The Sweet Water Warblers “With You” (SweetWaterWarblers, 2017)

Wow! These ladies can really sing. The quality of the harmony work on all the tracks on this EP is just outstanding. Hailing from Michigan, the Sweet Water Warblers are Rachael Davis, Lindsay Lou and May Erlewine, three women who had already forged independent reputations on the American Roots circuit, they came together at a festival appearance in 2014 and haven’t looked back since. Continue reading “The Sweet Water Warblers “With You” (SweetWaterWarblers, 2017)”

Here’s 10 socially progressive country tunes for you

We love country music here at AUK, but the politics of mainsteam country can be something of a turn off in these weary times, so this is a nice article from Billboard reporting on country anthems with a progressive bent. They report: “Last week, Garth Brooks revealed an alternate version of the music video for his 1992 single “We Shall Be Free,” an inspirational song from his album The Chase that features the sort lyrics rarely heard on country radio: progressive. The newly unearthed clip, which Brooks debuted on his Facebook Live chat “Inside Studio G,” had been updated from its original version in 2002 and incorporated footage from 9/11 alongside cameos from celebrities like Al Gore and Michael J. Fox. Brooks had never released the updated video, but decided to do so after seeing a renewed interest in the song, which turns 25 this year.  Continue reading “Here’s 10 socially progressive country tunes for you”

Jason Isbell previews new country music exhibit

If you ever get a chance to go to Nashville (a kind of Mecca for americana fans) then the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is still an essential.  RS Country reports: “If the thought of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum conjures images of black-and-white photos or relics of a bygone musical era, think again. A new exhibit titled “American Currents (The Music of 2016)” aims to highlight the trends and achievements of country music in the present tense. Running through 2017, the exhibit offers memory-jogging totems from the previous year’s significant moments and faces, because as museum director Kyle Young points out, Elvis Presley didn’t make old time rock & roll – he was a man of his times.  Continue reading “Jason Isbell previews new country music exhibit”

The Handsome Family, The Union Chapel, London, 2nd March 2017

Brett and Rennie Sparks brought a four-piece Handsome Family to The Union Chapel for one of those rare evenings that truly deserve the accolade “magical”. Demonstrating the ability for even a little television exposure to change the size of an audience The Handsome Family have stepped up to a considerably larger venue than on previous tours, and one that couldn’t be more in keeping with their music – on an early March evening when the shadows draw in quickly there could have been no better frame for their musical paintings of the strange, mystical and plain bizarre in American life. Continue reading “The Handsome Family, The Union Chapel, London, 2nd March 2017”

Sufjan Stevens and Patti Smith Band perform Star Spangled Banner

News from Pitchfork this morning: “Last night, Sufjan Stevens performed at Tibet House’s 30th annual benefit concert, which doubled as a celebration of Philip Glass’s 80th birthday. He joined the Patti Smith Band to perform his version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “My prayer is that we begin to move our hearts, our minds, our bodies in the direction of love, wisdom, and common sense,” he said, by way of introduction. “Until then, we’d like to sing a theme song for this present darkness.” Watch video below. Stevens also performed “Happy Birthday Song,” and joined Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Tibetan monks, and many more for “People Have the Power”—watch that here.  Continue reading “Sufjan Stevens and Patti Smith Band perform Star Spangled Banner”

Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)

Eitzel is an arresting cove. A lounge room crooner with impeccable Americana credentials and instincts. Beyond that an entertaining, erudite man with much to say and a lot to share. This album marks a massive up swing in his profile as in the company of Bernard Butler he aims for the kind of mainstream breakthrough that similar artists such as John Grant and Jason Isbell have enjoyed; critically acclaimed solo material released after leaving loved but not massive bands (in the case of the Czars the band had folded). Originally conceived as a stripped down set by Eitzel the instinct of Butler as producer to widen and fill out the production has paid enormous dividends as Eitzel has delivered his most consistent and musically assured album yet. Continue reading “Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)”

The Stands main man strikes out on his own

Howie Payne, formerly of Liverpool band The Stands has announced his first solo tour with his live outfit The Band of The Sun and the release of ‘The Stands, Recordings 2003-2005’, a boxset collection of rarities, B sides and demos, gathered on heavyweight coloured vinyl in June. With fans including Noel Gallagher and Bill Ryder-Jones The Stands burnt brightly but briefly during their 2002-2005 lifespan, spawning a string of five UK top 40 singles. After splitting the band, Howie Payne began his solo career, recording acclaimed debut ‘Bright Light Ballads’ with Ethan Johns.  Howie also released a new version of rare early Stands track, ‘She Speaks of These Things’as a precursor to the retrospective.  Continue reading “The Stands main man strikes out on his own”

Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)

A comeback, break up album – what could be better for the record buying Americana fan? Ryan Adams, the quintessential wounded troubadour, back ‘on form’ with a searing examination of a highly personal life event. Surely this is cause for celebration but in the name of good taste a muted one as we empathise with our poet songsmith? Well yes and perhaps more pertinently no. This is a bright shiny production with some strong songs and Adam’s voice sounding in fine fettle but songs such as Doomsday and the opener Do You Still Love Me have a very eighties feel to the sound which make the record sometimes feel soulless. Continue reading “Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)”