Reviews by Paul McGee

The Tumbling Souls Between the Truth and the Dream Wee Studio

This Scottish group has released a collection of folk songs that reflect their influences and the twelve tracks are all performed with great gusto and no small amount of skill. The collective boasts eight players who create a celebratory sound and the mix of fiddles, guitars, accordion, banjo, mandolin and piano serve up lots of fine melodies in what is quite an enjoyable listen. 

Grounded by the double bass playing of Keith Morrison, the talents of all the ensemble are given flight across songs like Knowing Where You Come From, King Of The Moon, Wishing My Time and Stornoway at 2am.

All songs are written by Willie Campbell a veteran of many years playing in different bands and other collaborations and his vocal performance is very strong here. Production by Pete Fletcher is bright and clear and the inclusion of a live track, Dance A Little Better, gives a sense of just how good these musicians are in a live setting.

Eryn Lady E Self Release

Sweet soul music from a talented singer who knows how to deliver a powerful performance across the six songs included on this EP. There is a blues feel to tracks like The You Missing From Me and Just Jump, while the Gypsy tempo to the arrangement on Stranger In My House is suitably different and adds a new focus. Running Red Lights is back to a soulful delivery and the production of Jack Daley, who also plays bass, is very sensitive to the undoubted vocal talents of Eryn.

Trevor & Sylvie Time Is Free Self Release

Trevor Wheetman and Sylvie Davidson are a husband and wife duo based in Nashville. Trevor is multi-talented and can lend his skills to being an actor, musician, composer, and musical director. He is also a multi-instrumentalist and together with Sylvie, who also boasts acting skills in addition to her musical abilities, they deliver folk-based music that is both engaging and impressive in equal measure.

All of the thirteen songs included on this debut are written by the duo, with the exception of a Mark Knopfler cover, The Bug. Wheetman pens four songs, Davidson takes credit for three and the remaining five tracks are co-writes. Production by Nick Foster is very proficient and the fine harmony singing is given a central place in the mix. Foster also contributes on guitars, slide, mandolin, dobro and banjo while the other studio musicians play in a restrained and tight fashion throughout.

There is a nature theme with songs like Stolen Flowers (a wedding with a difference) and Thirsty, which speaks of love, simple ways and going back to the land. Build This Love speaks of union and the bonds of family. All I Know is a catchy love song with strings arranged by Matt Montgomery and it is another good example of the craft at play here.

Idiot and Opposite Of Love, both have a slow groove and an easy vocal from Trevor that channels James Taylor. Cupid’s Confession is a real joy and a clever look at the routine involved when you are a bored facilitator of love. The Few and Through The Cracks are two stand-out tracks as the project winds down, the first a slow folk blues with fine vocals from Sylvie & Trevor and beautifully restrained cello provided by Alex Kelly; the latter an acoustic reflection on love with winsome vocals from Sylvie and again, the superb cello of Alex Kelly. Definitely a recommended release that continues to unveil new treasure on repeated listening.

Low Lily 10,000 Days Like These Mad River

This is contemporary Folk music played to a very high standard indeed. The 11 tracks display a vocal dexterity and harmony heaven from the three key musicians involved, Liz Simmons (guitar, vocals), Flynn Coen (guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Lissa Schneckenburger (fiddle, vocals). There are two instrumentals included, The Good Part and Single Girl. The former displays the power of the trio, with accompaniment on banjo and bass driving the arrangement; the latter is a reflective piece with solo fiddle from Lissa that shows off her impressive talents to full effect. This collection of songs bears repeated listens and the clear vocal delivery and the terrific production of Liz Simmons raises the experience to new levels. Songs like Dark Skies Again, Hope Lingers On and 10,000 Days Like These bear strong testament to the joy of fluid playing, sweet melody and harmonious vocals. The superb cover of Brothers In Arms (Mark Knopfler) also sits comfortably into the overall thrust of the project and I have little doubt that seeing this group in a live setting would rank as nothing short of a compelling evening. Highly recommended. 

Lee Palmer Horns & Harps Self Release

In the liner notes of this release, Lee Palmer says that he has had the privilege of releasing 5 studio albums over the last 6 years and that this release counts as his most musical experience to date. We are not inclined to disagree at Lonesome Highway, having reviewed a number of his previous releases on the website. 

Ten tracks that are split between featuring acoustic & electric harp, courtesy of Roly Platt, and saxophone by Turner King. The rest of the band are terrific support players with the back beat of Sean O’Grady and the bass of Alec Fraser Jr. adding greatly to the loose feel and blues drive of these songs. The warm sounds of Steve O’Connor on piano, organ & wurlitzer are augmented by the impressive background and harmony vocals of Chris Ayries and the production is crisp and uncluttered.

Tracks like My Baby Again, Isn’t That So and Shake 'Em Blues provide a classic bluesy feel while Old Picture, Old Frame and Life Rolls On, highlight sweet guitar playing over a gentle beat. The big sound of Rockin' Strawberry Jam is countered by slow burn of Somebody’s Daughter, a song that addresses homelessness and one that stands out here among an impressive body of work.

Swampcandy Mine Self Release

This collective hail from Annapolis, Maryland and have a number of prior releases dating back to 2007. Ruben Dobbs is the creative force behind the band and in addition to playing guitar and singing, he displays a healthy disregard for being pigeonholed into any genre. Included here, across 13 tracks is a huge gumbo of swamp groove (JC’s Revenge), light New Orleans jazz (Party With The Devil), jazzy blues (Holy Rope), hard rock (Dead Man Walking) and some ragtime, polka sounds (Burn The Meadow). To say nothing of the spoken word links between tracks, some of which are very humorous, with the loose percussive sounds of a Tom Waits, delivered in tracks like Knock Out and Never Going Back.

There are credits for 18 different studio players who range on instruments from strings, percussion across a heady mix of banjo, piano, keys, vibraphone, bass and things that go bump in the night!! Interestingly, no guitars, as would be expected on a big production project like this – voodoo with a bit of the Devil himself thrown in for good measure. Addictive and very impressive.