Empirical: Elements Of Truth

The wonderful Naim label releases some great artists, Phantom Limb and Stuart McCallum to name but two. They have a diverse and eclectic roster of artists with Empirical being one of their most experimental. Empirical play jazz. Some of it is improvisational, some structured, some of it uncomfortable and some inspirational.

There is nothing traditional here as the guys take their cue from the likes of Charlie Parker and Courtney Pine. Indeed, their first album was produced by Pine.
I'll be the first to admit that I like my jazz more Jelly Roll Morton and Bix Beiderbecke than the musings of Dizzy Gillespie and co, so at time I did find this record hard work. There is no doubting the skill that these guys possess, both as musicians and composers but the unstructured nature of the music was hard to listen to. I know that this is meant to be that way and as a musician myself I have great admiration for the dexterity and skill required to make such music but... I just can't relate to it.

It would be unfair for me to review this record as I just can't be objective about it. I simply don't get it.

www.empiricalmusic.com

no rating given

~ Monday, 21 November 2011

Spirits Of The Dead: The Good God Pan

Norwegian Psych rockers Spirits Of The Dead have adopted a different take on their sound for this their second album. The folksy edge is still there but it has been blended with jazz to take it into territory inhabited by Santana, Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth and King Crimson.

This mini album opens with the dream like Mighty Mountain, all chiming guitars and breathy vocals before morphing into a 60's inspired prog beast. The wonderful Leaves Of Last Year's Fall inevitably draws comparison with Dave Brubeck's classic Take Five as it uses the same 5/4 time signature. This is a fantastic jazz psych crossover with a great guitar sound from Ole Ostedal and the manic drumming of Geir Thorstensen.

Pure As The Lotus, as strange as it may sound, reminds me of Ronnie James Dio era Black Sabbath where the band experimented with synths and softened their metal sound with folk influences brought to the band by Dio. The records title track is a magical and ethereal piece of folk with front man Ragnar Vikse's breathy vocals cutting through the harmonies and is the stand out on an album that delivers throughout. Casting The Runes organ driven intro is powered along with bassist Deadly Nightshade plucking like a man possessed and giving a backbone to this instrumental noise fest. The record closes with the epic Goldberry. At nearly 8 minutes long, the band work it from gentle folk to fully grown rock anthem that carries the listener along, setting the pulse racing faster in the process.

Spirit Of The Dead are a band that really belong in a different decade but I for one am thankful that they make the music they do. In a world of Coldplay, Kings Of Leon and Snowpatrol who deliver us overproduced commercial pop masquerading as indie cool, Spirits Of The Dead are a breath of fresh air.

www.thespiritsofthedead.com


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

~

Kutosis: Shadows (single)

With the Darkness making a comeback and proving that the public still have an appetite for their balls to the wall brand of cock rock, Welsh rockers Kutosis may well find themselves well placed to join the bandwagon. Now, I am sure they wont like being compared to The Darkness or even being labelled metal as you get the feeling they take their influences from the likes of The Buzzcocks and The Clash but vocalist Ian has more than a touch of the Justin Hawkins about his delivery.

Shadows is a slice of punky metal that would have the mosh pit heaving with its straightforward rocking power chord workout. B side Skin feels more grounded in the punk ethos than the A side with some great drumming and guitar dischord. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.

www.kotosis.co.uk

Download the single for free from here

~

Sonny: Illuminant (ep)

Sonny is a bedroom knob twiddler with what would appear to be a fixation with the Cocteau Twins and Sigur Ros. There is little to get excited about here as his perfect diction delivery sound like he is auditioning for an Lloyd Webber musical while the music itself feels soulless, directionless and unimaginative.

Opener Shine Like Silver has the dreamy guitars nailed but the production, percussion and vocals drain any spark of life it has within the first few bars. We are firmly in musical theatre territory with the other 3 tracks, Dew Bright Earth, Everything Was Golden and Wonder Of Snow. These songs, I use the word songs in the loosest term, reek of self indulgence with half baked lyrics and little songwriting skills.

It is not often that I can't find any redeemable qualities in someone's music but Sonny has succeeded here.

www.sonnyminimal.com

~

Jon Gomm: Message In A Bottle (single)

This is the second in a series of singles being releases by the Leeds based guitarist and songwriter. The only indication that this is a cover of The Police classic are the lyrics, as the musical makeover it is given by Gomm's incredible guitar playing pushes the melody to its very boundaries.

There is no doubt that Gomm is one of the most exciting, innovative and original musicians we have came across and he deserves a far bigger platform for his talents. With every release his following grows and it is no wonder when he is producing music of this quality. If there was any justice this would be all over radio 2 and Later with Jools would be begging Mr Gomm to grace their show.

www.jongomm.com

watch the video

~ Friday, 18 November 2011

Maeve O'Boyle: Intermission (ep)

We loved O'Boyle's debut album here at The Music Critic hq, so we were quite excited when this mini album arrived. Intermission is a stripped bare acoustic and vocal affair with re-recordings of tracks from her debut along with some choice covers.

The record kicks of with a cover of Tom Wait's Ol'55 and straight away you are struck by the sheer purity and warmth of O'Boyle's voice. This lady has the ability to raise the hairs on the back of the neck with effortless ease. This is a fine interpretation of a great song that manages to top Waits himself. She also cover Springsteen's No Surrender and, somewhat bizarrely, Resist by Canadian rockers Rush. Both are good but fall short of the magic she showed on Ol'55.

On her debut album there was one track that producer Calum Malcolm just got completely wrong and this has been redressed here. Facing Home is arguably O'Boyle's finest song and a firm live favourite but when it appeared on her debut album it had been over produced and its simplicity destroyed. Here, in its stripped bare form, the vulnerability of the lyrics are matched by the haunting lit of O'Boyle's voice and it is just simply beautiful.

For me though, it is the brilliant Taxi that steals the show. Written when O'Boyle was only 13, it is a masterful slice of pop that paints pictures of late night Glasgow and lingers in the head long after the closing bar. I would go as far as to say that Maeve O'Boyle is the best female singer songwriter that Scotland has produced in the last 30 years. Seriously.... this girl is that good.

www.maeveoboyle.com

~

Stuart McCallum: Distilled - Album of the Month - November 2011

McCallum is the guitarist with the wonderful Cinematic Orchestra and with Distilled he has produced a beautiful record that sounds sublime. There is no doubt that some may find the experimental nature of the record and lack of vocals challenging but this is a record of layers and depth that reveals something new with each listen.

