M. Ward – What a Wonderful Industry

Perhaps best known these days as the Him in She & HimM. Ward hasn’t abandoned his solo career. In fact, the musician released a brand new unannounced album today called What a Wonderful Industry.

It marks the follow-up to 2016’s More Rain, and perhaps as indicated by the LP’s title, it’s a self-released effort through M. Ward Records.

The 12-track offering even features a guest appearance by Ward’s Monsters of Folk bandmate and My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James on “Miracle Man.”

Larry Peninsula – Country Music Only

No matter age, gender, region of origin, country of origin, religion, social status, sexual preference, or anything else, everyone has the right to make country music if it’s something that dwells with passion in their heart. Authenticity is not just about who you are, or where you’re from. Sure these things are positive attributes in country music, if you were born and raised in the South or Texas, or did your time on a farm or ranch for example. But the true measure of authenticity is how true an artist is to themselves.

Often the ranks of traditional country artists are populated by people who feel like prisoners to their time, out-of-place in the modern context, or enslaved by their native geography. They just don’t seem to fit quite right in their world. But in the realm of country music, everything feels familiar. It’s astounding how far this country music passion can travel, and in the case of Larry Peninsula, it made its way to to Scandinavia, and Peninsula’s home country of Finland where he’s been obsessing over everything tied to traditional country music and the American West for many years.

Working tirelessly in his home studio for over three years, Peninsula has finally revealed his debut album Country Music Only. As the name implies, this is no close approximation of American country music. Sure, maybe the foreign accent finds its way through in some of the annunciations, and some use of idiom and language doesn’t translate exactly like it does in country music served in the genre’s native tongue. But what does shine through in stark brilliance is the passion for country music Peninsula and his players exhibit, the studious attention to detail and authentic modes they craft into these songs, and frankly just the overall appeal for the music, regardless of the country of origin.

What you’re first astounded by when you cue up the opening title track is how incredibly tasteful the guitar tones come blazing out at you. With all due respect to the North American outfits out there blazing old school country, only a few select folks like Marty Stuart and “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan could match the skill displayed just in the first 20 seconds of the first song. Larry Peninsula went all out to make sure this record was respectful to the sounds and modes of country music from the start, and it doesn’t let up until the end. This is what Saving Country Music first heard months back, placing “Country Music Only” on the Top 25 Playlist when the song was first released.

Luckily though, this album’s riches don’t stop there. The second song “Just A Moment In Time” is probably the most contemporary track on the record, and may trip some traditionalists up with the first listen. But it’s also probably one of the best written songs on the record. There are a few songs that are very country, like “Country Music Only” and “Pretty Good Crowd,” but the songwriting is kind of pedestrian. But that is not the case with tracks like “Wastin’ Daylight,” which might be the best effort on the record, or “Cowboy Heart” where Larry Peninsula speaks very directly to being a foreigner stung by the country music bug.

Throughout this record, you get a sense of loneliness many traditional country music artists and their fans feel in the modern context. “Where The Rain Is Green” is about dreaming of a place where things make more sense than in the world you’re in, and almost hoping beyond hope to make contact with it. And Peninsula isn’t just inspired by the country, he’s also inspired by Western, which evidences itself in the songs “Dead Renegade” and “I’d Rather Die With My Boots On.” And not to leave his Finnish fans in the lurch, and in a bid to be true to himself, the album ends with him singing and playing a country song in his native language.

The musicians who performed on this record also deserve kudos, including Henry B. Jones on bass guitar, Ilkka Jolma on pedal steel guitar, and Heikki Honkanen on harmonica. But Larry Peninsula played all of the guitars and drums on the record himself, which is astounding since the guitar work is one of the principle assets of it.

It should be the desire of every country music fan to break down whatever barriers persist in people’s hearts and minds, and let the best and most talented artists rise to the top regardless of who they are, or where they’re from. In a just world, an artist like Larry Peninsula and an album like Country Music Only would be reaching everyone with a love of country music in their hearts. Sure, some stuff is lost in the translation. But what is astounding is what is accomplished despite the language barriers and borders separating Larry Peninsula from the origin spot of country music. His passion and guitar work blazes through, and his songwriting holds up in any language.

