Chad Richard Worthy Cause Self Release
With the ongoing rise of Chris Stapleton as an alternative to the more wayward elements currently pushing for places on the country charts,there should be room for a singer and writer whose overall style would not be dissimilar to Stapleton’s. Richard is based in Texas and this, his second album, is recorded with Walt Wilkins again wearing the producer’s hat,alongside Ron Flynt.
What is immediately impressive is Richard’s deep and resonant vocals and a set of self-written songs that reflect a life that has seen both light and darkness. A solid studio team has been gathered that includes both producers,who add enough variety and texture to the songs to hold interest throughout. The album opens with Slow Rollin’ Stateline a slow, soulful reflection on growing up in Louisiana and absorbing the different musical influences that surrounded Richard and which form the diversity on show here. Love Anyway is more country in style and reminiscent of some of the best 90’scountry. Other songs like Right Now, with some solid Dobro playing,makesthe point of living in the moment. Slightly more other wordily is German Angel, the story of a house in the Texas Hill country which has the retained a ghostly presence of former lodgers.
The title track is a love song and is perhaps going to remind the casual listener of the aforementioned Stapleton,though not in any calculated way. This album is true Richards’ soul through and through. Also personal (and universal) is 12 More Days Of Blue which deals with the relationship of a child and a divorced parent and the regulated time they may have together. Fredericksburg is a song that looks at a way a couple can drift apart with life’s demands and finding the time to find each other again.
The tempos, in the main, are slow paced and bluesy and allow the mood to balance a certain melancholy with a positive outlook. The overall album speaks for itself and is best considered within some quiet space and time. As the album title says it is a worthy cause and one that should and, hopefully, will find listeners for its mature and mindful roots music.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Adam Carroll I Walk In Them Shoes Self Release
This well regarded musician’slatest album underscores why he has achieved many admirers among other songwriters,as well as fans. This is a stripped back recording that features just Carroll’s voice and guitar and some judicious pedal steel, rhythm and slide guitar accompaniment from producer Lloyd Maines.
Carroll introduces each song with a spoken title and what follows is the bare bones delivery of the songs with sparse arrangements or no uneeded elaboration. It is then likely to be close to what you would hear in a live concert,allowing the words to be clear and considered. There have been comparisons to John Prine, Guy Clark and to Townes van Zandt; which makes sense, given that this songsmith has sought to make every word countv throughout. His songs are about characters and lifestyles that are vivid and visual in their descriptive power. This Old Garage is about songwriters and song-writing and mentions Ritchie Havens, John Sebastian and Willie Nelson in passing. The title song, a co-write with Paul Cauthen and Brian Rug, also looks at the life of the modern troubadour for good and bad. On Cordelia Carroll, there isuse ofa harmonium to add an element of depth to a song that is one he wrote for his wife. My Only Good Shirt equates the garment with a life that has been equally well worn but loved.
Carroll’swriting style is not oblique,but rather uses its commonality of language to bring clarity to the essence of what these songs mean. In this bare state they are the essence of storytelling at its most direct and therefore brings you closer to the songs that Carroll (and his co-writers) intended. It feels like those shoes will comfortable for many a mile.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Jonathan Byrd and The Pickup Cowboys Self-Titled Self Release
Although Byrd has other releasesunder his own name this is the only album recorded with The Pickup Cowboys. This was due to the illness and subsequent passing of bassist/cellist Paul Ford. This is an obvious loss, as the album they recorded together is both interesting and enjoyable one. The songs were, in the main, written by Byrd with a few exceptions, including two songs written by Matt Fockler. The sound is a modern take on some traditionally-minded contemporary country music. Lakota Sioux (by Fockler) is a celebration of the Native American tribe and its culture and pursuit of the buffalo before being forced to live on a reservation. There is a kind of tongue in cheek humour that runs through some of the songs such as Temporary Tattoo “I showed my love for you with a temporary tattoo … I didn’t want it to hurt.”
