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But know: to be near is better than far. And know: to be near is nowhere on earth When the one you love has forgotten your face. It was you that broke your promise, man, Delighting my taunters, familiarly fond, It was you that stripped me, let me down. A butt to be jeered, while you could abscond.

Could words draws blood, the talk, the tales Would have left my body a living wound. My North, my West, my South and East?

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Not here with you where nothing is conceived. No compassing aroma dwells where nothing is conceived. I look here. I look both up and down, I cannot see even the shadow of his beard. O believers, only speak to me! Shout out his name and your echoing bones shall never crumble in the receiving grave. You who kissed his hand are blessed. Even in death your lips shall remain as sweet as grapes. And should I?

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Should I be grateful? For the beauty of his face or the sweet severity of his soul? His lucid soul, no longer sketched in memory of his body — I do not care. My love revolves like the planets around the storm of his sun. I am calling, calling out for Shams. I chant familiar names of friendship. DIE Die, die, expire in love, From your votive death new life is born. Silence breathes, fomenting death, While we cling to the debris of life, While we flee the dark heart of silent night to die. Endlessly, under a scorching sky, Up and down the land I have marched. Our desert crying out for help, Can give no rain to our stricken town.

The lust of blind possession rules the heart, The lust of rank and place keeps you apart Like falling hair it robs the eyes of light. I confess with sigh again I swore an oath on your ruby blood. I swore that I would fix my longing gaze on your chaste smile. I swore that even struck I would not flinch from your cruel blade. My faith in you would rise both green and strong again unscathed. My suffering heart is torn from you which none can cure but you.

Wherever the rainbow of your face alights, Be it dank gorge of well, you make it paradise. And when the magic screed is finished fair, The bough leans down to read his message there. SEEK Seek to replace the lead of your eyes with a living ear which learns to die. The devil insinuates the hearts which just lie As crooked feet only crooked shoes try. Intone sacred words and ancient sounds With mechanical tick of a clock expound For a fool words will fall on barren ground Even if you mint them on the willing page, Even if you speak them slowly like the sage.

Oh sinner! From the sweet home of bed I was torn, So my pain and longing was born. Listen to my longing cry, Listen, or else I die. Honky Tonk music played with great swing and swagger from a band who hail from Austin Texas and wear their credentials big and bold. This debut release has eleven tracks and each one is a real diamond that shines and shimmers. Country music comes with so many sub categories that it can make your head spin but the sound of Ameripolitan music includes a mix of western swing, honky-tonk, rockabilly and outlaw attitude.

From Buck Owens through to Dwight Yoakam, there is a wealth of rich sounds in the tracks here and the playing is such a joy. No doubt their residency at the White Horse in Austin is quite an experience and something that one hopes they eventually bring overseas to our European shores. All songs are written by John Mutchler and the tight sound is testament to the finely-honed ensemble that has paid its dues on the live circuit in the dancehalls and honky tonks of Texas over the past three years.

The title track is a fine example of the band in full flight and the guitar twang and steel guitar and fiddle interplay is quite addictive. The Usual Suspects is a country swing song that has a lilt and tempo that lifts the spirits while Room , Divorce Division shows the darker side of relationships gone wrong.

Heart-Songs Seeking Resonant Harmonies

Bad Habit and Lone Star Saturday Nigh t live right up to their titles and the collective playing is very impressive. Big Black Cloud is a drinking song that is laced with heartache, the perfect ingredients for a country tune. The closing song, Top Shelf Whiskey And Cold Lone Star Beer sums up the essence of the band as they play live to a Friday night local crowd and set the tone for a good time to be had by all with fiddle and pedal steel swooping around the strong rhythm section while Mutchler leads from the front with a fine vocal and engaging presence.

Stirring stuff…! This is the fifth release from an artist who is based in Portland and who explores soundscapes that fit into a contemporary folk arena. Her sweetly seductive vocals and the gentle accompaniment on these ten songs give a hypnotic, less is more, effect to everything.

Wistful tunes, finely honed and reflective, whispered images and emotions play across the production by Shane Leonard. He is a multi-instrumentalist who provides drums, Wurlitzer, acoustic guitar, organ, synthesizer, violin, electric guitar and percussion. There are many more players who contribute to the overall feel of this beautifully realised album but throughout, it is the sense of ensemble playing that captures the imagination as different sounds introduce themselves in the melodies, all driven by Tivel on guitar and violin to compliment her captivating vocals.

Figure It Out is the repentant lover who steps over a line and now reflects on what is important as her partner walks away. Minneapolis is a tale of isolation framed at night by lonely, stark car headlights on the blinds and an urge to leave in order to start again. Fenceline is an immigrant trying to keep a sense of dignity in a cold world that ignores his humanity. Anthony is a tale of self sabotage and ending life in a burning apartment as memories of a lover come flooding in.

Homeless Child is about a single mother, down and out, while the thin line between survival and capsizing blurs and disappears. There is empathy here but also a tired anger. Velvet Curtain is a mini play of a cleaner singing alone in an empty theatre after closing time and a vagabond sneaking a peek in order to feel connection in an empty world.

So beautifully conceived and delivered. Two Strangers is a last shot at love through the loneliness of city life, a glance and a chance to meet that extends beyond mere dreams into reality. If only. The title track is a song about observing a cross-dresser and the empathy that arises in looking at a life half lived behind the dark of night and pulled curtains.

