Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now

 

Bright Sunny South

Sam Amidon

Nonesuch Records

There is an honest confession parting from the lips of Sam Amidon and that being his debut ‘Bright Sunny South’ on Nonesuch Records is “a lonesome record”. Nothing could be further from the truth as ‘Bright Sunny South’ gives the impression of Amidon sitting alone in a deserted, ramshackle barn somewhere deep in the countryside as he strings together these beautifully complex folk songs of sparse arrangements. True, songs detail issues concerning fears of dying and the unfortunate spectacle of war, but elsewhere unrequited love and a burning sense of longing permeate throughout. Despite such sensitive subject matter, ‘Bright Sunny South’ is a beautiful album that slowly comes to its senses with the delicate opening breeze of keys and acoustic guitar of the title track as the revelations of war come into full focus. The light touches of jazz instrumentation continue the journey during ‘I Wish I Wish’, whereas ‘Short Life’ has a putrid scent of unfortunate times gone by. The mood is lifted, musically, somewhat from its knees with ‘My Old Friend’, possessing a lovely set of intertwining melodies, only to resume to the singular once more, despite its riled finale of distorted guitars, with the beyond bleak confessions ‘He’s Taken My Feet’. Sam Amidon has produced a profoundly beautiful and accomplished body of work that deserves to be heard by more than just the minority because ‘Bright Sunny South’ is a magnificent introduction to hopefully a long-lasting career.


Released Out now

 

Thorn In My Heart

Kim Richey

Lojinx

There is a great openness about Kim Richey not only in her music but also in the quest for new inspiration, something of which is reflected in her latest album ‘Thorn In My Heart’. A recurring sense of longing for change in the surroundings appears to be the dominant force at work here, with the seats permanently nailed down in songs such as the lovely mid-tempo and ‘Til Tuesday-esque ‘Come On’, attempting to rid the devil from the protagonist’s back, to the restrained banjo strum of ‘Something More’ that literally daydreams itself away. Loneliness is personified in ‘London Town’, and compounded to great effect with the drifting smoke of an intermittent horn, only to be supplanted by the melancholic beauty ‘Love Is’. Such phrases as a ‘return to form’ are utterly redundant when it comes to Kim Richey as ‘Thorn In My Heart’ is merely an extension of a great canon of work. Welcome back!


Released Out now

 

Mother

Natalie Maines

Sony

Being one of the former vocalists of country-pop outfit the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines decision to embark on a solo career would always be a tough challenge to undertake considering the success of her previous band. Fortunately, for all concerned, the end results are to be admired. Ditching the country guitars for a more gritty approach comprising of a mixture of covers and original compositions, Maines has crafted a fine solo album. With co-production duties coming from Ben Harper, ‘Mother’ also leans on the songwriting talents of Eddie Vedder whose ‘Without You’ is trademark latter-day Pearl Jam, despite being a solo effort, and Maines does not do it any disservice. In fact, there is no hiding when it comes to Maines’ decision-making as the choice of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ slightly misses the mark whereas title track, and Pink Floyd song, ‘Mother’ more than makes up for the lacklustre of the previous song. After a seven-year absence from the music industry, it’s hoped that Natalie Maines does not wait another seven years for her next creative foray because ‘Mother’ is as good as any place to start a solo excursion.


Released Out now

 

Annie Up

Pistol Annies

Sony

Pistol Annies open up with the blues tinged ‘I Feel A Sin Comin’ On’ that is all finger clicks, gorgeous harmonious vocals and more than a little suggestive in its desires. From this sultry opener it’s business as usual as the country roots branch out with the addictive country-pop of ‘Hush Hush’, nicely followed by the pressures of the daily routine of trying to look presentable ‘Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty’, and further complimented in nature with the unfortunate reality that plagues some relationships ‘Unhappily Married’ compellingly told in its darkly humorous trade-offs. There is some contentment to be found here, however, as the Steve Earle influenced ‘Loved By A Workin’ Man’ reveals that the male species has its charms only for the absorbing and beautifully executed ‘Blues, You’re A Buzzkill’ to bring the mood back down and revert to type once more. Difficult second album syndrome is definitely not a part of Pistol Annies’ vocabulary as ‘Annie Up’ is deserving of the highest plaudits.


Released Out now

 

Didn’t It Rain

Hugh Laurie

Warner Music Norway

Incredible to think that Hugh Laurie has gone from comedic actor to serious actor and now turning his attention to blues music with follow-up album ‘Didn’t It Rain’ to the well-received debut ‘Let Them Talk’. Whilst the latter focused on celebrating and reviving classic songs from the world of NOLA blues, ‘Didn’t It Rain’ is a departure from the New Orleans sound and a steady progression into the exploration of the blues further inland towards America’s central regions. In doing so, Laurie has turned his attention to early pioneers such as W.C. Handy ‘St. Louis Blues’ and the imaginatively titled Jelly Roll Morton ‘I Hate A Man Like You’ bringing this up-to-date with more recent artists Dr. John ‘Wild Honey’ and The Animals Alan Price with ‘Changes’. If there are any doubters remaining, however, as to the musical credentials of Hugh Laurie, then roll back to the contented sentiments of ‘Junkers Blues’; weep at the quite exquisite ‘Careless Love’ or eavesdrop on the stripped-back sounding before adding some weight confessions of ‘Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair’ to realise that ‘Didn’t It Rain’ is more than a simple side project reliant on its various collaborators to give it kudos. ‘Didn’t It Rain’ is the second instalment of a fascinating journey of America’s blues music. Long may it continue.


