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)”

Magic Car “Meteorites” (Tiny Dog, 2016)

magic-car-meteorites-cover-jpgMagic Car are a collective of musicians led by Phil Smeeton, a Nottingham based actor/singer songwriter. They perform from a mixed palette of roots influences mainly concentrating on the folk idiom for the slices of pop dappled sentiments and melodies. There are the country blues stylings of ‘Only in America’ with its harmonica and bottleneck and the swampy ‘Manwhippa’ – a pean to a dominatrix – with its fuzzed guitar and torchy vocals from Hazel Atkinson, awoman with a spectacular voice that is perhaps a cut above the songs she is given to work with. This and ‘Summer Storm’ show off her talents and represent the best of the album. Continue reading “Magic Car “Meteorites” (Tiny Dog, 2016)”

The Goat Roper Rodeo Band “Cosmic Country Blue” (Aveline Records, 2016)

goat_roper_rodeoThis North Wales trio show just what you can achieve with a couple of acoustic guitars, a stand-up bass and the voice of a pinch-faced Kentucky miner’s son. Turns out you can do an awful lot – they sound as though they’ve been pickled in moonshine for generations. The harmonies flow easily, the songs sound like standards, they’re that comfortable, that skilled and as authentic as a sweat-stained sun bleached John Deere hat. Continue reading “The Goat Roper Rodeo Band “Cosmic Country Blue” (Aveline Records, 2016)”

FELL “There Still Are Mysteries” (Nous Vous Press, 2016)

fellI’m sure that a lot of music is designed from the point of view of the listener, concentrating on what the listener wants, putting them at the centre and delivering a reassuring experience. I’m equally as sure that Nicolas Burrows doesn’t work that way, as Glaciers and now as FELL he makes music very much from his own point of view. This is considerably higher-fi than previous recordings – the songs are full of gently modulated atmospheres, though not sounding like, I’m often reminded of the American Analog Set. ‘Other Ways’ with its falsetto vocal and heat haze guitars puts me in mind of the slo-core Radar Brothers. Continue reading “FELL “There Still Are Mysteries” (Nous Vous Press, 2016)”

Michael Rank “Red Hand” (Louds Hymn, 2016)

Michael Rank 2016Michael Rank continues ploughing his exceptionally productive furrow which has seen him release six albums in four years. His previous offering, 2015’s ‘Horsehair’ was described by No Depression as “a superb album” while Americana Music Show stated that Rank was “creating some of the most interesting twangy rock and roll today”. This was both with his original rock and roll band, Snatches of Pink, and his solo career which is usually with the band Stag.  Continue reading “Michael Rank “Red Hand” (Louds Hymn, 2016)”

M.Lockwood Porter “How To Dream Again” (Hidden Trail Records, 2016)

Smashing thunknownrough what sounds like a cult singing on the side of a mountain, the album bursts into life on ‘American Dreams Denied’ with a powerful guitar lick that squeals and rocks. It reminds this reviewer of The Pursuit of Happiness. Quickly moving on to ‘Burn Away’ with its steel guitar and hint of Hammond B3 very much a 70s vibe with a lazy Younglike drum beat. Clearly a ‘Time Fades Away’ going on and the strong vocals don’t dispel the feeling as they power the song through the bridge with its lingering guitar. This is classic songwriting beyond verse chorus verse chorus etc. Continue reading “M.Lockwood Porter “How To Dream Again” (Hidden Trail Records, 2016)”

Thomas Charlie Pederson “Second Hand War” (Karmanian Records, 2016)

tp2It’s a family affair as Thomas Pederson is joined and produced by Daniel Pederson. This is a sparse album recorded by someone who has obviously listened to his Dylan and many other confessional singers and there is a spark of something wonderful here. It is only a spark at present, but there is sufficient evidence of a potential major talent at work buried deep in the grooves. This is not however an album for the casual listener. The songs are presented in a very austere way with minmal instrumentation – a guitar or a piano perhaps a ukulele and this lack of colour gives the whole a very monochrome feel and throws the songs into stark relief, and they are not yet good enough for that.  Continue reading “Thomas Charlie Pederson “Second Hand War” (Karmanian Records, 2016)”

Bruce Springsteen “Chapter and Verse” (Columbia Records, 2016)

bruce-springsteen-2016As is probably obvious from the title, this is the companion album to The Boss’ recent biography Born To Run – the songs chosen by him – and as such covers the breadth of his career, including a few pre-E Street Band recordings. It’s not exactly a best of, but with five previously unreleased tracks alongside a whole bunch of the big numbers it’s more of a musical life story. Springsteen has been a masterful exponent of reinvention – perhaps the best at this in the last fifty years. He hasn’t had quite as many musical changes of direction as Dylan, but easily as many as David Bowie. Where Bowie accompanied each side step with a new persona Bruce has managed to perform his musical shimmies whilst always remaining as The Boss. Continue reading “Bruce Springsteen “Chapter and Verse” (Columbia Records, 2016)”