AJ Hobbs “Too Much Is Never Enough” (Independent, 2017)

Too Much Is Never Enough may be California-born and raised singer-songwriter AJ Hobbs’ debut full-length album but he also has two EPs to his name. His first Shit Just Got Real was released under the pseudonym of Carl King, and the second The Den Sessions was recorded in one day at musician, producer Ted Russell Kamp’s studio. Continue reading “AJ Hobbs “Too Much Is Never Enough” (Independent, 2017)”

Piano Magic “Closure” (Second Language Music 2016)

It’s a wee bit embarrassing to confess that despite a 20 year career, 12 albums and the late John Peel a fan of the band that this reviewer has never heard of Piano Magic. In defence they are not common or garden Americana UK fodder, their songs unfolding somewhat glacially over an electronic pulse that’s embellished by washes of guitar as Glen Johnson’s disembodied and almost spoken vocals slowly delve into existential conundrums. However there are several moments here when the songs positively soar, sometimes borne aloft on a waft of string arrangements.  Lyrically there are echoes of Nick Cave, L. Cohen and Momus while the arrangements have a mild whiff of The Go Betweens and The Walkabouts all adding up to some fine melancholic soul searching. Continue reading “Piano Magic “Closure” (Second Language Music 2016)”

Country Lips “Till The Daylight Comes” (Independent 2017)

Country Lips – simultaneously entertaining and enchanting… although, on reflection, I can see that the term ‘enchanting’ may be at odds with the unsavoury preoccupations of several songs: heavy drinking, al fresco sexual encounters and impregnating groupies are hardly ‘enchanting’ in the Disney sense, but nevertheless the dubious subject matter is more than enough to raise a chuckle Continue reading “Country Lips “Till The Daylight Comes” (Independent 2017)”

Riddle & The Stars “New Coastline” (Songs and Whispers 2016)

Here is true international Americana collaboration of the highest order. Playing together are Ben Riddle, established singer songwriter from Australia, and Bobbo and Tracy Byrnes also well established musicians, from Southern California where they called themselves The Fallen Stars. They all met while touring in Germany. This is their second album and with them on drums is Tom Bremer. Continue reading “Riddle & The Stars “New Coastline” (Songs and Whispers 2016)”

Rainbrother “Tales From The Drought” (General Bird, 2017)

Opening with a joyful and instantly memorable piano motif on the track Riverside, ‘Tales from the Drought’ announces its intentions from the get go. Bjarke Bendtsen performing as Rainbrother has produced an album of delightful melodies, sparkling song writing and affecting sounds. The aforementioned Riverside is a complex yearning narrative build around the ebb and flow of the repeated piano motif – worthy of some serious airplay. East African Dream follows, an instrumental filled with yelps and whoops over a Midlakeish harmony again memorable and insistent with its driving rhythm. Continue reading “Rainbrother “Tales From The Drought” (General Bird, 2017)”

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children “For The Ages To Come” (Haldern Pop Recordings, 2016)

Lundberg’s past as frontman for Soundtrack Of Our Lives (and the much missed Union Carbide Productions) gives us some clues as to what to expect from this solo effort. UCP were heavily indebted to the Stooges and MC5 but it’s another 60’s icon that this set sidles up to; there are definite vapour trails of Love throughout these songs, the strong melodies and the meandering freewheeling flights of fancy straight out of Arthur Lee’s playbook. ‘Beneath the Winding Waterway‘ is a gentle semi-psychedelic trip which is instantly memorable with enough complexity to reward repeated listens. The chief attraction of this record is letting the songs worm their way into your mind – it’s the kind of record that inserts little shards in your memory so you go back to complete the mirror and go through it. Continue reading “Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children “For The Ages To Come” (Haldern Pop Recordings, 2016)”

The Blue Aeroplanes “Welcome Stranger !” (Independent, 2017)

The Blue Aeroplanes return with their most stable line-up to date to proffer up a collection of agitprop poetry set to jangly indie rock. Lead singer, poet and founder member Gerard Langley remains unimpressed by the whole music business model; his thoughts are delivered with an uncompromising aggressiveness – and if the listener doesn’t like it then the listener can take a hike. This is art, and it doesn’t have to explain itself, it doesn’t need to be comfortable – maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll agree with it, maybe you won’t: either way why should The Blue Aeroplanes care? Continue reading “The Blue Aeroplanes “Welcome Stranger !” (Independent, 2017)”

Arborist “Home Burial” (Kirkinrola Records, 2016)

This is a most impressive debut by the Northern Irish band. It’s an Americana soufflé wearing its graft and craft lightly, the apparent effortlessness coming at the price of hard work and talent. There is substance and quality at work here. The word artisan is apposite, the songs flowing like an Anthony Hopkins performance, art without artifice, a direct connection, no obfuscation, just an immediate contact with the essence of the songs. There’s no barrier between the listener and the pleasure to be had from the songs. Continue reading “Arborist “Home Burial” (Kirkinrola Records, 2016)”

Tim Houlihan “Another Orion’ (Independent, 2016)

Tim Houlihan has a voice made for country music and a grasp of a broad range of Americana styles. If he wasn’t a veteran of the scene this would sound like a perfect calling card for Nashville. ‘I Get Lonesome Too’ is the type of song that would be an enormous hit if it reached the right artist and featured in a film or on TV. ‘Send Me Back To You’ puts pedal to metal and Houlihan sounds uncannily like Billy Joel belting out a country rocker. The title track gets a little bit experimental (within limits) with the burble of electronics before hushed acoustics bring on the big ballad. Houlihan does everything without affectation, with enthusiasm and skill; it’s almost enough to sweep the listener away. Continue reading “Tim Houlihan “Another Orion’ (Independent, 2016)”

Rami and the Whale “Rami and the Whale” (Wooded Shrine Recordings, 2016)

This is a solo album from Swedish singer songwriter Rasmus Blomqvist. It is a mainly acoustic offering which is dark, introspective, melancholy and brooding perhaps reflecting those dark Swedish winter nights. The songs were written over a period of ten years and recorded in what is referred to as a “poor people’s home”. Continue reading “Rami and the Whale “Rami and the Whale” (Wooded Shrine Recordings, 2016)”