Mike Bartlett 'Truth & Love' Self-released

A singer/songwriter with a big presence, a big voice and some big songs. His influences range from outlaw country heroes like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard through to rock with connections to his native Ireland that included Thin Lizzy and The Waterboys, as well with a meaningful band like Pearl Jam. That manifests itself with a rock heart and a country soul, with rock songs delivered in a roots style. Built around the central core of acoustic guitar and voice the arrangements feature a full sound with rhythm section and electric guitar and keyboards. The songs deal with life, reflections on how people deal with its tribulations. How the small man deals with bigger issues is shown in David And Goliath. The title track is a direct appeal for truth and love as the bedrock of any relationship, and is given a sparse setting that works very well in the context of the song. Song That Changed The World looks a the wider issues of hoping for some lasting peace in the world at large. Bartlett doesn't have a hugh vocal range but he still conveys the emotions he intends. The albums is one which has a depth that requires several listens to gain the most from Bartlett's songs. Truth and Love is a engaging debut from a artist who will undoubtably grow and develop as he gains performance and experience. In the end you come away with the impression of a big man with a big heart. It's a shame then that he hasn't conveyed that on the album cover which is one of those that lacks and real connection with him or his music. Find more about him at myspace.com/mikebartlettmusic

Chet O'Keefe 'Game Bird' Self-released

This album is packaged in a distinctive Jon Langford illustrated cover. O'Keefe is a bearded troubadour who vocally is reminiscent at times of John Prine. His songwriting similarly has an easy observational/conversational style exemplified by a song like Good Friends. But what really counts here is the strength of the song writing allied to the tight musical ensemble that includes some of Nanci Griffith's band (including Nanci herself on backing vocals), Thomm Jutz and Pat McInerney are joined by Robby Turner on pedal steel, Jimmie McEachern on upright bass and Brent Moyers on trumpet - a highly accomplished set of players who add depth and texture to Game Bird warm and inviting easy-going sound. A sound that has been co-produced by the aforementioned Thomm Jutz and Pat McInerney. But as mentioned the songs are the kind of story songs that breath life into their cast of characters such as the abandoned trailer living Charles (The Ballad Of Charles) or the songs about those who live to a ripe old age (Some Swedish Men) or closer to home a song about the endless stream of Nashville hopefuls (Nashville Star). There is no doubt that those who enjoy classic story/songwriting of this kind which is a little harder to find these days will enjoy this welcome and welcoming album.

Telegraph 'Self-titled' Self-released

Essentially Telegraph is the work of Kevin Doherty (of Four Men And A Dog) and a strong supporting cast. Doherty has written the songs, delivers the lead vocals and has produced the album, so maybe it should be a Kevin Doherty solo album called Telegraph. That one of the songs is titled Country Music may give some a clue as to the overall mood of the album, though in truth that's not really just that. These are relaxed, laid back, roots-filled songs that pitch their tent in different locations from Camden Street to East Virginia. There are hints of a lot of things here, a touch of Tindersticks, a pinch of Mr. Cohen and a spoonful of old-time music, informed by Atha Cliath as much as Appalachia, all mixed in among the ingredients that make up this music. There is understanding and tenderness within these songs for those in exile and those who left for a great calling. There's love for people and for places and there's the journey of a pilgrim, looking for life and love along the way. The music is acoustic, gentle, understated and at all times adds atmosphere and texture to Doherty's likable, lambent voice. Telegraph hasn't sent us words of wonder, of new territory or new boundaries rather the simple message here is of looking again at the familiar, the friendly and the ways in which we falter. www.telegraph.ie