JD Fox & The Velvet Street Band ‘’A Tribute To Donnie Fritts’’ (Independent, 2016)

The interesting thing about a lot of tribute albums is where the new artists take the songs. Donnie Fritts was a session musician for Kris Kristofferson for 40 years, and a pioneer in the music emerging from Muscle Shoals. JD Fox, or real name Jan De Vos, is a Belgian artist inspired by the roots music emerging from America, previously having recorded a tribute to Spooner Oldham, another pioneer from Alabama. The cross between Belgium and Muscle Shoals really does have the potential to be interesting, reinterpreting these classic American songs for a European audience perhaps not as familiar with the style as those growing up in the rural south. The record is certainly crafted with love, with a groovy backing well done using traditional instrumentation. Having said that, it does feel that JD’s vocals are separate from the backing, rather than being all part of a greater whole as often happens in live recordings. Continue reading “JD Fox & The Velvet Street Band ‘’A Tribute To Donnie Fritts’’ (Independent, 2016)”

Courtney Marie Andrews, In-Store Performance, Rough Trade West, London. 12th April 2017

A true unplugged set this evening. Wearing a short olive dress and perched confidently on the record shop front desk, Courtney Marie Andrews was charming the 25 strong audience with cuts from the new LP. Without the piano and pedal steel of the album, the songs shift from the smooth neo-country textures and take on a surprising indie feel, perhaps explaining the Zane Lowe endorsement. Continue reading “Courtney Marie Andrews, In-Store Performance, Rough Trade West, London. 12th April 2017”

Sam Outlaw “Tenderheart” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)

‘Tenderheart’ is the follow-up to Sam Outlaw’s well-received 2015 debut ‘Angeleno’ and Outlaw picks up where he left off to expand on his laid back, So-Cal country sound. Opening track Everyone’s Looking For Home chronicles the sacrifices and decisions made in pursuit of a music career kicking off with a soft vocal and building into a lush string arrangement and from here onward, you can really hear an artist that has found his sound and hit his stride. Continue reading “Sam Outlaw “Tenderheart” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)”

Carrie Elkin “The Penny Collector” (Independent, 2017)

This is a highly personal and emotional album from Texan Carrie Elkin. Named in honour of her father who passed away over a year ago and who was a lifelong collector of pennies it is one of those pieces of work that is a slow grower that demands attention but one which leaves the listener richly rewarded. Elkin has pedigree, learning her craft from many years of touring and working with a number of musicians including the great Sam Baker. Whilst Baker does not appear on this album he is credited with helping to get the songs together. Continue reading “Carrie Elkin “The Penny Collector” (Independent, 2017)”

The Cover Letter “Cities Made Of Sand” (Enter View Entertainment 2017)

Not your average badass college rockers, Austin’s The Cover Letter have the distinction of being one of USA’s Hot 100 Unsigned Bands according to Music Connection Magazine and tireless Texans in the gigging stakes to boot. What is a bit of a mystery is that Cities Made Of Sand is their second EP and they have yet to produce an album. They’ll have their reasons of course but for a collective of such pure energy as this bunch then it strikes an odd note that a full-length offering is yet to hit the shelves.  Continue reading “The Cover Letter “Cities Made Of Sand” (Enter View Entertainment 2017)”

Chantelle Tibbs “Long Time Running” (Mira Records, 2017)

Chantelle Tibbs’ musical tastes cover her first musical experience, that of singing in an R&B group, pop music and a fondness for bluegrass and Americana. Born in Vineyard, New Jersey and later relocating with her family to California, Tibbs is in possession of an incredibly beautiful voice. Tibbs, as a teenager was a member of the group Flipsyde, but was asked to leave because she was too tall. Even as a child Tibbs was involved in artistic activities, an award-winning dancer (one-time member of Dance Attack), and the face on numerous children’s toys. From starting school Tibbs knows what it is to be in front on the camera, but it is only now with her full-debut album “Long Time Running” do we see her throw herself fully into becoming a solo recording act.  Continue reading “Chantelle Tibbs “Long Time Running” (Mira Records, 2017)”

Vinny Peculiar “The Fairer Sex” (Shadrack and Duxbury 2017)

Who is Vinny Peculiar? Is he a poet? Musician? Philosopher? Explorer of societal mores? Well, he is all of these things and more. He investigates areas of societal belief and invites you to do the same.“Silver Meadows” (Fables from the Institution) delved into mental health and this tasty morsel looks at gender-related identity. A concept E.P. of four tracks, it investigates gender typecasting, webcam sex, sadness, loss and humiliation. His words do not bludgeon or rant at you but rather, gently creep up and whisper in your ear. Gain your attention gently, tease you into taking note.  Continue reading “Vinny Peculiar “The Fairer Sex” (Shadrack and Duxbury 2017)”

The Life And Times Of The Brothers Hogg “Celestial Emporium” (TLATOTBH, 2016)

After listening to this record for a week I assumed it had been made by a bunch of hillbilly misfits from somewhere like Harlan County. I was taken aback when I found it came from the same part of the country that had squirted me into existence, North East Lincolnshire. There are of course parallels between the post-industrial devastation of Grimsby and the blighted former coal-mining areas of Kentucky but it doesn’t explain how TLATOTBH came to sound like they do. Straight out of the traps is St Deceiver, which on its own, merits a special mention, a raucous broken-toothed sing-a-long, full of detail like a Donald Ray Pollock short story, the life and times of the disenfranchised high on Oxycontin in dirty motel rooms, the piano played with abandon that makes Jerry Lee Lewis seem like Bobby Crush. If that were their only trick it would be a good one but it’s not typical, what follows is a superb multi-faceted collection of songs that transcend their genesis. Continue reading “The Life And Times Of The Brothers Hogg “Celestial Emporium” (TLATOTBH, 2016)”

Thad Kopec “The Shadow and the Caster” (Independent, 2017)

I found myself thinking of Ursula Le Guinn’s Earthsea, where young magician Ged unwittingly unleashes a dark shadow which pursues him relentlessly – until he finally faces up to it and discovers it is a part of his own being. The more prosaic interpretation of The Shadow and the Caster would be the literal one – of the shadows we all cast when we stand out in the light. So why the musings on otherworldly fantasy tales ? Continue reading “Thad Kopec “The Shadow and the Caster” (Independent, 2017)”

Holly MacVe + Will Stratton, St John on Bethnal Green, London E2 – 6th April 2017

Holly MacVe is 21. She grew up in Ireland, Yorkshire and Brighton yet she creates lonesome country songs hewn from the bedrock of Hank, Emmylou, Joni, Tammy and KD along with that of Lana Del Rey. A few of the dates on her current tour are in churches, this one being a fine Sir John Soane Italianate example built in 1820 and still a place of worship. Americana music is rooted in the church, in gospel and blues and the country folk of the god-fearing Appalachians so musically everything is perfect here. Support act Will Stratton changed the lyric in one of his songs for the occasion. “When I wrote this I was a hard line atheist, but I’m not so sure now “, he says, and he leaves the song hanging, questioning. His voice evokes the soft longing of classic American folk and there are glimpses of Paul Simon, Nick Drake and James Taylor too.  Continue reading “Holly MacVe + Will Stratton, St John on Bethnal Green, London E2 – 6th April 2017”