The Supreme Art of Nothing “This Is How It Goes” (Whack Shack Recordings, 2020)

The Supreme Art of Nothing are a musical project created by Nico and Andi Crutwell-Jones. Both are seasoned music industry professionals with separate and varied careers. Whilst Andi has been a writer, composer, musician and sometime actor, Nico is an in-demand session violinist. Some readers may also recall her playing that instrument in the 90’s Liverpool band ‘Pele’. The result is a very polished album of catchy, anthemic songs that you can clearly visualise being raucously sung along to on a car journey or belted out with great gusto at a summer festival. Continue reading “The Supreme Art of Nothing “This Is How It Goes” (Whack Shack Recordings, 2020)”

Chuck Prophet “The Land That Time Forgot” (Yep Roc Records, 2020)

The Land that Time Forgot‘ finds Chuck Prophet in something of a nostalgic mood, although when he looks back it can be with anger usually conveyed by a sarcastic sneer – but there’s also fondness, regret, compassion, empathy and a celebration of old friends and heroes.  There’s a bright, and typically paradoxical, opener to the album with ‘Best Shirt On‘ which has Prophet singing “I’ve got my best shirt on / Another one just like it hanging in my closet” over an almost sixties girl-group arrangement.  Light and cool. Continue reading “Chuck Prophet “The Land That Time Forgot” (Yep Roc Records, 2020)”

Book review: Stevie Simkin “What Makes the Monkey Dance: The Life And Music Of Chuck Prophet And Green On Red” (Jawbone Press, 2020)

What Makes The Monkey Dance is the polar opposite of the standard ‘Cut and Paste’ rock biography. Author Stevie Simkin is an academic, and has applied all his stringent research techniques to documenting the career of an artist and a band whose profile, although ironically higher today than it ever has been, remains under the radar of the general public. Simkin cheerfully admits that part of his motivation is to rectify this injustice. Continue reading “Book review: Stevie Simkin “What Makes the Monkey Dance: The Life And Music Of Chuck Prophet And Green On Red” (Jawbone Press, 2020)”

India Ramey “Shallow Graves” (Independent, 2020)

The moment the title song opens ‘Shallow Graves,’ second album by singer/songwriter India Ramey, you get a feeling that you need to utter a cheer – “Go West, girl!” And she definitely does, as an Ennio Morricone style, guitar dominates this excellent, driving track. Elsewhere, it is this and other guitar sounds, like on ‘The Witch’ that embellish the best tracks on this album. But this in no way diminishes the quality of Ramey’s vocals or her songwriting, which is top-notch, particularly on tracks like ‘Keep Hope Alive’. Even when Ramey sticks to some standard country music formats, like on ‘Up To No Good’ excellent, tight musicianship and solid lyrics pull her through. Continue reading “India Ramey “Shallow Graves” (Independent, 2020)”

Bobby Lee “Shakedown in Slabtown” (Natural Histories Records, 2020)

Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Days’ opens with the question: “What are Days for?” Being presented with an album of instrumental tracks might prompt a similar, ostensibly ingenuous question, such as, ‘What are instrumentals for’? In the case of ‘Shakedown in Slabtown’, Bobby Lee’s debut album, these instrumentals serve a variety of purposes. Continue reading “Bobby Lee “Shakedown in Slabtown” (Natural Histories Records, 2020)”

Graham Bramblett “The Great Inbetween” (Independent, 2020)

Born and bred in Dallas, Texas and following a stint on Nashville’s Music Row, Graham Bramblett has two full-band records under his belt. This time around, however, this stripped-back 6-track boasts no bass, electric guitar or drums yet the vibe Bramblett achieves with his characterful vocal, upright lyrics, and charming musicality is vividly imposing. Each song has an elegance and thoughtfulness, most oozing fun but with sobering undertones besides. Continue reading “Graham Bramblett “The Great Inbetween” (Independent, 2020)”

Jeff Kelly “When the World Was Younger” (Green Monkey Records, 2020)

The question which will be asked by future generations will be “What did you do during the pandemic of 2020?”.  Which most of us will be able to reply that we gained weight, tried to make sense of it all and found a way to cope in the altered landscape created by COVID-19.  Jeff Kelly found that like many of us he needed to adapt his plans.  Rather than wallowing in misery, he channelled his energies into creating and releasing ‘When The World Was Younger’ showcasing his love of Spanish and Portuguese culture. Continue reading “Jeff Kelly “When the World Was Younger” (Green Monkey Records, 2020)”

Irma Vep “Embarrassed Landscape” (Gringo Records, 2020)

Irma Vep… anagram of vampire – you saw that, right? – the name of a film made as a satirical look at the state of 90s French cinema and a musical vehicle for Edwin Stevens, originally from Llanfairfechan, North Wales now resident in Glasgow. For those whose French cinema knowledge is sketchy at best these days, we’ll focus on the final version of Irma Vep if that’s OK. Continue reading “Irma Vep “Embarrassed Landscape” (Gringo Records, 2020)”

Afton Wolfe “Petronius’ Last Meal” (Twangri-La Records, 2020)

You won’t find the feel-good hit of the summer on Afton Wolfe’s debut EP. But it’s a pretty safe bet that feel-good hits weren’t high on the list of priorities that he had for this project. With songs that meditate on death, decay, and departure—these tracks will be a great soundtrack for watching leaves turn and fall, shorter days, and darker nights. That’s not to say that the songs on the album are depressing or bleak. Wolfe examines each theme with a sober subjectivity that never loses touch with the understanding that endings are the precursors to beginnings in the cycle of life or the long-view of history. Continue reading “Afton Wolfe “Petronius’ Last Meal” (Twangri-La Records, 2020)”

S.G. Goodman “Old Time Feeling” (Verve Forecast, 2020)

There are quite a few things that are remarkable about ‘Old Time Feeling‘, but the most prominent noteworthy point is that this is S.G. Goodman’s solo debut. It’s such a mature sound that S.G. Goodman has laid down that doesn’t get explained by just her previous punk-band experience, although it was this that led Jim James to co-produce this record. The feel is of stripped down arrangements designed to compliment a voice that is full of living: hard edged, softened in places and desperately honest as it communicates with an urgency and directness that paradoxically is delivering lyrics that can defy an unassisted unpicking. Continue reading “S.G. Goodman “Old Time Feeling” (Verve Forecast, 2020)”