Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers “The Long Awaited Album” (Rounder Records, 2017)

The Long Awaited Album is Steve Martin’s sixth and a half album of banjo music, his initial foray being the B-side of The Steve Martin Brothers way back in 1981, with the first full album being 2009’s all-star collaboration The Crow. This was followed up with
Rare Bird Alert, an album which also featured The Steep Canyon Rangers as his backing band – they’d been supporting him out on tour as well. Continue reading “Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers “The Long Awaited Album” (Rounder Records, 2017)”

Kev Minney “Stories of the Sky” (Independent, 2017)

An astronomically-themed album cover heralds an interesting debut from Northampton-based acoustic virtuoso Kev Minney. Working closely with Mercury-nominated producer Jag Jago, Minney has crafted an album of dreamy soundscapes, often based around the themes of space. As an admirer of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Nick Drake, the songs are driven by personal storylines and given the precious time to develop and breathe. This is helped by an impressive range of contributing musicians and measured production that ensures the acoustic nature of the songs is never swamped. Continue reading “Kev Minney “Stories of the Sky” (Independent, 2017)”

Lucy Kitchen “Sun To My Moon” (Bohemia Rose Records 2017)

Lucy Kitchen’s songs are intimate in that they are often love songs, and the performances and backing are closely arranged around her voice, which is a thing of some beauty. It is the voice that dominates; the songs of loss like Searching for Land or He is Lost to Me suit her perfectly. In atmosphere the songs have something of Nick Drake about them. Hollow has that peculiarly bucolic jazzy feel; it’s folk music but it’s reaching out to other forms. Those other forms include the usual bedfellows like country – the billowing of pedal steel on Lovers In Blue doesn’t overwhelm, it just does its job of counterpointing the harmonies. It’s interesting that when the strings arrive they are formal violins rather than the fiddles you might expect, so the pedal steel, when it returns, seems quite maverick. Continue reading “Lucy Kitchen “Sun To My Moon” (Bohemia Rose Records 2017)”

Fairport Convention “Come All Ye – The First Ten Years” (UMC, 2017)

If someone were to have lived in a cave for the past five decades and have no knowledge of popular culture, or if, perhaps for some unknown reason, a person was magically ignorant of all the interesting things that people do with sound waves (whether or not they know it’s called “music”), then they might find themselves in a position where a friend, distant cousin or trusted barber might say “I see Fairport Convention have a new box-set out” and their reply would be a terse “Who?”. Continue reading “Fairport Convention “Come All Ye – The First Ten Years” (UMC, 2017)”

Prinz Grizzley “Come On In” (Independent Release, 2017)

Prinz Grizzley is Chris Comper, an Austrian with his heart in American music. His rural upbringing helped developed a love and passion for the way of life and the music that this landscape inspires. With an eye across the pond Comper, even when dabbling in indie rock/pop, remained inspired by folk, blues and country. Come on In is the first product of that long-standing influence and sits firmly in the country camp. Comper has written all these songs and, with the thread of Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel running throughout, it is actually hard to believe that they originate from Austria rather than Nashville. In fact, the majority of the songs are better than much of what currently originates from that mainstream conveyor belt of mediocrity; as if Comper has taken the best of it and used his European filter to deliver a product upgrade. Continue reading “Prinz Grizzley “Come On In” (Independent Release, 2017)”

Peter James Millson “Mobile” (Haven, 2017)

Produced by the acclaimed songwriter, Boo Hewerdine, this record is the third by photographer Millson (who has worked for no less than the NME and the Guardian). Clearly an unassuming chap, he plays down his music-making credentials with offhand comments on his website which point to his agenda being far more ‘cottage industry’ than ‘world domination’. Notwithstanding, Millson keeps good company – Hewerdine, Martha Tilson, Adrian McNally (of The Unthanks). His evident tendency toward humility, however, rather belies his deft knack for a melody as is capably demonstrated throughout “Mobile”. Continue reading “Peter James Millson “Mobile” (Haven, 2017)”

David Ramirez “We’re Not Going Anywhere” (Thirty Tigers, 2017)

Given the current climate, this is, at least in part, an album that resonates by painting a picture of a broken, divided world which is conflicted and uncertain. David Ramirez is a clever fellow though and approaches the task at hand by distilling the hurts of modern America into a series of songs that tell its story through 10 songs that re-imagine recent history, dysfunction and dissatisfaction as though they are the defining attributes of a relationship that’s falling apart. Indeed there are some bewildering truths buried in this record that are chilling and desperate. Continue reading “David Ramirez “We’re Not Going Anywhere” (Thirty Tigers, 2017)”

Tom Russell “Folk Hotel” (Proper Records, 2017)

In the 1990’s Tom Russell was, along with Dave Alvin, hailed as the architect of what came to be known as Americana music. Folk Hotel is album number 36 for Russell and, in 2017, he has surely delivered one of the Americana albums of the year. This is a storytellers’ album with every song a poem or a story in its own right. A year after the passing of one of the great song writing poets, Leonard Cohen, a song about New York’s Chelsea Hotel, Up in The Old Hotel, provides a fitting and high-quality opening. Leaving El Paso, a song about the journey Russell and his wife made following the route the Spanish took to Santa Fe some 500 years previously, features Eliza Gilkyson on vocals and some gorgeous Tex-Mex accordion from Joel Guzman.  Continue reading “Tom Russell “Folk Hotel” (Proper Records, 2017)”

Ian Felice “In The Kingdom of Dreams” (Loose, 2017)

Between two things there is often a dilution of each, a middle of the road but there is also the possibility of great fertility. I mention this as when listening to this record my first impression (and so far it’s an unshakeable one) is that on this record Ian Felice finds a beautiful sweet spot somewhere between Bob Dylan and Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel). There’s a wonderful off-the-cuff quality to the recordings (it was recorded quickly over 4 days produced by brother Simone and featuring other brothers fraternal and otherwise) as though the way the songs sound on here isn’t necessarily how they will sound again. There are strange lyrical flourishes – “Well the aliens landed on Election Day and they stole your mother’s lingerie” from 21st Century is one example – and at points an almost gleeful release, like it’s a creative cleansing. Continue reading “Ian Felice “In The Kingdom of Dreams” (Loose, 2017)”

Jesse Dayton “The Revealer” (Blue Elan Records, 2016)

Jesse Dayton has had quite the career, playing alongside true legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell, time spent making soundtracks for horror movies and even venturing into punk for a spell in the LA band ‘X’, it seems that he can turn his hand to almost anything and ‘The Revealer’, his ninth studio album, serves as a melting pot which sees him take something from each of these influences an blend them into his own sound. Continue reading “Jesse Dayton “The Revealer” (Blue Elan Records, 2016)”