Sounding Arrow “Loving Is Breathing” (California Country, 2017)

These songs have a vibe that, if it sat up a little, would be horizontal, a blissed out California sun-kissed feeling. They (rather Scott Kinnebrew) are infected with an enthusiasm for the present and for the near future that is as yet untainted with cynicism. The days where you still feel immortal, where mortgages and careers haven’t kicked in, where what you have is just enough. Remember when you could pack up your room in less than an hour and move on? The lazy country rock sound wraps the songs in a comfort blanket – everything is beautiful, everything is filled with love, pleasure is skateboarding, oh how I yearn for those days. Continue reading “Sounding Arrow “Loving Is Breathing” (California Country, 2017)”

Head For The Hills “Potions And Poisons” (Independent, 2017)

If you enjoy good, unflashy, down to earth Bluegrass music then this album will definitely appeal. Head For The Hills are a 4 piece band from Colorado who boast a very healthy, no-frills approach to their music. Between them, Adam Kinghorn, Joe Lessard, Sam Parks and Matt Loewen play guitar, violin, mandolin and bass and that pretty much covers what you will hear on this album. Continue reading “Head For The Hills “Potions And Poisons” (Independent, 2017)”

El Goodo “By Order of the Moose” (Strangetown Records, 2017)

With bands like El Goodo you have to buy into what they’re doing or not engage at all. They indulge in a glorious nostalgia for 1960’s music – the signifiers are all decades old, they’re not about to break new ground, they’re just going to expand the pool of music inspired by the period, a Nuggets band where every day is an episode of The Prisoner. The test is how good they are at what they do, and El Goodo are amongst the best. Continue reading “El Goodo “By Order of the Moose” (Strangetown Records, 2017)”

Pop Co-Op “Four State Solution” (Silent Bugler Records, 2017)

I like records that start with a swift kick to the ears. Pop Co-Op waste no time with If Everything Was Easy – it jackboots with a stuttering drum and a mighty burst of guitar that sounds like J Mascis in his prime squirting his squalling guitar all over Buffalo Tom. It helps that they also find a chorus to show that it’s not one-dimensional – oh but that guitar, my faint heart. They spend the next 11 songs seemingly attempting to make it sound like a compilation album. I Didn’t Know is all Andrew Gold polished soft rock, then Feint of Heart aims straight for Nashville and lands slap bang in the centre. That’s what happens when you have four songwriters and vocalists. Continue reading “Pop Co-Op “Four State Solution” (Silent Bugler Records, 2017)”

Matt Woods “How to Survive” (Lonely Ones Records 2017)

Matt Woods hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where this CD was recorded in Shed 55. Here is an album to linger with and learn from. Matt accepts the reality of modern life. In Love in a Nuclear Age he sings, “No one’s been smart enough /To write a book on how to survive.” Maybe not, but here is a collection of songs that attempts very successfully to do just that thing. Continue reading “Matt Woods “How to Survive” (Lonely Ones Records 2017)”

Bruce Cockburn “Bone On Bone” (True North Records 2017)

A lot is expected of a new release from one of Canada’s finest musicians so this new offering after a hiatus of around six years has been eagerly awaited. The good news is that it does not disappoint and keeps getting better after every listen. Cockburn now resident in San Francisco is a new father and this together with new energy and spirituality provided from his local church, from whom he even gets backing vocals on many tracks, has resulted in a fresh and vibrant piece of work which is his 33rd album release since his debut from 1970. Continue reading “Bruce Cockburn “Bone On Bone” (True North Records 2017)”

Janis Ian “The Essential 2.0” (Sony Music CMG 2017)

With ten Grammy nominations, and being able to count the likes of Dolly Parton, Cher, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash (who apparently kept a book of her poetry in his library), Jimi Hendrix and Willie Nelson as fans, Janis Ian is entitled to be described as “the songwriter’s songwriter”. When you consider that her songs have been covered by artists such as Glen Campbell, Celine Dion and Roberta Flack it is clear that this is a seriously talented artist and as such, this career-spanning retrospective really is an “essential” listen. Continue reading “Janis Ian “The Essential 2.0” (Sony Music CMG 2017)”

Adam Torres “Pearls To Swine” (Fat Possum Records, 2016)

If the mention of falsetto instantly brings the Brothers Gibb to mind – linked to some hell of a disco inferno – then make the effort to disconnect that image. This review will be using the f-word. On Pearls To Swine Adam Torres sings falsetto and shows what an effective and moving device this can be if handled right. it’s a vocal delivery that takes a few listens o fully tune into, at first it’s just a gloriously thrilling sound that cuts through to the soul like an ice-knife of melancholy. Continue reading “Adam Torres “Pearls To Swine” (Fat Possum Records, 2016)”

Pete McClelland “Carolina Sky” (Hobgoblin Records, 2017)

Pete McClelland is a busy man. He is a member of two folk bands, The Blackthorn Band and ThingumaJig as well as being a founder member of country outfit Montana Rain. Along with wife Mannie he has spent much of the last 40 years criss-crossing North America and, if journeys of that magnitude were bound to open his ears to a vast range of musical influences, then it is firmly in country, and Nashville in particular, that McClelland has pitched his flag on this debut solo release. Continue reading “Pete McClelland “Carolina Sky” (Hobgoblin Records, 2017)”

The Sighs “Wait On Another Day” (Omad Records, 2017)

The third Sighs records arrives a might tardily 20 or so years after their last, and I’m tempted to say it’s worth the wait. The opener is a bit stodgy, then with Words Of Love a cavalcade of lovely harmony drenched power pop oozes into my ears. Thoughts of Another piles on the harmonies – it’s the kind of melancholy that makes sadness worthwhile. Even that though can’t hold a candle to the chorus of Words of Love, which really will have you scrambling back to your Big Star records. That’s followed by the title track that gets me all nostalgic for College Rock. Remember all those bands that sprung up around REM like Bleached Black, who made a record or two then disappeared? The Sighs have managed to return without sullying their reputation. Continue reading “The Sighs “Wait On Another Day” (Omad Records, 2017)”