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”

Lowlands and Friends “Play Townes Van Zandt’s Last Set” (Route 61/Harbour Song Records 2017)

Italian band Lowlands have form in the tribute album area with their homage to Woody Guthrie from a few years back a fine reimagining of the old hobo’s songs. Here they celebrate the late great Townes Van Zandt with a song by song delivery of his last ever setlist, a show at London’s Borderline on 3rd December 1996 just four weeks before his untimely death on January 1st. Edward Abbiati, the Anglo Italian lynchpin of Lowlands was at that show, an experience he describes in the extensive liner notes where he also writes about why he recorded the album and records his gratitude to the stellar friends who joined in the project. It’s an impressive line up with Sid Griffin, Chris Cacavas, Rod Picott, Antonio Gramentieri, The Lucky Strikes, Cheap Wine, Kevin Russell and Stiv Cantarelli just some of the artists involved. Continue reading “Lowlands and Friends “Play Townes Van Zandt’s Last Set” (Route 61/Harbour Song Records 2017)”

Curtis McMurtry “The Hornet’s Nest’ (2017, Independent)

Born and raised in Austin, Curtis McMurtry is following to some extent in his father, Americana stalwart James’s musical footsteps. Pops himself is the son of writer/screenwriter Larry McMurtry (The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove, and Brokeback Mountain). The Hornet’s Nest is Curtis’s second album, a follow-up to 2014’s Respectable Enemy. You might say the youngster has a lot to live up to! Continue reading “Curtis McMurtry “The Hornet’s Nest’ (2017, Independent)”

3hattrio with Lizabett Russo @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 4th February 2017

The last weekend of Celtic Connections and we’re excited to see, at long last, the strange three headed creature born in the Utah desert, the weird aggregation of old time Americana, chamber music and jazz that is 3hattrio. Over the course of three albums this trio (Hal Cannon, Greg Istock and Eli Wrankle) have insinuated their way into late night listening habits here at home, their mingling of old weird America and parched landscapes, played with, at times, an almost avant-garde edge, a perfect balm after a hectic day. Continue reading “3hattrio with Lizabett Russo @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 4th February 2017”

The Lumineers “Cleopatra” (Decca Records 2016)

It’s time to reevaluate any preconceived conclusions you may have drawn about the Lumineers over their tub thumping, chart topping Ho Hey past. Those halcyon days of devil may care presidential playlist fun and games were glorious indeed, but now it seems it’s time to get serious. Rather than cashing in on the neo-folk knees-up of their 2012 self titled debut these Colorado troubadours have detoured down an altogether more sombre sidewalk. It is, of course, a commercial gamble and yet it feels totally justified. Perhaps this is why they steered clear of all those major labels who tried to capture the bird and clip its wings.  Continue reading “The Lumineers “Cleopatra” (Decca Records 2016)”