Mark Moldre Fever Dreams Yellow Moon
‘’I’ve got these Fever Dreams they keep me up at night, and as my mind fills up with darkness, well all that I can wish for is the light’’.
A genre hopping delight from Australian Mark Moldre. Most likely to find shelter under the Americana umbrella, the third release from Moldre, as the title implies, is surreal, wacky, thrilling and edgy. Moldre displays his capacity to mix country rockers, electric blues, jazzy folk and dreamy ballads and yet still end up with an album that hangs together coherently, from start to finish.
Leave Me Where You Found Me is a jazzy blues affair, kicking off in Shakin’ All Over fashion, before heading off into B52 stomping grounds. White Lightning is a riotous sing-along and equally disorderly is the wonderful Full Moon Over Luna Park, a 2am boozy waltz. Shades of The Sadies emerge on ‘Til Now and both Josephine and Fever Dreams II recall his fellow countryman Nick Cave.
The album was recorded live, with Jamie Hutchings once again producing and contributing to the mayhem with electric guitar, percussion, handclaps and backing vocals. More experimental and innovative than his 2013 album An Ear To The Earth, Moldre’s latest offering is both challenging, futuristic and rewarding. It offers the listener a body of work that creeps up, unravels and permeates with each subsequent listen.
Review by Declan Culliton
Angela Perley 4.30 Self Release
Most definitely a night owl, the title of Angela Perley’s album is a reference to her preferred bedtime, or as she describes ‘’when her body’s natural sleep cycle begins.’’ Having previously recorded two albums with her Columbus Ohio band The Howlin’ Moons, 4.30 is her first solo venture. Co-produced with her musical collaborator and guitarist Chris Connor, the album boasts a mixture of rocky and gritty sounds, paired with some gorgeous more laid-back tracks. The opener and title track is one of those more chilled offerings, an impressive and dreamy delivery before the explosive Let Go that follows. It’s a full on and in your face gem, highlighting not only Perley’s adorable vocal but also the driving and crunching guitar skills of Connor, features that both repeat right across the album. That high-octane level continues with Back In Town which follows, another head banging gem, before Perley takes a breather with the mellow He Rides High and possibly the albums stand out track Don’t Look Back Mary. Walk With Me is cosmic 60’s psychedelic pop territory, fuzzy echoing guitar dancing between the speakers, creating an evocative sound resembling Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter. The melodic Snake Charmer recalls Aimee Mann and Ruby Girl is uncomplicated power pop.
It’s hard also not to like the cover photo either, courtesy of Chris Connor. It depicts Perley in classic guitar rock chic poise, looking fashionably cool in 60’s style with platform boots, flared sleeves and even wider flared trousers (or loons as they were christened back in the day!). A cool photo equally matched by a superbly cool album.
With the tiresome tendency to over categorise these days, you may find 4.30 filed in the Americana section of your record store or even possibly the Indie section. In more unelaborate times, it would be found under the ‘rock’ label. Either way, have a root in both places and seek it out. It’s an excellent listen of retro pop/rock, great songs, with equally impressive vocals and impeccable playing throughout.
Review by Declan Culliton
The HawtThorns Morning Sun Forty Below
There is no shortage of husband and wife duos touring and recording for Americana audiences both in America and Europe. The HawtThorns are a welcome addition to the expanding list. You may be familiar with KP Hawthorn from her previous life as part of the countrified trio Calico alongside Jaime Wyatt and Manda Mosher. Multi-instrumentalist, singer songwriter, session player and producer Johnny Hawthorn hooked up to collaborate with KP and the relationship moved on from workmates to partners. Morning Sun captures what they both individually do best, bottles it and delivers an impressive debut across the eleven tracks.
Lush harmonies and killer guitar licks dominate throughout and the production duties undertaken by Johnny, Steve Berns and Forty Below Records founder Eric Corne is slick, expansive and often guitar driven. West Coast influences are hard to miss but there’s also a smattering of jangly power pop on Shaking and All I Know, the latter a co-write with Ted Russell Kemp. John Moreland’s Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore, the one cover on the album, gets a makeover, delivered in harmony alongside acoustic guitar and moody keyboards. Most impressive is Steady Fire with its gorgeous Byrds-like melody and killer guitar break mid song, a model for radio airplay. Not lagging far behind is the title track, beautifully harmonised by the duo.
Like its title, The HawtThorns debut is bright, organic and welcomed. Check it out.
