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New Third Lanark

Craig Ward

Jezus Factory Records

After working with a diverse range of musical projects including dEUS, The Frames, The Summer of Mars and, more recently, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen, as well as a wonderful acoustic-folk collaboration with Mark Mulholland, the seemingly restless soul that is Craig Ward pops up on the creative radar again with a solo album under the moniker ‘New Third Lanark’. This time the music emitting from Craig Ward is purely instrumental, with five ambient compositions that barely rise above a few decibels in sound. Having recorded this largely improvised effort with use of electric guitar and an assortment of electronic devices, the atmospheric pieces of sound shimmer and glide through a number of spaces, beginning with the flickering of light ‘Tropic of Bennett’ and ending with the warped and ethereal sounding ‘Lemo’. The beauty of ‘New Third Lanark’ is that if this makes it to a live setting, then the room for further exploration is boundless and one that causes much intrigue when considering the darker veil of noise covering ‘Blazes As In Dixon’ and the previously mentioned ‘Lemo’ that is already nagging to be explored further such is its lengthy duration. It would seem Craig Ward has unlocked yet another creative component in his mind as ‘New Third Lanark’ reveals an artist not willing to remain still in the moment as the shifting tone of these ambient sounds clearly indicates.


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Wilderwolves

Wilderwolves

Jezus Factory Records

Having grown up on a musical diet consisting of American underground indie stalwarts Palace Music and Smog before soaking up the sounds of Howe Gelb, Matt Ward and Jeff Tweedy at a slightly later date, Rob Eelen considered it time to scribble a few musical compositions of his own and set sail for the life of a singer-songwriter. Forsaking his own moniker for the more appealing Wilderwolves – no doubt a ploy to avoid any association with the aforementioned singer-songwriter category despite this being a predominantly one musician affair – this debut album reveals an array of honest emotions, often steeped in plaintive lyrics with an intensely raw sound. With assistance coming from producer Geert Van Bever, Wilderwolves greets the listener with the bare minimum of acoustic guitar and a vocal claiming, “There’s no way back, I got stuck on you” and immediately you get an idea of where this album is coming from. There are other instruments added to the overall recording, with Eelen introducing piano during the somewhat subdued yet trying its hardest to sound upbeat of ‘Disco Dance’, which remains a masterstroke in song writing such is its dalliance with pop music combined with an overall sober side. The distant sounding opening of ‘Great Days’ assumes a brave face when inside there is nothing but ruin, which extends to the tragic relationship of ‘Danger Close’ that possesses a country edge as depicted by the shooting stars of steel strings illuminating the night sky momentarily, with the song drifting slowly towards its conclusion. A more robust and melodic sound lifts ‘Song For Now People’, which seems to spur the following ‘To Deploy’ into action with its choppy rhythm greatly exemplified by the fuzzy bass, staccato electric guitar and thumping drum beats. With there being a strong feeling of clinging to the past, the memories echoed throughout ‘Wilderwolves’ is something to revel in when they are presented in such an absorbing and intelligent manner that sets out this debut album as one to seriously treasure.


Released Out now

 

Rock ‘N’ Roll Guitar Greats

Various Artists

Union Square Music

An interesting compilation from Union Square Music featuring a whole host of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Guitar Greats’ nicely packaged and one that is set at an affordable price. Starting things off with more than an air of familiarity about it due to Quentin Tarantino’s inclusion of Dick Dale’s surf-rock masterpiece ‘Miserlou’ in his film Pulp Fiction, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Guitar Greats’ maintains the consistency with Duane Eddy’s guitar twanging ‘Shazam’, instrumental smash ‘Rumble’ from Link Wary, and other guitar greats from Scotty Moore ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel’; The Shadows superb ‘F.B.I.’ and The Ventures classic ‘Walk, Don’t Run’. Where this compilation would have served itself better, however, is if it had adhered to a strictly instrumental collection of rock ‘n’ roll guitar hits from the 50s and 60s and not included the overused names of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent to cite but two examples. While such names are rock ‘n’ roll legends in their own right, and with several of them more than adept when it comes to guitar playing, their inclusion sounds out of place due to this album being a predominantly instrumental affair. Small gripes for sure, but when you have the likes of Link Wray tearing up the house on more than one occasion; The Fireballs western ramble through ‘Vaquero’, and the dreamy ‘Sleepwalk’ provided by Santo and Johnny, the idea of a straight, guitar only instrumental really makes sense overall.


