Albert Af Ekenstam “Ashes” (Kning Disk, 2016)

"Ekenstam-Albert-2016"Ashes is the debut album from Albert Af Ekenstam, a Swede who seems to have been in various bands prior to this including “post rock” instrumental band Tempel and who cites as influences Bon Iver and Mogwai. One can see the influence of both here, haunting soundscapes as heard on soundtracks such Les Revenants are evident on the two instrumental tracks while Iver’s early hushed rusticana breathes on (almost literally) several of the songs. Continue reading “Albert Af Ekenstam “Ashes” (Kning Disk, 2016)”

Christian Kjellvander “A Village: Natural Light” (Tapete Records, 2016)

christian-kjellvanderChristian Kjellvander has created quite a body of work. He’s acquired the aura and weight of a performer that has a catalogue that is to be admired. In short, he’s earned respect. He’s also honed and refined his craft and here again his dark narratives (somewhere between Tindersticks, Richard Buckner and latter period Nick Cave) drip with atmosphere as he controls every nuance to wring out maximum impact from the songs. Continue reading “Christian Kjellvander “A Village: Natural Light” (Tapete Records, 2016)”

Steve Grozier “Take My Leave” (Batcat Records, 2016)

steve-grozier-2016Steve Grozier has had the four songs which make up the Take My Leave EP knocking around unrecorded for more than a decade. Not stuffed, half forgotten, in a draw like some embarrassing half finished first draft of a novel. Nope these songs which document the part of his life spent living in Toronto have remained in the Scottish singer-songwriters’ set lists, it’s just that they’ve been newly polished up through being played in a band setting. The presence of a rhythm section and additional guitars has changed them enough to make Grozier keen to record them – and it’s easy to hear why. Continue reading “Steve Grozier “Take My Leave” (Batcat Records, 2016)”

Wovenhand “Star Treatment” (Glitterhouse, 2016)

wovenhandIt’s to his credit that David Eugene Edwards has chosen to make his most difficult record for some while. It is midway through the third track, ‘The Hired Hand’ before the unremitting weight is leavened and this is by a chorus which is ‘give up your dead’ repeated. ‘Crystal Palace’ takes the Cure’s ‘Pornography’ as a starting point and achieves the difficult task of matching it for oppressive gloom. Continue reading “Wovenhand “Star Treatment” (Glitterhouse, 2016)”

Mandolin Orange “Blindfaller” (Yep Roc, 2016)

mandolin-orange-2016The fifth album from this American duo is, and there is no other word for it, lovely.  They’ve added a band this time out but it’s their playing and singing that dominates, as it should.  There are some lovely fragile harmonies, some lovely mandolin work and the whole album is awash with fine melodies.  A streak of county classicism runs through their work so that you can hear nods to and influences from everyone from the Carter Family to Emmylou Harris. Continue reading “Mandolin Orange “Blindfaller” (Yep Roc, 2016)”

The Shondes “Brighton” (Exotic Fever Records 2016)

This ithe-shondes-brightons the fifth full length album from this four piece Brooklyn based band the core of which is formed around best friends Louisa Rachel Solomon and Elijah Oberman. Having been in existence since 2006 they have become known for their energetic performances and political activism including forthright views on Jewish issues. The opening track “Everything Good” is an uplifting driving love song which introduces us to the clear and strident voice of lead singer Louisa Rachel Solomon and also the soaring violin of Elijah Oberman. Continue reading “The Shondes “Brighton” (Exotic Fever Records 2016)”

Tim Easton ” American Fork” (At The Helm Records, 2016)

unknownAmerican Fork is the latest from serial Americanarer Tim Easton and it ticks several boxes associated with the genre but somehow the sum of the parts seems to equal less than the individual components. Take track 3 for example: ‘Elmore James’ – great subject matter , clever lyrics, groovy atmospheric instrumentation and production but… it just seems to be – without communicating a feeling and then fades away as if realising its own inadequacy.  Continue reading “Tim Easton ” American Fork” (At The Helm Records, 2016)”

The Gentle Good “Ruins/Adfeilion” (Bubblewrap Collective, 2016)

the-gentle-goodThe presidential ‘debates’ show what happens when you match ugliness with ugliness – it spirals into something toxic and is birthing the idiocracy that we seem to deserve. Gareth Bonello meets the ugliness of the contemporary world with songs full of elegant beauty. ‘Rivers of Gold’ is a refutation of the trickle-down theory of economics and it’s a sturdy folk song cloaked with strings that are as elegant and graceful as the flight of a swift. Protest doesn’t have to be as ugly as the thing it is fighting against. Continue reading “The Gentle Good “Ruins/Adfeilion” (Bubblewrap Collective, 2016)”

Luke Winslow-King “I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always” (Bloodshot, 2016)

luke-winslow-kingBlues and whiskey always get me in trouble with purists. I enjoy them both better when diluting them or mixing them with something else. Consequently, I can enjoy a L W-K record because he rarely sticks to one style and is apt to look outwards for inspiration. His version of the blues slots nicely into the Americana template – he offers excursions into the true heart of the blues (‘Esther Please’ or ‘Louisiana Blues’) but more often he’s exploring a tributary or softening the harsher edges, so a Blues lightweight like myself can drink them down. Continue reading “Luke Winslow-King “I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always” (Bloodshot, 2016)”

Ana Egge & The Sentimentals “Say That Now” (Grace Records, 2016)

ann-egge-2016Ana Egge has a collaborative nature – she has recorded with the likes of Steve Earle and Ron Sexsmith; her last album had The Stray Birds backing her up and on Say That Now she’s gone back to her Danish roots recording in Denmark with folk-rockers The Sentimentals. And again it’s a full collaboration – amongst the self-penned songs there are also co-writes with Jacob Chano (drums), Nikolaj Wolf (bass) and M C Hansen (guitars) – and even one song credited just to Hansen. An integrated group of musicians, then, sparking off one another and freely giving room for all to breath. Continue reading “Ana Egge & The Sentimentals “Say That Now” (Grace Records, 2016)”