Tivel is a songsmith of the highest talent. An English folk music band that are often associated with the folktronica genre, due to the electronic influences evident in some of their work. Tunng are often noted for their use of strange instruments, unusual tunings and changes in timing and tempo. A prime example is Death And The Maiden Retold , a reworking of a traditional folk song, arranged in a uniquely different way The eleven tracks are selected across the years of their recording career and span to The arrangements are quirky and avant-garde but somehow it all holds together with a kind of pastoral elegance reminiscent of Old England in more innocent times.

Bodies is an example of this and the strange Pool Beneath The Pond suggests medieval chant music with added sound effects. Magpie Bites is another addictive whacky piece of magic, reminding me of Gentle Giant. Band Stand is a slice of elegant pastoral electronica and Clump , like the whole project, is gently addictive on repeated playing.

Check out this ground-breaking band! Wates produced the project himself and all 11 tracks were completed in less than five hours, with no overdubs, live in the studio. There are also echoes of an early John Martyn and tracks like The Sun On Clear Waters speaks of the legacy we are leaving for our children and the hope that young love and the simple beauty of nature can endure. His guitar playing is of the highest order and his technical prowess on the instrument is perfectly matched by his flawless vocal delivery.

Highly recommended. This talented musician has been releasing music of real quality since his debut recording appeared in However, long before this, Fussell was quietly learning his craft through early influences; originally his Father, Fred C. Fussell, a folklorist, curator, and photographer. He travelled across the American Southeast, documenting traditional vernacular culture, which included recording blues and old-time musicians; all of which had a profound impact on Jake.

Growing up in Colombus, Georgia, he also travelled and lived in California and Mississippi, before settling in Durham, North Carolina where he currently resides. He focused on narrative folksongs and deepened his studies while honing his guitar skills under the guidance of blues legend Precious Bryant. On Out of Sight, is the third album and as both guitarist and singer, Fussell displays a gently confident knack of interpreting the nine tracks selected from a variety of sources. There are songs about fishmongers The River Of St. The production is uncluttered and clear as a bell, evoking a timeless quality to the melodies and the understated playing.

Michael Was Hearty, The Rainbow Willow, Jubilee and Drinking Of The Wine all contemplate the relative virtues of love and life with the obscure sources adding great integrity to the selection process and fastidious work of Fussell. Music to calm the soul and lift the spirit. The ten tracks are of a consistently high quality with the playing and arrangements complementing the excellent song-writing ability of Ross, who also produced the project. Kicking off with The Reason This Railroad, a slice of sweet Americana right out of the Stephen Stills songbook, with fine ensemble playing and leading into the sassy bar-room, Dr John feel of Young Man , dripping in atmosphere; the pace has been set.

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The soulful blues of Pick Up Our Anchor , with Elles Bailey on co-lead vocals, illustrates a confidence and swagger with the pedal steel of Smith Curry underpinning the strong tempo laid down by Brian Irwin on drums and Derek Randall on fender bass. Scarlet Coat reminds me of vintage Blue Rodeo in full swing and is an addictive tune, featuring an up-tempo beat and swirling pedal steel. Ross is a fine singer and his delivery on the slow groove of Blow Away is perfectly accompanied by the fiddle playing of Andrea Young and the ever-present pedal steel that duels around the arrangement.

Lily features dobro, fiddle and acoustic guitar and is a gentle ballad about unrequited love with deft and restrained playing throughout. The closing track, Driftwood, is a country ramble through the realisation that we are no more than fragile entities upon this Earth and drifting on the sea of life. The addition of four radio edit tracks is a welcome way to end proceedings and this is a release that comes high on my list of favourites this year.

The gentle easy sway of the title track opens this debut release and talks of leaving the rain of the East coast for the sunshine and optimism of life on the West coast of America. It sets the tone for the rest of the eight songs included here that deliver an elegant, contemporary country sound. Ash is the creative source behind the Den of Ashes moniker and his experience in visual media serves him well in the impressive presentation that accompanies the arrival of this album for review.

It is always a good sign when you see a carefully packaged release in support of the music contained within. The warm breezes of California gently blow through the sense of lightness here, where the vocals are delivered with an easy tone and the playing of Alex Alessandroni piano, keyboards , Lili Haydn violin , Dan Rothchild bass , Robin DiMaggio drums, percussion anchor everything in a relaxed and restful way.

The presence on four songs of Greg Leisz, on pedal steel, is a very pleasant addition to a production that is both clean and bright with plenty of space in the arrangements. There is a dream-like quality to the soundscape and an atmosphere that allows the players to perform with an understated touch and economy that brings depth to the songs. Hangman channels the voice of a deceased victim of the noose and a past that haunts, rather than reconciles. The plaintive tones of Living In My Dreams and Silver Dreams give the sense of wishing for another reality where life seems sweeter and wishes come true; the past brought to life in the present.

A recommended release. A native of North Carolina, he is a Grammy nominated sound engineer and now produces music projects in his Treehouse Studio, outside Nashville. While he can play bluegrass banjo with the best of them, as heard on the opening instrumental Split Lip , Tim really loves to fuse his Appalachian roots with his lifelong love of blues, rock and soul. Together they create a whopping great slice of rollicking Southern Rock - Americana at its best.

