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 the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the LUKE DANIELS – Singing Ways To Feel More Junior link 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.

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Artist’s website: www.lukedanielsmusic.com

‘The House That Jack Built’ – official video:

HEAD FOR THE HILLS – Potions And Poisons (Head For The Hills)

Potions And PoisonsDespite a slightly altered line up (with original mandolinist, Mike Chappell departing to pursue other endeavours) the Colorado-based quartet, Head For The Hills, are back with another album, in the form of the self-produced and self-released, Potions And Poisons, which will be available from November 1st.

While its predecessor, Blue Ruin, was an exploration of numerous genres, this recording is far more grounded in the sounds of straight up Americana. That said, we do get a hint of ‘…Hills’ wonderfully eclectic tastes halfway through the opening track, ‘Afraid Of The Dark’, through an unusual and almost Eastern European sounding break down. This is followed by the quirky fiddle-led ‘Suit And Tie’, which continues the more apparent Americana approach, as it flows into ‘Give Me A Reason’; a song with a melody reminiscent of traditional ballad ‘Diamond Joe’, but with lyrics which feel a bit rushed and lack the same conviction of the previous tracks.

‘Floodgates’ is one of two entirely instrumental numbers, and its intricate bluegrass mandolin runs really demonstrate the musical talent of Sam Parks, the band’s newest recruit. Title track, ‘Potions And Poisons’ is possibly the best song on the album and is an ode to life’s vices, including “Candy, coffee, cocaine and coitus”. While the alliteration in the song’s lyrics, prove rather effective, one must not overlook the quality of its free-flowing fiddle, played on this track by Joe Lessard. Perhaps the biggest departure from the album’s Americana vibe comes in the form of the five minute ‘Tell Me Lies’; with its revisited dashes of Eastern Europe, nuances of gypsy jazz and hints of skiffle; with washboard percussion provided by Bonnie Pain, of fellow Colorado group, Elephant Revival. The album bows out strongly, with the beautifully written ‘Kings And Cowards’ and ‘Bucker’, another toe-tapping instrumental delight.

With the boast of having won the locally reputable Northwest String Summit (in 2007), appearances on noted radio programmes and at well-known festivals (including SXSW) over the last decade, November’s Potions and Poisons will surely be yet another worthy addition to the band’s already impressive résumé.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the HEAD FOR THE HILLS – Potions And Poisons link 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.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.headforthehillsmusic.com

‘Bitter Black Coffee’ – official video:

RICHARD THOMPSON – Acoustic Rarities (Beeswing Records BSW016P)

Acoustic RaritiesOctober 6th will see the third instalment of Richard Thompson’s Acoustic series, and having seen two instalments of Classics, our attention is now turned to some of the more obscure works in Thompson’s catalogue, with Acoustic Rarities due for release on the singer’s Beeswing label. Like Classics, Rarities is made up of brand new recordings, but mainly those which have previously been unavailable or only available as cover versions.

Among the previously covered works, there is the beautiful ‘Rainbow Over the Hill’ recorded by The Albion Band for their late ‘70s Long-Player, Rise Up Like The Sun (but included only on the 1992 CD reissue) and the unsettling narrative, ‘Seven Brothers’, covered by Derbyshire-born singer songwriter, Blair Dunlop on his Blight And Blossom debut. It is likely no coincidence that the song crossed Dunlop’s path; he’s the son of Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, active in the early days of the group alongside Thompson. Indeed, Thompson-authored selections of the Fairport discography also make the cut; ‘Sloth’ and ‘Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman’, both recorded for the 1970 album, Full House. ‘Sloth’ is half the length of the Fairport version and although missing the brilliance of the late Dave Swarbrick’s violin virtuosity, it is a fantastic take which is most welcome on the collection; as is ‘Poor Will…’ – a song deleted from Full House at the request of Thompson.

Works composed during his bittersweet marriage to Linda are represented on the collection too, with new (solo) recordings of ‘Never Again’ and ‘The End Of The Rainbow’, as well as a re-working of ‘Poor Ditching Boy’ taken from Thompson’s 1972 solo debut. Although the track is not a million miles away from the Henry The Human Fly version, the vocal take is superior and sits very nicely in the mix, successfully carrying the song’s narrative. While re-workings are interesting to say the least, for some, the album’s appeal may lie in the previously unreleased content. Highlights here include the record’s bookends, ‘What If’ and ‘She Played Right Into My Hands’, not to overlook a newly-penned personal favourite, ‘They Tore The Hippodrome Down’.

As British folk royalty, one has come to associate brilliance with most of Thompson’s work and it is absolutely no surprise to say that this new recording of hard to find, unreleased and revisited rarities lives up to the benchmark.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artist’s website: www.richardthompson-music.com

‘The Poor Ditching Boy’ – the way it used to be:

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Richard Thompson – Acoustic Rarities link 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.

