AMIT DATTANI – Santiago (own label AD001)

SantiagoOne half of the Mellow Peaches, Amit Dattani, will release his debut solo Long-Player on March 4th. While much of the Peaches’ output is somewhere in the country-blues vein, it is not too surprising that Santiago, Dattani’s solo offering, is not too different.

Eight out of the album’s ten tracks are originals and provide something of a snapshot into Dattani’s inner self. We are presented with childhood memories in the poetic lyricism of ‘Boats And Trains’, the bittersweet feelings of relocating to Birmingham in ‘Home’ (with Davy Graham-esque guitar runs and all) and through his playful instrumental, ’Izzy’, dedicated to his German Shepherd.

The title track opens the disc and its melodic beauty sets the tone for the rest of the album; echoing through other standouts ‘Charcoal’, ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Raise The Dead’; wonderfully fingerpicked in the Piedmont style, honed by Mississippi John Hurt et al.

It is this influence of country-blues musicians and performers from Hurt’s era which really seem to define this recording and the inclusion of traditional works, ‘Swing and Turn Jubilee’ and turn of the century hymn, ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’, seem to act as a way of taking the record full circle…if you’ll pardon the pun.

‘Santiago’ is an aesthetically conscious recording in every sense; from the style and delivery of the album originals and choice of traditional material, right down to the way in which the album was recorded; straight takes with just Dattani’s voice and instrument telling the story.

There are no overdubs and there is no obvious ‘studio magic’; it is a simple, sincere and authentic collection presented to the listener as intended by a musician who has clearly done his homework.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.


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Artist’s website: www.amitdattanimusic.com

‘Santiago’ – official video:

ERIC ANDERSEN – Silent Angel: Fire and Ashes of Heinrich Böll (Meyer Records no. 221)

Since The Cologne Concert LP in 2011, Eric Andersen’s output on the Meyer label has been prolific to say the least; and only months since releasing an album dedicated to the works of Lord Byron, here he is again with Silent Angel: Fire and Ashes of Heinrich Böll. As the title suggests, this recording focusses on the life and work of Böll; a Nobel Prize winning writer and ardent anti-fascist, who as a German soldier, deserted the army, was wounded and eventually captured by Americans and sent to a Prisoner of War camp. After the War, he dedicated his life to writing about his wartime and post-War experiences. While Andersen’s works take inspiration from Böll’s literature, these songs also serve as a warning, as he parallels the dangers of Nazi Germany to the modern landscape.

Bookended with a short, light-hearted German ditty about the River Rhine, the recording digs deep, and does so very quickly. ‘Silent Angel’ opens the Andersen-sung portion of the album; based on Böll’s first novel, as he returns to his blitzed and decimated hometown and through the dust and rubble thinks he sees a person, only to find it is an angel made of marble. It is as eerie as it is melodic, but in terms of lyrical narrative for the songs on the record, it merely scrapes the surface. The sarcastic ‘Thank You Dearest Leader’, is the rockiest song on the album and is a giant middle finger to Adolf Hitler, for his misguided evils and the domino effect they had on the world in the years to come…or as Andersen puts it, his own “personal sardonic way to express ‘appreciation’ for (Hitler’s) fucking up and…ruining a beautiful country like Germany and others round her.

‘Face of a Clown’ is a slow, sad narrative of “an artist and a clown” named Schneer, who rejects his wealthy family’s Nazi lifestyle, but soon has his heart broken and has no money, and after encountering a series of misfortunes, becomes a busker in a train station. Perhaps the piece on the record which is closest to the bone however, is ‘Silence’; a five minute ballad on the literal silence which often engulfed German households when the subject of what happened to the Jews during the War came up. It begins: “Silence – from the cellar down the halls/ Silence – its running down the walls/ Silence – never sorry when it calls/Doesn’t disappear at all/ It just rolls up like a ball/Pretending to be small/ And then buries you in a fog…”