Released Out now

 

Tate Stevens

Tate Stevens

Sony

Slipping into a confident country-rock groove from the off with ‘I Got This’, Tate Stevens ability to balance work and play is far from troublesome. Such self-assurance has no doubt been gained from previous stints fronting the Dixie Cadillacs; the Outlaw Junkies and later the Tate Stevens Band, therefore making the transition to solo artist a natural progression as the move looks set to pay dividends. Such conviction can be garnered from the robust and guitar-driven ‘Ride It Out’ that simply lights up this self-titled debut. Mamma’s approval is sought after concerning Tate’s latest flame on the mid-tempo rocker that is ‘Sweet’ whereas ‘The Last Thing I Do’ is relentless in its desires as guitars and occasional piano compete for pole position. There is room of course for the obligatory ‘big’ country ballad with ‘Power Of A Love Song’ but it remains the slightly more quirky, and Brad Paisley-esque, ‘El Camino’ that truly charms.


Released Out now

 

The Low Highway

Steve Earle

Warner Music Norway

With Steve Earle’s creative enthusiasm for coming up with the goods time and time again, ‘The Low Highway’, accompanied by The Dukes and Duchesses, shows no signs of waning as this album will take some topping. Being cited as his ‘road’ record, nicely illustrated by the liner notes, ‘The Low Highway’ reveals a breadth of acoustic strummers, country-rock numbers, elements of bluegrass and in the process revealing all facets of Earle’s enduring talents. The mid-tempo jaunt and slight carefree attitude of ‘Love’s Gonna Blow My Way’ breezes through only to be halted in its tracks by the wonderfully portrayed barroom blues of ‘Pocket Full of Rain’. It is left to the title track and lovely drifting strum of ‘Burnin’ It Down’, however, to claim the overall prizes.


Released Out now

 

Life On A Rock

Kenny Chesney

Sony

Kenny Chesney is really opting for a more simplistic way of life with latest album ‘Life On A Rock’. Nowhere is this more evident than current single, and album opener, ‘Pirate Flag’ with intentions of finding the remotest destination in an attempt to get away from it all. This is pretty much the mood throughout as songs stroll blissfully in the midsummer sun, drawing on the talents of country legend Willie Nelson with the carefree and wishful thinking ‘Coconut Tree’ and digressing with the reggae inspired ‘Spread The Love’ featuring the Wailers. Surprisingly the latter song is thematically suited to the overall ambience being projected here but remains at odds coming from the lips of a country singer. Fear not as normal order is restored with the beautifully touching ‘Lindy’; country-rock ‘Life On A Rock’ and delicate strumming of ‘Marley’ to suggest that Kenny Chesney is not ready to hang up his spurs just yet.


Released Out now

 

Texas Boogie

Mike Penny & his Moonshiners

Rhythm Bomb

First appearances might be deceiving as this is no straightforward country album as there is a real fusion of sounds throughout ‘Texas Boogie’, which is Mike Penny and his Moonshiners’ latest album. From the opening ‘Hardtop Race’ with its western swing influence spliced with occasional piano boogie to the more traditional swinging jive of ‘Jumping From Six To Six’ suggesting that Mike and his fellow musicians have a broad palette to not only work from but clearly express to (hopefully) a wider audience. This genuine array of talents, however, is what makes this second offering so compelling because despite the wider influences the band manage to rein them in under one cohesive umbrella. Whether it’s the more boppin’ ‘Flaming Mamie’ or the hillbilly tinge of ‘No Muss, No Fuss, No Bother’ before leaping to the more straightforward country influence of ‘Ship Of Broken Dreams’, ‘Texas Boogie’ certainly delivers on more than one level and keeping in line with western swing music.


Released Out now

 

Rendezvous

Cow Cow Boogie

Rhythm Bomb

Hailing from Edinburgh but sounding as if they have just stepped out of some southern county stateside, Cow Cow Boogie deliver a rather authentic taste of western swing and country via the Rhythm Bomb record label.

Opening with an uncharacteristic and extremely brief aggressive strum on the guitar, ‘Belleville Rendezvous’ perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come with its western feel and ‘Belleville swinging rendezvous’ dual chorus but minus the trite whip cracking effect that nonetheless can still be heard. Hot on its heels is the lovely lilting ‘Cow Cow Boogie’ detailing a singing cowboy with his own spin on the genre and perhaps a cheeky wink to the purists out there considering the band’s geographical location, whereas ‘Scorched’ is definitely to be applauded as a fine take on Varetta Dillard’s version. ‘Train Train’ via Dolly Parton is an appropriate farewell and no doubt a joy to be heard live, as Cow Cow Boogie build up a steaming momentum before the brakes are finally applied. Judging by the quality shown here, ‘Rendezvous’ is worth an appointment with anyone’s ears.


Released Out Now

 

Unfinished Business

Wanda Jackson

Sugar Hill

Hot on the heels of the Jack White-produced ‘The Party Ain’t Over’, Wanda Jackson continues her renaissance with new album ‘Unfinished Business’. This time it’s Justin Townes Earle on production duties; even contributing vocally on the quite superb ‘Am I Even A Memory?’ With ‘Unfinished Business’ being a more subtle affair than the aforementioned White project, it would seem that Jackson still has much to offer, and long may it continue, as this resurgence in creativity and recognition is much welcomed.


Released Out Now

 

Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans

Various Artists

Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage is proving to be a major player in the quality stakes when it comes to compiling not only rockabilly but also blues music. In this instance, ‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans’ gets the quality control treatment in terms of blues music emanating from New Orleans. As with a lot of the Fantastic Voyage packages, it is not only the well-known artists represented but often more obscure oddities that really wet the listener’s appetite. With everyone from Ray Charles, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner to the lesser known Falcon Trip, Boo Breeding and Snooks Eaglin, ‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans’ clearly has something for all fans of blues music.



Back To Top