Thursday
Feb042016

Reviews by Declan Culliton

The Whileaways ‘Saltwater Kisses’  Self Release

 The Whileaways comprises of Galway musicians Noriana Kennedy, Nicola Joyce and Noelie Mc Donnell. Kennedy and Mc Donnell had both previously recorded solo albums while Joyce sang and recorded with the folk group Grada. They combined their collective talents to record their critically acclaimed debut album Dear My Maker in 2013 to excellent reviews. Saltwater Kisses follows in a similar vein with eleven tracks, both Kennedy and Joyce have individually written four songs each and Mc Donnell three, all showcasing their exquisite three part harmonies.

By their own admission the songs are uncomplicated, delicate, intimate and easy listening with the lead vocal shared between the band members on the eleven tracks recorded on Saltwater Kisses. Very much a summer album, the breezy back porch Wake Up Sleepy Head works particularly well as does Family Well with hints towards Van Morrison in his more melodic moods. The albums strongest offering is possibly Fruit On The Vine sung by Nicola Joyce who also contributes Baritone Uke on this radio friendly song. 

The album was produced by Liam Caffrey and Eamon Brady in a lakeside house at Glencorrib near Headford Co.Galway. The listener may find the vocal sharing resulting in the album sounding a trifle disjointed but the quality of the vocals generally and the song writing should overcome any reservations.

The Blood Red Mountain Band ‘Far From Daylight’  Self Release

Delightful and refreshing debut album from Dublin five piece The Blood Red Mountain Band combining divine harmonies, fine musicianship and impressive song writing. The band consists of Mark Flynn (vocals and guitar), Sarah May Rogers (violin, strings and vocals), Alison Byrne (vocals), David Keegan on (drums and percussion) and Joeby Browne ( bass and vocals).

The album comprises twelve tracks, eleven written by band members together with a splendid cover of Maybelle Carter’s Fair and Tender Ladies. Their sound is a well-structured mix of folk, blues and country bringing to mind the dream like sound of Simone Felice’s Duke and The King on All The Times, I’ve Got You (On My Mind) and ‘Till The Wheels but also more than capable of moving up-tempo with the more rockier My Sweet Rose and Lucy Jackson (Don’t Break My Heart). The standout tracks are the haunting Trial and the beautiful cover of the aforementioned Fair and Tender Ladies.

The majority of the songs are delivered with duo or harmony vocals, not unsurprisingly as four of the band are credited as vocalists and enhanced throughout by some exquisite violin and strings by Sarah May Rogers. All in all a fine piece of work.

Hidden Treasures ‘Singer Songwriters From Home’ Hemifran 

The term singer songwriter originated from an album titled The Singer Songwriter Project released in 1965 and featuring the music of four obscure US artists, David Cohen, Dick Farina, Bruce Murdock and Patrick Sky. Prior to this recording solo artists who performed their own material were simply identified as folk singers or in some cases protest singers. 

Hidden Treasures commemorates the fiftieth anniversary since the release of The Singer Songwriter Project and aptly titled features four highly respected artists some of whom have been recording for decades but have remained somewhat under the radar. 

The artists in question are Greg Copeland, Keith Miles, Barry Oldman and Bob Cheevers and their varying styles contribute to what is a wonderful seventy minutes of roots music. Greg Copeland has been recording for many years and has co-written with Jackson Browne. Among the artists that have recorded Copeland’s songs are The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Peter, Paul and Mary. His 1982 release Revenge Will Come was produced by Jackson Browne and was followed over twenty five years later by the Greg Leisz produced Diana and James.

Nashville resident Keith Miles has recorded two albums, What It Was They Became (2006) and Beyond the Headlights (2009) both on the House of Trout label. His tracks for the Hidden Treasures album were recorded in Nashville by Poco member Jack Sundrud and Bill Halverson.

Barry Ollman recorded his debut album What’ll It Be in 2014 and features Graham Nash and E-Street Band bassist Garry W Tallent. Ollman recorded his contributions to Hidden Treasures in hometown Loveland, CO.

