Adult Karate “Indoors” (Plug Research, 2017)

This might be a hard sell, and to be straight from the outset there is not a shred of what most people would define as Americana in this release. Nor is there a touch of roots, or for that matter rocking. Adult Karate – which is for all intents and purposes KC Maloney – is an all electric band : yes, we’re talking synthesisers here. Continue reading “Adult Karate “Indoors” (Plug Research, 2017)”

South By Southwest Festival 2017. Austin, Texas

I normally advise Americana-loving friends who enquire about sxsw simply to visit Austin at any time of the year and check out venues like the Broken Spoke or the Saxon Pub to get the authentic Austin feel. You’ll be sure to see the likes of Jon Dee Graham, William Harries Graham, Bob Schneider, Darden Smith, James McMurtry and other such stalwarts of the scene. But there are certain sxsw American events that are unique to that week and are not to be missed.

The Yard Dog Gallery on South Congress has a yard at the back which is covered by a gazebo during sxsw and it is really worth spending a whole afternoon there, because the music is invariably top notch and the audience respectful and very much “up for it”. A common characteristic of all the places I shall describe is the superhuman amount of alcohol consumed. I’m by no means teetotal but I tell you, the amount these guys put away is mind-boggling. Nursing a three dollar local IPA, I was hugely entertained by a highly-wired Austin Lucas (whose Alone In Memphis always brings a lump to the throat), who also duetted with Mara Connor. Continue reading “South By Southwest Festival 2017. Austin, Texas”

Amelia Curran “Watershed” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)

Canadian singer-songwriter Amelia Curran utilises folk, country and pop in fine fashion. Her roving artistic style showing hints of Nashville famed acts Beth Nielsen Chapman and Rosanne Cash, and on the song No More Quiet I found traces of Shawn Colvin. Such the resolute feel of the song, the listener can’t help but be impressed with her work. Continue reading “Amelia Curran “Watershed” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)”

Antenna Man “Elaine Jr” (Independent, 2016)

Modest indie-rock with a speckling of Americana used to be a staple of the records that we reviewed, but lately there’s been a recalibration towards authenticity, the kind that comes from beards it seems. Well Antenna Man are a welcome throwback to the days of Birddog or Earlimart, a lo-fi sound augmented with fills of piano that are like echoes of the honky-tonk and pedal steel that flickers through the songs like sunlight reflected off a CD. They use Country Music signifiers with affection and respect and with fun, so songs like I’m Your Man bounce and crackle with bonhomie. Continue reading “Antenna Man “Elaine Jr” (Independent, 2016)”

Coco Hames “Coco Hames” (Merge, 2017)

When a new name passes in front of us, we like to be able to say, oh yes she’s that kind of performer. Listening to this first record from Coco Hames I’m left with a good feeling and no real idea where her future lies. She certainly showcases a broad range of styles across these ten songs; the closest thing I can think of is Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s She & Him project, where they explored across the genres and the decades. Hames starts with When You Said Goodbye, something that resembles both sixties pop in the vein of Hermanns Hermits and also wonderfully the Go-Betweens – the plangent guitars are a dead-ringer for Robert Forster – then she moves onto to classic girl-group territory with I Do Love You before wonderfully diverting into pop-punk with the Ramonesy I Don’t Wanna Go. Continue reading “Coco Hames “Coco Hames” (Merge, 2017)”

Those Lavender Whales “My Bones are Singing” (Fork & Spoon Records, 2017)

There is a backstory to My Bones Are Singing, and although it’s not explicitly spelt out at any point on the album it’s so relevant that it can’t really be ignored. Before recording My Bones are Singing, Aaron Graves, who is Those Lavender Whales, had been diagnosed with a life threatening brain tumour. Knowing this puts an extra emphasis on the reflections on mortality that permeate the album – it’s not something that can just be dismissed as existential angst or a grappling with the awful inevitability of life’s ultimate destination. Continue reading “Those Lavender Whales “My Bones are Singing” (Fork & Spoon Records, 2017)”

The Andrew Collins Trio “And It Was Good” (Independent, 2017)

This is a difficult album to review simply because I’ve never heard anything quite like it before. For a start, it’s totally instrumental; unusual in the Americana genre, though the music does have its roots quite firmly in Bluegrass.  It’s also a concept album, something else that’s quite rare in this genre. And not just any old concept – this album takes the rather grand biblical story of creation as its theme. You certainly can’t accuse Andrew Collins and his band mates, Mike Mezzatesta and James McEleney of lacking ambition. Continue reading “The Andrew Collins Trio “And It Was Good” (Independent, 2017)”

The Abrams “The Abrams” (Warner Music Canada, 2016)

This is the major label debut EP from Canadian brothers John and James Abrams who, despite only being just into their twenties, already carry an impressive CV, having the honour of being the youngest Canadians to appear at the Grand Ole Opry and having already put out a couple of albums under their own auspices. Now they’ve been picked up by a major label (Warner Music Canada) and have their first EP produced by Gavin Brown, who has also produced for such bands as The Tragically Hip and Barenaked Ladies.  Continue reading “The Abrams “The Abrams” (Warner Music Canada, 2016)”

Matt Hannah “Dreamland” (Gamine Records, 2017)

Matt Hannah’s Dreamland is an album of roots-tinged rock, with just enough pedal steel, upright bass and accordion to make it rock that bit easier, and that’s appropriate as the title song, and album opener, explains.  Here Hannah contrasts two sleep states, a pair of dreamlands – the one of his youth where he’d rock out all night with a band and then sleep until the afternoon, and the one he has now – where the listless drifting life with a band has been swapped for the steady life with just one woman. Continue reading “Matt Hannah “Dreamland” (Gamine Records, 2017)”

Rodney Crowell “Close Ties” (New West Records, 2017)

Americana defies easy classification but perhaps the legendary Rodney Crowell, by way of an introduction to his outstanding new album Close Ties, has come up with as good a definition as any. “All the people who represent Americana share a common thread and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favour of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”  Continue reading “Rodney Crowell “Close Ties” (New West Records, 2017)”