Described as a missing link between the first two albums and a planned forthcoming release, these four tracks have been talked about in hushed tones by those in know for a long time now. Having been recorded over a decade ago prior to debut album No Windows to the Old World, there is much here that resonates with the expectations of The Blood Choir‘s fans but also much that is wonderfully new and slightly unexpected.
It says something that in the three years since With Wolves The Lamb Will Lie came my way it has never yet found itself filed alongside its fellow musical platters but has remained lurking in rarefied company next to the stereo all this time. That speaks volumes especially in a house that sometimes feels more like an old school record shop that a place of dwelling. What I’m trying to say in my clumsy way is that it is an album that has aged brilliantly and set the benchmark very high for Matt to follow.
Photographs are powerful things. We carry around all sorts of ideas about how we feel about people, especially those we have lost, but sometimes it isn’t until we are confronted with an actual image that our real feelings come to the fore. That is the starting point for this latest single from Chrissie Romano Band and from there it explores the idea of everyday reminders of those who we have lost. A whiff of familiar perfume on the street, reminiscent handwriting, and a host of other unexpected sensual jolts to the memory.
No matter what your rootsy preference, Tentrees and Haldane seem to have things covered. Grit is a suite of songs which effortlessly combines the best aspects of acoustic, folk and country genres. The playing is a deft and intricate without seeming showy or unnecessarily bandwagony, concise picking and lovely riffing provides a structure which is both hypnotic yet wonderfully restrained. Lyrically, again, all necessary boxes are ticked from the blue collar anthem of 29 Loads of Freight to the witty social observations of Craft Beards and Man Buns to the howling blues of I Don’t Have A Gun.
Forget, “you had me at hello, “ this latest musical jaunt from TTMTMS had me at the cover illustration, one seemingly taken from an Edward Lear publication. Not that it says much about the music itself but it does tell me something about the way they think and the things they find amusing. Truth be told, they had me before that. They had me at Tightropin’ that most English of romps through the most American of sounds. And that is really the essence of the band, the ability to liberally plunder the best bits of state-side roots history, porch band culture and cowboy campfire jams but then drive a spike through the centre that is shaped like English folk tradition and quirky humour. Many can folk but few frolic so wonderfully and so brilliantly revelling in this country’s quintessential qualities.
On first listen – especially if you weren’t paying attention – you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an album full of fluffy clouds, rainbows, optimism and sunshine all played out by a bright female voice and set against the back drop of Hippy-inspired dreams of unrealistic goals where people greet each other kindly and skip happily through the long grass of the world.
You’d be partially right.
There are many reasons to cover other peoples songs and in my opinion most of them are not really very honest. I know that you can make an argument for tradition and wanting to honour your favourite songs but for my money, unless you can bring something new to it then all you are doing is riding on someone else coat tails and basking in their reflected fame and glory. After all in which other creative field could you do something similar without it being regarded as at best plagiarism, at worst forgery? I couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa or write Pride and Prejudice without a few questions being asked.
It is with a sense of sadness that I sit down to write about this latest Barnstormer album, having learned of the passing a few days ago of Dan Woods, original and long serving guitarist with the band but so much more too. Musician, artist, Fish Brother, Sensible sidekick, and as someone who was lucky enough to meet him on a number of occasion, not only a perfect gentleman but a perfectly gentle man. I raise a glass!
Anyway, to horse…
There are moments when the wonderfully named Amigo The Devil sounds like the dark, balancing counterpart of Damien Rice, times when he sounds like the alt-folk version of Danzig but mostly he sounds like Amigo The Devil. For all the space and drifting atmospheres of the former and the intense, diabolical edges of the latter, he manages to plough a furrow through murder ballad territory in his own inimitable style. This is Southern apocalyptic country music, gothic folk, blasted and blighted rock music…it’s the music that is playing as you wait for the world to end.
