Ted Russell Kamp “Down in the Den” (PoMo Records, 2020)

Ted Russell Kamp has released 12 albums over the last fifteen years, while holding down a career as session bass player to country and americana stars of all sorts, most recently Tanya Tucker. Opening song ‘Home Sweet Hollywood’ has a laid-back groove that contrasts with the menacing minor key Dobro and electric slide of ‘Have Some Faith’ which follows it. Whether this was the best place in the album running order for an atmospheric piece like this is up for question. It’s a good song but loses impact here. Continue reading “Ted Russell Kamp “Down in the Den” (PoMo Records, 2020)”

Various Artists “Pandemophenia” (Bloodshot Records, 2020)

Mention the  Chicago music scene to anyone and the Southside blues of Muddy Waters may spring to mind, others may recall a vibrant soul scene which included the Impressions and Curtis Mayfield, the Chicago folk scene gave us Roger McGuinn, John Prine and Steve Goodman, but the Chicago country scene? It may surprise some readers that  Chicago was once the centre of the country music industry. The same economic factors that drove Southern blacks north from the Mississippi Delta, also influenced Appalachian and Southern whites which lead to a vibrant local scene supported by WAL-MS’s National Barn Dance radio show. Eventually the music wound down, with The Grand Ole Opry and Nashville taking precedence, however bluegrass continued to be popular from the ‘60s to the ‘90s as part of the folk scene with The Sundowners continuing to fly the local country flag. The Sundowners were a major influence on alt country’s Robbie Fulks. Continue reading “Various Artists “Pandemophenia” (Bloodshot Records, 2020)”

Michael McArthur “Oh Sedona”/”How to Fall in Love” (Independent, 2020)

With release dates that are only weeks apart, Michael McArthur has conjured up a mighty fine pair of acoustic EPs and luckily for the reviewer who has to squeeze this duo into a single review, both ‘Oh Sedona’ and ‘How to Fall in Love’ are immensely enjoyable, making this task a hugely pleasurable one.  Both EP’s feature new tracks as well as solo acoustic versions from the highly regarded 2019 LP, ‘Ever Green, Ever Rain’. Continue reading “Michael McArthur “Oh Sedona”/”How to Fall in Love” (Independent, 2020)”

Mighty Brother “The Rabbit, The Owl” (Independent, 2020)

This double album promises to explore the “emergent theme of duality”. Taken together the two records probe the same concepts from different perspectives. ‘The Rabbit’ is joyful mix of indie rock, folk and some funk. ‘The Owl’ is an altogether more daunting experiment that at times veers towards 1970s prog rock. Mighty Brother is a five-piece indie/folk band based in New Orleans formed around founders and core writers Nick Huster and Ari Carter. Musically their comparators are as diverse as Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Bon Iver, the Decemberists and the Avett Brothers. Continue reading “Mighty Brother “The Rabbit, The Owl” (Independent, 2020)”

Samantha Crain “A Small Death” (Real Kind Records, 2020)

An interesting, compelling and exciting album this; written by Samantha Crain upon recovering the use of her hands after a prolonged period following three serious car accidents in three months the last of which left her bedridden for a year and a half. It has an immediacy and a tenderness as well as knack for pop-infused earworms. Continue reading “Samantha Crain “A Small Death” (Real Kind Records, 2020)”

Stacey McNeill and Jonathan Smith “Leaving Autumn Town” (Independent, 2020)

The title of Stacey McNeill and Jonathan Smith’s EP sets the musical tone.  It would be surprising to find power ballads and squealing guitar solos in a collection of music called `Leaving Autumn Town’ and indeed these songs are restrained and thoughtful; the embodiment of less is more. Composed and produced during lockdown with McNeill and Smith over 50 miles apart, these pieces concentrate on voices and delicate fingerstyle guitar.  There is the occasional addition of soft guitar lines, keyboard and drums; but the overall feel is of a duo playing the last numbers at a folk club and sending the audience home with a unique glow. Continue reading “Stacey McNeill and Jonathan Smith “Leaving Autumn Town” (Independent, 2020)”

Zach Youpa “Guitar for Pandas” (Independent, 2020)

Austin-based Zach Youpa releases his first album, and it’s very much an indie DIY affair.  Self-produced, recorded in a bedroom studio, with Youpa playing all the instruments.  It’s certainly lo-fi and wobbly in places, the drumming staggers here and there, but it’s a charming little record. There’s very much an Evan Dando or Jonathan Richman vibe about Youpa’s songs– super laid back, quirky yet heartfelt guitar/country-pop is his stock in trade. Youpa’s slightly off-key vocal and choppy guitars carry the nine songs along in an engaging way. Continue reading “Zach Youpa “Guitar for Pandas” (Independent, 2020)”

Riun Garner “All We Know and All We Forget” (Independent, 2020)

Canadian filmmaker Riun Garner has been dabbling in music for a long time, recording what he describes as highly personal songs on his phone and not really thinking too much about it. With the help of a few friends, he recorded four of these songs at the tail end of last year; these tracks make up his debut EP, ‘All We Know And All We Forget‘. The first track ‘Fabric‘ opens with some lovely acoustic guitar noodling which has a palpable Nick Drake flavour. Continue reading “Riun Garner “All We Know and All We Forget” (Independent, 2020)”

Charley Crockett “Welcome to Hard Times” (Son of Davy/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

If you’ve been looking for something new to listen to, but you aren’t quite sure where to turn then there’s good news. Charley Crockett’s self-professed goal for his new album was to “make an album that would reclaim the entire conversation about country music”. That’s a pretty high bar for an artist to set for himself, but when you’ve got Mark Neil producing and songwriting assists from Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach—you should shoot for the moon. Continue reading “Charley Crockett “Welcome to Hard Times” (Son of Davy/Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

David Lewis “Among Friends” (Independent, 2020)

David Lewis is less than prolific, having made 5 albums in 25 years which seems slow going by anyone’s standards. Only when you append his professional title does it make more sense; for Lewis is a Professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics and his professional CV would make you wonder how he has time for anything else let alone playing, touring, recording and song-writing.  A busy man. Continue reading “David Lewis “Among Friends” (Independent, 2020)”