DAVID LATTO BAND & RED MOON JOE Midnight Trains
There is always a question hanging over a band not from the USA who play Americana. That question is; authenticity. With a host of human jukeboxes playing passable covers of country classics to audiences who only want to hear the same old songs, being original is not an easy task, especially playing a form of music that, although part of its roots are from these Isles, is essentially seen as American.
There have been, of course, some fine examples of UK and Ireland based acts who understand and underscore the fact that good music is universal. My Darling Clementine and Bray Vista are two such examples and there are others. Some recent releases include The David Latto Band (Self Titled Self-Release). This accomplished five piece band hail from Fife in Scotland and their songs, bar one, are self-written. That is the litmus test - how good and memorable are the songs? While the standout song is a cover of Wait A Minute written by Herb Pedersen, there are other songs well worthy of attention. There is a reflection and maturity to songs like Song You'll Never Hear or Black Horse. Latto's lilting voice has a warmth and texture that holds the songs together while he and the band feature pedal steel, banjo, dobro, fiddle and mandolin over a solid rhythm section to give the songs some musical depth.
There may be nothing particularly unusual or different about the music of the David Latto Band other than the fact that it is accomplished, skilful and relaxed. This music flows and doesn't pander to other places and times and is rooted in its own reality. Whether it is a song of a hanging (Plummer's Song) or one that shows the need to let of steam (God, I'm Drinking Tonight). Overall this is an album that holds its own and is just one example of original homegrown roots music you can be happy with.
Another album of note is Red Moon Joe's Midnight Trains. The band is a vehicle for guitarist Mark Wilkinson, who originally formed the band 1985 and reformed it in 2010, rounding up original members to record this album with Gary Hall at Hall’s Voodoo Rooms studio. The album features 11 songs written by various band members, solo or in combination, but with Wilkinson’s name attached to the majority of them. They capable and seasoned players who feature steel, dobro, mandolin and banjo over the bass, drums and guitar foundation. Wilkinson handles the lead vocals with all of the other members adding vocals so there is no shortage in that department. The music incorporates some touches of both blues and bluegrass into its rootsy mix, showing that, although this is their first album in 20 years, they understand and are fully at home with the music they play. Again you won't hear anything you haven't heard before but that's not the point. These guys obviously felt they had unfinished business and that they still mean business.
The harmonica on The Blues heightened the songs sense of loss for a dying town. Listen To Her Songs is about hearing someone play music at night. Midnight Trains is full of atmosphere and without naming specific places suggests another continent and another time. One Day Ahead is acoustic instrumental, Save Me is a vibrant up-tempo rocking rootsy blues. In some ways, the song that sums up their attitude is the closing tribute, a memory of once rolling Guy Clark a cigarette Those times and hopes and wishes is delivered in the way that the master himself, Guy Clark might do it. It ends the album with a smile and shows that Red Moon Joe have their hearts in the right place and that their music is coming from that place too.
Another album out now, but one that we haven't received for review is The Rockinbirds: The Return Of… on Loose. It reunites the band after many years and is another example of homegrown country-influenced music that these currently grizzled gents have been doing since their debut album in 1992 and Whatever Happened to The Rockingbirds in 1995.