Notable Nashville players in the form of Dann Sherrill on drums and Dave Roe on bass do a good job of keeping them all under control. All of the instrumentals and four of the six songs are originals or cowrites. In the meantime, check out this album. David Leask is a Scotsman who has been living and making music in his adopted Ontario for much of his adult life. The well crafted songs are given a broadly folk rock treatment here by David and his co-producer Justin Abedin. If you like this solid collection, you might want to check out his five album back catalogue.

If, like me, Ben Bedford is a new name to you, do yourself a favour and check out this beautiful recording from a winner of the Kerrville Grassy Hill New Folk award in A concept album of sorts, it takes the listener through a day in the life of Ben and his trusty companion, Darwin the cat. Subtitled An Illinois Prairie Story , Ben armed with just his voice and his acoustic guitar magically transports us to his rural home The Hermitage and immerses us completely in his world, one in which he revels in the native trees, plants, birds and animals around him.

There are five instrumental tracks, interspersed with six songs. From the opening chords of the brief instrumental Morning Rise to the gentle closer Quiet on the Green Hill , it is almost impossible not to be drawn in. Lyrically, these poetic songs could stand on their own as spoken word pieces. Fill up my mind, thorn-tree of song. Co-produced with David Cain, the sparse production is perfect for this immersive mindful journey,.

Ben is due to return to tour in the UK and Europe again in Autumn - definitely worth travelling to see. Seek it out, then sit back and relax. His latest offering King Of Madrid , had me head scratching on that very point after just a couple of spins. In a similar vein as the excellent Nos Da Comrade , released by him in , it includes both explosive and heartrending material in equal measures. Again, there is nothing approaching a filler or weak track on the album. The only distinguishing factors this time around, are a lot more jangly guitars and gloriously slick pedal steel.

Once more the listener is presented with a cracking collection of songs, that land somewhere between Son Volt and The Byrds, with a pinch of Teenage Fanclub on the side. The subject matters of liberation and healing are visited. His distinctive vocals alongside twangy guitars and competing pedal steel are a joy.

A striking guitar break, courtesy of Bruntnell, closes the track in fine style.

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Sunshine , the opening track from his previous album, aimed fire and brimstones at a political showman across the pond. Its edgy lyrics are the perfect match to the equally edgy and psychedelic sonics. Its infectious melody disguises the sordid message within.

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The title track heads in an entirely alternative direction, giving the listener time to pause for breath. It reads and sounds like an apology written to a lover for, perhaps, a minor misdemeanour. The boxing gloves are removed, replaced temporarily, by a tuxedo and bow tie. Taking control of the production duties this time around, Bruntnell surrounded himself with trusted musicians and friends, all of who have performed with him on stage at some point.

The icing on the cake is the addition of B. Cole and Iain Sloan on pedal steel guitar, which elevates much of the material to an altogether higher level. Mention must also be made of the impressive packaging and the messaging contained within. In simple terms, the album is yet another collection of strikingly and evocative songs from Bruntnell. It once more showcases his talent at writing, arranging and delivering lasting music.

I hope to hear a better album this year, but seriously I doubt that I will. Magical and dreamy and laced with tales of personal disarray, the album drew comparisons to Patty Griffin in both its song structure and vocal delivery. It also demonstrates a growing maturity and confidence from Spence, even if much of the material ventilates the frustrations of personal relationships and the strife of survival and personal fulfilment in a gruelling and often unforgiving industry.

Nevertheless, Mint Condition is a giant step forward by an artist coming out of her shell, growing in confidence and striking another homerun for the seemingly endless list of female artists that are dominating the business end of Americana at present. Spence appears to be opening up more and gathering strength on each successive album. While her earlier albums traded in traditionally melodic country folk, she has the skill set to challenge herself outside her comfort zone.

The results could be well worth the gamble. Who is that masked man? The album plays out like a Western movie score, more Gothic than Spaghetti, brilliant in parts, even if it does stray well wide of conventional at times. With a booming vocal range that lands somewhere between Marlon Williams and Daniel Romano, Peck's lyrics and vocal delivery create stunning imagery across the twelve tracks on the album. Fading light, blood red skies, rodeo queens, outlaw gamblers, wide uncrossable rivers, desert winds, marauding and careering cattle, all entered my subconscious a couple of plays in.

Peck contributes the bulk of the instrumentation of guitars, banjo and keyboards. Credit to the Sub Pop label for giving Peck the exposure to a wider audience than would have been the case had the album been self-released.

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There is currently no shortage of bearded male singer songwriters taking shade under the Americana umbrella. Many appear to have been indoctrinated on a musical diet of Neil Young to Frankie Lee could be accused of being a member of this mushrooming household. The dissimilarity between Lee and other such artists is that these resemblances are more a compliment to the strength of the material on the album than any copycat suggestion.

In the same vein as his Loose label mate Israel Nash, the quality of his music outshines the majority of his peers. Stillwater raises the bar further, offering delicate and intimate grooves, alongside some more rock tinged songs. Setting up studio in the small house where he grew up and under the watchful eye of co-producer Jacob Hanson, all nine tracks were either first or second takes. Given these origins, themes of lost lovers, land repossessions and dwindling local employment all feature. Gentrification and the ill effects of unrestrained commercialism are visited on Downtown Lights , the first single from the album.