I think it’s fair to say, without the risk of sounding sexist, that the album currently playing on my stereo is one written by a female and largely intended for a female audience. It’s true that within most arenas of creativity, be it books, films, television shows or music that if you can capture the female audience, you’ve got a hit. We all remember the fuss surrounding the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ books, and ‘The Greatest Showman’, a film released quite recently, panned by critics but audiences loved it.
Angus McOg is a strange creature, after listening to the album, and struggling to find a classification for the music, I decided to dip my toe into the waters of the internet to see what he (and others) say about him. Obviously, there is the social media stuff, giving a brief – but interesting – biography but the most detailed information I found was from an Americana music review site, but this confused me further because on first listen what you hear isn’t strictly Americana so the review describes the album differently from what I was hearing.
“Good things come to he who waits” is the perfect adage for this the second album from Katie Doherty and the Navigators. More than ten years down the line from Bridges she is no longer the emerging artist breaking through into the folk scene but a stalwart of stages shared with the likes of Karine Polwart, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and the legendary Ray Davies. But as is often the way though, life moved quickly on after that debut release, circumstances changed, and for Katie Doherty that meant working as a composer, collaborating with the Royal Shakespeare Company, starting a family and relocating to enjoy life on a farm. While nourished by her life and work, her own music had to take a backseat.
Fans of Dublin duo Morrissey & Marshall will not only be familiar with the type of music the boys play but will also be familiar with the songs on this album because they’ve rerecorded their 2014 debut album ‘And so it Began’ but in a stripped back acoustic fashion.
For a man who has spent most of his career as a saxophonist, composer and producer in more avant-garde and psychedelic circles, Always All Around You seems to follow some classic and conformist lines. Not that that is in anyway a bad thing, of course it isn’t, the very definition of the term classic is an “outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality” and that also tends to imply accessibility, familiarity and working in comfort zones. This second album sees Norman Salant adopting the mantle of acoustic guitar slinging, singer-songwriter, one who neatly treads a path that the likes of Paul Simon, James Taylor and Neil Young have left their sonic footprints on.
The idea of a travelling musician is one of romance and adventure, of endless experiences from visiting new towns, meeting new people, writing new songs and then moving on for the next instalment of adventure.
It’s often interesting to read the press release for albums that fall into my paws, sometimes the description that has been put forward is at odds with the finished product that finds itself booming out of my speakers. Descriptions like ‘life-affirming’, ‘game changing’, ‘powerhouse’ and ‘the next great act’ accompany these albums so it’s sometimes wise to ignore the blurb and just judge for yourself.
Songwriting is the perfect vehicle for telling stories, a form able to blend poeticism, dynamic, drama, emotion and everything else need to spin a good yarn. But rarely has the music of a singer-songwriter covered such an epic slice of history. Essentially a tribute to his father, his life and the events that he lived through, Ordinary Giants is so much more.
It must be difficult selling a foreign-language album into the already saturated market of English-speaking releases, sure we all like an occasional ‘Gangnam Style’ or ‘Despasito’ to shake it up, but on the whole English-speaking music fans like English speaking bands. So, to combat this, the music has to be good. Duke Ellington once said, “there are two kinds of music, the good and the other kind”, this is true, and it’s also true that good music will always find an audience, so if you feel your record collection is lacking a Sicillian singer-songwriter who produces music that is tricky to categorise, then look no further than Alessio Bondi.
There is something wonderfully Gilliam-esque about the video that accompanies Angus McOg‘s Laika, that same strange, surreal cut and paste style that used to break up the sketches of Monty Python’s Flying Circus all those years ago. But there is nothing absurd or throwaway about the music that it represents. Five years on from previous album Arnaut, Laika acts as a taste of follow up album Beginners, set for release in January next year.
See, this is exactly what I have been talking about for years. Folk music and indie music make the perfect match, the deft and delicate delivery of the former and the cool and polished sound of the latter make an exquisite musical hook up. But a practical on too. If folk is going to stay relevant and Indie music interesting such musical marriages are essential. But this is no clumsy marriage of convenience, I Think I Saw You on the Street is the gorgeous off-spring of two good looking generic parents – the practical and solid folk father, the gracious and the charming hipster mother.