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Up To Scratch!

Alleycats

APM

The real reason why we are here is for the music, and rightly so, as it seems unlikely that the UK’s Alleycats will be strutting their wares up on the catwalk any time soon. By combing a mixture of covers with original material, ‘Up To Scratch!’ is a qualified title as these wise rockin’ cats show how it’s done with vocals revealing faint resemblances to Jackie Brenston, and a sound that brings together rock ‘n’ roll with rhythm and blues. Having found a safe haven to record the album in two stints at Roundel Studios in Kent that stretched over a vast chasm of seven years, it’s not difficult to comprehend why such a lengthy gestation period took place as the end results are beaming like a Cheshire cat, such is their overall quality. The lynchpin holding all of this together appears to be longstanding member Drew Spikes, who not only produced ‘Up To Scratch!’ but knows how to pen a tune or two considering the wealth of original songs littering its contents. First of an impressive bunch is the up-tempo swing of ‘Daffy’ that opens a door to some fine guitar by way of Mick Murphy. The change in lifestyle from the remote countryside to the bright city lights is communicated compellingly by the impressively named Johnny Valentino during the contagious rhythm of ‘Born & Raised In Hicksville’. Elsewhere ’88 Keys’ drives at some pace with top-notch piano from former Matchbox member Rusty Lupton as the song conveys its frustration with the memorable line, “I got 88 keys but I can’t unlock your heart”.  As a collective, the Alleycats really pull together as each and every song provides more or less equal billing as far as the instrumentation is concerned. With Butch Evarts (sax) and Jerry Bart (drums) completing the six-piece line-up, such a demonstration of this equal billing is displayed during an imposing rendition of Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s ‘Roberta’ and a rockin’ ‘I Ain’t The Marrying Kind’. Stretching out their creative boundaries further is the slight country twang of ‘In The Doghouse Again’ that is peppered with some wonderful sax and possesses a lyrical content of a cryptic nature regarding the ‘hero’ at the centre of this song. There’s no tomfoolery as far as Alleycats is concerned as ‘Up To Scratch!’ is a qualified success that is jam-packed full of goodness.


Released 1 September

 

Bahamas Is Afie

Bahamas

Brushfire Records / Universal Music

Canadian singer-songwriter Bahamas, otherwise known as Afie Jurvanen, sets out a new long player on Brushfire Records/Universal Music. Taking in to account the title of the record – ‘Bahamas Is Afie’ – as well as assuming the role of producer and multi-instrumentalist, one can safely suggest that this third album, after ‘Pink Strat’ (2009) and ‘Barchords’ (2012), is very much one that is close to Bahamas’ heart. The opening ‘Waves’ gives way to such ideas with the impression that a great deal of contemplation took place (“I held the bath inside my lungs for days…”) before committing these latest creative endeavours to tape. The time has been seriously well spent as it’s the lure of the gentle acoustic guitar that tingles the senses and gradual introduction of further instruments, along with Bahamas’ hushed vocal – nicely complimented with some dreamy backing –  from the aforementioned song that sets out ‘Bahamas Is Afie’ on this personal journey. The details of this particular voyage become more apparent with the folk roots of ‘Can’t Take You With Me’ that sees a parting of the ways of a relationship. Where this album excels is the manner in which Bahamas can transform those ‘Bitter Memories’ into something sweet sounding and wonderfully infectious with a simple melody, yet still retaining much food for thought inside a song’s brief tenure. In addition to the quieter acoustic folk introspection, there are moments where Bahamas experiments with the volume control by allowing for the mid-tempo country rock of ‘Stronger Than That’ and high-pitched vocals that also extends to the guitars during ‘All The Time’, providing an engaging twist to the overall feel of the album. ‘Little Record Girl’ adds to this tally with yet more country but this time with a brisk twang and an affectionate lyric that is just as much about a passion for music as it is regarding the opposite sex. By closing out on the slowly fading memories of ‘All I’ve Ever Known’ that is aching from the inside out, such is its emotional pull that’s not too dissimilar to the likes of the Blue Nile, ‘Bahamas Is Afie’ is a stunningly good album reflecting on former troubled times which, ironically, have led to the riches lining this latest effort.


