Jessica Lea Mayfield “Sorry Is Gone” (ATO Records, 2017)

There are times when great pieces of music can be produced out of the most unlikely source material. As, in her own words, the poisonous marriage of Jessica Lea Mayfield unfolded before her eyes, she started to write lyrics that began to reclaim her life as she reflected on years of domestic abuse. As the songs took shape they acted as therapy and the end product is a searingly open and honest piece of work. Continue reading “Jessica Lea Mayfield “Sorry Is Gone” (ATO Records, 2017)”

The Strange Blue Dreams “The Strange Blue Dreams” (Holy Smokes Records, 2017)

Amongst the many strands of American inspired revivalist music – whether it be Appalachian folk or pre-war Blues, the sounds of the sixties folk boom or the reclaiming of minstrelsy and old-time music one musical thread that has not been so heavily championed is – with the possible exception of Rockabilly and hep-cat music – that strange melange of styles that was present at the birth of Rock and Roll.  Scottish band The Strange Blue Dreams are setting out to redress the balance a little on their debut album with a diverse collection of songs that sound like nothing more or less than a 1956 juke box. Continue reading “The Strange Blue Dreams “The Strange Blue Dreams” (Holy Smokes Records, 2017)”

The Doomed Bird of Providence “Burrowed into the Soft Sky” (Front & Follow, 2017)

TDBoP are the most evocative of the bands working in the post-rock landscape; their music always conjures up images even before you have any idea of the concepts behind them. That’s due to the purpose behind the songs – it’s not music of escape or abandon, it is music rooted in ideas and concepts, so whether passages are sweeping and grand or intimate and scratchy they are always driven by something and it’s the vision of something that makes them so compelling. Continue reading “The Doomed Bird of Providence “Burrowed into the Soft Sky” (Front & Follow, 2017)”

Kathryn Rose Wood “In The Ashes” (Independent 2017)

This is a debut album. It is a challenging album and a difficult album, but it is also an absolutely beautiful album. Kathryn Rose Wood, a singer/songwriter based in New Orleans, is also a clinical music therapist with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and therefore well aware of how powerful music can be in healing and improving well-being. It is poignant then, that the album is comprised of six songs that she wrote while grieving the suicide of her younger brother Preston and which chronicle the stages of grief. Continue reading “Kathryn Rose Wood “In The Ashes” (Independent 2017)”

Mary Lou Minor Trio “Once Was a Time” (Independent, 2017)

You’ll doubtless recall that Green on Red’s Dan Stuart boldly sang “Time ain’t nothing / When you’re young at heart / And your soul still burns” with all the fervour of a young man. Add a few years to the tally and things, it seems, often take on more of the perspective embodied on Mary Lou Minor’s latest album. This offers a more mature view on the world, a world where a phrase from Dropped Stitches such as “in your own mind you’re feeling quite different / and in your own mind you’re still 39” makes sense. Continue reading “Mary Lou Minor Trio “Once Was a Time” (Independent, 2017)”

Zervas & Pepper “Wilderland” (Independent, 2017)

Cabin fever! Jack Kerouac spent 63 days working as a fire watch, on top of Desolation Peak in the North Cascade Mountains in 1956. Zervas & Pepper spent 28 days in a remote cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado late last year. Kerouac went on to use the material gained from that experience for The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. Paul Zervas and Kathryn Pepper spent the time writing songs for Wilderland, their triumphant new album, and also going for long walks, enjoying the tranquillity of undisturbed absorption in nature and relishing their solitude away from the distractions of mobile phones and the internet.  Continue reading “Zervas & Pepper “Wilderland” (Independent, 2017)”

Thunder and Rain “Start Believing” (Independent, 2017)

Thunder and Rain are a four piece from Golden, Colorado who describe their music as an exploration of rock and country music using bluegrass level acoustic musicianship. There are songs here, particularly those that highlight the mandolin of Pete Weber and the lap steel of Chris Herbst, where the music does indeed have a hint of bluegrass running through it but the overall feel of the album is more akin to country pop. Continue reading “Thunder and Rain “Start Believing” (Independent, 2017)”

The Winterlings “American Son” (Independent, 2017)

The history of popular music is littered with chance encounters and the random coming together of artists but surely the Buddhist fire ritual that brought Wolff Bowden and Amanda Birdsall together must be right up there as one of the most unlikely. The Winterlings were borne out of that chance encounter and a move to the wilderness that is the Pacific Northwest seven years ago has subsequently given birth to a creative and productive partnership that continues with the new album American Son. Continue reading “The Winterlings “American Son” (Independent, 2017)”

Dia del Mercado “Another Clumsey Mile” (Root and Branch Recordings, 2017)

Tumbleweeds roll through a dusty town, the barroom doors clatter back and forth in the wind and the Ennio Morricone soundtrack rattles with a raucous choir. It’s not, however, a cheroot chewing man with no name who stumbles into view – rather it is Ruud Slingerland, the Dutch multi-instrumentalist behind the Dia del Mercado name.  Another Clumsey Mile (and, by-the-by, that is the given spelling) is a selection of five new songs taken from a return to Slingerland’s musical roots – putting together tracks home recorded in his living room. Continue reading “Dia del Mercado “Another Clumsey Mile” (Root and Branch Recordings, 2017)”

Sophia Marshall “Bye Bye” (Independent, 2017)

Following on from her solo debut EP last year comes a full album from Leicester’s Sophia Marshall, once half of the much missed Havenots.  It’s a slender little thing, with nine songs clocking in at a tad over thirty minutes but there’s much to like and indeed love.  All are Marshall originals bar Losing You, co-written with former Havenots partner Liam Dullaghan and it’s a little ironic that it’s the co-write that is the least successful piece here.  It’s catchy, poppy and boasts a great tune but just doesn’t quite seem to be Marshall in the way that the other songs are and some of the higher notes are somewhat strained. Continue reading “Sophia Marshall “Bye Bye” (Independent, 2017)”