Hiss Golden Messenger “Hallelujah Anyhow” (Merge Records, 2017)

“Hallelujah Anyhow” is the sixth release by self-styled ‘Nowhere Man’ M C Taylor under the moniker Hiss Golden Messenger. His band consists of an eclectic variety of musicians including Brad Cook, Phil Cook, Chris Boerner, Josh Kaufman, Darren Jessee, Michael Lewis, and Scott Hirsch with additional vocals by Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Tift Merritt, Skylar Gudasz, Tamisha Waden, Mac McCaughan, and John Paul White. Phew! There are some potent names in the Americana world among that list which is a testament to both the song-writing ability and leadership qualities of Taylor that he managed to assemble such a team. Continue reading “Hiss Golden Messenger “Hallelujah Anyhow” (Merge Records, 2017)”

Dai and the Ramblers “Bon Bon” (Just Peachy Records 2017)

In 2014, debut album, the Zydeco-influenced “Duw Duw”, saw London-based Dai and the Ramblers gain widespread praise and this follow-up will be eagerly awaited.“Bon Bon” is a continuation in part of the style of their debut, but it also sees the sound evolve with elements of soul, country and even a hint of gospel in Up Above My Head. The album was recorded at a series of live sessions in Rupert Gillet’s Walthamstow studio and this definitely gives a vital edge to the sound. Song writer and front man Dai Price deals in tight and trim vignettes in a range of genres, all delivered in a rich vocal style and backed by an experienced team of musicians who have worked with the like of Van Morrison, Jeff Beck and Richard Thompson. Continue reading “Dai and the Ramblers “Bon Bon” (Just Peachy Records 2017)”

Mark Lavengood “We’ve Come Along” (Earthwork Music, 2017)

If americana is the world, then bluegrass is Austria, impossibly beautiful and incredibly conservative. Often I find the genre to be more about the preening and display of beautiful musical plumage and less about making music that really matters. Thankfully Lavengood is more musically dishevelled, there are loose threads that can be pulled and there’s plenty to get to grips with. He certainly has some chutzpah, opening with the title track which weighs in at 7 minutes and sets the tone for the rest of the record – there is some really excellent fluid playing and there’s also space for digression, for pause and for the imperfect. It varies in pace and texture and is happy at times to use jazz or rock influences. He shows off his genre chops on the standard Ol’ Slew Foot and Ralph Stanley’s Bound to Ride but in many ways they are the least interesting pieces on the record. Continue reading “Mark Lavengood “We’ve Come Along” (Earthwork Music, 2017)”

Kenny Foster, The Bedford, Balham, 4th September 2017

What a great space the Bedford is for a singer songwriter to perform in, shaped as it is “in the round” like the Shakespearean Globe. Despite a sparsely attended London showcase, Kenny Foster treated a quietly enthusiastic audience to an acoustic selection of eight of his songs, seven of them drawn from his recently released debut album ‘Deep Cuts.’ Continue reading “Kenny Foster, The Bedford, Balham, 4th September 2017”

Lydia Ramsey “Bandita” (Independent, 2017)

Recently seen in the UK as a solo performer touring with Joe Purdy, Lydia Ramsey’s debut album Bandita is an enticing combination of folk and country that sparkles as modern Americana. Here backed by a full band Ramsey presents a collection of songs of crystal clarity, sung with such warmth and, more often than not, a vocal that conveys a half smile and a knowing wink – as on Springtime where she makes an offer that can’t be refused Continue reading “Lydia Ramsey “Bandita” (Independent, 2017)”

Tami Neilson “Don’t Be Afraid” (Outside Records 2017)

Tami Neilson is a Canadian born, New Zealand based singer and songwriter who has won a host of awards in her adoptive country. Her previous album, “Dynamite”, released in 2014, was one of The Guardian’s Top Ten Country Albums for that year. So, she has form – and she has pedigree; her father was talented Canadian musician Ron Neilson, who was a full time musician throughout his life and Tami’s early experience was with the family band, The Nielsons, touring throughout North America.  Continue reading “Tami Neilson “Don’t Be Afraid” (Outside Records 2017)”

Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers “The Long Awaited Album” (Rounder Records, 2017)

The Long Awaited Album is Steve Martin’s sixth and a half album of banjo music, his initial foray being the B-side of The Steve Martin Brothers way back in 1981, with the first full album being 2009’s all-star collaboration The Crow. This was followed up with
Rare Bird Alert, an album which also featured The Steep Canyon Rangers as his backing band – they’d been supporting him out on tour as well. Continue reading “Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers “The Long Awaited Album” (Rounder Records, 2017)”

Kev Minney “Stories of the Sky” (Independent, 2017)

An astronomically-themed album cover heralds an interesting debut from Northampton-based acoustic virtuoso Kev Minney. Working closely with Mercury-nominated producer Jag Jago, Minney has crafted an album of dreamy soundscapes, often based around the themes of space. As an admirer of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Nick Drake, the songs are driven by personal storylines and given the precious time to develop and breathe. This is helped by an impressive range of contributing musicians and measured production that ensures the acoustic nature of the songs is never swamped. Continue reading “Kev Minney “Stories of the Sky” (Independent, 2017)”

Summertyne Americana Festival, The Sage, Gateshead,July 21-23, 2017

That’s summer over and  our roving reporters have been out and about at various festivals in search of the sun and fine music. A few got lost on the way back so it’s only now that we can offer another report on Summertyne which we had already looked at here. There’s more from the indoor set ups this time, maybe our man forgot to bring his umbrella. Continue reading “Summertyne Americana Festival, The Sage, Gateshead,July 21-23, 2017”

Lucy Kitchen “Sun To My Moon” (Bohemia Rose Records 2017)

Lucy Kitchen’s songs are intimate in that they are often love songs, and the performances and backing are closely arranged around her voice, which is a thing of some beauty. It is the voice that dominates; the songs of loss like Searching for Land or He is Lost to Me suit her perfectly. In atmosphere the songs have something of Nick Drake about them. Hollow has that peculiarly bucolic jazzy feel; it’s folk music but it’s reaching out to other forms. Those other forms include the usual bedfellows like country – the billowing of pedal steel on Lovers In Blue doesn’t overwhelm, it just does its job of counterpointing the harmonies. It’s interesting that when the strings arrive they are formal violins rather than the fiddles you might expect, so the pedal steel, when it returns, seems quite maverick. Continue reading “Lucy Kitchen “Sun To My Moon” (Bohemia Rose Records 2017)”