Driftwood Soldier “Stay Ahead of the Wolf” (Bloodshot Records, 2019)

Describing themselves as “Gutterfolk for the masses” this duo from Pennsylvania may have created a new category of Americana. If by ‘Gutter’ they mean sticking up for the underdog, that looks right. And in its context of absorbing stories ‘folk’ is accurate too. Whatever, Driftwood Soldier draw from their personal experience to a broader observation of injustice. Sonically they are on the verge of combustion with vocals that rasp their lyrics and around mandolin, bass and foot percussion their sound redefines stripped back. At times their force overwhelms but Driftwood Soldier certainly leave a lasting impression. Continue reading “Driftwood Soldier “Stay Ahead of the Wolf” (Bloodshot Records, 2019)”

William Prince “Reliever” (Glassnote, 2020)

Following up his 2018 debut release with the Dave Cobb and Scott Nolan produced ‘Reliever‘, First Nations Canadian William Prince brings his not-so-secret weapon to bear on a set of songs that muse on the brevity of life and the importance of living in the now. With a voice so deep that it tends to make anything he sings sound profound, William Prince skirts around the edges of country with an intensity that from the start on ‘The Spark’ brings to mind those first couple of albums by Sturgill Simpson. Continue reading “William Prince “Reliever” (Glassnote, 2020)”

Karen Dalton “The Recording Is The Trip – The Karen Dalton Archives” (Megaphone, 2020)

‘Recording Is The Trip – The Karen Dalton Archives’ is a sumptuous box set that is currently retailing at £95 on Amazon. It includes two remastered albums across 3 CDs and the same albums issued for the first time on vinyl, a download of 13 unissued tracks plus a 56 page booklet which includes unpublished photographs and memorabilia and finally a recycled fabric t-shirt with a print of Karen Dalton’s own guitar tabs. All this for an artist who was largely unknown during her lifetime and who issued only two official albums in 1969 and 1971, neither of which are included on ‘Recording Is The Trip’, and who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1993.
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Nada Surf – Manchester Academy 3, 13th March 2020

Nada Surf are one of those bands who occupy a distinct corner of americana in the broadest sense – at times they can sound like they’re nothing to do with the genre, their new album having hints of New Order and Built to Spill – there’s a real 90s indie/power-pop sound to their output which hasn’t really changed over the last 20 years. But then at other times they can sound like Teenage Fanclub or Big Star, one of the jangliest around, and the connection seems obvious. Continue reading “Nada Surf – Manchester Academy 3, 13th March 2020”

Michael Doucet “Lâcher Prise” (Compass Records, 2020)

America is big and America is a melting pot. This has important implications for Americana music because, despite centuries of diligent stirring, there are some spots in that melting pot where things have burned just a little too hot and bits have gotten stuck to the bottom. Towns like Nashville, Austin, and Bakersfield jump to mind as shining examples of how this has been a good thing for the musical stew. Continue reading “Michael Doucet “Lâcher Prise” (Compass Records, 2020)”

Amy LaVere “Painting Blue” (Archer Records, 2020)

‘No Battle Hymn’, the striking first single from ‘Painting Blue’, the fifth album by Memphis-based Amy LaVere, is a timely anthem for a world in crisis. “No one’s ready to admit we may be out of time,” she sings, over a slick, yet moody, blues-pop groove, with some chunky organ riffs and mean electric guitar licks, coming across like an edgier Sheryl Crow. Although its lyrics tackle defeatism, it’s ultimately a hopeful song, which calls for unification: “We need a victory march in our hearts.”

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Nathan Evans Fox “Kindness” (Independent, 2020)

Nathan Evans Fox’s ‘Kindness’ gives us a poignant and realistic take on our individual and collective need for benevolence. These songs aren’t banal odes to empathy but an honest and adult version of kindness as an individual’s work in progress. The album’s 10 songs include two upbeat numbers but Fox’s natural home seems to be in the measured and reflective. Continue reading “Nathan Evans Fox “Kindness” (Independent, 2020)”

Gill Landry, The Old Queen’s Head, Islington, London, 19th February 2020

The origin of the expression “skeleton at the feast (or banquet)” has been traced back to the Egyptian custom of bringing a skeleton or mummy to a feast as a reminder of mortality amidst the festivity. Generally, it was meant to refer to someone or something that brought unpleasant memories or put a dampener on proceedings, not an accusation that could be levelled at Gill Landry who has been touring Europe in order to promote his excellent ‘Skeleton At The Banquet’ album. For while his music has certainly got its moments of melancholy, it’s also leavened with genuine humour, poetry, and human insight, alongside a cineaste’s ability to conjure a widescreen picture from a Noirish soundtrack. Continue reading “Gill Landry, The Old Queen’s Head, Islington, London, 19th February 2020”

Luan Parle “Never Say Goodbye” (LPR Records, 2020)

Luan Parle has had an interesting journey. Her first album was released when she was 12 years old. ‘Never Say Goodbye’ is her fourth album, twenty-five years after that debut and ten years since her last release ‘Full Circle’ in 2010. She was at one time signed to Elton John’s management company and supported both him and …. ahem, James Blunt. Parle’s last two albums brought her some success in her native Ireland, but more recently she has been better known for her TV and radio work. Continue reading “Luan Parle “Never Say Goodbye” (LPR Records, 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: Chris Stapleton “From A Room: Volume 2” (Mercury Nashville, 2017)

When I was asked to write a review about a classic Americana album, I myself had one main issue. As someone who is only 19 and who really found their way into Americana music through country music, I don’t have the extensive back catalogue that some of my fellow reviewers do when they are tasked with the same thing. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Chris Stapleton “From A Room: Volume 2” (Mercury Nashville, 2017)”