Dylan Stewart “The Scarecrow Sessions” (Independent, 2019)

They used to say that Leonard Cohen wrote songs to slash your wrists to and whilst Dylan Stewart’s fourth album ‘The Scarecrow Sessions’ isn’t quite in that league, it certainly isn’t an album to blow away the blues. Dylan Stewart is renowned for writing some of his best work in the dead of night, or when he’s in the depth of grief, and it shows on this collection of twelve numbers.  Continue reading “Dylan Stewart “The Scarecrow Sessions” (Independent, 2019)”

Mavis Staples, The Roundhouse, London, 4th July 2019

Mavis Staples can rely on a warm welcome in London – her live album of this year was recorded at a pair of Union Chapel gigs in 2018 – something which she alluded to tonight saying that she remembered us all from last year.  Well, yes, and then some, The Roundhouse being a considerably larger venue. Staples is on something of a roll at the moment, with studio and live albums hitting the streets at a regular pace since she signed with ANTI-, meaning that she has a lot of pretty new material to draw on, including this year’s studio release ‘We Get By‘. It still means that Mavis Staples can deliver a “greatest hits” set – it’s just that it’s the greatest hits of the recent years. Continue reading “Mavis Staples, The Roundhouse, London, 4th July 2019”

Pat Dam Smyth “The Last King” (Quiet Arch, 2019)

‘What the hell is going on?’ Pat Dam Smyth asks at the beginning of ‘Kids,’ the track that kicks off ‘The Last King,’ Smyth’s follow-up to his 2012 debut, ‘The Great Divide.’ What’s going on is the sound of someone with a serious Pink Floyd fetish (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The droning synths that open the album point the way toward an atmospheric journey of moody, classic pop that keeps a foot in the present while acknowledging the past. Continue reading “Pat Dam Smyth “The Last King” (Quiet Arch, 2019)”

Benjamin James Roberts “And So I Ask Myself . . .” (Misty Ocean Sounds, 2019)

Oh, to be young and have your whole life ahead of you… With so much yet to come it’s the wise artist who takes time to reflect on what has already come to pass. Where are you? Who are you? How did you get here? And sometimes, when you ask yourself, the answers come in the form of more questions. On his debut EP, Benjamin James Roberts offers us his reflections on the process of growing into the artist he is today. Those changes came by way of experimenting, questioning, and searching for understanding. Continue reading “Benjamin James Roberts “And So I Ask Myself . . .” (Misty Ocean Sounds, 2019)”

Daniel Norgren “Wooh Dang” (Superpuma Records, 2019)

The opening to ‘Wooh Dang‘, Swedish musician Daniel Norgren’s eighth record, drifts dreamily into focus. With a mixture of birds and ambient nature sounds, as well as strange sci-fi noises, it sounds like a BBC sound effect archive mash-up. Then, somewhere in the background, Norgren’s high pitched vocal and guitar playing seep in. Before you know it you’re snapped into the next track, ‘The Flow‘, and pulled along into this sun-soaked dream river of an album.

Continue reading “Daniel Norgren “Wooh Dang” (Superpuma Records, 2019)”

Fruit Bats “Gold Past Life” (Merge Records, 2019)

Essentially a vehicle for Eric D. Johnson, a sometime member of The Shins, Fruit Bats deliver their first album for Merge Records with a fizzy, at times sugary, flourish. The 11 songs here are bathed in a nostalgic wash with Johnson inhabiting the summery breezes of those classic songwriters who delivered their wares in highly structured units. Thus, there are whiffs of Todd Rundgren, Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson and even the brothers Gibb secreted within the globs of synthesised pop laid down here although they are leavened with some cosmic country pedal steel stylings. Continue reading “Fruit Bats “Gold Past Life” (Merge Records, 2019)”

Chris Gantry “Nashlantis” (Drag City, 2019)

Chris Gantry, despite being in his late seventies and on the music scene since the Sixties, is probably not a name known to many people, despite having had more than a hundred of his songs covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, with the best known probably being Glen Campbell’s version of ‘Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife’. He recorded several albums in the late Sixties and early Seventies but apparently nothing since (information is sparse) until one in 2015 (‘Gantry Rides Again’) – and now this. Continue reading “Chris Gantry “Nashlantis” (Drag City, 2019)”

Rod Picott “Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil” (Broken Jukebox Media, 2019)

This is Rod Picott’s third album in almost as many years, but this one is a little different to his previous recent efforts. Songs on ‘Tell The Truth and Shame The Devil’ were written after a serious health scare that Picott experienced during the winter of 2018 and reflect on some of his life experiences and regrets – stuffed full of metaphors – and, as he himself says, has resulted in a “raw, honest and uncontrived” finished product.
Continue reading “Rod Picott “Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil” (Broken Jukebox Media, 2019)”

David Picco “Out of the Past” (Independent, 2019)

David Picco’s new album ‘Out of the Past’ draws on influences from Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen – with an added rockabilly edge to the alt-country sound: what some listeners might describe as heartland soul. The ten tracks of his fifth, self-produced record cover more intimate areas than his 2015 album ‘Start Again’, but with a rootsy and harder vibe. Continue reading “David Picco “Out of the Past” (Independent, 2019)”

Bob Dylan “The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings” (Columbia Records, 2019)

In many ways it was not the best of times for Dylan – having bared his soul on ‘Blood on the Tracks‘ he’d found a release in a whole new musical direction – a direction which would eventually lead to the album ‘Desire‘. Having helped out Roger McGuinn on his abortive ‘Gene Tryp‘ project – which delivered such landmark songs as ‘Chestnut Mare‘ – Jacques Levy had now upgraded to being Dylan’s songwriting buddy. Dylan had further found in Scarlet Rivera his new sound – wild gypsy violin that added drama to the new songs. So, this is Dylan emotionally drained, with sufficient writer’s block to require a songwriting collaborator, and scrabbling around for a new direction to immerse himself in. Continue reading “Bob Dylan “The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings” (Columbia Records, 2019)”