Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 11 - Midnight Skyracer - Fire

Even in this somewhat enlightened age all-female professional bluegrass bands are something of a rarity.
In so as far as I am aware the very first was New York based five-piece 'Buffalo Gals'. In 1974 it released an album 'First Born(e)' - the actual spelling depends on whether you are looking at the front or reverse of the album sleeve(!) - on Revonah Records as 12" vinyl RS-913 and that I have. It cost more to transport and import than its purchase price but I knew that would be the case. It was well worth it.

Fast-forward forty-four years and become acquainted with Midnight Skyracer. Five young women none of whom call the USA home; four are from England and the other from Ireland. Bluegrass has blossomed far and wide these last few years.

Charlotte Carrivick - guitars

Eleanor Wilkie - upright bass
Laura Carrivick - fiddle
Leanne Thorose - mandolin
Tabitha Agnew - banjo

All of them contribute vocals on the album.

Midnight Skyracer - Fire (SKY001, 2 February 2018).

Midnight Skyracer - Fire:
  • Fuel to My Fire
  • Susan Anna Gal
  • Working Girl Blues
  • Virginia Rose
  • So Long, Goodbye, We're Through
  • They Want to Go
  • Spinous Shark
  • A Little Luck
  • Sitting Alone in the Moonlight
  • High and Dry
The covers are handled beautifully; Hazel Dickens' composition Working Girl Blues being a splendid case in point, but the original songs and their tunes certainly live up to the company in which they find themselves.

To give you an idea of what to expect should you see them live here is a song that isn't actually on the album at all. 

It is a cover of 'I'm Just Here to Ride The Train' by Mountain Heart from that band's 2006 album 'Wide Open'.

Other acts that feature these artists (an incomplete list):
Cardboard Fox
Carrivick Sisters
Cup O'Joe

Kieran Towers and Charlotte Carrivick

Just today, this:

The song 'Virgina Rose' is a co-write by Tabitha Agnew and Laura Carrivick.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 10 - Mike Ross - Jenny's Place

More new music and another release by Brighton's At The Helm Records. Let me see what I can tell you about why I like this after a few days and several listens.

Mike Ross - Jenny's Place (At The Helm Records, 2 March 2018).

Mike Ross - Jenny's Place:
  • Bamboozled
  • The Big Picture
  • Dakota Red
  • Coffeecan Telephone
  • Baby I Love You
  • Jenny (Sun Goes Down)
  • Dark Powder
  • Loveslide
If you can accept that his influences are eclectic then you are quite likely to be fine with this. If not then it might be a rather bumpy ride.
If I had to chose a favourite, and as you may have noticed I most often eschew doing this, it would go to 'Dark Powder' and it is quite something. This album, or at least some of it, goes back a bit further.

Mike Ross - Dark Powder (2016).

This harks back to his childhood spent in the north-east of England during the death throes of the coal mining industry there. It is a narrative that is familiar in many parts of the world and in many different ways. This album flits across borders, even continents, as readily as it does musical influences. 
This is the point at which this album starts to make complete sense to me. 
This could be Pennsylvania or West Virginia were it not for the proximity of the sea as a waste disposal unit. To make a record that can merge all these influence and still sound like a coherent whole is quite some feat.

Records such as this make interminable January more bearable and I can't wait for the opportunity to hear how this plays out live. I fully intend to do that and, what is more, I believe that Mike Ross plays Truck Festival 2018.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 9 - Lindi Ortega - Liberty

Another day, another post. A forthcoming new album from an artist right near the top of those I wish to see live, in this case never having done so before. If I do I'll be one of those people pretending that I don't really know the lyrics that well.
This will be her fifth full-length studio release and the first since 'Faded Gloryville' in 2015. The track-list below is that which I believe to be correct.

Liberty - Lindi Ortega (Soundly Music, 30 March 2018).

Lindi Ortega - Liberty:

  • Through the Dust (Part I)
  • Afraid of the Dark
  • You Ain’t Foolin Me
  • Til My Dyin Day
  • Nothing's Impossible
  • Through the Dust (Part II)
  • The Comeback Kid
  • Darkness Be Gone
  • Forever Blue
  • In the Clear
  • Pablo
  • Lovers In Love
  • Through The Dust (Part III)
  • Liberty
  • Gracias a La Vida
The first release from 'Liberty' is 'The Comeback Kid' and here it is:

I do wonder if the title has something to do with an apparent change of label, at least in part.  Her very recognisable vocal style is still front and centre and on this LP her backing band is Nashville-based instrumental duo Steelism and their side-men.  The producer is Skylar Wilson.

I contend that this in no way a case of doing things by halves. Dare I mention that this is, after a fashion, a concept album?
That is why 'Through the Dust' appears in three parts.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The rogue's gallery - and thinking about 2018 festivals

I had so much fun putting the first of these together that I was looking for any excuse to do something similar. A cold, wet day spent doing household chores and backing up the computer prompted me to look at more of the pictures of music that I have taken over the last decade or so. In turn this has inclined me to think about some festival plans for 2018.

There is no obvious place to start this but it has reminded me of several artists that I have seen live but not thought about more recently.

Cate Le Bon, Garden stage, End Of The Road 2014.

There is no obvious end to this either. Festivals became something I was curious about.  Therefore I had to go and see why there was so much fuss made about them. That finally happened in July 2007 with a trip to Latitude.
Photography was something that came with that because it seemed a convenient way to remind me what I had seen live. It was thus but it only partly served to overcome my lack of note-taking and the fact that the great majority of acts that I saw were ones that I had never even heard-of, let alone heard live or otherwise at the start of the respective set. Rather importantly I had a great time that weekend despite more than a few misgivings about the venture of solo festival attendance the nearer I got to actually having to deal with it.

In time it, both festivals and photography, turned out to be a greater deal than that. It is certain that the Garden stage at End Of The Road Festival is extremely influential in this.
The same stage three years later...

Julia Jacklin returned. She had played the Tipi stage at End Of The Road 2016. 3 September 2017.

What was this all about?  There's nothing like a band going off on a whim. Particularly if the result is leaving your drummer lost, head-in-hands. It's even better when it unfolds in front of you.

Hinds, Far Out stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2017.

Welcome to live music. This is why it is so much fun. Sometimes I scare myself, if only retrospectively. I made a complete dog's breakfast of taking pictures of Holly Macve when she played the Sunday opening slot on The Garden stage at End Of The Road 2016. I got another chance... and possibly I did a little better this time.

Holly Macve - Mountain stage, Green Man Festival, 20 August 2017.

I'm sure that there will be some more trips back down memory lane as I consider festival options for 2018.

New Music 2018 - Part 8 - Ruby Boots - Don't Talk About It

At the weekend I was delighted to discover the impending release of the second LP by Ruby Boots, the performance name of Australian-raised singer-songwriter Bex Chilcott.  It is the follow-up to her 2015 album 'Solitude'. With out further ado this is it.
I can't fault the label with which she has now joined forces.

Don't Talk About It - Ruby Boots (Bloodshot Records, 9 February 2018).

Ruby Boots - Don't Talk About It:
  • It's So Cruel
  • Believe in Heaven
  • Don't Talk About It
  • Easy Way Out
  • Break My Heart Twice
  • I'll Make It Through
  • Somebody Else
  • I Am a Woman
  • Infatuation
  • Don't Give a Damn
The lead single is the title track:

She has moved to the US now, Nashville and that is hardly surprising. This album was recorded there for the most part. Her backing band is 'The Texas Gentleman'. There is absolutely no shame in that.

Monday, January 15, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 7 - Cat Clyde - Ivory Castanets

This is another release from 2017 that has just appeared on my radar and it is the debut full-length from Cat Clyde who hails from Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

Ivory Castanets - Cat Clyde (RED distribution, 5 May 2017).