Album opener dR Doctor is a blissful mix of percussion and guitar in perfect harmony that could just as easily fill a dance floor as it could captivate an audience. McCallum's use of samples and effects gives a 'trip hop' feel while his guitar playing has shades of Pat Metheny and Allan Holdsworth. Both Hillcrest parts I and II are perfect examples of this as he slips into avant garde jazz mode. The acoustic La Cigale and Fokey Dokey are both dream like, with the former giving way to disjointed jazz leanings and the latter unfolding into a summers walk in a meadow of tall grass swaying in the breeze as the sun shimmers in the late evening haze.

Vital Space takes orchestral elements and bends the rules with erratic drum patterns and delayed guitar harmonics for a sensory treat for your ears and brain but it is the mesmerising Inflight that steals the show for me. The repetitive blend of electronica with acoustics and its changing time signatures are trance like while the guitar work is both complementary and disjointed. Bloody genius.

The album closed on the title track which wouldn't seem out of place on a Laurent Garnier dj set or on the terrace of Cafe Del Mar as the sun sets with its driving beats and synth riff layered with string samples. I like this record a lot. This is emotive music that many people will label as 'jazz' while the jazzers will dismiss it as to left field but to me it is beautiful, challenging, mesmerising and original. A record to cherish.

www.stuartmccallum.com

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

~ Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Transfer: Future Selves

San Deigo's Transfer have a sound which is familiar. This album is like a magpies nest, with little trinkets lifted from all around and used to beautify their nest, or in this case record. There is no getting away from the comparisons with Athlete, The Killers, Elbow and Arcade Fire, and we all know that originality is the long road to fame, so why not take a few short cuts and nod your hat to those who have paved the way before you.

Transfer have stardom written all over them. They have the grandiose sound that is made for reverberating around a stadium. They have the quirky look that says 'we are coooool'. They also thankfully possess a drummer of Keith Moon proportions in Andy Ridley who rattles around that kit of his like a man on a mission. For all this I'm just not that into it. We have seen it all before and conviction, musicianship and a big sound can't distract from the lack of quality songs.

From the off front man Matthew Molarius does his best Brandon Flowers impersonation, which if he had the voice for it would work, but he just lacks the power and depth. Opener Losing Composure is only memorable for the brilliant drumming while Take Your Medicine (may we suggest Prozac) is middle of the road pop with a few bells and whistles and a whole lot of smoke and mirrors. We almost had our lighters in the air half way through My Suspicions. Yep, these guys can do cheese with the best of them, just check out Get Some Rest if you need further proof.

The San Diego Symphony add some much needed texture to this record and certainly contributes to the albums big sound. In amongst the mire of mediocrity there are a few gems like the Joy Divisionesque Enojado, again the drumming is the star but the reverb laden vocals are an inspired inclusion. The best track by a mile is the wonderful White Horse (which is a bonus track) with a great guitar riff that Ritchie Blackmore would be proud of and you know what,
Matthew Molarius sound right at home as he nails it and shows he actually has a great voice, far better than the rest of this album suggests.

I have no doubt that this album will break these guys here in the UK and Europe. It has hit written all over it. I may not like it but I can see why millions will. One for fans of The Killers, Snow Patrol and Kings Of Leon for sure.

www.transferband.com

[][][ (2.5/5)


~

Annette Berlin: Lady At The Window (single)

Lady At The Window is a departure from Berlin's normal output. Gone is the 'Garage' sound and in its place is synthetic pop that tries to be a little bit R'n'B, a little bit Trip Hop and a little bit to clever for its own good. Some might say it is laid back but then again there is also the point of view that it is just plain boring. I'd go for the latter

If night nurse came in a musical form then this would be it. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

www.annetteberlin.bandcamp.com

~

Madison Violet: The Good In Goodbye

Canadian duo Madison Violet have been building a reputation since their first album back in 2004 with their winsome Americana inspired folk, with 2009's No Fool For Trying establishing them as serious contenders.

The Good In Goodbye is one of those records that you turn to on a lazy Sunday afternoon and that is both the charm and the problem with this album. In many ways this is background music, very well written, played and recorded but hard to get excited about. Having listened to this album several times over the past week I could not tell you a single lyric, hum you a melody from it or name any of the songs other than the title track. There is nothing really to dislike about this album, it is just that I can't get excited about it.

The tone for the record is set with the opener If I Could Love You. A perfectly pleasant, non offensive piece of non de-script folk pop that you hear in a thousand coffee house stereos the world over. This formula is repeated throughout. Home, Stuck In Love, Fallen By The Wayside, Colour In Grey etc all pass gently by without leaving the slightest mark on my memory or emotions. It is only Come As You Are, with its ever-so-slightly rockier edge, Emily, resplendent banjo and lovely vocal harmonies, and Cindy Cindy, is that Bluegrass... surely not, that departs from the monophonic sound that makes up this record.

This is a record that left no impression with me. I neither like or dislike it, care if I heard it again or be bothered if I did. I find it rare that music can leave me with no reaction of any kind but this record has. I dare say that if I owned a coffee shop it would be top of my play list. Nothing like playing it safe.

www.madisonviolet.com

[][][ (2.5/5)

~ Thursday, 10 November 2011

Mississippi Live & The Dirty Dirty: Way Down Here

Mississippi Live & The Dirty Dirty is Vancouver based singer songwriter Connely Farr and an assortment of friends and session players. The name seems appropriate as the sound is certainly 'dirty', with a straightforward rocking energy that brings to mind bands like Crazy Horse, Gin Blossoms and Wilco. This is rock 'n' roll, with hints of country and blues played with an undeniable enthusiasm that is as infectious as the music.

The live feel of the record is something I really like. It is produced but not over polished. Producer Jon Wood and engineer Brian Barr have done a fantastic job here. The album opens with the Americanaesque Rain Keeper with a great drum sound driving Farr's tuneful vocal drawl, all underpinned with a 'bar room' piano. As if by total contrast, the title track is tuneless and instantly forgettable with Farr mumbling his way through with no conviction of any kind. You normally expect the title track to be the shining star of any album but this really is turgid stuff. Thankfully this is the only real moment of musical suicide and we get back on track with the bluesy Had To Leave Her with some great guitar histrionics from Ben Yardley. The beautiful starkness of Battle Song is a real highlight. This is a song that benefits from the sheer simplicity of the arrangement and is one song that has certainly stuck in my head.

