Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Short lines - a journey with UK folk and Americana

It is fairly easy to follow the big picture but even easier to fail to recognise, let alone even hear or see live, quite what is happening at home. This is a journey through some of that territory because the UK is taking it aboard with relish, sometimes abandon.
This first is the oldest of the three releases that I am planning to mention here. It was released last year.

Angelina - Vagabond Saint (Wonderful Sound, 2 December 2016).

Angelina the artist is named for a Dylan song and this is an album of dust-bowl country blues with a voice to match.  There are tales of high plains and endless trains...  that is all the more remarkable for the fact that she has lived her life and the album was recorded on The Isle Of Wight. It is yet another astonishing omission from my list of 'albums of 2016'. It's tough but this might just be one of my favourite songs, at least today.

Jump forward to 2017 and here are two other acts that have come to my attention. In both cases they take a distinct tack through what should really be regarded as well-charted waters.
This duo had been plying their own solo careers around the smaller live stages in London until their paths crossed and they decided to become writing, recording and performing entity Ferris & Sylvester, comprising Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester. There is a lot of 60s and 70s influence on show here 
but never to the point of pastiche; they claim that songwriting must be truthful and honest, even if that is hard to do. It's quite possible to believe that they really mean what they say.

Ferris and Sylvester - The Yellow Line (self-released, 22 June 2017).

I shall end this short tour with another EP, this one from London artist Jade Bird. She does nothing whatsoever to hide her love for Americana folk. The five tracks here run to only just fifteen minutes but it's a determined pitch.

Jade Bird - Something American (Glassnote, 6 July 2017).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Music 2017- Part 23 - LosFeliz - Ancestry

I have had a break from writing, but not from listening and now I'm back after a case of writer's block.
I am planning a number of posts, including another imaginary journey, but just now this has taken precedence over that more complicated project. Released only last week it is wonderful music for the late evening when the heat of the day its making way for late evening darkness.

LosFeliz - Ancestry (Union Music Store, 16 June).

Ancestry is one of those début records that seems to have arrived fully-realised from another universe. LosFeliz is essentially the solo work of Brighton-based artist Lucy Powell and it was recorded in a church in her native Wales. It is spiritual and fluid, humanist rather than religious and lies somewhere on a meandering loop-line that has folk and dream pop as its termini. It includes some non-acoustic effects and also found sounds and it is astonishingly devoid of self-consciousness, never mind pretension.
Another thing that it certainly does not have is any sense of hurry, the journey itself is all that matters here and time is not a consideration at all.
  • Jupiter
  • Daymares
  • Dove
  • Foreign Lands
  • Madonna, Pts. 1 & 2
  • Orion
  • Bloodline
  • Temple
  • Moreso Today
Its nine tracks span 41 minutes and soon after you start listening all sense of time becomes an illusion. It should be, and I'm told that this is true, absolutely unmissable live. This could well turn out to be one of the great new albums and artists of 2017.

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 22 - Offa Rex - The Queen Of Hearts

One of the things about doing this [writing a blog] is that it pretty much forces me to listen, read and then actually think about music. I can't really assimilate so-called background music anymore. If it's there than that is how it is, but I'll be either paying proper attention or simply not consciously noticing it at all. Sub-conscious listening is however very much a real 'thing'. I was doing chores at home this morning whilst I had the latest Spotify 'Discover Weekly' playlist playing from the stereo but until this came on I couldn't, had it been a crime scene, have given you a single useful piece of evidence to show that I had paying any attention to what was going on.
Had my head been inside a scanner that measures synapse connections I suspect that the images would have been quite interesting. It was, as subsequent investigations have shown, a song I have never heard before but the apparent jumble of concepts that my mind spewed out in response, much like the coins from a change machine, was surprisingly accurate.

