Buffalo Rose – The Soil & The Seed

Folk and Soul-grass with soaring vocal harmonies.

 

 

 

The Soil and The Seed by Buffalo Rose is a well-produced, cozy folk record with soulful harmonies. Vocalists Mariko Reid, Lucy Clabby and Shane McLaughlin join together to create a wall of sound, with the gently plucked guitar (McLaughlin), dobro (Malcolm Inglis), bass (Jason Rafalak) and mandolin (Bryce Rabideau). In 12 tracks, Buffalo Rose energetically tackles a variety of  Americana-ish songs, ranging from boisterously upbeat (ripe for singalongs) to gently sweet and tenderly sad.

The album-opener, “God Willing,” is a fun stomp- and clap-heavy number, but the band shines brightest on tracks like “Poison Oak.” It’s a bittersweet number about learning from heartbreak, and finding light and a home after the hurt. The beautiful female vocals softly sing: “I opened up the blinds and let the sun in,” an affirmation about inviting happiness back into your life.

Morrison Kincannon – Beneath The Redwoods

Spacetalk is proud to reveal its most exciting release to date: a collection of long-lost recordings from forgotten Californian duo Morrison Kincannon, rescued from the dusty tape archives of the pair’s lead songwriter, Norman Morrison…

With only a handful of sought-after private press 7” singles to their name, Morrison Kincannon are all but unknown outside record collecting circles. Yet Norman Morrison and Terry Kincannon wrote and recorded some superb songs during the 1970s and early ‘80s, desperately hoping for the break that would see them released on vinyl. Now, at last, their time has finally come. Morrison and Kincannon first started working together as teenagers almost 50 years ago. Every Saturday, they would get together to jam and write songs. This led to recording sessions at a friendly studio in San Francisco and a management and publishing deal with Manny Greenhill, a man who had previously nurtured the careers of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Sadly, their hoped-for-success never came, and by the early 1980s both members had re-focused on work and family. As the years rolled by, their original multi-track recordings lay idle in Morrison’s loft, seemingly never to be released.

All that changed when Morrison received an email from Spacetalk Records two years ago, asking about the possibility of reissuing “To See One Eagle Fly”, the B-side to one of their 7” singles that has long been a favourite of label co-founder Danny McLewin. Once a deal had been done, Morrison mentioned that he had hours of unissued recordings in his loft; a treasure trove of ultra-rare multi-track master tapes that could be freshly mixed and mastered for release. When the Spacetalk Records’ team finally got a chance to listen, they were astonished by the timeless quality of the songs. Put simply, they just had to be released.

The resultant album is a stunning set: an intoxicating glimpse into the world of two previously unheralded master songwriters whose musical vision encapsulates all that was good about Californian music during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Rooted in the American folk revival and folk-rock movement of the late ‘60s, the album’s 15 thoughtful, heartfelt songs are laden with sly nods to the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Ned Doheny, Michael Deacon, Cy Timmons, Gene Clark and Buffalo Springfield. The tracks were recorded at various times between 1970 and ’82 and gives a small glimpse of the duo’s total body of unissued work. The release comes with extensive liner notes telling the remarkable story of two lifelong friends and musical collaborators who thought their moment had passed.

Great Peacock – Gran Pavo Real

Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd make music enriched by their native South. Influenced by Pop Melody as well as Traditional Folklore. It’s old art for the new generation.

Anthemic acoustic guitar riffs mixed with contemplative finger-picked melodies. Lyrics spanning from reflective to whiskey-drunk. Dramatic vocal builds alongside gentle harmonies. Waves of folk crashing against shoals of rock and blues. Together, these traits define both the heart of Americana music as well as the soul of Great Peacock’s new album, Gran Pavo Real.

It may seem improbable how well these rising folk rockers feel the pulse of the Americana genre, yet trace their roots to an alcohol-fueled night of creativity among the band’s founding duo, singer/guitarist Andrew Nelson and fellow guitarist Blount Floyd.  Somehow the country-rock loving Nelson and the 90’s country-music-influenced Floyd hit on the idea, almost joking, of creating a folk band…with an animal in its name…thus creating the blurry vision that is now Great Peacock.  Perhaps the band’s unorthodox heritage is what allows Gran Pavo Real to stand out as its own sound in a musical landscape inundated with “authentic,” cookie cutter, offerings.

With Gran Pavo Real, the band has taken a remarkable step in the complexity of their lyrical songwriting. On “One Way Ticket,” Nelson muses about a restless spirit taking flight: “I’m a Rolling Stone/Yeah I can’t sit still/I’m a one-way ticket/heading straight downhill/ I’m a backroad Baptist with stories to tell/Got a one-way ticket to keep me out of hell.” On the album, whether pining, reflecting, or simply going on a bender, the lyrics have a poetic flow that allows them to impact with deeper meaning.

While the band’s dramatic, anticipation-charging musical builds and drops are still present on many of the songs, there are plenty of works that feature a tender intimacy that pair well with the album’s more emotional pieces. Where “Take Me Down” has all the scratchy guitar, moody organ, and rolling beat needed for a jamming, festival-ready, hazy head-nodder, “Oh Deep Water” contrasts with bright guitar accents, preaching organ, and contemplative mallet-struck drums. Where “Heartbreak Comin’ Down” features a toe-tapping, gritty, southern rock, touch of rockabilly flair, “Begging To Stay” is a lyrically sin-laden, hymn-vocal power ballad that conjures delightful images of Meatloaf making an Americana album. For an interlude, there is the lighthearted, honky-tonking, booze-dripping “Let’s Get Drunk Tonight,” which feels like a tribute to Floyd’s country music past, the band’s Nashville home, and a reminder not to take itself so seriously. While touching on abundant inspirations, the album’s tracks are bound by the band’s wide love for music.

Great Peacock allows its influences to expand the band’s sound beyond the formalistic traps of a folk identity, while still embracing enough heartfelt classic charm that even purists will embrace. Gran Pavo Real serves as a showcase of the band’s diverse style and the broad Americana landscape.

Fourth Moon – Ellipsis

Having met four years ago and formed the band 2016, consist of renowned young artists – Moshen Amini (Talisk & Imar) Concertina/ David Lombardi (Holiday On iO) fiddle/ Geze Afank (Event Horizon ) Fltue- Pipes & Whistles/ Jean Damei (Event Horizon)  Guitar.

Hailing from Glasgow / South of France / Vienna/ – initially meeting up at Limerick!  sharing a common ground,  while bringing together their diverse music history, bring an explosive and stunning, and refreshing sound. With host of individual awards under their belts including the 2016 BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year, 2015 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award Winner, 2015 MG ALBA Up and Coming Artist of the Year nomination, Musician of the Year nomination for both the MG Alba Trad Awards and then BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Piping championship titles in Germany/Austria and upwards of 5 All Britain titles, Fourth Moon are coming with a bang with this their first CD.

Hannah Read – Way Out I’ll Wander

 

Often folk singers will perform with a certain place in mind. No other genre is quite so aware of its geographical heritage. A regional accent, a political stance, a particular choice of instrument or a way of describing a landscape: all of these can signify, with varying degrees of subtlety, a sense of location or sometimes dislocation. But there are other, equally valid, subjects for artists to tackle, and one of these is what we might call the human condition, or more specifically the nuance of human interpersonal relationship. With quiet but noteworthy ambition, the latest album by Hannah Read, her second, attempts to reconcile both of these strands. While this may not be unique, Read’s methods are all her own, and the results are fascinating.

Read is Scottish, but lives and works in the United States. Way Out I’ll Wanderwas recorded in two separate winter sessions, a year apart, in New Hampshire and upstate New York. And as I have suggested, location is important. The rural, mountainous areas where Read worked provide a link, perhaps a subconscious link, to the landscapes of her homeland. This allows her to perform in a way that recalls the musical heritage of both of her homes, and that acknowledges the shared aspects of that heritage as well as its differences. And just as importantly, it allows her to approach lyrical subjects of her songs – people and relationships she has known, shared pasts – with enough distance to make for clear-eyed, objective portraits, painted with affection and skill.

