Jon and Roy “The Road Ahead Is Golden” (Blue Heron Music, 2017)

Jon and Roy is perhaps the most understated name for a duo or a band: it suggests modesty and a certain lack of pretension. And that’s exactly what they deliver, simple songs performed simply with a minimum of fuss decoration or development. The vocals are like a comfortable soft cotton shirt, the melodies are clear and easy to pick, there’s a definite skill about the writing and performances, and they make a (and I’m going to use the word again) modest version of Americana. It is intimate and open, the songs are easy to get, they are inclusive and inviting. Continue reading “Jon and Roy “The Road Ahead Is Golden” (Blue Heron Music, 2017)”

Dino Valente “Dino Valente” (Floating World Records, 2017)

In February 1968 Dino Valente entered the CBS studios in Los Angeles to record what would be his only solo album. Although he was known at the time as the underground Bob Dylan, Valente probably had more in common with Leonard Cohen circa Songs from a Room. The common denominator here was CBS Records producer Bob Johnston who was assigned to Valente post working with Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde and who would go on to work with Cohen on the aforementioned Songs album.  Continue reading “Dino Valente “Dino Valente” (Floating World Records, 2017)”

The Mountain Goats “Goths” (Merge, 2017)

Whatever concept inspires John Darnielle is almost incidental to the progress that he has made as a writer and performer. The last record was predicated on the sad tawdry circus of wrestling and this one on Goths. Both continue his development into one of the great contemporary songwriters. The sonic palette continues to expand – you might expect a record about Goth to subculture to in some way ape the genre but Darnielle sidesteps this smartly. There are a few musical Goth references but mostly the songs eschew guitars and synths and rely on the subtle shading of woodwinds. Continue reading “The Mountain Goats “Goths” (Merge, 2017)”

Offa Rex “The Queen of Hearts” (Nonesuch, 2017)

This is a really fascinating album. A collaboration between classic English Folk Singer and instrumentalist, Olivia Chaney and American Indie Rockers, The Decemberists, this is a recording filled with fine musicianship and vocal work that seems to celebrate the heyday of British Folk/Rock – if you think back to the early recordings of Steeleye Span, Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention and the likes of The Albion Band, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from Offa Rex. Continue reading “Offa Rex “The Queen of Hearts” (Nonesuch, 2017)”

Susan Cattaneo “The Hammer & The Heart” (Jersey Girl Records, 2017)

For her fifth release Boston singer songwriter Susan Cattaneo has pushed the boat out with a double album comprising 18 tracks. With the two discs independently titled The Hammer / The Heart it will come as no surprise that each disc has a distinctive feel to it. With the majority of tracks being either self-penned or co-writes and, with production credits for the whole album bar one track, Cattaneo clearly lacks neither talent nor a work ethic. Continue reading “Susan Cattaneo “The Hammer & The Heart” (Jersey Girl Records, 2017)”

Dickey Betts & Great Southern “Southern Rock Jam” (Retroworld Records, 2017)

Southern Rock Jam is a compilation of ten tracks, five each from Dickey Betts’ two albums for Arista – Dickey Betts & Great Southern and Atlanta’s Burning Down. These date to Betts’ first time out from the Allman Brothers Band in the late 1970’s, and the music is very much in the vein of his previous band. That’s to say Southern Rock with a touch of the electric blues – with twin lead guitars, one of them a slide. Dickey Betts made the smart long term decision to stick close to the formula and not be side-lined into pop-rock production. It may not have helped so much at the time – Dickey Betts & Great Southern performed reasonably well hitting the number 37 spot in the US charts but Atlanta’s Burning Down only crawled to 157 before stalling. The times, as they so often are, were a-changin’ and Southern Rock was already past its glory days. Taking the long view though there’s plenty of enjoyable moments on this best of selection.  Continue reading “Dickey Betts & Great Southern “Southern Rock Jam” (Retroworld Records, 2017)”

Banditos “Visionland” (Bloodshot Records, 2017)

Bursting forth from the grooves with the dynamic opener ‘Fine, Fine Day’ this album announces its presence with brio and verve. A fantastic piece of Stooges like driving rock so breathless that the vocals appear to be struggling to keep up. Second track ‘Strange Heart’ is completely different; a gothic noirish delight with some keening vocals set over an insistent sharp backing with some delightful swirling guitar flourishes. A Southern delight that would not have been out of place soundtracking the first True Detective series. And then it’s gone Continue reading “Banditos “Visionland” (Bloodshot Records, 2017)”

Paddy Nash “Gate Fever” (Mad Molly Records 2017)

Paddy Nash is a Derry-born singer-songwriter, more often seen kicking out with his seven-piece band The Happy Enchiladas, here releases his new solo album which sees him largely return to his folk roots. Nash who started out with the Derry Band Whole Tribe Sings, often described as “the greatest Northern Irish band who never made it big”, but who came very close after signing a US album deal and having their song “Happy” feature in Harp Lager’s US advertising campaign. However, “Gate Fever” finds Nash in a more reflective mode and this has enabled him to construct a fine body of work. Continue reading “Paddy Nash “Gate Fever” (Mad Molly Records 2017)”

Jinder “Kingsize Blackfoot” (Din of Ecstasy 2017)

This is Phil Dewhurst (Jinder)’s 10th album. He lives and works in Dorset, and by his own words has played, sung, recorded, engineered, produced and mastered this album himself at a studio in that county. The name of the album “Kingsize Blackfoot” has been adopted for this project to honour Jinder’s / Phil’s direct connection to Native American Blackfoot Sioux Roots, and also as a comment on his stature (6’7’’). Note also the classic album cover: a buffalo on the plains, with the sun rising.  Continue reading “Jinder “Kingsize Blackfoot” (Din of Ecstasy 2017)”

The Deslondes “Hurry Home” (New West Records, 2017)

Five divergent musicians who eventually found each other in New Orleans, The Deslondes follow up their impressive 2014 debut album with the equally fine Hurry Home. Less country inclined than its predecessor the album finds the band roaming through a variety of styles – swampy southern roots, 50’s rockabilly, and classic rhythm’n’blues which, with several members of the band singing lead on various songs gives the album a truly dynamic feel. Comparisons to The Band and The Felice Brothers (which surfaced in reviews of the first album) will persist and that’s no bad thing and although The Deslondes are not as rough and ready as The Felice crew they’re handy reference points. Continue reading “The Deslondes “Hurry Home” (New West Records, 2017)”