Pharis and Jason Romero, Kings Place Hall 2, London, 26th April 2019

The last time that they played London, some four years ago, it was at The Green Note, so the somewhat austere setting of Hall 2 at Kings Place is a sizeable step up in audience numbers for Pharis and Jason Romero, if something of a step down in cosiness and intimacy.  Not that this offered the duo any problem with forging audience communication – from the first bars of ‘Gambling Man‘ they pulled the room into their world of guitars, banjos and crystal clear vocals – that’s Pharis – and the timeless complementary strong baritone of her husband Jason.  Their sound is a blend of Old Timey tunes elevated by Pharis’ lyrics, some straight bluegrass and stone-cold country flecked folk. They also have a relatively new album ‘Sweet old religion‘ out, which perhaps plays up the guitar side their music a little and also forms a good portion of the two sets played on this night. Continue reading “Pharis and Jason Romero, Kings Place Hall 2, London, 26th April 2019”

Gretchen Pleuss “Daughter Of The Broader Skies” (Sun Pedal Recordings, 2019)

There’s something of Joni Mitchell in Gretchen Pleuss, which of course can only be a good thing. It’s there in her phrasing, her time signatures, her subject matter and indeed Pleuss’ music is something of a throwback to that golden age of singer-songwriters in the late Sixties and early Seventies, but were she transported back there she would easily hold her own amongst those luminaries and legends. Continue reading “Gretchen Pleuss “Daughter Of The Broader Skies” (Sun Pedal Recordings, 2019)”

Adam Thomas Brown “Another Lonely Ghost” (Independent, 2019)

Spoiler alert: the appearance of ‘Another Lonely Ghost’ will probably not shake the foundations of either psych folk, indy rock or alt-country, the three genres Adam Thomas Brown’s debut solo album meshes together so efficiently and gracefully. But if maybe not groundbreaking, ‘Another Lonely Ghost’ does add a distinctive, if somewhat melancholy, voice to all three genres. Its a highly polished, guitar-heavy sound  that would sometimes do full credit to any self-respecting 1990s indy rock band (to this reviewer, the echoes of REM are all but unmistakable) and which sometimes meanders into gloomy acoustic folk troubadour territory in songs like ‘Carry On’. Continue reading “Adam Thomas Brown “Another Lonely Ghost” (Independent, 2019)”

Jeffrey Halford and The Healers “West Towards South” (Floating Records, 2019)

This is the ninth album from Jeffrey Halford and the Healers. Halford was originally from Texas, but moved at an early age to California. He has been described as a soulful, blues-influenced storyteller, and does this album have stories. You’ll have to make up your own mind as to whether it is a series of stories – ten to be precise – in one album, or one story, in ten parts taking in archetypal ‘wild west’ scenarios such as gambling in  ‘A Town called Slow’, and the Goldrush on ‘The Ballad of Ambrose and Cyrus’. Continue reading “Jeffrey Halford and The Healers “West Towards South” (Floating Records, 2019)”

Anna Tivel “The Question” (Fluff and Gravy Records, 2019)

Of all the wonderful things rightfully said about Portland’s Anna Tivel, there is one that resonates perhaps more than many others, about how “you lean in to listen how she has put the words together.” It’s quite astonishing how her voice draws you in to really listen to the story she is telling. She creates recognisable characters in simple, uncomplicated environments and situations in her songs that we all understand, because we have all seen or experienced them. Stories written by an exceptional poet and delivered quite beautifully.
Continue reading “Anna Tivel “The Question” (Fluff and Gravy Records, 2019)”

Jo Schornikow “Secret Weapon” (Keeled Scales, 2019)

This album raised two questions – what are the furthest limits of Americana and how do you review music that is not inherently to your taste, but is likely to appeal to someone, somewhere?  Both these issues led to some interesting discussion with AUK headquarters.  Beware of investing in this debut offering if you think it sits at the heart of what you might think of as Americana.  Of course it may not be intended as such and may just be the right music reviewed in the wrong place by the wrong person.  There are those who think it, ‘gorgeous bare bones indie-folk’.  You might struggle to agree. Continue reading “Jo Schornikow “Secret Weapon” (Keeled Scales, 2019)”

Book Review: Doug Hoekstra “Unopened” (Five-Minute Books, 2019)

“In the unfinished basement
past stainless steel filing cabinetshumming humidifiers and stacks of yellow magazines
I reach two racks of records promised to us both; My heart can only take a few, including “Memories of a Middle-Aged Movies by the other Ray Charles, unopened, never played…. purchased at Rose Records for 77 cents, my father killing time on a 60-minute lunch hour
40 years before.” Continue reading “Book Review: Doug Hoekstra “Unopened” (Five-Minute Books, 2019)”

Shovels & Rope “By Blood” (Dualtone Music, 2019)

‘I won’t fail you when I walk out on the wire,’ sing South Carolina natives Carry Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, AKA Shovels & Rope, and it’s not just talk; they really walk the walk. The husband and wife duo are veterans of a decade long career, touring, curating the excellent High Water Festival for the past few years, recording everything themselves in their home studio, and above all producing consistently brilliant music. Their latest offering ‘By Blood’ is no exception to this trend. Continue reading “Shovels & Rope “By Blood” (Dualtone Music, 2019)”

Jeff “The Horse” Horsey “Rattlesnakes and Heartstrings” (Hookah Records, 2019)

Based in Cornwall, Jeff “The Horse” Horsey is a veteran practitioner of old time blues music, often to be found with his acoustic guitars and harmonica on stages here in the UK and in Europe. This latest venture, a limited edition 10” vinyl EP, finds him branching out somewhat with the focus of the disc a ten-minute long version of a song he originally released on his last album, ‘Songs From The Old West’. ‘Rattlesnakes’ takes up the first side of the disc with side two (yip, I said it was vinyl) occupied by three songs, one of which, ‘Heartstrings’, is the first of a projected song cycle inspired by the characters who populate ‘Rattlesnakes’. Continue reading “Jeff “The Horse” Horsey “Rattlesnakes and Heartstrings” (Hookah Records, 2019)”

Simone Felice, Leaf, Manchester, 30th April 2019

Dressed in black jeans, black shirt and a crumpled black jacket; with unkempt hair and a greying, wispy beard, Simone Felice shuffled unceremoniously on to the stage to open the first of two sets he delivered tonight.  Accompanied for the evening by only his acoustic guitar, Felice gave a cursory nod to his audience before opening the evening with the familiar ‘One More American Song’ from the 2009 The Duke and The King album ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’. From the start, a hushed room hung on every note and every word and this remained the case for the remainder of the night. Continue reading “Simone Felice, Leaf, Manchester, 30th April 2019”