Very much at the heart of this album with Byrd is fellow multi-instrumentalist Johnny Waken and the rhythm section of the aforementioned Ford and drummer Joanna Miller. The sound is a blend of folk, rock and country embellished with touches of mandolin, piano, toy glockenspiel and musical saw. The album was recorded in Chapel Hill in North Carolina and a location that has been immersed in a strong musical community for several years. Byrd has a distinctive enough voice to handle the different moods of the songs from the semi-yodel of the opening Pickup Cowboy, through the up-tempo and invigorating Tractor Pull - a boy meets girl scenario. Another highlight is the catchy and true When The Well Runs Dry.
Later in a more folkish mode is the cello and acoustic guitar mode of It Don’t Make Sense and the sweet acoustic lullaby of Do You Dream, that uses the musical saw to good effect. The latter two songs end the album in a more reflective, less upfront mode, that works even if it gives the album a wider remit than some may like. In the end though, it is a fitting tribute to all involved.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Eric Bolander The Wind Eastwood
The title track has garnered attention for its considered look at adversity and the struggle that can come to stand up to it. Bolander is an Americana artist with all that that entails: a mix of country, folk, country rock, southern rock, country soul and all points west. There is a brooding weary intensity to some of the songs like Oh Lord, a prayer-like exhortation that has cancer and medication at its core. It, like many of the tracks here, has both banjo and cello giving a high/low balance behind the sonorous vocal. Many of the other songs fall into this theme of hard times and the compensating look for highs. Bolander grew up in a small Kentucky town and knew all about the needsto work hard and think beyond expectations to achieve what he wanted in life. This is not exactly a cheerful album but neither is it one that brings you down; rather you can empathise with the struggles involved in the subjects of these songs.
His version of Purple Rain is not the first time that Prince has been covered by a country/Americana artist but this version takes the song to a different and more rootsy place that justifies its inclusion and its sounds perfectly in sync with the overall mood of the album and Bolander’s songwriting. Bolander co-produced the album with Duane Lundy and uses the core players of Ben Caldwell and Seth Murphy on drums and bass/cello. Trenton Jenkins plays the banjo that is often prominent on the album. Lundy adds keyboards and Bolander the guitars.
He has previouslyplayed in blues/rock bands and that experience is a part of his musical landscape, alongside the influence of such straight hearted country singers like Keith Whitley, Don Williams and George Jones. Closer to home he also cites John Moreland in that list of influential musicians. The Wind is an album for a certain mood and listening time where and when it will offer you solace and satisfaction.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Bard Edrington V Espadín Self Release
A performer who is channelling the directness and simplicity of blues and old-time music in his own way. The Santa Fe, New Mexico singer songwriter has made an album that takes his influences a step forward into these times and does so while respecting the traditions that the songs were drawn from. The title is a reflection of the time he spent playing music in Mexico and the culture and landscape of that country has also found a place in his own writing and playing.
He worked with co-producers Bill Palmer and Boris McCutcheon to deliver an album that sounds like some storytelling at its most concise,accompanied by arrangements that run from the stripped down (Spread My Wings, Rendezvous Duel) to the full band with trumpet that evokes a region with some shades of authenticity (Take Three Breaths). There are a number of additional instruments involved here that add to the flavour of these location infused stories. Bass, drums and guitar are central to a lot of the music but it is enhanced with cello, viola, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and accordion. Centred around an acoustic heartbeat the songs are full of life, love and latitude.
Edrington is also a convincing singer and player who utilises his gifts to good effect on this hisdebut solo release. He previously released a number of albums as a part of a band, The Palm In The Cypress. He is a musician who, with his family, lives anoutdoor life where he can experience life at its most grounded. That connection comes across in the music. However,in the end what makes this special is how you feel about the music that is on offer here and that is a powerful distillation of all the thethings that have made Edrington who and what he is. And that is a musician who brings his blend of the flavours of Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, Mexico and New Mexico to life in this rewarding album.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Josh Hyde Into the Soul Self Release
Opening with the blues shuffle of Rocking Chair and continuing with the rich rhythm of Smile; Louisiana native Josh Hyde continues to confirm himself as a musician of some depth and groove. This is his second release and there is a mix of Little Feat meets Bonnie Raitt to some of the arrangements and a strong sense of New Orleans influences on a number of other tracks.
