Son Volt announce their new album, Notes Of Blue

Son Volt

Nashville, TN – Seminal band Son Volt has announced the February 17 release of their new album, Notes Of Blue (Thirty Tigers). Led by the songwriting and vocals of Jay Farrar, Son Volt was one of the most instrumental and influential bands in launching the alt.country movement of the 1990’s. A movement that was the precursor to what is now widely referred to as Americana.

The 10 songs on Notes Of Blue are inspired by the spirit of the blues, but not the standard blues as most know it. The unique and haunting tunings of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Skip James and Nick Drake were all points of exploration for Farrar for the new collection. The album opens with the country soul of ‘Promise The World’, followed by ‘Back Against The Wall’, a song that could stand alongside the great Son Volt songs of their early albums. However, Notes Of Blue reflects the blues as it resides in the folk tradition, but heavily amplified. The primal stomp of ‘Cherokee St.’, the frenetic guitar on ‘Static’ and the raw slide in ‘Sinking Down’ exude grit and attitude. Conversely, tracks such as ‘The Storm’ and ‘Cairo and Southern’ seamlessly meld blues with hypnotic melodies that add a unique balance to Notes Of Blue.

Farrar possesses one of the most distinctive voices in roots, rock, country or any genre. He exudes a soulful longing combined with a wise-beyond-his-years command that is as arresting and compelling as ever. As a songwriter, Farrar’s depth and poetic penchant has been the foundation of a thoughtful, deep and intelligent body of work. Both attributes are on full display on Notes Of Blue, as he touches on themes of redemption and the common struggle, both of which are at the core of the blues.

Whether you call it alt.country, Americana, roots rock, insurgent country or just good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, musical trends appear and disappear on regular basis. Notes Of Blue is a testament to the legacy of inspiration and creative spirit that Jay Farrar and Son Volt continue to uphold.

Artists’ website: http://sonvolt.net/

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‘Lost Souls’ – official (but not the most riveting) video:

SINGLES BAR 17

A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 17Having released their latest album, Good Times Will Come Again last year, MEGSON now lift the lead track, ‘Generation Rent’ (EDJ), as a single. A punchy protest against how today’s young generation find it impossible to get on to the property ladder, it comes as both album version and radio mix. Sandwiched in-between, there’s Morning Mist, a traditional-flavoured ballad that spotlights Debbie Hanna’s vocals, Stu providing harmony, set to a minimal acoustic guitar, and a live recording of Stu’s near six minute The Longshot, a football-themed song that celebrates striving against the odds rather than giving up, because when. there’s no hope, “ a longshot is better than none”.
http://www.megsonmusic.co.uk/

Barbara DicksonAs a prelude to her spring tour with Troy Donockley BARBARA DICKSON releases an EP of Five Songs. The opening track is the traditional ‘Palace Grand’ – although it goes by several titles – accompanied initially by piano and acoustic guitar until the strings sweep in. Next is ‘Farewell To Fiunary’ starts with bodhran and drone building via multi-tracked vocals to a magnificent finish in which you can almost hear the creaking of oars on the Sound Of Mull. ‘The Hill’ is a Dickson/Donockley original with another lush arrangement while ‘The Laird Of The Dainty Dounby’ is an all-too familiar tale of the villainy of the aristocracy. Finally we have Robin Williamson’s ‘October Song’, a nicely thoughtful setting that honours the original and boasts a pipe solo from Donockley.
http://www.barbaradickson.net/