The slower paced In the Blue also impresses, echoed vocals and tingling piano complimenting each other. Thoughtful song constructions, unhurried and patient, all contribute to another very satisfying album from Lee. Surprisingly he still remains slightly under the radar. It continues from where their debut album left off, with a slew of self-written songs that mix classic and country rock with a solid energy and enthusiasm that is forward looking rather than retro in outlook. The majority of the songs come from Overbo with four contributions from Francis.

They write solo, which offers an individual viewpoint yet a similar outlook. The songs mix lead vocals, with one or the other normally taking that role, ably backed by the other. Although some songs, like the opening Blue Earth Country, feature both handling the lead together. They are both very capable of delivering in that department and they do so throughout. The duo produced the album with Bryan Daste, who plays pedal steel and alto sax and prepared the string and horn arrangements on the album.

They are joined by Toupee Zehr and Chaz Holmes on bass and drums as a string and brass section on certain tracks the trumpet player is one time Richmond Fontaine member Paul Brainard. This all makes for a sound that is varied and emphasises the melodic nature of the songs that are written, largely, from an honest, personal perspective. The song has a slow intensity, underscored by steel, strings and guitar. On the cover of this album, Hunt in a tintype photograph, is pictured holding a banjo. Both suggest an earlier place and time and, indeed, the music here possesses a timeless quality. Kelly is credited with the songs which are tales of bygone eras that have a resonance in the present.

That banjo on the cover was a discovery of a case that contained an instrument which produced an altogether different sound than expected, softer and more soulful. It was once owned by a player named Ira Tamm back in the early years of the 20th century. It has a softer less harsh tone, but offers a perfect accompaniment to her fluid, folk flavoured voice.

To fill the sound, she adds as required, upright bass, fiddle, organ and pedal steel as well as background vocals. The sound throughout is subtle and effectively sparse, allowing the voice to tell the stories with conviction. She wanted to get it right and detect a way for these songs to find their own voice. It marks the start of what is likely to be a noted career. Hunt joins the ranks of those who embrace an older time and order, but do so in a way that is redolent of the modern traditionalist movement.

Hunt not only involved herself in every aspect of the music, but also designed the evocative cover. A complete package that stands out by being true to itself. A heavy and life hardened sound that is full of grit and gavel with tales entirely suited to a country-noir visual setting. Each song reads like a brief scenario for a gritty realism and retribution. Aside from Halford and his Healers, there are a number of additional players bringing their skills to create this elemental sound. Halford produced together with Healer Adam Rossi and engineer Dion Zimmer, who also co-wrote several of the songs with Halford.

They are a part of the story elsewhere too. A sound of hard-worn Americana that could easily have come along twenty years ago, but is as welcomed now as it would have been then. This cycle of songs tells its own tale of two brothers and their paths, offering a glimpse into a place that many would not physically want to go, but are happy to ride along with these musicians as guides. After eight albums, the sound that Halford has been forging has now been honed to a sharp edge. They play a Southern Rock orientated selection of songs, that sound like they could easily have been around a few decades ago.

All of who are detectable in the DNA of this album. His demeanour is that of a man of the South, something that is clearly in his soul and in the way he sings. It is with the latter that he would have the most affinity. A big sound behind a big voice. The players here have been previously associated with Whiting and include guitarist David Prince, Chris Justice on bass and drummer Hayden Miles.

They are all players capable of delivering a ballad as well as hot for the highway gear shifting grooves. The ten self written songs were co-produced by Whiting and Wesley Allen and by using the three players mentioned, they produce a full and expensive sound that is in keeping with the overall intent of his musical direction. Stop Crazy has a solid riff that reminds of U.

SOB finds Whiting alone with his guitar and performing the song, with as much conviction and honesty as the full band tracks. Some few years ago it would have been classified as rock, pure and simple. Whiting grew up with music, playing drums at an early age and later playing guitar in a covers band, before he began to write his own material. Finally The Beginning , his previous and first album, was released a couple of years back and this second album is a consolidation of what he learned from that experience and from countless gigs.

His possesses a sound that is now as current as it was back when his influences were regulars in the charts. A place, that given the right breaks, Whiting might just find himself in the future with high expectations. A solid studio team has been gathered that includes both producers,who add enough variety and texture to the songs to hold interest throughout. Other songs like Right Now , with some solid Dobro playing,makesthe point of living in the moment.

The title track is a love song and is perhaps going to remind the casual listener of the aforementioned Stapleton,though not in any calculated way. The tempos, in the main, are slow paced and bluesy and allow the mood to balance a certain melancholy with a positive outlook. Carroll introduces each song with a spoken title and what follows is the bare bones delivery of the songs with sparse arrangements or no uneeded elaboration.

It is then likely to be close to what you would hear in a live concert,allowing the words to be clear and considered. His songs are about characters and lifestyles that are vivid and visual in their descriptive power. The title song, a co-write with Paul Cauthen and Brian Rug, also looks at the life of the modern troubadour for good and bad.

