Son Volt “Notes of Blue” (Transmit Sound, 2017)

Son Volt was one of the most instrumental and influential bands in launching the alt. country movement of the 1990s that ultimately became Americana. “Notes of Blue” is the twentieth album to which Jay Farrar, the creative force behind Son Volt, has lent his voice and songwriting. Perhaps it is not surprising that someone who has been in the business for that long has come up with such a variety of styles on the album. The songs are said to be inspired by the blues, but not the blues as most would know it. It could have been, in sporting terms, a game of two halves if that was the way the album had been put together. Continue reading “Son Volt “Notes of Blue” (Transmit Sound, 2017)”

The Backyard Devils “Honkytonk Heartbreaker” (Independent, 2016)

Sometimes a new piece of music drops in your lap and even before taking the CD out of the sleeve you have a really good idea of what to expect. Honkytonk Heartbreaker by Canadian band The Backyard Devils fits so comfortably into that category that my job here is almost surplus to requirements. Initially put together by brothers Erik and Remi Arsenault they quickly added Chris Belliveau and Dillon Robicheau and released their first album in 2011 to much acclaim and recognition of a significant emerging talent. To quote the band, they have spent the subsequent years raising hell with their foot stomping music ever since.  Continue reading “The Backyard Devils “Honkytonk Heartbreaker” (Independent, 2016)”

Curse of Lono “Curse of Lono” EP (Submarine Cat Records, 2016)

When you see and hear Curse of Lono for the first time, you know that here is a band that is special. They are from London, formed by Felix Bechtolsheimer (ex Hey Negrita) in 2015, with the addition of drummer Neil Findlay, also from Hey Negrita. The rest of the group consists of Joe Hazell, lead guitar, Charis Anderson, bass and Dani Ruiz Hernandez, keyboards. Continue reading “Curse of Lono “Curse of Lono” EP (Submarine Cat Records, 2016)”

Owen Meany’s Batting Stance “Owen Meany’s Batting Stance” Independent, 2016

Self-consciously literary songs that owe a debt to the Mountain Goats, a name that is self-consciously of literary genesis and self-conscious references to the Mountain Goats; by now you’re either engaged and ready for what comes next or you’ve already gone. Stick around, for the songs have a bounce and humour that saves them from preciousness or pretension. It’s mainly the work of one man – Daniel Walker – but you’ve probably guessed that. Dissonance gets the Mountain Goats homage out of the way right off the bat, the percussive piano bouncing the song along with a force that is equalled by Walker throwing out the lyrics like they really matter. It’s disarming and charming. Continue reading “Owen Meany’s Batting Stance “Owen Meany’s Batting Stance” Independent, 2016”

Massy Ferguson “Run It Right into the Wall” (At The Helm Records, 2016)

There are few surprises on a MF record. They plough the same furrows year after year sprinkling the seeds of REM and Uncle Tupelo and reaping their own brand of Americana flannelled jangle. It is perhaps useful to think of REM without Mike Mills and UT without Jeff Tweedy (OK, Son Volt). It’s a sweet enough spot to be in especially from an Americana perspective, and this is an enjoyable listen, only it could have been from any of the past thirty years. Continue reading “Massy Ferguson “Run It Right into the Wall” (At The Helm Records, 2016)”

Mudcat Landing “Five Songs” (Pink Moon Records, 2016)

When you reach a certain age one tends to get sceptical of 20 somethings sharing their (limited) life experiences in a song. So, when the experienced Liverpool based 4 piece that makes up Mudcat Landing give us their insights wrapped up in a great musical package then it is time to celebrate the wit and wisdom of the well-travelled.  Continue reading “Mudcat Landing “Five Songs” (Pink Moon Records, 2016)”

Audrey Spillman “Thornbird” (Independent, 2016)

It’s a sultry slipcase that drops through the letter box following a Facebook conversation about the merits of sending out physical versions of an album to review, and it creates an element of wondering what the record will be like; the answer is simply, it’s a wonder. The Producer, Neilson Hubbard, is fast becoming the go to man for the musical traveller from the UK and a watch word in records of quality.  This is no exception.  It’s full of storm, naked emotion, passion, quirky musical stylings that leave you going “oh I love that”. Essentially a last shout before impending motherhood, Spillman has made a very modern, genre-bending record.  It will go on to be many things to many people, a returner, which 10 years from now you’ll slip from the rack and greet like an old friend. Continue reading “Audrey Spillman “Thornbird” (Independent, 2016)”

Various Artists “The Musical Mojo of Dr John” (Concord Records, 2016)

Mac Rebennack strolled on stage at the Last Waltz to the words “You all know the doctor, Dr, John ? Mac Rebennack. Come on Mac !” And if you didn’t, well you soon did as he gave one of the highest highlights of that evening. This is another evening – Saturday, May 3, 2014 to be exact – which saw a similarly high profile bunch of musicians come together at New Orleans’ Saenger Theatre for a concert billed as “The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac & His Music”. Continue reading “Various Artists “The Musical Mojo of Dr John” (Concord Records, 2016)”

Butch Walker “Stay Gold” (Lojinx, 2016)

This is Butch Walker’s eighth album and its one where he’s really let things go and made a record that’s unashamedly in love with classic rock n roll, with Springsteen, Billy Joel, Don Henley and quite likely Ryan Adams (who produced his last record). The result is a stirring high-octane ride; it’s like a kinetic movie switching from scene to scene, with plenty of action and moments of epiphany and reflection. It never lets up – each song is larger than life, chock full of hooks and built from a storytellers perspective with little details that elevate the songs above the workaday. He’s like a frayed blue-collar Jim Steinman pumping out songs that are meant to be enjoyed and which carry a narrative weight. Continue reading “Butch Walker “Stay Gold” (Lojinx, 2016)”

Kodiak Island “The Golden Section” (Musical Bear Records, 2016)

Despite a promising beginning, this latest record from Jo Bartlett (this time with a band in tow) quickly descends into little more than a genre exercise. The opener Frozen In Time and Remembered Days are both efficient and decent efforts with Bartlett’s voice being the beacon. By the time they get to Spanish Steps there’s little if anything to lift it above what you might hear at any folk club around the country on any given night. Yes there’s some curlicues of Spanish guitar that fleck the song with some sunshine but it’s pedestrian at best. Continue reading “Kodiak Island “The Golden Section” (Musical Bear Records, 2016)”