Those Lavender Whales “My Bones are Singing” (Fork & Spoon Records, 2017)

There is a backstory to My Bones Are Singing, and although it’s not explicitly spelt out at any point on the album it’s so relevant that it can’t really be ignored. Before recording My Bones are Singing, Aaron Graves, who is Those Lavender Whales, had been diagnosed with a life threatening brain tumour. Knowing this puts an extra emphasis on the reflections on mortality that permeate the album – it’s not something that can just be dismissed as existential angst or a grappling with the awful inevitability of life’s ultimate destination. Continue reading “Those Lavender Whales “My Bones are Singing” (Fork & Spoon Records, 2017)”

The Andrew Collins Trio “And It Was Good” (Independent, 2017)

This is a difficult album to review simply because I’ve never heard anything quite like it before. For a start, it’s totally instrumental; unusual in the Americana genre, though the music does have its roots quite firmly in Bluegrass.  It’s also a concept album, something else that’s quite rare in this genre. And not just any old concept – this album takes the rather grand biblical story of creation as its theme. You certainly can’t accuse Andrew Collins and his band mates, Mike Mezzatesta and James McEleney of lacking ambition. Continue reading “The Andrew Collins Trio “And It Was Good” (Independent, 2017)”

The Abrams “The Abrams” (Warner Music Canada, 2016)

This is the major label debut EP from Canadian brothers John and James Abrams who, despite only being just into their twenties, already carry an impressive CV, having the honour of being the youngest Canadians to appear at the Grand Ole Opry and having already put out a couple of albums under their own auspices. Now they’ve been picked up by a major label (Warner Music Canada) and have their first EP produced by Gavin Brown, who has also produced for such bands as The Tragically Hip and Barenaked Ladies.  Continue reading “The Abrams “The Abrams” (Warner Music Canada, 2016)”

Matt Hannah “Dreamland” (Gamine Records, 2017)

Matt Hannah’s Dreamland is an album of roots-tinged rock, with just enough pedal steel, upright bass and accordion to make it rock that bit easier, and that’s appropriate as the title song, and album opener, explains.  Here Hannah contrasts two sleep states, a pair of dreamlands – the one of his youth where he’d rock out all night with a band and then sleep until the afternoon, and the one he has now – where the listless drifting life with a band has been swapped for the steady life with just one woman. Continue reading “Matt Hannah “Dreamland” (Gamine Records, 2017)”

Rodney Crowell “Close Ties” (New West Records, 2017)

Americana defies easy classification but perhaps the legendary Rodney Crowell, by way of an introduction to his outstanding new album Close Ties, has come up with as good a definition as any. “All the people who represent Americana share a common thread and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favour of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”  Continue reading “Rodney Crowell “Close Ties” (New West Records, 2017)”

Tift Merritt “Stitch of The World” (Yep Roc Records, 2017)

In 2015, after almost two years on the road touring in support of her album Travelling Alone, Tift Merritt decided to take a year off the road, just “to see what would happen to me.” What happened, as Tift enjoyed the solitude of a friend’s ranch in Texas, was the inspiration to write. This was the starting process for Tift’s latest offering Stitch of The World. Her experiences during that period were to lead to songs inspired by her surroundings of the time. Wait For Me, about leaving the disappointments of the past behind and believing that good things are up ahead, was provoked by the long straight roads that she found in Texas. Watching the ranch hands toiling with their daily routine helped provide the theme of working through times of struggle and the persistence of love in the beautiful and hopeful song, Love Soldiers On. Continue reading “Tift Merritt “Stitch of The World” (Yep Roc Records, 2017)”

The Buttertones “Gravedigging ” (Innovative Leisure, 2017)

Well, at last here’s an album with plenty of twang – of course in this case it’s the treble high guitar twang of a surf band, given a somewhat harder edge with a heavy dose of Garage Rock.  An album like Gravediggin’ is what results when you’ve spent too much time listening to Dick Dale and the original Nuggets collection in regular rotation. Continue reading “The Buttertones “Gravedigging ” (Innovative Leisure, 2017)”

Steepways “Holy Smoke” (Mansion House Records 2017)

This is a strong first album from London songwriting duo Blair Chadwick and Charlie Bateson, operating under the nom de guerre of Steepways.
They’ve assembled a talented group of musicians around them – Drummer Jamie Shaw, pedal steel player Darren Buddell, Andy Fairclough on Hammond Organ and other keyboards (is there such a thing as a song that can’t be improved by the addition of a Hammond Organ?!) and Chris Clarke playing bass and making a major contribution as producer. They also have former Alabama 3 singer Siobhan Parr providing some outstanding backing vocals and a nice duet on penultimate track Rather Be Alone.  Continue reading “Steepways “Holy Smoke” (Mansion House Records 2017)”

Sean Rowe “New Lore” (Anti, 2017)

I really try to be fair when writing these reviews. I try not to get too caught up in my own taste, try to be a little bit objective at least, measure the records against what we collectively agree is our scoring system. I try to find the positives; it gives me no pleasure to disagree fervently with some of my fellow writers. I really fight hard not to give in to urges to grandly dismiss a record in a hail of sarcasm and self-serving vitriol wrapped up as criticism (for this see my work from 2005). Then I get records like this to review that I dislike on first listen and every time I listen (again and again – I like to discern and understand the roots of my dislike) I really fail to see the good or understand the attraction of a record like this.  Continue reading “Sean Rowe “New Lore” (Anti, 2017)”

The Handsome Family, Folkestone Quarterhouse: 4th March 2017

Tonight The Handsome Family arrive in town to play to a near capacity crowd at Folkestone’s Quarterhouse. Most it seems, are committed fans of the band although some like me have come along because the venue is on their doorstep and they have been lured by the penning of the darkly enthralling Far from any Road, from the equally darkly enthralling series ‘True Detective’. Continue reading “The Handsome Family, Folkestone Quarterhouse: 4th March 2017”