Leah Abramson “Songs For A Lost Pod” (Headless Owl Records, 2018)

In a major departure from her usual folk-pop, Leah Abramson’s latest is a somewhat experimental multi-media project. Not the most promising opening sentence to be sure but the results, while mixed, are sometimes inspiring and on one occasion transcendent. It was originally written for a Masters of Fine Art thesis and there is an accompanying graphic novel available, which, judging by the images available online is gorgeous. Continue reading “Leah Abramson “Songs For A Lost Pod” (Headless Owl Records, 2018)”

Hugh Christopher Brown “Pacem” (Wolfe Island Records, 2017)

There’s a lot about this record that reminds me of Van Morrison, the deep spirituality and the fluid jazz notes being the foremost. Brown has a range of talents and founded a program to introduce music to prisons. He’s a fearless artist. The record opens with ‘Prayer of St Ignatius’, with vocals from Sherry Zbrovsky, with minimal backing just some comforting flecks of jazz – it’s a start that flummoxed me. The record then moves on to more familiar territory, albeit again, pared back spiritual, confessional, full of atmosphere sketched from acoustic guitar and piano, a rumbling undercurrent, intimate and in a small way strident, Brown draws you in. Continue reading “Hugh Christopher Brown “Pacem” (Wolfe Island Records, 2017)”

Darlingside “Extralife” (More Doug Records/Thirty Tigers 2018)

Massachusetts based Darlingside combine an almost dystopian view of the future with intricate, four-part harmonies to present an irresistible package on ‘Extralife‘. Described by NPR Music as “literary-minded, baroque, folk-pop” and with a distinctive vocal style that is reminiscent of the ‘Sunshine ‘60’s’ yet utterly modern, this is a record that reveals new depths on each listen. Continue reading “Darlingside “Extralife” (More Doug Records/Thirty Tigers 2018)”

Wildwood Kin, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 4th March 2018

Wildwood Kin were opening this City Roots Festival gig for Ward Thomas – who would go on to give their expected high gloss pop-country set with only one real surprise to it, that it ran for a shade less than an hour. Wildwood Kin however did their half an hour with as little fuss as possible – the three piece of sisters Emillie on guitar and Beth on bouzouki and keyboards with their cousin Meg between them on a stripped down drum kit suitable for playing standing up. Championed by Bob Harris, Wildwood Kin have toured and recorded with folk hero and fellow Devonian Seth Lakeman, as well as taking support slots with the likes of The Stereophonics. Continue reading “Wildwood Kin, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 4th March 2018”

Sir Canyon “Ventura Skies” (Independent, 2018)

For those not familiar with Sir Canyon, they are a collective of musicians fronted by former Hank Floyd member, Noah Lamberth. After his previous venture decided to call it quits after a series of high-profile support slots, Lamberth didn’t think he would continue with his music and pursued a brief career making documentaries and television shows however, after the loss of his father and a romantic breakup he began writing songs in his downtime, as a catharsis of sorts, and his friend and producer, Andy Davis encouraged him to record an album which (with the help of some former bandmates from his time in Katy Perry’s band) would eventually come to life as the mexican/surf/country record ‘Ventura Skies’. Continue reading “Sir Canyon “Ventura Skies” (Independent, 2018)”

Trent Miller “Time Between Us” (Bucketful Of Brains, 2018)

‘Motel Rooms Of Ocean Blue’ floats in on a lovely acoustic guitar figure, the melancholic melody meanders and mesmerising strings take the tune on a detour. It’s beautiful, but it’s also the best thing on Trent Miller’s “Time Between Us” by some distance. Too often, as on the reverb and harmonica-drenched title track and the widescreen ‘How Soon Is Never’, full band arrangements target epic, but hit bluster. Continue reading “Trent Miller “Time Between Us” (Bucketful Of Brains, 2018)”

J.W. Schuller “No Mud In Joyville” (Independent, 2018)

“Quirky” is difficult to get right as it can easily slide into archness or clever clever pointlessness. JW Schuller’s acoustic folk-pop nails it though, and on his second release, a seven song, twenty-six minute mini-album he offers up a nice range of thoughts and emotions. The title track is a contemporary ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ sung with tongue firmly in cheek while ‘Poor Little Us’ wryly deconstructs the choices facing a singer-songwriter to amusing effect, complete with a borrowing of Roxette’s “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” line. By contrast the poignant ‘Uncle Norm & The Ash Tree’ and ‘Caterpillars’ (who didn’t know they could be butterflies” tug at the heartstrings powerfully. Continue reading “J.W. Schuller “No Mud In Joyville” (Independent, 2018)”

Bill Bloomer “Jubilee” (Independent, 2018)

This might be one of those “marmite” albums – one to polarise opinion. Bill Bloomer hails from Illinois, though it would seem he spends much of his time globe-trotting and playing in various bars and small venues, a troubadour for the modern world. This album, ‘Jubilee’, is his first recording of his own songs and it’s an odd confection. According to his biog, Bill Bloomer was a Rodeo Champion who’s career was cut short by injury. Encouraged by family friend Steve Goodman (the man who wrote the excellent ‘City of New Orleans’) Bill picked up his guitar and started travelling. Continue reading “Bill Bloomer “Jubilee” (Independent, 2018)”

Mike Gale “Beachhead Galaxy” (Farm Music, 2018)

Beachhead Galaxy’ is the latest solo album from Mike Gale (Co-Pilgrim).  It’s a dreamy, ethereal sounding piece which is fitting for the subject matter. Set in space, in the year 2412 where harmony across all lifeforms reigns and war is forbidden, the album’s focus is on how this all might change. A traveller from the Beachhead Galaxy is set to arrive on planet Styx MM with a secret that could destroy life itself. The scene-setting is part of the album’s sleeve notes, there is no doubt that Gale sees this as a concept album of sorts. There’s also a hint on his Facebook page that this may be the first in a trilogy. Continue reading “Mike Gale “Beachhead Galaxy” (Farm Music, 2018)”

Joan Baez “Whistle Down the Wind” (Proper Records, 2018)

There’s a slight sense of pointlessness in reviewing a Joan Baez album for a site like this as there can surely be nobody who visits here who doesn’t know who she is, what she sounds like and whether they like her or not. Unless of course her latest outing showcases her new jazz-funk direction. It doesn’t. No, instead as per usual there are ten carefully selected songs (all covers, including two apiece from Tom Waits & Josh Ritter), and an extremely tasteful production, this time by Joe Henry. On the other hand her famous high notes and purity have long since gone to be replaced by a world weary, almost tired vocal, and this is no bad thing. Continue reading “Joan Baez “Whistle Down the Wind” (Proper Records, 2018)”