Vinny Peculiar “The Fairer Sex” (Shadrack and Duxbury 2017)

Who is Vinny Peculiar? Is he a poet? Musician? Philosopher? Explorer of societal mores? Well, he is all of these things and more. He investigates areas of societal belief and invites you to do the same.“Silver Meadows” (Fables from the Institution) delved into mental health and this tasty morsel looks at gender-related identity. A concept E.P. of four tracks, it investigates gender typecasting, webcam sex, sadness, loss and humiliation. His words do not bludgeon or rant at you but rather, gently creep up and whisper in your ear. Gain your attention gently, tease you into taking note.  Continue reading “Vinny Peculiar “The Fairer Sex” (Shadrack and Duxbury 2017)”

The Life And Times Of The Brothers Hogg “Celestial Emporium” (TLATOTBH, 2016)

After listening to this record for a week I assumed it had been made by a bunch of hillbilly misfits from somewhere like Harlan County. I was taken aback when I found it came from the same part of the country that had squirted me into existence, North East Lincolnshire. There are of course parallels between the post-industrial devastation of Grimsby and the blighted former coal-mining areas of Kentucky but it doesn’t explain how CE came to sound like they do. Straight out of the traps is St Deceiver, which on its own, merits a special mention, a raucous broken-toothed sing-a-long, full of detail like a Donald Ray Pollock short story, the life and times of the disenfranchised high on Oxycontin in dirty motel rooms, the piano played with abandon that makes Jerry Lee Lewis seem like Bobby Crush. If that were their only trick it would be a good one but it’s not typical, what follows is a superb multi-faceted collection of songs that transcend their genesis. Continue reading “The Life And Times Of The Brothers Hogg “Celestial Emporium” (TLATOTBH, 2016)”

Thad Kopec “The Shadow and the Caster” (Independent, 2017)

I found myself thinking of Ursula Le Guinn’s Earthsea, where young magician Ged unwittingly unleashes a dark shadow which pursues him relentlessly – until he finally faces up to it and discovers it is a part of his own being. The more prosaic interpretation of The Shadow and the Caster would be the literal one – of the shadows we all cast when we stand out in the light. So why the musings on otherworldly fantasy tales ? Continue reading “Thad Kopec “The Shadow and the Caster” (Independent, 2017)”

Holly MacVe + Will Stratton, St John on Bethnal Green, London E2 – 6th April 2017

Holly MacVe is 21. She grew up in Ireland, Yorkshire and Brighton yet she creates lonesome country songs hewn from the bedrock of Hank, Emmylou, Joni, Tammy and KD along with that of Lana Del Rey. A few of the dates on her current tour are in churches, this one being a fine Sir John Soane Italianate example built in 1820 and still a place of worship. Americana music is rooted in the church, in gospel and blues and the country folk of the god-fearing Appalachians so musically everything is perfect here. Support act Will Stratton changed the lyric in one of his songs for the occasion. “When I wrote this I was a hard line atheist, but I’m not so sure now “, he says, and he leaves the song hanging, questioning. His voice evokes the soft longing of classic American folk and there are glimpses of Paul Simon, Nick Drake and James Taylor too.  Continue reading “Holly MacVe + Will Stratton, St John on Bethnal Green, London E2 – 6th April 2017”

Cranford Hollow “Color/Sound/Renew/Revive” (Swampfire Records, 2017)

If Americana-UK were to judge the merits of a band’s music by the length, density and texture of their beards, then Cranford Hollow would score ten out of ten by a country mile. They are hereby awarded this year’s Bic Disposable Razor Award (other brands are also available) for the best beardage we have seen in a long while. May I suggest they try applying a little Honest Amish Beard Balm Leave-In Conditioner. Your beards will thank you for it, guys. Continue reading “Cranford Hollow “Color/Sound/Renew/Revive” (Swampfire Records, 2017)”

