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Released 23 February

 

Factory Blues (Single)

Country Heroes

Safe & Sound Recordings

A genuine country sound straight outta Norway! Brushing down their country attire for a fresh outing are Norwegians, Country Heroes, and their brand new single ‘Factory Blues’. With the band having formed in 2014, and one full album (‘Southern Insecurity’) behind them, Country Heroes issue first single, ‘Factory Blues’, from their upcoming sophomore album ‘Honky Tonk Tears’. By focusing on the blue collar sector of workers, the factory theme reminds of a 70s era when such labour was in high demand and probably at its peak, especially in terms of output. In addition, country music pretty much dominated the (UK) airwaves during said period, and this is where the ‘Factory Blues’ of the Country Heroes is most reminiscent of, despite hailing from the southern plains of Norway. With a miniscule rock edge to the country guitars, ‘Factory Blues’ is a fairly detailed overview of a typical working week where banter can fly between workers, cigarettes and coffee are consumed and, of course, hard work being the main, and toughest part of all. But it remains the anticipation of the end of the working week where one is working to live rather than living to work as it’s all about hitting the (honky tonks) bars and going out dancing. All of these details are expertly handled by Country Heroes, who maintain a steady rhythm throughout, with wonderful narration from vocalist Jørund Vålandsmyr who is never overpowering yet manages to capture your attention with considerable ease. Lap up these ‘Factory Blues’ from 9 to 5 because there is much promise to come from this country band.


Released Out now

 

London Is Trouble (Single)

Sol Heilo

Propeller Recordings

London can be an overrated commodity, just as other cities around the world can provide the same or similar experiences. Such feelings are expressed by Sol Heilo and latest single ‘London Is Trouble’, which is a rather beautiful and intimate acoustic folk song, and one written after the realisation of many years of life on the road with main focus Katzenjammer that the early promise of rock ‘n’ roll was becoming something of a chore rather than to be celebrated. Closer attention to detail reveals a solo singer baring her soul and missing certain aspects of her life back home, the snow for example, and thus channelling her grievances through this latest single: “I remember I was in the bar and had just bought myself a new guitar – a 1961 Gibson LG-0 – almost to fill my soul with something. It’s about how gray [sic] and dull London can be when you have no joy in your heart, and the ever-fleeting glow of late nights and early mornings.” With ‘London Is Trouble’ being the third single to be lifted from last year’s album ‘Skinhorse Playground’, any joy that is left to be found can certainly be had via ‘London Is Trouble’ and the impressive manner in which this intimate tale is told to anyone willing to listen. Top marks all round.


Released Out now

 

The Long Harvest

Creek Road Eleven

Z-Trading

Without realising it at the time, this project had been a long time coming for lead singer and guitarist Toni Ruuska. What started in 2013 has since evolved into the five-piece band Creek Road Eleven and their debut album ‘The Long Harvest’. Despite the lengthy timeframe used in order to arrive at the stage where the band now find themselves, much attention to detail and a full and comprehensive search was conducted in order to recruit the right individuals to bring home, or more to the point create a genuine southern American country sound. Such attention to the finer details has certainly paid off as Creek Road Eleven deliver a ten-track album packed with rollin’ country rock tunes, and often with a blues edge that justifies their own description of “Southern-spiced country rock” yet makes it all the more remarkable considering their northern location! Closer inspection of ‘The Long Harvest’ reveals an album that is providing a sense of storytelling that affects the majority of us from every day tales concerning the boredom of work and those Monday mornings (‘Bad Monday’), to misfortunes in love and relationships as well. The latter aspect concerning relationships arrives during several numbers, but not without a touch of humour via the lyrics, and found during such loose workouts as the excellent ‘Under The Full Moon’ and equally good, yet jaunty in rhythm ‘Don’t Call Back’. But if it’s escape you’re looking for regarding the mundanities of life, then the “pick me up” greeting of bluesy country rock, ‘Long Straight Highway’ with its talk of long open highways and musically providing a real sense of any such freedoms, then Creek Road Eleven and their album ‘The Long Harvest’ are likely to be the perfect companions for any such journey right now.


