Mark Olson “Spokeswoman of The Bright Sun” (Glitterhouse Records, 2017)

If the marvellously vague and broad church that is Americana incorporates a wealth of musical genres then the latest offering by the critically acclaimed songwriter and ex Jayhawk Mark Olson undoubtedly has its roots firmly in the world of American folk. Spokeswoman of The Bright Sun was recorded in the summer of 2016 at the Joshua Tree home of Mark Olson and his wife and musical partner Ingunn Ringvold and it is that desert environment that has provided the driving narrative behind this new album. Continue reading “Mark Olson “Spokeswoman of The Bright Sun” (Glitterhouse Records, 2017)”

The Last Dinosaur “The Nothing” (Naim Records, 2017)

“The Nothing” is the long-awaited follow-up to The Last Dinosaurs’ debut album and it is evident from the outset that, that time has been well spent. The record opens with the short, gentle acoustic track Atoms accompanied solely by the whispered vocals of the front man and brainchild, Jamie Cameron, and a beautiful string arrangement to add some depth to an otherwise sparse track. The opener is a good indication of the overall sound of the record in terms of the musicianship and the themes explored throughout and second track Grow takes that formula and builds on it adding drums and another whispered vocal. Continue reading “The Last Dinosaur “The Nothing” (Naim Records, 2017)”

William The Conqueror “Proud Disturber Of The Peace” (Loose, 2017)

William The Conqueror, a three-piece band from Cornwall, is the creation of former folkie, Ruarri Joseph. For those of us fortunate enough to have caught Mr Joseph in his former guise playing small, intimate venues, often with just an acoustic guitar for company, there was always the feeling that there was another rockier, harder edged version waiting to cut loose. Continue reading “William The Conqueror “Proud Disturber Of The Peace” (Loose, 2017)”

Wilson “Old School, New Rules” (Independent, 2017)

This is a slice of well-crafted, Seventies-leaning pop that’s light on the power but heavy on the catchy melodies. West Country troubadour Steve Wilson is the writing hub of this four piece. Admittedly, they’re quite hard to define musically, but there are places to start. The harmonies (contributed by the band to most of the tracks) are unswervingly excellent, with echoes of the Beach Boys, the Beatles and 10cc. Whilst the music isn’t too heavy on guitar, Tom Petty is brought to mind on the opening two tracks, Long Road and Pretty Girl In A Small Town. Continue reading “Wilson “Old School, New Rules” (Independent, 2017)”

Jack Tempchin “Jack Tempchin” (Floating World, 2017)

As the man who wrote Peaceful Easy Feeling for The Eagles, Jack Tempchin won the composition lottery. As well as drinking champagne from ladies shoes and lighting cigars with $100 bills, he then found time to make his own long-playing record. Jack’s eponymously named solo album from 1978 was recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals with a host of fabulous musicians supporting him in his endeavour. But subsequently the album got lost in one of those record company reshuffles, when executive legend Clive Davis, who’d signed him to Arista (originally as a member of the Funky Kings), left the company. Its subsequent release in 2017 prompts two burning questions. Who are the mega-stars who helped him record it? Is this album worth digging deep for and slapping your hard-earned dosh down on the counter of Our Price? (This and other record shops may not be available.) Continue reading “Jack Tempchin “Jack Tempchin” (Floating World, 2017)”

Paul Messinger “America 2.0 – Assorted Tales and The New Myth” (Independent 2017)

America 2.0 is an extraordinary album that attempts to examine the very concept of what America is in the Trump era and what it means to be part of the great American melting pot. It is massive in its ambition and scope and it very nearly pulls it off. Messinger is patently a very savvy and politicised observer who use his lyrics and devastating harmonica skills to lead his band through a range of styles and tropes encompassing gospel, dustbowl blues, reggae and straight ahead rock n roll.

Continue reading “Paul Messinger “America 2.0 – Assorted Tales and The New Myth” (Independent 2017)”

Pierce Edens “Stripped Down, Gussied Up” (Independent, 2017)

Hailing from North Carolina, Pierce Edens’s stock in trade is a folksy grunge. Musically speaking it’s played very well by Edens along with sidekick Kevin Reese – the songs are suitably dark and foreboding. Vocally speaking, it’s a little harder to pin down. The ‘grunge meets ragged lounge singer’, occasionally bombastic nature of Eden’s voice doesn’t always gel with the eerie, acoustic soundscapes too well. To these ears, Pearl Jam stands out as something of a vocal and song writing influence – a bona fide rock sound as a starting point. Continue reading “Pierce Edens “Stripped Down, Gussied Up” (Independent, 2017)”

Tracey Nelson/Mother Earth “Poor Man’s Paradise” (Floating World, 2017)

This is a re-release of an album which was originally lost in 1973 during one of the regular record business personnel purges that take place as companies buy others out and personal grudges muddy the waters of taste and musicianship. A definite life changing decision as this album possesses all the elements of a classic 70’s country blues and soul album of the type that Aretha excelled at and even Carole King dabbled in. A strong female voice, some great tunes, a stirring horn section and some very snappy arrangements. Somebody made a very poor decision back then. Continue reading “Tracey Nelson/Mother Earth “Poor Man’s Paradise” (Floating World, 2017)”

Miranda Lee Richards “Existential Beast” (Invisible Hands Music, 2017)

One thing that is certain, Miranda Lee Richards has created in Existential Beast an album of some astonishing beauty. Profound of lyrics, gorgeous in the playing, sung with a voice which embodies an unearthly allure. Every song has an emotional resonance, a soul satisfying lyrical depth, even as Miranda Lee Richards dances elegantly and effortlessly across styles, claiming each one as representing her own special musical affinity, before pirouetting to another with which she sounds as equally at home. Continue reading “Miranda Lee Richards “Existential Beast” (Invisible Hands Music, 2017)”

Brewer and Shipley “Tarkio / Weeds / Shake Off The Demon / Rural Space” (Floating World 2017)

This is a fine compilation of four complete albums from the early seventies by duo Brewer & Shipley. Whilst they have much in common with similar vocal groups of the time, they differ in that they were not based in sunny California but preferred the Midwest, settling in Kansas City. Therefore the style is a little more rootsy than the smoother fare from CSN and the other LA balladeers which sets this compilation apart and for anyone not familiar with their work, opens a door into a whole new world of early seventies country /folk rock. Continue reading “Brewer and Shipley “Tarkio / Weeds / Shake Off The Demon / Rural Space” (Floating World 2017)”