AWKWARD FAMILY PORTRAITS – Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since (Holy Smokes Records)

Everything We've DoneAwkward Family Portraits (that’s the band name) recently released Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since (that’s the album name). The style is an assortment of jump jive, rockabilly, western swing et al. You get the gist – it’s a fifties and earlier feel with plenty of fun. You need to be in the mood for this album, but if you’re having a party and want a band to make people smile and get them dancing in an old-fashioned way, Awkward Family Portraits feel like a phone number that should be on your list.

The band formed in Glasgow in 2016 and were selected by Tenement TV as one of the “ones to watch for 2018”. If you click on the link below you’ll see two of the band playing ‘Come On Down’ with its American-slanted vocalisation, two guitars picking cleanly, catchy tune to sing along with – and the echo chamber that everyone starts with: a flight of stairs, but in this case stairs with tiled walls, hard surfaces and what appears to be several flights. It’s simultaneously simple and sophisticated.

Elsewhere on the album ‘Keep On Keeping On’ will get you up dancing in the style that I can picture in anything from the Jazz Age of the 20’s to 40’s Swing to 50’s Dance Halls. Ditto ‘Do Yourself A Favour’, ‘Can’t Control Cupid’, ‘Day In The Life of a Lying Man’, the wonderfully named ‘Don’t Drink Whisky It’s Risky’ and ‘Ring, Ring Angus’. These are fun tracks with the energy of early rock and roll – Carl Perkins is perhaps the most obvious influence?

‘The Way The Wind Blows’ has the opening of a song that the writers would try and sell to Sinatra or to early Elvis when he wanted a slow number. Elsewhere, the band show their ability to capture the style and rhymes of mid-century American songbook, for example on ‘Chapati 3’

She cooks my dinner when I get home

She comments on the state of my big damned dome

She wants to hear about the birds and the bees

But I can’t just can’t seem to keep her at ease

Printed on the album cover are the phrases, “From ages 1 to 100+. Fun for all the family”. That sounds about right.

The Awkward Family Portraits’ website gives details of a few gigs coming up in the new year in Newcastle, Nottingham and Glasgow.

Mike Wistow

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/AwkwardFamilyPortraits/

‘Ring, Ring, Angus!’ – official video:

THE WHISKEY TREATY ROAD SHOW – Band Together (own label)

Band TogetherBand Together is an album that came to me out of the blue. First impressions – with a name like The Whiskey Treaty Road Show they’ve got to be an up-tempo American band, probably Americana/Country genre; my guess was the South but actually they’re from Western Massachusetts.

You can hear for yourself that their name really does tap into something in terms of preconceptions – the link below takes you to ‘Pass The Peace’. The opening acoustic guitar and vocal (a vocal that grabs your attention) rapidly moves into a band sound, grander than standard Americana: a trumpet that plays echoes-of-soul-music, a flash of lead guitar, harmonies that are pretty damned fine.

The album might have been an unexpected arrival in the post but I’m interested. Track two, ‘Don’t Cross My Land’ does something rather special. It’s in effect a monologue from a man defending, from road-building, the land his family built. The voice is that of a man you meet in a bar who stands upright and repeats “No Sir, No Sir…My family built it with their hands and I don’t expect you to understand” I can picture him in my head. That makes it pretty good lyric-story-telling; the music is just as sassy as the man – the harmonies are aggressive, the music loud in support. This is pretty interesting song-writing.

I read around the band. The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow formed in 2016, five Massachusetts singer-songwriters working together to create what they call “in the vein of Americana, rock and roots-folk music”. Individually, they have a strong back-story, together they turn it into folk-rock which (I read and can well imagine) goes down well at festivals. Add to this that they have played alongside Kristofferson, Los Lobos, The Felice Brothers and that Band Together has guest appearances from Arlo Guthrie and members of Wilco and The Black Crowes and you can see that this is a band to be reckoned with.

