Craig Finn “We All Want The Same Things” (Partisan Records, 2017)

A bag of pot and seven thousand dollars are found amongst her brother’s hockey equipment when he dies unexpectedly, and the deceased guy’s sister reaches out to a friend of her bro, who helps her to get rid of the pot. Thus, are the two main protagonists joined together in the elegiac ‘God in Chicago’ which is a riveting and emotional piece of storytelling by Craig Finn. It’s very filmic: it could be an American road movie by Wim Wenders, Alexander Payne or Willy Vlautin. Continue reading “Craig Finn “We All Want The Same Things” (Partisan Records, 2017)”

Nick Ellis “Daylight Ghosts” (Mellowtone Records, 2017)

Throughout this record Ellis’ guitar playing is excellent and the sound is clear and resonant (it was recorded in Liverpool St George’s Hall Crown Court Room) and it’s clear the further that Ellis gets from standard acoustic singer-songwriter fare, the better he sounds. The opener The Grand Illusion survives only on its guitar playing and the following Hanging Around with its poppier melody weaves a far more interesting pattern. Ellis has the voice for rock and the fingers to play pretty much whatever he pleases; the beautiful cascading phrases of Carillon are brought back to earth by the vocal. Where the pieces are unencumbered by the vocals they really stretch out as Dance of the Cat and Good Morning Mr Hirons show. Continue reading “Nick Ellis “Daylight Ghosts” (Mellowtone Records, 2017)”

Tom Snow “Uptown Hopeful” (Slipstream Records 2016)

Tom Snow has enjoyed a 50 year career in the music industry and is best known as a songwriter penning Linda Ronstadt’s hit “Don’t Know Much” and Leo Sayer’s “Thunder In My Heart” plus many more. However, he was a pioneer of the late 60’s and early 70’s country rock scene working with a young and already eccentric Gram Parsons before starting his own band named Country. Whilst he released a number of albums in his own name, the songs on this CD have never been released before and it is thus a treasure trove for fans of music from that era which defined much of what we know and love today as Americana. Continue reading “Tom Snow “Uptown Hopeful” (Slipstream Records 2016)”

The Sweet Water Warblers “With You” (SweetWaterWarblers, 2017)

Wow! These ladies can really sing. The quality of the harmony work on all the tracks on this EP is just outstanding. Hailing from Michigan, the Sweet Water Warblers are Rachael Davis, Lindsay Lou and May Erlewine, three women who had already forged independent reputations on the American Roots circuit, they came together at a festival appearance in 2014 and haven’t looked back since. Continue reading “The Sweet Water Warblers “With You” (SweetWaterWarblers, 2017)”

Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)

Eitzel is an arresting cove. A lounge room crooner with impeccable Americana credentials and instincts. Beyond that an entertaining, erudite man with much to say and a lot to share. This album marks a massive up swing in his profile as in the company of Bernard Butler he aims for the kind of mainstream breakthrough that similar artists such as John Grant and Jason Isbell have enjoyed; critically acclaimed solo material released after leaving loved but not massive bands (in the case of the Czars the band had folded). Originally conceived as a stripped down set by Eitzel the instinct of Butler as producer to widen and fill out the production has paid enormous dividends as Eitzel has delivered his most consistent and musically assured album yet. Continue reading “Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)”

Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)

A comeback, break up album – what could be better for the record buying Americana fan? Ryan Adams, the quintessential wounded troubadour, back ‘on form’ with a searing examination of a highly personal life event. Surely this is cause for celebration but in the name of good taste a muted one as we empathise with our poet songsmith? Well yes and perhaps more pertinently no. This is a bright shiny production with some strong songs and Adam’s voice sounding in fine fettle but songs such as Doomsday and the opener Do You Still Love Me have a very eighties feel to the sound which make the record sometimes feel soulless. Continue reading “Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)”

Campbell Woods “Oxford Street” (Independent, 2017)

Oxford Street, in this case, is not the glitzy miles long street of vast temples of consumerism, awash with gee-gaws and superficially attractive but ultimately empty and worthless baubles. No, this is an Oxford Street of attractive clapboard houses – maybe in Halifax or Victoria, but definitely anchored down in a small Canadian city, with easy access to wider country around. That suits the songs – intimate and civic, rooted in relationships, but with an open and expansive feel to them. Continue reading “Campbell Woods “Oxford Street” (Independent, 2017)”

Drew Holcomb And The Neighbors “Souvenir” (Magnolia Music 2017)

The definition of country music or indeed Americana varies immensely with conflicting views everywhere. However, if your view is that such music should be about real subjects, unpolished and delivered with passion and sincerity then you will fall in love with this album. Recorded in East Nashville there is no trace of trucks, drinking or other such subjects that appear so much in vogue amongst the country establishment.

Continue reading “Drew Holcomb And The Neighbors “Souvenir” (Magnolia Music 2017)”

Hurray For The Riff Raff “The Navigator” (ATO Records 2017)

Imagine a Latin American, gypsy troubadour, Bowie aficionado with a chip on her shoulder and a score to settle with The Donald. Sound scary? Introducing Alynda Lee Segarra, leading lady with Hurray for the Riff Raff. What’s more, she and her band are on their w ay over here for some dates in support of their new opus, The Navigator. On first listen you could be forgiven for downright bemusement. Here’s a girl from the Bronx, based out of New Orleans and shot through with Puerto Rican activistic feminist ideals. She’s singing through the voice of a Ziggy-style conceptual alter-ego with the soul of a Patti Smith/Carlos Santana lovechild. Yeah, there’s a lot of forces at work here but stick around because it’s a ride worth taking.  Continue reading “Hurray For The Riff Raff “The Navigator” (ATO Records 2017)”

R.Mutt “The Dash” (Independent, 2017)

Do you believe in rock and roll ? R.Mutt do. Six years after the release of their last album – the well received Leash on Life – they finally return with a new record that builds on what went before, with some additional refinement provided by the assistance of producer Kevin Blackwell (Sassparilla) and for the mixing Chet Lyster who has worked with the Jayhawks. There’s been some internal changes in the band as well, alongside founder members Jim Dier and Ron Thornton there’s new
guitarist David Smolarek and new drummer Matt Schreier. Continue reading “R.Mutt “The Dash” (Independent, 2017)”