Joe’s Truck Stop – American Dreams

I first came across Joe’s Truck Stop with the 2014 EP release called Free Showers.  It came out around the height of the punk fueled string band craze and it fit in well with that genre.  It felt like a bajo fueled country record with some attitude. Fast Forward to 2018 and the band are finally releasing their first full length album called American Dreams.  There have been many lineup changes since the EP, but they’re still very much a banjo fueled country band. The music is calmer and more country with a western swing feel to it this time around.  This is a good change as the scene has changed since 2014 and more traditional country is more popular than the punk fueled country that was featured on the EP.

One of my favorites on this record is “Banjo Pickin’ Tobacco Spittin’ Gal”.  It’s a bluegrass fueled country song that has humor and is just plain fun. This one will have toes tappin’ at live shows for sure.  “Don’t Go To College” is a cautionary tale about learning more about the world before diving headfirst into it. It’s a lesson we could all learn eventually.

“The High Road” is another fast country tune that is a fun toe tapper.  I love the duel solo by Andrew McPheter’s banjo and Ben Sweeney’s lead guitar on this one.  “(Don’t) Put A Nickel In The Jukebox” goes into full on honky tonk territory with a sad country song about not being able to stand hearing sad country songs.  It doesn’t get sadder than that. “Knockin’ Boots” is a good dancing song, however you like to dance. Finally, “American Dreams” showcases Joe Macheret’s songwriting abilities.  I love the reference to Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”. It seems like something the band could have fun with live.

American Dreams shows what could be a promising future for Joe’s Truck Stop.  Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 4 years for the next release because I look forward to hearing more.  I highly recommend this album to anyone looking for a good traditional country record with some killer banjo playing that really sets this band apart

Stanley Brinks – Peanuts

Sometimes you just run out of ideas and names and you call your album Peanuts. I’m okay with it though Stanley Brinks certainly doesn’t need my approval. The songwriter’s been having a blast recently, making folksy good-time records with the Wave Pictures; this solo record offers an all alone iteration of his quixotic anti-folk troubadorings.

Stanley Brinks sets the bar high when it comes to artistic independence, freedom, tradition and avoiding fashionable trends. In 2006, André left his band, Herman Düne. Now based in Berlin he releases timeless albums, playing them live in small venues where he can remain true to his musical ideals

 

Forest Black – I Just Wanted You To Know

A call back to previous eras of country music.

Album Notes
This album is mostly a tribute to a late friend of mine, Raymond “Chock” Chitty. He wrote 2 songs featuring on this album, the primary one being the title track. This album is hopefully going to be another catalyst to cause a return to form in country music. While I believe country music is starting a return to glory, beginning with recent rise to fame of Chris Stapleton, I hope to attribute to this. I believe that traditional country music has always had more soul and substance, and I hope that this album has that for y’all to enjoy.

Moore Moss Rutter – III

 

The rule of three has been observed in art and society since antiquity. Omni trium perfectum runs the Latin phrase: everything that comes in threes is perfect. The three movements of a classical concerto; the three ghosts in A Christmas Carol; the tripartite nature of any fairy tale worth its salt. Triads are inescapable: even the previous sentence adheres to the rule. Moore Moss Rutter seem well-attuned to the power of three. They are – as you’ve probably guessed – a trio, and their third album, simply titled III, is expressly crafted as the final act in a musical trilogy. This fact makes us aware of the group’s sense of purpose, of their concerted vision, even before we have heard a note.

They hail, fittingly, from three diverse corners of England. Tom Moore is a fiddle and viola player from Norfolk who is currently studying for a masters in creative music at Goldsmiths. Melodeon player and teacher Archie Churchill-Moss lives in Bristol. Jack Rutter is a guitarist from West Yorkshire who has previously worked with Jackie Oates and Seth Lakeman. Plot their homes on a map and you will come up with a roughly equilateral triangle. That may be coincidence but I prefer to call it synchronicity.

 

And synchronicity is an important factor in this album’s appeal. Producer Andy Bell – who as always does an excellent and typically sympathetic job in the recording studio – mentions it in his liner notes when explaining how III was recorded at close quarters and as complete live takes. And you can hear the closeness from the first few bars of opening track The Iron Bell, a Moss-composed piece that morphs from a graceful, fiddle-led tune into something much more blustery and percussive, in which Rutter’s disciplined guitar provides a backbone around that allows the other instruments to play and wander.

