Ceri James and the Three Fifths “St Augustine’s Heart” (Heed Records, 2016)

ceri-james-and-the-three-fifths-2016Sometimes the charm of a record can be in its deficiencies. Some rough edges, occasional serendipitous errors or just plain bum notes can give life to a piece, especially in an age where the four-to-the-floor, autotuned product can seem the norm. Listening to an album warts and all can bring us closer to the artist and the live experience. It’s why some bands like to go for the ‘live in one take’ style in the studio. Too forensic an approach to getting all the parts exactly right, perfect if you like, can suck the lifeblood out of a record.  Continue reading “Ceri James and the Three Fifths “St Augustine’s Heart” (Heed Records, 2016)”

Owls of the Swamp “Meteorite” (Labelship, 2016)

owls-of-the-swampWith the gentle burble of synths and hushed vocals, OoTS sound like they are floating in space. Listening to this leads me to imagine a scenario where they’ve prematurely awoken from suspended animation on a 100 year voyage to a distant galaxy and are contemplating their plight, knowing they will die before their companions awake and feeling nostalgic for a world they’ve left behind. ‘Meteorite’ is a bumpier ride, though it still sounds like a neutered version of The XX. Continue reading “Owls of the Swamp “Meteorite” (Labelship, 2016)”

Thisell “II” (Jelly Fant Records, 2016)

If you are into art leaning Thisell-2016mystical, sometimes dark and out there music chances are you will enjoy this. Such are the innovative arrangements and beauty of the work performed by Swedish singer-songwriter Peter Thisell , who is supported in style by a bunch of friends playing piano, violin, acoustic, lap steel, electric bass, lead guitar, upright bass, diatonic accordion, drums and harmony vocals. Continue reading “Thisell “II” (Jelly Fant Records, 2016)”

Select Captain “Strings & Feathers” (Mini Me Records, 2016)

SELECT CAPTAIN-2016Kristian Gaarskjaer’s latest album under his musical alter ego pseudonym, Select Captain has him come through with an intelligent, Americana focussed singer-songwriter record. Recorded at Homeless Studios in Copenhagen he also utilises hints of late 1980s early 1990s indie pop rock. On the back of his debut release The Fear And The Lights he once again impresses with his honest heart and soul style of music. Gaarskjaer’s songs deal with joy, despair, arrogance, loneliness, greed and optimism as he allows his thoughts and fears, plus general everyday emotions spill forth in artistic fashion. Supported by guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, mandolin, lap steel, organ and piano the record is ever busy, instrumentally. Continue reading “Select Captain “Strings & Feathers” (Mini Me Records, 2016)”

The Lucky Strikes “The Motion and The Moving On” (Harbour Song Records 2016)

the-motion-and-the-moving-on_resizedThe Lucky Strikes, from Southend, have been together for ten years now and this is their fifth album. Without doubt they are one of our best Americana bands. Lead singer is Matthew Boulter, long time member of the Simone Felice group and an accomplished solo artist in his own right with four albums.  With him here are Will Bray on drums, Paul Ambrose on bass and Dave Giles on piano and accordion. Continue reading “The Lucky Strikes “The Motion and The Moving On” (Harbour Song Records 2016)”

The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society “Turn it Golden” (Greywood Records, 2016)

tselliotappreciation-2016Tom Gerritsen (a.k.a. The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society) proffers a back story which invites disbelief – born into a travelling carnival he abandoned the carny life to write songs whilst working in a bookshop before taking said songs on an extended two year long busking tour of North America. Well, I’ll buy the bookshop – many of Gerritsen’s fantastical songs are undeniably literary in style, with The Grand Tour also showing the hallmark of a man who has had to read Where the Wild Things Are to a fidgety bunch of toddlers, restlessly sitting in the children’s corner, just one too many times. Continue reading “The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society “Turn it Golden” (Greywood Records, 2016)”

Will Varley “Kingsdown Sundown” (Xtra Mile Recordings, 2016)

will-varleyVarley’s music is likeable, decent, his sentiments are heartfelt and humane, he chips away at the status quo like a young Dylan. He doesn’t shy away from issues; these are protest songs (mostly) and in their own modest way they are uncompromising. He explores the ills of the contemporary world on songs like ‘To Build A Wall’ or ‘Something Is Breaking’ concentrating on trying to articulate the issues, rather than making them palatable. His direct honesty, his guitar playing and voice are humble instruments that help to draw the listener in. Continue reading “Will Varley “Kingsdown Sundown” (Xtra Mile Recordings, 2016)”

Red Sky July “Voyager” (Shadowbirds Records, 2016)

red-sky-july-2016Hot on the heels of their album “The Truth And The Lie”, released in March, comes this six track EP from Red Sky July.  The trio has pedigree, with Ally McErlaine being the guitarist in Texas, Shelly Poole once of Alisha’s Attic and Charity Hair of the Alice Band.  Sadly said pedigree doesn’t deliver anything memorable here but rather a nicely produced, tastefully played and but ultimately unmemorable listening experience. Continue reading “Red Sky July “Voyager” (Shadowbirds Records, 2016)”

The Slow Show “Dream Darling” (Haldern Pop Recordings, 2016)

The Slow Show-2016Quirky and eclectic the music and vocals of Rob Goodwin are undeniable. In many ways The Slow Show breathe fresh air into the scene as the five-man unit take the listener away from the predictable and sometimes mundane work of all too many bands. The band’s debut album of last year, White Water was a more aggressive and urgent album in comparison, but such is the compelling manner of Goodwin’s story-telling, and spare instrumental arrangements provided by band members Fred Kindt (keyboards), Joel Byrne-McCullough (guitar), James Longden (bass) and Chris Hough (drums) the listener becomes trapped the instant the needle drops into the groove. Added to the above as a bonus Goodwin is joined on vocals on “Hurt” and “Last Man Standing” by Manchester vocalist Kesha Ellis. On the latter he speaks with no little passion of a man jilted-at-the-altar and of ‘the tears in his eye’.

Continue reading “The Slow Show “Dream Darling” (Haldern Pop Recordings, 2016)”

Brady Harris “Ukulele Days” (Lampshade Records, 2016)

brady-harrisThe title pretty much sums up the concept – Harris ukulises some originals and a whole bunch of covers. It’s not just Harris and his trusty instrument, there’s plenty of diverse instrumentation here – though strangely when it’s just Harris and the ukulele things pick up markedly. The ukulele is the folksy thread stringing the songs together and after a while it proves to be the weakness, the reliance on it rendering everything else as a sideshow and bringing the ear back to the novelty element. The record sounds like a drunken idea that wasn’t discarded the next morning. Continue reading “Brady Harris “Ukulele Days” (Lampshade Records, 2016)”