JM Stevens “Invisible Lines” (Chicken Ranch Records)

This stalwart musician has a life steeped in music. Having enjoyed some level of success with previous bands, if this album is anything to go by, he may well be building on that as he seeks to pursue a solo career. Stevens’ mode of expression seems to be to keep his options open with a range of styles, or maybe I should say ‘Invisible Lines’. Continue reading “JM Stevens “Invisible Lines” (Chicken Ranch Records)”

AmericanA to Z – Emmylou Harris

As a renowned singer, songwriter and musician, Emmylou Harris will no doubt need little or no introduction. Harris is, without doubt, one of the all-time greats. Her contribution to music over the years is summed up magnificently in the notes accompanying her 2005 compilation album ‘The Very Best of Emmylou Harris: Heartaches and Highways’ as “a cornerstone of the country-rock genre, who led country music back to its roots, who was a trailblazer for female musical collaborations, who prefigured the resurgence of bluegrass, and who became a key artist of the Americana movement”. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Emmylou Harris”

Gold Light “Zephyr” (Bailey Park, 2019)

Joe Chang, aka Gold Light, has been releasing music since 2013 from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. ‘Zephyr‘, his fourth album, was all written, performed and mixed by Chang himself and recorded over just three days on a 4-track cassette player, in his bedroom. The fact this was all accomplished in his bedroom might make one think he is young and inexperienced, but that is far from the case. Continue reading “Gold Light “Zephyr” (Bailey Park, 2019)”

Jesse Terry + Emma Stevens, Cluny 2, Newcastle, 9th October 2019

Sharing the headlines on this tour of the UK and Ireland, Jesse Terry and Emma Stevens, two experienced singer-songwriters, hailing from opposite sides of the Pond, may have seemed an unlikely co-bill. However, even though they’d never actually met before this tour, and their styles are quite different, they gracefully complemented one another. Co-bills (as opposed to a name act plus support) are an excellent idea but, and I’m sure it’s part of the strategy, they have a tendency to leave you wanting more from both acts and this was the case tonight. Continue reading “Jesse Terry + Emma Stevens, Cluny 2, Newcastle, 9th October 2019”

The Divine Comedy + Man & The Echo, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, 6th October 2019

Launching their tour at Dublin’s old Gas Board offices allowed an apt backdrop for the six-piece The Divine Comedy’s presentation of their latest symphony of songs ‘Office Politics’. The scene was set, much like the album cover, in an office with all the office equipment & technology you could imagine, and it made for a charming atmosphere in which Neil Hannon was able to enact his take on life at the office. By his own admission, not having ever worked in an office, Hannon wasn’t qualified to do this, and perhaps that was reflected by the odd ‘admin error’ that Alastair the Caretaker had to tend. On the whole, the audience was thoroughly entertained throughout by the exquisite band and Hannon’s remarkable observations & distinguished delivery. His unrivalled talent as a wordsmith knows no bounds. The subject matter of his writing is down to earth, real, and touches everybody. Then there is the music; melodious and lyrical, beautiful and brilliant. Continue reading “The Divine Comedy + Man & The Echo, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, 6th October 2019”

John Calvin Abney “Safe Passage” (Black Mesa Records, 2019)

First impressions count, and the stylish but relaxed artistic photos on this album cover speak volumes before any songs are even heard. The first track ‘I Just Want to Feel Good’ does just what it says on the tin. Its bright and sparkly intro setting the scene for this ‘Maybe Happy’ album of ten original songs from Abney, which showcase his vast musical ability. Continue reading “John Calvin Abney “Safe Passage” (Black Mesa Records, 2019)”

Dan Whitehouse + Boo Hewerdine, Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton, 21st September 2019

A rare opportunity to see two sensational singer-songwriters share the stage on the beautifully balmy last evening of summer was not to be missed, even when it meant a 460-mile round trip. Newhampton Arts Centre, the NAC, was full of expectant music-lovers, comfortably seated for what was to become a memorable night of entertainment. First to take to the magnificent stage (the NAC, an independent charity with no regular funding, boasts state-of-the-art stage and sound facilities made possible by the support of the community who use it and generous donations from supporters such as musician and philanthropist Damen Albarn), and thrilling the audience with the very apt sound of the Earth, Wind and Fire track ‘September’ was local artist Dan Whitehouse. Continue reading “Dan Whitehouse + Boo Hewerdine, Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton, 21st September 2019”

Lisa Bastoni “How We Want to Live” (Independent, 2019)

Hailing from progressive Massachusetts, and labelled as ‘folk’ award-winning Bastoni, it seems, actually keeps her feet firmly rooted in traditional country music. Many of the tracks on this album, mostly a collection of break-up songs all written as her marriage was ending, would sit well on any elite female country/folk/blues artists album, including the one cover and the longest track on the album which is a beautiful, very secure version of Dylan’s ‘Workingman’s Blues #2′. Continue reading “Lisa Bastoni “How We Want to Live” (Independent, 2019)”

The Jorgensens “The Lexington Stretch” (Independent, 2019)

What a stunner! The opening track to this new album is powerful, pure, alluring and thought-provoking. The first note of the a capella voices will bring you to a standstill, and you will have to stop what you are doing and listen. The beauty of Kurt and Brianna Jorgensens’ voices, complimenting one another exquisitely, is a sound to behold and, ‘If the Sea Was Whiskey’, a cover of the Willie Dixon track, is simply stunning. So much so, the rest of the album almost sits in its shadow. Don’t get me wrong, though; there are several more beautiful tracks. Originally made famous in 1928 by Louis Armstrong, ‘St. James Infirmary’ is elegantly played – even if every time I hear it, I have to look out of the window to see who is knocking. Continue reading “The Jorgensens “The Lexington Stretch” (Independent, 2019)”

Various Artists “The Rough Guide To The Roots Of Country Music” (World Music Network, 2019)

The tracks on this compilation, all initially recorded in the ’20s and ’30s, and lovingly remastered using pioneering restoration techniques, showcase the traditional storytelling of the era in its purest form. The combination of the banjo, fiddle and guitar bring to life many a tale of woe and wonder with quite a roller coaster of emotions – provided not least by some very early, and epic, auditioning of the slide guitar. Continue reading “Various Artists “The Rough Guide To The Roots Of Country Music” (World Music Network, 2019)”