Jeffrey Foucault “Blood Brothers” (Blueblade Records/Tone Tree, 2018)

Time is precious. Things to do. People to see. So straight to the point. ‘Blood Brothers’ by Jeffrey Foucault is a bloody marvellous album. There are many albums that are slow growers, gradually getting under the skin, each play revealing another layer, another subtle nuance. Let’s be clear, this isn’t one of those albums. This is one of the other kinds of albums, those that grab your attention from the off and, as the final track heads off into the sunset, leaves in its wake a sense that you have been witness to a wonderful thing. Continue reading “Jeffrey Foucault “Blood Brothers” (Blueblade Records/Tone Tree, 2018)”

The Mammals “Sunshiner” (Humble Abode Music, 2018)

This album of fully instrumented folk is joyous, hopeful and highly political. An earlier incarnation of the group was active in the early 2000s but then took a nine-year break. The impetus for its return was, according to the band’s publicity material, ‘November 2016’ – a reference to the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. Virtually every track espouses a political cause – making the world a better place, caring for the homeless, rejecting artificial standards of female beauty, embracing environmental protection and so on. And the sound on many of the tracks comes close to being the folk version of the producer Phil Spector’s famed wall of sound. Continue reading “The Mammals “Sunshiner” (Humble Abode Music, 2018)”

Frank Turner “Be More Kind” (Xtra Mile Recordings, 2018)

A lot of people think of Frank Turner as
‘the new Billy Bragg’. The thing the Hampshire-born songwriter mostly has in common with the aforementioned ‘Bard of Barking’ is that his idiosyncratic style marks him out as a musical Marmite: you either love him or hate him. There’s no middle ground with Turner, it seems. ‘Be More Kind’, his seventh studio album, is no different to its predecessors in many ways. These are songs with the importance of being earnest weighing heavily on their well-worn chord sequences and melodies. The lyrics, then, need to fly from the speakers and speak to the listener… when they do, all is well; especially on the the lilting title-track, with its lovely acoustic guitar figure and mournful strings. But, when the message is lumpen, the music carries all the gravitas of a Hallmark greetings card. Continue reading “Frank Turner “Be More Kind” (Xtra Mile Recordings, 2018)”

We Are Muffy “The Charcoal Pool” (Tapete Record, 2018)

Listening to the distant Cornish trappings of We Are Muffy is like stepping into a time capsule of Brylcreem, pinstripes and windy seaside shingle. The listener is taken on a journey of random droll observations on urban Albion life, inspired by Nick Duffy and Angeline Morrison’s shared Birmingham past. It’s heavy to the point of comical on trombone, music box, bottle tops, broken china…the list goes on and serious traditional folk it may be, but there’s more than a cursory tip of the bowler hat to The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and other eccentrics on the liberal wing of the sixties folk revival to be found here. Continue reading “We Are Muffy “The Charcoal Pool” (Tapete Record, 2018)”

Scott Low “Burning Tires, Smoking Gun” (10 Foot Woody Records, 2018)

With his third solo album ‘Burning Tires, Smoking Gun‘, Scott Low, the former main man of Athens, GA based band Efren has produced a fine album that is simple in design, yet contains contemporary  messages that ponder many of the challenges in today’s society.  It’s nicely carried along by Low’s gritty and distinctive tenor voice and aided by a sparse arrangement that doesn’t get in the way of the messages being conveyed. Low is clearly a multi-faceted individual and he combines his musical career with running his creative retreat in the hills near the small town of Clayton in the north of the US state of Georgia, a safe and supportive place where creative and inquisitive minds can go and be, well, creative and inquisitive! Continue reading “Scott Low “Burning Tires, Smoking Gun” (10 Foot Woody Records, 2018)”

Michael Hurley + James Yorkston, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 17th June 2018

It’s been a while since Michael Hurley, occasionally known as Snock, has come to the UK and with him now in his 77th year, news of this tour was somewhat unexpected. Mind you it was only last year when he toured Australia for the first time so it’s perhaps somewhat ageist of us to presume that this venerable songwriter was about to hang up his guitar. Since recording his first album back in 1965 Hurley has ploughed a singular path creating his own weird and crepuscular world peopled with werewolves and revenants, his cartoon creations, Boone and Jocko, and a whole host of idiosyncratic characters.  With a style rooted deep in country blues and folk Hurley has always sounded as if he came from an earlier age, a one man version of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music as transmitted from some Twilight Zone and tonight a rapt audience was transported into Hurley’s very own version of old and weird Americana as Greil Marcus would have it. Continue reading “Michael Hurley + James Yorkston, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 17th June 2018”

The Autumn Saints “The Autumn Saints EP” (Independent, 2018)

The Autumn Saints are an Oxford based trio of North Carolina born Britt Strickland on lead vocals, backed up by UK natives David Ireland on guitar and Joel Brisk on drums. Appropriately enough there’s a strong College Rock influence on their music across all of the six tracks on their debut EP, with a combination of chirping and intricate guitar lines swirling around the word-dense vocals. It brings a number of bands to mind.  Continue reading “The Autumn Saints “The Autumn Saints EP” (Independent, 2018)”

Mike Uva “Lights Coming Up” (Collectible Escalators 2018)

Cleveland’s Mike Uva is an interesting cove if these tracks are solid indicators of the man’s character.  Lots of influences dripped through a lo-fi prism. The acoustic confessional ‘A Proposal’ is sparse but leavened with a gentle harmony, a sweet lead guitar and a voice as dry as a dustbowl. ‘Waco’ is a driving, complex and twisting narrative interspersed with crashes of electronica and almost found sounds. They shouldn’t fit but do. ‘You Let The Devil’ is folk-noir, swampy and threatening, a shoe-in for a True Detective soundtrack. The title track is different again, with an almost Appalachian singalong confessional as the rain comes down and a melody that timeless. Continue reading “Mike Uva “Lights Coming Up” (Collectible Escalators 2018)”

Sons of Bill “Oh God Ma’am” (Loose Records, 2018)

It’s been almost 4 years since we had an album release from Sons of Bill and it’s fair to say that the Wilson brothers, Sam, Abe and James haven’t let the grass grow under their feet. Their new offering ‘Oh God Ma’am’ sees them move away from their Virginia/Appalachian roots into a more Indie sound that at times is reminiscent (to this reviewer at least) of bands like Travis, especially on tracks like ‘Believer/Pretender’ and ‘Where we Stand’ (admittedly that’s a bit of a tenuous comparison as I’m pretty sure the Glasgow rockers never sung about the inspiring openness and greenery of Virginia, but you get the drift – hopefully!). Continue reading “Sons of Bill “Oh God Ma’am” (Loose Records, 2018)”

Laura Veirs “The Lookout” (Bella Union, 2018)

After the profile raising ‘Case/Lang/Veirs‘ album and tour of a couple of year’s back, ‘The Lookout‘ see’s Laura Veirs return to solo work, albeit solo accompanied by a number of Americana celebrity collaborators. It’s also, on the surface, a return to Veirs’ earlier style of working – unlike the full band power of ‘Saltbreakers‘ and ‘July Flame‘ this is a far more acoustic album, showcasing in sharp relief Veirs’ distinctive vocal and powerful way with the lyric. Continue reading “Laura Veirs “The Lookout” (Bella Union, 2018)”