Findlay Brown “Not Everything Beautiful is Good” (Nettwerk Records, 2018)

Ambient/Psychedelic Americana is a genre not populated by many artists, but Findlay Brown continues to cut a groove that is somewhat idiosyncratic and to back this up, he even manages to sing about lovers living in separate dimensions who can only meet by travelling through a black hole. ‘Seven Hours’ definitely falls into the quirky storyline category. Don’t let this put you off though, there is certain poetic beauty to his fourth album ‘Not Everything Beautiful is Good’ and it continues in a similar vein to his last album ‘Slow Light’ as he explores many aspects of love, albeit with a somewhat melancholic tone as he searches for, in his own words, the “good wolf” in himself instead of the more self-destructive “bad wolf”. Continue reading “Findlay Brown “Not Everything Beautiful is Good” (Nettwerk Records, 2018)”

Niall Thomas “Night Sky Blue” (Independent 2018)

This is the second solo album from Dublin based singer-songwriter Niall Thomas which showcases ten self-penned thoughtful songs delivered in a mainly acoustic style. Thomas himself describes each song as forming a snapshot of time drawn from personal experience and the surroundings in Dublin’s North Inner City, where he has lived for fourteen years. What the songs do demonstrate is that this a man who has a keen eye on the human condition and a social conscience as these are pieces of work displaying real depth and feeling. Continue reading “Niall Thomas “Night Sky Blue” (Independent 2018)”

The Magic Numbers “Outsiders” (Role Play Records, 2018)

This courageous and beautiful new album from The Magic Numbers rocks in ways perhaps unusual for this band, which, early on, drew a large following due largely to the beauty of its melodies. This departure is apparent from the opening notes of the first song, ‘Shotgun Wedding’, a bass-heavy rocker. The album is aptly named. Two of its four members are Romeo Stodart and his sister, Michele Stodart, who plays bass. The pair have felt like outsiders for much of their lives. They were born in Trinidad, but the family moved to New York when they were children. Then, in their teens, the family moved again – to Hanwell, on the western edge of London. Outsiders once more. Continue reading “The Magic Numbers “Outsiders” (Role Play Records, 2018)”

The Wolff Sisters & The Last Cavalry “Cahoon Hollow” (Independent, 2018)

There’s something of Australia’s Waifs about The Wolff Sisters. Both outfits take folk and Americana as a base and reinterpret  tropes, both make highly melodic, harmonic and listenable music, both are fronted by sisters (three in the Wolff’s case), the lead vocals are similarly nasal and the Wolffs are as much a breath of fresh air as the Waifs were a decade ago. Continue reading “The Wolff Sisters & The Last Cavalry “Cahoon Hollow” (Independent, 2018)”

Ciara O’Neill “Arrow” (Independent, 2018)

Arrow,’ the second album from the Ciara O’Neill, a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from  Portadown, Northern Ireland really is quite a special record. There’s no doubting Ciara’s origins; her voice has that Celtic folk inflexion that is instantly recognisable and has a tendency to make the listener stare into space with wistful homesickness no matter if they haven’t set foot in Ireland, north or south.  The core folk tradition in which this album is rooted flowers in O’Neill’s songwriting with some quite brilliant arrangements where cello and violin often dominate and accentuate the impassioned lyrics. Continue reading “Ciara O’Neill “Arrow” (Independent, 2018)”

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore “Downey to Lubbock” (Yep Roc, 2018)

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore have been scene buddies for 30 years, but never recorded together until now. Whilst joint headlining recently they realised the chemistry, and decided they had to get something down, resulting in an album of history sweeping covers and two originals. Alvin started in The Blasters, Gilmore in The Flatliners, but they are now both touring troubadour senior citizens, performing their tales of the new and old west with huge energy and love for their craft, and much respect for each other.  Continue reading “Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore “Downey to Lubbock” (Yep Roc, 2018)”

The Equatorial Group “Apricity” (Independent, 2018)

The Equatorial Group’s self-funded debut album ‘Apricity’ does not fit neatly into a particular genre of Americana, having a distinctly psychedelic acoustic sound.  ‘Motorbikes’ is the closest to a country-Americana song with the opening guitar picking of the track similar to an old-school country song. The ten track album from the five-piece band does not have a set sound. Some tracks like ‘Farewell My Lovely’  are purely acoustic with the vocalist sounding similar to the likes of Dido with a breathy vocal and simple guitar background, while the likes of ‘Burning’ is more of a jazz number with the use of brass instruments playing in the background of the piano. Continue reading “The Equatorial Group “Apricity” (Independent, 2018)”

Kashena Sampson “Wild Heart” (New Moon Records, 2018)

There was a time in the not so distant past when you could hear how much was spent on a record. But it’s almost impossible to make that sort of distinction today with production values available to those with the most meagre of budgets. And if anything, more acts nowadays are looking to reproduce a more rudimentary sound in a quest for authenticity. Such is the case with Kashena Sampson’s debut album. By best estimates an album some 14 years in the gestation, Kashena Sampson’s musical influences don’t extend much beyond the early 1980s, so the fact her folk and blues influenced Americana sound seems rooted in a 1970s sound is no surprise. It’s also no bad thing as ‘Wild Heart’ is a debut album of no small distinction. Continue reading “Kashena Sampson “Wild Heart” (New Moon Records, 2018)”

John Flanagan Trio “Honest Man” (Independent, 2018)

‘Honest Man’ is the latest album release from ‘Australiana’ artists the John Flanagan Trio and it’s a solid addition to the folk, bluegrass and country music genres. The songs are varied and well written. There is craft and confidence here that draws you in. They also truly sound Australian and that is so refreshing. All the tropes of Americana are present and respectfully correct but there is also an authentic thread running through this work. From the accents to the narrative stories in the songs this is a traditional offering with an original spin. Continue reading “John Flanagan Trio “Honest Man” (Independent, 2018)”

Ben Glover “Shorebound” (Proper Records, 2018)

Ben Glover 2018

Northern Irishman Ben Glover is an artist who certainly sees the value in collaborations in song-writing having said recently that “navigating is always easier with fellow travellers”. This approach certainly paid dividends last year when he co-wrote the Americana Music Association’s International Song of the Year ‘Blackbirds’  with Gretchen Peters in 2017. ‘Shorebound’ sees Glover continue with this approach with ten of the twelve tracks being co-written with fellow artists, including Peters again. Continue reading “Ben Glover “Shorebound” (Proper Records, 2018)”