Bruce Springsteen “Chapter and Verse” (Columbia Records, 2016)

bruce-springsteen-2016As is probably obvious from the title, this is the companion album to The Boss’ recent biography Born To Run – the songs chosen by him – and as such covers the breadth of his career, including a few pre-E Street Band recordings. It’s not exactly a best of, but with five previously unreleased tracks alongside a whole bunch of the big numbers it’s more of a musical life story. Springsteen has been a masterful exponent of reinvention – perhaps the best at this in the last fifty years. He hasn’t had quite as many musical changes of direction as Dylan, but easily as many as David Bowie. Where Bowie accompanied each side step with a new persona Bruce has managed to perform his musical shimmies whilst always remaining as The Boss. Continue reading “Bruce Springsteen “Chapter and Verse” (Columbia Records, 2016)”

Chip Taylor “I’ll Carry For You” (Train Wreck Records, 2016)

Chip Taychip-taylor-ill-carry-for-youlor is a musician who has deservedly earned much respect over the years so it seems a litle churlish to offer criticism of such a revered artist. However, even though he has written many great songs and recorded many great albums, this is not one of them. The CD is really an EP featuring five songs with three instrumental themes and an alternative version of the title song. Continue reading “Chip Taylor “I’ll Carry For You” (Train Wreck Records, 2016)”

Little Country Giants “Dead Reckoning” (Independent, 2016)

Littllittle-country-giants-dead-reckoninge Country Giants comprise husband and wife duo Cameron Federal and Russell Cook and were formed in 2004 and are one of the best kept secrets of the traditional country genre. If you liked the “Oh Brother” soundtrack and the various offshoots from that style then chances are that you will fall in love with this too. The opening track “Party Till You Fall” is an upbeat pared back country rock number followed by “Chart To My Heart” featuring tuba and french horn mingled together artfully with mandolin and soaring harmonies. Continue reading “Little Country Giants “Dead Reckoning” (Independent, 2016)”

Lizanne Knott “Excellent Day” (Proper Music Distribution, 2016)

lizanne-knott-2016‘Excellent Day’ is Lizanne Knott’s fourth album, dedicated to long-time friend and guitarist Jef Lee Johnson who passed away unexpectedly. It is also the title of the last song on the album, written by Johnson, and covered by Knott to honour her friend. It isn’t the only cover on the album, with tracks by George and Ira Gershwin, Bruce Springsteen and most notably Janis Ian, who gifts Knott the wonderful track ‘Sometimes’. Continue reading “Lizanne Knott “Excellent Day” (Proper Music Distribution, 2016)”

Tom Baxendale “In The City A Short Time Ago” (Backwater Collective, 2016)

Aunknownnother slice of new American Americana drifts into town on the back of half written melodies and unsympathetic production that buries the vocals behind a sheen of dulled instrumentation. Surprising really as Tom Baxendale has self produced this ‘not brilliant’ advert for his songsmithery. There are snatches of decent ideas and some lovely guitar passages but the overall feeling is of a smidgen of self indulgence overriding a sense of quality control.  Continue reading “Tom Baxendale “In The City A Short Time Ago” (Backwater Collective, 2016)”

Ben Glover “The Emigrant” (Proper Records, 2016)

ben-gloverGlover was born and raised in Ireland and is domiciled in the US. He uses these experiences to power the sense of belonging or not, the rootlessness, the mixture of feelings that surround the transplanted. He does this via six traditional and four original songs, again posing another type of schism, the two sets of halves reconciled in mid-Atlantic. The songs are trying to balance the traditions of Irish folk music with the idioms of Nashville Country. ‘Heart in My Hand’ written with Mary Gauthier uses the reeling fiddle to give it that wind-blown Irish sheen, whereas at the heart of the song beats Nashville. Continue reading “Ben Glover “The Emigrant” (Proper Records, 2016)”

Reverieme “Straw Woman” (Absolute, 2016)

reveriemeThere are so many occasions where this record comes close to being beguiling that it’s a pity that there are only a few moments where the promise is completely fulfilled. Louise Connell has a lithe voice that wraps itself around words in a seductive manner whilst inhabiting the personality of the songs. I’m perfectly happy to get drawn in and lost in songs like ‘Plankton’ where her voice is matched against dark electronic tones and the flightier mandolin. When her voice is front and centre it dominates the song, the tremolo strums adding in some Twin Peaks atmosphere without detracting from the impact. Continue reading “Reverieme “Straw Woman” (Absolute, 2016)”

Erynn Marshall “Greasy Creek” (DittyVille, 2016)

erynn-marshall-2016Erynn Marshall is probably best known for playing in the Haints Old-time String Band alongside fellow Canadians Pharis and Jason Romero.  Having relocated to Virginia, Greasy Creek sees her forging a solo path for her highly respected fiddle playing, alongside many other collaborators, but still staying firmly in that Old Timey vein. This is pre-bluegrass music, so when there’s banjo accompaniment it’s claw hammer or three-finger, but not Scruggs, style. It’s music redolent of the turn of the century – the late nineteenth century into the early twentieth century that is – and mostly reflects a range of dance styles. Continue reading “Erynn Marshall “Greasy Creek” (DittyVille, 2016)”

Session Americana with Jefferson Hamer “Great Shakes” (Independent, 2016)

This collaboration between decade veterans Session Americana and Jefferson Hamer, perhaps best known this side of the pond for his “Child session-americana-2016Ballads” album with Anais Mitchell, opens up with the little gem that is “One Skinner”, a languid, gorgeously melodic song that slides into your consciousness and never leaves.  It’s followed up with “Helena”, which sounds exactly like UK cult heroes Diesel Park West with its West coast jangle and Hamer’s vocal being a dead ringer for John Butler’s and is none the worse for it.

Continue reading “Session Americana with Jefferson Hamer “Great Shakes” (Independent, 2016)”

Eve Williams “Peregreni” (Independent, 2016)

eve-williams-peregriniEve Williams is a singer and songwriter from Northern Ireland with a distinctive voice and a wide range. She became a full time singer songwriter after developing a disability due to rheumatoid arthritis and being unable to continue in her then day job. With many plaudits she is plotting a path in the business with at least one previous album to her name. This CD comprises nine tracks and as the sleeve notes explain, the album title takes its name from a 5th century group of monks whose Latin name translates to “wanderers” a feeling with which the artist has an affinity. Continue reading “Eve Williams “Peregreni” (Independent, 2016)”