The slow drift of For You I Ache, with atmospheric pedal steel by Chris Lippincott meeting creative piano runs of Jimmy Wallace, is a real joy while the easy tempo of Lover’s Curse and The Key suggest a more commercial, radio-friendly workout.
Down On Bourbon Street and All You Need Is Soul really solidify the feeling that here is an artist of real talent and the closing track, Reasons Why, delivers a slow reflective coda to all that has gone before. Country Soul with some swagger and a very enjoyable listen.
Review by Paul McGee
Andy Statman Monroe Bus Shefa
Growing up in Queens, NYC was the beginnings of an eclectic education in a variety of musical genres, all of which have led to the creation of this impressive collection of 13 tracks, supposedly centered around the influence of Bill Monroe, bluegrass legend, but, in reality, delivering so much more outside the confines of such a restrictive box.
The bluegrass influence is very prevalent on tracks such as Monroe Bus, Brooklyn Hop, Raw Ride, Statman Romp and Lakewood Waltz, but there is so much more to admire in the colour of the jazz tinged workouts, Ain’t No Place For a Girl Like you and Reflections; to the avant-garde progressions of Ice Cream On the Moon, which reminds me of that wonderful English band, Gentle Giant, in composition. The lack of any vocals on the album should take something away from the overall experience but it doesn’t seem to impact as the various tracks unfold.
A mandolin player par excellence, Statman has gathered a group of studio musicians who generate quite an impressive array of phrasings and skills across the tracks on offer. Statman has a very fluid and lyrical playing style and some of his solos are quite dizzying in technique. All tunes are composed by the man himself and production by Edward Haber brings great clarity and space to the sound. The reflective Old East River Road, with Hammond and pump organ accompaniment, is typical of the side roads taken throughout this project, with all routes leading back to a very impressive destination that delivers on a number of fronts.
Review by Paul McGee
Kristina Stykos River of Light Thunder Ridge
Kristina Stykos is a music producer, recording engineer, songwriter, radio host, podcaster and a very talented musician. She is based in Vermont, where she has her own recording studio, Pepperbox - a solar, wind and generator powered space, fully off-the-grid and where this record was created. She also has her own record label, Thunder Ridge Records, to release her own material and has produced over 20 albums for herself and various clients since 2005.
In the past, Lonesome Highway has reviewed two of her own releases; Wyoming Territory (2012) and Horse Thief (2015). Her sound is very much American Roots music and as an artist who appreciates the beauty and benefits of nature, her rich lyrical imagery is matched by her passionate delivery.
On this project, Kristina delivers 13 self-penned songs and a self-produced sound that is crystal clear and full of bright spaces. Kristina plays a range of instruments throughout, from guitars to mandolins and from keyboards to her powerful vocals - reminiscent of Patti Smith; some spoken-word, plenty of edgy conviction and always delivering in spades.
The studio band comprises Val McCallum (guitars, vocals), Steve Mayone (guitars, bass, lap steel, shaker & vocals), Patrick Ross (fiddle, cello), Jeff Berlin (drums) and Abby Jenne (vocals). Together they complement each other seamlessly and produce a real tour de force with a high level of playing and performance.
Songs like Walking These Ridges and Since You Asked look at standing alone in life, being independent and looking to Mother Nature for answers and quiet calm. A theme of going back to basics repeats in songs like Breaking Trail and Waging Peace, while in Blessed Light, there are prayers for our redemption offered in the hope that humankind can find a way back to the Source.
At the Edge has a terrific groove and looks to new answers, as revolution seems to be a viable solution against the greed in the world. Relationships and their abusive power are the subject of Caught By The Heart, while In The Cleansing Rain looks at the naked honesty and trust that are sought in true love.
Our lack of perspective is pitted against the path that mother nature walks, as a primal influence, and Kristina examines the need to trust ourselves and the enduring power of this Earth to provide. This is a talent that merits close attention.
Review by Paul McGee