Released Out now

 

Over The Sea (single)

Frøder

Sony Music Norway

Bergen-based artist Frøder throws her hat into the ring once more after the debut release that was ‘Speed of Sound’. Having received some glowing praise regarding the former single, Frøder continues where this song left off with a combination of indie infused electronic pop. Comparisons have been drawn with Florence + the Machine and quite understandable when hearing the sweeping and often dramatic rhythm of ‘Over The Sea’, complete with a commanding vocal presence that soars as high as the music as well dealing with its lower echelons. Having gained invaluable experience from her CLMD collaboration, The Stockholm Syndrome, and with Fender Heist’s ‘Fighter’, Frøder appears to be taking the right approach by steadily carving out a niche that is built on solid foundations that should see a few more followers jumping on board once a full album is ready.  By revealing such strong character of voice and with two worthy single releases this early into her career, the future looks bright for this Norwegian singer.


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Angus & Julia Stone

Angus & Julia Stone

Republic Records / American Recordings

After receiving considerable praise for their album ‘Down The Way’ (2010), namely Album of The Year at the ARIA Awards in their native Australia and recognition in countries as far afield as France, Germany and the UK, indie folk pop siblings Angus and Julia Stone are back with a brand new album. Having enlisted Rick Rubin on production duties, the quality of ‘Angus & Julia Stone’ is recognisable from the off with the entrenched sadness of ‘A Heartbreak’ that possesses a genuine haunting quality, emphasised by the trudging rhythmic pattern and downcast vocals. Previous single ‘Grizzly Bear’ sees Angus Stone pick up the mic and relay his affection for a certain somebody in his life, played out to a soulful backdrop of acoustic guitar and keys.  Comparisons can be made with the likes of Mazzy Star and, in particular, The Civil Wars during the interchanging and combined vocals of the Stone’s duo during the ongoing confessions of ‘Heart Beats Slow’. ‘Wherever You Are’ reveals the intimacy of a relationship and one almost feels a sense of prying such is the honesty expressed. The creativity button is given a nudge with the intriguing ‘Death Defying Acts’ that begins at a canter with a single guitar and Julia Stone’s engaging vocal, before the storm clouds start to loom, wonderfully highlighted by some tetchy guitar and crashing percussion, only to take a further twist with a brief spoken passage before concluding with a sting in its tail. The equal billing of vocals works wonders during ‘Other Things’, with its sleepy exchanges and ramshackle approach musically. ‘From The Stalls’ sees the duo swapping vocals once more, and again revealing much sincerity considering the cracked edges stemming from Angus Stone in particular. ‘Angus & Julia Stone’ is a remarkable record for a variety of reasons, but most importantly it is the song writing talent and manner in which the songs are presented that make this a must have addition to anyone’s record collection.


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My My Oh My (single)

Surfalot

Toothfairy

First up for new artist on the block Surfalot is the bright and breezy debut single ‘My My Oh My’. Having built up his credentials via a stint in Liverpool working with producer Tarek Musa (Transgressive Records) before a return to more familiar surroundings of his home in Norway, Surfalot, real name Bendik Johnsrud, is ready with his brand of indie synth and guitar pop that should, if there’s any justice in this world, appeal to a broad number of music obsessives. The single itself arrives at a time when the final days of summer are fast receding, with the simple demands of the song’s narrative sensing such change when it could still be cause for celebration if only the other half of this partnership would agree to slip on their dancing shoes. ‘My My Oh My’ is built for such moments, however, with its infectious melody having a spring in its step with a slight scent of the early 80s looming just around the corner. If Surfalot can ride out this summer season with emotions still intact, then the next issued release from this Norwegian looks set to be an intriguing prospect.


