Martin Rὅssel. “Don’t Blame Me” (Erik Alx Sund Records, 2017)

For an album that’s been ten years in the making, Sweden’s Martin Rὅssel’s Don’t Blame Me turns out to be a relatively taut affair. Turns out that Rὅssel is an in demand producer in Sweden and elsewhere and was continually sidetracked by various projects. As he says in the liner notes, “Deadlines are tough but sometimes good, and I had none.” However he eventually had the songs in ship shape order and managed to recruit an army of around 30 musicians (including Marty Wilson-Piper on guitar) for the recording. Despite the plethora of players Rὅssel turns in a tightly wound selection of songs with several of them saluting the bands and artists he grew up hearing. Continue reading “Martin Rὅssel. “Don’t Blame Me” (Erik Alx Sund Records, 2017)”

Jim White “Waffles Triangles & Jesus” (Loose, 2017)

Jim White’s first couple of records are classics of the genre; they were strange missives and they heralded a new voice. It’s frightening to think that it is 20 years since Wrong-Eyed Jesus and this latest record – with a title that’s almost a parody of a Jim White record title – tries hard but ultimately falls short. White is an engaging performer and live he often bends his songs into interesting new shapes. White doesn’t make bad records, he doesn’t write bad songs, but he didn’t used to write ordinary songs and he does now, and that’s what is disappointing. Continue reading “Jim White “Waffles Triangles & Jesus” (Loose, 2017)”

Various “13 Days Of Xmas” (Bloodshot Records 2017)

Christmas comes but once a year and for the country community it’s the perfect excuse to drip an extra tear into the beer and mourn another year of lost love and lonely hearts. 13 Days Of Xmas is a compilation of artists with one thing in common – the festive season blues. The relish which Bloodshot Records upholds the tradition of good ‘ol guys and gals in the gutter certainly stays true to the Western character. Bloodshot have served the alternative music community out of Chicago since 1994 and are this year offering up an Americana album of various label family members along with their usual festive bargains. It’s touted as a “Thirteen-song compilation of off-kilter original Christmas songs and unlikely covers” and the darkness is there for all to see (sic). Continue reading “Various “13 Days Of Xmas” (Bloodshot Records 2017)”

Johnny Cash “Greatest Hits – The Sun Records Years” (Charly Records, 2017)

Ho hum. Another Cash (in) collection I hear you say. Well, yes, it is a compilation of songs that any self respecting fan will already have, probably several times over. However these 20 songs arrive encrypted in vinyl, shiny black vinyl, and when spun the sound is as vibrant as the yellow Sun Records label surrounding the spindle. Continue reading “Johnny Cash “Greatest Hits – The Sun Records Years” (Charly Records, 2017)”

Jeff Crosby “Postcards From Magdalena” (At The Helm Records, 2017)

This is the fourth full-length album from Jeff Crosby, a well travelled Gent originally from Idaho – and a cracking slice of proper Americana it is too. Crosby has taken inspiration for this album from his travels and the description of why the album is named Postcards From Magdalena is worth repeating here. The opening track The Best $25 I Ever Spent was written in Tanganga, Magdalena in Columbia and Crosby refers to an urban dictionary description of the term Magdalena as “a girl who is sophisticated, gorgeous and down to earth. A Magdalena is a person who is a modern hippie, loves the beach and smoking joints. You can find her dancing in the rain.” Continue reading “Jeff Crosby “Postcards From Magdalena” (At The Helm Records, 2017)”

Andy Griffiths “Big Red Monster” (Musician Records 2017)

Here is a thoughtful album that deserves your attention. Andy tells stories in his songs that are “beyond anywhere,” which are words from the first track. Rather, they present a carefully collected and memorable array of events and places. The cover and pictures on the album, and its title give some clues here. There is Andy playing his guitar, sitting above Worbarrow Bay on the Dorset coast, and on the back is the big red tractor, the monster itself. Track 7 tells of the families, who, on a mere moment’s notice were forced to leave their village of Tyneham which was then required as part of the Lulworth Range as gun and fighting practice for the Normandy landings. Continue reading “Andy Griffiths “Big Red Monster” (Musician Records 2017)”

Dori Freeman “Letters Never Read” (Blue Hens Music, 2017)

If you’re looking for a vocal that’s as clear as a mountain stream then Dori Freeman has the vocal you’re chasing. On Letters Never Read she defines a modern form of Appalachian country – there’s no affectation here but there’s a lot of variety. Her back story is worth
recounting again – growing up in the Appalachian city of Galax (population 7,000) in a traditional music family she rebelled against these constraints by falling for the wildly modern sounds of Teddy Thompson going so far as to dropping him an email accompanied by a sample of her singing. Continue reading “Dori Freeman “Letters Never Read” (Blue Hens Music, 2017)”

Rebecca Pronsky “Witness – Hillary’s Song Cycle” (Independent, 2017)

A mini album dedicated to Hillary Clinton’s ‘defeat’ in the 2016 US Presidential Election and her (imagined) personal aftermath. Let’s not dwell on the name of her opponent, shall we? As is fitting for such a subject, a cast of six female musicians underpin Brooklynite Pronksy’ self-penned song suite in fine style. Although an idea firmly out of left field, it’s a pretty good record; full of the poppy/folky/jazz character you’d expect from Rebecca Pronsky. Continue reading “Rebecca Pronsky “Witness – Hillary’s Song Cycle” (Independent, 2017)”

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “Soul of a Woman” (Daptone Records, 2017)

No-one forgets seeing Sharon Jones live – she was a powerful performer, and it is nothing short of tragic that her late-blooming recording career was so cruelly cut short this year. In a conversation with JJ Grey a while back we got to musing on Sharon Jones – and Charles Bradley as well – as many in his band had also worked with both these artists. He summed her up nicely: “when Dr John says ‘boy when them women, when they got that strong thing, boy, I love that’ and that’s Sharon – she’s got that strong thing”. Continue reading “Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “Soul of a Woman” (Daptone Records, 2017)”

Various Artists “Won’t be Home for Christmas” (Hemifran/Paraply Records, 2017)

Just one look at the cover of this collection of Christmas themed songs by an eclectic mix of eighteen singer-songwriters gives a clue as to the content. This is Christmas deep in the heart of Americana-land: an isolated house stands alone with a forest backdrop, it’s night time and there’s no sign of snow – but there looks to be a storm brewing in the sky. And if the jolly tone of the opening track – Elliot Murphey’s Five Days of Christmas – at first misleads fear not, this is a song about gathering family and the mixed blessing that can be. Continue reading “Various Artists “Won’t be Home for Christmas” (Hemifran/Paraply Records, 2017)”