Justin Bernasconi “Barefoot Wonderland” (Mountain King Music, 2017)

Although born in England Justin Bernasconi relocated to Australia in 2004 and formed The Stillsons in 2006. After three critically acclaimed albums he released his solo debut album Winter Pick in 2014, receiving a host of glowing reviews in the process. Justin returns now after a three-year gap with Barefoot Wonderland which is a mix of solo numbers and the accompaniments of band members Cat Canteri (vocals, Gibson Hummingbird guitar), Pete Fidler (Collings mandolin, Sheerhorn dobro), Ben Franz (double bass) and Jeff Lang (vocal). The result is a showcase for Justin’s spellbinding ability with his extensive guitar collection. Whether it be his 1960s Harmony Sovereign on Restless Legs Rag or his Martin D-28 7-string guitar on the title track Justin demonstrates just what a talent he is with whatever is put in his hand. Continue reading “Justin Bernasconi “Barefoot Wonderland” (Mountain King Music, 2017)”

Screen Door Porch “Play It Forward” (Yella Dog Records 2017)

This five track EP from Jackson based Screen Door Porch is their fourth such CD offering. They have been touring since 2010 and are clearly a tight band. The Parade opens the CD and is a rock orientated number with heavy organ and slide guitar to the fore. There is diversity in the vocals with transition between male and female which adds an extra dimension to the work. Continue reading “Screen Door Porch “Play It Forward” (Yella Dog Records 2017)”

The Brother Brothers “Tugboats EP” (Independent, 2016)

The Brother Brothers are in fact the identical Moss brother twins, Adam and David, and I should perhaps beg forgiveness from Adam and David now if I mix them up at any stage in this review.  Originally hailing from Illinois but now based in Brooklyn, NY, and with both pursing individual career paths, this six track EP represents the first coming together of this musically blessed duo. Fiddler, banjo player and vocalist Adam has played with the likes of Anais Mitchell and Ana Egge. David is a distinguished cellist and guitar picker and winner of the New Folk competition in 2011. As a musical partnership, their talents have been championed by the likes of Sarah Jarosz and, listening to this brief musical introduction to the band, it is not hard to see why. Continue reading “The Brother Brothers “Tugboats EP” (Independent, 2016)”

Colin Hay, Union Chapel, Islington, London 4th April 2017

When a panel voted recently on the best Australian songs of the modern era, three of the top ten were penned by Scots. The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind” topped the list, co-written by George Young whose brothers Angus and Malcolm were behind the number nine, AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to Rock”. Neither of these are overtly Aussie, which cannot be said of the song that came fourth, written by the man working the audience in
Upper St. tonight. Colin Hay, the solo troubadour behind the mike and behind the song in question (more of that later) was Men at Work’s founder and frontman who moved from Saltcoats in Scotland to Australia in his teens. However he has lived in California since the demise of the band, almost 35 years ago, making him more than qualified to deliver a new album “Fierce Mercy” where the influences of his adopted homeland come to the fore. He chats about inspiration – he cites Gene Pitney, the Walker Brothers and Roy Orbison but in addition to those, echoes of The Beach Boys, Jackson Browne and Bob Seger are all evident in this latest piece. Continue reading “Colin Hay, Union Chapel, Islington, London 4th April 2017”

Big Surr “In Business” (Independent, 2017)

Being in love is such fun, isn’t it? When it stops being you against the world and starts being us against the world. To be understood. And supported. And to go cruising in a car laughing at all the poor saps around you who haven’t got – and never will have – this glorious indestructible shield against the world. In Business opens with Alright, which freeze dries those feelings and drops them in your pocket. With her perfect disdainful popular girl vocals Helen Van gives the restrained cool version of these feelings, with the understated “Since I’ve been with you I’ve been alright, I’ve been alright” whilst the underlying guitar hooks provided by the band betray the thrill down the spine truth of her emotions.  Continue reading “Big Surr “In Business” (Independent, 2017)”