Album Reviews

"I got old and decided I didn't want to be an old punk", says Lil' Lost Lou in Vive Le Rock magazine, explaining what prompted her to go the country way. Lou is from Camden Town and has her own band, however this is her solo debut.

The album was recorded, analogue and taking no more than twelve hours in the wonderfully named 'Welcome To 1979' Studios in Nashville with producer Billy Livsey at the helm. It features top Nashville session musicians, most notably pedal steel player Russ Pahl. The album was finalised back in the UK with the help of producer Sean Kenny and it has to be said that the sound is fantastic - punchy, warm and clear all at once. It makes you wonder why musicians spend a year recording an album if this can be achieved in twelve hours.

Top marks for sound therefore, and Lou Psyche is a fine singer too. The album is eleven songs short, all her own, and a varied collection of songs it is. The sequencing is curious. I once read an interview with an artist or producer (cannot recall who) who had asked his wife for advice on the sequencing of songs on an album. Her advice was to put the best song first, the second best song second etc. This was done and deemed a success. For me it sounds like Lou has done the opposite. The first couple of songs are the least remarkable; standard melodies with somewhat uninspiring lyrics about bad boys who are up to no good and rambling women who cannot help the way they are. 'I Kissed Your Man (Jolene)' is an answer song, from the pont of view of Jolene of the Dolly Parton song.

Halfway through (that is side two the LP) there is a shift with a wonderful ballad called 'Ride A Train'. The train in this song offers an escape when things go wrong. As a train fan this appeals to me. There are lovely backing vocals, handclaps and a lonesome-sounding harmonica. The next song, 'This Is The End', is even better, with Lou sounding like Jack White and with a screeching guitar to match.

In fact all of side two is strong. 'Red Is The Colour Of My Shame' is another good ballad, bookended by faster songs. 'Brown Boots' should be fun to hear live. It is about a hoedown, wearing brown boots while dancing in Nashville.

The album ends with 'Song For Bob Dylan'. In this song, twenty years old according to the press release, Lou addresses the great man directly. This is not a new concept and I wonder if Bob is aware of all the songs written for him (check out Lisa O'Neill's 'Bobby D' for example). Lou's song is inspired by Dylan's poem 'Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie', which contains the lines "Where do you look for this hope that yer seekin'.... you'll find it in the Grand Canyon at sundown":

I look at the sun, it shines so bright
and I get scared when it's dark at night
but I listen to your words and I feel alright
do you know who I am?
do you understand?
did you read my mind, in a dream some time?

A fitting finish to an excellent album.

9/11
Helen.

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Ten years into their musical career and Nashville-via-Mississippi band The Weeks have released their new album ‘Easy’ via Lightning Rod Records.

The Weeks are twin brothers Cyle (vocals) and Cain (drums), Sam Williams (guitar/vocals) and Damien Bone (bass). The band formed in high school in Jackson, Mississippi. They released their first EP in 2006.

The band left Nashville to record in order to disassociate themselves from their everyday routines in the city, and to find a halfway point between their two homes old and new, Mississippi and Nashville. “Memphis has always been the capital of North Mississippi to us", says guitarist Sam Williams. “ We went there to be at Ardent. We knew Paul had learned everything from John Frye and John Hammond so we figured that was the spot. It’s important to keep those historic studios alive and not let them become museums.”

New album, ‘Easy’ certainly does not belong in a museum. Kicking off with ‘Talk Like that’ a rocker that brings to mind bands like Marah and Stewboss, bands so full of energy.

Second track ‘Ike’ gets a sweet Muscle Shoals vibe going for it with a 'Frightend Rabbit' chrous which is followed by the Foals like rift of ‘Start it Up”.

‘Hands on the Radio’ is only the fourth track in and with it’s funky vibe lays before you an album of kaleidoscope colours.

On the record, frontman Cyle Barnes says, “ We called it Easy because every time I make music with these guys, it’s easy. It feels good. But the other side of it is there’s nothing easy about being in a band. There’s nothing easy about staying together for ten years and still wanting to make music. We have the hardest and easiest job on the planet. But it works for us.”

There is a ‘Southern’ feel throughout the eleven tracks of this great driving record. We just need some sunshine to roll down the windows, so we can share this record with the world!

Pete
8/11

 

After 15 solo years dogged by poor deals, the odd single release and probably a lack of being in the right place at the right time, Dave O’Grady aka Seafoam Green releases his debut collection of songs titled Topanga Canyon.

O’Grady is an Irish born, but Liverpool based singer songwriter who clearly has his heart set in the American mid-west, and has been listening to a lot of Creedance, Crosby Stills & Nash and a plethora of Americana.

Interestingly, the album is actually a collaboration with Rich Robinson who he apparently started working with after a chance meeting over in Nashville. Following supporting Robinson on his solo tour, the two started writing and recording together what turns out is a very fine set of rock and roll, Americana songs.

In the nicest possible way, this feels like an album set in the 70s played by flare wearing, handlebar moustachioed dudes, full of guitar licks, pedal steel and damn fine tunes. Vocally O’Grady mentions John Fogerty as an influence, but I can’t get Ron Sexsmith out of my head when he starts singing. A female voice regularly joins in on the harmony parts to great effect too.

Celtic Wanderings starts the album off in a gorgeous manner - quiet, considered, multi layered and beautifully played and sung. Lowly Lou is the opposite - raucous, rock and roll with the chorus a repeating sing along to the Lou mentioned in the title. Rabble rousing and would provide the perfect backdrop to siping bourbon in a bar in Nashville. Royal Call is heavy on the gorgeous pedal steel, and again it’s a dual vocal affair which just adds to the prettiness of the song.

And so it goes on. This is another of those rare albums nowadays which benefits from actual sitting down and listening to it, in it’s entirety whilst giving it your full attention, and you will be rewarded.

The musicianship, the tunes, the feel of the album is something special - it’s a good time album that just cheers you up after playing it. This is an album played by talented musicians, who play real instruments and that should be celebrated.

It’s interesting to note that the album release funding was helped by the Merseyside Arts Foundation. Let’s hope that this album sells enough for them to not need to look around for funds for album number two, because we need Seafoam Green to make music like this for years to come.

Keith

10/11

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Mellowtone Records

The August List are West Country husband-and-wife duo, Kerraleigh & Martin Child and their second album is called 'Ramshackle Tabernacle' which, is released on the 5th May through Ubiquity Project Records.

On hearing this album for the first time, it’s like being transported to a wild desolate Americana landscape where songs come from deep down in the soul and are sung with passion. The band ‘Mount Moriah' comes to mind as a comparison. These are songs to be sung on a road trip through the Colorado Desert even though they were recorded at the Strawhouse Studios in Oxford!

Just nine songs, the album does, come round to a more British landscape vibe mid-way through on ‘Connie Converse” a true account of the 1950's singer songwriter who became disillusioned and vanished and to this day, no-one knows what happened to her.

The harmony of the two voices are pitched just right and there is a host of instrumentation, Kerraleigh - Vocals/ Harmonicas/ Percussion/ Stylophone and Martin - Acoustic & Electric Guitar / Vocals/ Banjo/ Percussion. Never over the top, this is a finely balanced record that by any logic, should see The August List playing many a festival this summer.

Pete
9/11

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Dates

Friday May 12th, London, Harrison Bar
Saturday 13th, Oxford, The Cellar
Friday May 26th, Reading, Rising Sun Arts Centre

Back with their first record in four years, is Austin based Psych-Rockers, The Black AngelsDeath Song’ will be released through Partisan Records on 21st April, with a special edition version following on Record Store Day, the day after.

The band, now with a substantial back catalogue behind them will headline this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest in September, with a sound from the new album that will bounce off the walls of the festival firing psychedelic bullets into your senses.

‘Currency’ a single and the early lead song kicks off the album with a sonic abrasiveness to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, this then gets surpassed with the powerful “I’d Kill for Her’ with its screaming guitars. ‘Half Believing’ is menacing and is followed by ‘Comanche Moon’ tackling the United States' history of genocide against Native Americans. Dark topics indeed.

The Black Angels are back and in fine form, Produced by Phil Ek who has worked with the likes of Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, and the The Shins, ‘Death Song’ is a totally different sphere sound wise, it’s turned out to be a really dynamic record.

We would never expect The Black Angels to change direction to give us a album of ballads or pop songs, so it must be a challenge to always create something new but, on this album there is such a fresh fuzzed landscape that it could easily become one of the band’s best records.

‘I Dreamt’ delivers a ‘Moon Duo’ daze and is just a dream track to shut your eyes to, then comes the onslaught that is ‘medicine’ and it eyes wide open, jumping around the room again. 

The album closes with 'Life Song', six and a half minutes of Floyd influenced psych and a fitting conclusion.

Have a listen to 'Currency'  

As mentioned, on 22nd April 22nd, a special limited edition release of ‘Death Song’ will be made available for Record Store Day, including the new album on two glow-in-the-dark vinyl LPs and packaging printed entirely in blacklight-reactive ink. There’s another one for the shopping list!

Pete
9/11