Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef “Shardows and Light” (Independent, 2017)

The question of authenticity is something of a bother from time to time – particularly when it comes to music. That age old, folk club-endorsed argument of whether it’s okay for an Englishman to affect an American accent in song is at once as frustrating as it is trivial. If you’re the kind of person that gets hung up on this kind of thing (or indeed find yourself pondering whether or not it’s acceptable for a Canadian to play bluegrass, as ably demonstrated by the other 50% of the case in point we find here), you might want to adjust your wiring. If, however, you’re willing to sidestep such nonsense and simply want to engage with a collection of songs that are clearly born of a desire to render a contemporary take on American roots music by exploring the power of ‘the duet’, look no further- “Shadows and Light” is a gentler but easily as good a place to start as the acclaimed Billy Bragg and Joe Henry’s “Shine A Light” or John Prine’s “For Better or Worse.” Continue reading “Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef “Shardows and Light” (Independent, 2017)”

Leif Vollebeck “Twin Solitude” (Secret City Records ,2017)

“Twin Solitude” is a perfect example of musical growth. The journey undergone and the music released by Leif Vollebeck doffs the cap to the idea of art imitating life expounded by Oscar Wilde. After all, this collection of melancholy Americana is not without its imperfections, but therein lies much of its beauty. Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, Vollebeck felt something was missing from his musical make up, so he made what seemed the obvious decision to travel to Iceland, the land of his forefathers and discover his roots. Continue reading “Leif Vollebeck “Twin Solitude” (Secret City Records ,2017)”

The Dream “Get Dreamy” (Round 2, 2017)

There is an almost limitless appetite amongst vinyl addicts for the ever more obscure or rare item released on their favoured medium and in their preferred musical genres. So there will be at least a muted cheer greeting this vinyl only re-issue of another example of Scandinavian psychedelia in the form of Get Dreamy by Norwegian band The Dream. This, the band’s only release, is at least a genuine nugget – dating as it does from 1967 – and it stands as a testament to the world conquering power of youth movements in music. Continue reading “The Dream “Get Dreamy” (Round 2, 2017)”

Whitney Rose “South Texas Suite” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)

Six tracks lies somewhere between an E.P. and a mini album, depending on your point of view. Though that’s of little matter when “South Texas Suite” is a thing of such beauty. A Canadian now residing in Austin, Whitney Rose is accompanied here by the seemingly obligatory line-up of musicians who have backed up the great and good (Cash, Willie Nelson, Haggard, The Mavericks) and between them they nail down the groove to perfection. Rose happily describes the collection as a love letter to Texan musical culture; which is hard to argue against with the evidence she presents here. Continue reading “Whitney Rose “South Texas Suite” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)”

Cassie Josephine and Gabriel Minnikin “Flower Country” (Independent, 2016)

This is a record where it is a truism to say that it a record of two halves. It is constructed as such with Josephine taking on writing duties for the first half and Minnikin picking up the baton and driving home the second. Josephine mainly sings her songs and Minnikin his, so they sound different and they have different sensibilities too; and there’s also a yawning gap in terms of quality. Josephine has a pretty voice and her songs are serviceable genre pieces – The Price and others draw heavily on classic country tropes. There’s a lot to like about the songs. I Don’t Want To Go Anywhere is a slow-burner that nudges towards excellence but for the vocals. The same charge can be levelled at Through The Blue;  Josephine doesn’t quite have the personality in the voice to convince. Continue reading “Cassie Josephine and Gabriel Minnikin “Flower Country” (Independent, 2016)”

Son Volt “Notes of Blue” (Transmit Sound, 2017)

Son Volt was one of the most instrumental and influential bands in launching the alt. country movement of the 1990s that ultimately became Americana. “Notes of Blue” is the twentieth album to which Jay Farrar, the creative force behind Son Volt, has lent his voice and songwriting. Perhaps it is not surprising that someone who has been in the business for that long has come up with such a variety of styles on the album. The songs are said to be inspired by the blues, but not the blues as most would know it. It could have been, in sporting terms, a game of two halves if that was the way the album had been put together. Continue reading “Son Volt “Notes of Blue” (Transmit Sound, 2017)”

The Backyard Devils “Honkytonk Heartbreaker” (Independent, 2016)

Sometimes a new piece of music drops in your lap and even before taking the CD out of the sleeve you have a really good idea of what to expect. Honkytonk Heartbreaker by Canadian band The Backyard Devils fits so comfortably into that category that my job here is almost surplus to requirements. Initially put together by brothers Erik and Remi Arsenault they quickly added Chris Belliveau and Dillon Robicheau and released their first album in 2011 to much acclaim and recognition of a significant emerging talent. To quote the band, they have spent the subsequent years raising hell with their foot stomping music ever since.  Continue reading “The Backyard Devils “Honkytonk Heartbreaker” (Independent, 2016)”

Curse of Lono “Curse of Lono” EP (Submarine Cat Records, 2016)

When you see and hear Curse of Lono for the first time, you know that here is a band that is special. They are from London, formed by Felix Bechtolsheimer (ex Hey Negrita) in 2015, with the addition of drummer Neil Findlay, also from Hey Negrita. The rest of the group consists of Joe Hazell, lead guitar, Charis Anderson, bass and Dani Ruiz Hernandez, keyboards. Continue reading “Curse of Lono “Curse of Lono” EP (Submarine Cat Records, 2016)”

Owen Meany’s Batting Stance “Owen Meany’s Batting Stance” Independent, 2016

Self-consciously literary songs that owe a debt to the Mountain Goats, a name that is self-consciously of literary genesis and self-conscious references to the Mountain Goats; by now you’re either engaged and ready for what comes next or you’ve already gone. Stick around, for the songs have a bounce and humour that saves them from preciousness or pretension. It’s mainly the work of one man – Daniel Walker – but you’ve probably guessed that. Dissonance gets the Mountain Goats homage out of the way right off the bat, the percussive piano bouncing the song along with a force that is equalled by Walker throwing out the lyrics like they really matter. It’s disarming and charming. Continue reading “Owen Meany’s Batting Stance “Owen Meany’s Batting Stance” Independent, 2016”

Massy Ferguson “Run It Right into the Wall” (At The Helm Records, 2016)

There are few surprises on a MF record. They plough the same furrows year after year sprinkling the seeds of REM and Uncle Tupelo and reaping their own brand of Americana flannelled jangle. It is perhaps useful to think of REM without Mike Mills and UT without Jeff Tweedy (OK, Son Volt). It’s a sweet enough spot to be in especially from an Americana perspective, and this is an enjoyable listen, only it could have been from any of the past thirty years. Continue reading “Massy Ferguson “Run It Right into the Wall” (At The Helm Records, 2016)”