Chris Shiflett “West Coast Town” (SideOneDummy Records, 2017)

Nashville based Grammy award winning producer Dave Cobb is hot. His work with the likes of Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson have garnered a well-deserved reputation for excellence. Thus, any work with his name attached demands our attention. So it is here, with his name as producer and player on the Chris Shiflett album West Coast Town. Chris may be better known as lead guitarist with The Foo Fighters but a few years back he set up a country oriented side project and released a couple of albums as Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants. His latest offering is a solo release but with a talented supporting cast that includes the aforementioned Dave Cobb on acoustic guitar. Continue reading “Chris Shiflett “West Coast Town” (SideOneDummy Records, 2017)”

Current Swell “When To Talk And When To Listen” (Nettwerk, 2017)

Already quite a big thing in Canada, Current Swell decamped to Nashville to record part of this latest album, with the remainder being finished at home in Vancouver. It’s their sixth full-length release, coming twelve years after their debut So I Say; these guys are clearly in it for the long haul. The four-piece band revolves around their songwriting hub of Scott Stanton and Dave Lang. Continue reading “Current Swell “When To Talk And When To Listen” (Nettwerk, 2017)”

Threefifty “Gently Among The Coals” (Independent, 2017)

Threefifty founders Brett Parnell and Geremy Schulick have developed their love of, and influences from, guitar heroes such as Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler through classical guitar training, and released three previous albums. And then they drop ‘Gently Among The Coals’ on us and leave it to us to figure it out. Now grown into an eight-piece, harnessing keyboards, mandolins and violin alongside the traditional guitar-bass-drum package, their sound has evolved into something almost indefinable but also, once heard, inescapable. Continue reading “Threefifty “Gently Among The Coals” (Independent, 2017)”

Madison Violet “The Knight Sessions” (Big Lake Music, 2017)

Canadians Brenley MacEarchen and Lisa MacIssaac have been charming audiences and listeners for nigh on two decades now with their rootsy songs and glorious combined voices. Over the years their sound has ranged from folk to indie rock to radio friendly pop harmonies but on The Knight Sessions they try to get back to basics. To this end they’ve re recorded five songs from their last album, The Year Of The Horse unplugged with just the pair of them singing and playing along with five new songs. The latter kind of lose the unplugged concept for some reason but overall the album is a handsome reminder of why they have been awarded a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Vocal Group and their regular UK tours generally sell out. Continue reading “Madison Violet “The Knight Sessions” (Big Lake Music, 2017)”

Stewart Legere “Quiet The Station” (Independent, 2017)

Legere is a craftsman, one who understands the mechanics of songwriting and is able to create densely layered free flowing songs that flirt with many genres without really committing to any. There’s much to admire and much to enjoy, much to pick apart and to explore – these are songs densely packed with flourishes, nooks and crannies, lyrical narratives, classic singer-songwriter fare. He reminds me of another Canadian, Ron Sexsmith, someone who will be more admired for their craft and will garner more acclaim from his peers and receive less attention from audiences than he deserves. Continue reading “Stewart Legere “Quiet The Station” (Independent, 2017)”

Bob Dylan “Triplicate” (Columbia, 2017)

Bob Dylan’s latest release is his first studio recorded triple album, and it sees him continuing his exploration of the Great American Songbook over three discs of ten songs each. Each disc has a subtitle – ‘Til the sun goes down, Devil Dolls, and Comin’ Home Late. In a long, and wide ranging, interview with Bill Flanagan (available on BobDylan.Com) Dylan explains Triplicate as three discs each of a different mood that together make for a coherent narrative whole. If one accepts this at face value then these three moods could be summarised as “I’ve lost my gal and I’m getting old”, “I’ve fallen in love”, “It’s all over and I’m learning to live with it”. Continue reading “Bob Dylan “Triplicate” (Columbia, 2017)”

HAV “Inver” (Folkwit Records, 2017)

HAV mix traditional folk forms with electronic ambient textures to produce a rich swirl of music that clings to the memory like mist clings to heather. On Ffald-y-Brenin the fiddles gently sway, and it is easy to imagine the music being used to soundtrack a documentary about a stoic crofter or, more likely, a fisherman. The documentary feel is reinforced by the use of field recordings like The Young Man’s 21st Birthday, which give space to the recollections of the older generation. Continue reading “HAV “Inver” (Folkwit Records, 2017)”

Anna Coogan “The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time” (Independent, 2017)

Boston-raised singer-songwriter Anna Coogan began her performing career in Seattle (Washington) before moving to her present home of Ithaca, New York. Her diverse musical background, which includes both classical opera and alt-country, shines through on her new album. The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time, Coogan’s fourth solo album (including her album with J.D Foster, The Birth Of Stars), follows on from her collaboration with Pacific Northwest-based alt-country band 19. Continue reading “Anna Coogan “The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time” (Independent, 2017)”

Scott H. Biram “The Bad Testament” (Bloodshot, 2017)

Biram peddles a scuzzy version of the blues, and on Set Me Free he sounds like someone who has lost their teeth the hard way and still comes up swinging. To his credit, he covers a lot of ground across these 13 tracks and, although the blues is at the heart of what he does, it certainly isn’t everything – he’s just as adept at more delicate forms. If Set Me Free is akin to cleaning your teeth with a wire brush, then Righteous Ways is a cleaner wrasse delicately flitting through the water, and Still Around contains signs of dexterity you might think beyond the reach of someone who can be so gut-wrenchingly amped-up punk as Train Wrecker. Continue reading “Scott H. Biram “The Bad Testament” (Bloodshot, 2017)”

Skram “Head Held High” (Independent, 2017)

Oh dear. I’m sure I’m not the only reviewer who sighed when catching sight of the PR sheet accompanying this album which describes Skram as “an Americana style Hypno Folk Rock family band.” The hypno bit is due no doubt to guitarist and singer Darren Marks’ day job as a hypnotherapist and sure enough it is a family band with dad Darren accompanied by his sons Adam (on banjo) and Ben (on drums). Ben is 13, Adam a bit older I think. A commendable idea to showcase the family talents no doubt but the problem here is that both boys are still beginners and really don’t get into any kind of groove at all throughout the album. The banjo just plinks at times and the drums (a full kit that is definitely out of step with the folk rock theme) are more suitable for a pub covers band. Continue reading “Skram “Head Held High” (Independent, 2017)”