My Only Good Shirt equates the garment with a life that has been equally well worn but loved. In this bare state they are the essence of storytelling at its most direct and therefore brings you closer to the songs that Carroll and his co-writers intended. It feels like those shoes will comfortable for many a mile. The songs were, in the main, written by Byrd with a few exceptions, including two songs written by Matt Fockler.

Very much at the heart of this album with Byrd is fellow multi-instrumentalist Johnny Waken and the rhythm section of the aforementioned Ford and drummer Joanna Miller. The sound is a blend of folk, rock and country embellished with touches of mandolin, piano, toy glockenspiel and musical saw. The title track has garnered attention for its considered look at adversity and the struggle that can come to stand up to it.

Bolander is an Americana artist with all that that entails: a mix of country, folk, country rock, southern rock, country soul and all points west. There is a brooding weary intensity to some of the songs like Oh Lord , a prayer-like exhortation that has cancer and medication at its core. Bolander grew up in a small Kentucky town and knew all about the needsto work hard and think beyond expectations to achieve what he wanted in life. Trenton Jenkins plays the banjo that is often prominent on the album.

Closer to home he also cites John Moreland in that list of influential musicians. The Wind is an album for a certain mood and listening time where and when it will offer you solace and satisfaction. A performer who is channelling the directness and simplicity of blues and old-time music in his own way. The title is a reflection of the time he spent playing music in Mexico and the culture and landscape of that country has also found a place in his own writing and playing. He worked with co-producers Bill Palmer and Boris McCutcheon to deliver an album that sounds like some storytelling at its most concise,accompanied by arrangements that run from the stripped down Spread My Wings, Rendezvous Duel to the full band with trumpet that evokes a region with some shades of authenticity Take Three Breaths.

There are a number of additional instruments involved here that add to the flavour of these location infused stories. Bass, drums and guitar are central to a lot of the music but it is enhanced with cello, viola, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and accordion. Centred around an acoustic heartbeat the songs are full of life, love and latitude. That connection comes across in the music. And that is a musician who brings his blend of the flavours of Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, Mexico and New Mexico to life in this rewarding album.

Opening with the blues shuffle of Rocking Chair and continuing with the rich rhythm of Smile ; Louisiana native Josh Hyde continues to confirm himself as a musician of some depth and groove. This is his second release and there is a mix of Little Feat meets Bonnie Raitt to some of the arrangements and a strong sense of New Orleans influences on a number of other tracks.

Down On Bourbon Stree t and All You Need Is Soul really solidify the feeling that here is an artist of real talent and the closing track, Reasons Why , delivers a slow reflective coda to all that has gone before. Country Soul with some swagger and a very enjoyable listen. Growing up in Queens, NYC was the beginnings of an eclectic education in a variety of musical genres, all of which have led to the creation of this impressive collection of 13 tracks, supposedly centered around the influence of Bill Monroe, bluegrass legend, but, in reality, delivering so much more outside the confines of such a restrictive box.

A mandolin player par excellence, Statman has gathered a group of studio musicians who generate quite an impressive array of phrasings and skills across the tracks on offer. Statman has a very fluid and lyrical playing style and some of his solos are quite dizzying in technique. All tunes are composed by the man himself and production by Edward Haber brings great clarity and space to the sound. The reflective Old East River Road , with Hammond and pump organ accompaniment, is typical of the side roads taken throughout this project, with all routes leading back to a very impressive destination that delivers on a number of fronts.

Kristina Stykos is a music producer, recording engineer, songwriter, radio host, podcaster and a very talented musician. She is based in Vermont, where she has her own recording studio, Pepperbox - a solar, wind and generator powered space, fully off-the-grid and where this record was created. She also has her own record label, Thunder Ridge Records, to release her own material and has produced over 20 albums for herself and various clients since Her sound is very much American Roots music and as an artist who appreciates the beauty and benefits of nature, her rich lyrical imagery is matched by her passionate delivery.

On this project, Kristina delivers 13 self-penned songs and a self-produced sound that is crystal clear and full of bright spaces. Kristina plays a range of instruments throughout, from guitars to mandolins and from keyboards to her powerful vocals - reminiscent of Patti Smith; some spoken-word, plenty of edgy conviction and always delivering in spades. Together they complement each other seamlessly and produce a real tour de force with a high level of playing and performance. Songs like Walking These Ridges and Since You Asked look at standing alone in life, being independent and looking to Mother Nature for answers and quiet calm.

A theme of going back to basics repeats in songs like Breaking Trail and Waging Peace , while in Blessed Light , there are prayers for our redemption offered in the hope that humankind can find a way back to the Source. At the Edg e has a terrific groove and looks to new answers, as revolution seems to be a viable solution against the greed in the world. Relationships and their abusive power are the subject of Caught By The Heart , while In The Cleansing Rain looks at the naked honesty and trust that are sought in true love. Our lack of perspective is pitted against the path that mother nature walks, as a primal influence, and Kristina examines the need to trust ourselves and the enduring power of this Earth to provide.

This is a talent that merits close attention. The accented drawled vocal and stinging pedal steel have an undisputable Texas ring about them. These benchmarks are firmly stamped across the twelve tracks on the album. South Texas Homecoming pays homage to them all, both in the structure of the material and the quality of the playing throughout. A number of the songs had me head scratching, wondering had I come across them before. Pictures slows things down a notch or two, a gentle acoustic ballad with a story to tell of loneliness and separateness.