Eric has been putting out records for over 50 years, and as far as I’m concerned, he is as good as anyone else to come out of the folk revival. While it is worth applauding the fact that he is still writing, recording and releasing new material, what is even more commendable is that instead of just rehashing, reminiscing or releasing for the sake of a new record, in 2018, Eric Andersen still has something very important to say.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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.ericandersen.com

ASH GRAY – Chicken Wire (Labelship Records – LC24628)

Chicken WireDespite being something of a veteran on various indie circuits – on two continents, no less – Chicken Wire is only the second solo album by Ash Gray. As a native of Austin, Texas and a resident of Sheffield, England, Gray manages to bring both surroundings together on this Long Player, adding a bit of steel guitar to the steel city; where Sheffield musicians lay the foundations and Austin musos add a touch of ‘country’ magic.

It’s an Americana record, but a very eclectic one at that, gravitating between an easy going singer-songwriter approach and harder hitting, electrically drenched, country rock. It is the harmonica-driven sounds of the latter category which kick the album off, (‘The Other Man’) before we are led into the comparatively stripped back ‘Golden Road’ and its alternations between familiar ‘country’ sounds and a slightly folkier approach. There are a few songs on this album which have a similar vibe; the ever so slightly Simon and Garfunkel-esque ‘Josephine Clark’, the nu-folkish ‘Sundown (Come and See Me)’ and musically quirky ‘It Might Get Loud’. Along with these folkier traits, the album’s all out country vibes are not hard to find, however.

‘The Creek Don’t Rise’, which borrows from the Alabama saying “If the good Good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise…” (most famously associated with the Yellowhammer State’s favourite son, Hank Williams) is very much a country affair and is a personal favourite of mine and much like the first track , it is the harmonica which helps navigate the song. Side 2 opens with a number called ‘When The Devil Comes Home’, where this time it is the sounds of the steel guitar which colour our tangibly countrified experience, as they do on the slightly sinister ‘Chicken Wire’; title track and stand out number.

This is a collection of ten songs which hold together quite convincingly, not only in the sense that there are no obvious weak links on the disc, but in the way, that although each track is very different from the next, everything feels very much related; actually creating the feeling that this really is “an album” in the truest sense of the word.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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: https://ashgraynews.com/

NO THEE NO ESS – California (Folkwit Records)

CaliforniaNo Thee No Ess are a unique Cardiff duo comprising Andy Fung and Paul Battenbough who just so happened to have released their most recent Long Player at the tail-end of last year. California draws from a range of influences from the American West Coast; including the folk-rock/ singer songwriter approach, the Bakersfield (country) sound, NorCal indie rock and the SF psych scene; where the album most noticeably appears to set its roots.

Opener, the almost ‘surfy’ ‘Mind Flow Bender’ sets the tone for the album’s meandering psychedelic vibes, creating a certain ambiance which remains constant throughout the record. Gently it flows from one song to the next, bringing a similar feeling to the likes of the mellow and distant title track and the more experimental ‘1960 Alpha’. Before long, shades of Laurel Canyon and Bakersfield subtly grace the likes of ‘Evening Breeze’, ‘Electric Hand’ and the slow moving ‘City of Dreams’ as it repeats the mantra: “Open up your mind to the possibilities of your life”. Like much of the record, these vocals ‘sit’ above the music and don’t feel forced or too intrusive, although because of this, there are also times in which they become almost too ambient, putting the song’s narrative in danger of getting lost among the sound collage of Fung and Battenbough’s imagined California.

