Steve Crawford and Spider Mackenzie “Celticana” (Independent, 2020)

`Celticana’ is the second album from songwriter Steve Crawford and his compadre Spider Mackenzie on harmonica. The title sums up their intent to marry the music of their native Scotland with the U.S, and they succeed. Crawford provides nine songs that range from the rocky and chorus driven to the reflective. He sings with a clear laid- back voice that allows the lyrics to be heard clearly. Highlights include ‘After the Ceilidh’, which catches the blissful exhaustion following from any blow out. Continue reading “Steve Crawford and Spider Mackenzie “Celticana” (Independent, 2020)”

Thomas Eltorp “Extended Play 3/3” (Mani Records, 2020)

Danish singer-songwriter Thomas Eltorp set himself a lofty goal five years ago: to write, record, and release three EPs of “American inspired music”. ‘Extended Play 3/3’ is the last of these three Americana inspired EPs, which – unlike its previous counterparts – consists of songs performed live in-studio in a single take; no do-overs or re-recording allowed. Continue reading “Thomas Eltorp “Extended Play 3/3” (Mani Records, 2020)”

The Jayhawks “XOXO” (Sham/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

For many people The Jayhawks were one of the initial gateway drugs to the Americana and alt-country scene particularly with their 1992 classic ‘Hollywood Town Hall‘ with its chiming guitars, extraordinary harmonies and classic songwriting and as time and events have reshaped them and the personnel they have still retained not only their originality but also their identity. This is a proper band with proper tunes and a back catalogue to die for. And a sound! No one sounds like the Jayhawks – think about it. Just like no one sounds like Tom Waits – it is or it isn’t  – simple as that.  Continue reading “The Jayhawks “XOXO” (Sham/Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

Josh Kimbrough “Slither, Soar & Disappear” (Tompkins Square, 2020)

A side effect of lockdown is how many of us have begun to notice nature either for the first time or perhaps just more than usual. If that curiosity extends to how these perceptions might be set to music then listen no further than ‘Slither, Soar & Disappear’ by guitar virtuoso Josh Kimbrough. Leading with his acoustic fingerpicking style backed by flowing strings and minimal percussion Kimbrough takes us into the woods and skies that lie beyond his North Carolina home. With the absence of any lyrics he strengthens that natural connection. Continue reading “Josh Kimbrough “Slither, Soar & Disappear” (Tompkins Square, 2020)”

Zach Phillips “The Wine of Youth” (Independent, 2020)

Noticing that his friends wanted something to listen to during quarantine, San Diego based singer-songwriter Zach Phillips decided to release ‘The Wine of Youth’ earlier than he first anticipated, but with his music described as ‘a hybrid of experimental roots and folk-rock, chamber pop and indie country’, you feel like this mismatch of styles don’t quite fit together throughout the album. Continue reading “Zach Phillips “The Wine of Youth” (Independent, 2020)”

Prinz Grizzley “To My Green Mountains Home” (DoWhWa Records, 2020)

Egg, Austria isn’t someplace that you would expect to be the launchpad for an album that sounds like it was born somewhere exactly halfway between Memphis and Nashville. But geography isn’t the only reason that listeners will find themselves doing a double-take when they listen to the sophomore release from Prinz Grizzley. The album’s twelve tracks are a carousel of musical influences that are polished up with production that will have listeners wondering which decade they’re in (in a good way). Continue reading “Prinz Grizzley “To My Green Mountains Home” (DoWhWa Records, 2020)”

Dylan Menzie “Lost in Dreams” (Independent, 2020)

Canadian singer-songwriter Dylan Menzie has been cooking up a storm over the past few years, picking up two nominations at the 2017 East Coast Music Awards as well as one more at the Canadian Folk Music Awards the following year. His latest album, Lost in Dreams’, is an inviting mix of vintage-tinged pop and some more classical-sounding Americana (or should that be ‘Canadacana’?). Continue reading “Dylan Menzie “Lost in Dreams” (Independent, 2020)”

John Jenkins “Growing Old” (Independent, 2020)

“I’m growing old” is the first, uncompromising, line of the first song on Liverpool-based John Jenkins’ latest album, and “I’m singing this song before I die” is  – in theory – the last line of the last track, so it’s maybe not surprising that the bulk of what comes between also dwells, heavily, on life in our twilight years. The most powerful of all of these age-themed numbers is undoubtedly the title track, which maintains its utter honesty about growing old throughout, all backed up by a series of gently growling, shimmering guitars. Lines like “I don’t like it, but sometimes I feel the need to thank it, because I’m still here as you can see,” capture perfectly the spirit of that old saying that if you don’t like having another birthday roll round, then just consider the alternative. Continue reading “John Jenkins “Growing Old” (Independent, 2020)”

Kristen Grainger and True North “Ghost Tattoo” (Independent, 2020)

Hailing from across the state of Oregon, Kristen Grainger & True North define their music as ‘Pacific Northwest Americana’, which, given the diverse subject matter of songs on the band’s latest release, ‘Ghost Tattoo’, seems a little narrow. This is an album with something to say on some of the big talking points of today, and using a clever weave of excellent original material and – for want of a better word – covers, ‘Ghost Tattoo’ certainly says plenty. Continue reading “Kristen Grainger and True North “Ghost Tattoo” (Independent, 2020)”

Barry Oreck “We Fit Together” (Ampersand Records, 2020)

Barry Oreck’s new EP; ‘We Fit Together’ is a ‘message’ record, which we know because he has told us so, in unequivocal terms. He has released the record earlier than planned because he believes in its ability to capture the zeitgeist and to speak ‘hard hitting’ truths to power “… five songs that are all highly relevant to the current situation”. Continue reading “Barry Oreck “We Fit Together” (Ampersand Records, 2020)”