelia “But honey, didn’t you read Romeo and Juliet?” is smart, funny and indicative of Jonas’ writing quality.
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Jim Lauderdale “From Another World” (Yep Roc, 2019)

‘From Another World’ is Jim Lauderdale’s, wait for it.. thirty-second album release. It is an astonishing accomplishment. Since releasing his first solo album 1991 he has released an album almost every year and sometimes more (there were three in 2013). Other artists with nigh on thirty-year recording careers take up much less shelf space with their back catalogues. And how many times have you perused the recording output of long-established artists lamenting that they haven’t made a really good album for years? The corollary of course is the much-respected songwriter who pumps out albums a little too regularly when an honest reflection might acknowledge that ever two or three records might condense into one that could have been a classic. So, hats off and three cheers for Jim Lauderdale for ‘From Another World’ – it’s consistently magnificent from start to finish; 12 original songs and forty-six minutes of top quality listening pleasure. Continue reading “Jim Lauderdale “From Another World” (Yep Roc, 2019)”

Remnose “Waiting On The Wind” (Independent, 2019)

Waiting On The Wind’ is the new album from Remnose, an indie-folk/rock band based in Detroit. The band are made up of brothers Morton (Marlon on lead vocal and rhythm guitar and Carson on drums) plus Alex Wildner on bass guitar Sam Sparling on piano and lap steel. Collectively their sound can be broadly characterised as the indie/folk. Theirs is a dreamy delivery of what, on first listen, seem to be quite simple arrangements. What you hear is the band and their instruments without a lot of unnecessary fuss which is rather clever because actually there is much more going on here than it seems. Marlon has an easy and yet emotive voice effortlessly carrying tunes that lilt like a gentle breeze or an early morning iridescent sun glimpsed through the trees. Continue reading “Remnose “Waiting On The Wind” (Independent, 2019)”

Buddy and Julie Miller “Breakdown on 20th Ave. South” (New West, 2019)

The husband and wife songwriting team reunite here for their first set of new songs in ten years. In truth the songs have been written by Julie in the period Buddy was busy working with a host of luminaries from the world of Americana. Back in 2009 the duo released ‘Written In Chalk’ and eight years before that their ‘Buddy and Julie Miller’ album won the “Album of the Year” Award from the Americana Music Association. The 2010s have seen the couple have quite different experiences. Continue reading “Buddy and Julie Miller “Breakdown on 20th Ave. South” (New West, 2019)”

The Felice Brothers “Undress” (Yep Roc, 2019)

Undress’ is the Felice Brothers’ 14th album, the first album of new material for three years and something of a treat. Another of those ‘recorded live’ records (though not quite, this one has minimal overdubs), it does capture a band channelling a vital energy and clearly enjoying themselves. Continue reading “The Felice Brothers “Undress” (Yep Roc, 2019)”