Reviews by Paul McGee


True North 'Self-Titled' – Self Release

The opening track on this 5-song CD sounds like something from a recent Civil Wars outtakes release. New Way Round highlights the close vocal harmonies of trio Eva Hillered, Janni Littlepage and Patrick Rydman.  Both Eva and Patrick are based in Sweden while Janni resides in California. They performed for the first time as a trio ensemble at the Copenhagen Songwriters Festival in Denmark in August 2012, Their sound is a mix of genres from Folk and Americana, to Country Roots and their songs, co-written together, are accompanied by guitars, dulcimer and percussion.

Barrelhouse 'Feels Like Home'- Self Release

After 30 years of playing electric guitar and writing songs for a full band, Kevin "Barrelhouse" Burke was inspired by a trip to Mississippi to explore finger-style acoustic guitar techniques. Feels Like Home is the result of four years of playing and writing in this style.

The songs on this album give the listener the feeling of old-time, rural America, with its dirt roads, farms, pickup trucks, roadhouses, and the trials of everyday life. This is acoustic blues played in a refreshing and simple style and many of the arrangements are reminiscent of JJ Cale.

The vocals are confident and gritty while the instrumentals show off the great slide playing on Dobro and various guitars.

Barry Ollman 'What’ll It Be?' - Blue Colorado

As debut CD’s go, this one is a real treat. The record includes fine performances by musical greats Graham Nash, Gary Tallent of the E-Street Band, David Amram, Nick and Helen Forster, Rad Lorkovic, Dave Beegle, Christian Teele, among others. The production is very clean and there is a feeling of plenty of space in the fine song arrangements. I am reminded of James Taylor in the song stories that are unfurled by Bill Ollman as he sings of an old photographer’s life (Imogen’s Lament) and life on the road as a painter (Painting the West). There are strong hints of Al Stewart also in the guitar playing and the addition of trumpet, accordion, mandolin and lap steel across the ten songs lends a diverse feel to the whole. Recommended.

Jonathan Segel 'Shine Out' - BMI

Jonathan Segel is a composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist. He plays guitar, violin, computer, keyboards, electric bass and this CD was recorded entirely in a little cabin somewhere in the middle of Sweden. He has made several guitar-centric rock music CDs and resides in a world of improvisation and electronic music. A very interesting listen but one thing for sure; this is a long way from Country Music.

Deena 'Rock River' - Life Force

A blend of alt country and indie pop, Rock River is the second CD from Deena. Produced by Deena and Bob Friedman, who plays an array of instruments, the sound is upbeat and full of personality. Plenty of good vocal harmony and melodic hooks are evident in songs like Find the Love and Bring It All. When I Fall has a nice country swing to it, plus some nice pedal steel playing. The twelve tracks run along at a pace and the overall experience is one of interest, if not a compelling listen.

Robinson Treacher 'Porches' - Sojourn

Starting with a gospel infused call and response song, Hopali, the tone of this release is set and the following ten songs do not disappoint. The band playing is really tight and the vocals are delivered in a passionate and soulful performance that is reminiscent of Chris Robinson and the Black Crowes. There are also hints of Ray Lamontagne in the singing but it is most definitely the voice of Robinson Treacher that carries the tracks along and lifts the arrangements. Titles like If I Need a Woman; Gone Baby Gone; Blind Man’s Blues and Can’t Call You Again give the overall vibe of the music here. Soulful, bluesy with a little bit of rock, all combine to elevate this artist from the many others who are active in this market.

Buford Pope 'Sticks in the Throat' - Unchained

Born on the Swedish island of Gotland, Buford Pope plays a mean guitar and his band of musicians really kick up a storm on the eleven songs featured on this latest release. This is straight down the middle rock music with plenty of hooks and driving beats. Think of Tom Petty locking horns with the Bob Seger Band and you get an idea of the arrangements here. Great production and a compelling, energetic groove. Worth a listen but it sure is a long way from traditional country music.

Esther Rose Parkes 'The Other Country' - Self Release

Recorded and produced in Stockholm, Sweden by Brian Kramer, this release is a collection of twelve gentle tunes played in an acoustic and intimate setting. Esther Rose sings in a voice that exudes a plaintive quality and her songs speak of loneliness and shadows; of earthiness; of unrequited love. The playing is sensitive and sparse with upright bass, cello and a variety of guitars, national slide, acoustic and 12 string, interweaving across the songs. A late night listen with a mood all of its own. Folk music for the insomniacs and melancholic dreamers.

Eryn Shewell 'Self-Titled' – Rewbie Music

Eryn Shewell is developing a reputation as one of the finest new singing talents to emerge in recent years. She has a wonderful voice and sings with a unique blend of blues and soulful, jazz based emotion. In 2012 Eryn folded The Eryn Shewell Band, after many years of touring back and forth, from the Jersey shore to Nashville, to New Orleans.  In 2013 she signed with Blue Raven Entertainment and started a new band called Eryn Shewell and the Whiskey Devils. 

She has just released this, her fourth album and Eryn's incredible vocals lift the song arrangements to great heights, never more so than on the standout Relax to Sleep, which soars and swoops in a breath-taking performance. Pat Ruth plays some very fine guitar, in addition to dobro, bass and piano and also shares production credits. Saxophones mix with trumpet and trombone; clarinet duels with harmonica in the up-tempo arrangements like I Wish I Was in New Orleans. A class act and worth checking out.