EG Vines “Family Business” (Independent, 2019)

When his band called it a day in 2015, EG Vines decided to strike out on his own. Last year’s EP ‘Conversation’ put listeners on notice that there was more to come. Vines’ debut LP ‘Family Business’ is out now and it has a lot of good things going for it. The songwriting is intelligent but easy. The arrangements bring Petty, DBT, and the Black Crowes to mind. The production is top-notch, and while it leans Nashville, it doesn’t squelch the songwriter’s swagger that Vines brings to each track. For a debut album, that should be enough . . . but why stop there? Continue reading “EG Vines “Family Business” (Independent, 2019)”

AmericanA to Z – Uncle Tupelo

There’s no way we could make our first trip through the alphabet without a tip of the hat to the band that some folks point to as the start of this thing we call Americana. I’m going to sidestep the industrial-strength spider web of a conversation that inevitably follows any statement to the effect that somebody did or didn’t ‘start’ a movement or a musical style. Feel free to go down that road in the comments section if you’d like. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Uncle Tupelo”

The Lumineers “III” (Decca, 2019)

If you only give the new album ‘III’ by The Lumineers a surface listen, you’ll probably find yourself thinking something along the lines of: “well isn’t that nice, there’s a new Lumineers album”. And on that surface level, you’ll be right. As background music – there’s nothing new here. But there are two points to make following that observation. First, why would you change anything up when you’ve found something that works for you and your fans? Second, the best of what’s on offer in The Lumineers’ music lies beneath the surface. Continue reading “The Lumineers “III” (Decca, 2019)”

Darrin Bradbury “Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs” (ANTI-, 2019)

It takes a keen eye to spot the profound wrapped up inside the everyday. Darrin Bradbury has a very keen eye and he puts it to good use. Others have drawn comparisons between Bradbury’s songwriting and the work of John Prine or Guy Clark. It’s probably worth throwing the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, and Warren Zevon into that mix. A keen eye, a dark sense of humour, and a talent for turning a phrase can go a long way. Continue reading “Darrin Bradbury “Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs” (ANTI-, 2019)”

Ana Egge “Is It the Kiss” (StorySound, 2019)

When you’ve shared the stage with the likes of John Prine and James McMurtry; when Steve Earle says that it’s like you’re telling us your “deepest darkest secrets”; When Iris DeMent shows up to help you cover a Diana Jones tune . . . you’ve been doing something right. After twelve years, ten albums, and a sizeable pile of awards and accolades, Ana Egge isn’t hitting her stride – she’s grabbing another gear. The songs on “Is It the Kiss”, her 11th album, exhibit a mastery of the craft even as she continues to push the boundaries of her own abilities as a songwriter.
Continue reading “Ana Egge “Is It the Kiss” (StorySound, 2019)”

The Moon Shells “Seaside Asylum” (Casa de Agua, 2019)

There’s just something special about the combination of fiddle and banjo. When they’re working at the height of their combined powers, they’re able to summon up memories that aren’t even our own. They speak from all of the times and places that have been spoken to, and spoken through, by way of their combined strengths. They pack a powerful punch when they’re put to good use. Of course, the other side of that coin is that they command a certain respect. If the meaning and emotion aren’t there then you’re left with an empty shell . . . an imposter. Continue reading “The Moon Shells “Seaside Asylum” (Casa de Agua, 2019)”

Purple Mountains “Purple Mountains” (Drag City, 2019)

After ten years on the sidelines, David Berman has decided to chime in with a new album under a new name. If we take him at his word, ten years ago his biggest fear was that he might accidentally write the answer song to ‘Shiny Happy People’. Depending on what you think that answer is, you might find yourself wondering if this album is the product of Berman facing that fear. After all, who’s to say what the answer is… Continue reading “Purple Mountains “Purple Mountains” (Drag City, 2019)”

Benjamin James Roberts “And So I Ask Myself . . .” (Misty Ocean Sounds, 2019)

Oh, to be young and have your whole life ahead of you… With so much yet to come it’s the wise artist who takes time to reflect on what has already come to pass. Where are you? Who are you? How did you get here? And sometimes, when you ask yourself, the answers come in the form of more questions. On his debut EP, Benjamin James Roberts offers us his reflections on the process of growing into the artist he is today. Those changes came by way of experimenting, questioning, and searching for understanding. Continue reading “Benjamin James Roberts “And So I Ask Myself . . .” (Misty Ocean Sounds, 2019)”

The Witness Marks “The Witness Marks” (Mudsparkler Music, 2018)

Life is bittersweet at best in the scenes summoned by Ethan Fogus on The Witness Marks’ self-titled debut album. Every triumph is tainted. Every success is suspect. The characters are frail and their fortunes are fleeting. Their stories force us to ponder whether it is destiny or circumstance that has done them in. Each song is a snapshot of a moment or a sonnet spun from memories. Continue reading “The Witness Marks “The Witness Marks” (Mudsparkler Music, 2018)”

The Mountain Firework Company “The Beggar’s Prayer” (Independent, 2019)

They say that seven is a lucky number. Well, it’s been seven years since The Mountain Firework Company released their last album and, in this case, we’re the lucky ones. The lengthy gestation has paid off in an exceptional album . . . the sort that doesn’t come along very often. There isn’t a spare note or wasted chord. On the other hand, there aren’t any holes. From open to close, the album flows seamlessly. Continue reading “The Mountain Firework Company “The Beggar’s Prayer” (Independent, 2019)”