Reviews by Paul McGee

The Wainwright Sisters 'Songs in the Dark' PIAS

Sixteen tracks spread over the best part of fifty minutes heralds the first collaboration between half-sisters Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche. There are five lullabies that their respective mothers,  Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche, sang to them as children, plus songs by Townes van Zandt, Richard Thompson, Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rogers, and a few traditional tunes (Long Lankin / All the Pretty Horses / Go Tell Aunt Rhody). Their shared father Loudon Wainwright III enjoys international recognition and his relative skills as a father have been chronicled elsewhere by both extended family members and media alike.

The tracks that have been described as "dark, mysterious, and beautiful" interpretations of songs.

El Condor Pasa, a musical composition from Peru and made popular by Simon & Garfunkel on their Bridge over Troubled Water record is included and there a couple of songs by Loudon and Terre Roche (Screaming Issue / Runs in the Family). Two songs, Lullaby and Lullaby for a Doll, were written by Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle respectively.

So, the family features quite predominantly throughout and the stamp of the past is carried with great aplomb by the two main performers. Their vocal harmonies are beautifully intertwined into the simple song arrangements and melodies.

Baby Rocking Medley was written by Rosalie Sorrels and is a deliciously wry, tongue-in-cheek piece about the plight of babies in the mind of what can only be described as a twisted imaginary mid-wife.

End of the Rainbow by Richard Thompson is altogether a far darker inclusion with its refrain of ‘There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow; there’s nothing to grow up for anymore’.

Not a release that everybody will naturally gravitate towards but the understated playing and lovely harmony singing are very appealing. Quirky, different and speckled with some moments of magic; a little like the family history. 

Wendy Webb 'This is the Moment' Spooky Moon

This is the fifth release from Wendy Webb, a native of Iowa who now resides in Florida. She is a very accomplished singer-songwriter and her wonderfully rich voice contains tones reminiscent of both Carole King and Joni Mitchell. The song arrangements are very much in a contemporary Folk style and are filled with superb playing, excellent melody and rhythm.

She has elements of jazz and blues incorporated into the rich production by Danny Morgan and John McLane, which is bright and full of space for the musicians to stretch their talents. The co-producers also play on the eleven songs here and cover a diverse range of instruments including guitars, horns, organ, strings, and percussion. They are joined by Jay Heavilin (acoustic bass) and Wendy  herself playing piano and acoustic guitar.

The sweet, moody flow of tracks like My Beating Heart, Homespun, All the Boys on Saturday and I Will Remember set the atmosphere into one of gentle seduction and a knowing empathy with the melting pot of life.

Big Blue Sky is her road song about striking out for the horizon and letting life unfold along the way. Long Day in the Sun closes the record in fine style with the lines; ‘But I believe in the miracle of my life; loving endlessly, I’m forever free’. This is a fine record and the mark of a gifted, mature and talented artist.    

Silver Shoes 'Another Time Around' Mid Ear

Silver Shoes is comprised of Maureen Finlon (vocals, acoustic guitar) and John Finnigan (vocals, accordion, acoustic guitar, harmonica). For this release they are joined by Mead Turner (fiddle, harmony vocals) and guests Rick Richards (drums, percussion), Don Richmond (acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, weisseborn) and Jack Saunders (acoustic guitar, banjo, resonator, upright bass, harmony vocals).

Together they make a very organic sound and these eleven songs skip along, filled with plenty of fine interplay and harmony singing. The fiddle is high in the mix and adds some lovely melody lines to many of the tracks.

Call it folk-rock or alt-country, it doesn’t really matter what label you use, the overall feel is very evocative and captures simplicity in the arrangements that seems timeless. Sunrise on the Canyon is an instrumental tune and Gibson Land, Full Circle and You’re the One That I Need, have a distinct Bluegrass groove. Mother Nature’s Son (Lennon/McCartney), I’ll Be Here In the Morning (Townes Van Zandt), Tennessee Blues  (Bobby Charles)are excellent cover versions that Silver Shoes make their own and the final Stories We Could Tell(John Sebastian) takes the wheel full circle with a gentle strum and the image of back-porch gatherings. A very pleasing release and full of excellent moments in these well-chosen songs.  

Mark Davis and the Inklings 'Because There’s Nothing Outside' Bitemark

A resident of San Luis Obispo, California, this musician has 2 previous releases that have gained him a reputation as a contemporary Folk artist with a sense of reflective calm in his tunes.

This is a gentle walk through 10 tracks that have religious undertones and a sense of self searching. Mark sings with a sweet tone not unlike Neil Finn in places and the understated playing fits perfectly with these reflective mood pieces.

Your Photograph is a song about the impermanence of time and The Ground is a relationship song that fits snugly alongside Only You, another look at love, complete with string section and rising melody. Black Cloud is a track that questions our ability to embrace life and get outside ourselves. The final track Untitled brings a quiet end to affairs with soft stings and a sense of time lost in the melody. A very pleasant listen.