ORDER – [CD]

 

PETE McCLELLAND – Carolina Sky (Hobgoblin Records HOBCD1016)

Carolina SkyAlthough a co-founder of Hobgoblin Music and a member of several different folk bands, Pete McClelland has only just released an album in his own right. Inspired by nearly forty years of Stateside road trips soundtracked by country music, McClelland describes Carolina Sky as a “real and imagined journey across the USA”. Indeed, there are more than a few inescapable splashes of Americana throughout the album; from the cover image of the Blue Ridge Mountains (immortalised in the country genre for decades) to the American geography found throughout the songs – especially in key numbers, like the title track, and album opener ‘The Appalachian Way’.

Written in 2015, the song paints a picture of true friendship in the setting of the American South:“We’re driving down from Redway to Ashville, Leave the frozen Mississippi far behind /I’m gonna sit and smoke, have a couple of beers, I hope, And see my buddy Jerry bye and bye

Recorded in Sussex, England and Nashville, Tennessee, the sounds of country music absolutely drench the album and along with the aforementioned opener, there are a few other numbers which also stand out. ‘Walk This Road’ is particularly deserving of a mention, not only for McClelland’s lyrical celebration of his own family, but for the fact that this was the piece which got the ball rolling for McClelland as a songwriter. Perhaps the strongest number is the mandolin-laced ‘Carolina Sky’ and its picturesque lyrical content which makes one yearn to go back to Carolina…even if one has never been to Carolina in the first place. The honky-tonking, bluesy follow up, ‘Marie’ and ‘A Kind of Kindness’ (another one of McClelland’s earliest efforts) are worth a shout too. A new flavour is introduced in the album’s final track, ‘Marion’, through the Cajun accordion of Jason Pegg, and it’s a fitting to end the record; dedicated to McClelland’s wife, Mannie, his travelling companion for the coast to coast journeys which inspired Carolina Sky.

In the album’s notes, McClelland writes “I went to Nashville to see if anyone might cover my songs, never really planned to put this out there myself…” but with so much of the album written about friends, family or McClelland’s love of travelling, it feels only right that we should hear his stories and his songs in his own voice.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the PETE McCLELLAND – Carolina Sky link 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.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.petemcclelland.com

THE REMEDY CLUB – Lovers, Legends & Lost Causes (High Flying Disc Records)

Lost CausesThe Remedy Club are the husband-and-wife duo of KJ McEvoy and Aileen Mythen, and Lovers, Legends & Lost Causes is their debut album, set for release on October 8th. With the pair sharing the singing responsibilities, the co-written album does pretty much what it says on the tin, being comprised of songs about love (or, lost love), musical legends and songs the pair label “lost causes”. In this category, there are titles like ‘Get Away with It’ and ‘Bottom of the Hill’, where McEvoy masterfully manages to convey frustration and disappointment alongside lyrical images that boast a dark quirk:

I got a belly full of liquor and a handful of pills, aint nobody gonna cure my ills/I fell off the wagon and rolled to the bottom of the hill”.

Among the category marked “love songs”, there are a few lovely duets, including opener ‘I Miss You’, with its elements of classic and contemporary country, and ‘Last Song’; a tale of a drifting relationship, led by the snare drum brush beats of percussionist, Lorcan Byrne.

Aileen Mythen noted that as well as wanting to create a record of original material, the purpose of this album was also about paying homage to the couple’s musical heroes, namely, Tom Waits, Django Reinhardt and Hank Williams. It is perhaps within this “legends” portion that some of the album’s strongest material can be found.

‘When Tom Waits Up’ – pun definitely intended – builds up slowly with a deliberate vibe of a typical Waits song. There are numerous tinkerings on piano and brass, a curious credit for “weights and jangling keys” and of course, a host of cryptic lyrics:

Rooftops are glistening in the pale moonlight, throwing caution to the gentle breeze below,
There’s a glimmer of hope in the old clown’s eyes, as he paints his face before the show,
There’s a swinging hotspot just down the road, a stones-throw away from long ago,
Where ladies dance and men take a chance, before the barkeep says they gotta go.”

Like the Waits tribute, the homages to Django Reinhardt and Hank Williams, (‘Django’ and ‘Listening to Hank Williams’), borrow from the artists that inspired the works; encompassing Djangoesque guitar licks and Williams-style yodelling into the respective tracks.

The conscious idea of Lovers, Legends & Lost Causes make it a concept album of sorts, but without the ‘concept’ being rammed down the listener’s throat and while it boasts the familiar blueprints of a country record it’s not predictable or cliché, but rather, a good example of The Remedy Club’s talent for writing and performing good, solid Americana.

Christopher James Sheridan

Artists’ website: www.theremedyclub.ie

‘Come On’ – live: