This is a debut release by Sister Speak, a folk/ roots band based in San Diego. The ten songs have a soulful sound and the vocals of Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Sherri-Anne are a highlight throughout. At times she is reminiscent of Natalie Merchant and at others, Rickie Lee Jones with her breathy and strong vocal style carrying the song arrangements down a road that reveals a dynamic power. The vocal harmonies of Tolan Shaw add to the mix and this five-piece band, augmented by four guest musicians, colour and compliment the songs. Sister Speak received a ‘Best New Artist’ nomination at the 2011 San Diego Music Awards and songs like Rise Up for Love and Mirror display a finely tuned writing talent. Comin’ Back sings of a need to return to community and there are songs of love and optimism. However, it is the song Say You Will that steals the show with its passionate refrain and heartfelt lyric. Impressive.
Spike Flynn was born in Forbes, New South Wales and is now based in Sydney, Australia. This is his second release, with his first album It’s Alright achieving a number 10 slot on the September 2010 Euro Americana charts. Rough Landing contains a high standard of song-writing with the 13 tracks displaying a lived-in quality of storytelling. The songs explore life with its beauty, sorrows, and joys, and often have a philosophical and spiritual aspect with meaningful, thought provoking lyrics. His voice has a tired edge and reminds me of Johnny Cash or John Stewart in tone.
There are shades of the blues and country influences and the playing is of a high quality throughout. Fiddle, mandolin and banjo mix seamlessly with harmonica and guitars. Fate and Freedom is a terrific opening song that pits enduring love against death and bitter fate. Wonderful words delivered in a true country style. Songs like Trying to Get Home Blues, Frozen Words, Ragin’ against the Wind and All you Lonesome Hobos speak to the inner strength in all of us and our need to endure. Don’t Let Her Sail Away and Hero’s Mask also impress with fine ensemble playing and a great production by Damian Flynn throughout. This artist is a really fine example of the talent that exists out there in music land but sadly, under the radar. Highly recommended
Michigan soul band Root Doctor plays a diverse mix of classic soul and R&B alongside traditional blues and original material. Along with over 20 years of club, concert and festival performances, they have released four previous recordis to local and national acclaim. This latest release features all original material, and the guitar work of Bill Malone is crisp and exciting against the wonderful keyboards of Mike Skory. The horn section of eight players is a real joy and the song arrangements contain much to excite with a heady mix of trumpet, sax, trombone, harmonica and accordion to augment the traditional four piece blues band. With Freddie Cunningham delivering a soulful sound on vocals, the groove is infectious across these songs of lovin’ and leavin’, together with a salutary look at social inequality on the final track Land of the Free. You can bet that this collection delivers at all stages and song titles such as Baby, You’re Bad, Set Me Free, Pay the Rent, You’re Gonna Lose, and Someone Else is Steppin’ In do exactly what it says on the tin … Wonderful stuff.
Rob McHale is a North Carolina-based folk-Americana artist whose songs can take you through a small town, down a dirt road or on an historical journey – and bring you back home again. What we have here is ten beautifully realised songs, arranged, produced and performed with maturity and a style that is very appealing. The production by Chris Rosser and the band ensemble of 11 musicians deliver on all fronts. I can hear early Jackson Browne in the gorgeous Back Home with harmony vocals to lift you away from your reality and the songs Mother’s Love, Fields and Wishing Well add to the feel of authentic folk music. Real and mature, reflective and sincere, this is music for the spirit and a really excellent release.