The Most Ugly Child “Copper and Lace” (Independent, 2017)

The first adjective that comes to mind when listening to The Most Ugly Child’s debut LP is simply “big”. The group is nominally a six-piece but with guest appearances that include a whole freaking brass band, they can make much more noise than their promo shots would suggest. And quite enjoyable noise it is too. Firstly, you have the songwriting, singing style, and nostalgic pedal steel tones that evoke the classic country of Buck Owens and George Jones. Adding to the controlled chaos is the earthy acoustic grit of dobro, banjo, and smashing fiddle breaks. Of course, one singer would not be enough for a band so clearly bent on laying more tracks, so leads and harmonies are traded by Daniel Wright and Stevie-Leigh Goodison.  Continue reading “The Most Ugly Child “Copper and Lace” (Independent, 2017)”

Adrian + Meredith “More Than A Little” (Vertigo Productions, 2016)

Rarely does “Americana” feel like a more appropriate classification than it does for Adrian + Meredith’s “More Than A Little”. After 40-odd minutes of playing time, the sheer list of traditional American genres discernible makes one wonder how exactly does the Krygowski power couple manage to maintain a consistent and recognisable sound throughout. Between the album’s monochrome artwork, Adrian Krygowski’s punk upbringing, and the head-bobbing swagger of the opening Take A Boat, you’d expect you’re in for the nihilist-chic marriage of rockabilly and punk rock that makes you want to put Día de Muertos skull decals on your hot rod (should you own one). But there is so much more. Continue reading “Adrian + Meredith “More Than A Little” (Vertigo Productions, 2016)”

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 5th February 2017

This gig was the last of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s UK tour, and was also a first weekend highlight for the inaugural City Roots festival running across many venues in Cambridge as a week-long winter spin-off from the annual Cambridge Folk Festival. All the big gigs for this festival are at the centrally situated Corn Exchange which – unlike the Junction (the only other large venue in town) – is well set up for large seated audiences. Continue reading “Mary Chapin Carpenter, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 5th February 2017”

Cary Morin “Cradle To The Grave” (Independent, 2017)

Cary Morin possesses finger-picking skills that many guitarists would sell their soul for. A Montana native and member of the Crow tribe, Morin’s music rolls together blues, folk, jazz and a host of other flavours into his own style of Native Americana. Plying his musical trade across the USA and wider world for nigh on thirty years, he’s won a host of blues and Aboriginal music awards to boot. Continue reading “Cary Morin “Cradle To The Grave” (Independent, 2017)”

The Nightjar “Objects” (Independent, 2017)

A few years ago Americana-UK commissioned the renowned musicologist Dr Fred Dineage at Goldsmith’s University to construct a continuum of ethereality – known as the Bush Scale – in order for us to more easily classify records like this one. Towards the top end of the scale sits Julianna Barwick and just below is Grouper. The Unthanks sit somewhere in the middle and at the other end of the scale sits Lucinda Williams (at one point the scale was posited as the Williams scale with Lucinda to Victoria being the breadth, but then events overtook). The scale runs from 0 to 9 and this sits somewhere around a 6. Continue reading “The Nightjar “Objects” (Independent, 2017)”

Wesley Stace “Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding” (Yep Roc, 2017)

A dream combination – Stace backed by the Jayhawks. Novelist and compere par excellence, the former John Wesley Harding releases his twentieth record. This time around he’s enlisted the help of Minneapolis’s finest. Stace has always been an intelligent, witty lyricist. His voice is polite and restrained in tone; sitting well with gentler, acoustic song arrangements. Opening track I Don’t Wanna Rock ‘n Roll is unfortunately true to intent – it doesn’t quite rock ‘n roll. If anything it’s an easy listening soft rock exercise which doesn’t mesh too well with Stace’s vocal qualities. Better Tell No-One Your Dreams is much the same – by no means a bad song but not quite as good as it should be.  Continue reading “Wesley Stace “Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding” (Yep Roc, 2017)”

Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro “Static in the Wires” (Del Mundo Records, 2017)

Martin Harley, globally established badass of lap steel guitar, and Daniel Kimbro, upright bass player whose gig, venue, and collaboration credits read like a folk fanboy’s bucket list, are back with a new album. “Static in the Wires” is mostly a bluesy affair, well balanced between electric and acoustic textures, with occasional spaced-out echoes thrown into the mix. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Harley record without some upbeat folky finger picking. Continue reading “Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro “Static in the Wires” (Del Mundo Records, 2017)”

Wolf People “Ruins” (Jagjaguwar, 2016)

Wolf People hold a special place in the spectrum of what we called for a while “psychfolk”. Their albums, and Ruins is no different in this, have a strong folk edge – Jack Sharp’s vocals have a clear English voice that sounds like it’s destined for some future incarnation of Fairport Convention. Songs appear with Argus-era Wishbone Ash melodies. There’s some flute in the mix. And then the edgy-pastoral Wickermanesque songs which might be about treasure hunting using a Hand Of Glory take a mighty side swerve into a harder Witchfinder General territory as crunching guitars, pounding drums and deep booming bass reveal Wolf People as a band enamoured of that late sixties heavy rock sound. Continue reading “Wolf People “Ruins” (Jagjaguwar, 2016)”

Old Crow Medicine Show ‘’Best Of’’ (Nettwerk, 2017)

Old Crown Medicine show are known for their amazing and energetic live shows and a fantastic folk repertoire throughout their discography. This greatest hits package comes exclusively from their three albums released with Nettwerk, including O.C.M.S in 2004, Big Iron World in 2006 and Tennessee Pusher in 2008. “Best Of” kicks off with Wagon Wheel their original song made a mega-hit by Darius Rucker covering it, selling it as a multi-platinum single. Old Crow Medicine Show’s version is much more palatable, with real grounding in roots, dominated by fiddle, banjo and folk harmonies. Indeed, Old Crow don’t escape string-dominated roots music for any of the record, and indeed for any of their discography. Continue reading “Old Crow Medicine Show ‘’Best Of’’ (Nettwerk, 2017)”

Transatlantic Sessions, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 7th February 2017

Photo: Murdo Macleod

The Transatlantic Sessions have become an eagerly awaited annual event which sees Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham joined by an ever changing array of talents from the folk and Americana scenes on both sides of the Atlantic. Which this year means the likes of Tift Merritt and John Paul White amongst others. The format couldn’t be simpler, it’s “let’s play one of mine – let’s play one of yours – let’s do one we all know” and then repeat for a couple of hours. Continue reading “Transatlantic Sessions, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 7th February 2017”