 

The trio – who won the BBC’s prestigious Young Folk Award in 2011 – are adept at taking an object, place or event and interpreting it, but they use the interpretation as a musical jumping-off point rather than an end in itself. It’s a refreshing approach which yields results that are varied, surprising and crammed full of ideas. Hilly Fields/Blakeney Point takes two very different places as inspiration for two tunes that sit perfectly together. Hilly Fields (named after the South London park saved from redevelopment in 1896 by National Trust founder Octavia Hill) is a bright, brisk Moore/Moss co-composition that taps into elements of English folk dance to highlight the joy of shared experience, while Blakeney Point – that wild spit of sand, samphire and seals on the north Norfolk coast – is presented in a way that is complementary but subtly different: looser and somehow freer.

 

They pull off a similar effect with The Intrepid/Espresso. One tune is dedicated to a diesel engine, the other to strong coffee, but both convey movement – steady in the first instance and wonderfully jittery in the second. Worrall Road/The Glade is a pair of Moss compositions linking west to east (or more specifically Bristol to Cambridge). They make a bustling combination, allowing Moss to stretch his fingers and prove his ample melodeon talents, while Moore’s fiddle provides a constant counterpoint.

III is not short of genuinely moving moments: on Dougal, Moss pays tribute to a family pet and the result is a truly tender and heartfelt piece given even more power by the intimacy of the recording. All three instruments are given space, and each delicate note of Rutter’s guitar part is traceable. Archer Street/Somerset Safehouse is another pair of place-specific tunes, composed by Moore and Moss respectively, that proves that both have a fine ear for a melody that is simultaneously complex and catchy. But they are by no means limited to their own compositions. Minuet is an interpretation of a Henry Purcell piece, set alongside two French tunes – Soulèvement and La Goulette – and while the contrast is striking, the tunes are combined with such a light touch that you feel they belong together.

 

An interpretation of the Danish wedding tune Brudestykke begins as the album’s most sombre piece (if that’s what a wedding is like in Denmark, what about a funeral?), but builds into something quietly celebratory, as Rutter’s guitar provides a stop-start kind of propulsiveness. Brudestykke neatly dovetails into St. Martin’s Lane, a dance that dates back to 1696. This rendition sounds surprisingly modern, with a kinetic, rhythmic feel provided by Rutter’s punchy playing. The tune builds in urgency as if daring the listener to dance along with it, until its final, abrupt full stop.

 

Rutter’s guitar playing has an important role right across the record, providing a rhythmic and sometimes percussive base around which the other instruments’ melodic flights of fancy can revolve. But on the final tune, Rowler’s Jig/The Beeches the guitar plays a bigger part in the melody itself. The jig is Rutter’s own composition, and on it, all three instruments wrap around each other. As jigs go, this is a sedate one, and its appeal lies in the way the trio interact, the way they instinctively know when to give each other room. They sign off with The Beeches, a joyful tune by Moss that gives his melodeon centre stage. It is a pleasingly upbeat way to finish an album that – perhaps because of how frequently it takes its inspiration from geographical locations, or because of the wide range of emotional landscape it covers – often feels like a journey.

 

Crucially, the journey never feels laboured. There is a different view to enjoy at every turn. The music is so rich in detail and so personally, lovingly crafted that it will reveal new facets and deeper resonances with every listen. It is suffused with pastoral light but anchored in earthy realism, unshowy but technically innovative, driven by emotion but never sentimental. III is a folk album played with the inventiveness of jazz and the control of chamber music. If it is the end of a project, the culmination of something, then it is tempting to ask what Moore Moss Rutter will do next. With any luck, it will be another perfect set of three.

Jerry Jeff Walker – It’s About Time

Throat cancer nearly felled Jerry Jeff Walker last year as he wrapped recording for It’s About Time. That brush with mortality now adds a reflective tinge to the progressive country stalwart’s first album in nearly a decade. Even as his voice settles into a lower key, Walker continues spinning gorgeously easy melodies and true narratives on a life now more front porch than rowdy bars. “It took me years to give it up, but I felt I might lose her love, or myself,” Walker acknowledges on sobriety ode “Rain Song,” reeling hard-earned epiphanies. Opening trifecta “That’s Why I Play,” “California Song,” and “Because of You” all gracefully take stock of what matters, as does a turn on Guy Clark’s “My Favorite Picture of You.” Walker maintains an ear for others’ songs, most notably on dusky ballad “South Coast” and barrel piano roll “Ballad of Honest Sam,” while his son Django’s “Somethin’ Bout a Boat” – covered by Jimmy Buffett – gets a Seventies Hill Country makeover.

 

The Vagaband – Something Wicked This Way Comes

Based in Norwich, The Vagaband are a nine-piece crew whose punning name aptly sums up their wandering musical pathways. The politically satirical title track gets things rolling, an uptempo fiddle-driven slice of Laurel Canyon close harmony folk rock that calls CS&N. Hanging around the same era, once past the intro,  Bright Are The Stars, which features The Arlenes on harmonies, recalls the melody line of The Byrds     I Am A Pilgrim. And then there   s One For The Road which evokes the same queasy narcotic disorientation of Three Dog Night   s Mama Told Me Not To Come. That was, of course, written by Randy Newman and the same influence can be heard on the lazy New Orleans piano rag and brass styled Spiritual Man.

Then, that   s surely Dylan circa Desire underpinning the scuffling Not My Day To Die while, featuring Morganway   s Yve Mary Barwood on vocals,  the bluesy An Eye For An Eye flirts with spaghetti western moods with its tolling bells and desert parched guitar twang, even if the line about getting back to the garden is clearly pinched from Joni   s Woodstock.

In contrast, things come closer to home with the strummed guitar ballad Through The Back Doors which sails close to Lennon   s Jealous Guy and There   ll Only Be One Elvis (Costello not Presley) has a touch of Oasis lurking behind its Americana sway. However, it   s back to swampier climes for the low key sung, Mexicana doped and dobro shaped Black Eyed Sally.

Musical echoes of Lennon   s I Heard The News Today in evidence, it finally ends with the nostalgia-themed Zoetrope. Frontman Jos    McGill says the album   s about    American cultural imperialism on our own turf   , acknowledging the irony that much of their music appropriates this while still planting its feet in British roots rock soil. Wickedly good.

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.

 

 

loreena mckennitt – lost souls

Loreena McKennitt’s simple explanation for the 12-year break between new albums of original material is that “life happens” — touring to support her previous releases, caring for her late mother, researching another musical project. But McKennitt is back with the May 11 release of her 10th studio album Lost Souls.

“I had a lot of people ask us, ‘Are you ever going to release anything original again?'” the Canadian songstress — who also released two collections of traditional material following 2006’s An Ancient Muse — tells Billboard. “I figured the quickest way was to go to the cupboard and look at what had been written in the past. Four or five songs existed as little breadcrumbs from the late ’80s to the present, which gave us a good start. So (Lost Souls) is a bit more of a collection, a corralling of pieces than ‘Here’s a creative vision and I want the right pieces to fit that.’ It’s more like a gathering, a collection of morsels.”

The nine tracks on Lost Souls span more than three decades. McKennitt recalls performing “The Ballad of the Fox Hunter” and “Ages Past, Ages Hence” during the late ’80s, while “Spanish Guitars and Night Plazas” was written during the early ’90s. “La Belle Dams Sans Merci” was considered for An Ancient Muse, “Sun, Moon and Stars” has been around for a few years and “Manx Ayre” comes from a melody McKennitt composed during her days of busking on the streets of Toronto.

The “Lost Souls” track, meanwhile, was the album’s most recent song, written last year and inspired by CBC lectures published in Ronald Wright’s 2004 book A Short History of Progress. “(Wright) has studied civilizations as one might study the black boxes of aircrafts that have gone down,” McKennitt says. “In his view it seems as a species we have a tendency to get ourselves into progress traps. When he wrote this lecture series it was coming as much from an environmental concern as anything else, but I put the connection to new technologies. I think they are very quickly and drastically changing everything we have known in such a fundamental and a quick way that I worry we may be in a progress trap here, too.

“Those were the ruminations that underpinned that song. I didn’t want to get into it too literally, like many artists, so I wrote in a cryptic or metaphorical way so people could relate to it even if they didn’t understand where I was coming from.”

McKennitt will support Lost Souls’ release with in-store appearances May 16-18 in Germany and the Netherlands. She plans to begin touring in earnest during October, with a two-year global campaign the will kick off during October in South America. Meanwhile, McKennitt already has her sights on her next album, a set that will examine the connection between Celtic and Northern Indian cultures that she began working on some years ago.

“It continues to morph each passing day, almost too dangerous to time,” McKennitt says. “I took a wonderful trip (to India) to start working on this and got plenty of inspiration, and I would love to feel I can go and do another. It’s very interesting but very challenging because of the way the music business has changed so much in the last 10 years or so, when we released Ancient Muse. The creative side is the least of my worries; It’s more, ‘Is there going to be a proper return for the time and money invested in this. Will people actually BUY something when it’s put out?’ So there’s much to study and learn and evaluate.”

Junior Sisk – A Brand New Shade Of Blue

When Junior Sisk decides to take a step back and assess his
musical direction, one must never question his motives again.
Simply put, Brand New Shade Of Blue is the record Junior has
been wanting, needing to make for years. “When I first started
performing professionally, my goal was always to present
traditional bluegrass,” says Junior. “With the loss of so many great,
traditional Bluegrass artists of late—Ralph Stanley, James King,
Dave Evans, and Melvin Goins—I really want to make a strong
effort to keep their sound alive, as well.” That opportunity
presented itself organically when Junior’s long-time band,
Ramblers Choice, had a change in personnel at the end of 2017.
“When Jason Davis and Kameron Keller moved on to create a
new band, I really felt like it was the perfect opportunity to regroup
and put more focus on my original goal. I’ve had these songs
stashed away for a while and they were perfect for this record.
They are modern songs featuring a traditional vocal treatment.”
Junior may very well have made one of this year’s best albums,
possibly the best of his career, with Brand New Shade Of Blue.

To do so, he relied on the help of some stellar vocalists who fit his
own style perfectly. Del McCoury sings tenor on “The Guilt Was
Gone,” a sure-fire vocal collaboration that is well overdue. The
sweet songbird voice of Heather Berry Mabe melds with Junior’s
Appalachian sound like none other and creates a match made in
heaven for a duet on “Backwards And Forwards.” And who better
to bring a soulful duet vocal on “God Did Good” than Marty
Raybon with his brother Tim joining in to create a three part
harmony structure. Songwriting stalwart Tim Massey, who has
contributed several great tunes to Junior’s repertoire over the
years, sang tenor on his self-penned “Honey Do List.” And another
award-winning writer, Daniel Salyer, equally known for his high
lonesome sound, rounds out the bulk of the harmony on the
project. But one of the best collaborations is that of Junior and The
Lost And Found’s Allen Mills on “By Now I Would Be Dead.” Noone
performs tongue-in-cheek songs better than Allen Mills and
bringing him into the mix on this song is pure genius. But for all the
highlight tracks featuring guests that make this album special, the
standout star continues to be Junior with his heart for a song that
shows every time he opens his mouth to sing a note. Brand New
Shade Of Blue is quintessential Junior Sisk music and an album
that bluegrass enthusiasts will no doubt embrace with open arms.
Friends, Junior Sisk is back!

Bryony Griffith – Hover

‘Hover’ is Bryony Griffith’s brand new solo album of Traditional Tunes for an English Fiddle player.

Recorded by Ian Stephenson at Simpson Street Studios, Northumberland and featuring him on guitar and double bass.

Bryony Griffith is a highly respected fiddle player and distinctive singer with a broad repertoire of traditional English Dance tunes and songs. She is among the few fiddle players whose repertoire draws almost exclusively on traditional English tunes, with a particular passion for the more uncommon dance tunes of her native Yorkshire and surrounding counties.

Her skills and enthusiasm encompass solo performance, duo work with her husband, Will Hampson and extensive experience of playing for folk dancing, including her role in the BBC Folk Award-winning Demon Barbers and the ceilidh band Bedlam. She was also a member of the much-missed acappella quartet The Witches of Elswick.

With over 20 years’ experience researching folk material and devising innovative ways of presenting it for use in performance and education work with children, young people and adults, Bryony’s down-to-earth and relaxed style of teaching and performing is much in demand.

Following the success of her debut solo album, ‘Nightshade’, the release of her solo album of fiddle tunes ‘Hover’ coincides with 25 years of performing on the UK folk scene.


“Bryony Griffith has established herself as one of the most powerful and distinctive vocalists to emerge in the past decade, with fiddle, viola and piano work that send a shiver down the spine.” R2 magazine

“A solo album of great power and magnificence. She sings beautifully and knows how to kick out a song and does it brilliantly. Wow, what a great voice.” – Mike Harding