Country music won’t be bordered, and Larry Peninsula is living proof.

Mary Marecek – Cotton Flowers

Bluegrass and gospel songs that capture the beauty of the farm life.
Album Notes
These original songs from the heart serve to share my love of God and the farm life through song. The farm and ranch life provides a great environment for writing music. I feel close to God when I’m surrounded by the land. My songs were written while driving the tractor or sitting on the porch in the evening. My hope is that these songs will uplift and inspire the listener.
“Rockin’ in The Cradle” is a song about driving the tractor
“I Love It When He Prays” captures the beauty of prayer in families.
“My Tractor’s Got A Soul” reached out to all romantics and classic tractor enthusiasts
“I Love To Pray” is a catchy gospel song that is good for church services.
“Love Letter” is written for a very special little girl named Carolinie who was and lost her adopted Mommy to heart failure when she was just 6 years old. My hope and prayer is that this song will restore the souls of all listeners.
“Hold Me In Your Heart” came to me one morning as a prayer put to song.
“Prayer Is Just A Song Away” is a gospel medley with an original chorus that is a hand-clapping, foot-stomper.
“Cotton Flowers” is an intimate song about a woman reaching out to God in song her desire to live the farm life.
“Wonderful Morning” is about a married couple’s appreciation of each other on a rainy morning. 

Ziggy Marley – Rebellion Rises

Rebellion Rises is Ziggy Marley’s seventh studio album as a solo artist. What makes his prolific ongoing output- a new studio release every two years or so- both continually relevant and critically notable is the way in which each latest effort builds on the prior entries in Marley’s illustrious catalog. It’s not that the multiple Grammy-winning singer morphs into a new character, or explores a new genre, so much as it is the unfolding experiences of the introspective journey that the reggae superstar is on; he’s gracious enough, almost reliably compelled, to take us with him.

In the case of this record, it’s less vicarious and free as its predecessors. This is one that’s more a call to action: Marley wants you involved. He has tucked, and sometimes shouted, message into most of his writing over three decades as reggae’s most prominent voice, but often it seemed more reporter, less recruiter. Writing, arranging, and producing this album himself, these ten tracks, with a few exceptions, are rallying cries for humanity. Yes, the cause remains love, but this time Marley is calling to unite all the rebels for the cause.

The album opens with the set’s most scathing indictment as a djembe rattles and horns shred their way through See Dem Fake Leaders. Marley’s son Gideon delivers a spoken-word bridge on The Storm is Coming, an autobiographical tracing of a phone call Ziggy and brother Stephen shared during hurricane season in Miami that plays as a metaphor for an encroaching political climate.

Synth claps and electric guitar lines cycle through World Revolution, that touches on racial discrimination, also marked by a rap on the bridge- this one from an intern, SamuiLL KalonjiMarleydiscovered at his record label office. The lighter empathy of Your Pain is Mine follows, with a verse melody reminding of an earlier Marley cut, Beach in Hawaii. Then, the arresting staccato Change Your World, utilizing the timeless boy-meets-girl backdrop as a metaphor for activism.

Ska-like horns color the bouncy, bright wish list of I Will Be Glad, as one of Rebellion’s sunnier tracks, both musically and lyrically. High on Life is a bit of a throwback, evoking the innocent charm of Marley’s former group, sibling sensations The Melody Makers, then, fittingly welcoming Stephen for the subsequent Circle of Peace, that affirms the cause and petitions the willing to realize their dreams now. With strumming acoustic guitar and delicate piano runs, I Am a Human works to shed the labels of race, religion, and politics, and return the focus to simple humanity.

The titular finale carries something of a core sentiment that has anchored Marley since the beginning. Even in the toughest of times, Ziggy Marley has remained optimistic. The minor-to-major-key shifting within the steady rock of this closer suggests a sense of sunlight emerging from the darkness; that love and peace will win the day.

Rebellion Rises is not an angry record. It is not a bitter record. But, it is not a record of hope, either. The time of hoping for change is a notion Marley considers past due. This is a record of action, and for Ziggy Marley, the time for action is now.

Nev Cottee – Broken Flowers

Made in Manchester, started in Made in Manchester, started in India and finished in Wales. Nev Cottee’s Broken Flowers – A deeply cinematic, string-soaked album rich in atmosphere and brooding ambience.

A Psychedelic rapture, resigned with reflection and widescreen atmospherics amidst tales of heartbreak, melancholy and troubles to come

 

Nev Cottee may hail from Manchester (his former band Proud Mary were the first signing to Noel Gallagher’s Sour Mash label) yet his heart and muse seem firmly attached to some outpost in the southern states of America, and the sun-kissed atmosphere and narcotically-enhanced mellifluousness of ‘Broken Flowers’ will have it taking pride of place in the more enterprising head’s collection. Something akin to a Ry Cooder platter enhanced by the production and arrangement nous of Air’s ‘Virgin Suicides’, ‘Broken Flowers’ is a thing of lazy majesty indeed.

Mindy Sotiri – Women Smoking

Mindy Sotiri is a singer-songwriter from Sydney, Australia.

She writes tunes. And plays them.

Quite often in front of other people.

Mostly drunk, exhausted, women people.

Who live in Marrickville.

She pretty much has the drunk exhausted Marrickville women people market smashed.

She has been playing to those women for years.

Women Smoking, is Mindy’s 5th solo album. It is about women smoking. And women. And smoking. It is also about the Sydney lockout laws, unexpected love, unexpected endings, crowded parties, booze and balconies, Newtown in 2015, and the under-appreciated role of the rehearsal girlfriend.

“Quirky and real, Sotiri’s honesty will strike you in a tender place.” – SMH.

“Heartbreak haunts this record… Her fragile folk-pop vocal sounds real. And that’s what makes this album special.” – Stack Magazine.

“Music that reverberates honesty, and real life.” – Altmedia.

“Tender, stark and honest.” – Brag Magazine.

Andrea Colburn & Mud Moseley – Easy, Sleazy and Greazy

Debut album from the self-proclaimed King & Queen of the Hillbilly Underground featuring a carefully selected group of tunes incorporating Honky Tonk, Blues, Rockabilly, Garage Rock and Surf music. Like Doc Watson and the Cramps had a love child.

 

 

Storie Grubb – The Swill Herds

Americana Folk Rock music with Indie World Pop Sensibilities.

Album Notes
‘The Swill Herds’ has no standard 6 string guitars on it. All the leads, hooks and distortion parts you hear are from my ukulele. I wanted to challenge myself and create an album that had a strong ukulele foundation mixed with heavy percussion and bass with a lo-fi, pop twist. My old friend Matthew Vorhies plays accordion on a few tracks, adding breath to the body. It was written, recorded and mixed in my basement in Boise Idaho from January- March 2018.
I threw in an old Pink Floyd song that I have always wanted to cover called Fat Old Sun. I hope I did it some justice.

Ian and Dylan – Into the Laps of Pool Traps

Displaying prodigy level musicianship and profound lyricism, the young duo “Ian & Dylan”, is composed of Ian Graham (Vocals,Multi-instrumentalist) and Dylan Vance (Percussion, Multi-Instrumentalist). Ian and Dylan draw influence from bands such as “alt-J” and “Bright Eyes” to bring forth a genre blending sound containing components of alternative, indie, jazz and folk music. 

Crow Quill Night Owls – Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams

This tremendously authentic core trio are supplemented by various other musicians on an album that is rooted in not only raw old time string band music but also what at that time was referred to as race music and even a little jazz. Whilst they are no respecters of generic boundaries there is obviously a huge amount of respect for the music of the best part of a century ago. They have the feel of a jug band wrapped up in a little vaudeville and a large dose of hillbilly that ensures they are blended into a pretty much unique and highly skilled band. You can t really take such diverse musical styles and make them fit your aims unless you have a love and a natural feel for those old styles.