What triggered all that, and it is also the title of the forthcoming LP, is this song:

Offa Rex is a project that sees UK singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney transported to the Pacific Northwest to weave tradition from British and Celtic folk into a psych-folk influenced tapestry. The rest of Offa Rex will be familiar to many as the Decemberists. The album was recorded and produced by Tucker Martine at his studio in Portland, OR. The majority of the eleven tracks were arranged by Olivia Chaney

Offa Rex - The Queen of Hearts, (Nonesuch Records, 14 July 2017).

Offa Rex - The Queen of Hearts:
  • The Queen of Hearts
  • Blackleg Miner
  • The Gardener
  • The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
  • Flash Company
  • The Old Churchyard
  • Constant Billy (Oddington) / I'll Go Enlist (Sherborne)
  • Willie o' Winsbury
  • Bonny May
  • Sheepcrook and Black Dog
  • To Make You Stay
To hear this in its entirety is something I am looking forward to very much indeed.  It is another journey in the story of how, for centuries, songs have travelled back and forth across the Atlantic to be reappraised and then returned.
A fine example is Willie o' Winsbury that is from Scottish tradition and probably of late 17th century origin. It is also Child #100 and has been back and forth a few times since. A version also appears on the LP Child Ballads - Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer (2013).

Saturday, May 27, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 21 - Paradisia - Sound of Freedom

I often go on about how important I believe it is to see support bands at gigs, and at festivals as many as possible of the bands on small stages and in opening slots on larger ones. As the festival season is now tangibly close and the list of new releases grows ever longer, here as an excellent example of how this pans out.

Last August I was at Green Man festival in mid-Wales. The smallest of the dedicated music stages is the 'Rising stage' and it hosts new acts. These are for the most part chosen from the entries in a competition over the previous months, the winner of which gets to open the 'Mountain stage', the main one, on Saturday. Several acts there caught my attention and London-based three-piece Paradisia was one of them. Its core is the trio of Kristy Buglass (vocals, keyboard), Sophie-Rose Harper (vocals) and Anna Pesquidous (harp).

Paradisia, Rising stage, Green Man Festival. 21 August 2016.

This was the very first time that I was even aware that the band existed. First impressions matter and what I remember thinking was just how good their own songs were, even against the fact that they also covered Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark', unlikely although that might seem given their palette of instruments, impressively. That inevitably brings us to this; my next thought at the time.
"What would this sound like on record?" Yesterday I got to find out.

Paradisia - Sound of Freedom (self-released, 26 May 2017 LP, CD, digital)

It was clear from listening to the short live set that they had listened to a great deal of 1970's music and been honing the influences appropriate to what they wished to achieve. This album is just wonderful.  If I had to shorten it by one song then the one to go would be 'Dancing In The Dark'. I have listened start-to-finish several times now and current highlights, although I am really rather reluctant to pick any, are 'Warpaint' and 'Silent Lover'. The title of the LP comes from a lyric in the latter song.
I'm as certain as it is possible to be that is an album that I shall be coming back to time and time again and experience suggests that this isn't something that happens all that often.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 20 - This Is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze

As much as I love discovering music that is new to me, particularly so live, there is after ten years of festivals the opportunity to see progression. I could cite examples over a longer timescale than this but I am excited about a band that I first saw live playing the Walled Garden stage, at Green Man Festival 2015.  At that point they were touring the LP 'Bashed Out'.  This Is The Kit is appearing at Green Man Festival 2017 and the band will have a new LP from which to perform songs.

This Is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze (Rough Trade Records, 7 July 2017).

Here is This Is The Kit at that Green Man Festival gig back in 2015. The sun came out for the first time that day.

Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival, 22 August 2015.

To categorise the music of 'This Is The Kit' is almost impossible and I like that: folky, bluesy, roots, and always just inventive, slightly off-kilter and gloriously, but tastefully, unpredictable. You can see why they are back at Green Man; also why Rough Trade and the band have signed some paperwork. It says a great deal about the ethos of all parties concerned.
One of the standout performances of Green Man 2016 was another Rough Trade artist and it wasn't even the first time that I had seen them live either; that was Warpaint.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Another musical journey.

