Linah Rocio “Warrior Talk” (Aveline Records, 2017)

We’re really stretching the boundaries of Americana UK with Chilean born, Swiss based Linah Rocio’s latest album. OK, there’s a banjo to be heard on the second last song here, Megan although it struggles to be heard over the inventive percussion, dextrous double bass and roomy piano that clothe the song. Rocio describes artists such as PJ Harvey and Joan As Policewoman as her heroes and as such she fits within the set of strong willed singer/songwriters who are pushing the envelope with their music, rock, jazz and traces of the avant-garde all part of the experience. There are songs which sound like Laura Nyro fronting a gnarly punked up Steely Dan as on Everything while Simon Rupp on guitar sounds at times like Marc Ribot. Continue reading “Linah Rocio “Warrior Talk” (Aveline Records, 2017)”

Little Diamonds “New Orleans Bound” (Independent, 2016)

Essentially a John Prine/Early Dylan channeller, New Orleans Bound offers up 45 minutes of undiluted classic guitar, singer and occasional colour of harmonica, drum, bass or string. As an exercise in nailing a sound – lonesome travelling troubadour it ain’t half bad. Lots of walking blues half sung half spoken in a surprisingly weathered and clear voice given the youthfulness of the face on the CD cover.  Continue reading “Little Diamonds “New Orleans Bound” (Independent, 2016)”

Torgeir Waldemar “No Offending Borders” (Ja.Jansen plateproduksjon, 2017)

Torgeir Waldemar’s second solo album is a simply stunning offering – a beautifully balanced combination of visionary acoustic songs, full of strong and vivid imagery, and more strident West Coast rock songs, sweetly melodic but shot through with bursts of fuzzed up guitar adding depth to lyrics of loss and despairing pain. It’s a pure delight from the hypnotically circular finger-picked opener Falling Rain (Link Wray) to the closer I see the end which sounds like a nineteenth century hymnal reshaped as a devotional love song. Continue reading “Torgeir Waldemar “No Offending Borders” (Ja.Jansen plateproduksjon, 2017)”

Jarrod Dickenson “Ready The Horses” (Hooked Records, 2017)

Good God Jarrod can sing. He’s a storyteller with a voice rich as agave nectar; he holds a narrative and bends it however he feels, you hang onto every word. On this set of songs he’s pretty much equidistant between Tom Waits and Michael Buble, and that’s not meant to be derogatory in any way, it’s testament to the way he controls the songs and the audience – the opening one-two of the bluesy belters of Faint of Heart and Take It From Me are big set-pieces full of showmanship  Then he settles down and the simpler Your Heart Belongs To Me shows him in more intimate circumstances his voice even more seductive when near a whisper. Continue reading “Jarrod Dickenson “Ready The Horses” (Hooked Records, 2017)”

Bill Kirchen & Austin De Lone “Transatlanticana” (Proper Records 2017)

Bill Kirchen should be familiar to many here as a founding member of 70’s country rockers Commander Cody And his Lost Planet Airmen before going on to carve out a career that has led to his nickname of Titan Of The Telecaster. Austin De Lone? Well, he’s every bit as hallowed as Kirchin although the congregation might be somewhat smaller. He’s an American but one who first came to prominence (back in the 70’s again) with London pub rockers Eggs Over easy, one of those bands who kicked Prog in the balls with their return to the roots (and incidentally preparing the way for punk). The pair first bonded back in the 70’s and it would take a Pete Frame like Family Tree to describe their ongoing affiliations, partnerships and mutual connections, suffice to say that Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe loom large, the latter producing the duo when they were called The Moonlighters. Continue reading “Bill Kirchen & Austin De Lone “Transatlanticana” (Proper Records 2017)”

The Standing Waves “Early Reflections” (Independent, 2017)

Both standing waves and early reflections are terms to do with the physics of sound waves. The first sounds to reach a listener’s ears from sound waves bouncing off objects are the early reflections and I’m happy to report that the effect evidenced by these ten songs is a tidal wave of pleasure. They are polished and charming examples of a subtle mix of Americana genres – there are touches from all across the map from the reflective sweetness of Last First Person that reminds me of the collective bonhomie of Ida, wisps of Whiskeytown, the Jayhawks, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris and even the Avett Brothers. Continue reading “The Standing Waves “Early Reflections” (Independent, 2017)”

Benjamin Folke Thomas “Copenhagen” (Louvaio, 2017)

Thomas’ opening gambit Good Enough For Me sparkles with lyrical ideas and has a few sticky hooks thrown in. The first line Wish I could come down from this pedestal strikes the right tone somewhere between two other great Scandinavian cultural icons the Norwegian TV series “Dag” (highly recommended – it has a wonderful soundtrack) and the writing of Karl Ove Knausgaard. Both deal with existential angst in similarly entertaining ways. Good Friend Again only deepens this impression, This is the day I’ll start drinking again, I need something to cope with these avenues of shame. There’s a brutal honesty, even if it is only fiction – it’s far from romantic. Continue reading “Benjamin Folke Thomas “Copenhagen” (Louvaio, 2017)”

Mandy Rowden “1000 Miles” (Independent, 2017)

Sometimes some records just don’t hit the mark… and from the drab artwork  to the confusion of the songs that dwell within, that seems to be the case here. It’s a dreadful shame – given some of the names Rowden has worked with in the past, this is a record that should have presented far more in the way of highlights. This, Mandy Rowden’s second album, owes much to Lucinda Williams and a bit to Tift Merritt, but lacks the conviction of either. The songs are relatively well put together and in the most part, decently executed, but just not exciting enough. Moreover, the apocalyptic imagery of a couple of songs, notably Flood Song and No Greater Silence,  and the social commentary and ramshackle romp of 5 O’clock World are difficult to take seriously. Continue reading “Mandy Rowden “1000 Miles” (Independent, 2017)”

Israel Nash, The Islington, London, 22nd February 2017

Israel Nash is on tour opening for Band of Horses, but this was a night off and an opportunity to play if not quite a secret gig then at the least an incredibly intimate one. The Islington is not such a big pub, and the performance space is tiny – a capacity of sixty or so perhaps, and not surprisingly it was sold out. Tonight was to be a duo performance – Israel Nash on acoustic guitars and Eric Swanson adding waves of the most perfect pedal steel. Who needs a band ? Continue reading “Israel Nash, The Islington, London, 22nd February 2017”

Rab Noakes “The Treatment Tapes EP” (Neon Records 2017)

This is an outstanding and unforgettable record for two reasons: Firstly, it shines musically, and secondly, it tells the specific story of the discovery and treatment of Rab’s tonsillar cancer, diagnosed early in 2015. For both reasons the EP will appeal to most peoples’ inner sensitivity, drawing them in, in a particular and very personal way. This, musically and lyrically, is a short collection, but it takes you firmly along what could be a difficult path, where a “howling ghost” lurks, but ends up somehow in a place where a sense of hope survives, in whatever context you would allow it to blossom in. Continue reading “Rab Noakes “The Treatment Tapes EP” (Neon Records 2017)”