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Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals

Various Artists

Western Star

The clamour for instrumental compilations appears to be the current trend on the rockin’ circuit, with Western Star being the latest record label to serve up a sizeable amount of rockin’ instrumentals by the name of ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’. Where this double album release differs, however, is due to the fact that mingling with the various covers is a vast number of original compositions issued by a matching number of modern rock ‘n roll bands. The cast list is impressive with the likes of Rudy La Crioux & The All-Stars, Jack Rabbit Slim, The Sharks, The Wolftones, The Bullets, Pete Hutton & The Beyonders, The Bonneville Barons to name but a small sample. In addition, ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’ serves as a reminder of just how exhilaratingly good a few chords of a guitar with additional percussive trimmings can sound judging by the variety of songs on offer. Speaking of which…compiled of fifty instrumentals, this two-disc set offers great value, but more importantly the quality is consistently high with a number of bands weighing in with more than one creative effort. Pick of the bunch, bearing in mind this is likely to change day-by-day due to the sheer amount of material to choose from, is The Sharks’ Hell Riders’, due to being a tough guitar stroller punctuated with brass instrumentation. The Wolftones reveal their song writing prowess with the far from icy guitar ride that is ‘Siberian Surfer’. Everything and the kitchen sink is cast into the air once The Bonneville Barons make their entrance with the aptly named ‘Mexican Wildfire’, before eventually settling into a calmer rhythm only to let fly once more. Kill Van Helsing do their best at setting the speakers ablaze with the searing guitar noise ‘Quatermass’, leaving it to Jack Rabbit Slim to finally tear things up with ‘Dragstrip’. ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’ also benefits from the different perspectives given on the overall instrumental theme. Look no further than the slower tempo and heavy guitar twang of ‘Hawaiian Thang’ by Chuck & The Hulas or the massive surge of power sax that fuels ‘Chucks Mambo’ courtesy of The Frantic Flintstones. But if your ears are craving something further leftfield, then ‘Hot Dang Hee Haw’ should satisfy any such desires as it’s loaded full of eccentricities with its use of samples interwoven with pummelling bass and drums and some darn fine guitar work. Restoring order, but maintaining the general wildness, is the likes of The Cheaterslicks’ magnificent ‘Gasolina’ with Henry ‘Ruzz’ Evans taking centre stage, and the cutting inside rhythm before heading back out to the outer edges of ‘Daggertrap’ by the Kings Of Outer Space. It’s simple, everything you need to know about ‘Speechless: Half A Ton Of Rockin’ Instrumentals’ is given by its title because rockin’ instrumental albums do not come much better than this!


Released Out now

 

Go Man Go

The Bullets

Western Star

Hot on the heels of last year’s smash success ‘Sons Of The Gun’, The Bullets make a welcome return with their brand new long player ‘Go Man Go’. Taking no prisoners with their rumbling, tumbling beat played at a frenetic pace, it’s business as usual once the opening bars of ‘Party Like Me’ makes its entrance with its collar turned skywards that suggests real intent. ‘Real King Bee’ follows suit in equally confident manner as it puffs out its chest and pays reference to the King himself with numerous “Uh-huh, oh yeah(s)”, with man behind the drums Gary Griffin hammering out a beat that more or less steers this song to its conclusion. The lip-curling attitude continues once ‘Kicks Like ’56’ kick-starts (sorry) in hip-swinging fashion and then sees a three-way contest, and eventual tie, between slap bass, guitar and drums all vying for attention, such is their voracious appetite throughout this rebel rouser of a song. As was the case with its predecessor, The Bullets continue to exhibit a real flair for conveying genuine menace in their songs when it comes to ‘Go Man Go’. ‘While You Were Sleeping’ provides one such example as it’s shrouded by an ominous atmosphere, given credence by lead vocalist Brett Waters’ sense of peering over his mic with eyes locked on its target in a foreboding manner, before the revved up guitar and no-holds-barred commentary of ‘Bitch’ provides further evidence to this trio’s creative capabilities. There are several departures in sound as The Bullets tone it down during ‘Can I Take You Home’, which is full of yearning and seen through the eyes of a lonely protagonist wandering the streets at night expertly handled by Brett Waters who extends his vocal range with a bout of crooning which, along with his comrades, delivers this song to the stars as its truly magnificent. The best, however, is saved until last with the other deviation in sound springing from the western flavoured ‘Movin’ On’. By sounding epic in scope with its (almost) perpetual, galloping rhythm that is given a pep up during the final hurdle with the return of James ‘Jaz’ Lambeth on brass duties, ‘Movin’ On’ deserves high praise for its aforementioned vision but, at a guess, for accurately portraying the initial creative ideas as this song runs a close example to a definition of perfection. In addition, extra Brownie points are awarded for the memorable line, “I found a girl with a tattooed chest” due to being only the second time of hearing such a reference outside of The Pixies’ ‘No. 13 Baby’. While serving as a gateway to the past with the album’s title track revealing a penchant for Link Wray, ‘Go Man Go’ is very much concerned with living for the moment and, more precisely, in the present. Therefore, despite any references to rock ‘n’ roll’s past, The Bullets remain thoroughly ensconced in a modern framework which, on the evidence of ‘Go Man Go’, is working to their favour and likely to appeal to a broad base of music lovers. We make that 2 – 0 to The Bullets.


