Catherine MacLellan “If It’s Alright With You – The Songs of Gene MacLellan” (True North Records, 2017)

Gene MacLellan’s not a name this writer is familiar with but mention two of his songs, Snowbird (a hit for Anne Murray) and Put Your Hand In The Hand (covered by just about everyone including Elvis and Johnny Cash) and it’s a fair bet that most folk will have a memory of hearing these.  MacLellan was a Canadian who recorded four albums in the seventies but it was his writing skills that attracted the likes of Chet Atkins, Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez and Bing Crosby to record his songs. Continue reading “Catherine MacLellan “If It’s Alright With You – The Songs of Gene MacLellan” (True North Records, 2017)”

Slaid Cleaves “Ghost on the Car Radio” (Proper Records 2017)

Slaid Cleaves releases his first album since 2013’s “Still Fighting the War” and it has to be said that the four-year wait has been worthwhile as “Ghost on the Car Radio” is an outstanding return. Born and raised in Maine but now a resident of Austin, Texas, Cleaves has clearly used the time wisely as this is an outstanding bunch of songs, full of insight and characters who are wrestling with the realities of modern life in small-town America such as the reflective tone of the amateur racer in Primer Gray who dwells on life’s changes as her relates his family’s connection to the sport. Or there are the changes that cause hardship to the family farm in Hickory as the narrator accepts that “you can’t stop the march of time”.  Continue reading “Slaid Cleaves “Ghost on the Car Radio” (Proper Records 2017)”

Red Moon Joe “Time & Life” (DBS Recordings, 2017)

Here is up to date, relevant, British, Liverpool-produced Americana at its best. The songs are confiding, forceful sometimes. As it says in the first track, “Every page and chorus sweet refrain/ Filled with joy and some… filled with pain.” All you need really! Red Moon Joe are: Mark Wilkinson, who is the founder member (originally forming the band in 1985), producer, singer, electric and acoustic guitars; Steve Conway, pedal steel, dobro, acoustic guitar; David A Smith, bass; Dave Fitzpatrick, harmonica, banjo; and Paul Casey, drums. Continue reading “Red Moon Joe “Time & Life” (DBS Recordings, 2017)”

Danny & The Champions Of The World “Brilliant Light” (Loose Music, 2017)

For his new Champions album Danny Wilson wanted something different, a collaborative effort that encouraged all the band members to contribute to the song writing process. So, over a period of months and a number of sessions, a collection of songs was accumulated and the end result is a mammoth 18 track, double album. 78 minutes of soulful country rock that gives the chance for all band members, plus a few more guests besides, to showcase their talents for the collective good.

Continue reading “Danny & The Champions Of The World “Brilliant Light” (Loose Music, 2017)”

Avant Gardner “Interloper” (It’s Black Music, 2017)

‘Interloper’ is the newest release from Avant Gardner, a multi-instrumentalist from Liverpool who has clearly been around for a while as this is his tenth release and the press release states that he is currently gathering material for an eleventh which is really quite something from a relatively unknown artist. The record itself was written, performed and produced by Avant Gardner himself bar a few lead guitar parts from musicians, Stevil and Phil Dyer and what is immediately striking about the record is the quality of the playing on the record. Continue reading “Avant Gardner “Interloper” (It’s Black Music, 2017)”

The Byrds “The Broadcast Archive” (All Access / Sonic Boom, 2017)

The Broadcast Archive is a three CD set of radio broadcasts – semi-professional bootlegs in other words. Two of the albums have actually been out (on this label!) since 2015, one is new for 2017 and the whole have been repackaged into a single box set. The Byrds isn’t an exactly honest representation of the box, as Electric Ladyland 1991 is a Roger McGuinn concert. This isn’t such a problem since it’s by far the best CD in the set – the sound is pretty good quality and amongst several Byrds songs there are plenty from his last big studio album Back From Rio. Continue reading “The Byrds “The Broadcast Archive” (All Access / Sonic Boom, 2017)”

Gallery 47, “Bad Production” (Bad Production Records, 2017)

Housed in a rather lovely (if slightly fiddly) blue box which begs you to slide it open and reveal the bounteous contents (the promo copy we received contained stickers, pins and a CD), the obvious and deliberate peculiarity of this release DOES NOT smack of Loughborough. Of course, it may be a scathingly unfair assumption to make, but Loughborough doesn’t seem like the natural home of gentle, finger-picked, half-whispered Americana. Still… you live and learn. Continue reading “Gallery 47, “Bad Production” (Bad Production Records, 2017)”

William Matheny “Strange Constellations” (Misra Records, 2017)

It’s rare to hear a debut album as accomplished as Strange Constellations – but then William Matheny isn’t exactly a completely fresh face on the music scene as he’s had a number of years in the Athens (Ohio) based Indy-folk band Southeast Engine. On his debut solo release William Matheny unarguably demonstrates that he’s honed his songwriting skills and musical chops along the way. Strange Constellations see’s Matheny approaching his thirties and looking back on his adult life so far – and it’s fair to say that he’s not too impressed with what he observes. Continue reading “William Matheny “Strange Constellations” (Misra Records, 2017)”

Kate Ellis “Carve Me Out” (River Rose Records, 2017)

Kate Ellis has trodden an interesting path to her debut album. Born in Louisiana, with a father who once played guitar for Hank Williams, she grew up in New York with a gift for classical piano and is now based in London and a qualified lawyer for good measure. However, the most relevant point of all is that Carve Me Out is quite simply a superb debut album and one that announces the arrival of a genuine talent.  Continue reading “Kate Ellis “Carve Me Out” (River Rose Records, 2017)”

Steve Gardner “Bathed in Comfort” (TAG Records, 2017)

Chuck Prophet recently tweeted a comment from his buddy and console-maestro, Matt Winegar, who, at sound check while they were balancing the EQ before a gig, advised Chuck that, ‘By the time we get forty or fifty beards in here, it’s really going to change the sound.’ A few months before this wonderful post, Chuck received an unsolicited request from fan boy, Yorkshire man, singer and music dabbler, Steve Gardner – not to be confused with the American musician, Mississippi-based Rambling Steve Gardner.  Continue reading “Steve Gardner “Bathed in Comfort” (TAG Records, 2017)”