Leeroy Stagger “Love Versus” (Independent 2017)

Stagger’s eleventh studio album sees him really hitting some impressive heights as a songwriter. This is an old school album in the sense that it is a singer/songwriter opening his heart and reflecting his concerns and dreams whilst backed by an accomplished bunch of musicians and highly sympathetic production.
Each song is crisp and independent but they all build to give an affecting picture of an artist comfortable in his own skin and in charge of his craft. Continue reading “Leeroy Stagger “Love Versus” (Independent 2017)”

Worry Dolls “Go Get Gone” (Bread & Butter Music, 2017)

Rosie Jones and Zoe Nicol, who together make up Worry Dolls, are that rare thing – songwriters who are genuinely living their lyrics. Go Get Gone‘s title quoting track is the carpe diem song Train’s Leaving which boldly encourages with “forget the doubts still troubling your mind no “what if this” or “what if that” / No coulda bins or coulda haves / Farewell, so long, go get gone”. Get out there, and take life by the scruff of the neck, no regrets, no missed chances. And real life has seen the duo up-sticks from moderate success in London and take their catchy country vocals out to Nashville for a shot at the big time. Continue reading “Worry Dolls “Go Get Gone” (Bread & Butter Music, 2017)”

Emily Barker “Sweet Kind Of Blue” (Everyone Sang, 2017)

Australian Emily Barker has been firmly in the spotlight over the past decade with her band The Red Clay Halo (who played at the London Olympics opening ceremony) along with her stints in Vena Portae and Applewood Road. Her songs have been featured on the BBC’s Wallander and The Shadow Line while she also provided the soundtrack for Peter Mullan and Jake Gavin’s film, Hector. Her voice, always warm and direct, and her various recordings have seen her firmly set  in the folky side of country pigeonhole but Sweet Kind Of Blue finds her heading into country soul territory, geographically as well as musically as she headed off to Memphis to record the album. Continue reading “Emily Barker “Sweet Kind Of Blue” (Everyone Sang, 2017)”

Thin Wire Fence “Green to Dust” (Independent, 2017)

By Odin’s beard! Remember Harry Dean Stanton’s walk through Big Bend, the dusty, desolate Texan desert at the beginning of Wim Wender’s masterpiece Paris, Texas? His dehydrated body with dry, cracked lips, full beard and skin like leather; dryer than a two-month old Nardorcott. Stanton was serenaded by Ry Cooder’s magnificent bottle-slide guitar which Cooder wrote after being influenced by Blind Willie Johnson’s 1928 cut, Dark Was the Night. Thin Wire Fence’s Scared of the Light, was written after they watched Paris, Texas. It’s a song that makes your mouth dry as cotton wool and brings that iconic scene to mind, with the harrowing story of a man out of his mind, stuck out in the desert on his own.  Continue reading “Thin Wire Fence “Green to Dust” (Independent, 2017)”

The Unthanks “Diversions Vol. 4: The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake” (RabbleRouser Music, 2017)

The Unthanks – sisters Becky and Rachel – have, over the last decade, become major figures on the English folk scene. Strong on tradition they have also forged new musical paths and travelled along many sidetracks. This latest release is one of the sidetracks,which also sees the sisters forging a connection to the mainstream. In 2013 a series of home recordings of the songs and poems of Molly Drake – mother of the highly regarded Nick – emerged, and The Unthanks have developed these both for these new recordings and also as a live show. Both feature the voice of Molly’s daughter – actress Gabrielle Drake – adding renditions of poems, some standing alone others blended into the songs. Continue reading “The Unthanks “Diversions Vol. 4: The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake” (RabbleRouser Music, 2017)”

Justin Currie “This Is My Kingdom Now” (Endless Shipwreck 2017)

Justin Currie has ploughed a pretty deep furrow since disbanding Del Amitri and with the exception of a reunion tour a couple of years ago he enjoys a small but very dedicated fanbase which lap up his razor sharp observations couched in melodies that lesser songwriters would dream of imagining. Live he is immense; ploughing through a back catalogue of genuine pop classics laced with his black humour, and it is fitting that this latest release fits perfectly into such a set list. Continue reading “Justin Currie “This Is My Kingdom Now” (Endless Shipwreck 2017)”

Paul Kantner “Venusian Love Songs” (Floating World Records, 2017)

Paul Kantner was one of the original hippies of the 1960’s and champion of the counter culture being an integral part of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. An interesting character and activist he was an important musician of that era passing away in January 2016 leaving a fascinating musical legacy of which this double album is a part. Involving an informal grouping of musicians and artists known as the Windowpane Collective this was his second album offering and was intended for release shortly after it was recorded in 2011 to coincide with St Valentines Day, hence it is presumed the title of the record. However, no release came in Kantner’s lifetime. It is certainly eclectic with twenty-one tracks and two demos featuring a core of musicians and many guests on vocals.

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David Hershaw & Sandie Forbes “Here Comes Tomorrow” (Independent, 2017)

This is a twelve track debut album from a Scottish contemporary folk duo with all but one of the songs being largely written by them. The album is very strong and demonstrates the undoubted talents of both musicians who, whilst being joined by a few guests provide almost all instrumentation with Hershaw a clearly accomplished guitarist and Forbes a mean fiddle player. Most vocals are provided by Hershaw but it is the harmonies that stand out and on Old Wooden Heart, a charming love song, they compliment each other beautifully.

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Christopher Rees “The Nashville Songs” (Red Eye Music 2017)

Christopher Rees releases his seventh full album and his first since 2013’s Stand Fast. Rees, who alongside being a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, is also a director of the Red Eye record label. After having been twice nominated for Best Male Solo Artist at the Welsh Music Awards, he finally won the award in 2004 for debit album The Sweetest Ache. Having toured with the likes of Cherryhomes, Chuck Prophet, The Sadies and Steve Earle, Rees is also notable for being the first ever to perform at The Houses of Parliament in 2004.  Continue reading “Christopher Rees “The Nashville Songs” (Red Eye Music 2017)”

The Byrds “Live At The Fillmore – February 1969” (Floating World Records, 2017)

Oh to have been there – February 7th and 8th 1969 at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West! The irony is that The Byrds were a warm up act on this occasion, a sound check for others including Paul Butterfield, and just happened to be recorded by the Columbia engineers who were there and thankfully the tapes were kept. This is a fantastic record of one of the great bands in their 1960’s country rock heyday featuring the line up of Roger McGuinn on lead vocal and guitar, John York on bass, Gene Parsons (not Gram!) on drums and one of the truly great guitarists and innovators Clarence White whose distinct style shines through here and really lights up the performance.

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