Outta sight! However, far from tongue in cheek, its lyrics insinuate unimaginable pain from a persecuted soul, racked by loss. Look Out Below Mama follows an autobiographical tale of returning to Texas from the Middle East after a seemingly lifetime away from home. Confessional to the bone, it tells of a privileged upbringing abroad and a difficult rehabilitation both psychologically and socially, on returning to Texas. The old timey delight Sticky Nickels hints at personal recovery and comeback.

For this writer, South Texas Homecoming is one that nearly got away. Released in mid it only came to my attention recently. John Ross Silva, who previously worked with Kris Kristofferson, Hayes Carll, Hal Ketchum and Jamie Lin Wilson, handled the production duties and got the mix spot on, helped enormously by the quality of the playing throughout. There is great music still coming out of Texas, although sometimes you just have to do a bit of digging to uncover it. South Texas Homecoming arrived over a month ago and a lot of other albums have landed since.

I often feel that slotting bands like Massy Ferguson into the Americana genre, however well meaning, does not do them favours, or justice for that matter. The four-piece band features founding members and songwriters Ethan Anderson vocals and bass and Adam Monda vocals and guitars. Dave Goedde drums and Fred Slater keyboards complete the foursome. Echoed guitar and keyboards open the full-on belter Rerun. The song communicates directly with the listener, catching your attention and holding it. Its spoken delivery of adolescent misadventure is instantly addictive.

The song narrative tells of teenagers out at night, cruising and looking for action. Massy Ferguson are yet another band from the US that have earned a growing fan base in Europe where they tour regularly, playing festivals and headline shows. A killer rock album, simple as that! First impressions can often be deceptive. On my initial spin of Steel Blossoms second full length release my first impressions were of gorgeous harmonies, tight playing and some slick songs.

On further spins and having read that I was surprised, but not disappointed, by the subject matter of many of the songs, which contradict the girl next door images of the duo that adorn the impressive album packaging. Topics including domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, infidelity and murder are visited across the albums ten tracks, giving the album an unexpected quirky edge. Sarah Zebley and Hayley Prosser are childhood friends raised in small town Pittsburgh. Relocating to Nashville, the duo initially made their mark performing in bars and honky tonks in Music City before spreading their wings with bookings at festivals across the US.

Salley also undertook production duties and co-wrote five of the tracks on this album. Trailer Neighbour is equally light hearted, playful and easy on the ear. Revenge is an altogether different story, a dark tale of domestic abuse narrated by the slayed partner as she plots to haunt her killer.

Pick Me Up is classic country - alcohol enslavement and escapism from the mundane nine to five job at its core. Innocent laments the loss of childhood simplicity and the often hard knocks that real life delivers. Their formula of polished country songs, flawless musicianship and production, together with divine vocal delivery and spikey harmonies should get them a lot of industry attention.

With the benefit of a few breaks and with the correct exposure, this album should establish Steel Blossoms as serious players in the mainstream country market. Seldom does an album come along that impresses this much on first listen and then continues to improve exponentially with each play. German born multi-instrumentalist songwriter Thomm Jutz is rarely out of the bluegrass charts these days, either as a songwriter or as a producer. Renaissance man Peter Cooper is renowned as a music journalist with The Tennessean and a lecturer in Vanderbilt University, as well as being a consummate songwriter and performer.

Co-founder of Red Beet Records, Eric Brace formerly worked as a journalist in DC before moving to East Nashville and falling into the company of fellow musicians and songwriters. Most of the songs are written by one or other of the trio either solo or collaboratively, but they are also joined by regular co-writer John Hadley for a couple of songs. Mainly recorded on acoustic instruments, they are bolstered by the presence of Mark Fain on bass, Mike Compton on mandolin, Lynn Williams on drums and Tammy Rogers The Steeldrivers on fiddle. In The Presence Of The River mentions many of the literary and musical geniuses that the famous river has spawned, but it stands out as a demonstration of the heavenly three part harmonies that the three close friends are capable of.

Civil right and civil wrongs are raised in Mississippi Magic from Peter Cooper, where he is inspired by the life of the late Rev Will D. Campbell was a well known white preacher and civil rights activist, friend and supporter of Martin Luther King and also a close friend of songwriter Tom T.

The pair were known to make whiskey and drink it together - find out all about it in Tom T. And Brother Will. Lastly, the album is accompanied by a detailed booklet with notes and superb historical photographs of the people and places chronically so lovingly in the project. Refreshingly there are no cliches here, either in the playing or in the compositions. Each of the band are comfortable delivering lead vocals and the playing is tight - honed over years of playing together both in their hometown gigs in Toronto and on the road together.

Clawhammer banjo player Chris Coole is respected as one of the best in the business. Deft songwriting and a catchy fiddle riff transports the listener right into the scene, described in graphic and gory detail, and Pretty Boy delivers his last words over the back drop of cleverly arranged backing vocals. John also contributes a gorgeous instrumental tune Sweetberry Wine, a homage to the W Virginian fiddle tradition.

This is the third release from a singer songwriter who resides in Portland, Oregon. Solomon writes all his own material and included in the ten tracks here are four co-writes, which shows his collaborative side. Just Like You is a song about the struggles that war veterans face in trying to fit back into society. Whistle of the Train and Ticket to Nowhere deal with the pain of lost love while Come What May tells of lost souls on the road looking for a meaningful destination.

