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Introduction

Gentle Savage

Concorde Music Company

Hailing from Finland, Gentle Savage kick-start their career with the official release of the appropriately titled, ‘Introduction’ EP. Fresh off the block, Gentle Savage offer a combined output of blues and rock that belies their years together considering the professionalism of their current recorded works. Beginning with the catchy blues-rock of ‘Bring Back Rock ‘n’ Roll’ that is watertight in its execution, and then followed by the altogether different ‘Far Side’ that represents a darker side to the band’s repertoire, which can be heard in the detached vocals and epic guitar solo that suggests the band has more than a few ideas in their creative tank. Ending with the classic-rock feel and very memorable ‘Hey Hey Hey Hey’, Gentle Savage’s ‘Introduction’ is a solid and considered affair that bodes well for future releases


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Hard To Catch

Shakedown Tim & The Rhythm Revue

Rhythm Bomb

Rhythm and blues by way of Belgium finds a new artist to land on the scene by the name of Shakedown Tim & The Rhythm Revue. With fellow rhythm and blues artist Nico Duportal behind the helm in terms of production for this album release, ‘Hard To Catch’ comprises of nine out of ten original compositions (with one cover) penned by the band’s frontman, Tim, revealing a batch of clever and often witty lyrics set to a superb set of sounds supplied by the equally talented ‘Rhythm Revue. It’s not just the song writing skills, however, that compel as Shakedown Tim’s vocal is often persuasive with its coarse edges during opening track ‘How Long’ complementing the raw bluesy guitar and saxophone, before dropping down a level and providing brief comical moments via an exaggerated vocal bemoaning the difficulties held by the chase of a relationship (“This fish is hard to catch!”). If love is proving a touch difficult for this rhythm and blues combo, then their album ‘Hard To Catch’ goes some way to soothing any such inadequacies as it makes for the perfect partner to beat away the blues.


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Bang! It’s The Starjays

The Starjays

Rhythm Bomb

One for the rhythm and blues market is The Starjays and their current album ‘Bang! It’s The Starjays’. With the band proving popular Stateside, the duo of Angelatini and Roy Kay, the latter name serving as producer as well, power their way through a number of duets that are steeped in an authentic 40s – 50s sound. If you’re looking for immediate sparks to get you in the mood for the dancefloor, then take in the cruising piano of ‘Who Do You Love The Most?’ and following rollicking duo of ‘I’ll Wait’ and, living up to its namesake, ‘My Wild Gal’. Where ‘Bang! It’s The Starjays differs to other similar titles in this particular genre is that the singing duo of Angelatini and Roy Kay create a hefty advantage for themselves as the female/male dynamics lend genuine personality to the songs where emotions can ride high via the previously mentioned ‘Who Do You Love The Most?’, to the supremely confident ‘The Right Girl’ where (finally) the female perspective is given a fair hearing.


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Blues Kitchen

Scott Taylor

Fetal Records

Sometimes during an album’s running order, there is a song that often stands head and shoulders above the rest. When it comes to Scott Taylor’s new album ‘Blues Kitchen’ such a song can be heard with ‘Tennessee’. A subjective opinion of course, but this reflective, slow burner of a song finds Taylor in wistful mode, vocal positioned right at the front as he tries to find his way back home and accompanied by a laidback rhythm. Stirring stuff and the great introduction to the world of the ‘Blues Kitchen’ which, outside of this particular track, has a habit of revealing new details that seemingly escaped one’s attention during its first few outings. Part of this is down to the album providing a real sense of warming up before hitting full stride with a succession of songs that speak of truths concerning relationships and the heartaches they can bring, but also great satisfaction as well. With Taylor himself describing this collection of songs as “unfiltered and strait [sic] from the gut” such a description is apt when hearing the tracks ‘Fussin and Cussin’ that is an irritable and prickly number greatly highlighted by Taylor’s vocal and the Blues Kitchen Cooks’ rhythm section of Tony Fazio (guitars), Charlie Sayles (harmonica) and Greg Phillips (drums). Following on, ‘Sweet Daddy Brown’ peps up the mood with a seemingly sweet rhythm, yet the narrative concerning its central character manages to hold an air of mystery right to its conclusion and makes for great listening . The blues continue apace with the compelling and down on its luck ‘Bad Company’ that reveals a few golden lines where “Even the door won’t open up for me because I’m bad company”, and wry humour of “Even the dog don’t come to me, He says I’m bad company” suggesting life’s fortunes really couldn’t sink any lower, with the grinding, moody tempo doing its best to add to the misery being expressed. The temperature soars during ‘Alabama Babe’ spiked with harmonica and guided by acoustic guitar and a vocal that sounds as if it’s slowly being compressed in an already tight space. Scott Taylor’s ‘Blues Kitchen’ is a personal album that never overcooks itself when it comes to expressing its emotions, due to the understated presentation of its entire contents which makes for compelling listening.


