Lucy Kitt Stand By Westbere
The debut album from Essex based singer songwriter Lucy Kitt harks back to the classic folk sound of the late 60’s and early 70’s, with Joni Mitchell an obvious influence. However, it would be overly simplistic to brand Kitt merely a Mitchell imitator, her talent as a writer has been acknowledged by both the BBC Young Folk Awards and her success in the 2014 Gibson/Sundance Song Writing Competition in 2014. She also graced the stage of Glastonbury in 2017.
The album is essentially acoustic, the focus being Kitt’s gentle celestial vocals on the ten self written tracks. Spirited support comes courtesy of Sam Beer on piano, Wurlitzer and guitars, Dave Holmes on bass and Pat Kenneally on percussion. Rather than flesh out some of the tracks, Kitt has stuck to her guns and delivered tracks mostly accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. A brave move it has to be said, as the songs may have made a more instant impact on the listener with the inclusion of additional instrumentation in the mix. The exception is the punchy Devil’s Luck, the most electric of the ten tracks. Kitt’s song writing is both personal and confessional. The opening and title track finds her creating beauty out of pain, bearing her soul as she ponders on a failed relationship. Gone follows a similar theme, lost love still raw and tender. Said And Done brings to mind Courtney Marie Andrews, beautifully pitched vocals on a tale of reconciliation and survival. Better Days, the albums closing track, pleads for regeneration and relief (‘’All I’m looking for, all I’m looking for are ways, back to the better days’’).
Bearing in mind the recurring theme of loss surfacing on much of the material, it’s presented without a hint of self-pity or ego. Simplicity is possibly the strongest element throughout this collection of well-constructed and candid songs. It’s a creative forward step for Kitt which did take me a few listens to connect, but the time invested was well worth the effort.
Review by Declan Culliton
Todd Snider Cash Cabin Sessions, No.3 Thirty Tigers
The latest offering from raconteur Todd Snider was recorded at the Johnny Cash Cabin Studio in Tennessee. An apostle of fellow songwriter and story teller Jerry Jeff Walker – he recorded an album of the New Yorker’s songs in 2012 – Snider possesses similar talents as a tale teller and songwriter. Excellent early career albums Songs For The Daily Planet (1994), Happy To Be Here (2000), East Nashville Skyline (2004) and The Devil You Know (2006), surprisingly made little or no commercial impact, despite the high regard he is held in by his peers and ardent fan base.
His latest recording unfolds very much in the same vein as his live shows, hard edged folk songs laced with discerning observations and self-effacement. Stripped back, acoustic and raw, the material ranges from the beautifully shambolic The Blues On The Banjo to the razor-sharp Talking Reality Television Blues. The latter details the control and misinformation of the media and its eventual capacity in influencing the election of a certain President (‘’Reality killed by a reality star’’). Acoustic guitar, harmonica and Snider’s semi broken, semi spoken vocals dominate across twelve tracks. The recording environment inspired some nostalgia tripping, with references to Loretta Lynn dancing with the ghost of Johnny Cash (The Ghost of Johnny Cash), Elvis Presley’s roadie (Watering Flowers In The Rain) and Cash’s close buddy Cowboy Jack Clements (Cowboy Jack Clements Waltz). The standout track Like A Force of Nature features a cameo appearance by neighbour Jason Isbell.
Raw, roughhewn and unpolished, Cash Cabin Sessions No.3 could be an album of outtakes to be fully fleshed out and dressed at a mixing desk. Maybe not the best starting point for newcomers to Snider, it’s hardly going to gain him any new friends but will be loved by his cult following.
Snider’s finger never seems too far away from the self-destruct button yet he continues to be rightly regarded as a classic American songwriter. Long may he reign.
Review by Declan Culliton
Patty Griffin Self Titled Thirty Tigers
It has been four long years since the last studio release, Servant Of Love, which was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Folk Album. The good news is that this latest collection of 13 songs is every bit as good and another important milestone in a career that just keeps climbing higher.
The core personnel remain largely the same, with a group of experienced players that set the atmosphere and mood of the songs, all of which are embellished by the soaring soulful voice of Griffin. A voice which exists on a level that few artists attain, let alone sustain for what could be considered any enduring length of time.
David Pulkingham (acoustic guitar, piano); Craig Ross (bass guitar, lap steel, organ, drones, percussion, baritone guitar); Lindsey Verrill (cello); Conrad Choucroun (drums & percussion), are the key players across the project, with both Patty and Craig Ross on co-production. The sound is wonderfully clear and full of space for the impressive talents of each musician to shine forth.
Starting proceedings on Mama’s Worried, with Patty on sublime vocals and David Pulkingham displaying his sensitive and sophisticated playing, sets a strong marker for the rest of the album. The metaphor of water appears on both River and What Now, where we are given insight into the self determination and endurance of a woman to survive, both strong and free; hints of the mystery contained in the grand plan and our place in the unknown, an invitation to trust the Universe.
Luminous Places seems to deal with acceptance and the possibility of life as a dream – dust to dust! The orphan in Had A Good Reason spins a wistful tale that is heart rending in its’ sense of confusion and sad acceptance. The refugees of Mama’s Worried and the emigrants of Boys from Tralee could also be looked upon as one and the same; as relevant today as in times past, as history repeats itself in different parts of this dizzy world.
The Wheel has a blues shuffle and understated groove. The longest track on the album and one that deals with perhaps the cycle of life, depression and crushing mortality. The last two songs are performed solo by Patty, one on piano, the other on guitar and both are simply stunning. What I Remember is an insight into the fragile nature of relationships and the fleeting nature of life. Just the Same is lighting a torch in the darkness to failed love and the enduring essence in trying.
The lyric booklet has a picture of Patty, sitting in a garden chair, boots on the armrests, and two dogs sitting with her, howling towards the sky…Hers has always been the space to look with sensitivity at the heartache and longing on this journey we try to make sense of; the pain and suffering are tempered with compassion and empathy and running through everything is the possibility of hope and redemption. Long may she shine!
Review by Paul McGee
Fruit Bats Gold Past Life Merge
Folk rock, Indie folk, alternative country… What’s in a label these days? Fruit Bats started as a solo project for Eric D. Johnson before evolving into a band that has released 6 previous records. Johnson has been a guitarist in both Califone and The Shins and the influence of other acts suggest an eclectic approach to this latest project.
Drawn Away walks a line between dream pop and Americana. Where this line gets crossed is entirely up to the listener and the strains of ELO meets Scissors Sisters on the title track are balanced against the Beck influenced, The Bottom Of It. Ocean is an acoustic track that highlights the easy vocal tone of Johnson, while the hints of lap steel on Your Dead Grandfather and A Lingering Love suggest an interesting detour among the swirling keyboard sounds.
It all comes together on Mandy From Mohawk (Wherever You May Be), a look back at love remembered amidst sweet melodies and gentle rhythm. Engaging and energising.
Review by Paul McGee
Cat Fury & the Thunderbirds Visions of Eden Self Release
Comprising of Cat Fury (vocals, guitars, mandolins, keyboards & bass) and Kurt Schefter (guitars, bass, Synthesizers, vocals) this duo has produced an album of some substance. Both musicians are very experienced, having met in Canada and played in any number of previous bands. Schefter recorded and toured with Alannah Myles for many years while Cat Fury had spent lots of time and talent establishing herself on the Toronto music scene. Now living in Ireland, they combine with Sean Kilbride (drums), Conor Daly (banjos) to produce great quality and variety across the eleven tracks included here.
The rock sound of He’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll and Jailbreak is balanced by the easy blues of Irish Warrior and Terradactyl Luv, which channels a JJ Cale groove that smoulders. Iseult’s Blues showcases the impressive talents of Schefter and the sultry vocals of Fury as the brooding tempo builds around the legend of Tristan and Isolde (Iseult). There is the rockabilly sound of Rock-A-Billy Boy to enjoy and the country sounds of The Roselined Road, together with the hilarious My Husband Hates My Mandolin, balance things beautifully!!
There is a commercial Pop sound to tracks High Strung and High On Him while the superb duet on Albuquerque is a real treat with Schefter sounding all Jagger-esque on a slow blues burn.
Plenty here for all to enjoy, even if this duo is yet to truly define their signature sound. Well worth investigation.
Review by Paul McGee
Martin & the Fall Self-Titled Self Release
A 4-track EP from a trio that really impress and leave you wanting more. Martin is the vocalist, along with Tania Hancheroff and they are augmented by the excellent Chip Martin on guitars, bass and mandolin.
All four tracks are instantly likeable; The Things You Cannot Win, The Last Time, Better Off In Love and Didn’t Mean To End Up Here have a charm and quality that resonates. No other information available, despite web searches – such is the lot of a music reviewer! Perhaps Martin and Chip Martin are one and the same; marks for effort?
Review by Paul McGee
Marty Brown American Highway Plowboy
Not so long ago on the Lonesome Highway radio show we did a feature on artists who appeared to have gone under the radar. One artist featured on that programme, with a track from his third MCA album, was Marty Brown. Those albums produced by Tony Brown between 1991 and 1994 we’re excellent if already too country for the mainstream even back then. He released one more album Here’s To The Honky Tonks on Hightone in 1996. Then there was a long silence until Brown appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2013 where he sang his version of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love which subsequently gained many views online.
Now Brown is back with a brand new album on Plowboy for his first album in 25 years. A lot has changed in those years but Brown is still worth hearing. The sound of the MCA albums has changed as has Brown’s voice to something more mature and seasoned. The sound is broader and current while making no concession to pop-country that is filling the airwaves these days. None-the-less it is aiming at reaching a wider potential audience. Brown, realistically will never be a major name in the current market place. However his fans will be delighted to have him back and new listeners will find a singer and writer giving his all and hitting some solid blue collar sentiments. His co-producer and often co-writer Jon Tiven is responsible for the overall sound. Tiven has previously worked with such h diverse artists as Frank Black (who adds some harmony vocals here), Lesley West, Wilson Pickett, Waylon Jennings and Chuck Mead. Recorded in Nashville they have produced a big warm sound that should engender a wider appeal.
Brown can easily handle the emotional and often soulful tones of such titles as Mona Lisa Smiles, Kentucky Blues to the hard edged I’m On A Roll (Better Than It’s Been) or Right Out Of Left Field. Brown brings his influences to bear on these tracks. There is a mix of country, blues, rockabilly, soul and gospel influences that blend into something solid and wholesome. Welcome back Marty Brown.
Review by Stephen Rapid
The Shootouts Quick Draw Self Release
This Akron, Ohio five piece band have cover a number of musical bases all related to a knowledge and love of the more traditional aspects of country music. they describe themselves on their website as blend of such good things as Bob Wills and Roy Orbison as well as Marty Stuart and Dwight Yoakam. So that’s an enticing mix of Bakersfield beat, western swing with some honky tonk essence on top.
The production team of Luca Benedetti and Jim Campilongo were the team who headed up the recent Zephaniah Ohora album. And are obviously perfectly suited to oversee this album. As well as the five band members they bring such hired hands as Al Moss on pedal steel and both producers on a number of different instruments. The album includes a surfeit of Telecaster twang as well as fiddle and steel. The necessary ingredients for a band that relishes its traditional roots alongside a forward looking attitude. But what makes it special is the solid songwriting and the vocal interplay of Ryan Humbert and Emily Bates. The writing is a mix of Humbert co-writes and some well chosen covers from the likes of Tim Carroll, Shel Silverstein, George Ducas and Stacey Earle and a numbers of tracks written by steel player Al Moss. All are strong and different enough to keep things interesting throughout.
California To Ohio is both a love song and a possible expression of their musical direction. The song also appears as an unlisted track again at the end of the album. Guitarist Brian Posten wrote the guitar infused instrumental title track. Then there’s the acoustic based interaction upbeat effervescent Must Be Love written by Ducas and Earle. That’s contrasted with the downside of love that’s displayed in Lonely Never Lets Me Down and Losing Faith In Being Faithful written or co-written by Humbert. Mention to for the rhythm section of Ryan McDermott and Dylan Gomez who are right on the beat as the song requires. There is as sense of not taking themselves too seriously as in their take on Shel Silverstein’s Alimony. All in all a treat for those who love the traditional sounds of country music that’s on target for a good time.
Review by Stephen Rapid