Nadine Khouri “The Salted Air” (One Flash Records 2017)

With a list of influences that are as broad as they are intriguing, the debut by Nadine Khouri, promises a great deal: interesting Lebanese heritage, production by John Parish (the chap that made PJ Harvey, messed with Giant Sand and confused Sparklehorse), all recorded in a dimly-lit Georgian vaulted basement in Bristol, and rendered with the help of Adrian Crowley, Parish and Emma Smith (of James Yorkston’s band)… the record doesn’t exactly scream ‘Americana’ from the rooftops, but I guess you should never judge a book by its cover (or a CD by it’s press release?). Continue reading “Nadine Khouri “The Salted Air” (One Flash Records 2017)”

Frontier Ruckus “Enter The Kingdom” (Loose, 2017)

Frontier Ruckus are a band that I should love: they have all the ingredients to draw me in with an agreeable blend of Americana stylings with lively dashes of power pop, literate lyrics and fine melodies. What’s not to love? The lyrics, no not even that, the subject and the settings are fine. It’s the formal structures, the rhyming schema, too clever by half buried rhymes, or laboured trowelled on poetry, the kind that says I’ve paid for my education and I’m going to use it. It irks me because they are so close to something really wonderful. Gerunds is melancholic with a swooning squadron of strings – sure the vocals are a little underpowered but that doesn’t bother me, just the highlighted lyrical flourishes that grate. Continue reading “Frontier Ruckus “Enter The Kingdom” (Loose, 2017)”

King Creosote, The Barbican, London, 22nd January 2017

On a stage dominated by the Astronaut meets Appleman album cover graphic there is a rag tag band of musicians sporting a variety of Space Age looks – well maybe a ramshackle retro-SF space age look is nearer the mark. So there are silvery wigs the like of which haven’t been seen since Space 1999, and more silver jackets than have been gathered into a single place since the BBC stopped spray painting leather biker jackets to provide the Cybermen with their costumes. NASA t-shirts are the order of the day, and the King himself is resplendent in what appears to be a star adorned chef’s jacket as if to visually ask the question “What am I going to, musically, cook up today?”. Continue reading “King Creosote, The Barbican, London, 22nd January 2017”

The Grahams “The Grahams And Friends (Live In Studio)” (Independent, 2017)

If you were to judge an outfit by their friends this American husband and wife duo would rate pretty highly.  On this set they rope in Cody & Luther Dickinson from the north Mississippi Allstars, John Fullbright, Sara & Sean Watkins, Kenneth Pattingdale from Milk Carton Kids and Alvin Youngblood Hart to name but a few.  Of the fourteen songs here five are taken from the deluxe version of their second album “Glory Bound” (not previously available in the UK) with the remainder coming from “Rattle The Hocks”, a live album and documentary they produced in 2015/16.

Continue reading “The Grahams “The Grahams And Friends (Live In Studio)” (Independent, 2017)”

Tom Paxton, The Stables, Wavendon, 19th January 2017

His last tour was billed as his last European excursion but here – just a couple of dozen months later – is the return of a folk legend in the form of Tom Paxton. This time he’s brought as musical support Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer – who produced and also helped out musically on his new album Boat in the Water.  Cathy is a marvel on clawhammer banjo – as well as vocals and guitar – whilst Marcy is a multi-instrumentalist (she plays at least fifty instruments Cathy proudly informs us) and a third voice. It makes for a different sound to that we’ve come to know on previous tours. Continue reading “Tom Paxton, The Stables, Wavendon, 19th January 2017”

Jordan Burchel “Vowel Sounds” (Independent, 2016)

Floridian Burchel is on his second record; he is one of the disaffected that communicates through their music, one of many, songwriters and bedroom musicians are as plentiful as sardines in a shoal. It’s hard to break out from the mass and forge your own identity, though every so often there’s a Will Toledo to give hope. Burchel has plenty going for him his songs are well constructed and his voice can carry a tune. There’s nothing to suggest that these songs were put together pretty much by one man. If I were forced to make a comparison I’d go for Jason Anderson after he dropped the Wolf Colonel name and began to erase the characteristics that made him distinctive. Continue reading “Jordan Burchel “Vowel Sounds” (Independent, 2016)”

Levi Cuss ‘’Night Thief’’ (Independent, 2017)

Who is Levi Cuss? If you listen to this record you might just find out, delving into a dark past and redemption through the salvation of music and poetry. Joining the thriving ”Canamericana’’ group of artists driving Americana music forward and out of a predominantly southern heritage, Levi has created an honest and raw record with no frills and dripped with gorgeous steel guitar wailing to accompany his laments, and great blues guitar to texture his more salacious background, not dissimilarly to Steve Earle in his Terraplane record. Continue reading “Levi Cuss ‘’Night Thief’’ (Independent, 2017)”

Megan & The Common Threads – “Stories To Tell” (Independent, 2016)

This six track EP shows that Britain can do contemporary country just as well if not better than America.  From Nashville, but now living in London, Megan O’Neill and her five piece band (who co-write the songs with her) have a polished country sound that, while it has poppy overtones has just enough grit to keep it interesting and stop it sliding into that formulaic Nashville sound.  Yes there are big choruses, yes there are hooks galore, yes there are big ballads and yes there’s a rocky number or two but the band make them their own.  They play with style and panache, with Mairead Furlong’s fiddle being particularly notable, and O’Neill’s crystal and emotive vocals carry everything along perfectly. Continue reading “Megan & The Common Threads – “Stories To Tell” (Independent, 2016)”

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry @ Celtic Connections. The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow: 26th January 2017

A bit fanciful I suppose to imagine that Bragg & Henry were taking their train theme a bit too literally tonight with the show arriving almost 40 minutes late, the pair taking to the stage after 10 pm. The reality was that the hall had hosted an earlier event, the upshot a steady stream of people leaving before the end, no doubt to catch their own transport. Unfortunately this included your intrepid reporter so we can’t comment on the finale or any encores. Continue reading “Billy Bragg & Joe Henry @ Celtic Connections. The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow: 26th January 2017”

Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough “Mockingbird Soul” (BDM Music, 2017)

Despite the fact that Brigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough have been working together for six years and collaborated on two albums Mockingbird Soul is their first official release as a duo. There are lots of influences here; blues, gospel, early jazz, bluegrass, folk. Music that DeMeyer characterises as acoustic soul. DeMeyer has a wonderfully soulful and sultry voice that has in the past been compared to the best of Emmylou, Lucinda and Bonnie Raitt. There are certainly a couple of tracks here that bring to Bonnie to mind, not least the title track and Rainy Day, both of which typify what the album is all about; crystal clear vocals, beautifully symbiotic harmonies and sparse, minimalistic accompaniment. On Mockingbird Soul that accompaniment is restricted to Will’s favourite instrument, his vintage Gibson J-45 while Rainy Day allows Chris Wood on Upright Bass to lead the way. Continue reading “Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough “Mockingbird Soul” (BDM Music, 2017)”