Released Out now

 

One Beer Left

Dusty Dave & The Heart Attacks

Rhythm Bomb

Having released their debut single back in 2014, The Heart Attacks scramble their creative ideas together once more to deliver a full-length album by the name of ‘One Beer Left’. In order to get the job done however, a new vocalist was recruited to their ranks by the name of Dusty Dave who applies a rather distinctive touch when it comes to the vocal department. With The Heart Attacks comprising of Lucky Steve (guitar), Dynamite White (blues harp), Rockin’ Bende (drums) and Ray Black (bass), who also served as producer for the record, Dusty Dave is in fine company as all concerned produce a mixture of predominantly raw blues songs. Such descriptions of the band’s sound  are noticeable from the opening blast of harmonica that introduces ‘Candyman Boogie’, and then followed by the rattlin’ rockin’ blues of ‘Ride & Roll’ and solid pace of ‘Good Rockin’ Rhythm’. ‘One Beer Left’ is not all about foot to the floor blues belters though, because there are slower tempos such as ‘Tough Enough’, with Dusty Dave’s vocal sounding more modern and revealing a different side to his vocal capabilities, to the catchy rhythm and reflective vocal of ‘Come Inside’, before ending up at the bottom of the blues barrel, emotionally, with two dark and gritty compositions namely ‘Champion Of The Blues’ and the album’s title track. There is a genuine feel of the entire band ploughing their way through a live set considering the flowing nature of each and every song, which was achieved due to the band performing together in the same room and with the recording being tracked live (Listen to ‘Worried Mind’, for example, which really projects the sentiments of its title). They may only have ‘One Beer Left’, but judging by the passion and musicianship at the centre of this record, Dusty Dave & The Heart Attacks certainly give a good account of themselves via their current record.


Released Out now

 

Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A full pot of drinking songs straight from the juke joints of America’s past where blues and rhythm and blues provided the backing track to the joys and pleasures that alcohol could bring, but also its use as a means to combat the ‘blues’ felt when relationship heartbreak came calling. With twenty-eight songs varying between moods and styles and given by artists ranging from Lightnin Hopkins, Rufus Gore, Jimmy Liggins, Dave Bartholomew and Jimmy Rogers to name but a small selection, the quality is set to high when it comes to the collection that is ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’. Whether it’s a pared back guitar affair via Lightnin Hopkins ‘Drinkin’ Woman’ or a more up-tempo singalong with Johnny Davis and ‘I’m A Wine Drinker’ with its more than happy approach to drink your quota if you’re not feeling up to it, this long player has pretty much got the lot. Take for example the swinging rhythm and stunning vocal pipes of Al Jackson during ‘Let’s Drink Some Whiskey’, to the rendition of Stick McGhee classic (and rockabilly favourite) ‘Drinkin’ Wine’ superbly handled by Larry Dale, before taking further twists and turns via two wonderful ramshackle blues numbers ‘Sloppy Drunk’ (Jimmy Rodgers) and careering off the road ‘Drunk Drivers Comin’ (Richard Bros.). If you need further convincing that you’re in need of some fine company to help lift the spirits and ease the blues, then the punchy sax intro of ‘Wine Wine Wine’ and compelling vocals of Calvin Boze (‘Looped’) should have your limbs shaking in no time. With ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’ being a combination of the vinyl series ‘Too Much Booze’ and ‘Bad Hangover’, there really is no other option than to take up this addictive habit of blues and rhythm and blues as there are no hangovers to be had here!


Released Out now

 

Reservation Blues

B. B. & The Blues Shacks

Rhythm Bomb

Longstanding stalwarts of traditional rhythm and blues, B. B. & The Blues Shacks resurface for their umpteenth album in as many years with ‘Reservation Blues’. By applying their creative hands to a vintage blues sound and, in particular, Chicago Blues, not to mention paying reference to jump and swing influences as well, B. B. & The Blues Shacks line up fourteen new songs of their own making. Starting with the wailing harmonica of the title track, ‘Reservation Blues’, and ending with much Hammond organ via the mid-tempo ‘Why Can’t I Go Home’, the quintet show all their years of experience with detailed observations of life’s ups and downs accompanied by skilled musicianship. Any listener will find themselves up on their feet once the infectious rhythm of ‘Lay Some Shuffle Down’ works its way under the skin, before ‘Mad About You’ weaves an entirely different yet equally compelling spell of soulful vocals that will leave you in awe. Sadly, follow up songs ‘I Can’t Go On’ and too much Hammond for our liking ‘Angry Cat’, and not too dissimilar ‘Honeycomb’ pale in comparison. Fear not as ‘Reservation Blues’ finds its feet once more with the above mentioned Chicago Blues playing its part for ‘Year Of Strife’, and then giving way to more soulful vocals during ‘From Now On’. The tempo slows for the excellent ‘My Time Ain’t Long’ that is full of reflection and lets in the brass instruments. If you’re looking for an album with much depth in terms of its compositions where song narratives are of equal importance to the musical output, then you’ve come to the right blues shack where you will find a reservation under ‘Reservation Blues’.


