Various Artists “Sounds of the North West”

Greenhorse Records, 2023

A compilation that shines a deserving spotlight on some great emerging and more established talent from the North West of England.

There is, it has been noticed, a high volume of AUK writers from the North of England. Why exactly this is we aren’t sure, but I have a theory: Americana music speaks to the disenfranchised, those who feel at times forgotten by the people in power; in America, this is often the South, who feel the people in charge of the country have forgotten about them and as such, they forge their own distinct culture, but in England, this maxim applies to the North. So it is of little surprise then that a compilation celebrating the best of the English North West Americana scene would sound equally at home played in the Southern United States.

Lancashire-based Ian M Bailey gets things off to a sprightly start musically with ‘Dangerous Clowns’, although his lyrics paint a more cautionary tale as he warns: “Nothing they do will shine light into you / It’s a road we must walk on our own / So give us strength for the days up ahead / And the ones we’ve left so far from home.” With ‘Cold Wind Sigh’, The Swells offer a dose of Americana with an added touch of cool, Britpop swag. “I’ll sing and you’ll bring a lease of life / Never easy rushing for a fight,” vocalist Matt Grayson sings with a facade that lacks enthusiasm, yet never tipping over into disinterested.

For Greenhorses’ contribution, the band have given a live recording of ‘The Great Unsung’, and it’s clear to hear their influences of Wilco and Teenage Fanclub shining through in the most positive of ways. “Does the first dance memory still tear you apart?” asks Simon James on ‘Oh Honey’, a sweet acoustic love song with equally tender-hearted harmonies that hit all the right emotional notes. Husband and wife duo The Good Intentions give a slice of gentle, traditional country and folk with ‘Hard Times’, while Matt Hill sings gently of it being easier to go unseen on ‘Safer to Fall’.

If something retro is what you’re looking for, John Jenkins & the James Street Band have you covered with ‘Trying My Best (to Get Away From You)’ with its rockabilly-lite undertones, the lyrics speaking of a relationship that Jenkins just cannot quit (“I once believed our love was good / But now it seems I misunderstood / When she said “for better or worse / How was I to know she was reading me a curse?”). Red Moon Joe, who have been a band some 38 years and counting, offer the kind of polished sound that only a band of their vintage could with ‘Girl From Your Hometown’, while on ‘God Gave You Legs’, Liverpool singer-songwriter Reid Anderson strikes a sombre, Shakespearian tone as he speaks of someone with darkness within: “God gave you legs, you danced the Devil’s song”.

These songs that make up small pieces of the Americana jigsaw may have originated from the North West of England, but wherever they came from and whoever they’re by, one thing’s for sure: if you’re a fan of the genre, play them loud and they’ll sound great whatever their geographic roots.


About Helen Jones 135 Articles
North West based lover of country and Americana.
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John Jenkins

Thank you Helen x

Scott Carey

Thanks Helen – Love Greenhorses