Stranger and Butterfly bare comparison to Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan with the former being a particularly fine song. The short but sweet Banjo Song is certainly an oddball track but it is perhaps my favourite of the 11 track on this album. It is in no way representative of anything else on the album and as such just catches you unaware. The album closes on Wooden Nickles, a building wannabee rock monster that begs to be at least another 3 minutes longer as just as it bursts into life it ends.

Farr certainly has it in him to write brilliant dirty bluesy alt-countryish rock songs, as this album shows... but he also appears to be guilty of being too self indulgent at times. When this album works, it is as good as early Springsteen or pre stadium pomp Kings of Leon and you can't argue with that.

www.mississippilive.net

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

~

Don Lee: Fool To Even Care

When we reviewed Lee's last album, we compared his sound to that of Squeeze and Glenn Tilbrook. The emails from outraged fans poured in, who wished to point out that Don is his own man and should not be compared to anyone. Well guys, sorry to disappoint you all again but Fool To Even Care has Lee's love affair with Tilbrook all over it. Now, this is not a bad thing. Lee knows how to craft a song and he is blessed with a powerful and sweet voice. The dynamics he uses in the structure of his songs gives his music a quirky edge that means that he is always going to draw comparisons with Tilbrook.

Fool To Even Care marks a leap in the quality of production from his previous work. This is a beautiful sounding record with depth, warmth and clarity present on every track. The album springs into life with the bouncy How Do You Play? with some great bass playing and killer guitar hooks. Given that Lee plays all the instruments, except drums, it is remarkable how he has managed to make it sound 'live'.

The funky vibe of Pay Your Love In Full is made all the more appealing given the dual vocal approach with Alina Zimmerman's throaty vocals proving a contrast to Lee's poppier tones. Stand out track for me is the sublime Never That Far which twists chords and beats in a triumphant pop masterpiece. The bittersweet Starlight is no less beguiling with the simplicity of just guitar and vocal showing Lee's mellower side. He also shows he is no slouch in the guitar department with some blistering solos scattered throughout this record, and he gets to rock and show his dirtier side (guitar speaking of course) on both Get Out My Way & Rub It In.

The album closes on the quirky Nowhere To Go with Jack Mariachi & Ken Masson whipping up a storm on drums and percussion. Mariachi's drumming throughout this record is superb and really binds it together. There is no argument from me that Lee is his own man, and a very talented one at that, but his sound is such a distinctive one that it is impossible not to draw comparisons to the songs of Glenn Tilbrook. For me that is no bad thing.

www.donleesounds.com

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

~ Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Soulphonics: The Dynamic Sounds Of The Soulphonics

The Austin 3 piece that is the Soulphonics have a psychedelic heart. Their 'garage rock' sound has much in common with bands like Moby Grape and Quick Silver Messenger Service while Glen Worley's naive vocals add a twee twist to proceedings.

The guys are not trying to reinvent the wheel here but instead put a bit more air in the tyres. The album opens with the driving beat of Time Has Changed, complete with chopping guitars that Wilco Johnson would be proud of. The production has a kind of endearing diy feel to it which only adds to the whole punk ethos. Most of the 16 tracks on here are originals but they do tackle a couple of covers and their version of The Brogues 1965 hit I Ain't No Miracle Worker, with Reid Watson taking on vocal duties and outshining Worley, captures the spirit the original as does their version of The Squires Going All The Way. There is no doubt that these guys wear their musical hearts on their sleeves.

Worley proves himself to be pretty nifty in the writing department with brilliant Can't See Love being a stand out, as is the instrumental El Caribe but it is downright dirty Don't Bring 'Er!' that nudges it for best track.

There is much to like about The Soulphonics, especially if your record collection includes The Turtles, The Ramones or Ten Years After. Their sound is naive, as are the lyrics, production and musicianship but that is why I like it. This record wasn't made for me or you. It was made because the band want to and I for one am glad that I get to share it.

www.the-soulphonics.com

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

~

J. Harbourne: Hills Of Home (ep)

When the word charity appears on a press release my expectations of the music on offer is always low. Hills Of Home is proof that sometimes you need to put your preconceptions aside. This ep was inspired by the death of Harbourne's friend Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton who was killed at the age of 23 while serving in Afghanistan and is being released as a tribute to his friend with all profits from the sale of the ep going to Help For Heroes.

The title track is a folk song at heart but it is infused with lush pop melodies and heartfelt lyrics that are touching without being sycophantic. Request doesn't quite have the instant appeal of the opener but track 3, Actress, most certainly does. Its off kilter guitar and
Jacques Brel inspired vocals make it a weirdly wonderful song.

The ep closes with the upbeat Sand, backed with a bossanova beat and jangling guitars that is completely different from the other 3 tracks. Harbourne's background is in musical theatre but thankfully this ep shows no hint of that. This ep shows Harbourne to be a fine songwriter and I'm sure that his friend would approve, both of the heartfelt music and the charity that will benefit from its.

www.borrowedtimeproductions.co.uk
www.helpforheroes.org.uk


~

The Bloogs: The Bloogs (ep)

London based indie kids The Bloogs are a bit of a grower. On the first few listens to their self titled 4 track ep, it was hard to get excited about their generic jangly 'Brit Pop' sound but they kind of whittled me down. They have shades of The Kinks, Squeeze and The Bluetones about their sound with front man Ross Brown having more than a passing resemblance vocally to the Bluetones Mark Morriss.

Opener Sideways is let down, as is the whole ep, by the poor production which is lifeless and flat. The band describe this song as 'Oasis without the attitude'. Don't do yourself down guys, it sounds nothing like the Beatles. Species Apart reminds me of Ian Dury & The Blockheads while Run It By The River is a pretty forgettable piece of pub rock. The ep closes on its strongest track. Revelling is twisting battle between chiming acoustic guitar, killer hooks and a memorable chorus.

It is a bit hit and miss for the guys but shows enough promise that with a good engineer and producer on board, they may just be able to do something special.


www.thebloogs.com

~ Thursday, 6 October 2011

Red Sky July: Red Sky July - Album of the Month - October 2011

Red Sky July come with impressive credentials. The trio of Shelly Poole (Alisha's Attic), Charity Hair (The Alice Band) and Ally McErlaine (Texas) have all achieved considerable success in music, so what does the trios self titled debut album bring to the table. The original concept for the album came from McErlaine and Poole, who are husband and wife, before bringing in their long time friend Hair. It is amazing that this album ever got made at all as McErlaine suffered a life threatening brain aneurysm which left him in a serious condition for over a year.

This is an atmospheric record with an expansive Americana sound where Poole and Hair share vocal duties interwoven over McErlaine's reflective melodies. The subtle introduction to the album comes in the form of the short instrumental Hynek before giving way to beguiling Morning Song which is layered with muffled slide guitar and bright acoustic finger picking. Slide guitar is a recurring feature of this record but not in a 'in your face' kind of way. The dual vocal approach from the girls is sublime throughout and lifts tracks like Already Gone, The Gold Hour and Rivers Wild to exquisite highs that are just wonderful.

This is a self assured and uplifting album that is made all the more engaging given the struggles they had to overcome to finish it. On an album of such beauty, it is hard to pick an individual track that seems to sum up this record but White Feather captures everything that this album is about for me. Mesmerising vocals, touching lyrics, beautiful melodies and a sense of self belief make this an album that has never been far from my cd player since it arrived.

The record closes on the hymn like The Happiest Girl In The Whole USA and proves to be the perfect ending to a wonderful record of hope, inspiration and love. I like this record a lot. I have always believed that music should elicit an emotion from the listener, whether that be joy, sadness or rage, and Red Sky July has certainly touched me more than I was expecting.

www.redskyjuly.com


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

~

Sweet Sweet Lies: Capital of Iceland (single)

Sweet Sweet Lies have adopted a punk folk mix that will be familiar to fans of the glorious Gogol Bordello for this single. Capital of Iceland is perhaps not representative of the Brighton sextet overall sound, which has more in common with Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave than this single suggests, but never the less, this single is as characterful as the band themselves.

Packed with humour and self deprecation, Capital of Iceland is a love song of sorts bristling with energy, fantastic lyrics and enough quirkiness to make it stand out from the crowd. These guys are definitely a band to keep an eye on and If they ever make it up to my neck of the woods, I'll be at the head of the queue for tickets.

www.facebook.com/sweetsweetlies

~

Brett Martini: Lovers Lane (single)

Brett Martini's name has popped up a few times before here at Music Critic HQ. Martini is part of the madcap band I, Ludicrous and formerly played bass with the glorious Voice Of The Beehive.

Lovers Lane, a downbeat ballad from the seedy side of life and love, is his first solo release.
There is a simplicity to this record that is strangely alluring. While it doesn't have the sense of humour of I, Ludicrous or the irresistible pop sensibilities of the Beehives, the downright honesty of his performance is refreshing.

www.myspace.com/martinbrett

~

The Zombies: A Moment In Time (single)

The Zombies were one of the biggest 60's bands that were at the forefront of the British Psych scene for more than two decades, so what to expect with this new single. The reformed band features original members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent as they undertake a grueling world tour to celebrate the bands 50th year.

A Moment In Time is a cringingly painful slice of middle of the road pop that you may expect to find on an Aled Jones b-side. It is hard to believe that this is the band who gave us classics like She's Not There and Time Of The Season.

You can't help but feel that this is just diluting the wonderful legacy that the band have left behind them.

www.thezombies.net

~

Peanut Butter Lovesicle: Heavy Daze Wildcat Craze (ep)

Is it just me are are we having a bit of a Psych revival. Peanut Butter Lovesicle have went for a 'live' sound with this 5 track ep where they stray into Dinosaur Jnr territory rather than the 60's and 70's psych sound of bands like Moby Grape or 10 Years After.

As hard as PBL try they fail miserable to capture any of the spirit of bands they aspire to be. At times the vocals are deeply unpleasant while the guitar sounds like an out of tune chainsaw. The only track that offers some hope is the Black Sabbathesque Sicamore Trees which appears to have lifted huge chunks from Sabbath's Iron Man.

There are so many bands doing this so much better that it is hard to find anything positive to say about this pretentious pile of shi*e. Save your money and your ears folks and go buy some Zappa, Moby Grape, Grateful Dead, ZZ Top or Hendrix instead.

www.peanutbutterlovesicle.com

~

The Zenon Band: Falling (single)

The Zenon Band come along without the musical hang ups that most British bands have. Their sound is a mix of pop and rock which hasn't been popular here since the likes of John Parr, John Waite and REO Speedwagon were all the rage.

Now, it would be easy to dismiss this as terribly unhip but here in the UK we are fed a diet of commercial radio generic play lists where music has to fit nicely into whatever box the industry wants us to buy but head to countries like Germany, Poland, France etc and the radio, press and tv if full of brilliant music that just wouldn't be heard over here.


The Zenon Band are not breaking any new ground but Falling is catchy and well crafted with some excellent musicianship and production. I wouldn't buy it but I would turn the radio up if it came on and allow my inner poodle perm to flow free.

www.zenon-music.com

~

Betty Soo and Doug Cox: Across The Borderline - Lie To Me

When my colleague, the esteemed Mr Brown, reviewed Betty Soo's Heat Sin Water Skin album, he berated the music industry for letting a talent like Soo's go un-noticed but seven months later and her star is in the ascendancy and the music world is paying attention. The pairing of Soo and Doug Cox may seem like an unlikely one. Not because the are musically that different but because they live 2500 miles apart. Music has a way of bringing people together and this record is testament to that.

The 10 tracks here are all covers. The duos interpretations of some of the writers that inspired them to make music their careers. Names like Guy Clark, Louden Wainwright III and Butch Hancock are familiar to many but Jeff Talmadge and Betty Elders will be names that are new to most. Apart from the songs, the main focus is Soo's wonderful voice and Cox's superb dobro playing.

The album opens with Lie To Me by Austin songwriter Jeff Talmadge but it is only Soo's voice that makes this rather ordinary song shine. The duos version of Jane Siberry's You Don't Need is much better than the original. Personally, Siberry's voice has a nails on black board quality to me, so Soo's voice is so welcome. Listening to this record I keep finding myself asking why two such accomplished songwriters and musicians felt the need to record other peoples songs, especially when most of them don't match up to the quality of their own material.

Cox's vocals on Be Careful There's A Baby In The House are bordering on painful. I don't think Loudon would approve. Of all the songs tackled it is the final track, Guy Clark's Dublin Blues that fairs the best with for the first time the playing and singing having real conviction and feeling. This record is a huge disappointment that does little to boost the reputation of either of the duo. I wanted to like this record so much but with every listen I find something new to dislike. For me this is an idea that should never have made it to record.

www.acrosstheborderline.org

[][] (2/5)

~ Thursday, 29 September 2011

Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion: Bright Examples

The husband and wife duo of Irion and Guthrie seems to be as blissful a musical union as well as a personal one. Bright Examples could easily have been a self indulgent exercise but it is far from it. Both are outstanding artists in their own right and it could have been easy for Guthrie to trade on the family name made so legendary by Woody and Arlo but this is an album that will remove any silent whispers. Bright Examples has a well honed sound, and as strange as this may sound, that comes across like a meeting of Neil Young and The Carpenters.

The duo have not been short of some famous friends to call upon in the making of this album. The Jayhawks Gary Louris and Mark Olson pop up along with the irrepressible Radoslav Lorkovic. There is an organic feel to this record with the production adding a wide and lush aspect to its overall sound. The album opens with the downbeat and beguiling Ahead Of Myself with Irion's falsetto voice sounding fantastic. Never Far From My Heart teases you in with its wonderful dual vocal intro and unfold into a classic slice of Americana before the 60's inspired Speed Of Light transports you to a summers day in San Fransisco with Jerry Garcia caressing your ears.

A real stand out is the shimmering First Snow, co-written with Gary Louris, where the ghost of Gram Parsons hangs on every note. This is music that seems to emanate from the past. There can be no doubt that their influences come from 60's and 70's as the winsome folk of Cry Quieter and the sheer towering majesty of the title track Bright Examples confirms.

As fantastic an album this is, the pair do mis-fire on the twee Dupont Circle but we can forgive them this blip as the other eleven tracks prove a breath of fresh air. This is a wonderfully written, played and produced record that doesn't disappoint given the expectations the duo come with. A true gem.

www.sarahleeandjohnny.com

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

~

Jon Gomm: Passionflower (single)

If you have never seen Jon Gomm live it is hard to comprehend exactly what it is he does. Listening to this single, the first in a series of releases under the banner of 'The Domestic Science Singles Series', you would be forgiven for believing that you are listening to a band but no... it is just the one guy with an acoustic guitar. No overdubs or studio trickery.

Passionflower is a beautiful ballad with Gomm's voice sounding better than it ever has. The playing is stunning and goes far beyond what most people would thing an acoustic guitar would be capable of and it is this understanding of pushing boundaries and ignoring limitations that makes Gomm so special. The single is available to download for 'pay what you want' from Gomm's website and check out the video while you are there and have your mind blown.

10% of the proceeds will go to The Happy House
children's home in Watamu, Kenya.


www.jongomm.com

~

The Water Tower Bucket Boys: Where The Crow Don't Fly (ep)

The Portland quartet caught our attention last year with their superb album Sole Kitchen which was packed full of high octane bluegrass, so we were delighted to see this 5 track ep pop into the Music Critic HQ mailbox.

Where The Crow Don't Fly sees the guys in a mellower place with the tempo brought right down. The title track kicks things off and the chilled vibes are set in motion. This is quality music, played beautifully and genuinely affecting. Pilgrim Song features some great harmonica playing from Carlton Gill-Blyth that interweaves with the intricate mandolin playing of Kenny Feinstein. This is a great song that has touches of Crosby, Stills and Nash about it with the wonderful vocal harmonies.

The tempo is raised slightly on the infectious Easy Way Out with the unmistakable drone of a Hammond B3 underpinning the whole song. The ep closes on the beguiling R Song which is a bit of a departure from the guys normal output and sounds uncannily like Elbow at their full flowing best. While this is a departure from what we know the band for, it is a welcome one all the same.
Having caught the band live earlier this year, they certainly capture the energy of their live shows on record and this ep shows the band at their chilled best.


www.watertowerbucketboys.com

~ Monday, 26 September 2011

Erich Luening: Red Flags

This is the debut release from the Massachusetts songwriter and freelance journalist. His influences are cast far and wide with elements of soul, folk, pop and rock sitting shoulder to shoulder in this hugely enjoyable record. Luening is fortunate to find himself with friends in high places as Juliana Hatfield, George Berz (Dinosour Jnr) and Evan Dando (I freakin' love The Lemonheads) make guest appearances.

The soulful sounds of Uncle's Sweater starts our musical journey with some sweet falsetto vocals and a simple tune that sticks in the head. With Hard Fall Down the landscape changes to dark indie pop with a killer chorus that lingers. It comes as no surprise that Evan Dando features on the glorious dis-chord of Red Flag as Luening leaves you in no doubt of his musical influences.

As Luening continues to try and encompass every musical genre known to man we find ourselves melting at the warming beauty of the folk fueled Never Run which wouldn't sound out of place on a Neil Young album. He seems to be able to move with ease to whatever takes his fancy and a great deal of the credit for this must sit with producers Matthew Cullen and Allan Cole. Luening endears himself to me even more when he proves that he is a man of supreme musical taste by covering Big Star's I'm In Love With A Girl (Alex Chilton was indeed a genius). He remains pretty much faithful to the original but Luening's voice manages to bring something different to the table.

The record closes on the Springsteenish I'm Already which sounds like a late night take at the end of a recording session just when you thought there was nothing there and you end up with a wee nugget of treasure.
There is nothing fancy about this album but the honesty, simplicity and integrity is something that can make any record something special and Luening and his cohorts have indeed created something very special. Very special indeed.

www.junkorecords.com

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

~

Catherine MacLellan: Silhouette

MacLellan won herself a small army of admirers with her Water In The Ground album and she had a lot to live up to being the daughter of the late great songwriter Gene MacLellan. Her new album Silhouette has already had the critics in a lather with its 'rough around the edges feel' which lends a kind of sympathetic warmth to the album. This wasn't a record that grabbed me on the first few plays but worked on me over a period of time. There is a strong commercial edge to her songs, in a similar vain to Sheryl Crow or Alannis Morrisette, that should see her expand her following to within Europe.

The formula of poppy Americana is evident from the first track, Stealin', and is carried on throughout the album. MacLellan's plaintive vocals can at times become monotone as with the deadbeat Keep On Fighting but then emotionally expressive as on Keep My Eye On You. With Keep On Fighting it is as if she doesn't believe in the song and as a consequence, neither do I. When she finds her mojo though, she really does prove herself to be capable of making music that truly connects as with Lines On The Road, a blissful and haunting song that perfectly suits her voice and is a real stand out.

The country balladry of Trickle Down Rain is also a song that gives MacLellan a perfect platform to show her talents with shades of Nanci Griffith ringing in my ears. She also pays a touching tribute to her father in the shape of one of his most famous song, Snowbird. With the likes of Elvis and Anne Murray having recorded versions of the song, MacLellan easily puts her stamp on it and the stripped back arrangement works beautifully. The album closes on my personal favourite, Chop That Wood. The simplicity of the song is laid bare with just piano and vocals and is passionate, moving and evocative. Proof if needed that MacLellan is a formidable songwriting talent.

Silhouette is never going to be one of my favourite albums as it is just a bit to disjointed and commercial for my tastes but there are a few gems like Chop That Wood and Lines In The Road that alone make this an album worth having.

www.catherinemaclellan.com


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

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Girls Guns and Glory: Sweet Nothings

Fronted by the golden voiced Ward Hayden, sounding like a cross between Elvis, Chris Isaak and Buddy Holly, Girls Guns and Glory play a seriously infectious brand of retro country rock'n'roll that pays a huge debt of gratitude to the likes of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and The Everly Brothers yet still manages to sound fresh and not at all dated.

Album opener Baby's Got A Dream sets the tone for the whole album with a slick slice of country rock that builds and builds before exploding into life with a cacophony of guitars and Hammond organ. Both Sweet Nothings and Night Time have some serious guitar licks going on but at different ends of the spectrum with the former taking a rockier route and the latter with a definite hint of cowpunk. Things take a mellow turn with the wonderful Last Night I Dreamed where at times Hayden sounds uncannily like Roy Orbison and Charlie Rose lends some beautiful pedal steel playing.

Girls Guns and Glory remind me at times of a country version of The Stray Cats and none more so as on Root Cellar and Snake Skin Belt. The album closes on the track that nudges it for me as the albums stand out. Universe Began is a grandiose ballad with some fantastic drumming from Michael Calabrese and heartfelt vocals from Hayden. The musicianship throughout this record is of the highest standard with Paul Dilley's and Chris Hersch's bass playing and guitar work playing a massive part in the enjoyment of this brilliant record.

Every so often a musical genre need to look back to move forward and Girls Guns and Glory have found the perfect balance on Sweet Nothings. Rockabilly and country in perfect unison.

www.girlsgunsandglory.com

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

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Fearing & White: Fearing & White

We like Andy White here at Music Critc HQ but his new musical partner Stephen Fearing is a new name to us. White an Irish troubadour with a punk ethic that through the years has acquired an Americana sound while Fearing is a rootsy country singer with an embellished reputation in his native Canada. The resulting album is a mixed bag of Americana and rock that is at times stunning and at others frustratingly incoherent.

Album opener Say You Will feels like a warm up jam that somehow made it onto the record and no one noticed. It is not until 3 tracks in that things take an interesting turn with the brilliant Mothership. The muted bass and multi layered vocal interaction really sets this track apart from the boredom that proceeded it. The bittersweet pop of What We Know Now brings to mind the twee pop eccentricities of Edwyn Collins and makes both guys sound far more at home with their partnership.

Contender for stand out track is the gritty blues of Under The Silver Sky with some nifty guitar playing courtesy of Fearing and a twin vocal attack that highlights the distinct differences in the guys voices. They both have a very different vocal approach but somewhere in the world of Fearing & White it just works. It is however the sumptuous Heaven For A Lonely Man that nudges it in the stand out stakes. The chiming guitars and textured vocals combine in a blissful union that casts a hypnotic spell.

October Lies seems to have been lifted from the Noel Gallagher book of how to rip of other bands as it sounds uncannily like Half The World Away (the theme from The Royle Family). I wanted to like this album a lot more than I do but much of it seems thrown together and rushed. The sum of the combined talents should have produced a record far better than this and I kind of feel let down. With the odd exception this is a pretty unremarkable record that is unlikely to help either Fearing or White increase their fan base.

www.fearingandwhite.com

[][][ (2.5/5)

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Blame Sally: Speeding Ticket and a Valentine

San Fransisco quartet Blame Sally seem to use music as a cathartic release. Speeding Ticket and a Valentine is an album strewn with lyrics that relate to the personal lives of the 4 female members. While the lyrics make it an album that is easily relatable, the music lets it down with a country sound that comes across like a Shania Twain pastiche.

Of all the 10 tracks contained on this album, there is only a slight spark of originality. When they do get it right, like with Mona Lisa Smile & Take Me There, they are nothing short of stunning but there are are too many tracks with the pseudo pop rock of
Living Without You and the lightweight harmonies of Throw Me A Bone which sees them stuck in a comfort zone of mediocrity and banality. If the production had a slight rough edge to it then they may have managed to pull this album off but as it is, it all feels rather sterile and soulless.

The country twang of Bird In Hand has been done so many times before, and done better, that it sounds contrived with Big Big Bed following the same formula. With every listen I begin to resent this record more and more as there are the seeds of what could have been a good album but it is hidden behind the over polished production and what appears to be an overbearing desire to make a quirky record.

Given the experience of the band and the additional musicians draughted in, I was expecting far more from Blame Sally. There is no doubting the musicianship on display, it is just a pity they don't have the songs to do them justice.

www.blamesally.com

[][] (2/5)

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Eleanor McEvoy: Alone

It has been a mystery to me for many years why Eleanor McEvoy is not a household name. It is fair to say that many of her, less talented, contemporaries have achieved greater success while she has almost been forgotten by the music establishment. McEvoy is a songwriter that I have held in great affection for many years. She has an honesty to her music with lyrics that have never shied away from the darker sides of live whether that be the abuse of women and children in Africa or by the catholic church in Ireland.

With Alone McEvoy revisits a career that covers 10 albums and 22 years of recording with stripped back re-recordings of tracks from every period of her music. Her best known songs, Only A Woman's Heart & Sophie are both present and sounding even more fresh and poignant than when she first recorded them. Only A Woman's Heart catapulted McEvoy to fully fledged star status in her native Ireland, and indeed in most of Europe, but moving away from major labels to gain more control over her career meant that her public profile dipped considerably. This is a real pity as she arguably recorded some of her better work when freed from the confines of label interference, as the majestic and unsurpassed album Early Hours demonstrated.

You'll Hear Better Songs (Than This) from the afore mentioned Early Hours is a definite highlight with its sideswiping lyrics and melancholy diminished chords. Throughout McEvoy's trademark distinctive Irish brogue is in full effect. Days Roll By is an equally splendid song that deals with growing older and unaccomplished dreams that can ring true with all of us. For Avoidance Of Any Doubt is a masterclass in lyric writing that shows a wry sense of humour that is an undercurrent of much of McEvoy's music.

If I'm honest, then McEvoy's last two albums have proved to be huge disappointments in terms of the songs and the production but with Alone she has recaptured that something, that indefinable something, that makes an artist truly special. The voice still has the capability to make my spine tingle and 20 years on from first discovering her music, I have fallen in love with it all over again. The re-recorded versions of Just For The Tourists and Only A Woman's Heart are simply magnificent and are worth buying this album for, excuse the pun, alone.

Eleanor is currently on tour in the UK and Ireland. Catch her if you can as she is quite simply magnificent live.

www.eleanormcevoy.com

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

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Billy Vincent: Once On The Grand Union (ep)

I don't know if the guys from Billy Vincent are fans of, or even heard of, Les Negresses Vertes but they share the same punk folk ethic as the shambolic French band but there is no denying that Billy Vincents roots lye firmly in the English folk. You can here everything from The Clash to Billy Bragg and Dexy's Midnight Runners in this 4 track ep.

Opener St. Catherine's Oratory throws you off with its melancholy opening before erupting into a sprinting punk folk workout but it is the following Through Stations For Trains that is the stand out for me with a rousing anthemic chorus that sticks in the head long after this ep is finished. The bittersweet Young Hearts shows the band are capable of moments of real tenderness with some heartfelt vocals and brilliant pedal steel playing to make this a truly memorable song.The ep closes on the countrified Truly with some wonderful harmonies that morphs into a rocking slice of alt-folk.

You get the feeling that Billy Vincent really come alive when on stage but they manage to transfer some of that energy with this ep. Definitely a band to watch.

www.billyvincent.co.uk

~ Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Syd Arthur: Ode To The Summer (single)

There is a reason why bands release singles. It is a teaser for what is to come and with this single, Canterbury 4 piece Syd Arthur have certainly got my attention. I've no idea what the rest of their stuff sounds like but Ode To The Summer is a fitting epitaph if they were never to record anything else ever again.

This is a total killer of a single. Seriously... this is one of the best, if not the best single I have ever been asked to review. It flirts with jazz, rock and pop and you can see that these guys must have one hell of a record collection where Allan Holdsworth sits next to Soft Machine. It has a seriously infectious riff all driven along with some gloriously laid back jazzy vocals. A blissful masterpiece. I simply love this song and can't wait to see if their album can match this majesty.


www.sydarthur.co.uk

~

The Dirty Tracks: Never Been To Mars (single)

Spanish indie popsters The Dirty Tracks have a sound that is familiar yet hard to pigeon hole. They have a certain fragile grandeur to their sound which is mainly due to the production but they sit on a border between emo rock and 60's psychedelia without ever sounding either. It is obvious that Muse have been a major influence in their sound but there is a twee charm to The Dirty Tracks that makes them hugely endearing.

Never Been To Mars is a ramshackle blur of Peter Hook bass lines with muddy guitars and twisting vocals that I'm sure John Peel would have loved as much as I ldo. The single is backed up by two other tracks. House Of Dolls starts so weakly that I feel the urge to hit skip but suddenly bursts into life and displays a quirkiness that manages to redeem itself but it is the brilliant The Square that steals the show for me with front man Coma's falsetto vocals soaring above the interweaving guitars and samples.

The band are on tour in the UK at the moment and on the evidence of this are well worth checking out.

www.facebook.com/Thedirtytracks

~

Collapse Under The Empire: Shoulders & Giants

Shoulders & Giants is the first of two concept albums from the German post industrial soundscapers. Like their previous releases, this is an all instrumental album that ebbs and flows with a brooding intensity, like a metallised version of Front 242 (ask your dad), but it also means that It suffers from sounding a bit like a soundtrack from some Armageddon inspired video game.

Even if you like your music dark, you may still feel the need to glue a couple of halogen bulbs to your eye balls as this is darker than a black hole. The bleak feel of this album is part of its concept where it imparts a brutality while showing glimmers of hope. There is a sameness to all 10 tracks on here. A lift and lay effect where quiet ponderous sounds give way to a cacophony of layered textures that are at times overpowering, at times boring and at times moving.

Much of the instrumentation is repeated as in the tracks
Shoulders, The Last Reminder and Incident
which I presume is intentional and part of the concept. The thing is though, that this record sounds like an album without a vocal. The structure of the songs are such that whenever I listen to them, I can follow the vocal melody yet there is none. It is a bit like listening to The Cocteau Twins without Liz Frazer's vocals. You can take so many more risks when you make an instrumental album as by its very nature you have melodic freedom yet CUTE have played it safe from start to finish.

Based on its concept, it achieves what it sets out to do but it is at the listeners expense. This is pop music pretending to be something it is not as it would appear are CUTE. Not a bad album, just not a great one.

www.collapseundertheempire.com

[][][] (3/5)

~

Ladies Who Lunch: Landscapes and Personal Spaces

Ladies Who Lunch are a four piece rock band from London. They seem and sound like nice chaps and if the PR blurb which accompanied their album is anything to go by, they aren’t short of confidence. The trouble with listening to their debut album, Landscapes and Personal Spaces is that it isn’t good, not at all. I thought I was going to hear the next big thing but sadly for them, I didn’t.

I tried really hard to give Ladies Who Lunch a second third and fourth chance yet still they didn’t grab me. In some ways I felt a bit sorry for them. They bang on about working with legendary producer Harvey Birrell but the biggest problem with this album is the production. Beneath Your Skin is a good case in point. A decent enough song but the guitar hook isn’t loud enough and ultimately like most of the album lacks any intensity. On the few occasions when they try and change direction and get more dramatic with grungy minor chords on Broken Glasshouse and Currents they seem to lack direction and guidance in terms of structure, again as much the producer’s fault as the bands.

Ultimately the songs aren’t strong enough and it all seems to be one dimensional. It’s tough trying to think of anything positive to say. There’s a world of difference between writing songs for your pals who’ll just love everything you do and taking those songs out there into the world and convincing the public that you’ve got what it takes. Somewhere along the line, Ladies Who Lunch, whether through mismanagement bad luck or lack of experience have got it wrong at every turn from their name, the structure of their songs to their choice of legendary producer.

www.ladieswholunch.info

[] (1/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

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The Breakers: The Breakers - Album of the Month - Sept 2011

The last place you’d expect The Breakers to hail from would be Copenhagen. They sound like a classic Stax soul blues rock’n’roll band schooled on Steve Marriott, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye but also a smattering of Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and The Black Crowes but they seem to be leading a Danish soul music revolution.

One of the things we love most at The Music Critic is when we hear a band who you can tell have listened to decent records and loads of groups. There’s a feel of The Stones at their Muscle Shoals, Brown Sugar and Wild Horses best. Not many people know that the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section were the first rhythm section to buy their own studio. The Breakers bassist and drummer perform excellently throughout this album. I would wager they’d have a future as session men in their own studio if they felt like putting their feet up.

The songs are all great, very well arranged, the bass and drums disciplined and the singing soulful. You’ve got the cool of The Yardbirds and the swagger of the MC5 on The Jerry Lee Symptoms and Riot Act. Tracks like Rainy Day and If You Please sounds like The Faces at their heart broken best and Soulfire sounds like the same band in party mode. Soulfire and Baby Blue stand out as great radio friendly tracks and Temptations gets an honourable mention in despatches.

This album is on Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label and he produces and arranges the album too. If anyone has a decent ear for a good time rock’n’roll band then it’s him. Fantastic.

www.thebreakers.dk

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

Review by Charlie Brown

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Goodluck Jonathan: This Is Our Way Out

For me, Goodluck Jonathan is an answer to a quiz question. Who is the President of Nigeria? Answer? Well done go to the top of the class. Goodluck Jonathon are also, a five piece from Brighton who have released an album called This Is Our Way Out. Sadly it’s not very good. I found this album depressing and soulless from start to finish. Radiohead or Nick Drake can be depressing but there’s something that lets you connect with their music. The same can’t be said for this album.

There’s loads of posturing and intensity but it’s mainly style over content. It is at times pretentious and full of heartfelt angst but is ultimately all bluster with no subtlety. You feel like saying here’s an acoustic guitar sing me one of your songs but they can’t connect. It sounds like they can only perform turned up to ten in an aircraft hangar. Everyone sounds like they’re showing off instead of working collectively as a band.

The songs aren’t good enough though the playing is good. It strikes me that Goodluck Jonathan are one of the those bands who read guitar, drum and bass player mags instead of buying records and trying to work out what made bands tick. Fatman stands out as does Away From Here but that’s about it I’m afraid.

Calling an album called This Is Our Way Out doesn’t help either. On this showing you’re not going anywhere in a hurry chaps. After hearing this, the answer to the question is still President of Nigeria.

www.myspace.com/goodluckjonathanofficial

[] (1/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

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The Innocence Mission: My Room In The Trees

When you listen to bands like The Innocence Mission you have to be in the mood, forget about garage punk, The Ramones and The Dead Kennedys. You have to bring a willing, clear mind and listen to something with no preconceived ideas. You have to listen to what’s going on and what’s happening is a wonderfully compelling and musically proficient album.

On listening to songs like All the Weather and Rhode Island it’s evident that singer Karen Peris has a delightfully charming, childlike innocent quality to her voice. The music matches this with a warm, laid back style. The nylon string guitars and harmonies are high in the mix giving a natural sounding album. Everything fits really well, giving a smooth and dreamy sound. In terms of the stand out tracks, The Happy Mondays and Spring are beautifully crafted pop songs.

The album itself is wonderfully produced as is the sleeve, again everything fits perfectly. You’re left wondering why they haven’t enjoyed a breakthrough which matches and reflects their critical acclaim. Maybe it’s because The Innocence Mission aren’t reinventing the wheel. What they are doing, as all artists should, is looking for truth and honesty and stick to what feels right for them. My Room In The Trees is like a good book that’s recommended to you. You love it and pass it on.

If you like Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, The Cowboy Junkies and 10,000 Maniacs when they were really folky, you’ll love this album.

www.theinnocencemission.com

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

Review By Charlie Brown

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The Rudiments: Doctor Bones Fried Medicine

Glasgow based band in Love and Byrds inspired album shocker. It’s not a new story. For decades, the late great Arthur Lee and his pals on the West Coast folk and psychedelic music scene have inspired more groups in Glasgow than you could shake a deep friend mars bar at. I know why. Weather.

I listened to Dr Bones Fried Medicine on a wet Monday afternoon as the tail end of an American hurricane battered the west coast of Scotland and it worked well. Glasgow bands have always worked better in the rain dreaming of sunshine and 60’s West Coast Americana. The Rudiments are a five piece Glasgow outfit who have followed that tradition.

Stuart Smith’s laid back vocal style and the bands folky harmonies and tricky guitar work shine on Doctor Bones Fried Medicine. There’s a lot of upside, great sixties influenced band with fantastic harmonies and nice Beatlesesque moments by a band who you can tell have listened to the right records. Downside; if you’re going to sound mellow and laidback, make sure the songs stay tight and well constructed, there are a few moments when the music goes off project and when you’re only releasing seven songs and an EP lasting twenty two minutes, it’s crucial to keep the quality high.

With songs like the wonderful opener For Simpler Times, the country folk feel of Whisky From a Bowl, to the great closer The Last Hero of Switzerland and a barrage of prevailing Westerlies battering the west coast of Scotland with rain all year round, The Rudiments have no excuses.

www.therudiments.net

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

Review by Charlie Brown

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Ian McFeron: Summer Nights

Ian McFeron from Seattle is a man on a mission. Not only does he manage himself, his own label, organise his own tour schedule, book venues, hotels and play constantly; last year it was over 200 shows, this year even more to come as we speak. He still finds time to record his latest album, Summer Nights, his sixth album in eight years. It was recorded over a ten day period, in East Nashville.

This is an accomplished album which with any luck, should see Ian McFeron get his reward. It is at times gospel, folk, even jazz and swing. It has a maturity which meanders, especially on the title track Summer Nights, toward a similar feel and vibe in terms of arrangement to those clever Van Morrison albums. On tracks like the stark and dramatic Hard Since You’ve Been Gone a great vocal performance, similar to that distinctive John Lennon angst and echo when he was losing his mind working with Phil Spector.

The opener, Shine a Little Light and You’re Still On My Mind also stood out for honourable mentions. The backing musicians also deserve loads of praise here as does producer Doug Lancio for garnering that warm, natural live feel as if the band were recording together as a unit.

It’s unusual for me to like anything that remotely sounds like David Gray, Jack Johnson, Paulo Nuttini or Ryan Adams but there is definitely a skilled artist at work here. There are many troubadours out there but unlike a lot of his polished slick contemporaries you get the feeling that with the relentless touring, travelling and 6 albums in 8 years, Ian McFeron is benefitting from doing it the hard way. He is the real deal and isn’t faking it.

www.ianmcferon.com

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

Review by Charlie Brown

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