Review by Declan Culliton
Aaron Watson Red Bandana Big Label
With this new album, Texas independent country artist Aaron Watson, has upped his game and produced an album that is both artistically and commercially successful. Subtitled 20 songs for 20 years, it is a major achievement for Watson, who also co-produced the album with Jordan Lehning, in that all of the songs were written solely by Watson. The album opens with a tribute to Guy Clark (Ghost of Guy Clark) and then delivers songs that cover all the aspects that are a part of Watson’s music motivation. He has always taken a solid professional family-business approach to his music, in that his music is likely to have a little of something for everyone. There are the deeper songs sitting alongside those that aim for a broader appeal and should fit easily on today’s country radio. The best example of this may be the album’s first single, Kiss That Girl Goodbye, is an up-tempo song with a busy production that has an easy appeal. By way of contrast, Country Radio, is a ballad that is full of nostalgia about the place of country radio coming into homes in the past and how this still happens. It has a soft sound with steel and strings giving it that overall feel. Another tribute to his heroes is Legends, which mentions pretty much every country legend (and more) who are, mostly, no longer with us. He equates his attitude alongside these performers noting that “just like my heroes I’m free as the wind.”
A lot of the songs here are love songs to family, friends, place and profession. There is little of the darker side that appears on the albums of the more outlaw writers who are writing from a different aesthetic. It is however heartfelt from the author’s perspective and pretty true to his vision for the album. He also expands the sound out so that there are a number of musical settings that broaden his palette while keeping a consistent overall sound. As with some past albums, Watson and Lehning use some of Nashville’s finest session players such as Jedd Hughes, Stuart Duncan, Charlie Worsham who are all among 17 listed players. The album’s playing time runs over an hour, which raises the question that as to whether it would be a better album with just 10 tracks? However it’s unlikely that there would be a consensus in the choice of those ten tracks. As it is it’s a listening experience that seems to flow well across the 20 tracks.
The song, Riding With Red, is about losing a mentor and friend and how he still has that man’s red bandana to wipe away the dust as well as the tears and is convincing in its straight storytelling. The title track also evokes images and takes inspiration from hard work and “walking the line.” Something that is important to Watson in the way he approaches what he does is remains true to himself and his many longterm fans. This is a mainstream album that rises above what that might mean in many cases. Its scope and vision is something of an obvious milestone in the career of Aaron Watson.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Ed Dupas The Lonesome Side Of Town Road Trip
The title of this new album from Ed Dupas hints at a time of personal upheaval for the songwriter. Written in the midst of the break-up of a long-time relationship and how the departure of a person, who was pretty much a major part of his life, causes him to consider the nature of love, loneliness and the lessons learned from such an experience.
It was partly recorded in a reconditioned church in Greenville, Michigan. There they recoded the drum tracks and built the rest of the tracks around that base. As with the personal changes this also meant changes to the way the album was put together. On the previous albums they tracked live with the band in the studio. here Dupas recorded most of his parts in his Ann Arbor home. This allowed him some personal space to consider both his life and music.
The end result sounds as unified as his previous albums with Michael Crittenden again taking on the production role and several of the musicians who played on his last album returning again, including Rob Avsharian on drums, Drew Howard on steel guitar, Jaes Simonson on bass and Crittenden on guitars, keyboards and banjo.
Dupas is in fine vocal form and his songs reflect a state of mind that contemplates many of the things that affect the way an individual can cope with the vicissitudes that life throws at each of us. From the title track on through the album there are titles that are chapter headings to his state of mind at the time of recording. Lonely, The Things I Miss, It Tears The Heart Right Out Of Me, Just For Two and State Of The Nation look a little bit more closely at what is going around him and sees much negativity out there in the wider world.
The Lonesome Side Of Town is the third release from Dupas and finds him delivering his country/roots music with a skill and passion that marks him out as a singer/songwriter with something to say and something worth listening to.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Chuck Hawthorne Fire Out Of Stone 3 Notches
The welcome return of another storytelling troubadour who has turned his life experiences and what he has observed into a series of songs that convey an honesty and understanding for the subject matter of these tales. For instance, Sara’s All The Way, contrasts the rigours of a rodeo rider against that of the titular Sara, who is in a different place, literally being “all the way down in Austin tonight.” Throughout the album you are taken into the lives of some vulnerable people who Hawthorne makes feel real and believable. Just as his references to the details of a person’s home, life or sacred objects also ring true and add to the overall enjoyment of the song.
Hawthorne has a relaxed and easy vocal style that is part spoken and part sung. It is one that works in drawing you into the heart of these songs. The arrangements are sparse and effective allowing the essential nature of Hawthorne’s craft to come to the fore. The album was produced by Walt Wilkins and Ron Flynt and Hawthorne’s friend Libby Koch not only brings some fine harmony singing to the project but was a source of encouragement throughout. His mentor and producer of his last album Ray Bonneville adds harmonica. Both producers lend their talents here alongside other contributors including Geoff Queen on steel guitar and dobro, Marian Brackney’s fiddle and viola and Julie Carter playing cello. All play a subtle but important role in bringing depth and resonance to the recordings.