This is the third album by the band and whilst it s always nice to report a musical progression in any artists subsequent releases this one is not a huge improvement, simply because the first two, which I only aquired recently, were so impressive that I couldn t see how they could be improved upon. This new recording does up the quality by a small notch and whilst I will probably play it on and off till doomsday the same applies to those previous two, with all three being so good that if you enjoy one you really need to get the other two as well!
The song writing credits range from traditional to the Memphis Jug Band, also including Georgia Tom/Tampa Red, Jelly Roll Morton, Hammie Nixon and plenty of old string band input from the likes of the Dallas String Band. As I said earlier, plenty of diversity!
The core band consists of Kit “Stymee” Stovepipe on lead vocals, national resophonic guitar, harmonica, washboard, kazoo, wash tub bass, tenor banjo and jug! He is more than ably assisted by Windy City Alex who plays tenor banjo, banjo-lele and kazoo as well as vocals and Baylin Adaheer is on wash tub bass, vocal, kazoo and banjo-lele. Quite a mix of instruments but one that is played with huge skill and feeling, something that can be applied to everything on their albums, almost as if they have never heard any other music. Added to these three are Too Tight Devin Champlin on mandolinetto, fiddle and backing vocals, Lucas Hicks, suitcase percussion, washboard, spoons and bones, Itchy Ribs Robinson, Washboard Syncopations and Jerron Paxton plays piano and pants! As you can see from that little lot, a mix of instruments that we are quite unfamiliar with in this 21st century but played and arranged with a mastery that enables them to perform convincingly within any of the old generic styles they choose. There is no holding back on this album, everything is played with total commitment and the often casual atmosphere they generate just adds to the authority and no small amount of originality that they bring to these old
songs.
There are twenty four tracks on this album that I seem to have on repeat play most of the time, but of those twenty four, nine are short between song links, some of which are humourous. I don t usually like to hear this in an
album and whilst this recording doesn t actually benefit from them it certainly does no harm to the ages old atmosphere. Stymee s vocals are raw and untutored but also expressive as well as essential to this musical blend,
with the female harmonies bringing even more atmosphere to the songs, in much the same way as the blend of Travis and Alison Ward s harmonies do in Hillfolk Noir. There are other similarities between the two trio s, although Crow Quill Night Owls have an added rawness that really is an evocation of the old time string bands.
Whilst this is certainly not a comedy record, humour is never too far away from this bands music as evidenced by All Gone Now, a darkly humourous tale with Stymee s lead vocal aided by a slightly discordant female harmony that gives the song even more of an old timey atmosphere, supported by fiddle, banjo, resonator guitar and bass.Sugar Babe I m Leaving has a nice banjo, resonator guitar, bass and harmonica start before Stymee s raw untutored vocals come in, with the two women on harmonies and the addition of kazoo amongst other things on this old string band song written by Sunny Clapp and Sol Lewis. On The Road Again is probably the rawest most fiery version of this classic song I ve ever heard, contrasting nicely with the following, I Used To Call Her Baby, an authentic sounding old Dallas String Band song that blends a vaudevillian atmosphere into the mix! New Lina Blues is a hard driving up tempo song with some unusual sounds and instrumental blends on a tale that has a light hearted early trad jazz feel that harks back to the 1920s, whilst Caveman Blues is a kazoo and harmonica propelled Memphis Jug Band song with a strong female lead vocal, barrel house piano sound and strong bass. The closing song is Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams an album highlight and title track on this old jazz song written by Errol Garner and Lionel Hampton bringing this hugely entertaining album to a natural conclusion.
If you have any feeling for roots musical tradition you really should give this band a listen. Whilst they play within the old time tradition they do actually bring an excellent level of originality to not only hillbilly music but also to the blues, jazz and vaudevillian branches, but always with their own individuality shining through and thus blending these disparate elements into a unique genre of their own making.