Singles Bar 17Born in Hampshire but based in East London, THOM ASHWORTH deals in the British folk tradition, his a stripped down approach played on bass. His self-released debut EP, Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture (available as a download from his website or as a limited edition CD) offers four examples of his work. Two traditional numbers load the front end with a sonorous reading of ‘Tyne Of Harrow’ and a moody drone-like treatment of familiar folk chestnut ‘Lord Bateman’. Not strictly traditional, the EP ends in striking style with a dark, minimal and spooked version of Sidney Carter’s ominous anti-war protest song ‘Crow On The Cradle’, the percussive heavy self-penned title track initially striking a kindred note, Named after a computer game apparently, it started out with a left over verse from a track on Interregum, the Marillion-like swansong album by Ashworth’s former band, Our Lost Infantry, and grew into a comment on how technology is taking away today’s livelihoods, as it did the weavers and miners before. A name to watch.
http://thomashworth.com/

Whitney RoseWHITNEY ROSE may come from Canada, but her South Texas Suite (Six Shooter) EP celebrates her recent two month residency at Austin’s Continental Club with six songs of a Lone Star persuasion. It opens south of the border with the gorgeous Three Minute Love Affair, the sort of timeless Texicana ballad you could imagine either Marty Robbins or the Mavericks (Raul Malo produced 2016’s Heartbreak Of The Year album) doing. Four of the other tracks are also self-penned, ‘My Boots’ a playful twangy guitar Loretta Lynn-like tribute to her footwear, the steel-streaked ‘Bluebonnets For My Baby’ harking more to 60s doowop balladry, the reflective mid-tempo swayer ‘Looking Back On Luckenbach’ sounding pretty much as you might imagine from the title (Waylon’s spirit presumably hovering over the recording session) and the brief – and a touch pointless – guitars, steel, fiddle and honky tonk piano instrumental closer ‘How ‘Bout A Hand For The Band’,. The remaining number finds her in a laid back swing mood for a cover of Brennen Leigh’s ode to good old retro technology, ‘Analog’. She’s touring here in May and, on the evidence here, will be well worth catching.
http://whitneyrosemusic.com

Runaway HorseAnd while we’re musically in Austin, RUNAWAY HORSE are a trio from the same fronted by the breathily voiced Mari Tirsa, accompanied by guitarist Daniel Barrett with Rick Richards on drums. Their self-released five-track EP, Beautiful Blue, harks to cosmic Americana with songs rooted in the landscape her New Mexico raising. It’s all fairly sedate and dreamy (though closer ‘Arrive’ has a persistent percussive one foot marching beat underpinning its tinkling starry skies feel), with both opener Holy Water and the title having a gentle, hymnal quality. They’re a little bluesier on the five minute plus ‘The Well’ (the Fleetwood Mac to the Cowboy Junkies elsewhere) while the ticking rhythm of the slowly swelling ‘Once’ sees Tirsa stretching her keyboard wings to fine effect.
http://runawayhorseband.com/

VARIOUS GUISES are the duo of Blanche Ellis and Maya McCourt and Tide Take Him marks their recording debut. They mix acapella vocals with guitar and cello and a little assistance from Tom Hyatt’s piano and vocalist Dana Immanuel. The title track is a reworking of ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor’ so that it’s no longer a shanty and instead is sung with a syncopated rhythm or slowed to a funereal pace. Tackling a song as hackneyed as this is always a risk but Various Guises really do something with it. With one more exception the songs are original ending with ‘The Sound And The Fury’ and the traditional ‘Bedlam Boys’ both of which are nicely nuts.

RAYNA GELLERT – Workin’s Too Hard (Storysound 161-019)

Workin's Too HardFiddle player with Uncle Earl, Gellert follows up her 2013 solo debut with the seven track Workin’s Too Hard, which, at under 25 minutes, may be a little on the sort side but does further underscore her development as a songwriter in the American folk tradition as well as providing a platform for a voice rarely heard within the band setting.

Working with co-producer Kieran Kane on mandolin and acoustic guitar, supported by drummer Jamie Dick and Kai Welch on electric guitar and keys, Gellert kicks off with the simple strummed shuffling rhythm title track, an ode to kicking back after the daily grind apparently inspired by the opening lines of a 1937 Kentucky field recording. There are two further self-penned, numbers ‘Strike The Bells’ a brushed snares, strummed Baez-like musing on ageing and, her famous fiddle providing the intro, middle eight and end, the similarly themed slow waltzing ‘Perry’ (it’s named for and about the drink) with its plaintive lone piano and images of planting trees and birthing babies to leave behind to tend them.

