Aimee Mann “Mental Illness” (Superego Records, 2017)

The work of Aimee Mann has decorated the pages of this site almost from our inception. Mann is one of our touchstones, a yardstick for other female performers. Her work is rarely less than exceptional, and this effort is no different. It is softer and gentler, more acoustic, but the barbs and the songwriting are as strong as ever. If you had to characterise her work in one word, I’d go for melancholy and here You Never Loved Me is melancholy in a nutshell, quiet, elegant with a simmering ache of strings and velvety violent percussion, nailing those feelings; hangs, draws and quarters them. Continue reading “Aimee Mann “Mental Illness” (Superego Records, 2017)”

Kelly Sloan “Big Deal” (Independent, 2016)

Hailing from Almonte, Canada, Kelly Sloan’s third studio album sees her take a grittier approach to her self-penned songs than her previous, more acoustic offerings. To this end she has added Jordan Murphy (drums, percussion) and Adam Ledrew (bass) to that of long-time collaborator Curtis Chaffey. Perhaps, unsurprisingly considering her classical background, Kelly has a terrific vocal range and, when the song demands the most minimal accompaniment, her talents in this regard come to the fore. Your Only Ride is the obvious highlight in this category. A statement about the need to live life to the full and appreciating every day, this is a beautifully sung ballad that allows Kelly to bring the sound of her live acoustic performances to the album perhaps more than any other song here. The production on this track is exceptional with Chaffey’s electric guitar playing a significant part in the overall sound of the track but never in a way that impacts on Kelly’s vocal performance. Continue reading “Kelly Sloan “Big Deal” (Independent, 2016)”

Conor Oberst “Salutations” (Nonesuch Records, 2017)

The lengthy follow up to last year’s acid confessional ‘Ruminations’ is an expanded version of that self-same album but with added band, tracks and dareonesayit self-acceptance. The bitter starkness has been replaced and perhaps displaced by an album that gladdens the heart and stimulates the brain. Lyrically Oberst has always been able to skewer his own inadequacies in the face of his life and lifestyle but this reworking has prompted some re-examinations and perhaps relaxations. Evidently working with the Felice Brothers (amongst others) has given Oberst a clear sense of purpose and instrumentation. This is as close to the template for ‘Americana’ you are ever going to get. Harmonica, melancholy melodies, storming choruses, image packed lyrics, guitars and drums, raucous backing vocals, beautiful guitar flourishes, a distinct lack of synths or troubling production, a genuinely timeless feel (although at push it could be 1971!) etc.  Continue reading “Conor Oberst “Salutations” (Nonesuch Records, 2017)”

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives “Way Out West” (Superlatone, 2017)

Sometimes it’s good to get outside your comfort zone and listen to something that you wouldn’t normally expect to enjoy. As the late, great George Michael said – “Listen without Prejudice” Most people know Marty Stuart as the guy who used to play guitar for Johnny Cash and as a big part of the Nashville establishment; a very traditional country singer. If that’s your view this album is going to come as a real surprise.  Way Out West is a fascinating piece of record making. There are some traditional sounding tracks on there, songs like Lost on the Desert could’ve come straight from his Johnny Cash days, but there are relatively few of them and even the ones that do sound mainstream have more than a touch of the maverick about them.  Continue reading “Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives “Way Out West” (Superlatone, 2017)”

The August List “Ramshackle Tabernacle” (Ubiquity Project Records, 2017)

Husband and wife duo, Martin and Kerraleigh Childs or The August List as they’re known, return with their second release following 2014’s ‘O Hinterland’ which see’s them mature as songwriters and grow into quite the formidable duo. On first listen, the first track of the nine on offer, the bluesy ‘Old Rip’ sees The August List picking up where they left off however, immediately following that is ‘Palace On The Rocks’ in which the group experiment with an arguably louder, full-band sound which indicates a potentially alienating change in direction for the duo; however, they don’t feel quite as accomplished as the softer side of the band. Continue reading “The August List “Ramshackle Tabernacle” (Ubiquity Project Records, 2017)”

Michael Logen “New Medicine” (Back Room Racket, 2017)

Michael Logen is a professional songwriter and it shows. This is both a good and a bad thing; what you get here is an album of beautifully crafted songs – well written, well sung, well played and very well produced. What you don’t get is any real idea of who Michael Logen is and what he’s searching for as a musician. Logen’s songwriting credentials are excellent. He’s written for a number of major American TV shows, most notably country music soap “Nashville” but also for other high profile shows like “Suits” and “One Tree Hill”. His excellent song for “Nashville” was Wake Up When It’s Over (co-written with Marren Morris), which was sung by characters Gunnar & Scarlett and that tells you a lot about his writing style. That song’s not on “New Medicine” but there are plenty of similar songs here – romantic ballads, drawing on Americana influences but with a strong classic pop feel.  Continue reading “Michael Logen “New Medicine” (Back Room Racket, 2017)”

The Lonetones “Dumbing It All Down” (The Lonetones, 2017)

This is quite a hard album to review because it’s really an album of two halves. The Lonetones, hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, are essentially the band of husband and wife duo Sean McCollough and Steph Gunnoe. They front the band and all the tracks on the album are written by them – but not together. So you get 6 tracks from husband Sean and seven from wife Steph – and they sound like they should be on two separate albums.  Continue reading “The Lonetones “Dumbing It All Down” (The Lonetones, 2017)”

David Olney “Don’t Try To Fight It” (Red Parlor Records 2017)

The rules are there are no rules. These seem to be the only guidelines followed by David Olney in the creation of ‘Don’t Try To Fight It’, the latest addition to his considerable catalogue that covers over 40 years recording. Olney is described as something of a ‘Renaissance man’ being not just a recording artist, but Shakespearean actor, writer of sonnets, radio show host in Nashville and online blogger. Clearly a man of considerable talent and interests then and that shines through in ‘Don’t Try To Fight It’, an album that defies easy categorisation. Continue reading “David Olney “Don’t Try To Fight It” (Red Parlor Records 2017)”

Curse of Lono, The Water Rats, London, 20th April 2017

Curse of Lono’s show at The Water Rats was a launch for their anticipated debut album Severed. The venue has a rich history, Marx and Lenin are both reputed to have frequented the place during their respective times in London and Bob Dylan played his first UK show here in 1962. This, coupled with the band sharing their name with a Hunter S Thompson book, led me to wonder whether to expect something unusual, intellectual, dangerous or deranged.  What I got was a bit of each from Curse of Lono, a London based five-piece band consisting of Felix Bechtolsheimer and Neil Findlay both from Felix’s former band Hey Negrita, plus Joe Hazell, Charis Anderson and Dani Ruiz Hernadez. Continue reading “Curse of Lono, The Water Rats, London, 20th April 2017”

Oceans are Zeroes “Oceans are Zeroes” ( Independent, 2017)

Oceans are Zeroes impinge a power-pop sensibility on the hugest Mogwai-meets-Mercury Rev songs imaginable creating a wall of rock sound backdrop behind high and steely vocals. The initial effect is to be bowled over by a veritable tsunami of sound, breaking on the beaches and throwing out sparkling rockets rather than more humdrum flotsam and jetsam. It’s infectious and initially exhilarating, such an insistent rush of music. Continue reading “Oceans are Zeroes “Oceans are Zeroes” ( Independent, 2017)”