The Orphan Brigade “The Heart of the Cave” (At the Helm Records, 2017)

The Orphan Brigade’s ‘The Heart of the Cave’ is about as aptly titled a record as it’s possible to get seeing as it was recorded it in 2,500 year caves below the streets of Osimo, Italy. The Brigade’s previous outing, the award winning ‘Soundtrack to a Ghost Story,’ was the brainchild of producer Neilson Hubbard in collaboration with Ben Glover and fellow singer-songwriter, Joshua Britt. It was inspired by a time – the American Civil War – and place, Octagon Hall, a supposedly haunted plantation house near Franklin, Kentucky. Continue reading “The Orphan Brigade “The Heart of the Cave” (At the Helm Records, 2017)”

Kenny Foster “Deep Cuts” (Independent, 2017)

Back in April of this year, Rolling Stone ran their list of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: April 2017” and the first name on that list was Kenny Foster. Listening to his new release “Deep Cuts” it’s easy to hear why. Foster has that journeyman sound and feel to his songs; someone who’s been around the block a few times and sings about life as he experiences it. Continue reading “Kenny Foster “Deep Cuts” (Independent, 2017)”

Courtney Marie Andrews, Bush Hall, London, 5th September 2017

This was the second of two packed nights at Bush Hall and Courtney Marie Andrews and her band took to the stage and launched into Rookie Dreaming, the opening track from her current album Honest Life. Andrews’ vocals and her appearance at once suggest that you could be watching a young Joni Mitchell but it does not take long to be swept up into Andrew’s world. And although you occasionally get a jolt of how Joni Mitchell like she is on certain tracks, this does not detract from the enjoyment of listening to Andrews and her band. Continue reading “Courtney Marie Andrews, Bush Hall, London, 5th September 2017”

Chris Tye “Stronger In Numbers” (Independent, 2017)

The singer-songwriter genre is heavily over saturated and sometimes it can seem a bit like anyone with a guitar and half a voice can record an album (whether it is of any quality or not) and get it out there but every once in a while you stumble across someone with a little spark about them, something that sets them apart from the rest. Chris Tye has that spark and ‘Stronger In Numbers’ is on fire. The album begins slowly with Feature Fight which is a brooding, building track with a brilliant falsetto chorus. However, it doesn’t stand out as a huge opening track and just as you think you can expect what is to come, the album steps up a gear and from that point the album is all killer, no filler. Continue reading “Chris Tye “Stronger In Numbers” (Independent, 2017)”

Deer Tick “Deer Tick Volume 1/Volume 2” (Partisan Records 2017)

In what is a slightly unusual move, Deer Tick have simultaneously released two albums of contrasting styles, their first for four years. Whilst being massively diverse in sound, both records actually do sit together very well to offer a full insight into a band in full creative flow. Volume 1 is acoustic with some folk edges and opens with a full-on John McCauley vocal on Sea of Clouds that certainly shakes the listener out of any preconceptions that this may be the “quieter” of the two albums. Continue reading “Deer Tick “Deer Tick Volume 1/Volume 2” (Partisan Records 2017)”

Neil Young “Hitchhiker” (Reprise 2017)

This is truly lost treasure indeed. In the midst of a purple patch (that most artists never see) in the year 1976 Neil Young went into the studio with his drug buddy producer David Briggs. They took with them some dope, some coke, some new songs and sense of artistry that perhaps has disappeared in the interim. With the simple question “Are you ready Briggs?” Young launches into a single night’s recording wherein he laid down 10, in any language, classic tracks. Continue reading “Neil Young “Hitchhiker” (Reprise 2017)”

Paul Brady “Unfinished Business” (Proper, 2017)

With Bob Dylan having declared Paul Brady to be a “secret hero” of his, you know there’s got to be some serious pedigree from an artist in a career spanning a period of some 54 years now.

Unfinished Business,’ Brady’s 15th solo album, features nine new compositions and two traditional folk songs. After a hiatus of 7 years since the release of his last album ‘Hobart Dooba,’ the music on ‘Unfinished Business’ is as eclectic as many of his previous studio releases, moving from the jazzy influenced title track, with lovely shared harmony vocals – to more uptempo, humorous numbers such as ‘I Love You But You Love Him.’ The latter starts off like a paen to shared domestic bliss with Paul Brady singing the merits of his and his respective partner’s differing interests with clever wordplay – until the payoff chorus kicks in with, “I love you, but you love him.” Continue reading “Paul Brady “Unfinished Business” (Proper, 2017)”

Martin Simpson “Trails & Tribulations” (Topic Records 2017)

Martin Simpson’s latest album rates as his best yet. As one of the foremost singers and inventive players on the folk circuit here, he has gained his reputation not only through hard work but through a deep understanding of what English and American music amounts to, and where its roots are. Consider the thirteen tracks and gleam the stories that linger behind them. The first track is Blues Run the Game: “Catch a boat to England…” Martin’s soft, distinctive and confiding voice and his finger style playing catch and hold their audience effortlessly. Continue reading “Martin Simpson “Trails & Tribulations” (Topic Records 2017)”

Amanda Ann Platt and the Honeycutters “Amanda Ann Platt and the Honeycutters” (Organic, 2017)

Listening to this record solidly for the last three weeks now, it still sounds as fresh and invigorating as it did the first time out. Unlike the last Honeycutters release, on this album Amanda Platt puts her name both front and centre – and given that she writes the songs and sings lead vocal, that seems only fair. The opener ‘Birthday Song’ was written on the eve of Amanda Ann Platt’s thirtieth birthday when, instead of feeling panicked about the end of her “roaring twenties” she felt grateful for being older and wiser. The lyrics reflect somewhat ruefully on the passage of time, with Platt singing about how, “Every Time It Gets Colder I Get Another Year Older / Start Looking for Lines in the Bathroom Mirror.” Ultimately, though, it’s a life affirming meditation on how time is really a gift because, “I’m just so damned glad to be here.” Marvellous stuff. Continue reading “Amanda Ann Platt and the Honeycutters “Amanda Ann Platt and the Honeycutters” (Organic, 2017)”

Paul Kelly “Life is Fine” (Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl 2017)

‘Life is Fine’ as in ‘hanging by a thread’ rather than ‘great’, is a powerful return by Aussie songwriting royalty Paul Kelly. The Australian singer-songwriter is so pleased with it that he is about to embark on his first full band tour of North America to promote it. First listen to opening track Rising Moon will demonstrate why Kelly has such faith in “Life is Fine” as it’s a pretty irresistible R and B number and when the following tracks of Finally Something Good and the rocking Firewood and Candles kick in you can see how the variety of styles reflects the cohesiveness of the full band set up. Continue reading “Paul Kelly “Life is Fine” (Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl 2017)”