There are also two Kane co-writes, first up being the waltzing ‘River Town’ with its reflections of indecision and a brief, melancholic guitar solo, the second being the mandolin led ‘Grey Bird’ which, combining new and traditional lyrics, deals with a lover’s inconstancy (“I have given you my heart, as constant as the sun/While yours is like the grey bird there, it sings for anyone”). She draws on traditional roots for two other numbers, taking the gospel folk ‘Oh Lovin’ Babe’ at a dappled rhythm while Dick turns up the percussive rockabilly chug for album train-time closer ‘I’m Bound For The Promised Land’ and sees Gellert breaking out the fiddle again for a mid tune romp.

Workin’s Too Hard is an understated, quiet affair that strikes an intimate, unhurried note and leaves you hoping her next won’t take quite so long or be quite so short.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist website: www.raynagellert.com

‘Perry’ with Kristen Andreassin:

JUDE JOHNSTONE – A Woman’s Work (BoJack BJR2221960-2)

A Woman's WorkAlthough A Woman’s Work is her seventh album, there’s a very good chance you’ve never heard of the piano-playing New England singer-songwriter. It is, however, very likely you’ll have heard one of her songs. She’s and had her songs covered by such superstar names as Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Stevie Nicks and Bette Midler. She also wrote the title track for Johnny Cash’s 1996 Grammy winner, Unforgiven. From hanging out at the recording sessions for The River, invited by Clarence Clemons, and singing on albums by T Bone Burnett and Cohen to being asked to co-write with Dylan, Johnstone’s had a pretty eventful musical life, but it would be good if her own music got the exposure it deserves.

An introspective and reflective set, the female perspective songs largely informed by the end of her 28-year marriage and recorded live over the space of two days, this may well be the one to do that. Backed by organ and streaked with pedal steel, it opens with the quietly aching pedal steel streaked Americana of ‘Never Leave Amsterdam’, a resigned farewell to a holiday romance that will always linger. If the waltzing piano and cello accompanied title track sounds familiar, it’s because it gave Trisha Yearwood a No 1 some 25 years ago, but this the first time Johnstone’s ever recorded it herself. It was worth the wait.

Things switch mood and style for ‘People Holding Hands’ a bluesy slouch, a feel that later carries over into ‘Turn Me Into Water’, though here with the organ and backing vocals bringing an added soulful, gospel touch. There’s softer blues tones to be heard on ‘Little Boy Blue’, a drum program providing the shuffling beat upon which keys and strings build an early hours vibe.

Here forte, though, is soulful piano ballads that recall 70s Carole King and her ilk, and there’s plenty here to illustrate the fact, ‘The Woman Before Me’ augmented with pedal steel and cello, the reflective, confessional ‘What Do I Do Now’ with its harp and viola having the air of a Broadway showstopper while ‘Road to Rathfriland’ introduces penny whistle and button accordion for an Irish-infused slow march and the defiant, slowly swelling ‘I’ll Cry Tomorrow’ is swathed in string heartbreak with a deep resonant guitar break by Grammy-winning sessioneer Andrew Synowiec.

The album closes on another such ballad, the wistful ‘Before You’, a song you can almost see being delivered on a darkened stage, Johnstone alone in a spotlight as cello, upright bass and drums whisper their support from the shadows. Heartfelt, intimate, melancholic but yet somehow hopeful, could be one of the best things you hear this year.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.judejohnstone.com

‘Before You’ live:

RED TAIL RING – Fall Away Blues (Earthwork Music EW8504)

Fall Away BluesSo you’ve seen the title, Fall Away Blues, and noted that Red Tail Ring are a guitar/fiddle/banjo duo so you know what their album sounds like, right? I thought that, too, but we were both wrong. Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo are from Michigan but their love of old-time music is genuine. Laurel sometimes cultivates a West Virginia accent that comes out on words like “sparrow” but Red Tail Ring’s music has decidedly modern overtones.

The opening title track is written by Laurel and boasts one of those tunes that makes you want to go back to the beginning as soon as it’s finished. Laurel is the duo’s principal songwriter but Fall Away Blues is a real mixture of sources. ‘Wondrous Love’ comes from the Sacred Harp but it’s never sounded like this in church; ‘Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies’ is from the Sharp collection and ‘Gibson Town’ is set to a Muddy Waters’ tune. The song is a response to the 2016 Kalamazoo shootings but has a timeless feel that could place it any time in the last eighty years.

‘Shale Town’ is a totally modern protest against fracking but from the opening lyrics you could place it in the depression of the 1930s. It’s a masterful piece of writing. ‘Yarrow’ is from Child; ‘I’d Rather Be The Devil’ is by Skip James with extra lyrics by Laurel and there is one instrumental set, ‘Camp Meeting On The Fourth Of July/May Day’.

Musically, Red Tail Ring do it all themselves. There are no celebrity guests but there are some overdubs, notably Laurel’s harmony vocals backing her own lead line. Michael’s voice gives a depth and richness to the harmonies and there is a great warmth in the sound that you don’t always find in “pure” old-timey music. Fall Away Blues is really good album.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://redtailring.com/

‘Fall Away Blues’ live:

Americana Music Association showcase events at AmericanaFest UK

AmericanaFest

As part of this year’s Americana Music Association UK Awards, there will also be an evening of curated showcases from twenty new and established artists in the trans-Atlantic Americana Music scene, to be known as ‘AmericanaFest UK 2017’.

The Americana music genre has enjoyed steady growth in the UK and worldwide over the past few years, with music sales, tours, airplay all on the increase.

This year’s full AMA-UK Festival runs from 1st to 2nd February 2017 and consists of three strands; the second UK Americana Awards, the fourth AMA-UK Conference and, of course, AmericanaFest UK 2017.

Artists performing at AmericanaFest UK 2017 include: Angaleena Presley (US), Robert Vincent, Glen Phillips (US), Wild Ponies (US) and Jess Morgan. See below for full line-up.

Separate showcase only tickets are available at the early bird price of just £10 (rising to £15) and allow entry to all 3 venues. Buy tickets here

For more information on the Conference, Awards Show and AmericanaFest UK 2017 see www.theamauk.org

Events website: http://theamauk.org/

VENUE LINE-UPS WITH TIMINGS:

OSLO, 1a Amhurst Road, Hackney, E8 1LL

The Grande 7.00pm-7.35pm
Murder, Murder (CA) 8.00pm-8.35pm
Jo Harman 9.00pm-9.35pm
Angaleena Presley (US) 10.00pm-10.35pm
Robert Vincent 11.00pm-11.35pm

PAPER DRESS VINTAGE, 352a Mare Street, E8 1HR

Carter Sampson (US) 6.30pm-7.05pm
The Black Feathers 7.30pm-8.05pm
Amanda Rheaume (CA) 8.30pm-9.05pm
Walton Hesse 9.30pm-10.05pm
Emma Swift (AUS) 10.30pm-11.05pm
Glen Phillips (US) 11.30pm-12.05am

MOTH CLUB Main Stage, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, E9 6NU

The Honey Ants 6.30pm-7.00pm
Worry Dolls 7.30pm-8.00pm
Henry Senior Jr 8.30pm-9.00pm
Flats and Sharps 9.30pm-10.00pm
Wild Ponies (US) 10.30pm-11.00pm

MOTH CLUB Acoustic Room

Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer 7.05pm-7.30pm
Amythyst Kiah (US) 8.05pm-8.30pm
Hope in High Water 9.05pm-9.30pm