Austin resident since relocating from Nashville in 2008, Bob Cheevers was awarded the accolade of Singer Songwriter of The Year in 2011 for his album Tall Texas. Hardly an overnight success Tall Texas was Cheevers eleventh album but his first recorded in Austin whose music scene was more sympathetic to Cheevers style than that of Nashville.

The albums list of contributors is certainly impressive featuring Jackson Browne, John Fullbright, Bill Harverson, Greg Leisz, David Lindley, Spooner Oldham, Tim O’Brien, James Raymond, Patrick Sky, and Garry W Tallent among others.

The songs performed by Greg Copeland feature his relaxed spoken like singing style very much in keeping with that of Leonard Cohen, particularly of the song Mistaken for Dancing. Patrick Sky, one of the artists featured on the original 1965 album, plays uilleann pipes on the opening track by Copeland (Wait for Me).

Bob Cheevers contribution to the album include The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, possibly the stand out track on the album. Other Cheever’s songs Progress are delivered with his trademark vocal style, very much in the style of the Willie Nelson vibrato.

The inclusions by Barry Ollman, in particular Longtime Friend and Murmuration, are rooted in more commercial territory than the other artists work. Beautifully crafted with catchy hooks similar in sound to the work of Gary Louris.

Of all the four artists featured on the album Keith Miles is probably the most traditional in the singer songwriter genre. Uncomplicated songs such as Kerouac, Playing Your Guitar and a Cab Calloway sounding Ask Me Tomorrow are included. All have divergent styles yet a surprisingly coherent body of work that is well worth investigating.

Bettysoo ‘When We’re Gone’ Self Released

When We’re Gone is the seventh album released by Texas resident Korean-American Bettysoo. She has been recording for over a decade at this stage without unfortunately making the commercial break through that the quality of her output deserves. 

Similar to her earlier work, the album deals  primarily with tales of loss, desperation, loneliness, strive and break up. Very little of the upbeat for the listener but all beautifully crafted songs, often dominated by the silky cello playing of Brian Standefer who together with Bettyloo produced the album at his studio in Buda Texas. Other notable Texas musicians that appear on the album include Glenn Fukunage on bass, Dave Terry on drums, Will Sexton on guitar and Lloyd Maine’s who adds pedal steel on Last Night.

Bettysoo’s often fragile vocal is so well suited to her material. 100 Ways of Being Alone opens with lyrics that set the scene for much of what follows: It’s the brother that never writes anymore /The uncle you never heard mentioned before / The dad you didn’t know left when you were born / A mother who leaves her child behind the store. 

Much to enjoy on the album in particular standout tracks being 100 Ways Of Being Alone, The Things She Left Home With and Love Is Real, all of which bring to mind the work of Kathleen Edwards, hardly a bad thing.

The album signs off with the beautiful and haunting Lullaby which closes with a particularly striking cello and flute instrumental.

Sunday
Jan172016

Reviews by Stephen Rapid

 

Rod Picott ‘Fortune’ - Welding Rod

At this point, some eight albums into his career, Rod Picott is something of a veteran of the trials and tribulations that face the independent working troubadour. A lifestyle that is often not conducive to steady relationships or a settled life. But what it does is to give Picott a personal insight into the lives he sees around him, as well as his own. Such events that occur are distilled into a set of songs that speak true to the turmoil and equal tenderness that we all can encounter along the way. 

The first song here, is Maybe That’s What It Takes, allows that the knocks received can often be a catalyst to something else. Equally This World Is a Dangerous Place sums up the caution required to navigate through an uneven path. I Was Not Worth Your Love admonishes a former partner for trying to make him something he wasn’t until the relationship turned him into something that ironically might have fit the requirements. 

Later in the album things get a little more positive in outlook with I’m On Your Side but overall the gaze is cast downward. Uncle John refers to a relative who was a charachter but with whom he no longer has any contact. Jeremiah is also about loss. Spare Change shows how a little money might have helped in certain situations. These are songs that on the surface might seem to be drawing down the darkness. Something perhaps summed up by a line in Drunken Barber’s Hand (“…this world has been shaved by a drunken barber’s hand” - something it is not hard to agree with). However Picott has enough inbuilt humanity in his music to make these songs a simple, life-affirming experience.