Cat Clyde - Ivory Castanets:
  • Sheets Of Green
  • The Meadow
  • Running Water
  • Like A Wave
  • Heavy Weight
  • Mama Said
  • The Man I Loved Blues
  • Move Along
  • Walkin' Down The Road
  • Chimes In The Night
I have listened to the album end-to-end three times this evening.  This is fairly unusual behaviour even by my own standards.  It is certainly somewhat old-time but that's not really the issue here because the combination of voice, guitar (sometimes slide-acoustic) and keyboards is sublime. The production is not lo-fi but neither is it polished to a point that it might impact on the experience.
I'm not going to select a track from the album just now. Instead, and because I suggest that it indicates her desire to push on, this is a track that has been released since then.

The River - Cat Clyde (November 2017).

 What we need now is to see her touring over here in the UK.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 6 - Orphan Colours - All On Red

I can't quite believe that this is my sixth post of 2018 but while I am in the mood for posting I guess I should just go with it. More forthcoming new music but this time from an all male band based in England. It has to be said that this is still mining the rich seam that is UK Americana.
As a phrase it might appear an oxymoron but those inclined to solipsism please take note; it is flourishing in a time when the UK might have been perceived to be turning in on itself and back to its perceived core values.  If this is the kind of work that is the result then it is just another case of clouds and silver linings.

All On Red - Orphan Colours (At The Helm Records, 26 January 2018).

The genesis of Orphan Colours came out of the accidental wreckage of two bands, ahab and Noah and The Whale, that were forsaken by their respective labels as commercial priorities changed. That is where the independent side of UK Americana plays a vital part. It is a community in the true sense of the word and that shaped this, the band's first LP, as I'm thinking as I listen to it again. All eleven songs on it.

Orphan Colours - All On Red:

  • Start of Something
  • High Hopes
  • Goodnight California
  • Loving Kind
  • Waiting
  • Lonely Lately
  • Sun Is Rising
  • Renegade
  • Sarah
  • Inside Out
  • Rambling Rose
The first thing that strikes me is this isn't a UK band aping Americana (from America, obvs.) and that is why the whole thing works quite as it does. It is the concept of Americana filtered through the unique perspective of the UK in recent years.
It comes as no surprise to me at all that At The Helm is releasing this record. I'm pondering a post about how labels that can be trusted to release interesting and often challenging new music have slowly risen again.

Here's a little live goodness:

The title of the record 'All On Red' is apparently a reference to table gambling and the putting of all available resources on a single outcome. It is apropos the situation in which the founders of Orphan Colours found themselves after their previous bands folded.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 5 - Courtney Marie Andrews - May Your Kindness Remain

Early last year when I first got to hear Courtney Marie Andrews' latest LP 'Honest Life' I knew that not only was it destined to be on my list of albums of 2017 (which it is, here) I realised that I needed to see her play live too. I did that and so here she is.

Garden stage, End Of The Road Festival, Dorset, UK. 2 September 2017.

During the set she introduced several new songs and hinted that another LP might not be too far away. It was so, as confirmed today. This is it.

May Your Kindness Remain - Courtney Marie Andrews (Mama Bird Recording Co., 23 March 2018).

Courtney Marie Andrews - May Your Kindness Remain:
  • May Your Kindness Remain
  • Lift The Lonely From My Heart
  • Rough Around The Edges
  • Border
  • Took You Up
  • This House
  • Kindness Of Strangers
  • I've Hurt Worse
  • Long Road Back To You
The lead single from it is also the the title track.

Added 25 January 2018:
Courtney Marie Andrews is confirmed to be playing Green Man Festival 2018.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 4 - Julia Lucille - Chthonic

My next offering was actually released last year but for reasons that I might explain later it is totally new-year vibe for me.  It has, at least on the face of it, a very peculiar title indeed and also it just snuck up on me from somewhere!
This is certainly not the first music released by Texas-based artist Julia Lucille but it is a benchmark by any standards. 
If that all seems rather complicated and also awfully depressing for this time of year then please read/listen on. The title, Chthonic, a word derived from ancient Greek denotes things from, offered to, or happening below the surface of the earth and thus the Underworld of classical mythology, albeit not always to the Olympian standard. 

Julia Lucille - Chthonic:

  • Eternally
  • Darkening
  • Plot of Ground
  • Ariadne
  • I Don't Think I Can
  • Finery
  • Lie and Wait
  • Beneath the Spring
  • Let's Climb Up on the Car
Julia Lucille's faintly Southern lilt drifts in and out of the nine mostly acoustic songs. Guitars, Julia and Paul Mitchell's both, are prominent and there is some pedal steel courtesy of Luke Dawson but in no way is this country of any kind and it most certainly is not bluegrass inspired. It's dream-indie with roots in pop and modern folk.
Charon making the rough crossing of the Styx memorable, and also one for which return tickets are totally invalid, may not be a true reflection of that other life. It is a soothing thought and welcome balm in the cold, mean days of winter.

Chthonic - Julia Lucille (Keeled Scales Records, 7 April 2017).

The cover illustration of the LP, by artist Aimee Lusty, suggests that this version of the underworld is at odds with how it was envisioned from above: Persephone - the undisputed queen of the underworld - skinny dipping.

So that's fine as regards mythology. What does Julia Lucille sound like live? Well I want to hear her live for real too, but this will have to suffice for now.

'Ariadne', recorded at a Sofar house concert in San Antonio, Texas.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 3 - Laura Cannell - Hunter Huntress Hawker

I mentioned this yesterday. Towards the end of 2017 I started a Friday spot on Facebook in which I mention a music release that has captured my attention. I'm planning to revive that idea after the break for Christmas and New Year although perhaps not every week. I rather like the idea of more blog posts but the two are not incompatible by any means.  To date it has been a very recent release but I'm thinking that this should not always be the case.

Hunter Huntress Hawker - Laura Cannell (Brawl Records, 20 October 2017).

This album (it is actually her fourth) is one that, while I mentioned it on Facebook, has not appeared here before. You may find it challenging but I'm not going to apologise for that. It has two key-words that might be used to describe it that tend to put people off  -  experimental and improvised.
It was recorded live in a ruined church (St. Andrew, Covehithe, Suffolk) that is the only significant structure that remains of a one-thriving fishing community on the east coast of England, the rest of which has now been almost entirely claimed by coastal erosion.

Half-an-hour of truly haunting over-bowed violin playing might just make the cold and damp of early January seem rewarding. I have wavered about choosing a tune (for they are all thus, there are no words). I decided on this:

The penultimate item on the collection - Nordhalla.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

New Music 2017 - Part 38 - Tilly Moses - Alight & Adrift

So why post New Music 2017 in 2018? For exactly the same reason that I posted New Music 2018 in 2017!

Alight & Adrift - Tilly Moses (Ginger Dog Records, 2 June 2017).

It's a continuum, whatever the calendar might imply to the contrary. Increasingly, and this is much to my liking, the release of new music pays little heed to that nowadays. Now twenty years of age and relocated to York, this is not her first release by any means but it is quite a statement of intent.  The only traditional song on it is Hares on the Mountain.

Tilly Moses - Alight & Adrift:
  • Definitions
  • Water Man
  • Paper Conflicts
  • Fear With Fire
  • Harbour (feat. Sam Kelly)
  • One of Them
  • Flatlands
  • Lonely Birds
  • Hares on the Mountain
  • Ragdoll
  • Footprints
  • Whisky
This is certainly not the only album released in 2017 that invokes the east coast of England and has captivated me. Another notable one, at least in my opinion, will follow in a post tomorrow. The great thing about them is that they are actually very different indeed. This first might possibly be the most accessible of the two, it is certainly the more lyrical but neither suffers from comparison with the other.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

New Music 2018 - Part 2 - H.C. McEntire - Lionheart

I see no reason not to start 2018 in the manner that I intend to continue.
That is looking beyond the obvious and thus for music that is new to me and, possibly, new to others too. This soon to be released album piqued my interest when I heard a track from it and it is a solo début release by the artist.

Lionheart - H. C. McEntire (Merge Records, 26 January 2018).

Heather McEntire is part of the vibrant music scene in North Carolina, Durham in this case, and had been associated with the band Mount Moriah, which still includes her incidentally. With this new record she has struck out once again - having also been involved with the very different music of 'Bellafea' or for that matter this, with Jenks Miller of Horseback, and that is before it got really complicated.

That is a whole lot of back-history. This record might just be about going back to an earlier, less cluttered time and finding the time and space to sort the kinks out. This is is 'A Lamb, A Dove' taken from the forthcoming release.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The rogue's gallery - a live music journey in 2017.

To break up the infernal list-making, much as it appeals to me, I have decided to have a bit of fun. The artists that make it on to the lists aren't necessarily those that I have had the most fun watching live. Nor, for that matter, are the artists that are not featured in lists any less deserving of attention. 
I have posted a couple of "road trips" in the last year or so. They were virtual and very rewarding to compile but also hard work.
This one, and I'll be compiling it over the next couple of days, is put together from a very different perspective. It is what I saw; vitally it is what I pointed my camera at.

It is sometimes possible to catch acts sound-checking; rarer still to capture the rituals that accompany this and so that is where we shall start. I have to say that if there is a theme here then you are probably going to have to identify it yourself.

Hinds - Far Out stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2017.

Two long delays, both on Sunday evenings, provided the material for these photos of acts very late on stage. This first was due to the total failure of the sound board for the stage monitors.

Marika Hackman - Tipi stage, End Of The Road Festival, 3 September 2017.

Owing to the set being delayed by six hours because of extremely adverse weather this next gig became virtually a private show for the couple of dozen of us that turned up to see it. By this time most of the potential audience had thrown in the towel and gone home wet, muddy and dispirited. I had no real reason to leave early. It also had the advantage that it no longer clashed with anything else that I wanted to see. This is amongst the very best live sets that I have witnessed in 2017 and that now numbers over 150.

Billed as Michele Stodart but The Magic Numbers in all but name. Nest stage, Truck Festival, 23 July 2017.

There is also a situation, and I guess artists feel this too, where the question is 'can it work like a dream?' I had exactly that issue with 'Hurray For The Riff Raff' at Green Man. On one hand I wanted thousands to come watch. On the other hand I wanted to be right at the front of the Mountain stage come what may. 
Even given the positive reception of 'The Navigator', Alynda Segarra took a big risk and played a full-on, politically-liberal set. It could have gone horribly wrong. It was another of the highlights of 2017 for me because it was beyond what, even in my wildest imagination I had thought it could be. The crowd swelled to a surprising size. Then the crowd started singing to her un-encouraged. It was a wonderful place to be and the sun came out. This is the point at which she couldn't really hear her own vocals any longer. Priceless.

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Mountain stage, Green Man Festival, 18 August 2017.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

My Music in 2017 - Albums - Part 2

Is it easier to continue something than to start it?
I'm not quite sure where this is heading; hopefully straight to the heart of music that was new and important to me in 2017, or at least in my mind.

This list is possibly more eclectic than the last. Of the ten four are British, four are from the US and there is one each from Canada and Sweden.
Of the acts/artists I have seen seven of the ten play live at some point in the past. I have seen one of them live five times but not once in 2017! Only one of them have I seen live in 2017 and that was a serendipitous mistake on my part.
Leaving my lair that was The Saloon Bar stage I braved the mud but paddled to the wrong stage at the right time.  I saw this band, a four-piece from Scotland...

Vukovi, The Nest stage, Truck Festival, 21 July 2017.

I'd never heard Vukovi until this happened. A good result I have to say. As for the band that I was intending to see and were playing the Market stage, well that worked out for the best later in the summer in any case. That was 'Goat Girl'.
Vukovi was however far from the only remarkable gig of Truck Festival 2017. Tired now, late on Sunday evening, who could imagine a full band set in the Nest stage with just twelve of us in the audience when it started?

is was the time to forget about Monday morning and how I was going escape from all of this and return to something approaching normality. Sometimes you need to dig deep into the moment.
I think that would be a suitable subject for another post. This idea has got a hold in my mind now.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 37 - Coco & The Butterfields - Battlegrounds

It has been a long time since I saw Coco & The Buttterfields live but here is a reminder that they have a lot of new music coming soon. This is the video for Battlegrounds that appeared almost exactly one year ago. It's still worth the wait.

The last time was at Cambridge Folk Festival 2015 and this was taken then.

I intend to continue my lists of 2017 music over the coming weekend and I hope there will be some surprises in the selection.