I said that I would do this over the Easter break but I didn't. I'm now thinking that I need at least six weeks between such projects and it's not about finding the music. I love doing that - I wouldn't be writing at all if that were not the case. It's more the richness and variety that is on offer; I could write twice as many posts if I only listened to a quarter of the new (at least to me) music that I do. Posts like this are the ones I like doing the most. They are the most rewarding but they take the longest time to figure out. That's the excuses done.
If it raises awareness and sells a few of the artists' works then that is good enough for me.
Let's go!

The last post of this kind Imaginary Appalachia started in Canada. This one starts in Michigan and I'm not sure that we will get any further south this time, although the music might at times suggest that we have.

Red Tail Ring - Fall Away Blues (CD Baby, 2 September 2016).

This is the most recent release from the Kalamazoo, Michigan based duo that comprises Laurel Primo and Michael Beauchamp. Entirely acoustic, it contrasts new takes on traditional songs and tunes with new ones that tackle themes such as gun crime (something in traditional music that is as old as guns), immigration and environmentalism (both of which are barely less so). It is their fourth album release.

Now this.
It is, as the artist says, "more southern and more country influenced" than her first release 'Sad-eyed Lomesome Lady' and I will return to that in another post. Raised in East Vancouver, BC and now based in Saskatoon, SK (and also in Toronto)  this is all about... quite simply  the things that she wanted to write about and it is not going to get a party started.

Steph Cameron - Daybreak Over Jackson Street (Pheromone Recordings, 21 April 2017).

I only happened across this artist by a rare strike of fortune. Yesterday. It got me thinking and now writing again. It is as sparse and beautiful in its production as it is disenchanted, yet hopeful, in its content. The most important thing is that it is always questioning but never preachy.

This journey is not really about new music. I discovered the next record after it occurred to me that I couldn't recall having heard anything new from Canadian fiddle player and singer-songwriter Kendel Carson in a couple of years.  I found this... and if you like female vocal harmonies and multiple fiddle players this could be just the thing for you too.

Belle Starr - belle starr (Roaring Girl Records, 2 April 2013).

The two other artists are Stephanie Cadman and Miranda Mulholland. The trio had previously released an EP 'The Burning of Atlanta' in April 2012 but that is harder to find. In both cases there are quite a few covers.  I think that, to be found on the above-mentioned LP, the cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Tougher Than The Rest' is particularly effective.

Not all the content relies on lyric and the fiddle tune 'Charity Kiss' is top-notch. It reminds me just how much I like this sort of music and, therefore, of Orcadian fiddle group Fara.
The penultimate track 'Art O'Leary' is an English translation of an Irish poem, 
Art Ó Laoghaire, set to music.  He fought for the Catholic cause with the Hungarian Hussars, in the army of Maria Theresa in the mid-late 18th century and survived that only to be murdered on his return to his family in Ireland.

This journey will end with a Canadian duo - Kacy & Clayton -  that has covered another poem set to music. This one is often regarded as trad. and anon. but in fact it is nothing of the kind. That song is not, however, on this that is their second LP.

Kacy & Clayton - Strange Country (New West Records, 6 May 2016).

For me the classic cover on this album is their take on 'Over The River Charlie' that is an American song of long standing.  It is not the song I was alluding to above, however.

That is 'The Dalesman's Litany' and it appears on the 2013 album 'The Day Is Past and Gone'. It is in fact a 20th century song in the sense it is now known.
The words, originally a poem in Yorkshire dialect, were written and/or collected by Frederic William Moorman (1872 - 1918), the first Professor of English Language at the University of Leeds (1912 - 1918). The setting of it to a tune, by Dave Keddie of Bradford, Yorkshire, came decades later.
The first commercially released recording of this song that I am aware of is that by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior on their first record as a duo, 'Folk Songs of Old England Volume 1' (1968). On this the lyrics have been "translated" into more prosaic English. The duo later became the core of electric folk band Steeleye Span and the song became a classic of the British folk revival.
The thing about the version by Kacy & Clayton is its beautiful naïvety; i
t is all the better for the fact that a few of the many Yorkshire locations mentioned in it are mispronounced but, like so many before it, the song has crossed the ocean.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 19 - Wrangled - Angaleena Presley