Produced by Picott and Neilson Hubbard it has a a selection of players will to make these songs work in a stripped back but effective way. Will Kimbrough is a player well used to using his talent to best find the emotion of the songs. He is joined by the rhythm section of Lex Price and Hubbard himself on drums. They create a suitably unsettled setting for these songs which are essentially built around Picott’s voice and nylon stringed guitar. The end result is one Picott can be justifiably be proud of and one that draws the listener in to, in turn, get much out of.

Johnny Selfish & The Worried Men ‘Calle Salvaje’ - Rivertale

This Italian band have made a joyous, uptempo fun album that they describe as a tribute to inspirations such as Hank Williams Sr, Ennio Morricone and Mano Negra as well as movie heroes like Clint Eastwood and Sam Peckinpah. This is the bands fourth album. A nine track mix of covers and what I assume are original songs (as there are no writing credits included). The covers include Williams’ Alone and Forsaken and the Bill Monroe associated A.P. Carter song Working On A Building. These songs are delivered in English while others such as Vaquerito and El Gringo are in Spanish.

There is a mix of instruments used from electric guitar, banjo, double bass through to kazoo and Mariachi-styled trumpets. The end result is varied enough to keep the whole thing moving along in a spirited, almost Pogues-like folk/punk take on their influences. There nothing particularly ground breaking going on here, rather it is the spirit and energy with which the songs are performed that makes it a diverting listen and one that should bring a smile to your face. Can’t ask for a lot more than that sometimes.

Malcolm Holcombe ‘Another Black Hole’ - Proper

Following hot on the heels of his RCA sessions album comes this new one from Mr. Holcombe. He seems very prolific of late with a whole bunch of new songs delivered in that battered, gritty and distinctive voice that is uniquely his. It is a folk/blues Americana mix that brings together his usual crew of Ken Coomer, Jared Tayler and Dave Roe alongside Drea Merritt on some vocal harmonies and Tony Joe White on some swampy guitar.

Those who know (and love) Holcombe’s work will be happy to get know these new songs. As in the past there are others who can’t get passed the voice. All has been brought together by Brian Brinkerhoff and Ray Kennedy’s sturdy production. The latter also engineered, mixed and mastered the album. The playing through is top notch and gives added depth and texture to these songs that look up to the sky and higher, from a position that is much closer to the street and those that live there. People who may just get by, who have few expectations but somehow manage to see some grace. This feeling may well be summed up in Siobhan Maher-Kennedy’s cover illustration.

The hard-scrabble blues on offer may not appeal to all but it has dignity and a purpose and the assembled players know how to bring the tales of woe to a sunnier side of the street even if Holcombe’s voice seems to sit on the grittier side of Tom Waits. He offers nothing here but his own truth and his hard held beliefs and some very credible music. Something that has always given Malcolm Holcombe his edge with his coterie of admirers and friends.

Jimmy Ruggiere ‘A Heartache Couldn’t Happen To A Nicer Guy’ - Blue Streak

A harmonica player who recorded a lot with Travis Tritt steps up the the centre mic for his debut album. The album is produced in Austin, Texas by Chris Gage. Gage is a multi-instrumentalist who is no stranger to the studio as artist, player or producer. He has gathered together some equally seasoned players such as Paul Percy on drums and percussion, Warren Hood on fiddle and Lloyd Maines on pedal steel to bring their individual talents to these self-written songs.

Ruggiere has a solid warm vocal style that may not be a totally distinctive one but is one well able to deliver his songs, which fall into an easy to like feel but also ones that have their fair share of heartbreak themes. As witnessed by songs like the title song, I Want To Wake Up Stoned and I Cried All The Way To Fort Worth. There are songs that find him wanting to get back to his lady (Ninety Miles From Nashville) as well a tribute to a man who was an important part of everyone’s life - not just Ruggiere’s (Going Home to Say Goodbye To Dad).

He is obviously a skilled harmonica player and the instrument features throughout the album to good effect as does his acoustic guitar. There are a mix of tempos over the album as well as some nice textures from Jimmy Shortell’s trumpet, c overing different moods in Sunday’s Broken, which has a late night feel, or the border overtones of There’s One Too Many Pretty Girls in Tucson.

A Heartache Couldn’t Happen To A Nicer Guy is an accessible and easy listen given its’ undemanding or non-edgy style of country music. In itself it is one that would please a wide audience with it’s solid production, playing and personality. Jimmy Ruggiere comes across as a man who enjoys making this music as much as many will enjoy hearing it. So any success his debut album might find likely couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Sunday
Jan102016

Reviews by Stephen Rapid

Gill Landry ‘Self-titled’ - ATO

For his third solo album the former Old Crow Medicine Show member explores some of the same ground that influenced that band but also further expands his horizons. He produced this album of largely self-written songs performed with a select group of players that include Jamie Dick on drums as well as Ross Holmes on fiddle and Skylar Wilson and Robert Ellis on guitar. Landry himself plays guitar, bass, pedal steel, harmonium and harmonica as required. But it is the songs that resonate with everyone involved serving those.

The album opens with the slightly ominous Funeral In My Heart a song that asks the question “why do good things have to die” in a tone that suits that sentiment. Just Like You which follows takes an opposite view given it considers in an uncertain time the thing that helps most is “knowing someone just like you is alive.” The songs are all essays on trying to figure life out in a way that makes sense and while they are at times opaque and poetic, the overall feel suggests that the heart wins out. Throughout Landry’s vocal is both powerful and poignant. He uses the experience he has gained to this point to illuminate the songs with a restrained and pained passion. Lost Love, Bad Love and Long Road are all songs that attest to the force and follies of love.

The music is infused with dust and faded light but manages to illuminate some of the darker corners that the songs suggest. Musically it is innovative and touches a variety of moods and incorporates with the mainly mid-paced songs of both the past and future. Particularly attractive is the sultry border feel of Fennario with its border brass, Spanish guitar and heavy percussion. Overall, an album that will establish Landry as being at the forefront of contemporary Americana.

Jane Kramer ‘Carnival Of Hopes’ - Self Release

Her debut album was rooted in folk music but for her second album has taken that music as a foundation to build on. At the heart, these songs come from that tradition but the textures and brushstrokes are broader. Producer Adam Johnson embellishes the songs with the sounds of brass, keyboards upright bass and drums as well as a selection of guitars, dobro, mandolin and banjo.

Kramer has a voice that has a number of tones within its range that give the songs their personality. No doubt an extension of Kramer herself. She is the author of all the songs here other than Down South which was written by Tom Petty. A good choice that fits well with her songs and is in itself a standout that highlights the strength of Petty’s melodic writing. A highlight of her own writing is the song Good Woman, outlining the negative qualities of the lady in question who herself understands the reasons, but who would still like to be a good woman.

In other songs she looks for Truth Tellin’ Eyes, for Truck Stop Stars and truth learned from Highways, Rivers & Scars but all with a need to explore the Carnival Of Hopes. Songs that build around such emotions, use that folk setting to create the heart of the songs while the acoustic instruments entwine with the rhythm section and effective use of occasional jazzy brass (Why’d I Do That Blues). All of which makes for an interesting album that rewards a closer listen and suggest that Kramer is an artist who will steadily grow.

The Nouveaux Honkies ‘Blues For Country’ - Self Release

The title track outlines the perceived dilemma for the band on the opening song. Deciding that they are too blues for county and too country for the blues. Not however that many listeners will have that problem with this accomplished band. Fiddle is well to the fore as are the voices of the band founding duo Tim O’Donnell and Rebecca Dawkins. They are rounded out by Pat Manse on percussion, Nate Rowe on double bass and guest Lloyd Maines on pedal steel for three songs.

The blues side of what they do however is not predominately evident and the honky tonk side is the one that largely holds sway. The blues is an influence in the way that jazz was a big part of western swing but that music still had its own individual identity. The duo’s voices blend well together and Dawkin’s violin is a mainstay of the sound of a band of very accomplished players. The songs are a mix of originals (largely by O’Connell) and some covers such as a straight up but evocative version of Townes van Zandt’s Pancho and Lefty.

The couple have been plying their trade for some time now and their extended life on the road is the subject of several songs from the title through Life Ain’t Easy and Two Doors Down From Paradise - a song which features twice at the end of the album with the reprise version being an extended instrumental coda that runs as one continuous piece. It’s a tale of recovering from the of work and unwinding  from a previous night and slowly getting one’s self back to a place where function and reason returns  - at least till that night.

The Nouveaux Honkies play around Florida and surely have built up a following in the region but on the strength of this, their latest album, could easily gain a wider following. They are not a retro recreation of the sound of an earlier era but rather have developed a sound that is grounded in a traditional sound but one that incorporates sounds from other genres and times to create something that is distinctive and a delight.

Lori Yates ‘Sweetheart Of The Valley’ - Self Release

This album finds Lori Yates at her best and in total control of her creative output after the experience of being signed to a major label (CBS) in the US back in 1989. Then the Steve Buckingham produced album had songs from interesting writers like Nick Lowe, Paul Kennerely alongside some co-writes from Yates herself. It was a fine debut but didn’t take her to stardom. Now it would seem she is continuing making traditional sounding country music and doing so with heart and soul and doing it her way.

For this album, which was produced by Yates and David Gavan Baxter, she teamed up with the members of Hey Stella. They were a band that Yates was a member of from the late 90s to the 2002. That included Baxter as well as Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan and drummer Michelle Josef who played with Prairie Oyster. Add to those players such guests as Steve Wood on pedal steel and guitarist Stephen Miller and you have a pretty ace unit to deliver Yates songs.

Here Yates particularly shines with her own songs with her measured, focused and thrilling voice. One that has matured into a distinctive and individual instrument. The songs range from Trouble in the Country which reflects on her time in Nashville and a less than welcoming meeting with Billy Sherill. Then aside from some effective ballads there are more up-tempo rockabilly tempered workouts. Much of which reflects the more open attitudes that prevailed in the mainstream as the 80s turned to the 90s and wider range of influences broadened the horizons of the genre with losing sight of its traditional base.

There are many highlights here from the effective guitar that underscores Call My Name to Corktown where Yates’ voice is joined by a chorus of Tequila lubricated throats recorded live in a hospitable tavern. There are songs that come from a very personal place such as Shiloh about meeting her father for the first time when she was 40. The atmospheric What The Heart Wants is another brooding ballad that conveys a desperate passion with conviction. 

Sweetheart of the Valley is an excellent album all round and just makes you wonder just how much such good music can pass you by. But don’t let this one do that as it is very easy to fall for this particular sweetheart.

Texas Martha and The House of Twang ‘Long Way From Home’ - Self Release

This Texas born singer songwriter now lives in Bordeaux in France. There she fronts her own band The House Of Twang and they play an intoxicating blend of country, country rock, blues and folk, a true amalgamation of American roots music. An acoustic sideline is to be found with Mountain High, a band she also fronts. She is planning a new release later this year but her current album Long Way From Home is a summation of her music to date.

Martha Fields Galloway has written all ten songs here and fronts the band playing acoustic guitar and delivering with a strong vocal presence found throughout the album. The album was recorded in France and the band provides bass, drums, guitar, pedal steel and keyboards. They open with the driving riff of Born To Boogie a strong statement of intent. There then follows a selection of songs that are all powered by a tight energy that musically covers all the bases mentioned.

The title track takes the foot off the throttle for the first part of the song before picking up the pace. Lover’s Lane is a ballad that looks at the journey love can take you on. Johanna has some nice Hammond and is a mid-paced reflection on a person’s life. That mood is continued on Streets Of Bordeaux an ode to her new home sung partly and appropriately in French. One of the best vocals on the albums is delivered in Where The Red Grass Grows, a song that is about place and purpose.

Of the final three songs Strike has a bluesy, bar-room feel while Do As You Are Told has some effective pedal steel guitar for a song that asks that the lady in question follows the dictate of the title. Like the opening song the closing title Gotta Move has a solid groove that’s suits the title and the traveling on nature of the lyric. Overall a very commendable album that hits all the right notes and sets Martha Fields up for her next Texas recorded album Southern White Lies. She is making music that keeps on movin’ on.

Eric Church ‘Mr. Misunderstood’ - EMI

One of the more engaging of the current crop of Music Row mavericks Eric Church has delivered an unheralded album which arrives with no credits at all in the booklet. The only clue to the content style may be the Les Paul guitar featured in one of the photographs. Those credits however can be found online. The production is by Jay Joyce a producer often noted for his more edgy productions. However it is only on checking the lyrics online on his website that you can confirm that Church has a hand in all these songs. The sound is more towards a more heartland rock feel than anything traditionally country. There are no hints of pedal steel or fiddle here. Banjo being the only obviously non rock instrument to feature.

Given all that it is a strong album that continues Church’s progress to a more mainstream, crossover rock orientated sound with a more roots related feel to some tracks. Nothing wrong with that of course and this is a place where his audience is happy to follow him to. He underlines this, to a degree, in the title track where he identifies with those who were “always left out, never fit in”. The song also makes reference to Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Jeff Tweedy while stating a love for his daddy’s vinyl collection. In Record Year another song that makes reference to musical influences he pays tribute to some country legends Jones and Jennings, Hank and Willie Nelson as well as James Brown in a song where a bad relationship sees the protagonist turn to his records for some much needed sympathy and salvation.

It is only by track 6 with Round Here Buzz that the song takes on a more obvious roots/country feel. Holding My Own is another song that has a less intense feel and again makes reference to loving blues and soul music while holdin’ his own space and track position. The album closes with Three Year Old wherein he looks to the simple needs and wants of a three year old to learn something for his own life. Its understated delivery closes the album on a note that resonates more quietly rather than ringing the ears that some of rockier tracks might. Mr. Misunderstood may well help Eric Church to a wider understanding of his aims, views and musical outlook. Something that he seems to have taken control of. Which can be no bad thing overall.

Monday
Dec212015

See our News Section for our Albums of the Year

Saturday
Dec192015

Reviews by Declan Culliton

 

Bobby Gentry ‘Southern Gothic’ – Humphead

Not always given credit for her formidable influence in Country music, Bobby Gentry was the first female artist in the mid 60’s to write and produce much of her own material. Reported to have been writing songs before her teenage years, Gentry studied philosophy at U.C.L.A. California prior to transferring to study music at The Los Angeles Conservatory of Music in 1964 at the age of 20.

She signed to Capital Records Nashville in 1967 and recorded her debut single the bluesy Mississippi Delta. However it was the B side to that single Ode To Billie Joe that launched Gentry’s career practically overnight and eventually sold over three million copies, establishing her as a favourite both on country music radio and in the pop music stations. It actually knocked The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love off the Number 1 spot in the American charts. The song’s tale of Billy Joe Mc Allister’s suicide and the dark secret shared by him and his lover sounds as fresh and vital today as it did in 1967 and resulted in Gentry winning three Grammy Awards including Best New Artist and Best Female Vocalist.

In an attempt to capitalise on the success of the single Capital recorded the album of the same title in 1967. The following year saw the release of Local Gentry and The Delta Sweete to disappointing sales. A duo album with Glen Campbell was also released that year and entered to Top 20 album Charts after the somewhat disappointing earlier solo albums.

Touch ‘Em With Love, released in 1969 owed more to Memphis than Nashville with its R 'n' B feel and included a  Number 1 single in the UK with the Bacharach/David composition I’ll Never Fall In Love Again. The UK success earned Gentry a BBC television variety show before returning to perform at Los Vegas headlining a nightclub revue.

Three further albums were released by Capital, Fancy in 1970, Patchwork and Sittin’ Pretty/Tobacco Road in 1971 after which Gentry concentrated on her Los Vegas career.

Southern Gothic is a comprehensive musical overview of Gentry’s career and its fifty tracks capture many of her inspirational songs such as Ode To Bobby Joe, Okolona River Bottom Band, Mississippi Delta, I Saw An Angel Die, Courtyard and Morning Glory. Also included are some less appealing cover versions including The Beatle’s Here, There and Everywhere and Fool on The Hill and a cheesy cover of Scarborough Fair as a duo with Glen Campbell.

A compilation, at least, of Bobby Gentry’s work is an essential requirement for anyone with an interest in country music of the 60’s and this package is as good a place as any to start. 

Chris Laterzo ‘West Coast Sound’ – Yampa

On first play you could be forgiven for assuming you had just listened to a ‘lost’ Neil Young album, probably recorded in the late 70’s,possibly between Comes A Time and  Rust Never Sleeps. Whether it’s the driving west coast sound of the title track, the sleepy acoustic Something Blue, the pedal steel and harmonica drenched Echo Park or the tongue in cheek Subaru, there is so much to enjoy on this album.

The album features Laterzo on vocal, guitars and harmonica, Dan Wistrom and Bret Jensen on guitars, Jeff LeGore on bass, Ron Pak on drums and Rami Jaffee on organ with the tracks recorded in a number of studios in California.

West Coast Sound is the fifth album recorded by the Los Angeles resident. A recording artist since 1997, his debut album, American River, was produced by Danny Weston Jnr., who also added drums to the recording. Since then he  recorded a further three albums prior to this release including the self-produced and engineered Driftwood in 2004

"Hey Honey let’s sing our son Yellow Submarine and that tune by Neil Young for sweet cowboy dreams"-  Laterzo sings in Echo Park. So with the questionable quality of Neil Young’s recent recordings it’s interesting that  Laterzo, in a similar vein to artists such as Israel Nash and Rich Hopkins, continue to record albums of a quality that you’d love Young current output to equal.

A relentless touring artist, both solo and with his band The Buffalo Robe to support his career, Laterzo has recorded for me, one of the most satisfying alternative country albums of 2015.

Scott Krokoff ‘Realizations & Declarations Volume 2’ – Self Release

Scott Krokoff previously played in a New York 90’s band Equinox which basically consisted of Krokoff and college friends. They recorded four albums before disbanding. Krokoff proceeded to pursue a solo career and  recorded his debut album A Better Life released in 2007. This collection of songs Realizations & Declarations is a project featuring two EP’s released as Volume 1 & 2.

Realizations & Declarations Volume 1, released in 2012, featured four tracks and was followed earlier this year by Volume 2 which includes six new songs and a reworking of Sparrows, a song which appeared on his debut album.

Similar in style to his debut Volume 2, emphasises Krokoff’s ability to write radio friendly and well crafted songs probably best categorised in the power pop genre. Indeed opening tracks The Right Place and Because of You bring to mind the work of Fountains of Wayne with satisfying jangly guitar riffs dominating.

The recording was produced by Bob Stander who also played bass and features an impressive list of musicians including former Wings drummer Steve Holly, who has also worked with Dar Williams. Paul Errico, who plays keyboards and accordion, has worked with Steve Forbert. While Shawn Murray and Mark Newman, both members of the late Willy DeVille’s band, both contribute on drums and dobro.

All in all an impressive set of songs, catchy, immediate and very listenable by an artist quite capable of writing quality pop music. However, the seperate releases left the writer wondering whether the release of both EP’s as a full album might have had a greater impact.

The Midnight Union Band ‘Of Life and Lesser Evils’ – Self Release

The Midnight Union Band have earned a reputation as one of the hardest working and  promising  live Irish roots bands in recent years. Visitors to The annual Kilkenny Roots Festival in recent years would be familiar with them and their music. There they played to packed venues, their performances, with more than a nod to The Band and Little Feat, are lively, soulful and showcase their combined musical skills.

Would it be possible to translate their live performances to the studio? The answer is a resounding yes based on their debut album Old Life and Lesser Evils. The band consists of vocalist, acoustic guitar and harmonica player Shane Joyce, Peter Flynn on various keyboards, Brian Mc Grath on bass, Cian Doolan on electric guitar and mandolin and drummer John Wallace.

From the opening track Your Leader to the magnificent seven minute closing track and album highlight  But I Am The Night The Midnight Union band manage to recreate the sound so uplifting in their live shows. The album contains  an additional ten tracks are, other  standouts being the funky Stormy Thoughts, People Like You which are given a fuller sound in the studio with the addition of trumpet played by Aidan Kelly and Law Ain’t Justice expanded by some delightful pedal steel.

A more than satisfying debut album and a further indication of the wealth of talented young Irish acts with the potential to make a significant breakthrough in the music industry.