The remainder of the album circles around this core Americana feel – but adds a bit. There are places on ‘Rose On The Vine’ where you think this is how the Stone Roses would play Americana, ‘Following Your Tears’ has a children’s chorus to it, ‘Reasons’ builds vocal harmonies, smashed hi-hat, harmonica and the brass sound that I suddenly discover all integrate really well with an Americana sound. ‘Rock And Roll Déjà Vu’ isn’t just lyrically about rock and roll, “Rock and roll was playing on the radio/ We used to turn it oh so loud, pedal to the floor/ Let the good times roll/ give me like déjà vu/I’m just glad to be here now singing loud with you”, the tune rocks and blasts out the lead guitar. ‘Perfect Day’ is banjo heavy picking, ‘I Bet The World’ a great country song (“I bet the world I love you/Times the ocean and the moon/and the sun and all the stars that shone/ from July into June”), ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ an anthemic closing track which I imagine is a great sing along at the festivals.

Overall, then, I’ve enjoyed Band Together – the song-writing and the mix of influences/styles in the playing and arrangement work really well. The band’s website shows a handful of gigs in eastern USA over the coming months.

Oh, yeah, it’s also rather good driving music…..

Mike Wistow


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: http://www.thewhiskeytreaty.com

‘Pass The Peace’ – live:

PIERRE SCHRYER & ADAM DOBRES – Mandorla (SDP-56169)

MandorlaIn early September Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres released Mandorla, an album which features tunes from across the world. Schryer is one of Canada’s leading traditional fiddle players with a wealth of awards to his name; Dobres is a guitar player with a similarly broad international background and an easy skill, on this album mainly on acoustic guitar.

Mandorla, I gather, is a noun which means “an almond shape made by the intersection of two circles of the same radius creating the outline of a lens; a dynamic symbol that signifies the overlap of two entities and their commonality” – you can see the linked letters ‘O’ and ‘D’ in the album cover above. The title clearly relates both to the interlinking of musical styles, different countries – and the playing of Schryer and of Dobres.

The album has ten tracks and there are plenty of lovely tunes and playing throughout. The video below takes you to ‘Bruach na Carraige Baine’ (The Edge of the White Rock) which I’ve picked out to show how the two musicians complement each other on this haunting love song from southwest Ireland.

But I could have picked most of the tracks. The opening ‘Berber Tune/Blue Fiddle/ Trip To Dingle’ is also one of my favourites. As the title indicates, the track is a medley of tunes from different parts of the world a traditional north African tune pairing with a slip-polka and a contemporary polka. This is much more upbeat than ‘Bruach na Carraige Baine’ and, in a different way, just as delightful.

The album as a whole, then, is a lovely mix of styles and origins which Schryer & Dobres lift through their playing. ‘Fleur de Mandragore/Berthier-sur-mer’ are a couple of tunes from a French-Canadian heritage, similarly ‘La Valse Des Jouets’. Elsewhere traditional tunes are blended with newer music. ‘Orca’s Jig/The Humours Of Glendart/The Banks Of Lough Gowna’ mixes a Dobres tune with the two from the Irish tradition – and will get you wanting to dance; ‘Twas Within A Furlong Of Edinburgh Town/My Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe/Carolan’s Concerto’ mingles Scottish, Irish and baroque. Dobres’ ‘Freda’s Journey’ is influenced stylistically by the voyage his Jewish grandmother took from Russia to Canada; likewise, ‘Lapp’s House of Music/Whitefish in the Rapids’ combines Schryer’s composition with a traditional reel.

I’ll conclude by quoting the sleeve notes for the final track, ‘Sheepskin & Beeswax/The Easy Club Reel/Tico Tico’: “Tunes from different parts of the world written at different points in time meet in the “mandorla” of commonality. This set represents the natural transformation of music as it passes from ear to ear, hand to hand. An old Irish reel arrives in Quebec, a contemporary Scottish tune finds its way to the west of Canada, a Brazilian choro becomes a North American favourite” – those notes give you a good sense of Mandorla the album, a melting pot of music which two skilled musicians make a delight to listen to.

