With a list of influences that are as broad as they are intriguing, the debut by Nadine Khouri, promises a great deal: interesting Lebanese heritage, production by John Parish (the chap that made PJ Harvey, messed with Giant Sand and confused Sparklehorse), all recorded in a dimly-lit Georgian vaulted basement in Bristol, and rendered with the help of Adrian Crowley, Parish and Emma Smith (of James Yorkston’s band)… the record doesn’t exactly scream ‘Americana’ from the rooftops, but I guess you should never judge a book by its cover (or a CD by it’s press release?). Continue reading “Nadine Khouri “The Salted Air” (One Flash Records 2017)”
Frontier Ruckus are a band that I should love: they have all the ingredients to draw me in with an agreeable blend of Americana stylings with lively dashes of power pop, literate lyrics and fine melodies. What’s not to love? The lyrics, no not even that, the subject and the settings are fine. It’s the formal structures, the rhyming schema, too clever by half buried rhymes, or laboured trowelled on poetry, the kind that says I’ve paid for my education and I’m going to use it. It irks me because they are so close to something really wonderful. Gerunds is melancholic with a swooning squadron of strings – sure the vocals are a little underpowered but that doesn’t bother me, just the highlighted lyrical flourishes that grate. Continue reading “Frontier Ruckus “Enter The Kingdom” (Loose, 2017)”
If you were to judge an outfit by their friends this American husband and wife duo would rate pretty highly. On this set they rope in Cody & Luther Dickinson from the north Mississippi Allstars, John Fullbright, Sara & Sean Watkins, Kenneth Pattingdale from Milk Carton Kids and Alvin Youngblood Hart to name but a few. Of the fourteen songs here five are taken from the deluxe version of their second album “Glory Bound” (not previously available in the UK) with the remainder coming from “Rattle The Hocks”, a live album and documentary they produced in 2015/16.
Floridian Burchel is on his second record; he is one of the disaffected that communicates through their music, one of many, songwriters and bedroom musicians are as plentiful as sardines in a shoal. It’s hard to break out from the mass and forge your own identity, though every so often there’s a Will Toledo to give hope. Burchel has plenty going for him his songs are well constructed and his voice can carry a tune. There’s nothing to suggest that these songs were put together pretty much by one man. If I were forced to make a comparison I’d go for Jason Anderson after he dropped the Wolf Colonel name and began to erase the characteristics that made him distinctive. Continue reading “Jordan Burchel “Vowel Sounds” (Independent, 2016)”
Who is Levi Cuss? If you listen to this record you might just find out, delving into a dark past and redemption through the salvation of music and poetry. Joining the thriving ”Canamericana’’ group of artists driving Americana music forward and out of a predominantly southern heritage, Levi has created an honest and raw record with no frills and dripped with gorgeous steel guitar wailing to accompany his laments, and great blues guitar to texture his more salacious background, not dissimilarly to Steve Earle in his Terraplane record. Continue reading “Levi Cuss ‘’Night Thief’’ (Independent, 2017)”
This six track EP shows that Britain can do contemporary country just as well if not better than America. From Nashville, but now living in London, Megan O’Neill and her five piece band (who co-write the songs with her) have a polished country sound that, while it has poppy overtones has just enough grit to keep it interesting and stop it sliding into that formulaic Nashville sound. Yes there are big choruses, yes there are hooks galore, yes there are big ballads and yes there’s a rocky number or two but the band make them their own. They play with style and panache, with Mairead Furlong’s fiddle being particularly notable, and O’Neill’s crystal and emotive vocals carry everything along perfectly. Continue reading “Megan & The Common Threads – “Stories To Tell” (Independent, 2016)”
Despite the fact that Brigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough have been working together for six years and collaborated on two albums Mockingbird Soul is their first official release as a duo. There are lots of influences here; blues, gospel, early jazz, bluegrass, folk. Music that DeMeyer characterises as acoustic soul. DeMeyer has a wonderfully soulful and sultry voice that has in the past been compared to the best of Emmylou, Lucinda and Bonnie Raitt. There are certainly a couple of tracks here that bring to Bonnie to mind, not least the title track and Rainy Day, both of which typify what the album is all about; crystal clear vocals, beautifully symbiotic harmonies and sparse, minimalistic accompaniment. On Mockingbird Soul that accompaniment is restricted to Will’s favourite instrument, his vintage Gibson J-45 while Rainy Day allows Chris Wood on Upright Bass to lead the way. Continue reading “Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough “Mockingbird Soul” (BDM Music, 2017)”
You can be forgiven for not having heard of Cup ‘O Joe before. A gypsy-folk and bluegrass trio from Northern Ireland are as far from mainstream consciousness as you’d expect, but that isn’t such a bad thing, because it allows them to continue on with their gorgeous blend of gentle bluegrass picking, beautiful folk melodies and mellow harmonies throughout Bluebirds, this fantastic EP.
Continue reading “Cup ‘O Joe ‘’Bluebirds’’ (Independent, 2016)”
Challenging is good and this is a record to challenge. It starts like a straightforward jazz record, possibly contemporary Norwegian, a propulsive beat driven by brass. It takes a couple of minutes for the vocals to arrive and they are matter-of-fact; the brass stops and leaves a gap, then it flits back in and the strings flash like a Philadelphia soul record, and the vocals are kitchen-sink, downbeat, describing the day when Thatcher was buried. Then comes Dust that moves from jazz to funk it feels like Cathy Come Home meeting Bootsy Collins – it’s that strange mix of dour British observation with vibrant American musical forms, ia fascinating contrast. Continue reading “Sky Coloured “Starting Time” (Independent, 2016)”
The question of authenticity is something of a bother from time to time – particularly when it comes to music. That age old, folk club-endorsed argument of whether it’s okay for an Englishman to affect an American accent in song is at once as frustrating as it is trivial. If you’re the kind of person that gets hung up on this kind of thing (or indeed find yourself pondering whether or not it’s acceptable for a Canadian to play bluegrass, as ably demonstrated by the other 50% of the case in point we find here), you might want to adjust your wiring. If, however, you’re willing to sidestep such nonsense and simply want to engage with a collection of songs that are clearly born of a desire to render a contemporary take on American roots music by exploring the power of ‘the duet’, look no further- “Shadows and Light” is a gentler but easily as good a place to start as the acclaimed Billy Bragg and Joe Henry’s “Shine A Light” or John Prine’s “For Better or Worse.” Continue reading “Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef “Shardows and Light” (Independent, 2017)”