Released Out now

 

The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers

The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers

Safe & Sound Recordings

Receiving its first live outing via a release concert in Oslo (Norway), and issued to the general public late last week, was the eponymously titled debut album from The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers. With references to bands such as Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies being mentioned by this very music paper in relation to the band’s ‘My War’ single, the album, ‘The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers’ continues to follow in similar footsteps. Early indications suggest the complexity and beauty of the latter referenced Cowboy Junkies during opening song ‘Brand New’ that gives off an air of simplicity one instance, only to sound packed full of details the next where lead vocalist Kristine Marie Aasvang works miracles with the words by squeezing them through the narrowest of margins during its chorus, for example, and ably matched by the neighbouring guitar (Thomas Bergsten) and steady pattern of the drums (Alexander Lindbäck). There is a feeling of truths stripped bare, albeit in mind, during the tender and acoustic driven ‘Beautiful Blue’, where lyrics offer glimpses of a relationship that is on the verge of being gripped by anxiety and fear, from one person’s perspective that is, which is deeply touching and very beautiful in equal measures. If you’re expecting songs of an uplifting nature, then you’ve definitely got off at the wrong bus stop as these songs are often tales of broken relationships and lost souls. Such moments can be heard via ‘Whiskey Song’ that follows a certain country standard yet halfway through takes an unexpected U-turn and ends up a darkly twisted tale of revenge. It is this very act that sets The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers on their own path, and where former comparisons begin to fade due to the band heavily stamping their own personality over songs such as the compelling and gospel-tinged ‘Breaking Bad’, to the definite folk influence and marginal country rock of ‘How To Sing Goodnight’, before taking a similar trip with ‘My Only Friend Tonight’, and then ending on a raucous note via ‘Secret/Sacred’. A truly fine diversion of creativity where one can hear The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers really coming into their own (It was in the name all along!), in addition to delivering a debut album that is extremely compelling, and deeply moving, and one that is far from keeping any secrets.


Released Out now

 

A Time To Dance And Sing (Single)

Ann-Kristin Dordal & Ottar "Big Hand" Johansen

Tyrirot Musikk

Ottar “Big Hand” Johansen is a familiar name at Famous Last Words (FLW) after recent solo album (‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’) and double effort with fellow Norwegian country artist Arne Benoni  (‘Benoni & Big Hand’). This time out, Ottar Johansen enters the fray with a new (to our ears anyway) singing partner by the name of Ann-Kristin Dordal who has made something of an impact musically in her home town as well as overseas in countries such as Spain and Sweden. With the chosen single being a composition written by Jakup Zachariassen and Martin Joensen (The Faroe Islands) in collaboration with Bjørn “Southern” Nilsen (N), the pairing of Ann-Kristin Dordal with Ottar Johansen proves a winning combination. The reasons for this is down to the lovely lilting intro of piano, steel string and Dordal’s vocal that thankfully doesn’t exaggerate the “Americanisms” when it comes to her accent and therefore resulting in a sincere performance where her voice gives off a folk – country styling. With lyrics seemingly purporting to the hardships that life can bring and how easy it is to forget the pleasurable sides of life (‘A time to dance and sing again”), the pairing of Johansen and Dordal manage to smooth such woes, especially when their vocals combine with the country music support that is up there with the best this side of Nashville. ‘A Time To Dance And Sing’ makes for a fine combination between two Norwegian artists who should perhaps consider an extended project of the LP kind.


Released Out now

 

It’s Too Late Now

Chris Ruest & Gene Taylor

El Toro

We’re in blues territory with the latest album from Chris Ruest and Gene Taylor. With this album being mainly a combined effort with additional support coming from Brain Fahey on drums, the main pairing of Ruest and Taylor complement each other with twelve tracks incorporating a classic blues sound along with moments of boogie-woogie and American roots music. Such examples can be heard clearly via the piano fingers of acclaimed musician Gene Taylor during the appropriately named instrumental ‘Torpedo Boogie’ that really fires along at pace. Where this album benefits greatly is the variety in tempo where, for example, the more energetic zip of boogie-woogie is replaced elsewhere with a laidback blues approach and excellent narratives of ‘Keep Talking’, ‘Sad And Lonely Child’ and ‘Life’s Like Lightning’ with Texas blues’ guitarist Chris Taylor greatly impressing throughout. If you enjoy your blues steeped in tradition yet combined with other components of rock ‘n’ roll that occasionally suggest Ruest and Taylor are more than comfortable in the present (look to the roots rock of ‘I’m Down’ and bluesy rock of ‘I Tried’), then ‘It’s Too Late Now’ is definitely a ticket worth purchasing.