Mike Wistow

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: https://www.schryerdobres.com

‘Bruach na Carraige Baine’:

 

3HATTRIO – Live At Zion (Okehdokee Records)

Live At Zion3hattrio release Live At Zion in November. What do you get if three musicians find themselves living in the desert but have arrived there with very different musical pedigrees – a classically trained violinist, someone who has thirty years of playing in the Caribbean and someone steeped in cowboy music? You get this. The band call it American Desert Music – and for a music that captures something elemental and on the edges of our consciousness, that’s not a bad description.

Eighteen months ago, I came across 3hattrio as a result of getting their last studio album, Lord Of  The Desert, to review: https://folking.com/3hattrio-lord-of-the-desert-own-label/. I found it to be stunning, one of my albums of the year for 2018. Essentially the three band members, Greg Istock, Eli Wrankle and Hal Cannon, are creating this unique sound with just double bass, violin, banjo – on occasion, guitar and vocals. But, I’ve wondered…….what do they sound like live?

The band have recently been on tour in the UK and I went to see them. They’re good. There are no smoke and mirrors, the sound you hear on the album is the sound they create live. I overheard someone in the audience say, “You couldn’t describe this as a particular type of music, could you?” It is that unique, American Desert Music capturing a sense of an older world and how it impacts on our psyche.

Live At Zion, then, is exactly what its title says – a live album which was recorded (in a pre-Civil War church) in a hamlet at the mouth of Zion Canyon in front of neighbours, friends and fans. The band invite you to listen to the album as a desert symphony rising out of their home. There is a mixture of new and previously recorded music on the album. Its November release date is to coincide with the centenary of the establishment of the Zion National Park in Utah, USA.

The album also captures the band’s stage craft. Have a listen to the last third of ‘Texas Traveler’ where you get an interplay between vocal and violin, simultaneously moving to sound like a small animal squeaking in the desert and creating something humorous for the audience. The track then turns into participation – the audience first clapping in time, then joining in with the vocal and then being completely unable to join in Istock’s rapid, animalistic, ancient human, vocalisation. It’s all done very nicely live and you can hear it well on this album.

The video below, with a Tom Russell voiceover, gives the background to how the band were formed, snatches of the music and a sense of how good it sounds live – even (about half way through the film) when played in what looks like a fully lit library.

I saw the band in a concert hall, with decent sound system. All pretty good – though the music did make me wonder if it would sound even better if the lights were turned off and the music was coming eerily from a darkened, desert-night-like, stage. As they say in the video “the music – it’s so not what these instruments get together and play”, which is why it’s worth seeing 3hattrio live just as much as it’s worth listening to the albums.

Live At Zion captures the unique experience of this band. Not an album to be played as background music, though. Take time to immerse yourself in the music and world it creates. They quote the lord of the desert in ‘Desert Triptych’ “I write these words and they paint the desert sands”. Even more than the words, the music of 3hattrio also paints the desert sands – a big, timeless landscape with elements of what Ted Hughes called “the dream/Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed”.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: http://www.3hattrio.com

‘Texas Traveler’ – live and official:

‘In The Desert’ documentary:

In the Desert with 3hattrio from Kukaloris on Vimeo.

JACKDAW – No Cactus (DUGUY/CUTTHROAT 3747-02)

No CactusJackdaw release No Cactus on October 3rd. In very broad terms, you’d classify the album as Americana. From this point onwards I want to write a different kind of review……

Part of the publicity material said, “Jackdaw is not an individual or a band. It’s home for songs written by Rob Anderson and Wayne Drury and has no ambition beyond getting the songs out into the ozone. Those involved in the project are likely to make the odd live London appearance in various combinations as Jackdaw, but are not looking for regular gigs or a profile per se.” I re-read this several times – let’s face it, it’s not your standard PR blurb. And then I did some research…..

This is what Wayne Drury’s sister wrote “In the early 1970s, three friends, Wayne Drury, Rob Anderson and Randall Crawford came together in Eugene, Oregon as the band Jackdaw. Their repertoire included songs written by Wayne. He had no professional music training, but he created wonderful melodies held together with stories of people and places: ‘The Last Cowboy in Paris’, ‘Gas Station Girl’……In 1974, at 27, Wayne was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis..….Some 35 years later in London, Rob unearthed old Jackdaw tapes, was struck by how great the songs still were and felt something should be done to save them. With the help of several special musicians he created The Wayne Drury Project – a complicated labor of love – to perform and save Wayne’s music…..Wayne now lives in a nursing center, and although he lost many precious things along the way, he always keeps his tattered blue song folder within arm’s reach, labelled “Touch this an’ you die.” (From a guy who probably never harmed an insect).” I kept researching.

In 2011 Jackdaw played four gigs and have played a handful since then because “the songs refused to fade away”. No Cactus has eleven songs, two by Drury and the remainder by Anderson. These include Drury’s ‘The Very Last Cowboy In Paris’ (the first track on the video below) and Anderson’s ‘The Very Last Cowboy’s Response’. You get the picture – Drury only has two songs, but he pervades the album both in lyric and in musical style.

But there’s no point in me writing more about the music when you can listen to it – it’s here on download; at the time of writing it’s free: https://www.waynedruryproject.com/jackdaw-upload

As well as playing some of Drury’s songs, the video link below gives you an insight into the development of the Project. There is a launch gig on October 10th at The Slaughtered Lamb in London but no other live events appear to be planned.

The only thing I can think of which is comparable is Rodriguez’ music (which I first heard in Dublin café about a dozen years ago) but the details of which I only learned from the 2012 documentary ‘Searching for Sugar Man’. For any film-makers reading this, Drury/Anderson’s songs are both accessible enough and weighty enough that I’ve kept playing No Cactus after I’ve finished writing the review. The Slaughtered Lamb might be your Dublin café?

Mike Wistow

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: https://www.waynedruryproject.com

The background video. You’ve got the album for free – what more do you want?

SAYER & JOYCE – Makes You Stronger (Gulf Coast Records)

Makes You StrongerSayer & Joyce released Makes You Stronger on September 20th. Makes You Stronger is one of those blues albums that just makes you want to see the band live. Have a listen to ‘Backbone’ below – the riff, the drum(s), the vocal, the bigger sound, all building to Sayer’s voice cutting in, which itself builds to the semi-snarled title line “Someday, somehow you will find a backbone”. The album’s only a minute old and I’m hooked.

Ron Sayer started playing guitar as a child and describes himself as “taking the rocky road from Hank Marvin to Robert Johnson and stopping off pretty much everywhere in between” – but the focus is blues and I gather Sayer has worked with Buddy Guy, John Mayall, Walter Trout, Robin Trower – to name just the first four on the list. Charlotte Joyce is a singer, vocal coach, musician and, on this album, lead vocal on all the tracks. It’s a pretty good combination.

‘Hard Love’, the second track, has the kind of slow, soaring bluesy feel that takes me back to late nights and early mornings watching blues bands in various odd venues many years ago – but Joyce’s vocal adds a smokiness and femininity to the sound. ‘My Life Alive’ is pounding blues. ‘Life Is What Happens’ soars like ‘Piece Of My Heart’, has a gospel-ish choir and an equally soaring brass sound – we’re still only four tracks in.

The album continues in this vein, at times a bit more funky, at times touching the edges of country but at its heart a solid blues/blues-rock/blues-soul sound, some great guitar playing from Sayer set against Joyce’s powerful vocals and a bigger sound behind it all from the percussion and brass. As for the lyrics, try the following from ‘No Galahad’:

I don’t think I’m getting through
But the conversation’s done
I get all the blues, you get the fun.
If I’m having such a good time
Why do I feel so bad?
You think that you’re a hero
But you’re no Galahad
Its over…oh it’s over….oh I’m so over you

Blues relationship lyrics at their best, guitar lead spitting in the background, the vocals defiant, the track driven at pace by the rhythm section.

Their website doesn’t show more than a couple of gigs. I rather like this album, it would be good to see them play.

Mike Wistow

Please support us and order via our UK or US Storefront 


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link for the UK Store is: https://folking.com/folking-store/


Click banner above to order featured CD/ Vinyl/ Download/ Book/ DVD

Physical link to the US Storehttps://folking.com/folking-us-storefront/


Artist’s website: https://www.sayerandjoyce.co.uk

‘Backbone’ – official video: