Josh Okeefe “Bloomin’ Josh Okeefe” (Independent, 2020)

At some point during a review of Josh Okeefe’s music there’s going to be a reference to Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan and for good reason.  In addition to his voice and his delivery style, Okeefe’s music is, when needed, bitingly direct, complete with much of the anger and vitriol associated with those musical giants.  There’s a rawness to his storytelling that is hugely compelling, all aided by a voice that reaches out and grabs you by the throat and insists that you listen and listen carefully and, as with Messrs Dylan and Guthrie, young Mr Okeefe has a lot to say. Continue reading “Josh Okeefe “Bloomin’ Josh Okeefe” (Independent, 2020)”

Layla Kaylif “Lovers Don’t Meet” (Canopus, 2020)

Layla Kaylif is a new kid on the block, in the Americana realm at least. With releases dating back to 1999’s ‘Shakespeare in Love‘, a pop success in the Middle East  and South East Asia, the British Emirati’s career has ranged from songwriter and recording artist to film scriptwriter and director for the 2018 movie release ‘The Letter Writer‘, in which she also had a leading role. Continue reading “Layla Kaylif “Lovers Don’t Meet” (Canopus, 2020)”

Joshua Burnside “Far O’er the Sounding Main” EP (Independent, 2020)

In these times of uncertainty, there is something to be said for the comfort of the familiar and traditional, and that’s exactly what Joshua Burnsides offers up on his latest EP, ‘Far O’er the Sounding Main’. While this collection of five traditional folk songs was recorded by Burnside at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, they still sound very much like fully realised recordings. Continue reading “Joshua Burnside “Far O’er the Sounding Main” EP (Independent, 2020)”

Nicole Atkins “Italian Ice” (Single Lock Records, 2020)

Named after her favourite sweet treat in Asbury Park and her alter-ego while shooting dice on the Jersey Shore, ‘Italian Ice’ is the latest album from the extremely talented Nicole Atkins. The album features a wide array of equally brilliant talent, including members of the Bad Seeds, Dap-Kings, the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Seth Avett and more. Continue reading “Nicole Atkins “Italian Ice” (Single Lock Records, 2020)”

Gerry Cinnamon “The Bonny” (Little Runaway Records, 2020)

The Bonny‘ is the second album from Scottish-born Gerry Cinnamon. Known for his live performances, Cinnamon has created a large following of loyal fans who belt out the lyrics to his songs in a mass singalong at every show. Understandably gutted by delays to live shows this year, Cinnamon remains practical and comments “Anyone that knows me knows all I care about is folk having a class night and getting home safe”. This realism is felt throughout the album. Melodies are simple. Tracks are pretty stripped back mostly featuring Cinnamon, his guitar and occasional harmonica. It’s the simplicity that makes this really work. Continue reading “Gerry Cinnamon “The Bonny” (Little Runaway Records, 2020)”

Mike Plume “Lonesome Stretch Of Highway” (Royalty Records, 2020)

Mike Plume “is a true alt-country legend in Canada, with a dozen releases since his debut in 1993,” according to his press. Having not encountered him before ‘Lonesome Stretch Of Highway’ comes as a pleasant discovery from the country end of Americana. The album hits its stride on the third song ‘Perfume and Gasoline’ a mandolin and violin driven ballad with an uncredited female singer adding to the mix. Continue reading “Mike Plume “Lonesome Stretch Of Highway” (Royalty Records, 2020)”

Steve Forbert “Early Morning Rain” (Blue Rose Music, 2020)

In more than forty years of recording Steve Forbert has released a phenomenal number of truly fine albums, appearing at first with a brash new take on folk-rock on ‘Alive on Arrival‘ and ‘Jackrabbit Slim‘, and evolving over the years into a more country-influenced style of storytelling. He’s produced a tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers and this – a few album tracks like ‘When You Walk in the Room‘ and the live ‘Starstruck‘ aside – is the extent of his excursion into the world of other people’s songs. Until now. Continue reading “Steve Forbert “Early Morning Rain” (Blue Rose Music, 2020)”

John Baumann “Country Shade” (The Next Waltz, 2020)

On his third album, ‘Country Shade’, Texas-based singer-songwriter John Baumann spends a lot of time pondering change – whether that’s the changing state of rural America, or changes in relationships and circumstances, but, after hearing the first few songs, you can’t help but wish he’d change things up a bit, rather than plough the same furrow of over-earnest, plodding, slick yet soulless, mid-paced and middle-of-the-road country rock. Continue reading “John Baumann “Country Shade” (The Next Waltz, 2020)”

Steve Earle & The Dukes “Ghosts Of West Virginia” (New West Records, 2020)

There’s nothing like a cause to get Steve Earle all fired up so when he was approached to write a set of songs  for a theatre production about 29 miners killed in a coal dust explosion in Raleigh County, West Virginia in 2010, it must have seemed like grist to the mill. The play, ‘Coal Country’, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, featured Earle on stage throughout with his songs delivered solo in a “Greek chorus” format. There were seven songs in all and Earle has reworked them with The Dukes for ‘Ghosts Of West Virginia’, adding three related songs to flesh out the running time. Continue reading “Steve Earle & The Dukes “Ghosts Of West Virginia” (New West Records, 2020)”

Tenci “My Heart Is An Open Field” (Keeled Scales, 2020)

  • Tenci is really bedroom folk artist Jess Shoman backed by more famous musicians from the Chicago music scene and their debut album is released on Austin label Keeled Scales. Jess Shoman spent nearly ten years writing her songs before deciding to start playing them live in the clubs of Chicago. It was when she started appearing as a solo performer that she attracted the attention of Everyone Else vocalist Tina Scarpello, who started backing her on bass and brought her song demos to the attention of Spencer Radcliffe, who produced and played guitar, piano, sax and piano on ‘My Heart Is An Open Field’. Continue reading “Tenci “My Heart Is An Open Field” (Keeled Scales, 2020)”