Book Review: David Berman “Actual Air” (Drag City, 2019)

It seems poetry books are a bit like buses – you wait ages for one and then two come along at once! Following on from our recent review of Doug Hoekstra’s ‘Unopened’ we now have David Berman’s acclaimed ‘Actual Air’ to evaluate – and this is quite a different beast! To start with, Berman’s book is a re-issue; originally released in 1999, this collection of modernist poems saw Berman hailed as a natural successor to Wallace Stevens and drew major critical acclaim from the likes of The New Yorker and G2. Twenty years on the impact of these poems has not diminished in the slightest. Now it is being re-issued, initially as a limited edition (one thousand copies) hardback, with a paperback run scheduled to follow. Continue reading “Book Review: David Berman “Actual Air” (Drag City, 2019)”

Nick Lowe “Love Starvation/ Trombone” (Yep Roc Records, 2019)

He may be on the wrong side of 70 but Nick Lowe isn’t one for letting the grass grow underneath his feet and his latest EP is a case in point.  It may only be four songs long but his sharp lyrics and consistent ability to wrap the words around a catchy melody seems undiminished over time.  Supported admirably by the quirkily named (and even more quirkily masked and attired) Los Straitjackets, Lowe has penned three original tracks in the shape of  ‘Love Starvation’ ‘Trombone’ and the tender ‘Blue on Blue’ while the fourth song is a highly modernised cover version of the somewhat obscure Ricky Nelson track ‘Raincoat in the River’. Continue reading “Nick Lowe “Love Starvation/ Trombone” (Yep Roc Records, 2019)”

JJ Cale “Stay Around” (Because Records, 2019)

‘Stay Around’ is a posthumous collection of previously unreleased JJ Cale tracks curated by longtime friend and manager Mike Kappus and Cale’s musician widow Christine Lakeland Cale. Rarely can there have been such a rich treasure trove of unreleased material to draw on.  The album is jam-packed with familiar riffs, strum patterns, licks and lyrical phrases. Throughout a nearly half-century career Cale steadfastly refused to vary his trademark instantly recognisable laconic noodling guitar style and shuffling rhythms.  He did what he did and that was it.  And so it is with ‘Stay Around’; the vibe and groove is reassuringly consistent across all the tracks perfectly reprising a lifetime of understated musical genius. Continue reading “JJ Cale “Stay Around” (Because Records, 2019)”

The California Feetwarmers “Gloryland” (Independent, 2019)

And, now for something completely different. Instead of travelling the usual dusty highways, we are going to take a sidestep, shimmy and jitterbug off the beaten track and into the world of the California Feetwarmers. Their toes may be tapping in Los Angeles but their hearts are beating in New Orleans. For these guys 1950 is somewhere in the future, and polishing your wing tips is as important as polishing your trombone. So adjust those braces (err,  suspenders), apply the pomade and dive into ‘Gloryland’, the Feetwarmers’ new 11 track album. Continue reading “The California Feetwarmers “Gloryland” (Independent, 2019)”

Alanna Matty “This Past Year” (EP) (Independent, 2019)

Intimate. A word overused, often lazily, to describe the elemental voice and acoustic guitar approach to song presentation that is pretty much omnipresent nowadays. However, Torontarian (yes that’s a real word) Alanna Matty really does serve up the most intimate of sounds on this four-track EP. You can hear the faint rumble of the world outside as the home-recorded acoustic guitar parts herald each song, the bass threatening to overload the mic. Clicks, stomps and whispered count offs are also to be heard – the flotsam and jetsam of recording that are normally discarded in the mixing and editing process. Continue reading “Alanna Matty “This Past Year” (EP) (Independent, 2019)”

Dervish “The Great Irish Songbook” (Concord Records, 2019)

One has to be grateful that Irish folk veterans Dervish have not gone down the Rod Stewart route with this collection of thirteen classic folk songs, choosing instead to rope in an impressive list of guests instead. The twin pitfalls of recording such an album though are over-familiarity (if we’re going to get the umpteenth version of ‘The Parting Glass’ then it better be good) and potentially seriously uneven quality and sadly this album falls foul of both. Continue reading “Dervish “The Great Irish Songbook” (Concord Records, 2019)”

The Fireflys “Only Us, Northern Lights” (Strawberry Moon Records, 2019)

The Fireflys have many things to commend them to music lovers of a certain vintage. To start with there is the declaration of intent by vocalist, lead guitarist and songwriter Lee Wylding “to promote listening to albums in full as it seems the warmth of a full album has been sidelined for a more cherry pick your faves- approach.” Good start Lee. Continue reading “The Fireflys “Only Us, Northern Lights” (Strawberry Moon Records, 2019)”

Big Jim Brown and the Speedkings “Devil On The Other Shoulder” (Independent, 2019)

The Speedkings are whomever Jim Brown is playing with, so this latest release doesn’t have much of a common line-up with 2016’s ‘After All, it’s Been Forever‘ and on any given night his live band is likely to be different again. On his latest release Jim Brown has taken more of a hand in the writing of the material – so there are none of The Band or John Hiatt covers that appeared on the earlier release. The nine songs that make up the album are pretty evenly divided between full band and mostly acoustic numbers, but all with Jim Brown’s deep baritone and an accomplished touch on the lyrics of this rootsy Americana release. Continue reading “Big Jim Brown and the Speedkings “Devil On The Other Shoulder” (Independent, 2019)”

True Strays “Homeward Bound” EP (Fieldview Records, 2019)

There’s no doubt True Strays can rock out.  The drums pound.  The cymbals crash.  The guitars crunch and slide and the bass bellows below it all.  Their latest EP, ‘Homeward Bound’ kicks off with the hard rock stomp of ‘Homesick Blues,’ characterized in the press materials as a song for “the wandering, zero hours contract, minimum wage wayfarer with no home to call their own.”  Continue reading “True Strays “Homeward Bound” EP (Fieldview Records, 2019)”

A.A. Bondy “Enderness” (Fat Possum, 2019)

A.A.Bondy is an Alt-Folk songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama. Bondy was originally the lead singer and guitarist in rock band Verbena, before making the jump to being a solo artist in 2003. ‘Enderness’ is Bondy’s 4th offering, and his first in eight years. Bondy says about the album “I was getting drunk  and watching Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and there’s this character Homer who asks: “What is it about peace that makes its story so hard to tell?”  Killers 3 is my answer to that question.” Bondy plays all of the instruments himself on ‘Enderness’ which is being released on May 10th Via Fat Possum Records. Continue reading “A.A. Bondy “Enderness” (Fat Possum, 2019)”