Stewart Legere “Quiet The Station” (Independent, 2017)

Legere is a craftsman, one who understands the mechanics of songwriting and is able to create densely layered free flowing songs that flirt with many genres without really committing to any. There’s much to admire and much to enjoy, much to pick apart and to explore – these are songs densely packed with flourishes, nooks and crannies, lyrical narratives, classic singer-songwriter fare. He reminds me of another Canadian, Ron Sexsmith, someone who will be more admired for their craft and will garner more acclaim from his peers and receive less attention from audiences than he deserves. Continue reading “Stewart Legere “Quiet The Station” (Independent, 2017)”

Bob Dylan “Triplicate” (Columbia, 2017)

Bob Dylan’s latest release is his first studio recorded triple album, and it sees him continuing his exploration of the Great American Songbook over three discs of ten songs each. Each disc has a subtitle – ‘Til the sun goes down, Devil Dolls, and Comin’ Home Late. In a long, and wide ranging, interview with Bill Flanagan (available on BobDylan.Com) Dylan explains Triplicate as three discs each of a different mood that together make for a coherent narrative whole. If one accepts this at face value then these three moods could be summarised as “I’ve lost my gal and I’m getting old”, “I’ve fallen in love”, “It’s all over and I’m learning to live with it”. Continue reading “Bob Dylan “Triplicate” (Columbia, 2017)”

HAV “Inver” (Folkwit Records, 2017)

HAV mix traditional folk forms with electronic ambient textures to produce a rich swirl of music that clings to the memory like mist clings to heather. On Ffald-y-Brenin the fiddles gently sway, and it is easy to imagine the music being used to soundtrack a documentary about a stoic crofter or, more likely, a fisherman. The documentary feel is reinforced by the use of field recordings like The Young Man’s 21st Birthday, which give space to the recollections of the older generation. Continue reading “HAV “Inver” (Folkwit Records, 2017)”

Anna Coogan “The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time” (Independent, 2017)

Boston-raised singer-songwriter Anna Coogan began her performing career in Seattle (Washington) before moving to her present home of Ithaca, New York. Her diverse musical background, which includes both classical opera and alt-country, shines through on her new album. The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time, Coogan’s fourth solo album (including her album with J.D Foster, The Birth Of Stars), follows on from her collaboration with Pacific Northwest-based alt-country band 19. Continue reading “Anna Coogan “The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time” (Independent, 2017)”

Scott H. Biram “The Bad Testament” (Bloodshot, 2017)

Biram peddles a scuzzy version of the blues, and on Set Me Free he sounds like someone who has lost their teeth the hard way and still comes up swinging. To his credit, he covers a lot of ground across these 13 tracks and, although the blues is at the heart of what he does, it certainly isn’t everything – he’s just as adept at more delicate forms. If Set Me Free is akin to cleaning your teeth with a wire brush, then Righteous Ways is a cleaner wrasse delicately flitting through the water, and Still Around contains signs of dexterity you might think beyond the reach of someone who can be so gut-wrenchingly amped-up punk as Train Wrecker. Continue reading “Scott H. Biram “The Bad Testament” (Bloodshot, 2017)”

Skram “Head Held High” (Independent, 2017)

Oh dear. I’m sure I’m not the only reviewer who sighed when catching sight of the PR sheet accompanying this album which describes Skram as “an Americana style Hypno Folk Rock family band.” The hypno bit is due no doubt to guitarist and singer Darren Marks’ day job as a hypnotherapist and sure enough it is a family band with dad Darren accompanied by his sons Adam (on banjo) and Ben (on drums). Ben is 13, Adam a bit older I think. A commendable idea to showcase the family talents no doubt but the problem here is that both boys are still beginners and really don’t get into any kind of groove at all throughout the album. The banjo just plinks at times and the drums (a full kit that is definitely out of step with the folk rock theme) are more suitable for a pub covers band. Continue reading “Skram “Head Held High” (Independent, 2017)”

Malcolm Holcombe “Pretty Little Troubles” (Gypsy Eyes Music, 2017)

For those not familiar with Malcolm Holcombe, he is somewhat of an institution. There aren’t many artists that can say they’ve had a career quite like him and after 20 years and 15 studio recordings, he’s still going as strong as ever and continuing to expand on the vast body of work he has built. The production on the record is crisp and clean and allows room for the impressive guitar skills of Holcombe to shine through along with some subtle and perfectly placed harmonica to compliment the gravelly, whiskey-drenched and rough-around-the-edges vocals we’ve come to expect from him. Continue reading “Malcolm Holcombe “Pretty Little Troubles” (Gypsy Eyes Music, 2017)”

Ray Davies “Americana” (Sony, 2017)

Ray Davies return with his first album in a decade, if we discount the various Kinks collaborations and choral reworking.  It stands as a testament that everything changes and nothing changes since Working Man’s Café dropped as the newly knighted Sir Ray turns his attention to the country which has had a profound effect on his life, America, yet still manages to return to the recurring themes of isolation reaction to change in the modern world. Continue reading “Ray Davies “Americana” (Sony, 2017)”

Bob Cheevers “Fifty Years Sampler” (Howling Dog Records, 2017)

In recognition of a half century of songwriting Bob Cheevers has pulled together a comprehensive 5CD, 83 song retrospective which covers, it’s claimed, ten genres of music, and taking a mix of songs from his albums as well as some unreleased recordings. I’m not completely sure what the ten genres are meant to be but country, western, folk, popular jazz, blues, rock, and singer-songwriter are all represented here on this ten track sampler. What it reveals is a hugely accomplished songwriter, and an idiosyncratic singer in the Willie Nelson mode. Continue reading “Bob Cheevers “Fifty Years Sampler” (Howling Dog Records, 2017)”

Brock Zeman “The Carnival is Back in Town” (Busted Flat Records, 2017)

Canadian musician Brock Zeman has had an excellent career and shows no sign of slowing up his output with his thirteenth release, the highly ambitious ‘The Carnival Is Back In Town’. 10 years in the making the album has already been scrapped once but Brock decided that it was worth taking a chance on and teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Blair Hogan and drummer Dylan Roberts alongside a number of other talented musicians, to have another go at bringing his carnival to life and it was well worth both his time and the obvious effort that went into creating it. Continue reading “Brock Zeman “The Carnival is Back in Town” (Busted Flat Records, 2017)”