Produced by Solomon, the songs are very pleasant without ever getting into a different gear — nice playing from the studio musicians and an easy laid-back style. If you like a blend of rock, country, soul, jazz and blues, then this band are right up your street. Cannonball features Vince Gill on vocals, so you know that a certain standard has already been reached in attracting such a named artist to this project.

Jake Bartley has a fine voice and sings all the lead parts, as well as contributing on rhythm guitar. The saxophone of Bill Christmas brings plenty of gifts across the 12 tracks featured and his interplay with Steven Cathcart on pedal steel is a real standout. Bartley contributes 5 songs, including 2 co-writes, and other band members also get credits across a further 6 tracks. Schorn , features an excellent interchange between guests Randy Kohrs on resophonic guitar and Robby Turner on pedal steel. Stephen Hudson features on fiddle and Andrew Crawford, on various guitars, is also excellent throughout.

A very enjoyable listen. Ryan Klein has credits on 6 songs, with John Cannon chipping in on a further 7 tracks 4 co-writes included. The radio friendly, We Three Kings , scores with a fine tempo, backed by a driving beat and many of the songs on this collection come with a quality in the playing and an authenticity that convinces these guys are the real deal.

Red Rock, This Old House and Black Hat are songs about lost love and fractured relationships while drinking away the pain and sinking towards the dark side are topics that get an airing in Empty Bottles and Between the Bottom and the Bottle …. Indeed, his rich vocals lead from the front throughout. Lucy Kitt Stand By Westbere. She also graced the stage of Glastonbury in Rather than flesh out some of the tracks, Kitt has stuck to her guns and delivered tracks mostly accompanied only by her acoustic guitar.

A brave move it has to be said, as the songs may have made a more instant impact on the listener with the inclusion of additional instrumentation in the mix. The opening and title track finds her creating beauty out of pain, bearing her soul as she ponders on a failed relationship.

Gone follows a similar theme, lost love still raw and tender. Said And Done brings to mind Courtney Marie Andrews, beautifully pitched vocals on a tale of reconciliation and survival. Simplicity is possibly the strongest element throughout this collection of well-constructed and candid songs. His latest recording unfolds very much in the same vein as his live shows, hard edged folk songs laced with discerning observations and self-effacement.

Raw, roughhewn and unpolished, Cash Cabin Sessions No. Long may he reign. The good news is that this latest collection of 13 songs is every bit as good and another important milestone in a career that just keeps climbing higher. The core personnel remain largely the same, with a group of experienced players that set the atmosphere and mood of the songs, all of which are embellished by the soaring soulful voice of Griffin. A voice which exists on a level that few artists attain, let alone sustain for what could be considered any enduring length of time.

The sound is wonderfully clear and full of space for the impressive talents of each musician to shine forth. The metaphor of water appears on both River and What Now , where we are given insight into the self determination and endurance of a woman to survive, both strong and free; hints of the mystery contained in the grand plan and our place in the unknown, an invitation to trust the Universe.

Luminous Places seems to deal with acceptance and the possibility of life as a dream — dust to dust! The Wheel has a blues shuffle and understated groove. The longest track on the album and one that deals with perhaps the cycle of life, depression and crushing mortality. The last two songs are performed solo by Patty, one on piano, the other on guitar and both are simply stunning. What I Remember is an insight into the fragile nature of relationships and the fleeting nature of life. Just the Same is lighting a torch in the darkness to failed love and the enduring essence in trying.

The lyric booklet has a picture of Patty, sitting in a garden chair, boots on the armrests, and two dogs sitting with her, howling towards the sky…Hers has always been the space to look with sensitivity at the heartache and longing on this journey we try to make sense of; the pain and suffering are tempered with compassion and empathy and running through everything is the possibility of hope and redemption.

Long may she shine! Fruit Bats started as a solo project for Eric D. Johnson before evolving into a band that has released 6 previous records. Johnson has been a guitarist in both Califone and The Shins and the influence of other acts suggest an eclectic approach to this latest project. Drawn Away walks a line between dream pop and Americana.

Ocean is an acoustic track that highlights the easy vocal tone of Johnson, while the hints of lap steel on Your Dead Grandfather and A Lingering Love suggest an interesting detour among the swirling keyboard sounds. It all comes together on Mandy From Mohawk Wherever You May Be , a look back at love remembered amidst sweet melodies and gentle rhythm. Engaging and energising. Both musicians are very experienced, having met in Canada and played in any number of previous bands. Schefter recorded and toured with Alannah Myles for many years while Cat Fury had spent lots of time and talent establishing herself on the Toronto music scene.

Now living in Ireland, they combine with Sean Kilbride drums , Conor Daly banjos to produce great quality and variety across the eleven tracks included here. There is a commercial Pop sound to tracks High Strung and High On Him while the superb duet on Albuquerque is a real treat with Schefter sounding all Jagger-esque on a slow blues burn. Plenty here for all to enjoy, even if this duo is yet to truly define their signature sound. Well worth investigation.

