Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)

Eitzel is an arresting cove. A lounge room crooner with impeccable Americana credentials and instincts. Beyond that an entertaining, erudite man with much to say and a lot to share. This album marks a massive up swing in his profile as in the company of Bernard Butler he aims for the kind of mainstream breakthrough that similar artists such as John Grant and Jason Isbell have enjoyed; critically acclaimed solo material released after leaving loved but not massive bands (in the case of the Czars the band had folded). Originally conceived as a stripped down set by Eitzel the instinct of Butler as producer to widen and fill out the production has paid enormous dividends as Eitzel has delivered his most consistent and musically assured album yet. Continue reading “Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)”

Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)

A comeback, break up album – what could be better for the record buying Americana fan? Ryan Adams, the quintessential wounded troubadour, back ‘on form’ with a searing examination of a highly personal life event. Surely this is cause for celebration but in the name of good taste a muted one as we empathise with our poet songsmith? Well yes and perhaps more pertinently no. This is a bright shiny production with some strong songs and Adam’s voice sounding in fine fettle but songs such as Doomsday and the opener Do You Still Love Me have a very eighties feel to the sound which make the record sometimes feel soulless. Continue reading “Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)”

Campbell Woods “Oxford Street” (Independent, 2017)

Oxford Street, in this case, is not the glitzy miles long street of vast temples of consumerism, awash with gee-gaws and superficially attractive but ultimately empty and worthless baubles. No, this is an Oxford Street of attractive clapboard houses – maybe in Halifax or Victoria, but definitely anchored down in a small Canadian city, with easy access to wider country around. That suits the songs – intimate and civic, rooted in relationships, but with an open and expansive feel to them. Continue reading “Campbell Woods “Oxford Street” (Independent, 2017)”

Drew Holcomb And The Neighbors “Souvenir” (Magnolia Music 2017)

The definition of country music or indeed Americana varies immensely with conflicting views everywhere. However, if your view is that such music should be about real subjects, unpolished and delivered with passion and sincerity then you will fall in love with this album. Recorded in East Nashville there is no trace of trucks, drinking or other such subjects that appear so much in vogue amongst the country establishment.

Continue reading “Drew Holcomb And The Neighbors “Souvenir” (Magnolia Music 2017)”

Hurray For The Riff Raff “The Navigator” (ATO Records 2017)

Imagine a Latin American, gypsy troubadour, Bowie aficionado with a chip on her shoulder and a score to settle with The Donald. Sound scary? Introducing Alynda Lee Segarra, leading lady with Hurray for the Riff Raff. What’s more, she and her band are on their w ay over here for some dates in support of their new opus, The Navigator. On first listen you could be forgiven for downright bemusement. Here’s a girl from the Bronx, based out of New Orleans and shot through with Puerto Rican activistic feminist ideals. She’s singing through the voice of a Ziggy-style conceptual alter-ego with the soul of a Patti Smith/Carlos Santana lovechild. Yeah, there’s a lot of forces at work here but stick around because it’s a ride worth taking.  Continue reading “Hurray For The Riff Raff “The Navigator” (ATO Records 2017)”

R.Mutt “The Dash” (Independent, 2017)

Do you believe in rock and roll ? R.Mutt do. Six years after the release of their last album – the well received Leash on Life – they finally return with a new record that builds on what went before, with some additional refinement provided by the assistance of producer Kevin Blackwell (Sassparilla) and for the mixing Chet Lyster who has worked with the Jayhawks. There’s been some internal changes in the band as well, alongside founder members Jim Dier and Ron Thornton there’s new
guitarist David Smolarek and new drummer Matt Schreier. Continue reading “R.Mutt “The Dash” (Independent, 2017)”

Curse of Lono “Severed” (Submarine Cat Records, 2017)

On first hearing this record without reading anything about it I thought that Steven Adams (Broken Family Band) had adopted a back to basics approach and formed a new band. It’s a thought that stuck with me every time I listen to the record and it’s certainly meant as a compliment – there’s the voice of Felix Bechtolsheimer (Hey Negrita) which is a dead ringer for Adams and then there’s the lyrics which explore the same melancholic self-deprecating squalor. CofL have an admirably broad palate, the songs spreading out across a range of styles – the opener cheekily references the Byrds with both the title and the bass line of Five Miles (add three and some altitude and you’re there). Continue reading “Curse of Lono “Severed” (Submarine Cat Records, 2017)”

Stephen Simmons “A World Without” (Blue Rose Records, 2016)

At a time when the great and good of mainstream Nashville can be found in the UK playing the country fest that is C2C Stephen Simmons’ latest offering acts as an antidote to much of the current anodyne output of that great song writing town. As is befitting a native of Tennessee, his 10th album offers up a collection of self-penned songs that, although having a definite taste of country running through them, have an intelligence and musical nuance that sets them apart. Continue reading “Stephen Simmons “A World Without” (Blue Rose Records, 2016)”

The Sadies “Northern Passages” (Yep Roc Records, 2017)

The Sadies are enjoying a fantastic run of form. Their last two records have both been brilliant autumnal works and this one begins in pretty much the same vein – the opening chords of Riverview Fog are a quite specific swirl of acoustic country psychedelia; it’s like they’ve captured the sound of light dappling the delicate fire of autumn leaves. It’s not far from the kind of sound that tyros like Ryley Walker have reached. Then again Another Season Again reaches back into their more raucous like past, the guitar sounding like a huge pick is strumming a chain link fence, the guitar solo like a string of barbed wire placed atop, while inside there’s a more tender heart with harmonies buried well down in the mix. Suddenly the trees are all bare and the light hurts your eyes. It’s a return to their spiky roots and something you might find in The Noise Museum but instead this is an instrumental that sifts through the surf, twang and jangle that they’ve been trading for the past couple of decades. Continue reading “The Sadies “Northern Passages” (Yep Roc Records, 2017)”

Jim Lauderdale “London Southern” (Proper Records, 2017)

Three decades into his career Jim Lauderdale has achieved, with London Southern, a long cherished ambition to record an album in London. The temptation to do so was driven by excellent motives – he could record at old friend Nick Lowe’s studio and could also avail himself of Nick’s band. The result is a richly toned traditional country album the opener of which – Sweet Time – will have the listener scurrying for the sleeve notes. Is this an unfamiliar Hank Williams song ? Continue reading “Jim Lauderdale “London Southern” (Proper Records, 2017)”