The Strumbrellas “Rattlesnake” (Glassnote Records, 2019)

This Canadian six piece seem to be popular on the US festival scene and even a cursory listen to ‘Rattlesnake’ will tell you why. The songs have a danceable quality to them while singer Simon Ward uses the popular Nashville pop trick of autotune from time to time. Add to that a kitchen sink full of massed vocals, crashing percussion and simplistic sing along choruses and you have a party band but what you don’t have is, in any sense, a country, folk or, God forbid, an Americana band. Continue reading “The Strumbrellas “Rattlesnake” (Glassnote Records, 2019)”

The Vegabonds “V” (Blue Elan Records, 2019)

V‘ is, unsurprisingly, The Vegabonds fifth album and also their first for their new LA based label. The Vegabonds have been playing for some ten years, gaining a following on the college circuit in the Southeastern States of the USA. Their brand of rock is similarly rooted in straight-ahead Southern Rock, which has seen them open for Lynyrd Skynyrd and Gregg Allman amongst others. And, after five albums they certainly know what they are about musically – with lead guitarist Richard Forehand an anchor for the band to build around. Continue reading “The Vegabonds “V” (Blue Elan Records, 2019)”

John Paul White “The Hurting Kind” (Single Lock Records, 2019)

John Paul White is no stranger to working with high-class musicians and in high-class musical situations. Originally one half of Alt-Folk duo The Civil Wars, John Paul White releases his third solo record ‘The Hurting Kind,’ on Single Lock Records, of which White is a co-founder. ‘The Hurting Kind’ was recorded at White’s new home studio in Florence, Alabama, as well as the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. Continue reading “John Paul White “The Hurting Kind” (Single Lock Records, 2019)”

Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound, 2019)

While Jay Farrar might be considered as being pretty grounded when it comes to singing about familiar folk themes he’s never been a political writer. On ‘Union’ that changes as he here turns to topical concerns, setting out what is essentially his state of the union address. ‘Union’ is not a protest album, there are no street fighting anthems here and the names of the guilty are not mentioned, but when he sings, “Proud to serve but not this president,” on ‘Reality Winner’, it’s not hard to guess his inner thoughts even though the song is ostensibly about a whistleblower jailed for leaking classified documents. Continue reading “Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound, 2019)”

Brad Byrd “Phases” (Elusive Tiger, 2019)

This latest sonic offering from the journeyman songsmith Brad Byrd is somewhat middle of the road in places, but has charm, and moments of soaring brilliance. Describing his music as somewhere between indie-rock and alt-country, California resident Byrd has been writing songs his whole life, and that certainly comes through in the polished sound of ‘Phases‘, which is an album of self-examination. The songs take us all the way from Byrd’s childhood in Massachusetts to the sun-soaked hills of California where he lives today, exploring a number of elements drawn from personal experience. Overall, it’s a record which documents the ups and downs of life, and the strange melancholy experienced when reminiscing about a long lost past. Continue reading “Brad Byrd “Phases” (Elusive Tiger, 2019)”

Fabrizio Cammarata “Lights” (800A Records, 2019)

Fabrizio Cammarata, from Palermo, Sicily is not a well-known name on the UK circuit. It’s an outdated inequity that our continental neighbours are not given the attention here that our American cousins enjoy when it comes to the genre. Having said that, it’s a debate for another day (and one that I know is close to our cosmopolitan editor’s heart). But to dig a little into the journeys that influence this Mediterranean singer-songwriter and to understand a little of the mystique that drives his craft, backs up the first impression of a class act creating a portfolio of dark, cinematic insights into a Hispanic style of alternative folk.
Continue reading “Fabrizio Cammarata “Lights” (800A Records, 2019)”

Feathered Mason “Limbo Boy”(Jungle Strut Music, 2018)

If you were a fan of Feathered Mason’s 2017 release ‘Mary’s Kitchen Sessions,’ you will find something to like in his most recent offering. Whether you like it more or less will speak to your preference in production values more than the songwriting or performances on ‘Limbo Boy’. For the uninitiated, a brief overview seems to be in order. Feathered Mason serves up an interesting proprietary blend of hill country blues. Instrumentally, his music is grounded in the tradition but never shy about breaking away when that’s what’s called for. Lyrically, the songs are poetic and intelligent. Continue reading “Feathered Mason “Limbo Boy”(Jungle Strut Music, 2018)”

Darlingside “Look Up & Fly Away” (More Doug/Thirty Tigers, 2019)

Darlingside’s latest release is an EP of outtakes from 2018’s ‘Extralife.’ It’s fair to say though that any of the songs on ‘Look Up & Fly Away’ would have been well-deserving of a place on that album. This is an exceptionally delicate listen; the intricate wording and stories in the songs are like a peek into someone’s private life, into their passing through life and beyond. It feels a little intrusive at times, but ultimately you feel lucky to have been allowed into something so special. Continue reading “Darlingside “Look Up & Fly Away” (More Doug/Thirty Tigers, 2019)”

Vicky Emerson “Steady Heart” (Independent, 2019)

The cover of Vicky Emerson’s new CD ‘Steady Heart’ is a picture of a strong and confident woman. It is those qualities that are apparent in her music. A level of self-assurance means that inside you will find a relaxed and warmly understated offering musing on relationships and love.  A steady heart indeed. This is in great part due to the quality of her voice, which manages to be both pure and seductively smoky at the same time; it draws the listener right in. This is aided and abetted by some quietly sympathetic violin (OK fiddle if you will) and bass playing. How often does acoustic bass add a dimension that electricity just fails to provide? Continue reading “Vicky Emerson “Steady Heart” (Independent, 2019)”

Patty Griffin “Patty Griffin” (Thirty Tigers, 2019)

For her tenth album, Patty Griffin returns after personal crisis with a work of reflection, both deeply intimate and deflective. Rarely specifically autobiographical, Griffin sings tales of others’ longings and travails, exploring women’s concerns and men’s outlooks. Much of this, though, is oblique displacement of her recent experiences, and the songs need to be searched. Her cancer is specifically mentioned once, briefly, in ‘Coins.’ Reflections on life and contemplation generally is a more frequent theme. Continue reading “Patty Griffin “Patty Griffin” (Thirty Tigers, 2019)”