Amelia White + Jamie Freeman, Green Note, London, 9th April 2019

Another uplifting trip then to this much-lauded Camden venue where even the chocolate brownie and the rickety wooden chair may be close to assuming a place in North London roots music folklore. We’re here to hear Amelia White, a seasoned East Nashville performer. Lucinda Williams’ comparisons are, admittedly, obvious and facile for a reviewer to throw out, but they are not far off the mark either. Perhaps a little less downcast and focused on the grimmer side of life than some of Ms Williams’ more recent work, the voice and rhythms are of that ilk. With a swathe of albums over her last 20 years since relocating from her Boston roots, Ms. White has no shortage of material and has several UK tours on her resume. Continue reading “Amelia White + Jamie Freeman, Green Note, London, 9th April 2019”

Roseanne Reid “Trails” (Last Man Music, 2019)

With a diverse set of song styles – blues, upbeat country, traditional folk and roots – underpinned with an excellent blend of guitars, horns, organ and vocals – this is a very competent debut from Scotland’s Roseanne Reid. Produced by Teddy Thompson and featuring a guest appearance from Steve Earle (one of her champions), Reid has clearly made members of folk-rock royalty sit up and take notice early in her career with her songs which are full of bluesy southern soulful stock, complemented by Reid’s husky voice and simple but effective guitar playing. Continue reading “Roseanne Reid “Trails” (Last Man Music, 2019)”

Mike Ross “The Clovis Limit (Pt.1)” (Independent, 2019)

Mike Ross sure can coax dazzling overdriven riffs out of a guitar, and the tracks from his first two solo albums are here to prove it. Indeed, these records are laden with rocking numbers that would sound great in a smoky bar on a Friday night, à la Dr Feelgood, early Rod Stewart or The Black Crowes. However, ‘The Clovis Limit (Pt.1),’ Ross’ third studio album, strays away from his heavy blues origins and explores cleaner, folkier territories. Continue reading “Mike Ross “The Clovis Limit (Pt.1)” (Independent, 2019)”

The Strumbrellas “Rattlesnake” (Glassnote Records, 2019)

This Canadian six piece seem to be popular on the US festival scene and even a cursory listen to ‘Rattlesnake’ will tell you why. The songs have a danceable quality to them while singer Simon Ward uses the popular Nashville pop trick of autotune from time to time. Add to that a kitchen sink full of massed vocals, crashing percussion and simplistic sing along choruses and you have a party band but what you don’t have is, in any sense, a country, folk or, God forbid, an Americana band. Continue reading “The Strumbrellas “Rattlesnake” (Glassnote Records, 2019)”

The Vegabonds “V” (Blue Elan Records, 2019)

V‘ is, unsurprisingly, The Vegabonds fifth album and also their first for their new LA based label. The Vegabonds have been playing for some ten years, gaining a following on the college circuit in the Southeastern States of the USA. Their brand of rock is similarly rooted in straight-ahead Southern Rock, which has seen them open for Lynyrd Skynyrd and Gregg Allman amongst others. And, after five albums they certainly know what they are about musically – with lead guitarist Richard Forehand an anchor for the band to build around. Continue reading “The Vegabonds “V” (Blue Elan Records, 2019)”

John Paul White “The Hurting Kind” (Single Lock Records, 2019)

John Paul White is no stranger to working with high-class musicians and in high-class musical situations. Originally one half of Alt-Folk duo The Civil Wars, John Paul White releases his third solo record ‘The Hurting Kind,’ on Single Lock Records, of which White is a co-founder. ‘The Hurting Kind’ was recorded at White’s new home studio in Florence, Alabama, as well as the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. Continue reading “John Paul White “The Hurting Kind” (Single Lock Records, 2019)”

Steve Gunn + Papercuts, The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 8th April 2019

Over the last decade Steve Gunn has built his name as an innovative and accomplished guitarist. What’s not been so clearly highlighted is the fact that he is also a damn fine songwriter. Gunn’s 2019 album ‘The Unseen in Between’ certainly gave greater prominence to his songs, where in previous releases they sometimes seemed incidental to the music. Appearing in Manchester on the last date of his UK tour, Gunn’s set strongly reflected this change of emphasis. All nine songs from his new album were performed, sandwiched between acoustic opener ‘Wildwood’ and the final encore ‘Way Out Weather’, both taken from his 2014 album, of which the latter is the title track. Continue reading “Steve Gunn + Papercuts, The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 8th April 2019”

Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound, 2019)

While Jay Farrar might be considered as being pretty grounded when it comes to singing about familiar folk themes he’s never been a political writer. On ‘Union’ that changes as he here turns to topical concerns, setting out what is essentially his state of the union address. ‘Union’ is not a protest album, there are no street fighting anthems here and the names of the guilty are not mentioned, but when he sings, “Proud to serve but not this president,” on ‘Reality Winner’, it’s not hard to guess his inner thoughts even though the song is ostensibly about a whistleblower jailed for leaking classified documents. Continue reading “Son Volt “Union” (Transmit Sound, 2019)”

Brad Byrd “Phases” (Elusive Tiger, 2019)

This latest sonic offering from the journeyman songsmith Brad Byrd is somewhat middle of the road in places, but has charm, and moments of soaring brilliance. Describing his music as somewhere between indie-rock and alt-country, California resident Byrd has been writing songs his whole life, and that certainly comes through in the polished sound of ‘Phases‘, which is an album of self-examination. The songs take us all the way from Byrd’s childhood in Massachusetts to the sun-soaked hills of California where he lives today, exploring a number of elements drawn from personal experience. Overall, it’s a record which documents the ups and downs of life, and the strange melancholy experienced when reminiscing about a long lost past. Continue reading “Brad Byrd “Phases” (Elusive Tiger, 2019)”

Fabrizio Cammarata “Lights” (800A Records, 2019)

Fabrizio Cammarata, from Palermo, Sicily is not a well-known name on the UK circuit. It’s an outdated inequity that our continental neighbours are not given the attention here that our American cousins enjoy when it comes to the genre. Having said that, it’s a debate for another day (and one that I know is close to our cosmopolitan editor’s heart). But to dig a little into the journeys that influence this Mediterranean singer-songwriter and to understand a little of the mystique that drives his craft, backs up the first impression of a class act creating a portfolio of dark, cinematic insights into a Hispanic style of alternative folk.
Continue reading “Fabrizio Cammarata “Lights” (800A Records, 2019)”