Kara Grainger – Living With Your Ghost


Living with Your Ghost is a rich gumbo of different emotions. own, a relentlessly seductive, distinctly modern take on roots rock, blues, and Americana

Album Notes
Some people just have music running through their veins. Kara Grainger’s musical journey has
taken her all around the globe. From her inner city beginnings in the town of Balmain, Sydney
Australia, she’s since performed and toured in Japan, Indonesia, India, Switzerland, Germany,
England and the USA . Her sultry, mesmerizing vocals and fiery approach to blues and slide
guitar has caught the attention of many well-respected artists. She has opened shows for Peter
Frampton, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Taj Mahal, Marc Cohn and Eric Johnson to name a few.

Around one year ago, Kara headed to Wire studios in Austin, Texas to record “Living With Your
Ghost”. The album was co-produced by Grammy award winner Anders Osborne, who also lends
his soulful guitar and vocals to the project. The album was engineered by Stuart Sullivan, also a
Grammy award winner, and the band included Ivan Neville on keys, The Texas Horns, J.J.
Johnson on drums, and Dave Monsey on bass.

The new album is a rich gumbo of different emotions and musical influences. There’s plenty of
reflection on the past, and a yearning for people that have come and gone; this is evident in the
title track, “Living With Your Ghost”, and the song “Nowhere to be Found”. “Working My Way
Back Home” tells about the struggle of love and life on the road as a traveling musician, while
songs like “Groove Train” and “You’re in New Orleans” uplift you from the day to day grind and
just leave you feeling good.

Bombino – Deran


After a period spent enchanting Western audiences and employing Western producers and studios, Tuareg guitar master Bombino (given name, Omara Moctar) touches back down in Africa for his energetic sixth LP Deran. Championed by fans and fellow musicians across the globe for his glowing amalgam of desert blues and Hendrix– and Knopfler-inspired classic rock, the Niger native has enjoyed an impressive run since breaking through with his 2011 album Agadez. Extensive North American tours, U.S. festival appearances, collaborations with members of the Rolling Stones, and two acclaimed albums produced by Americans Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys) and Dave Longstreth(the Dirty Projectors) cemented his reputation as an artistic ambassador of the Tamasheq language and the geopolitical conflicts of his native land.

With DeranBombino largely leaves the West to its own concerns, heading instead to a Moroccan studio in Casablanca to record under the lighter touch of his manager, Eric Herman. The resulting ten-song set comes across as more open, honest, and generally unfiltered than either of his previous two outings. While the struggles of the Tuareg people are addressed on tracks like the hard-edged reggae rock of “Tehigren” and the meditative acoustic-led “Adouni Dagh,” the overall tone of Deran is more optimistic and celebratory. Spry opener “Imajghane” sings the praises of Tuareg resilience while the vibrant “Tamasheq” is a literal love letter to the beauty of his native language. The album’s title itself translates to “best wishes,” a sentiment delivered to a groom on the deeply percussive “Deran Deran Alkheir.” As an addition to Bombino‘s already sterling catalog, Deran is another excellent release and a natural continuation of his distinctive style.

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
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.

Sam Lewis – Loversity

I was driving to play a show in Richmond when I saw a rainbow building just off the interstate,” says Sam Lewis. “The building had a word on it, but all I could see was – SITY. I immediately said ‘loversity’, even though the sign said ‘diversity’. My friend and I Googled it, and it wasn’t a real word, but I thought, well, I like that word.”

The Nashville artist has toured the country multiple times over with the likes of celebrated icons, such as Los Lobos and Chris Stapleton. Better yet, you might recognize his warm molasses vocal strut from his collaborations with the likes of Kacey Musgraves and John Prine or the Wood Brothers. Needless to say, Sam Lewis has been putting in his dues and becoming more of a household name in the process for it. Riding the line between multiple genre-based influences and invoking ladles full of heartfelt soul at a time into his work, Lewis is such a promising prospect in the Americana world that Stapleton has even gone on the record to vouch for him as “a modern Townes Van Zandt”.