Released Out now

 

Rockabilly Dinosaur

Vince Eager & The Western All-Stars

Western Star

Vince Eager, one of the pioneers of the UK’s response to the rock ‘n’ roll sounds emanating from the United States, is back with an album that pays tribute to a number of performers from the fields of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll. The knowing wink of the album title is, in fact, far wide of the mark for anyone fortunate enough to have seen Vince Eager perform at last year’s tenth anniversary celebrations of Western Star Records, as he peeled back the years with a standout performance. The title of the record also alludes to the reputation a lot of the original rockers held when wreaking havoc with their wild sounds and blooming popularity that was driving the local populace in any given town wild with excitement or cause for concern, depending on which side of the fence one was situated. With a nifty primal beat and sharpness of lyrics, ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’ recollects this emerging sound and the impact felt to great effect. Much respect is given to the original compositions throughout ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’, and there is a real sense of enjoyment from each and every song through to the memories recollected by Vince Eager in the accompanying booklet that makes for fascinating reading for those less familiar with his exploits. All of this, however, would not have been possible without the Western All-Stars (Alan Wilson, Steve Whitehouse, Liz Avent, Geoff Barker et al) adding their backing to such engaging renditions of Don Gibson’s ‘Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles’, Tommy Sand’s ‘The Worrying Kind’, Hank Snow’s ‘I’m Movin’ On’ and Peanut Wilson’s ‘Cast Iron Arm’ complete with stonking sax via Rachel Hutchinson. ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’ is a reminder of the legend that is Vince Eager, but also one that pays homage to a variety of former artists and their songs admirably.

 


Released Out now

 

Lotsa Rhythm

Gone Hepsville

Rhythm Bomb

With the Czech Republic currently Europe’s mecca for all-things musically landing somewhere between the forties and the fifties, Gone Hepsville is another addition to this growing band of artists hell-bent on recreating such bygone and golden passages in music’s rich history. The sheer quality of the musicianship, coupled with a breadth of influences stemming from the six band of brothers that make up Gone Hepsville is something to be marvelled at because what’s on offer with ‘Lotsa Rhythm’ is an album crammed full of big band, jump, swing, jive and rock ‘n’ roll cooked to an often pulsating rhythm that will have your limbs swinging in no time at all. If you want proof of life in these very songs, which stretches to an incredible 18 tracks, then the lively brass instrumentation and enthusiasm held in the vocal of the album’s title track, paired with the equally sparky ‘Hip As I Can Be’ are two clear indicators that these Hepsville cats are here to rock! ‘Lazy Town’ is a call to arms to kick-start the nondescript settlement into life with a compelling vocal nicely supported with a harmonious backing and then a powerhouse of brass, rolling drums and rollicking piano that gives this town a fresh lease of life. The ensuing ‘She Won’t Shut Up’ is a punchy number greatly exemplified by pounding keys and additional handclaps that really drills home its message by way of yet more proficiency in the musicianship. Great credit must also go to the production duties of Axel Praefcke at Lightning Recorders for the manner in which ‘Lotsa Rhythm’ is handled by capturing an inch perfect authentic sound because the entire album sounds like a genuine slab of 40s/50s nostalgia. With such careful precision and with great dedication to their overall work and sound, Gone Hepsville have created a long player that puts many to shame not only in terms of its inventiveness, but for the sheer energy and enthusiasm coming from all corners of this marvellous album that’s definitely not short of rhythm.



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