Black Angel Drifter “Black Angel Drifter” (Bastard Recordings, 2016)

Landing somewhere between the Cramps and the Handsome Family, this one-off project creates its own feral sound. It’s a musical collage with a Gothic heart. It flirts with genre but shies away from commitment – instead it skids from one thing to another, the opener skitting between avant electronica, Morricone western soundtrack and something swampy. ‘Black-Eyed Susan’ makes a bid for coherence and ends up like Lee Hazelwood soundtracking a Roger Corman flick. Continue reading “Black Angel Drifter “Black Angel Drifter” (Bastard Recordings, 2016)”

Josh Birdsong “Simple Geometry” (Independent, 2016)

Josh Birdsong 2016Nashville-based singer/songwriter Josh Birdsong has released his debut EP of five contrasting and certainly interesting songs which seem to comprise a range of influences.  Recorded in Nashville, producer Stephen Leiweke has also stamped his identity on the sound with a smooth and clean sound that allows songs of original structure vital breathing space. Josh Birdsong claims influences as diverse as John Maher, Morrisey and James Taylor alongside the ambient sounds of Tycho. The EP also features the song ‘You and I’ which won the 2015 International Song-writing Competition from over 18 500 entries from around the world. No mean feat but it arguably isn’t even the best song on ‘Simple Geometry’.

Continue reading “Josh Birdsong “Simple Geometry” (Independent, 2016)”

Chatham County Line “Autumn” (Yep Roc, 2016)

Chatham County Line 2016 The seventh studio album from this Raleigh-based four-piece delivers exactly what you would expect, top quality Bluegrass from a band still firing on all cylinders. Formed in 1999 in the North Carolina city, Chatham County Line have been producing thoughtful albums in the traditional style since 2003. Autumn is no exception to this tradition and demonstrates that the string-band format is no barrier to imaginative song-writing. There is a devotion to the tradition of Bluegrass and incorporation of a range of roots influences evident on the album, but also present is the subtle presence of the history of the musicians in rock bands, hence the arrangements may fly a little higher than expected. Continue reading “Chatham County Line “Autumn” (Yep Roc, 2016)”

Roger Roger “Fairweather” (Independent, 2016)

Roger Roger 2016Twins Lucas and Madeleine Roger, a folk/roots duo from Winniipeg Canada, launch their debut album Fairweather which, to complete the family connections, was engineered and produced by their father Lloyd Peterson. Fairweather showcases songs that incorporate the styles of both of the siblings and certainly indicates a real potential. It also shows that they are capable of a range of styles as they generally alternate lead vocals throughout which lends an interesting structure to the album.  Continue reading “Roger Roger “Fairweather” (Independent, 2016)”

Rogue Valley “Radiate Dissolve” (Independent, 2016)

Rogue Valley 2016Rogue Valley, the Minneapolis-based outfit who burst onto the scene like the brightest of comets with their Seasons project, return. Like the afore-mentioned comet, the band haven’t been sighted on the new release list for nearly five years, yet this return is worth the wait. In 2009-10, Rogue Valley, led by Chris Koza, hit on the idea of releasing four albums in the same year to reflect the different seasons which they did to widespread acclaim. The albums shimmered and sparkled with originality and achingly beautiful moments and the new offering, Radiate/Dissolve, picks up where the Seasons project left off. Continue reading “Rogue Valley “Radiate Dissolve” (Independent, 2016)”

Proudfoot “Flower Of London” (Reckless Records, 2016)

"Proudfoot-2016"Proudfoot are essentially a vehicle for the songs of Michael Proudfoot, a man who has had one foot in the musical world since his student days singing in bars in Nottingham. These days he runs a film production company.  Overall,  Flower Of London is an album that manages to engage the listener despite Proudfoot’s limitations as a singer and the occasional dip in his song writing. This is largely due to the very talented Duncan Kerr, Proudfoot’s sidekick guitarist and a man he first met back in those Nottingham days. A veteran who started off in Plummet Airlines, a 70’s pub rock band recording for Stiff Records Kerr currently plays with Darts and The Brainiac 5.  Playing 6 and 12 string electric and acoustic guitars here he can transform a song into a pastoral reverie, on a few occasions sounding positively Byrdslike, elsewhere he throws in vibrant lead and slide guitar. Continue reading “Proudfoot “Flower Of London” (Reckless Records, 2016)”

Wire & Wool “Wire & Wool” (Independent, 2016)

cover170x170-1Wire & Wool are a lively 7-piece from Dundee, Scotland. Formed in 2014 they combine elements of bluegrass, folk and country with energy akin to punk. As with their American counterparts, North Carolina band Chatham County Line , the well-structured unit may push back boundaries, but at the same time they respect the old values. Recorded up in Perth, members Mark Hand (mandolin, vocals), Alex Riach (fiddle, vocals), Jimmy Buchan Wright (banjo, vocals), Hazel Martin fiddle, vocals), Theo Barnard (guitar, vocals), James Hall (double bass, vocals) and Barry Nisbet (fiddle, vocals) are a fiddle-driven unit, and a handy clean set of players at that. Continue reading “Wire & Wool “Wire & Wool” (Independent, 2016)”

Sera “Little Girl” (Folkal Records, 2016)

a2998093216_16While I am unsure why Caernarfon, North Wales based Sera feels the need to have an out of focus cover photo adorn the front of the CD cover, there is no shortage of focus regards the direction of her music. Due to the diverse, clever constant changing of musical arrangements and the varied tone of Sera vocals it ensures the listener is kept entertained. Continue reading “Sera “Little Girl” (Folkal Records, 2016)”

Seth Lakeman “Ballads Of The Broken Few” (Cooking Vinyl, 2016)

seth-lakeman-2016One of the stars of the folk scene, Seth Lakeman remains for many synonymous with thumping beats, high volume and a driving, pin your ears back sound that lacks subtlety.  But this is to do him a grave injustice.  He may not be an obvious innovator like Jim Moray or possess as broad a brush as the one that Jon Boden wields but he is an explorer, a treader of paths that, if not exactly untrodden, are certainly not ruts.  Continue reading “Seth Lakeman “Ballads Of The Broken Few” (Cooking Vinyl, 2016)”

Danielle French Presents Miss Scarlett & The Madmen “Dark Love Songs” (Scarlet Raven Productions, 2016)

French-Danielle-2016A filmmaker and songwriter from Calgary in Canada, Danielle French delivers here nine songs she crafted while attending a series of songwriters’ workshops, the songs co-writes with fellow attendees and for the most part recorded with her co writers. Despite this plethora of contributors French keeps a firm hand on the tiller to deliver a strong set of songs that can probably be best described as slightly psychedelic folk with some dusty Americana and Weimer Republic cabaret thrown in for good measure. Continue reading “Danielle French Presents Miss Scarlett & The Madmen “Dark Love Songs” (Scarlet Raven Productions, 2016)”