Whether he writes with the same metrical finesse as the legendary songwriter is up for debate     after all, art is objective. What Lewis is for certain, however, is a much-needed helping of soul food for the heart in these divisive times. His straightforward lyrical flow moves forward with a certainty that listeners will be brought from point A to B without much intervention in-between, but what he has to say is as needed as it is inevitable. The evident nature of “Loversity” is a warm embrace aiming to unify a world whose people are more times at odds with one another than they aren’t. It’s upbeat, horn-powered Southern gospel, and it’s also the titular track from off of Lewis’ forthcoming album.

Christy Hays – River Swimmer

Like Lucinda Williams in a Carhartt jacket, Christy Hays works rugged metaphors into emotionally charged country folk. (Austin Chronicle). Christy Hays music has folk and country tinges, thoughtfully penned stories and a full band sound that is both driving alt country and moody folk rock.

New Album “River Swimmer” out April 27th, 2018 on Nine Mile Records.

“Christy Hays is likely the mostunderappreciated singer-songwriter in Austin. With River Swimmer, a rare combination of charming and powerful, she graciously ascends to another level.”

Sunny War – With the Sun

Sunny War’s musical influences are wide-ranging. Nashville-born and Venice Beach, CA-based, War spent her childhood moving frequently, and lived on the streets as a teenager, busking and playing in punk bands. Thanks to her grandmother, she cultivated a deep appreciation of the blues, and still loves the bluegrass and old country music of her birthplace. All of this subtly makes its way into her songwriting and playing on With the Sun.

War’s singing style is more than a little reminiscent of Joan Armatrading (whom she claims as an influence, alongside Elizabeth Cotton and Mississippi John Hurt), only softer and warmer. Her lush, finger-picked acoustic guitar combines a number of traditions: she refers to her style as  “crab-claw picking,” borrowed from the banjo, but her generous use of hammer-ons and pull-offs occasionally conjures Mali’s guitar great, Boubacar Traoré.

There isn’t really a song on the album that could be described as “blues,” but there are nods to the tradition throughout, in chords, vocal inflection and lyrical themes. War has a way of tackling the truly depressing without actually sounding depressing: alcoholism (“Gotta Live It”), anti-black police brutality (“I’m Human”), domestic abuse (“Violent”), and classic love and loss (“Finn”). She also manages to throw in the odd vulgarity that, thanks to her velvet delivery, doesn’t even come across as vulgar.

While War’s singing and guitar playing is always front and centre, the album includes some great supporting instrumentation. “With the Sun” features Nick Drake-esque interplay between piano and guitar, and Nikita Sorokin’s fiddle playing  adds colour throughout, but is especially present on the raucous stomp-and-clap number, “Til I’m Dead.” “The Change You Make” juxtaposes unexpectedly ominous chord changes with the carefree sound of children playing in a schoolyard, and “Come Back” pairs War’s earthy voice and guitar with the smooth sheen of a full string section.

Sunny War’s diverse influences come together to produce something all her own, and well worth the attention she’s been receiving. Her sound is unapologetically black and female, and With the Sun is devastatingly beautiful without even trying to be pretty. It’s the kind of music 2018 desperately needs.

Sam Green And The Midnight Heist – Onsette Return

Alt Americana/Surf Roots Rock Music from the North Atlantic Coast.

Discover Surf Roots Rock music from the North Atlantic Coast.

Sam Green and the Midnight Heist are an Alt Americana/Roots Rock band from North Devon in the UK. The band is made up of Sam Green (vocals, slide, electric and acoustic guitar), Lucy Green (vocals, banjo and acoustic guitar), Paul Hopkins (vocals and double bass) and Steve Tanton (vocals and drums).

SGATMH’s music is heavily influenced by the blues, west coast folk rock and alt country soul. Taking inspiration from artists such as The John Butler Trio, Gomez and Ryan Adams, the band is proud to release it’s latest 5 track EP ‘Onsette Return.’

The California Honeydrops – Call It Home Vol. 1 & 2

This album, like this band and its members, cannot be put in a box. Though very much ‘of this time’, the music and stories on this album take you through many eras, places and points of view. Some songs might find you reminiscing, cruising your old neighborhood a sunny day with a full orchestra pouring out of the stereo. Then suddenly you hear tambourines and voices pouring out of a storefront church. You may find yourself sweating out a weeks work on the dance floor at a house party or just singing round a campfire with a guitar and washboard. You might find yourself taken from a street parade surrounded by mournful horns, to gazing up at the starry sky contemplating your place in the universe, all in a single song. There are many journeys and emotions awaiting the listener on Call it Home. You never know where the Honeydrops will take you, but where ever you end up, you’ll want to dance.