These are a set of songs that fit together as a collection and should be heard as a whole. They are all written by Hawthorne other than the final song, I Will Fight No More Forever, by the late Richard Dobson and based on the words of Chief Joseph, but have a deeper reality for an ex-marine like Hawthorne. A profession which undoubtably saw him encounter the good and the bad sides of life. The songs here such as Standing Alone, New Lost Generation, Worthy Of The Sea, Broken Wire say a lot in their simplicity “sail away, build a fire, hanging on, broken wire.” It attests to the skill that their author has as a lyricist; words matched with some equally memorable melodies and vocals. Fire Out Of Stone sparks every which way.
Review by Stephen Rapid
Dave Gunning Up Against The Sky Self Release
This Canadian singer-songwriter releases his twelfth album in a career that has seen him highly celebrated for the craft he brings to his work and words; observations on life, love and everything in between. He has always been able to hone his vision with an honesty and integrity that is becoming increasingly rare in these days of political correctness.
Co-produced by Gunning and Jamie Robinson, the sound is very alive and open and feels free from much of the studio constraints that can end up blurring the lines of a project such as this. J.P. Cormier plays fiddle on Celebrate The Crop and Jamie Robertson supports on an array of instruments. The ten tracks are all very inviting and make for a really enjoyable listen over the 35 minutes that just seem to fly by; always a good sign.
The Atlantic String Machine are Sean Kemp on violin, Natalie Williams on cello, Karen Graves on violin, Jeffrey Bazett-Jones on viola and Adam Hill on bass. Their contribution here is really pleasing and their superb playing on four songs is perfectly realised.
There are eight co-writes, with Jamie Robinson (three), Ray Stewart (two), Thom Swift, Paul McKenna, and Mark Lang all sharing the creative muse. The encouragement of All That’s To Come and the plea to believe in yourself is balanced by the cautionary tale of Horse For Sale, a commentary on family farming and the pressure to keep hard times away from the inevitable forced sale.
The Loyal Fisherman is a tale of love and betrayal and shows all the writing skills of Gunning in full flow while Nothing On Me could be taken on different levels; a politician’s take on a squeaky-clean past or a personal admission that an uneventful youth can be a happy thing. Wish I Was Wrong is a protest song against a local pulp mill that is the source of air and water pollution, leading to illness among the community. The final song, Beyond The Day, is a rumination on fate and what may await us all while urging that we live in the present. This fine artist goes from strength to strength and his ability to produce consistently strong records continues with this superbly crafted collection.
Review by Paul McGee
Angelina Last Cigarette Wonderfulsound
This artist comes from the Isle of Man and recorded this album, her second, at Studio Humbug on the island. The eleven songs run to just over 36 minutes and quite a quirky and compelling listen they prove to be. The song structures and instrumentation are both offbeat and measured in a fashion that gives the project a sense of yesteryear, as if we are listening to the rediscovered old recordings of early blues artists like Bessie Smith or Ma Rainey.
Her debut surfaced in 2016, titled Vagabond Saint, it received much critical acclaim, especially for the time worn feel and sound of the eleven tracks that belied the youthful age of Angelina. She sings like there is an old soul breaking forth from her young body and the beat heavy rhythm of the backline gives her the opportunity to open out her vocal range and deliver with plenty of nuance. Her vocals give an effect of being from another room; almost otherworldly…
My release notes say that she grew up with the blues, folk, country, gospel, jazz and rock'n'roll as companions and she taught herself to sing by listening to field recordings of country blues singers working on the land. I get the sense of Tom Waits and Amy Winehouse in the delivery and rhythmic arrangements with Rupert Brown (drums, percussion, auto harp, backing vocals), Boe Weaver (guitar, bass, keyboards), Barrie Cadogan (electric & slide guitars), Jason Wilson (double bass), Gary Plumley (flute) and Joe Glassop (keyboards) adding great colour and subtlety with their playing.
The Peoples Choir of St. Louis also assist with five backing singers and the whole sound created is one of controlled tension with tracks like See Through Dress and Devils Wishing Well really stirring up an atmosphere. That Old Diesel and Killing Me have a country blues feel and a slow burn. Fire Broke Out has a rockabilly groove with some edgy guitar playing off the beat and Aggravating Trust is a sassy jazz shuffle that pleases greatly. A very unique record in many ways and one that arrives with much to admire.
Review by Paul McGee