A 4-track EP from a trio that really impress and leave you wanting more. Martin is the vocalist, along with Tania Hancheroff and they are augmented by the excellent Chip Martin on guitars, bass and mandolin. No other information available, despite web searches — such is the lot of a music reviewer! Perhaps Martin and Chip Martin are one and the same; marks for effort? Marty Brown American Highway Plowboy. Not so long ago on the Lonesome Highway radio show we did a feature on artists who appeared to have gone under the radar. Now Brown is back with a brand new album on Plowboy for his first album in 25 years.

A lot has changed in those years but Brown is still worth hearing. The sound is broader and current while making no concession to pop-country that is filling the airwaves these days. None-the-less it is aiming at reaching a wider potential audience. Brown, realistically will never be a major name in the current market place.

However his fans will be delighted to have him back and new listeners will find a singer and writer giving his all and hitting some solid blue collar sentiments. His co-producer and often co-writer Jon Tiven is responsible for the overall sound. Recorded in Nashville they have produced a big warm sound that should engender a wider appeal. Brown brings his influences to bear on these tracks.

There is a mix of country, blues, rockabilly, soul and gospel influences that blend into something solid and wholesome. Welcome back Marty Brown. This Akron, Ohio five piece band have cover a number of musical bases all related to a knowledge and love of the more traditional aspects of country music. The production team of Luca Benedetti and Jim Campilongo were the team who headed up the recent Zephaniah Ohora album. And are obviously perfectly suited to oversee this album. As well as the five band members they bring such hired hands as Al Moss on pedal steel and both producers on a number of different instruments.

The album includes a surfeit of Telecaster twang as well as fiddle and steel. The necessary ingredients for a band that relishes its traditional roots alongside a forward looking attitude. But what makes it special is the solid songwriting and the vocal interplay of Ryan Humbert and Emily Bates. The writing is a mix of Humbert co-writes and some well chosen covers from the likes of Tim Carroll, Shel Silverstein, George Ducas and Stacey Earle and a numbers of tracks written by steel player Al Moss.

All are strong and different enough to keep things interesting throughout. California To Ohio is both a love song and a possible expression of their musical direction. The song also appears as an unlisted track again at the end of the album. Guitarist Brian Posten wrote the guitar infused instrumental title track. Mention to for the rhythm section of Ryan McDermott and Dylan Gomez who are right on the beat as the song requires. A trifle unfair perhaps, as Son Volt have recorded equally strong albums throughout their year tenure.

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More recent social discontent is addressed in the lively opener While Rome Burns and continues on the following track The The tempo may slip down a few gears on the exquisite Reality Winner , but the despair, questioning and venom in the lyrics remain consistent. The album is bookended by the chilling The Symbol , the desperation of the pending deportation by the Mexican immigrant alongside his American born children.

Union finds him exploring similar concerns but very much in the present times. However, the actuality of these times has shaken Farrar to gift us with the strongest material he has produced since American Central Dust nearly ten years ago. Its an album that improves with every listen and I look forward to revisiting it regularly in the coming weeks and months. Thirteen tracks, all co-writes with the exception of two, and with a gallery of exceptional players lending a hand, the album remains remarkably consistent given the number of personnel that contribute.

Kamp provides vocals, bass, electric and acoustic guitars, Hammond, Wurlitzer, piano, trumpet, trombone and percussion and is joined by a list of contributors that include Rich McCulley, Gene Edwards, Brian Whelan, Sam Morrow and Jaime Wyatt. Kamp is equally impressive when his foot is less firmly on the accelerator, both This Old Guitar and Heart Under Pressure hitting the country ballad bullseye. Paid By The Mile , a tongue in cheek consideration of the road weary touring hired hand, finds Kamp sharing vocals with emerging Southern rocker Sam Morrow. Such indulgences may be history for all but a select few, but fortunately for us artists like Kamp are still producing music every bit as admirable as many of his predecessors.

The album is peppered with all the key ingredients that combine to cook up classic Southern Rock, raspy whiskey laced vocals, gripping guitar riffs and solos, a thumping rhythm section, and most importantly, impressive songwriting. Well worth checking out. Americana duo The Civil Wars had all the hallmarks of the act most likely to make a major industry breakthrough at one stage.

Their debut album Barton Hollow , released in , sold over , copies in the U. By the time their follow up self-titled album was released in , Joy Williams and her musical partner John Paul White had already parted company some months previously. The official dissolution of The Civil Wars took place in Coincidentally, both artists have solo album releases in the coming months. Williams was raised in Santa Cruz California but resided in Nashville for much of her musical career. Perhaps a metaphor for her return not only to the city where her artistic creativity blossomed, but also to her musical roots.

The album is a collection of simple songs, beautifully delivered and enhanced by understated acoustic instrumentation. Time spent away for Williams seemed as essential as the inevitability of her return to Nashville. They also invited an impressive collection of songwriters, eleven in total, to co-write with Williams.

Admirably, the album works well as a unit, the tracks consistently on the same path, despite the arsenal of writers involved. Front Porch is very much a rebirth for Williams, both spiritually and visionally. Her greatest asset was always her gorgeous voice, from her childhood days singing gospel in church and throughout her professional career. Gone are the crossover pop leanings of her previous album Venus , to be replaced by a more paired down and primitive offering.

The latest album from Bambi Lee Savage mixes indie rock with classic country sensibilities.