This album is the work of people that spend their whole lives on the road playing music. They play in all sorts of music in all sorts of places for all kinds of people, from big cities to small towns, from barns to theaters for audiences young and old, hip and unhip. They love all kinds of music and don’t feel the need to package a particular sound for the radio. Sometimes they dress up sharp, sometimes they perform naked. Clothed or unclothed they always love to make people dance. They believe the purpose of music is celebration, healing, and spreading love and joy.

How is Call It Home: Vol 1 & 2 different from prior albums?
Lech: It’s our first double album. In a way it’s our first concept album.

The concept being the idea of home?
Lech: That’s a subject that’s been on my mind since I was a kid. I was born in Warsaw, Poland. My parents brought me here as a kid and we moved around a lot. They were always talking about missing where they were from and I was always wondering who I was in that way; the question of whether I was Polish or American or both. I didn’t set out to make an album about that, but these songs were coming out that way. Also, the place I’ve been living here in Oakland has changed so much since I’ve lived here. It was a place I felt really comfortable in when I came, but I don’t feel comfortable anymore; it’s a place I can’t really afford to live in anymore.

Being called a party band is and always has been perceived as a compliment. How much of a task has it been getting that same atmosphere in the studio?
Lech: We did a little bit of both. There are certain tracks where we were just seriously partying as we’re recording the album. We had to bring the same vibe as we do on stage, otherwise it’s not going to feel right. Then, there are certain tracks that are more painstakingly focused in a way that we aren’t usually onstage.

Call It Home started with Lech’s growing catalog of original material, followed by demos recorded at the band’s home base—“The Blues Cave”—and finally tracking in Bay Area facilities such as Decibel Recording, Tiny Telephone and New and Improved studios.
Lech: 16 songs made the album. We went through 25 or 30 songs that we demoed. Once we were in the studio we wanted to be ready and happy and comfortable—in a creative place musically to flow with it and get that on the wax. The setup for each song was completely different, which made things take a long time. We were trying to capture a lot of different eras on this record.

Recording took a year and a half, with studio time divided by touring—including opening for legendary singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt on her extended U.S. tour. What effect did touring with Raitt have beyond her appearance on the record?
Lech: The band ebbs and flows. I think we got better at playing a song. That helped us immensely in the studio. We definitely are more comfortable now just knocking out some songs, having fun with them. To me, Bonnie is a person that’s really focused on the meaning and emotion of each song. She’s kind of a master at communicating that. The main thing that has stuck with me is putting that intention behind each song, and knowing emotionally where I’m going and finding ways to communicate that with people.

In an age when albums have become, once again, secondary to singles, and in an
industry that has tacitly branded music, with its delivery system of downloads and streams, as disposable as ever, along comes this wildly diverse album from The California Honeydrops—to be issued on vinyl as well, no less. Why make an album like this now?
Lech: There are a lot of different reasons. One main thing I wanted to do is paint a picture of who we are as a band. We’ve had many albums come out in the past. I wanted to have something that encapsulated the 10 years of grind that we put in; all the different styles we’ve gone through in that time; all the different aspects of our lives that those 10 years have contained. This was a breakthrough year for the band. I wanted something that captured the totality instead of doing something small. That’s why you’ve got the whole cosmos on the album cover. This is my life. This band has never been for sale. This band has been everything for us. It’s something that we do for the love. I’m proud of that.

And a double-album, at that.
Lech: We just had so many songs. I’ve been writing tons and tons of songs. We had this material and it didn’t really seem to go on just one album. So, it became two volumes. These days everyone wants you to put everything into a neat package. That’s not the way this band is. This band has consumed our entire lives over the last 10 years. This album includes everything—all sorts of music that don’t all go together on a record in a certain way, don’t all fit the same genre. I felt no pressure to do that. We as people, we’re infinite, manifold, all kinds of things. In this world of selling yourself, of branding yourself, you try to pigeon-hole yourself so that it’s clear to the consumer what they are consuming. But, that’s a disservice to yourself. Why would you want to limit yourself? You have to express all parts of you so that you can stay sane.

