Bap Kennedy ”Reckless Heart” (At The Helm/Last Chance Records, 2016)

bap_kennedy_reckless_heartAs “Reckless Heart” was being created, Bap Kennedy was in a losing battle with cancer, a battle that he has very recently lost. As far as a legacy goes for such a rich and varied career, a single album is never going to do it justice, but “Reckless Heart” is a masterfully crafted record, filled with hope, despair, beautiful melodies and soaring musicality. With hints of Rock ‘n Roll, Blues and two-step country, this record is a beautiful blend of traditional American music styles. It is so rare for someone to encapture this musicality coming from foreign shores, but Belfast-born Kennedy does just that, sounding not in the least bit inauthentic, a great credit to an artist who has spent his career associated with legends such as Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler and Van Morrison. Continue reading “Bap Kennedy ”Reckless Heart” (At The Helm/Last Chance Records, 2016)”

Getaway Dogs “Lost in the Ebb” (Independent, 2016)

getaway-dogsIt’s long been my dream to christen a genre, even a niche sub-genre would do and this record with its mix of Brazilian rhythms, folk and RnB gives me my opportunity – this is Tropicana. If only the juice purveyors hadn’t got their first, Tropicana would have definitely caught on. This music has less of a chance of gaining a foothold; it’s a pale version of everything, a perfectly pleasant anodyne sound, where nothing distinctive comes of the cross-pollination. Someone has watered down the juice. Continue reading “Getaway Dogs “Lost in the Ebb” (Independent, 2016)”

Ceri James and the Three Fifths “St Augustine’s Heart” (Heed Records, 2016)

ceri-james-and-the-three-fifths-2016Sometimes the charm of a record can be in its deficiencies. Some rough edges, occasional serendipitous errors or just plain bum notes can give life to a piece, especially in an age where the four-to-the-floor, autotuned product can seem the norm. Listening to an album warts and all can bring us closer to the artist and the live experience. It’s why some bands like to go for the ‘live in one take’ style in the studio. Too forensic an approach to getting all the parts exactly right, perfect if you like, can suck the lifeblood out of a record.  Continue reading “Ceri James and the Three Fifths “St Augustine’s Heart” (Heed Records, 2016)”

Owls of the Swamp “Meteorite” (Labelship, 2016)

owls-of-the-swampWith the gentle burble of synths and hushed vocals, OoTS sound like they are floating in space. Listening to this leads me to imagine a scenario where they’ve prematurely awoken from suspended animation on a 100 year voyage to a distant galaxy and are contemplating their plight, knowing they will die before their companions awake and feeling nostalgic for a world they’ve left behind. ‘Meteorite’ is a bumpier ride, though it still sounds like a neutered version of The XX. Continue reading “Owls of the Swamp “Meteorite” (Labelship, 2016)”

Thisell “II” (Jelly Fant Records, 2016)

If you are into art leaning Thisell-2016mystical, sometimes dark and out there music chances are you will enjoy this. Such are the innovative arrangements and beauty of the work performed by Swedish singer-songwriter Peter Thisell , who is supported in style by a bunch of friends playing piano, violin, acoustic, lap steel, electric bass, lead guitar, upright bass, diatonic accordion, drums and harmony vocals. Continue reading “Thisell “II” (Jelly Fant Records, 2016)”

Uncle Lucius: Fat Lils, Witney. 1st November 2016

Fat Lil’s is a small club in Witney. Here were a hundred or so people prepared to sit, listen and applaud appropriately, knowingly and loudly. The supporting band Curse of Lono got the gig off to a perfect start. Here were an up and coming London band who had accompanied Uncle Lucius on a short tour of Europe beforehand and, according to them, had learned a great deal from the experience. Watch out for their EP and make all attempts to see them. I certainly will.

Anyway, Uncle Lucius are named, apparently after an old friend of the band, an eccentric old man named Lucius from down in the Louisiana swamps. The band members, all outstanding as part of a team, are Kevin Galloway, powerful vocalist, (though they all sing); Michael Carpenter, important role as lead guitar; Josh Greco on drums; Jon Brossman, keys, and Nigel Frye on bass. They are all involved in the song writing process and singing and their music making is co-ordinated and very effective. Relaxing before the gig, next door in the small restaurant, there was already something impressive about them. Continue reading “Uncle Lucius: Fat Lils, Witney. 1st November 2016”

Select Captain “Strings & Feathers” (Mini Me Records, 2016)

SELECT CAPTAIN-2016Kristian Gaarskjaer’s latest album under his musical alter ego pseudonym, Select Captain has him come through with an intelligent, Americana focussed singer-songwriter record. Recorded at Homeless Studios in Copenhagen he also utilises hints of late 1980s early 1990s indie pop rock. On the back of his debut release The Fear And The Lights he once again impresses with his honest heart and soul style of music. Gaarskjaer’s songs deal with joy, despair, arrogance, loneliness, greed and optimism as he allows his thoughts and fears, plus general everyday emotions spill forth in artistic fashion. Supported by guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, mandolin, lap steel, organ and piano the record is ever busy, instrumentally. Continue reading “Select Captain “Strings & Feathers” (Mini Me Records, 2016)”

The Lucky Strikes “The Motion and The Moving On” (Harbour Song Records 2016)

the-motion-and-the-moving-on_resizedThe Lucky Strikes, from Southend, have been together for ten years now and this is their fifth album. Without doubt they are one of our best Americana bands. Lead singer is Matthew Boulter, long time member of the Simone Felice group and an accomplished solo artist in his own right with four albums.  With him here are Will Bray on drums, Paul Ambrose on bass and Dave Giles on piano and accordion. Continue reading “The Lucky Strikes “The Motion and The Moving On” (Harbour Song Records 2016)”

John Paul White: Bush Hall, London – 8th November 2016

John Paul White, along with Joy Williams, was The Civil Wars – the all-conquering duo who filled the void when Plant and Krauss stopped gigging their Raising Sand album. The Civil Wars lasted for a similar timespan, coming to a crashing halt after a gig at the Roundhouse in 2012. No longer talking to each other, all future gigs were cancelled and a band hiatus called. During this a hugely successful second album managed to be released, but White declined to help promote it and soon after their parting of the musical ways was announced with the cryptic comment that it was due to “differences of ambition”. In subsequent interviews neither party has really clarified what that meant, and the general consensus that they’d had an affair that had ended badly remains neither confirmed or denied. John Paul White set up a studio and record label and seemed happy to promote the likes of Dylan LeBlanc – at least until now. Continue reading “John Paul White: Bush Hall, London – 8th November 2016”

The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society “Turn it Golden” (Greywood Records, 2016)

tselliotappreciation-2016Tom Gerritsen (a.k.a. The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society) proffers a back story which invites disbelief – born into a travelling carnival he abandoned the carny life to write songs whilst working in a bookshop before taking said songs on an extended two year long busking tour of North America. Well, I’ll buy the bookshop – many of Gerritsen’s fantastical songs are undeniably literary in style, with The Grand Tour also showing the hallmark of a man who has had to read Where the Wild Things Are to a fidgety bunch of toddlers, restlessly sitting in the children’s corner, just one too many times. Continue reading “The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society “Turn it Golden” (Greywood Records, 2016)”