Reviews by Declan Culliton

Noam Weinstein On Waves Self Release

On Waves, the eight album recorded by Boston resident Noam Weinstein is soul drenched Americana, containing fifty six minutes of cleverly crafted songs, fifteen in total and often enhanced by delightful strings and horns. A reference point both to Weinstein’s vocal sound and the album’s musical content could be the work of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and yet the album also recalls the type of wonderful melodies created by Todd Rundgren on his 1972 album Something/Anything.

Dedicated to his recently deceased mother and recorded between the time of her death and the birth of his son the album is naturally full of mixed emotions including loss, grief, expectation, love, celebration and no shortage of humour.

Mother is more joyful and celebratory than sorrowful, Intelligent Design is rich, layered and benefitting from a lovely horn section. Over is poppy with a simple catchy chorus that connects instantly.

Recorded at Old Soul Studios in Catskill, NY by Kenny Siegal (Langhorne Slim) and mastered by Jeff Lipton (Arcade Fire) the album features fifteen musicians including bassist Derek Nievergelt (Coldplay, Herbie Hancock), vocalist Heather Masse (Wailin’ Jennys), drummer Stephen Nistor (Rick Rubin). 

Tokyo Rosenthal Afterlife Rock & Socks

Afterlife is the sixth album released by Tokyo Rosenthal. Performing as a solo artist and leading man with bands such as Harpo and Slapshot and Treo Gato in a career stretching nearly three decades, it was not until 20017 that Rosenthal finally recorded his first album One Score and Ten. The song Edmonton from this album was critically well received and lead to an award for cultural and artistic contribution to the city of Alberta and also resulted in a solo tour of Canada sponsored by West Jet Airlines and opening slots for Chris Hillman, Stephen Stills, Rick Roberts and Jackie Levon.

Like many Canadian and American singer-songwriters Rosenthal has developed a hard core following in Europe and the UK and regularly tours Europe. His influences include Gene Clarke, Jackson Brown, The Band, The Byrds and the album captures the familiar gentle country rock one associates with these artists.

Afterlife is produced by fellow Chapel Hill, North Carolina resident and previous member of Alex Chilton’s band, Chris Stamey, who also contributes bass on the album. It includes ten songs exploring various themes such as immortality (Afterlife), relationship breakups (Love’s Hurtin’ Real Bad) and politics (Cold War).

Post Byrds Gene Clarke can certainly be heard on The Pearl and Shreveport, which includes a clever use of the intro from Queen's Under Pressure. Tom Russell disciples will enjoy the Tex Mex feel to Love’s Hurtin’ Real Bad.

The CD also includes a bonus video of The Cold War.

Hackensaw Boys Charismo Free Dirt 

The Hackensaw Boys have always done old timey as good as anyone, plucking and strumming with the best of them. This time out they are produced by Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, Judy Collins, Linda Thompson, Paul Simon). The eleven track album is full of good time Appalachian - raw, unpolished and joyfully melodic.

It's old timey in style with modern day lyrics (Mama likes to rock, daddy likes to roll, Mama sips a bottle and Daddy tokes a bowl). The title of the album is taken from a percussion instrument made of scrap wood and metal and invented by former band member Justin Neuhardt.

The current line up of Hackensaw Boys is Brian ‘Nugget’ Gorby, Ferd ‘Four’ Moyse and David ‘Shiner’ Sickmen and Jimmy ‘The Kooky-Eyed Fox’ Stelling. Larry Campbell adds fiddle on The Sweet and guitar on Wolves Howling.

They're nine albums in with basically the same formula of fiddle and banjo-driven bluegrass with tobacco and whiskey fuelled vocals. It's great fun.

Ol’Nick tells of a devil-like character to be avoided (Grab you by your arm when he sees you cannot stand. Ol’ Nick gonna get you if he can), The Sweet swings along with a Dirty Old Town melody and World’s Upside Down questions survival in the modern world. It’s a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, stomping and hollering delight. Pass the jug.

Jeremy Nail My Mountain Self Release

Popped My Mountain into the CD player for first casual listen without carrying out any research into Jeremy Nail, a new artist to me. Immediate impression of both the tempo of the music and Nail’s sometimes semi spoken vocals was pain, a lot of pain.

Further listens and research revealed the source of the pain and the motivation for the album, the second recording by Nail following his 2007 release Letter.

Born in Albany Texas Nail relocated to Austin in 2005 to pursue his career in the musical capital of Texas. Together with his solo career Nail became a member of the legendary Alejandro Escovedo’s band and played guitar on one show of  Escovedo’s world tour in 2013.

After the tour Nail was tragically diagnosed with sarcoma, the result of an incident two years previously when he was kicked while working with cattle at home. Sarcoma is a form of soft tissue cancer that eventually resulted in amputation of his left leg. With his life and career on hold Nail’s main focus became learning to walk again with a prosthetic.  A reunion with Escovedo after a gig was the catalyst for The Mountain. Escovedo, who has faced serious illness himself suffering from Hepatitis-C for many years, acted as a mentor for Nail and his motivation was the driving force behind the album which Escovedo also produced.

The resulting set of songs vividly reflects Nail’s struggle, acceptance and recovery from his trauma. More stripped back than his previous work the emphasis being very much of the vocals which are often unhurried, dreamlike, almost suspended (Down To The Ocean, Survive, Brave).

Dreams is possibly the most radio friendly sound on the album, reflective and hopeful ("We’re given second chances, I finally see the light, The best things come from a higher place, You no longer have to fight") and includes some killer guitar playing by Chris Masterson.

Recorded over a three day period at Church House Studio, the album was mixed by Grammy Award winner Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Dixie Chicks, Johnny Cash) and alongside Escovedo features a host of Austin’s finest musicians in Chris Masterson (electric guitar), Eleanor Whitmore (violin, vocals), Bobby Daniel (upright bass), Chris Searles (drums), Stephen Barber (piano and strings) and Dana Falconberry and Jazz Mills (backing vocals).

"The spirit grows when the wind of change blow in, I might fall, but I’ll get up again" Nail announces on the title track My Mountain. He certainly has turned personal tragedy into triumph with this wonderful piece of work.