Delta Spirit “What Is There” (New West, 2020)

This is a bit of a surprise. Delta Spirit released their fourth album, ‘Into The Wide’, in 2014 to general critical acclaim and  some commercial success. Since then, vocalist and co-founder Matthew Logan Vasquez has released three solo albums and it was assumed Delta Spirit were no more, though they had not officially announced they had disbanded.  It is not clear why the band have re-activated their career, though their publicity states that they brought “..with them the change of perspective and inspiration gathered from exploring other creative avenues” following their variety of solo work. Continue reading “Delta Spirit “What Is There” (New West, 2020)”

Fay Hield “Wrackline” (Topic Records, 2020)

On her new release Fay Hield digs deep into folksong’s mystical world – the songs of spirits, usually malicious and malevolent, dark deeds and supernatural consequences. It’s a theme that is captured to perfection from the opening song ‘Hare Spell‘ which turns the magic of transmutation as recorded in Isobel Gowdie’s witch trial confessions of 1662 into a hauntingly rivetting song. With a directness free of shame or guilt Fay Hield sings of becoming various animals, with a confirming chorus “I go to the Devil in the Devil’s name / And stay ’til I come home again“. Continue reading “Fay Hield “Wrackline” (Topic Records, 2020)”

Screaming Orphans “Sunshine and Moss” (Independent, 2020)

This Irish girl-band; Angela (bass, violin, vocals), Gráinne (guitar, vocals), Joan (Drums, vocals)  and Marie-Thérèse Diver (keys, accordion vocals), were formerly known as the Diver Sisters during the years they performed extensively with their mother, American born Kathleen Fitzgerald. The Screaming Orphans, as renamed in the mid-’90s after reaching their teenage years and deciding to go it alone, tour extensively throughout Europe and America where they are best known for their original brand of melodic and timeless pop songs. However, having been born and bred Celtic singers and musicians, the sisters easily step back into their traditional style and sound with a natural sentiment and effortlessly give their modern take on this collection of classic works. Continue reading “Screaming Orphans “Sunshine and Moss” (Independent, 2020)”

Gavin Skelhorn “Merseycana” (Independent, 2020)

Nashville may be known as the Music City of the US, but arguably the title of the UK’s own city most famed for its musical heritage could go to Liverpool (the bonus fact that AUK is based there obviously only helps bolster such a claim). Merseyside act Gavin Skelhorn is building a bridge between Nashville and Liverpool with his new album – aptly titled after his own brand of Americana – ‘Merseycana’. Continue reading “Gavin Skelhorn “Merseycana” (Independent, 2020)”

Joe Stamm Band “The Good & The Crooked (& The High & The Horny)” (Independent, 2020)

When an album kicks in, as the title song of ‘The Good & The Crooked (& The High & The Horny)’ does, with a brittle guitar riff and a voice that is quintessentially “country”, expectations start to rise. And when a Carl Perkins style solo chases the chorus to the song’s conclusion 3 minutes later, the feeling is that you are in for a treat. Any song that includes the shout “Yippee Eye Kai Ai” must score highly. The video’s good as well. Sadly, nothing on the rest of the album lives up to these expectations. Continue reading “Joe Stamm Band “The Good & The Crooked (& The High & The Horny)” (Independent, 2020)”

Mary Chapin Carpenter “The Dirt And The Stars” (Lambent Light/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

The Dirt And The Stars’  is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s first collection of new material since 2016’s ‘The Things That We Are Made Of.’ Her last record, ‘Sometimes Just The Sky’, which came out two years ago, saw her celebrating her 30-year career with new versions of some of her most loved compositions, as well as one new song – the title track. Continue reading “Mary Chapin Carpenter “The Dirt And The Stars” (Lambent Light/Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

Jake Winstrom “Circles” (Independent, 2020)

New York resident Jake Winstrom says his first solo album, 2018’s ‘Scared Away The Song’, suffered from too many “serious songwriter” type songs and not enough fun, uptempo, jangly rock ‘n’ roll. Rest assured, on the follow-up, ‘Circles’, the former frontman of Tennessee band Tenderhooks, hasn’t made the same mistake twice – recent single, ‘What’s The Over/Under?’ is a fantastic, irresistible power-pop tune, with 12-string guitar, soulful horn blasts and a killer chorus that could’ve been written by Fountains of Wayne, while on the chugging, glam rock boogie-meets-country of opener ‘Come To Texas She Said’, reedy-voiced Winstrom does his best Marc Bolan impression. Continue reading “Jake Winstrom “Circles” (Independent, 2020)”

Book Review: Elizabeth Thomson “Joan Baez: The Last Leaf” (Palazzo, 2020)

Joan Baez is one of those artists that, for most of us, has always been there. I’ve certainly always been aware of her presence, throughout my interest in popular music in general, and folk and roots music in particular, and that started well before my teens. The thing about this enduring presence is that, to quote another Joan, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”, and reading Elizabeth Thomson’s excellent new book on Joan Baez makes me realise that this is an important artist that many of us take for granted; she’s always been there so we expect that she always will – but this book has been written as a prelude to Baez’ 80th Birthday, which will arrive in January 2021 and, though she remains as vibrant and active as ever on many fronts, she announced her retirement from performing and recording at the end of her worldwide tour in July of 2019, almost exactly sixty years after making her debut at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959. Continue reading “Book Review: Elizabeth Thomson “Joan Baez: The Last Leaf” (Palazzo, 2020)”

Two Bird Stone “Hands And Knees” (Soundly Music, 2020)

‘Hands And Knees’ is the debut album from Two Bird Stone which is a new band made up of some of Nashville and New York’s finest session musicians. The driving force behind the band is Liam Thomas Bailey who plays fiddle and banjo and is the lead vocalist as well as writing the songs. He’s aided and abetted by Bailey’s long-time musical partner (they spent 11 years together in Rodney Atkins’ touring band) Judd Fuller (bass, mandolin and vocals), Chad Kelly (accordion) and Rohin Khemani (drums). Continue reading “Two Bird Stone “Hands And Knees” (Soundly Music, 2020)”

The Two Tracks “Cheers to Solitude” (Independent, 2020)

‘Cheers to Solitude’ opens with the bouncy, infectious ‘Beautiful’, a song that is a tour across America from the Pacific Redwoods and Pacific ocean on the West Coast, through the deep South to New Orleans and Mississippi, to the mountains of Appalachia.  ‘Beautiful’ encapsulates what makes up the soul of roots music, and at the same time defines the sound of The Two Tracks – a simple, laid-back, breezy, California vibe, the funky Cajun, swamp-foot swing from the Crescent City, a timeless fiddle line born in the mountains, all delivered with a wide-open groove reminiscent of the rollings hills and mountains of their hometown of Sheridan, Wyoming. Continue reading “The Two Tracks “Cheers to Solitude” (Independent, 2020)”