Justin Townes Earle “Kids In The Street” (New West Records, 2017)

 

For his eighth album Justin Townes Earle has adopted some different approaches. It’s the first time he has worked with a producer (Mike Mogis -Bright Eyes and First Aid Kit) and the first album he’s recorded out with Nashville, travelling to Omaha, Nebraska to lay it down. On a more personal level Earle says, “Life has changed a lot for me in the last few years. I got married and am ready to become a father and this is the first record I’ve written since I got married… When I wrote songs in the past, I was looking in on what I was feeling but this record’s about looking outward on what’s happening.” One or all of these circumstances have certainly worked as Kids In The Street is as good as any of his previous releases but also its perhaps his most consistently entertaining disc. Continue reading “Justin Townes Earle “Kids In The Street” (New West Records, 2017)”

Sam Baker “Land Of Doubt” (Independent, 2017)

Sam Baker’s 2013 album, Say Grace, was a highly-acclaimed body of work, prompting one well known music publication to put in in the top 10 country albums of that year. It is difficult to see Sam’s latest offering, Land of Doubt, making that particular list. Not because it isn’t very good, because it is, but because this is such a unique album in musical terms that it defies easy genre pigeon holing.

Continue reading “Sam Baker “Land Of Doubt” (Independent, 2017)”

Colin Hay “Fierce Mercy” (Compass Records, 2017)

The latest solo album from prolific Men at Work frontman Colin Hay is a lesson in how deceptive appearances can be. The kitschy cover design looks like a collage of stock photos and clip art, and could suggest equally unpolished contents (to those unfamiliar with Hay’s oeuvre, anyway). Nothing could be further from the truth. Top-notch production values are on display from the opening bars of Come Tumblin’ Down. Satisfying Americana flavours of banjo, accordion, and a twangy Telecaster feature prominently in a rich and masterful arrangement. Continue reading “Colin Hay “Fierce Mercy” (Compass Records, 2017)”

John Smith “Headlong” (BARP Records, 2017)

John Smith has been lauded as one to watch for some time now, attracting effusive praise from peers and press alike. He has opened for the likes of John Martyn and John Renbourn, guested with Jackson Browne and Rodney Crowell, and played sessions alongside David Gray and Joan Baez. Headlong is John’s fifth album, and the impressive rollcall continues, as he employs Cara Dillon on backing vocals and Sam Lakeman both plays and produces.

Continue reading “John Smith “Headlong” (BARP Records, 2017)”

Eric Ambel “Lakeside” (Last Chance Records / At The Helm Records, 2017)

Serial collaborator and producer Eric Ambel returns with his first solo record in over a decade. “Lakeside”, supposedly named after Ambel’s favourite former boozer, delivers ten tracks that would feel right at home in any dive where the floorboards are seasoned with spilled beer and the pool tables’ resale value ruined by cigarette damage. Continue reading “Eric Ambel “Lakeside” (Last Chance Records / At The Helm Records, 2017)”

Morton Valence “Europa” (Bastard Recordings, 2017)

Were it not for the declaration on the album cover that “millions of us…consider ourselves as both citizens of the UK and Europe” Morton Valence’s latest release would represent the subtlest political album you’re ever likely to encounter. At first glance it’s a collection of multi-lingual cover versions, capped off with a reworking of the band’s own Sailors’ Return. Look a little closer and there’s a subliminal message here : je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais takes Serge Gainsbourg’s song and makes of it a lament for the EU Referendum vote, following it up with a crackling Weimer republic version of Wenn ich mir was wunschen durfte that hammers home the message. Continue reading “Morton Valence “Europa” (Bastard Recordings, 2017)”

Mike Felten “Diamonds And Televisions” (2017, Independent)

It’s refreshing to come across an Americana album that’s essentially a fun listen, so kudos to Mike Felten for that feat alone. A Chicago native, he’s been a record store owner, open miker and gigging troubadour for the best part of half a century. Daresay that he’s pretty much seen it all… Continue reading “Mike Felten “Diamonds And Televisions” (2017, Independent)”

Ezio “Daylight Moon” (Jazzhaus Records, 2016)

Daylight Moon is the ninth studio album in a career spanning 26 years from Cambridge-based band Ezio. A popular online encyclopedia would have us believe that this is a folk music band, but judging from the smorgasbord of musical sounds and styles found on this album that is a far too simplistic description and exposes the limitations of trying to pin labels onto musicians.

Continue reading “Ezio “Daylight Moon” (Jazzhaus Records, 2016)”

Steve Gardner “Bathed in Comfort” (TAG Records, 2017)

Chuck Prophet recently tweeted a comment from his buddy and console-maestro, Matt Winegar, who, at soundcheck while they were balancing the EQ before a gig, advised Chuck that, ‘By the time we get forty or fifty beards in here, it’s really going to change the sound.’ A few months before this wonderful post, Chuck received an unsolicited request from fan boy, Yorkshire man, singer and music dabbler, Steve Gardner – not to be confused with the American musician, Mississippi-based Rambling Steve Gardner.  Continue reading “Steve Gardner “Bathed in Comfort” (TAG Records, 2017)”

Corey Isenor “A Painted Portrait (Of The Classic Ruse)” (Independent, 2016)

‘Hi, you’re through to the Corey hotline: just $4.95 a minute. Here are some words that rhyme with Corey: glory, story, allegory, Montesori…’ If Lisa Simpson could hear this new album from Mr. Isenor, she’d fall in love with Corey all over again and be in deep trouble with Marge over a new phone bill she’d dialled up to the wilds of Nova Scotia. The delicate eco-environment, his beloved Nova Scotian countryside and his fine arts background permeate every glorious note of Corey Isenor’s music. Continue reading “Corey Isenor “A Painted Portrait (Of The Classic Ruse)” (Independent, 2016)”