The Southern states of America have always been reflected, and promoted, as where the honest, God-fearing folk of America live. The vast farmland for Texan beef, the arid desert land of Nevada and the communities based on industry and hard work.
Of course every story has a dark side; for every farmer there is a greedy developer, Nevada is dominated by Las Vegas and industry changes, often leaving communities isolated when the big companies move on.
There are so many classic hallmarks and cleverly nostalgic moments to be found on Two that it is hard not to think that you have not been listening to John Lindsay’s album for decades. You can’t help but think that these songs exist on a well worn vinyl pressing, call a battered card sleeve home and both alphabetically and generically have the likes of John Martyn and Van Morrison for neighbours in a well-loved music collection.
Minnesota native Annie Fitzgerald has done something that not many female singer-songwriters are doing, and that is produce an album that is tender, thoughtful and emotional but deliver these songs with some oomph!
Most of us are suckers for a good love song but the path she’s chosen to present this type of song is supported by drums, bass, guitar and her voice (which will draw comparison to Tori Amos, Delores O’Rhiordan and Dido) and the songs feel so much stronger because of it. Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity to hear a singer stripped-back so the tale and the emotion is revealed is fine but if you have the talent and chance to bring a variation, perhaps that should be taken.
You can see why none other than Joan Armatrading took a shine to this young artist when she saw him busking. It’s easy to hear the ghost-echoes of classic singer-songwriters and 60’s folk revival icons between the notes and words. It’s isn’t hard to become captivated by such a straight forward yet beguiling slice of timeless acoustica.
The idea of just another young female artist folk-popping her way to chart success with an acoustic guitar and a chilled and minimalist tune might have collective eyes rolling and audible sighs of “here we go again”. Maybe it is a style that has been overdone of late, perhaps but rarely has it been done this well. For every hundred such artists using the format as a short cut to celebrity status you find one that really understands the genre and Charlotte Grayson, for all her small amount of years, understands it explicitly.
Occasionally an album comes along that delivers surprise and delight in equal measure, at times exciting and energetic and at other times brilliant and bonkers. Yves Lambert Trio’s ‘Tentation’ is anything but normal and definitely not what one would expect from a French-language folk album.
For all folks recent evolutions, its dalliances with indie chic, its wandering of shimmering dreamscape pathways, its pop hook-ups, there is something to be said for the traditional sound. Of course the art of keeping things both true to the genre and relevant for modern audiences is to walk that fine line between familiarity and freshness and that is exactly what The Trials of Cato do. And do so effortlessly.
For every few hundred singer-songwriters who thinks its enough to buy a wide-brimmed hat, grow a week’s stubble, slip into some black jeans with professionally distressed knees and rattle off a few James Bay inspired ballads, you come across people like Chris McEvoy who are really exploring what the format has to offer. The very term singer-songwriter might be a much maligned label these days but Be Still My Heart reminds us of classic writers such as John Martyn or Roy Harper who wove warm and sophisticated musical strands into exquisite albums.
As someone who deals with generic descriptions on an almost hourly basis, I am usually fairly cynical of them. You see that a band who have elected to use the term “cinematic indie” and you know that that is just wishful thinking and they are probably going to sound like the tracks that Oasis never pursued beyond demo recordings. So I see the term Celtic Soul/Country Swing and I’m thinking if this lives up to the expectation of such a combination I will eat my hat!
For someone who grew up around both traditional folk music and the dreamscaping post punk machinations of the 80’s, Parabola West is the logical and latest point on a musical journey through the sweet spots of my record collection. It links back to the likes of Kate Bush and Bat For Lashes and also rubs shoulders with a whole host of indie musicians fusing roots music with more pop accessible sounds and just as many dyed in the wool folkies working out ways of keeping their genre relevant, fresh and perhaps even lucrative.