The Coal Porters “No.6” (Prima Records, 2016)

coal-porters-2016On their latest studio album Sid Griffin’s alt-bluegrass rootsy Americana combo continue to do what they do best – proper bluegrass, there ain’t no drums in this here band boy, with a twist. No.6 finds the band in a reflective and slightly nostalgic mood with several songs that are like extended and expanded anecdotes which may, or may not, be completely true but certainly have elements of some kind of truth in them. Continue reading “The Coal Porters “No.6” (Prima Records, 2016)”

Sam Gleaves “Ain’t We Brothers” (Community Music, 2015)

"Sam-Gleaves-2015"Sometimes timing really is everything. The ‘Donald’ is everywhere. A man who, in the course of a presidential campaign unlike any other, managed to insult and denigrate just about every minority on the planet. And so it was, in the midst of the gloom and the bile emanating from across the pond, that a CD arrives from a young man from the mountains of Virginia who shouts, in his own understated way, of tolerance in the face of prejudice. Although released in the USA as long ago as November 2015 its relevance to the political discourse makes it feel current and relevant, and ripe for reviewing. Continue reading “Sam Gleaves “Ain’t We Brothers” (Community Music, 2015)”

John Renbourn & Wizz Jones “Joint Control” (Riverboat Records, 2016)

john-renbourn-wizz-jones-2016Neither of these guitarist should require any introduction – the one the commensurate master of folk, jazz, blues, early music and more, the other the master reinterpretor of others compositions as well as the folk and blues inspiration for a generation of guitarists, including John Renbourn. They hadn’t exactly been touring but the pair had been gigging together – with little clusters of dates appearing at fairly regular intervals – through 2014 and into 2015, in fact right up to John’s death. Continue reading “John Renbourn & Wizz Jones “Joint Control” (Riverboat Records, 2016)”

Natural Child “Okey Dokey” (Independent, 2016)

natural-childNC aren’t one of those bands that can be easily pigeon-holed. By turns here they resemble Ween, Can, a boogie-band or an experimental jazz rock combo. They can be perplexing, joyful or frustrating – you can’t settle into a NC record, it’s a switchback ride, where you crank up really high and then plunge. Thus ‘Self-Titled Blues’ creates a gorgeous simmering atmosphere full of somnambulist organ, relaxed guitar and harmony rich vocals. Then next up is the space-funk of ‘Benny’s Here’ which for six and a half minutes takes us on a trip through the work of Blue Note luminaries such as Grant Green. Continue reading “Natural Child “Okey Dokey” (Independent, 2016)”

Winter Mountain “I Swear I Flew” (Astral Fox records, 2016)

Winter-Mountain-2016I Swear I Flew is Winter Mountain’s first full album since his acclaimed self-titled, debut album in 2013. With a keen rhythm section in support, Cornish singer-songwriter Joe Francis (Winter Mountain) leads the listener through a set of songs perfectly suited for the genre aimed. Francis is not only carrying on a tradition ventured by such legends as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Neil Young but developing certain aspects as he ventures along the road, marrying his fine songwriting to his ability to seamlessly harness his energy. Continue reading “Winter Mountain “I Swear I Flew” (Astral Fox records, 2016)”

Bap Kennedy ”Reckless Heart” (At The Helm/Last Chance Records, 2016)

bap_kennedy_reckless_heartAs “Reckless Heart” was being created, Bap Kennedy was in a losing battle with cancer, a battle that he has very recently lost. As far as a legacy goes for such a rich and varied career, a single album is never going to do it justice, but “Reckless Heart” is a masterfully crafted record, filled with hope, despair, beautiful melodies and soaring musicality. With hints of Rock ‘n Roll, Blues and two-step country, this record is a beautiful blend of traditional American music styles. It is so rare for someone to encapture this musicality coming from foreign shores, but Belfast-born Kennedy does just that, sounding not in the least bit inauthentic, a great credit to an artist who has spent his career associated with legends such as Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler and Van Morrison. Continue reading “Bap Kennedy ”Reckless Heart” (At The Helm/Last Chance Records, 2016)”

Getaway Dogs “Lost in the Ebb” (Independent, 2016)

getaway-dogsIt’s long been my dream to christen a genre, even a niche sub-genre would do and this record with its mix of Brazilian rhythms, folk and RnB gives me my opportunity – this is Tropicana. If only the juice purveyors hadn’t got their first, Tropicana would have definitely caught on. This music has less of a chance of gaining a foothold; it’s a pale version of everything, a perfectly pleasant anodyne sound, where nothing distinctive comes of the cross-pollination. Someone has watered down the juice. Continue reading “Getaway Dogs “Lost in the Ebb” (Independent, 2016)”

Ceri James and the Three Fifths “St Augustine’s Heart” (Heed Records, 2016)

ceri-james-and-the-three-fifths-2016Sometimes the charm of a record can be in its deficiencies. Some rough edges, occasional serendipitous errors or just plain bum notes can give life to a piece, especially in an age where the four-to-the-floor, autotuned product can seem the norm. Listening to an album warts and all can bring us closer to the artist and the live experience. It’s why some bands like to go for the ‘live in one take’ style in the studio. Too forensic an approach to getting all the parts exactly right, perfect if you like, can suck the lifeblood out of a record.  Continue reading “Ceri James and the Three Fifths “St Augustine’s Heart” (Heed Records, 2016)”

Owls of the Swamp “Meteorite” (Labelship, 2016)

owls-of-the-swampWith the gentle burble of synths and hushed vocals, OoTS sound like they are floating in space. Listening to this leads me to imagine a scenario where they’ve prematurely awoken from suspended animation on a 100 year voyage to a distant galaxy and are contemplating their plight, knowing they will die before their companions awake and feeling nostalgic for a world they’ve left behind. ‘Meteorite’ is a bumpier ride, though it still sounds like a neutered version of The XX. Continue reading “Owls of the Swamp “Meteorite” (Labelship, 2016)”

Thisell “II” (Jelly Fant Records, 2016)

If you are into art leaning Thisell-2016mystical, sometimes dark and out there music chances are you will enjoy this. Such are the innovative arrangements and beauty of the work performed by Swedish singer-songwriter Peter Thisell , who is supported in style by a bunch of friends playing piano, violin, acoustic, lap steel, electric bass, lead guitar, upright bass, diatonic accordion, drums and harmony vocals. Continue reading “Thisell “II” (Jelly Fant Records, 2016)”