Session Americana “The Rattle and The Clatter”

Independent, 2024

A classy blend of every corner of Americana in a 20-year retrospective from Massachusets-born Session Americana.

Artwork fir Session Americana album 'The Rattle and the Clatter'Session Americana evolved from a jam session at the Toad bar in Cambridge, Massachusets way back in 2003, and ‘The Rattle and The Clatter’ is their 20-year retrospective release, drawing on songs from their nine previous albums, including three live tracks. And a ‘best of’ collection it certainly is, with a broad representation of the wider Americana genre within which they sit, with lead vocals shared between band members, many of them multi-instrumentalists, with the excellent harmonica playing of Jim Fitting a consistent thread running through most of the 16 tracks.

Opening track ‘Pack up the Circus’ from their 2015 release of the same name was co-produced by the band with Anais Mitchell, with a gentle vibe reminiscent of Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, featuring a haunting refrain on harmonica from Fitting, and lead vocals from Ry Cavanaugh singing “Pack up the circus/ Hang up the reigns/ Turn out the lights/ it’s time for a change/Everyone knows that the moon only glows/ And the real show starts when the lions are back in their cage.”

The album’s three live tracks show why their live performances are highly regarded. ‘Making Hay’ features an insistent driving beat, with hints of Eddie Cochran, blues harmonica from Fitting, and referencing the James Bond theme on twang guitar, while ‘Doreen’ features lively audience participation on the song’s titular hook, prominent mandolin from Dinty Child and virtuoso work on harmonica from Fitting, high end in the style of J Geils Band’s Magic Dick. Fitting continues in this vein on the final live number, a cover of Rodney Crowell’s ‘I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This’, rendered as a full-on up-tempo blues rocker.

The 11 original tracks share writing credits across the band, with four other covers on the album ‘Trip Around the Sun’, ‘Boats up the River’, ‘Love Changes Everything’, and the jazz classic ‘You Always Hurt the One You Love’, the latter arranged as a gentle acoustic guitar and trumpet intro, before segueing into a sprightly gypsy jazz number.

‘Trip Around the Sun’ features Merrie Amsterburg on lead vocal and acoustic guitar, while on ‘Love Changes Everything’ lead vocals are taken in turn by Laura Cortese, Ry Cavanaugh, Dinty Child, and Jim Fitting. Instrumentation across the collection includes mandolin, banjo, field organ, mandocello, violin, accordion, mandola, trumpet, clarinet, bouzouki, and keys, demonstrating the eclectic mix of arrangements.

The current line-up of Billy Beard, Jon Bistline, Ry Cavanaugh, Dinty Child, and Jim Fitting joined by guest Eleanor Buckland are touring in Ireland and mainland Europe in February and March 2024, and on the strength of this retrospective album are a force to be reckoned with, and not to be missed.

A powerful and eclectic mix of Americana influences in ‘Greatest Hits‘ retrospective from a 20-year back catalogue.


About David Jarman 111 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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