Shovels & Rope “By Blood” (Dualtone Music, 2019)

‘I won’t fail you when I walk out on the wire,’ sing South Carolina natives Carry Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, AKA Shovels & Rope, and it’s not just talk; they really walk the walk. The husband and wife duo are veterans of a decade long career, touring, curating the excellent High Water Festival for the past few years, recording everything themselves in their home studio, and above all producing consistently brilliant music. Their latest offering ‘By Blood’ is no exception to this trend. Continue reading “Shovels & Rope “By Blood” (Dualtone Music, 2019)”

Jeff “The Horse” Horsey “Rattlesnakes and Heartstrings” (Hookah Records, 2019)

Based in Cornwall, Jeff “The Horse” Horsey is a veteran practitioner of old time blues music, often to be found with his acoustic guitars and harmonica on stages here in the UK and in Europe. This latest venture, a limited edition 10” vinyl EP, finds him branching out somewhat with the focus of the disc a ten-minute long version of a song he originally released on his last album, ‘Songs From The Old West’. ‘Rattlesnakes’ takes up the first side of the disc with side two (yip, I said it was vinyl) occupied by three songs, one of which, ‘Heartstrings’, is the first of a projected song cycle inspired by the characters who populate ‘Rattlesnakes’. Continue reading “Jeff “The Horse” Horsey “Rattlesnakes and Heartstrings” (Hookah Records, 2019)”

Drunken Prayer “Cordelia Elsewhere” (Deer Lodge Records, 2019)

Drunken Prayer is the solo project of alt-country band Freakwater guitarist Morgan Greer, and ‘Cordelia Elsewhere’ is the sixth full length release under this moniker – returning with the backing band following last year’s predominantly acoustic release ‘Morgan Greer’s Drunken Prayer’. From the outset, there is a noticeable sonic departure from Greer’s work with Freakwater as the country sheen is dropped for some all-American music. Taking influence from his time growing up travelling the country with his folk-singing mother, living in different areas of the USA, soaking up music wherever he goes, the end product has a feeling of authenticity in terms of the honesty of the songwriting and the overall sounds throughout. Continue reading “Drunken Prayer “Cordelia Elsewhere” (Deer Lodge Records, 2019)”

Kelly Hunt “Even the Sparrow” (Rare Bird Records, 2019)

Kelly Hunt’s debut album ‘Even the Sparrow’ is exceptionally good. The wistful soulful voice, the mellowness of the vintage calfskin tenor banjo, the frugality of the arrangements all combine to produce an album that is near perfect. It’s a real treat to discover a new artist with such depth and maturity. The songs feel alive and relevant and yet grounded and permanent like they’ve always existed and were just waiting to be discovered. The daughter of an opera singer and a saxophonist Kelly Hunt is originally from Memphis, TN and now lives and records in Kansas City. ‘Even the Sparrow’ took almost two years to record in collaboration with local fiddle player Stas Heaney and engineer Kelly Werts and is set for release on May 17th 2019. Continue reading “Kelly Hunt “Even the Sparrow” (Rare Bird Records, 2019)”

Old Lost John “Seers and Weathermen” (Independent, 2019)

Old Lost John’s albums have regularly gained favour on this site. His latest offering is not about to change that, in fact, it is arguably his best yet. If the name is new to you, then you’ve been missing out. Swedish troubadour, Tomas Thurnberg, AKA Old Lost John, recorded ‘Seers and Weathermen’ during the latter months of last year, in his flat in Malmo and at his parents’ house in the Swedish countryside. He also produced, mixed and mastered it himself. Thurnberg has decided to release it only via download and streaming “to save a little CO2”. Whilst this might be very laudable, his judgement might be questioned from a commercial point of view. However, that debate is for another day. Continue reading “Old Lost John “Seers and Weathermen” (Independent, 2019)”

Izzy Heltai “Only Yesterday” (Sleeper Cave Records, 2019)

Izzy Heltai is an indie-folk, singer-songwriter from Northampton, Massachusetts. His new four-track EP ‘Only Yesterday’ tells tales of love and loss that perhaps belie his 22 years.

Arrangements on this record are deliberately simple with layering of guitar, piano, trumpet and fiddle kept to a minimum: Heltai wanted to explore how uncomplicated instrumentation can support songs that are lyrically rich. There is a line between lyrically rich and overly wordy, and some tracks, particularly ‘Mountain’ and ‘Common Sense’ struggle to get the balance right. This results in a slightly clunky, discordant listen.

Continue reading “Izzy Heltai “Only Yesterday” (Sleeper Cave Records, 2019)”

Adam Carroll “Walked in them Shoes” (Gypsy Shuffler Records, 2019)

“Walked in them Shoes” by Texas born Adam Carroll is a brilliantly written album first and foremost. The album is very reliant on its lyrics which is what arguably makes it a great piece of pure Americana music at its core.  It is a highly intimate record, primarily relying on an acoustic guitar throughout, all of which was recorded in one day. Carroll has honed his talent on 7 earlier solo albums and has collaborated with other artists on songs and recordings. Latterly, with his wife Chris whom he credits with improving his playing. Continue reading “Adam Carroll “Walked in them Shoes” (Gypsy Shuffler Records, 2019)”

Chris Rawlins “Bring on The Rain” (Chris Cialdella, 2019)

Chris Rawlins is based in Chicago. This is his debut album, and significantly it has been produced by none other than Steve Dawson. So here is an unusual and remarkable record, in Chris Rawlins’ own words, “It’s a hawk that screeches in the winter wind.” Rawlins has written here songs about ordinary life, its personal nature, and how, very often, from different perspectives, it has differing effects on the people involved in the songs, and on an audience, or an individual listening. Continue reading “Chris Rawlins “Bring on The Rain” (Chris Cialdella, 2019)”

Kathy Zimmer “Sparkling Smile” (Independent, 2019)

Following the 2018 release of ‘White Noise’, Kathy Zimmer’s new EP, ‘Sparkling Smile’, continues to develop her self-styled cosmopolitan folk sound. Once again, she effectively pulls off the trick of sounding warmly familiar and yet entirely new, blending musical genres and layering instrumentation to create a sumptuous set of songs. Continue reading “Kathy Zimmer “Sparkling Smile” (Independent, 2019)”

Chris Jones & The Night Drivers “The Choosing Road” (Mountain Home Music Company, 2019)

In the press release accompanying Chris Jones’ new album he says, “I decided this time around to open up more with my writing and worry less about how songs would be perceived by different audiences.” What he has ended up with is a mix of traditional and modern Bluegrass that works well as individual songs but is not perhaps the most coherent album. Continue reading “Chris Jones & The Night Drivers “The Choosing Road” (Mountain Home Music Company, 2019)”