Reviews by Paul McGee


Brandon Isaak 'Her on Earth'- Self Release Produced by famous brother Chris, this collection of acoustic blues from Brandon Isaak is a very engaging listen. There are thirteen original songs that display an impressive talent and plenty of attitude, style and swing are evident as Brandon skips across different musical genres from Ragtime, Delta Blues, Gospel, and Country. Based in Vancouver, Canada this artist is redefining the tradition of blues music in an eclectic style that merits much praise. A very fine musician and a confident performer, Brandon Isaak comes highly recommended.

California Feetwarmers - Self Release This eight-piece jazz band play a New Orleans swing sound and have a party feel that you just might find  at your local corner bar. Joyous and full of energy, the thirteen tracks here are very much rooted in the 1920’s and 1930’s, with the impression of juke joints and prohibition times. Phil Alvin guests on a number of tracks, to add weight to their credentials as a good time band to be taken seriously. Like a soundtrack to an old Hollywood gangster movie, the music generates a colourful sound with a live feel to proceedings

Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys 'Here Between' - Self Release Hailing from Michigan, this is a band that swings in the best traditions of bluegrass/roots music. With two previous full releases to her name, Lindsay Lou brings an EP of four tracks to the table and her distinct vocal is a highlight, ably supported by the understated and bright playing of her band.

Jimi Cullen 'Life' - Self Release This Wexford based singer songwriter has been on the live circuit for ten years now, releasing three full recordings to date, plus two separate EP’s. The nine songs here are all well -arranged and the production is evenly paced across the different styles, from country, to blues and folk-tinged ballads. Great to see Irish artists developing their craft and the quality of playing on these songs is impressive. Jimi Cullen plays guitar with Rick Smith supporting on guitar, Mandolin, banjo and bass. The ensemble also includes Luke Cosgrove on violin, Karen Dunbar on piano and vocals, Paddy McLoughlin on drums and Sinead O’Byrne on backing vocals.  

Tia McGraff 'Break These Chains' - Self Release With five previous releases to her name, Tia McGriff brings to this latest recording an experience that is very evident in her song-writing skills. Produced by co-writer and husband, Tommy Parham, the twelve songs here are all touched with a mature perspective. Tia has a beautiful voice that is full of emotion and sensitivity and compliments the arrangements and melodies of these songs perfectly. Stranger to Paradise and Safer Place highlight Tia’s vocal in a way that leaves the listener fully engaged and wanting more. The track, Between the Bed and the Door , is a highlight and reflects; “I just don’t know what we’ve got anymore; maybe I’m just a heartbeat between the bed and the door”. Consider me a new member of this artist’s fan club.

Kat Danser 'Baptized by the Mud' - Self Release Gospel is alive and well in this delta blues stomp. All twelve tracks bear witness to the lasting genre that has inspired so many artists over time past. Produced by the impressive Steve Dawson, the songs crackle with an energy that is one part celebratory and the other, full of tense and taut restraint. This would be a perfect soundtrack for any of the American drama series, like True Detective, where the atmosphere drips with suggestion and a deep foreboding and strange passion. Heady stuff indeed and much here to recommend. This is a fourth release for the artist dubbed Queen of the Swamp Blues and this Edmonton-based  vocalist channels the spirit of roots, blues and gospel music pioneers to great effect.