While the album’s ‘atmosphere’ is constant, it is occasionally strayed from; in the latter part of ‘Wear Your Love/ Sylvia Plath’, in which new twists, turns and sounds are introduced, in ‘Plainsong’ and in the curiously titled ‘Moonbathing’; a track which feels less like something born out of an intrigue of the Golden State and something more reminiscent of the sounds of fellow countrymen, the Super Furry Animals.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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://folkwit.com/artists/no-thee-no-ess

‘Mind Flow Bender’ – official video:

ROB CORCORAN & THE NECESSARY EVILS – Inverse Alchemy (Sullen Link)

Inverse AlchemyThere is something instantly appealing about Rob Corcoran & The Necessary Evils’ debut album, Inverse Alchemy. Its songs are honest, relatable, lived, and the musicianship is almost without fault, making for a fantastically constructed piece of art. From the fiddle-laden, opener ‘Downtime Waltz’ to closing ballad ‘Pub On The Hill’, we are given something of a masterclass in Americana music…well, Americana with a Dublin accent.

In between these well placed bookends, several finely crafted originals stand out from the album. The sadly optimistic ‘Get To You’, the hobo dustbowl daydream that is ‘Train Song’ and the borderline blasphemous ‘What Did You Do With Joseph, Jesus?’; a number that is so catchy, its been stuck in my head, sending my Catholic guilt into overdrive.

But there are even stronger songs; ‘Black Hearted Man’, which is both an amazingly honest admission of personal shortcomings and a warning; “believing in me is gonna get you burned…” Corcoran revisits this notion of belief in ‘Tuesdays’, which sees our protagonist spending his Tuesday evenings playing to nobody, yet feels the evening to have been salvaged by returning home to a presumed lover, who not only “waited up” but “believed” in our songwriter’s “fading dream”. The record’s centrepiece however, has to be ‘Four In The Morning’ in which Basia Bartz violin and Corcoran’s lyrics intertwine to paint an instantly descriptive scene which unfolds as if it were happening before our very eyes:

It’s four in the morning, its already light,
Birds are singing farewell to the London night
A police siren woke me out of a dream
And I’m lying here in the afterglow
its slipping away, as the new light of day
Meet the murmur of late night radio…”

The subject matter for Inverse Alchemy is at times, dark, and at other times very dark, but in a weird way, it is also a very uplifting record. It is consistently well written, well played and I’m already looking forward to revisiting it again (and again) in the future. Bravo for this one.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website: www.robcorcoranmusic.com

‘Black Hearted Man’:

LUKE DANIELS – Singing Ways To Feel More Junior (Gael Records GAEL017)

Singing WaysSinging Ways To Feel More Junior by Luke Daniels, is a wonderfully eclectic collection of a dozen songs, most of which are Daniels’ originals. It goes in many different directions (occasionally at the same time) and presents shades of folk, funk, blues, jazz and Americana, and while some of the tracks have slightly more edge than others, there is a definite sense of sweetness and brightness contained throughout.

The album opens with ‘Penny In The Slot’; it’s catchy, it’s fun and it bizarrely borrows from the 2003 ‘Fast Food Song’; incorporating the less-than-immortal line “McDonalds, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut” into its lyric. Just as bizarrely, however, it works. While This Americana vibe is continued into the album’s second track (‘Only Love I’ll Leave To You’), it is the steady, danceable rhythms of ‘The House That Jack Built’ which introduce us to the album’s funkier elements. These grooves are very enjoyable, and are followed up by the beautifully delivered, (if comparatively melancholic) title track.

Following this number we are once again guided down the well-travelled Americana route through the quirkiness of the uplifting mandolin-led ‘Let’s Not Waste Another Day’ and ‘Strange Power’, before we get to the bluesy Presidential piss-take; ‘Elizabeth Trump And Sons’, one of two topically tinged numbers on the disc; with ‘Better The Devil You Know’ featuring on the album’s last quarter. Indeed, even at this late stage, we continue to hear new approaches and new experiments; the eerie but engaging soundbites which introduce ‘What Becomes Of Gilgamesh’ or the closing number, (Stevie Wonder cover) ‘Don’t You Worry About A Thing’, which boasts another tremendous vocal take, and proves the perfect conclusion to an interesting, enjoyable, if at times off the wall journey through this collection of “new songs for grown-ups.”

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl format), download one or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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.lukedanielsmusic.com

‘The House That Jack Built’ – official video: