- Album Reviews
And then there was one. When the first Winter Mountain album came out in 2013 the band were a duo. Following the departure of Irishman Marty Smyth this second album sees Cornwall native Joe Francis responsible for the songs, the vocals and most of the instruments. He also produced the album. And beautifully produced it is;
'I Swear I Flew' is a collection of catchy songs with really varied instrumentation: Harmonica, piano, organ and mandolin are all used sparingly and effectively. Folk rock can often sound quite bland and generic, with too many instruments bashing away at the same time, but Winter Mountain manage to avoid this. The sound is crisp and clear. The band moniker is appropriate as there is a wintery feel about this music.
Joe Francis has a sympathetic voice, sometimes reminiscent of Brian Fallon, sometimes John Waite, but most often he sounds like a poppier Jon Boden, which is not a a bad thing at all. Seth Lakeman adds some very nice fiddle parts and guests on bouzouki and background vocals (as per info; I would not have picked out his voice).
Opener 'Platinum and gold' is the standout track. It starts as if heard on a transistor radio; then someone finds a dial and the volume goes up. This is a neat effect. Ballad 'The Morning Bell' is good too; a pretty melody with folky acoustic guitar. Joe's influences come through in the music: 'Things That I've Done Wrong' sounds like Neil Young. The intro of 'Fireworks Night' is so much like 'Thunder Road' that Bruce Springsteen could sue. There are echoes of U2 as well.
Lyrical content is an area for improvement. There is an overload of weather, seasons, mountains and rivers, earth and sky, moon and stars; things burning, glowing, sparkling ("Heaven like a lemon tree grows her diamonds in the sky"). Lots of imagery, but what is it all about? You get the sense that this is a break-up album of sorts. The press release says that the album is a musical diary covering recent events in Joe's life.
'Banba's Crown' is named after Ireland's most northernly building on the mainland, at Malin Head in county Donegal. Joe Francis has spent time in this beautiful part of Ireland while working on his music. Banba was the mythological patron goddess of Ireland. I have visited this spot and it is nice to be reminded of it, however in this song again we get images rather than substance.
Winter Mountain have an impressive touring record, having played support to Guy Garvey, Rosanna Cash, Sara Watkins, Seth Lakeman and Cara Dillon among others. Live seems to be where Winter Mountain really do well and this new album will be a welcome addition to the merch tables.
- Album Reviews
It’s another great selection of songs from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. You get a new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album and you know what yer paying your money for. It does what it says on the tin. Until you open the tin.
This is more of what we have come to get used to since 'Push The Sky Away'. It’s dark and moody and full of latent suppressed energy with, very emotional and raw feelings for all to hear. Nick Cave singing lyrics" nothing really matters' or 'I need you", it hurts to listen to him singing these words.
These songs were inspired or indeed, affected by the tragic death of Nick Cave’s son during the making of the album. The intersity is energy sapping for the listener, what it must have been like making the album after such tragic events is just mind numbing.
The album does not come with the lyrics included, which makes listening to the songs even better as they take you on one of Mr. Cave’s journeys, and you never know where that’s going to go. The album is definitely a grower, especially if you liked the direction the band was going in with 'Push The Sky Away' and the 'Live from KCRW' album that came out a while after. Skeleton Key, and the Bad Seeds in particular, might seem more subtle, but don’t be fooled by that.
The vocals on the album are not as harsh or hard as we might have had from Nick Cave in the past. Now that he is passed his 20,000 days on earth it seems like he doesn’t need to be as in your face as he sometimes can be (Grinderman?). He instead relies on drawing you in by making you want to listen to what he is saying or singing. And he isn’t always singing. Sometimes it’s more of a semi musical narration. Love songs including references to vomiting in the sink are always going to be a source of intrigue for me.
'Jesus Alone', the opening track of the album is of a similar sound as 'Jubilee Street' from 'Push The Sky Away'. After the first few times of listening this is probably the best track of the album so far. And a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the songs. 'Girl in Amber' is Nick Cave in his best pleading yet threatening tones, with suitable backing vocals.
Another favourite track was the almost spoken word 'Magneto' whichreminds me of Johnny Cash singing "I shot a man in Reno, just to see him die". In Magneto Mr. Cave tells us: "Oh, the urge to kill somebody was basically overwhelming, I had such hard blues down there in the supermarket queues".
Track 5 is Nick Cave looking for the Anthrocene. I had no idea what this was and the nearest thing I could find was Anthropocene, (a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems). It might be a bad spelling or it might be something else completely. Either makes sense and another excellent tune.
On the song 'I Need You', we return again to the earlier themes "When you're feeling like a lover....n,othing really matters anymore I saw you standing there in the supermarket"....
"On Distant Sky" Nick is joined by classically trained Danish soprano Else Torp. Not someone I am familiar with. If asked I would describe this as a duet but I would still feel I might be wrong. The Bad Seeds make it sound like church music which when done right is a beautiful noise. It’s done right here.
Is Nick Cave turning into a Palace Brothers Will Oldham? Skeleton Key lyrics at times reminds me of 'You Will Miss Me When I Burn' from the Bonnie Man himself. You won’t be rocking out or singing along to Skeleton Key, but I will no doubt return to its songs time and time again and then my appreciation of the record will increase each time I do.
To get under the skin of this album it helps to watch the film, 'One More Time with Feeling" as a companion piece.
- Album Reviews
The prodigious Mr Bonamassa releases his latest live offering as a CD/DVD set following his 2015 "Three Kings" tour of the States, in which he pays tribute to bluesmen Albert King, B.B King and Freddie King. The tour culminated at LA’s Greek Theater, and the 22 track double CD/DVD/Blu-ray is a masterclass of modern bluesmanship.
Tellingly, the DVD kicks off with a mini feature of an actual local TV news feature about the young Bonamassa, where we learn that he “feels comfortable" with a guitar in his hand, and that he started playing at the age of 5 and was playing in nightclubs at the age of 9. Just think about that for a moment....he was playing in front of an audience before he had reached double figures age.
As for the show itself, as usual, he is with his regular backing band of Anton Fig on drums, Michael Rhodes on Bass and Reese Wynans on Keys, but is also joined by a 3 piece brass section and 3 piece female backing singers including the wonderful Mahalia Barnes.
The Boss suit and the shades are in place, and the playing is sublime. This is a 2 hour set in which, at least to this reviewers ear, there’s not a note out of place, by any of the band on show. The playing is also faithful to the originals, and Bonamassa’s discipline is to his credit. His trademark solos are blistering and one can almost take them for granted, for example on Lonesome Whistle Blues or I’ll Play The Blues For You, but the crowd show their appreciation in stunning surround sound if you are watching the DVD.
Born Under A Bad Sign, and BB Kings’ The Thrill Is Gone, close the set and also serve as a poignant moment as King passed away a couple of months before the tour and Bonamassa has gone on to say how much he regretted him not being alive to see the spectacle.
The second disc of the DVD is reserved for special features, including videos, behind the scenes features, picture galleries and most interestingly a fabulous interview with Bonamassa’s parents. Based in Utica, NY, we learn that Mr Bonamassa Sr is also a guitar player, although he admits Jo “walked right by him at the age of 6” and they realised he had an amazing talent.
This is another wonderful addition to Bonamassa’s live releases, and what clearly comes over is this is a real event that the band are enjoying as much as the audience. What a thrill it must have been to be there, but thankfully the DVD is a document for those of us who weren’t.
- Album Reviews
A big widescreen psych sound is what 'Compulsion Songs' by the Lucid Dream is when it lands on your turntable. Psych driven but, other influences soak into the framework of the songs over the 44 minutes of this, the band’s third album.
The band themselves hail from Carlisle, where vistas of raw Cumbrian countryside surround the city so it's no wonder, The Lucid Dream have come up with such vast musical landscapes themselves.
‘Bad Texan’ with all its raw psych majesty opens the album, followed by a spacey ‘Stormy Waters’. The album itself was recorded at Whitewood Studios, in Liverpool, with Rob Whiteley, and the album was produced alongside longtime collaborator Ross Halden (Ghost Town Studios, Leeds). The more you listen to the record, you find yourself lost in the musical territory of everyone from 13th Floor Elevators to Spiritualized.
Third song, 'I’m a Star in my own right’ carries a reggae and 2-tone vibe encompassed in a psych bubble. 'The Emptiest Place' (which would fit in a Tarantino soundtrack) and '21st Century' are two short/sharp psych mindbenders which, back in the sixties may have been chart singles.
This fine record rounds out with two epic tracks ‘Nadir’ and ‘Epitaph’. The former Floydish and the latter in the land of Wooden Shijps and Moon Duo.
If you are interested in the future of British psych, then check out Compulsion Songs which is released on 23rd September via Holy Are You Recordings
Thursday 22nd September: London The Lexington
Saturday 24th September: Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia
Friday 30th September: Cardiff The Moon Club
Saturday 1st October: Manchester Night and Day
Friday 28th October: Newcastle The Cluny 2
Saturday 29th October: Nottingham The Lofthouse
Saturday 12th November: Hebden Bridge Trades Club
- Album Reviews
- Album Reviews
Ed Harcourt doesn't do concept albums, but this feels as close as we might ever get to one.
With opening track a piano-laced 'Intro' taking us into latest single 'The World is On Fire' Harcourt establishes the theme this album is built around, a stark statement of how badly we are treating the place we inhabit. But Ed cleverly draws parallels between the behaviour of the human race and his own flawed persona: 'I'm a beast of a man....' and the slightly more humorously self-deprecating lyric 'I'm an occupational hazard'.
This album was long in gestation. Harcourt has had a lengthy collaboration with Flood but it was definitely worth waiting for. Flood's excellent production resulting in a wonderful darkness that is always a feature of Harcourt's lyrics and on this record gives an earthy feel to the songs.
A large number of stand out tracks: 'The World Is On Fire' with pulsating echoey drums and exquisite female harmonies, 'Loup Garou' quickly becomes an ear-worm!! Title track 'Furnaces' takes us back 'into the abyss'.
'Dionysus' is classic Harcourt piano but with addition of threatening drums and keys. For Ed devotees the songs don't reach the heights of 'Heart Of Darkness' but there's plenty here to get the pulse racing.
Respite is found in the hand-clapping 'There is A Light Below' which leads to a couple of latter gems 'The Last Of Your Kind' and mesmerising album closer 'Antartica Ghetto'
Harcourt's previous six albums have tended to fall in to the 'critically acclaimed' category without getting the mainstream attention his artistry deserves. This album could just be the one that earns him greater public acclaim.
For Ed himself it feels like it's life-affirming; possibly career-defining too?
- Album Reviews
The southern United States seemingly has an endless supply of quality guitar based troubadours and bands, and now its time to add Mr Walker to that list.
Stay Gold is actually this Georgia native's 8th album, although to many in the UK this will be new news with previous album, last year’s Afraid of Ghosts, being seemingly his first taste of exposure to the UK.
Contrary to Afraid of Ghosts, which was inspired by the sad passing of his father, this is a full on, in your face rock and roll album, and after just a couple of spins, you realise if this had been released by a certain Mr Springsteen, we’d all be talking about him being back on form.
The previous album was produced by Ryan Adams and his influence has clearly rubbed off, especially from around his Gold era, along with the aforementioned Springsteen. Even some of the joy and hooks from Bryan Adams and pop hooks of Rick Springfield are evident on this release. This is a damn fine album of classic American rock and roll, best enjoyed with a cold beer sitting in the sunny back garden, or better still in a convertible Cadillac driving down route 66.
Stay Gold opens with the title track, a full on no holds barred rock and roller, almost mimicking The Summer of 69 guitar riffs, before cascading into the chorus shouting out to natives of his home town to stay positive. The mood is set for the next few tracks, including one of the album highlights Wilder in the Heart - almost Counting Crows like accordian adding depth and grace to this joyous tale of an airport meeting with a girl.
Surprise of the ten tracks on show comes with the piano led Descending, coming slap bang in the middle of the album. This is a gorgeous duet with country singer Ashley Monroe, and a standout from anything else on the album, but none the worse for it, in fact it almost provides a respite and prevents the album being one dimensional.
Spark:Lost is my favourite of the tracks on offer here, a mid paced fabulous sing along chorus, before the guitar break and harmonious oohs and aahs at the close of the song. Wonderful uplifting stuff.
The acoustic Record Store closes the album as a love song to the disappearing record store culture, although this acts almost as a bring me down and suitable closure to the set of songs.
This is the type of album you put on at a BBQ or gathering of friends, and sit back and wait for people to ask who the hell just came on the stereo. It has influences all over the album, but its a worthy addition for any fans of those bands and singers. Several spins on and you start unpicking the lyrics and the stories buried within the gorgeous songs, and you realise what a songwriter Walker is. This is a cracking album, and its impossible not to feel cheered up while its on.
- Album Reviews
I fell in love with Seth Lakeman at Glastonbury 2007, where I first came across his music and went to see him more than once. My most vivid memory is of a solo performance at a very muddy Glade. I was really impressed by the folk rave vibes of his songs 'Kitty Jay' and 'Lady Of The Sea'. I was less enamoured with the somewhat slicker sound on Seth's subsequent releases, but have admired him from distance over recent years.
These days Seth comes up with a novel idea for each record. 'Tales Of The Barrel House' was recorded in a copper mine and a barrelhouse and was a homage to various craftsmen, whereas 'Word Of Mouth' was a concept album of musical biographies based on interviews Seth conducted with locals from Devon and Cornwall.
'Ballads Of The Broken Few' features female vocal trio Wildwood Kin. Fear not, this is not one of those unwelcome pairings whereby backing vocalists on every track outstay their welcome. The girls do appear on every track, but their voices are a wonderful addition to Seth's own very distinctive but somewhat limited voice (this is not a criticism; you sing with the voice that you have). The resulting sound reminds me at times of the 'O Brother Where Art Thou' soundtrack and the backing vocals are also reminiscent of those on Van Morrison's records from the 80s. The collaboration works wonderfully well and has resulted in Seth's most surprising album since 'Kitty Jay'.
Instrumentation is sparse on this record, which was produced by Ethan Johns, whose production credits include Ryan Adams' 'Gold' and Tift Merritt's 'Bramble Rose'. Johns apparently agreed to the job after hearing one rough demo that Seth recorded on his phone of him singing with the girls. There is no conventional band set up. Some songs have little more than vocals and fiddle. When the electric guitar does make an appearance, on the title track, it is all the more powerful for it.
Recorded live in the hall of a Jacobean manor house, the album contains self-penned material as well as traditional ballads. Lyrically there are quite a few songs about hanging out in nature. Protagonists go down into the woods, down to the waters, wander, ramble, drift, they watch falcons fly, rivers roll on. Mortality is the subject of several tracks. 'Silver Threads' is particularly lovely. The singer addresses his darling, laments that time goes so fast and is thankful for every day that is granted to the two of them.
'Meet Me In The Twilight' has already been released to radio and is indeed one of the standout songs. 'Anna Lee' has previously been recorded, in a very similar way, by Levon Helm. 'Pulling Hard Against The Stream' has the potential to become a live favourite. I can well imagine it being performed towards the end of a show, with the audience bellowing along, should they get to know the song well enough. Mortality returns in the final song, 'Bury Me Deep'. Sung a cappella, the singer discusses how he wants to be buried when the time comes.
Sometimes Gothic, sometimes melancholic, this is beautiful music and Seth is to be applauded for going into a new musical direction once again. Another Mercury nomination would be well deserved.
A couple of live session videos have made their way out into the world so far:
The new album is released 16th September, 2016 via Cooking Vinyl
- Album Reviews
The Cult of Dom Keller are: Ryan Delgaudio - Guitar/vocals/noise, Neil Marsden - Keys/vocals/synth, Jason Holt - Bass/synth/backing vocals and Al Burns - Drums/sampler pads/noise ... “Noise” well, ‘Goodbye to the Light” is much more than noise, it get’s the hair’s on the back of the neck upright, from the off.
Sonic psych for the earlobes, reverb heaven this is a gripping record and, one lovingly played at volume!
Opening track, ‘Hole in the Whole” is a brooding song that grows in a matrix of sound, followed by ‘Broken Arm of God’ a real drone cracker of a song. An anthem for the band I’m sure. On this song the band said, “we wanted it to sound like a volcano giving birth to an atomic bomb. It has bass and baritone guitar that killed 3 guitar amps in one afternoon, then a studio preamp. It's probably costing us a fortune in damages and repairs. The result was exactly what we wanted though”
This record is the band’s third and finest so far and is released on London label Fuzz Club. The band themselves hail from Nottingham, a perfect place to compose such epic music.
The sheer scale of the album is impressive, 12 tracks and you need a lay down after the onslaught of just the third song, ‘Raven and Rockets’ which is just as well, as the fourth track is the slower paced widescreen song, ‘Deepest Pit of Emptiness’
So the album is well paced and one that keeps the listener hooked through to the end, it's well worth your time exploring.
The next step must be the live show!
- Album Reviews
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler has released his debut solo album ‘We’re All Somebody from’ Somewhere’ and it is actually quite a gem to this reviewer whose rocking, started in the 70's. Not released with any great hoopla, the music on the record speaks for itself. Having lived with the record for a week, it’s been a staple in the car with the sunshine out to accompany the listening.
Opener ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ is a song of raw emotions and with a superb guitar solo at the end (that fades too soon), it’s a great start to the record.
Tyler co-produced the 15-track album alongside T-Bone Burnett and Dann Huff and was based in Nashville last spring to work on the project. He is since quoted as saying “Country music is the new Rock ‘n Roll.”
This album is about far more than country though. His 19-city solo U.S. tour, is called ‘Steven Tyler’s Out on a Limb’ and that’s what the album is, one of the great rock n’ roll voices playing the songs he wants to outside of ‘the band’ format, just not sure what took him so long.
The funk comes in on the title track whilst, it’s an industrial vibe on ‘Hold On (won’t let go)’ and then the ballad ‘It Ain’t Easy’ and a steel guitar on a highway song, ‘Love is Your Name’ then, it’s a pop song with ‘I make my Own Sunshine’.
‘Gypsy Girl’ could well be the first song termed ‘Country’ on the record. Indeed it’s a record of many styles, many songs and if you love Aerosmith, then there is already a loving fan-base for this record, but also, as a stand-alone album it certainly holds it’s own as a, top down on the car, highway driving record!
It’s not a record trying to re-invent the wheel, it’s just a guy still plying his trade all these years down the road and still having a good time and yes, the album includes a new version of 'Janie's got a Gun'
- Album Reviews
Kat Healy is a singer-songwriter from Edinburgh and for all our listening pleasure, she has released a new ep entitled ‘Wolf’.
A beautiful voice that envelopes the listener in aural honey. Five songs that glide by blissfully with the piano, and cello as the layer on which Kat’s voice rests and soars in equal measure.
Created in the quiet solitude of Schwarzwald in Germany, under the wintery sky of it’s mountain range, the songs were carefully constructed and then brought home to be recorded live over two days, with long time friend and collaborator Garry Boyle at Slate Room Studio in Pencaitland.
Have suffered the lost of her father in 2015, this is Kat’s first recording since. It’s stripped back, emotionally charged and so gentle, that it’s easy to fall in love with this record after the first listen.
Vocals & Acoustic Guitar - Kat Healy
Piano - Thilo Pfander
Harmonium - Thilo Pfander
Cello - Graham Coe
- Album Reviews
Following the release of 2 successful EPs during 2015, Oxfordshire 5 piece Little Brother Eli release their debut album Cold Tales kicking and screaming into the world.
I’m not sure of the musical heritage of Oxfordshire outside of Radiohead, but I suggest the amount of bluesy, garage rock bands can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Little Brother Eli make a great place to start. Think of a melding of Zeppelin riffs, Black Keys energy and chuck in a bit of Biffy, and you’ve got LBE sussed out. Oh, and do yourself a favour, listen with the sound turned up on a stereo rather than headphones, and open the windows for that authentic festival experience because that’s surely where this band are destined to belong.
Anthem opening track Oceans and the equally sing along Dreams are surely destined to be live favourites with the sweat soaked front rows singing back the lyrics to the band while they get on with the business of the downright dirty, filthy riffing.
Roll Away changes pace (slightly) with its lovely verse and chorus before again descending into damn heavy riffage, whilst keeping the mood laid back.
Gold starts with acoustic guitar and wouldn’t be out of place if you heard this on the back porch of a Louisiana homestead backing onto the Mississippi. Southern boogie, courtesy of the home counties.
Title track, and album closer Cold Tales showcases the fabulous vocal skills of Alex Grew. At just over 5 minutes, its the longest track on the album and seems to nicely sum up the collective 9 tracks that have passed previously. It acts as a Sunday morning hangover track, counterpointing the Saturday night adrenaline soaked previous cuts.
Where on earth the band get their inspiration from is irrelevant if they are making music this good. Who cares that they are from middle England, and not the Southern States. These guys already stand alongside much more experienced and established acts as those previously mentioned. They’ve got riffs, they’ve got balls, they’ve got attitude and most importantly, they have got some damn fine tunes. This is a band going places.