Elaine Lennon “Elaine Lennon” (Independent, 2019)

A highly-anticipated debut album is a phrase that is all too common these days. But to say this album is anything but that is truly an understatement. Nashville Songwriters’ Association International 2019 ‘One To Watch’, Elaine Lennon’s debut self-titled album is one she hopes will be strong and impactful and help her music career keep kicking on.
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The Pine Hearts “Back To Sustain” (Independent, 2020)

The Pine Hearts sound just like you would expect a band who hail from the foothills of Washington State’s Cascade Mountains to sound like. A three-piece string band, they are as refreshing as a mountain stream as guitar, mandolin, and double bass gently nudge their songs along inhabiting a relaxed and freewheeling take on American folk music. They have some great songs of their own on display here but listen to their take on that old chestnut, ‘Stealin’’ for an idea of how they inject vitality into these timeworn sounds. Continue reading “The Pine Hearts “Back To Sustain” (Independent, 2020)”

The Southern Fold “Bible Fear” (Independent, 2019)

If the artwork and name of Irish group The Southern Fold’s debut album doesn’t give you enough of a clue as to its prominent theme, then the titles of the songs surely will: ‘Blood of Life’, ‘Sunday Best’, ‘Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost (Not Taken in Vain)’ and ‘The Devil in Me’ are just a few of the thirteen largely religiously-themed tracks. Continue reading “The Southern Fold “Bible Fear” (Independent, 2019)”

Buffalo Jones “Standing By” (Independent, 2019)

Buffalo Jones have been releasing music and playing together for over ten years now, and their latest release is shot through with a suitably reflective tone. There are songs about loss, heartbreak, the realities of touring, and, through it all, the hope and joy of playing music with your friends. The band describes itself as a rock band with “just enough twang to keep it interesting”,  and they are in danger of selling themselves short.  Continue reading “Buffalo Jones “Standing By” (Independent, 2019)”

VanWyck “Molten Rock” (Maiden Name Records, 2019)

Following on from the success of her debut album ‘An Average Woman’ in 2018, Amsterdam singer-songwriter VanWyck brings us ‘Molten Rock’, an album dealing with the complexities, paradoxes and even the duplicities that make us all human. She says that “if ‘An Average Woman’ was the album I had to make, then ‘Molten Rock’ is the album I really wanted to make”. Thank goodness for that, for it is really rather good.
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Various Artists “For A Better Life” (Whistlepig Records, 2019)

Here is an album that demonstrates a diverse range of musicians more or less in the Americana, Folk and Indie worlds coming together with songs focused on the same message and with the intention of doing good. ‘For a Better Life‘ has an aim, and it is to raise money to support Immigrant Families Together, and it has a topic and that is “what kind of person thinks it is ok to rip children from their parents, lock them in cages and then distribute them all over the USA and not give a fig about them being able to keep in contact?“. That’s a long question, and it’s a big question and it’s a question that a dozen artists attack in different ways on this excellent compilation. Continue reading “Various Artists “For A Better Life” (Whistlepig Records, 2019)”

Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts “OHBAHOY” (Independent, 2019)

Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts have released another solid set of tunes. The album, which came out late last year, carries on their tradition of blending diverse influences into smooth, well-written, and well-produced power pop packages. You’ll hear a lot of the late ’80s, LA-based AOR in the tracks from this set. But there’s a freshness that runs throughout the latest offering—probably due to the broader stylistic pallet that the group draws on. Continue reading “Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts “OHBAHOY” (Independent, 2019)”

Book Review: Bryan Wagner “The Wild Tchoupitoulas” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)

There will be many who have never heard of ‘The Wild Tchoupitoulas’ but this was a seminal record in establishing an earthy, roots-based aspect of New Orleans music – as such it’s of major interest to anyone who seeks knowledge of some of the more obscure aspects of Americana. This book, from American academic, Bryan Wagner, examines the background to this recording, providing historical and social context to a landmark album. Continue reading “Book Review: Bryan Wagner “The Wild Tchoupitoulas” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)”

Della Mae “Headlight” (Rounder Records, 2020)

Earning a Grammy nomination for best Bluegrass album in 2014, Della Mae’s new album ‘Headlight’ demonstrates that they have moved beyond the conventions of the genre. Pushing aside expectations to use solely traditional bluegrass instruments: organ, Mellotron and electric guitar, amongst others, feature, speaking of a new-found independence and sense of freedom. The opening title track serves as a hymn to sisterhood and reflects Della Mae’s advocacy of women’s rights. Continue reading “Della Mae “Headlight” (Rounder Records, 2020)”

Saving Grace + The Rails, Birmingham Town Hall, 22nd December 2019

Folk duo, The Rails, begin the evening’s proceedings with their crisp vocal melodies enhanced by the acoustic guitar parts flitting between lead and rhythm lines without missing a beat. Their set comprises of a variety of songs from their back catalogue mixed in with songs from their latest album, ‘Cancel the Sun’, including ‘Something Is Slipping My Mind’. This relaxed country number demonstrates The Rails’ capacity for harmonies and an immaculate sense of timing at the end of phrases that is appreciated by much of the audience. Continue reading “Saving Grace + The Rails, Birmingham Town Hall, 22nd December 2019”