Rupert Wates “Lamentations” (Bite Music, 2020)

Rupert Wates is a songsmith in every sense of the word, a prolific songwriter with 10 album releases to his name, as well as co-writing and composition credits with a long list of artists. He is also no stranger to life on the road, performing an average of 120 dates per year. He has earned critical acclaim as both a songwriter and performer. Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange labelled him “a prime figure in American music” despite being a British ex-pat. Continue reading “Rupert Wates “Lamentations” (Bite Music, 2020)”

Andrew Bird “Hark!” (Loma Vista Recordings, 2020)

Do we really need another Christmas album? You might not think so right now, but Andrew Bird’s full album version of last year’s six-song ‘Hark!’ EP might convince you that there is room for this one. Bird with understatement acknowledges that “It’s a complicated relationship many of us have with the holidays and the requisite music we hear.” Traditional Christmas standards might well put some people’s teeth on edge, but Bird’s reworkings are far enough removed from the originals that ‘Hark!’ turns out to be an incredibly pleasant album, full of metaphors about light and darkness, comfort and warmth. Continue reading “Andrew Bird “Hark!” (Loma Vista Recordings, 2020)”

Annie Dressner “Coffee at The Corner Bar” (Proper Music, 2020)

Released a couple of months ago now ‘Coffee at the Corner Bar’ is a journal of love, loss and betrayal. Performing in her signature conversational style, Annie Dressner, together with a talented crowd of instrumentalists and vocalists, delivers a very polished set of songs. All recorded in her home in Cambridge, UK with husband Paul Goodwin at the helm, then mixed and mastered back in Austin, Texas, in her native USA. Several singles released ahead of the album have already enjoyed much airplay on various national and local BBC radio stations. Continue reading “Annie Dressner “Coffee at The Corner Bar” (Proper Music, 2020)”

Parkland Music Project “Eminent Ghosts” (Offseason Records, 2020)

Eminent Ghosts‘ is a concept album roughly located where psychedelic rock intersects with alt-country. The whole album consists of only five extended tracks which collectively form around a central narrative using avant-garde sonic landscapes. Parkland Music Project is a Vancouver based group led by Rob Malowany, with a regular lineup additionally featuring Neko Case collaborator Paul Rigby on pedal steel and acoustic guitar. The recordings are a labour of love where the tracks feature live takes with minimal overdubbing, most notably with the vocals as Malowany responds to and inspires the direction of a given performance. The album is not exactly a singalong, but the efforts are unmistakably sincere, with an emotional intensity reminiscent of Jason Molina. Continue reading “Parkland Music Project “Eminent Ghosts” (Offseason Records, 2020)”

J.E. Sunde “9 Songs About Love” (Vietnam, 2020)

‘9 Songs About Love‘ is JE Sunde’s third solo record and what a supremely melodic pop-folk treat it is. It’s simple, wide-eyed loveliness may surprise, considering the LP was born from Sunde’s realisation that he might be at something of a crossroads in his life. Years of hard yakka touring and recording with family and friend in his gem of a folk band The Daredevil Christopher Wright and a couple of solo records had garnered sporadic attention, some slight critical props and a small yet eager band of admirers but not sign of a commercial breakthrough. Continue reading “J.E. Sunde “9 Songs About Love” (Vietnam, 2020)”

Mules and Men “Roscommon County Line” (Independent, 2020)

Mules and Men are a four-piece band from Dublin who advertise themselves as playing progressive bluegrass.  Unfortunately, this does not mean concept albums about tortured medieval wizards performed by cape clad musicians on ice.  This reviewer would definitely pay to see such a bluegrass show.  Rather it means a willingness to occasionally push at the genre’s boundaries. Continue reading “Mules and Men “Roscommon County Line” (Independent, 2020)”

Kathy Greenholdt “If” (Independent, 2020)

Talking about late starters! Chicago singer-songwriter Kathy Greenholdt started back in 2002. Nothing unusual in that. But, that is actually when she started to learn playing the guitar and wrote her first song. Suspicious listener? You shouldn’t be. In the meantime, Kathy came up with an EP and four albums. ‘If’ is her fifth, and by the sound of it, you could get the impression that Kathy started out at a very early age. That confident, that assured and actually, that good. Continue reading “Kathy Greenholdt “If” (Independent, 2020)”

Bob Spring “American Dream” (Independent, 2020)

Many would wonder why a non-American artist, in this case, Bob Spring From Switzerland would even come up with an album called ‘American Dream,’ let alone claim it is Americana music. Frankly, they should stop wondering. Americana as a musical genre has now become something of a worldwide phenomenon. After all, it is supposed to be a cross-genre phenomenon. So from that point of view, Bob Spring and his ‘American Dream’ fit in without a problem. Continue reading “Bob Spring “American Dream” (Independent, 2020)”

Mink’s Miracle Medicine “Thumbs Up Angel” (WarHen Records, 2020)

West Virginia-based duo Mink’s Miracle Medicine (Melissa Wright and Daniel Zezeski, who share vocal duties) describe themselves as ‘Americana’, but the urgent album opener, and recent single, ‘At The Fair,’ recalls the rushing, jangly guitar pop of vintage New Order. The shuffling ‘Earning My Reckoning’, which has a wonderfully sad organ sound running through it, has the feel of Luna, the band Dean Wareham formed after the demise of his lo-fi, indie alt-rockers Galaxie 500. Zezeski’s singing style apes Wareham’s. Continue reading “Mink’s Miracle Medicine “Thumbs Up Angel” (WarHen Records, 2020)”

Randy Mundy “Celestial Skies” (Independent, 2020)

Can this really be a classic, lost album from 1975? Well, the good people at Cordial Records certainly think so, in that they have bought up the rights to some old singles and unreleased tracks from Kansas native Randy Mundy. Mundy himself is still making music, fifty years down the road, and remains entrenched in glorious semi-obscurity. Intriguing. Given the back story, these songs are more than worthy of a listen, that much can be agreed upon. Continue reading “Randy Mundy “Celestial Skies” (Independent, 2020)”