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Get Up And Dance!

Lil ' Mo and the Dynaflos

Rhythm Bomb

Feeling a need to ease the blues in your life? Then follow the simple instructions from doo-wop outfit Lil’ Mo and the Dynaflos and their latest album ‘Get Up And Dance!’ and you’ll soon feel rejuvenated. The energy emanating from this six-piece band is contagious and will have your limbs shaking from the off via the album’s title track, that speeds along at some pace and finds lead singer Lil’ Mo in determined mood to get the audience up off of their feet. The persuasive power of the music continues to weave its magic and really given some clout with the bullish ‘Hands Off’ and passionate ‘Spellbound’ where the emotions are close to frothing over judging by the reactions of Lil’ Mo and his supporting vocalists. With the album ‘Get Up And Dance!’ having been set up and recorded at Wally Hersoms’ studio in Pasadena, such a decision no doubt helped shape and fuel the creativity of the original compositions on offer, not to mention the selected cover versions because there is no real let up in the overall energy expressed during this album where the vocals can direct the songs emotions and just as equally the instrumentation of say ‘Shut That Door’, ‘Bop Shake Boogie’ or ‘Have Love Will Travel’. Resistance is futile, so ‘Get Up And Dance!’


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Ol’ Drake’s Travelin’ Medicine Show

the Harvey Steel show

Safe & Sound Recordings

If you tried squeezing any more musical references into the Harvey Steel show’s latest album, then the ship sent from Jupiter to Earth would’ve crashed and burned once entering the latter planet’s ether due to the sheer weight of the intergalactic space vessel transporting these Norwegian cosmic cats. As it stands, ship’s captain, Thomas Bergsten, proves a steady sort as he, along with his five fellow band members, expertly guides this magical musical vessel through bouts of turbulence and unpredictability that can be described as Captain Beefhart and Frank Zappa-esque, but altogether quite simply the Harvey Steel show. With a swift “Hello” and equally swift “Goodbye” to Ol’ red horns down under via former single ‘Shaky Hand Modifier’ with its short, sharp bursts of indie jazz blues, the band’s sound is definitely reined in tighter throughout the majority of this latest excursion. That’s not to say that the Harvey Steel show ease up on the creative pedal, far from it, it’s more that this six piece know when to shut up shop rather than letting the psychedelia take too much of a (pleasurable) hold. From the opening ‘Michael Hare’s Psychedelic Rabbit’ that scrapes samples of the inner workings of Donny Darko’s mind and projects these thoughts to all those present at a half-empty airport terminal where the standing conveyor belt has no ending, to the part smoky jazz and psychedelic folk of ‘Acid Trip To Spain’ with its eccentricities and sad ending, the band’s penchant for fusing various other art forms with music continues its exploration. Such ideas clash often where darkened corners reveal themselves via the jazz blues-rock ‘Mr Mystery’, but then throw up pretty patterns via ‘Reality Is Ideal’, which is probably the closest example you’ll ever hear of the Harvey Steel show going straight. By the way, it works tremendously! With the old-timey offering served up by the album’s title track, the Harvey Steel show has surpassed their debut album by some considerable distance, due to pulling tight on those creative reins and therefore delivering a more cohesive album yet somehow never losing that magical spark and creative edge that sets out this band as really rather special. It’s time to sample the wonders of ‘Ol’ Drake’s Travelin’ Medicine Show’!


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White Desert Blues

The Northern Lies

Lunheim Grammofon

Two years have elapsed since The Northern Lies critically acclaimed debut album ‘Midnight Medicine’ was released. During their absence, the band has evolved into a five piece which, along with original members Henry Johnsen and Håvard Stangnes, now consists of Ida Karoline Nordgård (bass/vocals), Erik Nilsson (keys) and Mikael Pedersen (drums/vocals). With the revised line-up in place, The Northern Lies set the task of writing and recording that ‘difficult’ second album. What transpires since that two-year layoff is ‘White Desert Blues’, which reveals a succession of songs that delve even deeper than its predecessor in an attempt to get to the bottom of the sadness that is causing so many restless nights. With various trials and tribulations providing the fuel for the lyrics, it is the natural elements and scenic landscapes of rugged mountainous ranges of the northern hemisphere, Tromsø (Norway) to be exact, combined with The Northern Lies authentic Americana sound that adds to expressions of loneliness and isolation felt during ‘White Desert Blues’. Evidence of such emotions and cold-isolated conditions can be ascertained from the album’s title track that is nostalgic just as it is confused and lost, which also stumbles accordingly in to the following ‘Wrong Turn’. If the sounds of Neil Young and Crazy Horse greatly appeal, and a vocal that is close to Townes Van Zandt on occasions (‘Too Damn Quiet’), then you have come to the right place as far as The Northern Lies is concerned. Just remember, however, where this band resides because it is a sound that they do well and will leave you yearning for more once the likes of ‘Love’s Lonely Rover’ and ‘Cold-Hearted Town’ touch your heart. It looks like Americana has firmly planted its roots in a far corner north of Norway where the ‘White Desert Blues’ exist and can be heard via The Northern Lies.


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Poor Man’s Dollars (Single)

Rich Evans & The Second Edition

Untitled

Far from this being a new experience for London-based singer-songwriter Rich Evans considering that he’s a veteran of the genres encompassing Americana, blues and folk, in addition to holding an impressive CV when it comes to performing live having undergone extensive tours in America and Europe and released albums for US record labels in Nashville. The latest venture for Rich Evans is the single ‘Poor Man’s Dollars’, which is part of the upcoming full album release this year ‘Left of Laurel Canyon’. The single finds a dual vocal performance that is beautiful in its execution as it quietly laments over the poverty-stricken state outlined in the central narrative, and given further weight by the stripped back feel of the country instrumentation. A strong start for Rich Evans before the main event as ‘Poor Man’s Dollars’ is an intelligent piece of song writing that deserves your upmost attention.


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Shaky Hand Modifier (Single)

the Harvey Steel show

Safe & Sound Recordings

After picking up a gong of sorts last year with their debut album earning a respectable position in the FLW Top 50 Records of 2015, those wild and weird misfits from planet Jupiter, the Harvey Steel show, reappear with the first seed of new material by way of the single, ‘Shaky Hand Modifier’. The noticeable difference compared to what went before sees the band’s sound reined in tighter with shorter, sharper bursts of a combined recipe involving blues, jazz and indie, but with less noodling as far as the psychedelia goes. That said, ‘Shaky Hand Modifier’ will delight those who’ve pledged their allegiance to this intergalactic band of musicians with a gritty, bluesy guitar forging a path from start to finish, and ably supported in the rear by a single trumpet and Kristine Marie Aasvang’s vocal strongly relaying the contents here with ship captain, Thomas Bergsten, adding the impish persona via the backing vocals .The devil is definitely sitting on the shoulder of this song, but rather than causing absolute mayhem serves as a motivational force keeping the Harvey Steel show on their toes in their attempts to ward off the shaky hand in question. If ‘Shaky Hand Modifier’ is the sign of what’s to come, then please sir, more of this edgy paranoia because it might just lead the Harvey Steel show to absolute greatness.


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This Life Of Mine

Jen Lane

Poor Kitty / Independent

Singer-songwriter Jen Lane has made a name for herself back home in her native Canada and, more specifically, the Western Canadian music scene. It was this very region of Canada that seriously took note of Jen Lane’s first two album releases, ‘Sleepless’ (1999) and ‘Injection’ (2002); with the former album receiving a nomination for a Prairie Music Award when the Canadian songstress was just 16 years of age. Further recognition of her musical prowess came by way of Lane’s self-titled 2006 album, and the 2010 follow-up, ‘For the Night’, with both albums being nominated for Western Canadian Music Awards. Bringing things up to date, Jen Lane’s new long player ‘This Life Of Mine’ arrives after some time on the sidelines due to a physical injury that saw many hours in and out of surgery. With that period behind her, Lane didn’t hesitate to recruit former collaborator and producer John MacArthur Ellis to produce once more, in addition to the musicianship of Nick Stecz in order to finish the songs making up her latest, and fifth album. By taking in elements of country, roots, folk and Americana, Lane has created an album rich in sounds, but one that also refers to a series of personal aspects from her life as well as observations of those around her. Starting off with the gentle country sway of ‘Waitin For You’, Jen Lane’s vocal is golden as are the instruments as there is a warm, welcoming haze surrounding this song. There is a country pop ambience to the fractured relationship of ‘Movin On’ that shifts from such a depressed state to one of frivolity via the ‘1st Day Of Spring In Saskatchewan)’. Taking a break from her own songwriting, a cover of Big Star’s ’13’ is thrown into the mix and it’s a more than admirable rendition. However, it’s Lane’s own compositions that are of most interest here, with the reflective country ballad ‘My Man’ and melancholic, yet beautiful ‘Hollow Heart’ that impress greatly, making ‘This Life Of Mine’ an album definitely worth owning.


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Lay Your Burden Down (Single)

Hege

Rootsy

Taken from her current album ‘When My Man Comes To Town’ that is picking up glowing plaudits from various critics including this very music publication, Hege makes the decision to issue ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ to offer another example of what all the fuss is about. With ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ containing a far chipper rhythm compared to a few of the other offerings from her latest album, the lyrics provide a shoulder to cry on, with religion playing its part here, and the band offering a welcoming sound with its references to western swing and gospel and, most notably, the steel strings, fiddle and Hege’s subtle tinges of Dolly Parton held in her vocal. There’s no other place to ease your worries right now than Hege and her new single, ‘Lay Your Burden Down’, because you will leave feeling enriched by the end of this experience.


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Stuff We Leave Behind

Wonky Tonk

Working Brilliantly

If you’re seeking something with a bit more originality behind it, then you’ve come to the right place with Wonky Tonk and the album, ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’. By holding a suitable moniker considering the wide array of influences skewered into the ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’, Jasmine Pool (aka Wonky Tonk) remains a fiercely independent artist willing to bend the rules when it comes to a number of genres by applying her own touches, and bringing out a largely country sound fused with elements of folk, indie and pop music. With her actual roots stemming from a love of punk music, the attitude of this genre goes some way to explaining the amalgamation of sounds making up Wonky Tonk’s latest album. With ‘Turn The Radio On’ providing a stirring entrance with it’s a cappella delivery, and then switching to the jaunty country-rock rhythm of ‘Cleveland’, complete with an audacious mix of 50s soda-pop backing vocals and a lead vocal that is definitely entrenched in the formerly mentioned punk roots, Wonky Tonk wastes no time in getting her influences across. The differing styles continue apace with ‘Billings, MT’ and ‘Montague Road’ possessing a 90s indie feel via Throwing Muses, Juliana Hatfield and The Lemonheads, before offering a reflective indie-acoustic number via ‘Denmark, which just happens to be one of the countries this Kentucky-bred singer songwriter has flaunted her music previously. Despite the various shifts in tone, ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’ works as a whole surprisingly well, and perhaps best illustrated with the honky tonk inspired ‘Washington Avenue’; gorgeous ballads ‘Tennessee’ and ‘One For The Juke’, and therefore making this album a rather essential acquisition.



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