Charlie Hager “Truth and Love” (Flour Sack Cape Records, 2019)

It’s always interesting as a reviewer when you get presented with an album from an artist you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. The good news is that it’s listened to with an open mind and with no pre-conceived notions about what to expect regarding musical style or quality. Such as it is with Charlie Hager and his second album ‘Truth and Love’.  Hailing originally from Nashville you could probably guess that his musical influences will be derived from traditional country and to an extent you would be right but there are tinges of bluegrass and the  judicious use of trumpet throughout makes ‘Truth and Love’ difficult to categorise – and that is the strength of the album in many ways. Continue reading “Charlie Hager “Truth and Love” (Flour Sack Cape Records, 2019)”

Katie Dahl “Wildwood” (Independent, 2019)

Katie Dahl’s fifth album ‘Wildwood’ is a very personal affair centred around Door County, Wisconsin where her family has lived for six generations. There are umpteen examples of songwriters paying homage to their homelands or hometowns. The best, through shared experiences and common emotions, are able to resonate with a wider audience.  This is where ‘Wildwood’ falls short. It’s a bit too personal, parochial even, to make a more inclusive connection. Continue reading “Katie Dahl “Wildwood” (Independent, 2019)”

Tony McLoughlin “True Native” (Fuego, 2019)

Irish veteran Tony McLoughlin has something of the late Jimmy LaFavre about his delivery and style, particularly where his grizzled, hardscrabble vocals are concerned. However, despite his songs also being the sort that haven’t brushed the dirt of their boots (a good thing) they all tend to the slightly chugging; solid but not particularly remarkable. Populated with outlaws, lost highways, wide-open spaces and the like they sit snugly in the Americana furrow but have little to truly engage the listener about them and when the opening pair extend to more than ten minutes in total it becomes rather too much of a good thing. Continue reading “Tony McLoughlin “True Native” (Fuego, 2019)”

Boa Morte “Before There Was Air” (Gare Du Nord Records, 2019)

Whichever way you look at it ‘Before there was Air‘ is the very definition of slow-folk. There’s the simple chronology of the release which is Boa Morte’s third album in a mere 17 years – actually a few longer than that if you add in the time it took the band to recover the tapes of their first album when their first record company went bankrupt – and there have been nine years since Boa Morte’s second album.  Then there’s the sound of the album – stately is not the half of it: ‘Before there was Air‘ is an album that has something to say and isn’t going to be hurried whilst it makes its statement. Continue reading “Boa Morte “Before There Was Air” (Gare Du Nord Records, 2019)”

Various Artists “Too Late To Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots” (Bloodshot Records, 2019)

Bloodshot Records came into being 25 years ago with the release of a compilation album of ‘Insurgent Chicago Country’. In their own words, “It embraced the pathos and quotidian hardships of classic country with the energy and immediacy of punk.” Now, on their 25th anniversary, they have released another compilation to shine a light on the music that is Chicago’s “hope and hustle”. Continue reading “Various Artists “Too Late To Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots” (Bloodshot Records, 2019)”

Various Artists “The Peanut Butter Falcon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Varese Sarabande Records, 2019)

Film soundtrack albums are always interesting beasts. You need to think about how they support the film they are made for but you’ve also got to assess them as a collection of music. There are a number of soundtrack albums that have gone on to be significant hits in their own right and the better ones really can grab your attention. Probably the first thing to say about the soundtrack to ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ is that it’s not quite on a par with something like ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’, a particularly successful soundtrack album that drew heavily on Americana music; but it does have its charms and some stand out tracks. Continue reading “Various Artists “The Peanut Butter Falcon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Varese Sarabande Records, 2019)”

Jerry Leger “Time Out for Tomorrow” (Latent Recordings, 2019)

Smart lyrics: check. Characterful vocals: check. Masterful musicianship: check. Sublime songcraft: check. For many listeners, a Jerry Leger album is the very definition of Americana. Since his 2005 debut, Leger has been hugely prolific while managing a remarkably consistent quality in his output. ‘Time Out for Tomorrow’ is no exception, finding Leger and his band, The Situation, in fine form. The album is lean, focused and coherent, both musically and thematically. Continue reading “Jerry Leger “Time Out for Tomorrow” (Latent Recordings, 2019)”

The Avett Brothers “Closer Than Together” (American/Republic, 2019)

Prior to its release, Seth Avett laid out a mission statement for the Avett Brothers’ 10th full-length album by way of a four-paragraph letter. In it, he opines that “the last thing the world needs is another piece of sociopolitical commentary,” before going on to explain why some of the tracks on the album seem to break with the band’s tried-and-true formula and veer in that direction. He concludes the letter with the observation that “the Avett Brothers will probably never make a sociopolitical record. But if we did, it might sound something like this”. Continue reading “The Avett Brothers “Closer Than Together” (American/Republic, 2019)”

Horace Holloway “Tin Foil Stars” (Dirtleg Records, 2019)

‘Tin Foil Stars ‘ is the debut five track EP by Florida based Horace Holloway, the recording alias of Jeffery Morrison, and a very promising debut it is too. Featuring strong support from players including Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown), Neil Franz (Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris) and Brett Williams (Mighty Joe Plum), the EP is characterised by strong song writing, often introspective but with a positive take reflected in mostly up tempo and up beat arrangements, which are at their strongest when augmented on the opening track ‘King of Diamonds‘ by Morrison himself on harmonica, by sideman Mark Robertson-Tessi who plays very tasty mandolin on ‘Paper Heroes’, and by pedal steel player Neil Flanz. Continue reading “Horace Holloway “Tin Foil Stars” (Dirtleg Records, 2019)”

Andrea Baker “Wild In The Hollow” (Independent, 2019)

If you want to hear of honesty through one person and their music, then ‘Wild In The Hollow’ would be a great place to start. This record bleeds truth and brings you right back to the basics of this world. Built through counselling sessions, conversations that came about in difficult fashion, and travelling around the north-west of America meeting new people, this record comes to us from the very heart of  Seattle Singer/Songwriter Andrea Baker. The whole record feels very natural, portraying the nature of the North West. Continue reading “Andrea Baker “Wild In The Hollow” (Independent, 2019)”