Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts “Nowhere To Go But Everywhere” (Independent, 2020)

The title of this album and now a readily used quotation is taken from Jack Kerouac’s novel ‘On the Road’“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”  In the wake of a divorce, Hamilton took a US road trip, of which Kerouac made many, and has used his experiences to inform this collection of songs. The songs themselves tell of heartache, longing and the requisite amount of soul-searching that might be expected under the circumstances. Don’t expect rawness and fragility in these pieces however, they are mostly slickly produced and have a radio-friendly feel to them. Continue reading “Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts “Nowhere To Go But Everywhere” (Independent, 2020)”

Jordan Tice “Motivational Speakeasy” (Paddle Records, 2020)

Jordan Tice has made an album of music which draws upon the guitar fingerpicking tradition of earlier Americana artists like John Fahey and Leo Kottke.  Tice uses his own quirky lyrics and flashes of humour which are reminiscent of Jeffrey Lewis especially on ‘Walkin’‘ or Devendra Barnhart.  ‘Motivational Speakeasy’ is a solo recording relying on his guitar and vocals to present his music which is gentle and positive in nature showcasing his clean and clear guitar playing style. The songs are not flashy or written in an overly complex manner so have a homespun laid back feeling. The overall mood of the album could be summed up in a line from ‘Matter of Time’ – “just do what you can, move a little more down the line, you’re going to make it where you’re going in a matter or time.” Continue reading “Jordan Tice “Motivational Speakeasy” (Paddle Records, 2020)”

Nick Costa “Tell My Mother I Love Her” (Nick Costa Music, 2020)

Pain, loneliness and despair have often driven the creative muse and this is currently the case for Nick Costa. The end of a long term relationship provides the point of reference for his latest work. ‘Tell My Mother I Love Her’ is his second album of original songs, with his previous releases being ‘Devastator’ and a moody covers version of Blink 182’s ‘Enema of the State’. On this recording Nick flexes his multi-instrumental musical talents by performing all vocals, guitars, bass, piano, organ, synth, mellotron, and even some of the percussion. The resultant sound is slow tempo, dark indie-pop. Continue reading “Nick Costa “Tell My Mother I Love Her” (Nick Costa Music, 2020)”

Sarah Johnson “Volcano” (Independent, 2020)

Sarah Johnson wrote her first song when she was two and now three decades later, she’s released her first record, a six-song EP called ‘Volcano’.  Based in Dallas, Johnson has written six songs that are very personal and as she says, Everything is so autobiographical and based off real moments, relationships, and real-life experience.”. The most interesting song is the opener ‘Red Bandana’ in which the opening line is “Hey little lady what’s your name, I’m a rodeo man looking for fame but tonight I’m looking at you” but then the point of view of the song changes and we hear from the girl (Johnson?) as she sings “Now I’m back in Texas….thinking of the rodeo man who slept me away” – an interesting and unique way to tell the story. Continue reading “Sarah Johnson “Volcano” (Independent, 2020)”

Sally Anne Morgan “Thread” (Thrill Jockey, 2020)

There aren’t many albums sent to AUK which mention The Third Ear Band in the promotional notes. Sally Anne Morgan is an Appalachian fiddle player (with Black Twig Pickers and the duo House and Land) and on her first solo album she not only delves into traditional Appalachian music but she expertly inserts influences gleaned from the golden age of English folk rock and exponents such as Shirley Collins and Nic Jones. The result is this intriguing album which places Morgan in the footsteps of The Holy Modal Rounders, Karen Dalton, Hillfolk Noir, Anna & Elizabeth and other practitioners of old weird Americana. Comprised of traditional covers and self penned songs, the join is invisible. Continue reading “Sally Anne Morgan “Thread” (Thrill Jockey, 2020)”

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald “Love Valley” (Treasure Island Recs, 2020)

With the release of his fifth album, ‘Love Valley’, Canadian singer-songwriter, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald has created a wistful dream of an imagined life that is both personal and universal. The songs could be described as a journey through this dream that use thoughts and impressions to generate a literal and emotional landscape. The dream resides in a valley, where there is a farm, dogs, children, a cosy kitchen with an FM radio which sometimes is heard playing Joni Mitchell, a truck, a Harley Davidson and a river to go swimming in. Continue reading “Michael Bernard Fitzgerald “Love Valley” (Treasure Island Recs, 2020)”

Jaime Wyatt “Neon Cross” (New West, 2020)

This record does seem to come with a fair amount of hype. One of those that ‘takes Americana to a different level’ pitches.  The ‘new Queen of Outlaw Country’, so we’re told. Wyatt’s backstory jumps from the pages of the Country Music Tragedy 1.01 textbook. She had the world at her feet, lost it all to addiction and incarceration, and she’s clawed her way back, here with Shooter Jennings at the controls. Continue reading “Jaime Wyatt “Neon Cross” (New West, 2020)”

Will Johnson “El Capitan” (Keeled Scales, 2020)

Musician, writer and painter Will Johnson, one of Americana’s most prolific creative spirits, has released his seventh solo album, ‘El Capitan’. Stripped back hardly does justice to the sparseness of this recording. It is just him, his Stella acoustic guitar recorded in his house with a little help from a few friends both nearby and afar. There is a simplicity to this record that, far from suggesting anything is missing, only highlights the care Johnson takes in his writing and arrangements. Continue reading “Will Johnson “El Capitan” (Keeled Scales, 2020)”

Oh Susanna “Sleepy Little Sailor Deluxe Edition” (MVKA, 2020)

Oh Susanna is what happens when Vancouver foments a Massachusettes girl. Discovered in a bar in 1999 and flung into a steady drip of albums since then, Oh Susanna has turned back to her second album from 2001 to dig a little deeper. This “deluxe” re-release contains acoustic versions of six of the album tracks, which she has accompanied with music videos for the first time. The originals are hardly raucous noise fests, and the changes are as simple as telling the drummer and pedal steel player to stay home, but ironically, losing instruments is often an effective way of revealing more about a song. Continue reading “Oh Susanna “Sleepy Little Sailor Deluxe Edition” (MVKA, 2020)”

Kris Delmhorst “Long Day In The Milky Way” (Big Bean Music, 2020)

The opening track on Kris Delmhorst’s eighth studio album sets the stall out nice and early in terms of identifying the source of the album title (the very first line) and the running theme of songs, of finding patience and persistence to manage a way through these darkened times. Delmhorst also remembers on the opening track “….saying to the harp player, that when it got to the last chord she should harp the sh*t out of it and that’s exactly what she did, in the best possible way.” Not a musical expression heard every day, that’s for sure. Continue reading “Kris Delmhorst “Long Day In The Milky Way” (Big Bean Music, 2020)”