Aynsley Lister: Equilibrium

This is the sixth studio album from the Portuguese born guitarist and is one that will keep the fans happy and should pull on board a few new admirers.

There is no doubting his skills as a guitar player and for this album he has also brought on board two other renowned guitarists in the shape of former Pretender Robbie McIntosh and The Mercurymen's Simon Johnson.

The album has a retro feel about it bringing to mind early Bryan Adams and the comparisons to John Mayer are hard to ignore. This makes this an album that could see him manage to break into the American market.

Album opener Soul is a catchy piece of AOR and bring to mind the one of my favourite bands, The Gin Blossoms. Lister gets a chance for a guitar work out with the funky Time's Up, a beast of a song, but he won't win any awards for his lyrics. The guy has more cheese going on here than the deli counter at Tesco.

While the rockier stuff certainly get the foot tapping, it's on the more mellow tracks that he really shines on this album. The cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy is a masterstroke. Given an acoustic slide blues workout, it is hard to place it till the chorus kick in. Early Morning Dew is another track that is given an acoustic slide backbone and is a real highlight.

Lister manages to tick most boxes for the blues and rock lover with Southern boogie (Sugar Low), blues shuffle (Running Out On Me) and full blown rock (Big Sleep). As a guitarist he certainly has a great style, there are better players out there in this vein, but it is his songwriting that lift him above others out there. An ideal album for the hazy nights of summer.


[][][][] (4/5)

~ Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Mars Volta: Octahedron

This is the bands fifth studio album and is one of their most enjoyable to date, although die hard fans may not agree. While still able to rock out with the best of them, it also shows a more mellow side, reflective even. One thing you can always expect from these guys is the unexpected.

The opener Since We've Been Wrong seems to be put there to lull you into a false sense of security as it is a delicate ballad of some beauty, but the serenity is shattered as track 2 kicks in. Teflon is a psychedelic workout that is more what the band is known for.

Cotopaxi is a riff laden beast and one of the stand outs on an impressive album.

Copernicus mellows thing down again and really is a beautiful song. Throughout the album vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala's falsetto vocals soar when required and have a tenderness on the more mellow tracks.

The music has a beguiling nature to it with subtle complexities that really is a trademark of this pioneering Los Angeles band. This is an album worth having in your collection.


[][][][][ (4.5/5)


Marcus Bonfanti: Hard Times

There are not many people who can capture the raw spirit of the blues. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when the debut album from Londoner Marcus Bonfanti drops through the door, as capturing the spirit is exactly what he has done.

In a previous life, Bonfanti was guitarist for the abysmal chart topper Sandi Thom, but we wont hold that against him. Now he is signed to Scottish independent, The Guitar label, home to legendary Jazz guitarist Martin Taylor.

The album mixes acoustic and electric blues which owes a debt to the likes of John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson. One thing that links the whole album together is Bonfanti's rasping whisky soaked vocals, which are hair raising throughout.

For those who like there blues dirty, then you won't be disappointed. Opener Diamonds In The Rust, a slide driven workout and ode to bad love and the title track, the best track on the album, are as dirty as they come. Up there with them is Knock Me Down with it's clap along chorus.

The album has its mellower moments with the countrified Waitin' For My Love and When You Come Home. The acoustic The Girl I Knew is a great finger style piece and a highlight of the album, while Judgement Day shows a slightly popier side to his songwriting.

As debut albums go, this is a mighty fine piece of work. The production is perfectly suited to bringing out the warmth of Bonfanti's formidable guitar skills and we are sure that this will be the start of a successful career. Old blues men from the Mississippi delta would sell their soul to the Devil to make music like this.


[][][][] (4/5)

~ Sunday, 28 June 2009

Paolo Nutini: Sunny Side Up

Ohh that tricky second album. The Paisley lad was shot to stardom with the run away success of his debut These Streets. That success was always going to have an eager audience out there for a follow up and Sunny Side Up will make most of them happy with it's somewhat uninspired mix of blue eyed soul, folk, reggae and skiffle.

Nutini has to be applauded for tackling styles of music that don't normally feature in mainstream music, but if you are going to pull it off, then you need bigger boots than he can fill.

The first single from the album, Candy is a prime example of what is wrong with this album.The vocals are awful. Imaging Rab C Nesbitt singing karaoke while sucking a gobstopper and you will get the idea and the arrangement makes it sound like it was recorded in the Seventies .

Album opener 10/10 sound like a Bad Manners tribute band while Growing Up Beside You starts of sounding like a gentle sea shanty, before it all goes down hill as soon as the vocals start.

Pencil Full Of Lead and High Hopes offer no respite from the relentless vocal drawl.

I'm sure that somewhere behind the sloppy production and muddy vocals there is a great album trying to get out, I just can't be bothered to find it.


[][] (2/5)

~ Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Henry Priestman: The Chronicles Of Modern Life

Henry Priestman has tasted success as the songwriter for multi million selling band The Christians as well as playing keyboards for Echo & The Bunnymen and others, so it is a surprise that he has waited so long to release his first solo album. Well.... you'll be pleased to know that it has been worth the wait.

The album is a refreshingly wry look at the modern world through Priestman's eyes and is packed with humour and lost political ideals. This is not so much a record, more of a manual for surviving the modern world for the over 35's. (and yes that is a good thing).