And for those that prefer downloads or streams?
Lech: You can cherry-pick. All the songs are good. But I do think it’s put together so that it flows well. We did certain things to make the songs like one long loop. It’s a lot of music, but it also works really well as two short albums.

It took two volumes this time to convey the diversity and dazzle of The California Honeydrops. Does that mean you have a better understanding of what makes a Honeydrops song?
Lech: I think there is something that makes a Honeydrops song, but we don’t know what that is. For me, thematically, I’m very cautious of things I want to put out there; the types of messages I want to put out and hold myself to playing night after night. I want it to be something that it helps for me to feel day after day. Something that uplifts, and maybe it’s sad, but it has to have some kind of positive function. I’m kind of a believer in that.

Bishop Briggs – Church Of Scars

British singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs’s    River,    however, is the kind of song you might have heard sandwiched between Paula Cole’s    Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?    and the Spice Girls’s    Wannabe    on the radio in the late ’90s. The track’s mix of blues-rock and more contemporary elements   like handclaps that morph into trap snares   feels like a throwback to the alternative-pop bands that infiltrated Top 40 stations just before the turn of the century. And Briggs’s debut, Church of Scars, delivers in kind, with a series of gothic-soul dirges and blues-inflected pop.

The looped refrain on    River    sounds like it was lifted from Adele’s 25, an album that could have, in turn, used some of Briggs’s trip-hop edge. Church of Scars harnesses the soulful blues-pop that Adele has so deftly deployed on hits like    Rolling in the Deep.    Standouts    Wild Horses    and    Hallowed Ground    are defined by canned horns and reverb-drenched vocals, while the classic R&B tropes of    Lyin’    and    Hi-Lo (Hollow)    are juxtaposed by pitched-down and diced-up vocals, respectively.

Spread across 10 tracks, though, Briggs’s formula ultimately reveals itself to be one-note. The incessant box-stomping and earnest belting on    Dream    obliterates the subtlety of the song’s pensive acoustic guitar strains and gospel humming. For all its sermonizing and church-y fundamentals, the album is largely joyless.    Why can’t I let my demons lie?/Keep screaming into the pillow,    Briggs laments on    Wild Horses.    When, two-thirds of the way through Church of Scars, the singer cynically bemoans that    there’s more pain in love than we can find in hate,    her dour disposition has grown exhausting.

Trixie and The Trainwrecks – 3 Cheers To Nothing


Wild child, Trixie Trainwreck aka Trinity Sarratt was born in San Francisco and moved to Berlin on a whim when she was 18. She started her musical endeavors in the underground trains back in 1999 and went on to make a name for herself working in and promoting shows in almost every bar in town as well as touring the EU and the USA with a handful of bands (Kamikaze Queens, Cry Babies, Runaway Brides) and most recently with her one woman show as Trixie Trainwreck No Man Band. She’s probably the hardest working girl in showbiz…and a mother, too!!

Trixie Trainwreck: vocals & rhythm guitar
Charlie Hangdog : blues harp
Paul Seacroft: lapsteel & lead guitar
Bruce Brand: drums & percussion


When Dylan Walshe introduced Trixie Trainwreck to Charlie Hangdog on the premise of playing around London, no one could have predicted what would happen next. After a handful of shows and what may have been a one- off session with Bruce Brand (Thee Headcoats, Milkshakes, Holly Golightly, Hipbone Slim) and Paul Seacroft (The Selector, played with members of Jim Jones Revue, Urban Voodoo Machine, Prince Buster) they would end up recording a whole album with Ed Deegan at the amazing Gizzard Studios for Voodoo Rhythm Records! Well, that’s just what happened and this is what we got just 3 action packed days later! Recorded 99% live and analogue, here comes 13 overdriven-long-gone-broken-hearted-country-blues-trash numbers from the wrong side of the tracks. And it feels so right. “3 Cheers to Nothing” sums up the last 18 years of the San Francisco born, Berlin based Trixie Trainwreck in exile, taking you along on her personal adventures and inner struggles with the ghosts of yesterdays past, angels, demons, and everything in between. The sound is just as unexpected as the rest. We call it Trainwreck Blues!