Reviews by Paul McGee

Kevin Sekhani  'Day Ain’t Done' - Louisiana Red Hot

Country, rock and soul are mixed together into a heady concoction on this debut solo release from Kevin Sekhani, a 20 year veteran of the Austin, Texas music scene. Together with musicians that have played with Son Volt, Patty Griffin and John Mellencamp, Kevin Sekhani ‘s abundant talents deliver a really impressive album  with violin, mandolin, accordion and acoustic guitars blended  with superb musicianship giving a really serious swing to Day Ain’t Done’s twelve songs.

Co-producing with Mark Addison, Sekhani celebrates with both attitude and confidence on tracks like Wrong Direction and Oilfield Tan, a tribute to the Louisiana oilfield workers. Think Steve Earle backed by Old Crow Medicine Show and you will have some idea of the virtuoso playing on display. Jump Right Back is urgent, immediate and performed with swagger. The Ballad of Lonely Clown is a strummed waltz about the life of a social misfit and The Higher I Get is filled with passion and the urge to break free.

Burial Ground is another killer track that jumps right out of the traps and takes hold with a driving beat and great ensemble playing.  Sumner Street ends the album with a Springsteen-esque chorus of celebratory sound. This is wonderful stuff.

Ryan Davidson  'A Wick Burning High' - Self Release

Davidson hails from northern California. Educated in Ireland, his storytelling style shines brightly on these songs with a voice that is clear and strong and commands attention as it leads from the front. He is ably assisted by Miles Pack on cello, resonator, banjo, glockenspiel and percussion with Darius Koski on viola, accordion and organ and Jessie Nieves on fiddle and backing vocals.

Black Socks deals with Ryan’s personal story of being hit by a truck at 13, which left him bedridden for nearly year and facing multiple surgeries. This eventually led to him learning how to play guitar and the rest, as they say, is history. He sings of a friend who suffers from Huntington’s disease on Kay and it is a fine tribute to the fortitude displayed by human beings in the eye of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Whiskey with My Friends is a nod to times past with old friends and has a pleasing Irish feel to the melody. Silver Dagger is a traditional folk song that ends with a death pact and East Virginia Billy is an old time fiddle tune that hints of Appalachian influence in the playing. Catherine is written in memory of his great grandmother who emigrated from Northern Ireland to New York in the 19th century, the life that she experienced and the price she paid. The Haze is a fine tune that deals with getting clear and following your own inner direction and voice, while the title track tells of loss and the hope for a better tomorrow. 

This is modern folk music played with a confidence that bodes well for the future.

Dickie Lee Erwin 'Shadetree' - High Plains

Erwin is Austin Texas based and has been performing and releasing music for the last 33 years. This is his eighth release since starting on his spiritual journey and the songs are well produced by Rob Halverson, who also contributes a variety of parts on various instruments. There is one cover, Gentle on my Mind, which is given a slow tempo banjo and guitar strum. The rest of the songs are created by Dickie Lee Erwin and he delivers them in a laid-back style which brings to mind the easy groove of lazy afternoons spent on the back-porch.

Go Ahead and Rain is a fine song that features excellent mandolin playing from Chris Mietus and the steel guitar of Gary Newcomb. Johnny Said is a song that reflects on the breaks that life brings and the need to ‘walk that line.’   

Abra Moore appears on a number of tracks adding sweet harmony vocals and it is good to know that she is still active on the music circuit. Grindstone and River of Dreams are songs that sail along on gentle arrangements and melodies with some superb ensemble playing from the studio musicians. The final track, Seven Angels, boasts a Johnny Cash-influenced vocal that shows a gospel influence. This is a strong set of songs delivered with confidence.

Reverend Freakchild  'Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues' - Self Release

This interesting artist plays a country blues style of music that is very engaging and bears many hidden treasures. Starting out with All I Got Is Now, a real stand-out song, the Reverend sings of a life philosophy that acknowledges ‘today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday’ and concludes that ‘All I got is now’; simple and sage advice and a code to live by.

The music has an appeal in the melodic arrangements and the fine playing of the musicians. Angel of Mercy is an instrumental played with a restrained groove and great harmonica parts. Other instrumental tracks, Lullaby and Soul Transforming Realisation are equally strong and carry great presence. She Wants My Name is a great slice of swamp blues as is the final track I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down while Tears of Fire is more of a rock groove.

Apparently the Reverend is studying Tibetan Buddhism and this influences his work. He plays resonator guitar and the simple backbeat laid down by Chris Parke and Tugboat Eustis gives the tracks a solid foundation over which the other players can add their parts.  Hugh Pool, who co-produces with award winning Sal Paradise, plays harmonica and lap steel and John Ragusa plays flute. 

3hattrio 'Dark Desert Night' - Okehdokee

The 3hattrio play in a traditional folk style that is defined as American Desert Music. The aim is to create a new music which responds to the natural world of their sacred homeland near Zion National Park in Utah.  They also strive to acknowledge the cultural traditions of generations of people who have worked and lived on the deserts of the American southwest. The subject matter of the songs is rooted in their natural habitat, drawing from the changing light over the distance or the way sound plays off the surrounding cliffs. The music is simple and sublime.

The song arrangements are beautifully understated and played with both reverence and subtlety by Eli Wrankle on violin, Hal Cannon on guitars, banjos, vocals and Greg Istock on acoustic bass, foot percussion and vocals. The interplay between the three musicians is stripped back and produces an acoustic minimalist treat.

Get Back Home tells the tale of a drowning tragedy while Nothing deals with the birth of the land in the great creation. Carry Me Away is a story of deceit, murder and revenge taken from a traditional arrangement. Get on the Bus is a slow blues with some fine violin parts while Sand Storm boasts some jazz-tinged bass playing of the highest order.

The banjo and violin parts on Tammy’s Sister and the soulful vocal of Greg Istock weave a haunting atmosphere and Off the Map follows in a similar vein with a dark study of a desert cowboy who allows jealousy to direct his actions and a future of guilt ridden emotions.

Hal Cannon sings in a weathered vocal style that adds character to songs like White Pressing Down, a song of seasonal reflection while Left Texas is reminiscent of the story telling style of Eric Taylor. An instrumental, Crippled Up Blues closes the record and brings to a conclusion a project that is beautifully delivered.