 

With that in mind, the opening track, Moorland Bare, is something of an outlier in that its lyrics are not Read’s own but are taken from a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson was another Scot who spent some time in upstate New York, and for whom the idea of home was powerful and complex. Moreland Bare, then, makes a natural and excellent scene-setter, with its darkly romantic recollections of the Scottish heaths. But more than that, it is a stunningly performed piece that instantly showcases Read’s ability to command the terrain of a song. The gentle but bittersweet strum of acoustic guitar carries a voice that is remarkably clear but full of transatlantic ghosts: there are echoes of both her adopted homeland and her place of birth in every phrase. Amongst other things, it is an apposite reminder of the borderlessness of art.

 

It is followed by the first of the detailed character sketches which are to become a trademark of the album. Ringleader shows Read at her darkest and most ambiguous. Its message is potent but enigmatic, revolving around the idea that the worst human behaviour is entrenched through generations, feeds off weakness, and is incredibly difficult to change. As if to let the gravity of this song sink in, Read follows it up with a short instrumental interlude led by her unhurried, melancholy fiddle, and owing as much to modern chamber music, jazz or film scores as to folk. Indeed, an important feature of the whole record is a tactful use of a wide range of instruments: Read’s fiddle and guitar (along with the guitar work of Jefferson Hamer) is brilliantly underpinned by the upright bass of Jeff Picker. This makes up the album’s musical core, but there are various other flourishes throughout – woodwind, saxophone, lap steel, piano – which are knitted together wonderfully by co-producer and engineer Charlie Van Kirk.

 

I’ll Still Sing Your Praises is one of the most personal, most powerful and rawest songs here. To a minimal musical backdrop, Read sings with fondness, resignation and sadness of the end of a relationship set against the opposed territories of city and countryside. The song’s final line ‘You’re no longer the one that I call home’, is a microcosm of the album’s theme of belonging, and how the deeply human need to belong with another human is entwined with the more abstract idea of belonging in a certain place.

 

Alexander is another of the ‘character’ songs, though this one is much fonder. Here, a softly distorted electric guitar gives the song a welcome warmth, while the chorus – simply the name ‘Alexander’ sung like a charm – is open-ended and generous-hearted, a reminder that simply speaking a person’s name can be an act of kindness. She Took A Gamble rests on a cat’s cradle of intertwined guitars and an innovative vocal performance that, in terms of melody at least, recalls early Joni Mitchell. Lyrically, Read focuses on small but important details that anchor the song in a time and place – hermit crabs in the sucking tide, ropes clinging to stones – before zooming out to view the wider picture of interconnected lives and difficult decisions.

This juxtaposition of fine details and grander, more universal ideas is a technique that can yield heartbreaking results. The album’s title track is a case in point. After a graceful fiddle intro, Read sets the scene with needle-sharp descriptions of cold air and snow on fallen trees, before the sadness at the song’s heart hits her – and the listener – in a slow wintry sweep, and a heavy freight of grief is lightly but devastatingly revealed. And it works with the happier songs too. Boots describes the unknowable point in a relationship when things change, in this case for the better. But once again it is in the minutiae the song’s power builds: the clothes on the floor, light falling on a cheekbone. Before you realise it you are caught in the small, perfectly formed world of the song’s narrative.

 

Final track Campsea Ashe (presumably the name refers to the Suffolk village) is perhaps as close as Read gets to straight Americana – and maybe its position on the album is a nod to the direction (musical or geographical) in which she is moving. But there is more to it than that: here the lyrics deal as much with time as with place, hinting at yet another dimension to the already enviable talent on show in Read’s songwriting. Way Out I’ll Wander is a fine achievement: listening to each of its songs is like watching the snow settle in an exquisitely crafted snow globe, revealing an image of pristine clarity.

Way Out I’ll Wander is out on 23rd February 2018.

Abe Partridge – Cotton Fields and Blood for Days

Every now and again an album comes along that absolutely blows me away and I can   t wait to share it with you out there in Internetland      and this album from Alabama singer-songwriter Abe Partridge is one such.

It was the stark opening track Colors that initially caught my attention; with Partridge sounding like a prodigy of Townes, Guy and Rodney the way his lyrics poetically twist and turn via a grizzled and lived in voice over a jagged acoustic guitar and  a cello or violin.
It was only on the third time I listened to track #2 Ride Willie, Ride that I actually realised that it was a love song from a songwriter to Willie Nelson; and the actual title is Ride Willie Ride (Or Thoughts I Had While Contemplating Both the Metaphysical Nature of Willie Nelson and His Harassment By The Internal Revenue Service) and boy; is the world a better place for this song being in it!
Just as I thought I had a handle on where Partridge was coming from track #3 I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker turned everything upside down. Who among us can resist a dirty electric guitar intro followed by the opening lines    Put on my black steel toes/and my free jacket from Goodwill/Gonna get me some dark sunglasses just like Dylan used to wear/ gonna go to my barber and tell him/won   t you do me the wildest of hair   ? That   s not even the best bit; but I will leave you intrigued enough to buy the album and hear it yourself.
Like the very best of his ilk Partridge is no    one trick pony    as that last song proves; but it   s his haunting acoustic ballads about his home town Out of Alabama Blues and The Ghosts of Mobile that make him stand out from his contempories and peers; and not just because he sounds like every single word comes from the darkest recesses of his worn out heart.

 

Choosing a favourite here hasn   t been easy; even before I actually heard it I hoped Our Babies Will Never Grow Up To Be Astronauts would live up to the title; and it does with ease; and it was a similar gut wrenching feeling I had with Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down; and hearing him channel his inner RL Burnside had me slapping the steering wheel with delight when I heard it that first cold morning.
But; and it   s eventually become an easy choice; Prison Tattoos is even better than I   d ever dared hope for from reading the title on the sleeve. This could easily be a lost Townes Van Zandt or Jim White song remixed by Nick Cave as the layers of choppy electric guitars and piano are played without the aid of a safety net as Partridge   s grizzled and Demonic voice purr out a delightfully dark tale.
WOW      .I love my job on days I discover diamonds like Abe Partridge; and you are welcome to fall in love with him too; there   s plenty here for everyone.

Ciaran McMeeken – Ciaran McMeeken

Auckland-based singer songwriter Ciaran McMeeken’s debut full-length album is… a labour of love; the fruits of a worldwide journey of writing, reflection and musical collaborations during a European writing tour. Because of this – upon his return to New Zealand McMeeken was faced with the difficult task of deciding which tracks to include on this album, ensuring these tracks are the best of the best.

Having grown up in the depths of the South Island in the picturesque village of Arrowtown, when posed with the question of what he wanted to do with his life, McMeeken decided to follow his passion and turned his hand to music; a passion that is evident in his accomplished self-titled debut album. Having produced a handful of releases, beginning with his debut EP The Valley in 2014, and second EP Screaming Man in 2015, this is the first full-length release from McMeeken, and it quickly become apparent that the wait was worth it. Recorded at Auckland’s Roundhead Studios, McMeeken worked with a live band, and the results are a strong collection of twelve very polished songs that masterfully intertwine elements of rock, pop, jazz, blues, roots and soul with both ease and sophistication.

McMeeken’s voice brims with sincerity, honesty and strength. Opening track ‘My Kin’ is an upbeat roots/rock infused track that showcases not only McMeeken’s smooth vocals but also his acoustic guitar playing prowess. The second single from the album, That Feeling, was co-written in less than 20 minutes with renowned songwriter MoZilla (who has worked with the likes of pop superstars Ellie Goulding, Charlie Puth and One Direction). It’s a simple acoustic guitar and piano based track and is a smooth pop masterpiece full of romanticism while still remaining completely authentic.

Other standout tracks include ‘Al Capone’ (an upbeat swing/blues influenced track), and ‘Don’t Lie To Me’ (a beautiful blues rock ballad with a touch of r&b, which is at times reminiscent of John Mayer at his very best). It is easy to imagine this album being the perfect soundtrack for laid back summer days in the sun; an album that can be listened to time and time again and yet still remain new and fresh.