The radio hit, Grey's The New Blonde, written as a love song for his wife is timeless while Don't You Love Me Know More will have anyone who has been cast on the job scrap heap giving a knowing nod. Old is a two fingered salute to those who think anyone over 50 is past it. I think there is a theme developing here...

He Ain't Good Enough For You is for all the fathers across the nation who have despaired when their daughters drag their latest boyfriend through the door.

This is a fantastic piece of work. Heartfelt, but with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Chronicles is a life affirming affair. I don't know if Henry is a genius or just a grumpy old man. I just know I like it.... no, I love it.


[][][][][] (5/5)


Eleanor McEvoy: Love Must Be Tough

For Eleanor McEvoy, her best known song Only A Woman's Heart could be a millstone round her neck. Since the worldwide success of the song she has never quite managed to maintain the commercial success that it afforded her. This is despite the fact that she has released a string of excellent albums that are packed full of sparkling folk and pop all with her signature vocal style.

She has always been one of those artist whose music you either love or hate. I fall into the former with her album Early Hours a constant presence on the ipod.

Her last album Out There was a slightly disappointing affair, not quite up to her usual standard, so I was looking forward to hearing this new album to see if she was back on track.

I really wanted to like this album. I really did and there are some redeeming moments. Roll Out Better Days is a fantastic slice of Celtic soul that Van Morrison would be proud of and Hands Off Him is a classic piece of blues. Easy In Love has an infectiousness that is hard to resist and the cover of Nick Lowe's I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock 'n Roll) is cute but the rest of the album is just... well.... ordinary and the rather cold production doesn't help.

Eleanor McEvoy is an artist worth checking out, just not this album. Seeking out the recently remastered Snapshots or the brilliant Yola will be far more rewarding.


[][][ (2.5/5)


The Mercurymen: Postcards From Valonia

The combined talents of Jinder, Gavin Wyatt and Simon Johnson make up The Mercurymen and this debut from the London 3 piece is full of acoustic based gems, but sadly it fails to capture the full magic of the bands live performances. Yes, the music is good, but the hair raising vocal harmonies that would give Crosby, Stills and Nash a run for their money are sadly too far back in the mix. Live, it is this mixture of harmonies and great songs that makes them such an appealing prospect, but with this album the guys record company have missed a trick. Don't get me wrong, this is a good album, but it could have been great.

The album kicks off with the single Keep Me In Your Heart, a sparkling piece of pop that easily gets lodge in the head. The beautiful Scent, co-written with Deacon Blue's Ricky Ross, is an instant classic, with lush strings and haunting vocals, while the reggae tinged Rough Around The Edges is a real floor filler.

The album closes on the touching You Don't Have To Be Alone. On this track front man Jinder shows what a truly wonderful singer he is.

This is a good album. If I had never seen the band live, I would have said it was great album, but the production just does not capture what it is that makes this band so unique.


[][][][ (3.5/5)

~ Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Ella Edmondson: Hold Your Horses

Ella Edmonson has performing in her genes. The eldest daughter of comedians Ade Edmondson and Jennifer Saunders is the latest of the young breed of performers and songwriter dragging the English folk scene into the new millennium and indeed this, her debut album features contributions from fellow new wave folkers Kate Rusby, John McCusker and Donald Shaw.

Her voice has a haunting yet melodic characteristic to it that manages to lift her above many of her peers and is put to good use on the lilting
Open Fire and the stark Fold, while other songs such as The Other Side and Capable just seem out of place and the songwriting a bit naive.

There is enough here to suggest that there is better to come from this rising star of the folk world, but for now this sounds as if she is only half way there.


[][][] (3/5)

~ Sunday, 14 June 2009

Nick Kelly: Running Dog

Released in 2005, the album has resurfaced due to the release of albums by Kelly's former band The Fat Lady Sings. His debut solo album Between Trapezes was highly praised in his native Ireland and this the follow up is no less impressive.

The whole thing kicks of with a brilliant piece of throw away pop in the shape of
You're Gonna Fall. The relentless drums really drive this song along and lodge it in your head.

You Will Love Again is a stunning breathy ode to lost love and along with Mystery of Love is one of the highlights of this album. One of the most poignant moments is The Loneliest Ghost in Pere Lachaise, a haunting and touching tribute to Parisians who died in the Holocaust. Small Hours brings to mind the Blue Nile in their finest moments. A really great song.

This is one of those rare albums that contains no fillers, just killers. A great introduction to one of Ireland's finest songwriters.


[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Saturday, 13 June 2009

Angie Palmer: Tales of Light & Darkness

Angie Palmer has a soul steeped in Americana. Not easy when you come from Lancashire. This album released in 2006 found its way into the heart of Bob Harris and the Radio 2 play list.

This is her second album, an honest and gutsy affair that draws from some pretty dark places without ever feeling, well dark. While it is true that it is not breaking any new ground, the songs are strong and the assembled cast of stellar musicians make it a passionate affair that is hard not to like.

Tracks like Premonition Blues, The Ballad of John Henry and The Secret Between the Sun & The Moon work best, while others like Letters From Home and Ravens just don't really seem to get going.

It is evident that Palmer is a competent songwriter, but in a genre where the competition is fierce, that may not be enough to make her stand out.


[][][][ (3.5/5)

~ Thursday, 11 June 2009

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