Cory Branan “Adios” (Bloodshot, 2017)

Branan is the type of songwriter who doesn’t like to repeat himself – no meticulous honing of a style. No, Branan likes to write a song and move on. The style will be suggested by the song. Genre is an elastic spectrum; it is invisible and ignored. Another Nightmare in America is in the tradition of It’s the End of the World as We Know It (or We Didn’t Start the Fire), a rollicking evisceration of contemporary society. Then there’s Cold Blue Moonlight, a bluesy slow-burner more akin to Spain (the band). It makes for a thrilling journey. Blacksburg sounds like Joe Henry in country rock mode (with the Jayhawks on hand) whilst Visiting Hours is a kind of new wave gallop. Continue reading “Cory Branan “Adios” (Bloodshot, 2017)”

Suntrodden “Suntrodden III” (Independent, 2017)

Austin-based Erik Stephansson releases the third of his Suntrodden collection. He describes this five track EP as being “about rediscovering your core and not succumbing to the distractions that put you at risk” which is a noble sentiment. Even nobler when you discover that Stephansson has eschewed much of the modern recording technology in favour of a stripped back lo-fi approach that lets the songs say it all. Continue reading “Suntrodden “Suntrodden III” (Independent, 2017)”

Enderby’s Room “Enderby’s Room” (Fika Recordings, 2017)

This is Dan Mayfield’s first record as band leader. He’s worked with Darren Hayman, The Wave Pictures and Allo Darlin’, and his own sound isn’t too far away from those artists. It is a gentle blend of folk suffused with atmosphere, hushed polite vocals and everything clearly thought through and stuffed with detail. ‘The Music’ details the pleasures of music, the physical pleasure of the needle in the groove or the tape passing over the heads as well as the bliss from the actual music, the drone of harmonium binding everything together. The songs are full of small personal pleasures rather than bold statements – ‘Stars’ mixes ukulele with harmonium and the twinkling of vibes to create a painterly atmosphere where the brushstrokes of the instruments create the atmosphere. Continue reading “Enderby’s Room “Enderby’s Room” (Fika Recordings, 2017)”

Luke Tuchscherer “Always Be True” (Clubhouse Records, 2017)

This is the second solo album release from Bedford based singer songwriter Luke Tuchscherer (pronounced Tuck-Shearer) and it is a real cracker. Tuchscherer who previously had a stint as singer and drummer with The Whybirds has written an album which sounds every inch a classic of its genre. This is a real Americana masterpiece with great tunes, mournful lyrics and terrific playing throughout. Recorded in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk with it seems an all British cast, this shows that home grown Americana can mix it with the very best that our American cousins have to offer. Continue reading “Luke Tuchscherer “Always Be True” (Clubhouse Records, 2017)”

Los Straitjackets “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets” (Yep Roc, 2017)

In which Los Straitjackets provide thirteen instrumental versions of Nick Lowe songs. They add their usual twang, and it ends up like a Shadows record without Cliff Richard. Mildly diverting at first and in the end a futile exercise, there isn’t really one song that sounds better as an instrumental, and no version really does anything astounding so you forget the vocal melody and they also slide into cheesy territory as Lately I’ve Let Things Slide shows where the melancholy is replaced with musical a kiss me quick hat. Continue reading “Los Straitjackets “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets” (Yep Roc, 2017)”

Quiet Loner “The Battle for the Ballot” (Independent, 2017)

I should have reviewed this record during the General Election campaign and it would have provided the perfect backdrop and context. It is an inspiring record, the result of Matt Hill’s stint as songwriter in residence at the People’s History Museum in Manchester – the national museum for democracy. His brief was to explore the story of universal suffrage and these songs tell those tales that are all but forgotten now. As our democracy is being syphoned away it is pertinent to remember the stories of the brave men and women who fought for a better society. Continue reading “Quiet Loner “The Battle for the Ballot” (Independent, 2017)”

The Vine Brothers “No Candy” (Independent, 2017)

Some clarification to begin: they’re not brothers and none of them is called Vine. That should not in any way undermine the authenticity that the Arkansas trio bring to their rootsy folk/bluesgrass sound, a genre noted of course for its long history of familial connections, real and otherwise. No, what Garrett Jones, Joe Credit (you’ve got to hope that name is genuine) and Greg Bucking lack in sibling bonds they make up for in utter commitment, albeit delivered with an appealingly light touch on their third album. Continue reading “The Vine Brothers “No Candy” (Independent, 2017)”

Chris Stapleton “From A Room (Vol. 1)” (Mercury Records, 2017)

So here’s the big dilemma for the average, long time Americana fan, Chris Stapleton.  Americana has become hip, it’s the cool genre for the older music fan, those of us that started in alt-country have seen the ‘beards’ move in and dare to say it – it’s got trendy.  The relationship between what is and indeed isn’t Americana promotes much debate, Stapleton is the antithesis of this. Not country enough for Music Row, too popular for the hardcore alt-country fans.  The fact of the matter is, his music, his background, his trek to the top and his attitude is everything that alt-country (and its funkier non-deplume, Americana) is. Continue reading “Chris Stapleton “From A Room (Vol. 1)” (Mercury Records, 2017)”

Jon and Roy “The Road Ahead Is Golden” (Blue Heron Music, 2017)

Jon and Roy is perhaps the most understated name for a duo or a band: it suggests modesty and a certain lack of pretension. And that’s exactly what they deliver, simple songs performed simply with a minimum of fuss decoration or development. The vocals are like a comfortable soft cotton shirt, the melodies are clear and easy to pick, there’s a definite skill about the writing and performances, and they make a (and I’m going to use the word again) modest version of Americana. It is intimate and open, the songs are easy to get, they are inclusive and inviting. Continue reading “Jon and Roy “The Road Ahead Is Golden” (Blue Heron Music, 2017)”

Dino Valente “Dino Valente” (Floating World Records, 2017)

In February 1968 Dino Valente entered the CBS studios in Los Angeles to record what would be his only solo album. Although he was known at the time as the underground Bob Dylan, Valente probably had more in common with Leonard Cohen circa Songs from a Room. The common denominator here was CBS Records producer Bob Johnston who was assigned to Valente post working with Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde and who would go on to work with Cohen on the aforementioned Songs album.  Continue reading “Dino Valente “Dino Valente” (Floating World Records, 2017)”