Released Out now

 

Smokin

Smokin A

El Toro

A different proposition from El Toro, and one that sways considerably from the norm of rockabilly, with Smokin A and his debut album ‘Smokin’. More notably, Smokin A is a mysterious figure with very little known about this artist apart from the contents of the long player ‘Smokin’ that was recently thrust under our noses. After countless repeat plays, any efforts to pin down the influences at the heart of this record has remained a difficult task, and one that has been matched with much enthusiasm on this side of the counter. If labels are required, however, then Smokin A offers ten tracks of sparsely influenced rhythm and blues blended with sparse references to soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Such references become blurred, however, once the likes of ‘Wishmaster’ makes its entrance with its 60s flavoured organ, but it’s a song that is far more current despite hefty links to the past as it’s a track that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Artic Monkey’s set list or side project The Last Shadow Puppets. The bare components of the song structures continues (‘Work Of Art’) and often shrouded in dark moods (‘Dirty’) and disconnected feelings (‘Smokin’). Such feelings are captured to perfection throughout ‘Normal’ where the central guitar plucks out the lines providing real expression, and one that greatly complements the deliberate lack of interest given by the vocals. With further mystery surrounding this artist due to the addition of two extra tracks that were not chalked up on the board for your reading pleasure, the album presented by Smokin A really provides a sharp prod to one’s senses because despite taking its references from the past, the album ‘Smokin’ does not sound of vintage age yet is more at home in the present. A refreshing outlook indeed from both recording artist and record label.


Released Out now

 

A Night Of Jump Blues

The Big Jamboree

El Toro

It’s big band time! Consisting of eight members, The Big Jamboree sends the listener spiralling backwards to a bygone era of big band, swing, jump blues and rhythm and blues. Clearly in a mood to celebrate and see in the good times, The Big Jamboree attempt to achieve such a goal via opening song ‘Saturday Night’ that relays the days of the week where not much is happening until Saturday finally arrives and is greeted with much enthusiasm and rich character by way of the band’s brass section and lead vocals of Augie Burr. It makes for a great introduction. The tempo really gets going once the driving rhythm of ‘Move On’, before taking a turn of pace with the pleading ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ where Augie Burr’s crooning vocal shines brightly here. The rest of The Big Jamboree pick up the heartbroken pieces with a sprightly instrumental titled ‘A Room Full Of Blues’, which clearly showcases the band’s musicianship. ‘My Girl Across Town’ and ensuing ‘Tick Tack’ are both reminiscent of J.D. McPherson with both tracks ushering in a bit of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with rhythm and blues that leaves one to conclude, “Good work fellas!”. The real beauty is reserved for ‘You Left Me, Now I’m Free’ where the vocals swoon and the instruments revert to a big band style providing a real sense of a fresh start on the horizon. The Big Jamboree displays a full range of emotions lyrically and musically throughout ‘A Night Of Jump Blues’ that reveals a talented unit at the centre of this record and one that is deserved of your attention and worth getting behind.


Released Out now

 

Swinging From The Chandelier

Nashville

Smith & Wes'sound

Calling your band Nashville after the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Tennessee is a sure-fire way to get your band noticed. A wise manoeuvre from the five-piece country outfit from south Trøndelag, Møre and Romsdal in Norway. With Frank Kåre Vangen (vocals), Anders Sinnes (guitar), Steinar Grindheim (bass),Trond Tangvik (drums) and Rune Sildnes (keyboards) producing the goods for their third album ‘Swinging From the Chandelier’, which is something of a landmark for Nashville as they celebrate ten years in the music business. It’s not all in a name however, when it comes to this Norwegian country band as Nashville possess a fine knack of writing catchy and melodic tunes that lean towards the commercial end of the country music genre. Nothing wrong with that of course, but sometimes there’s a tendency for such ideas to become a little blurred and samey after a period of time. Having said that, there’s much fun to be heard via the album’s title track, which is a “foot stomping” and carefree country pop number full of recent memories of summer festivities, and one that is followed elsewhere by a memorable rhythm and strong desire for the simple pleasures in life expressed during ‘What I Want’. Likely to be a huge success with country lovin’ folk in this particular part of Scandinavia, Nashville, with their engaging country rock and sense of fun, has the potential to wow American audiences because ‘Swinging From the Chandeliers’ is of a similar ilk to albums produced by America’s major commercial country artists. A shrewd and talented outfit, Nashville can kick back and enjoy their tenth anniversary based on the evidence of their latest LP.



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