When 'The Pistol Annies' hit the world with a delightfully sardonic take on country, back in 2011, it would be fair to say that Angaleena Presley was the least well-known of the three and, perhaps actually rather importantly, the oldest. Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe were already better known.
She was also the last of the three to release a solo LP and that when it came was the brilliant, off-kilter 'American Middle Class' in 2014. It immediately caught my attention, in the time before Margo Price was known-about, for it's uncompromising take on the grubby underside 
of the American Dream.
The two have rather different takes on what at the end of the day is discrimination, inequality and sheer frustration. The thread is that they are both brilliant about putting them to words and then weaving those words into songs. Songs that people far away can still relate to. 

I'm not afraid to write this and not least because Britain has plenty of the same problems and I'm not one to try and deny that. It is a big issue and also a massively divisive one: Poverty be that of food or culture, history suggests, does not tend to bring people together.

What I will say is that, of the most recent solo albums from each of the Annies, this is (and the others both guest on it, so its very clear they are still in touch) the the point when 'Holler Annie' finally becomes Angaleena the outlaw Annie.

Angaleena Presley - Wrangled (Mining Light Music/Thirty Tigers, 21 April 2017).

Pretty much nothing that she turns her lyric to, and therefore her voice also, comes out smelling of roses. That is telling it nicely; she often doesn't.
I don't even need to include the track-list because, in true old-school fashion, it is on the cover of the record. This release has multiple issues and one of them is that it may turn out to be amongst the best albums of 2017.
Yes, of course I would like to see Angaleena play live again.
 Not least because I know that she is astonishing. She is far better than my photography.

Stage 1, Cambridge Folk Festival, 31 July 2015.

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 18 - Turn Your Face To The Sun - I Draw Slow

This is just so welcome news.
From Dublin, but also Americana and roots inspired, please embrace the return of 'I Draw Slow'. Centered around siblings Dave and Louise Holden the band is so much more than that.

I Draw Slow, Turn Your Face To The Sun (Compass Records, 21 April 2017).

I Draw Slow - Turn Your Face To The Sun:
  • Maria
  • My Portion
  • Same Old Dress Will Do
  • Garage Flowers
  • Apocalypso
  • Don't Wake The Children
  • Alveregna
  • Tell The Girls
  • Carolina
  • Twin Sisters
  • Crooked Life
This is Don't Wake The Children, taken from the new album...

You might find that a little searching of the bands's earlier recordings is rewarding too. Just one example, and another video, is this.

  'Goldmine', taken from the 2011 LP Redhills .

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 17 - The Vintage TV Recordings - Danni Nicholls

Three months into 2017 and the days are longer. I have some 2017 festival tickets booked but the summer still feels a way off. Over the Easter weekend I intend to embark on another virtual road trip through music whilst also considering the fact that logic dictates at least some of the defining LPs of 2017 must have now been released, the consequent problem there being that I may not actually know about them yet.
Before that I'm going to indulge in my liking for live recordings; to wit that which is the title of this post. I finally saw Danni Nicholls live at Truck Festival last July after a couple of false starts due to venue issues resulting in shows cancelled to the detriment of all concerned.

This comprises tracks from both LPs and 
I have mentioned them before in posts. They are 'A Little Redemption' (2013) and 'Mockingbird Lane' (2015).  The play list here is as follows:
  • Long Road Home
  • Leaving Tennessee
  • Beautiful Game
  • Hey There, Sunshine
  • Beautifully Broken
  • Between Forever and Goodbye
  • Where The Blue Train Goes
  • Let Somebody Love You
  • A Little Redemption
If you like this you will like both the studio LPs too.  I believe that her third LP is in the works. Be that as it may I strongly recommend that you also need to catch the artist live-for-real because even the best, most sensitively produced, live recording doesn't hold a candle to being there in person.

Danni Nicholls, Saloon Bar stage, Truck Festival, 16 July 2016.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 16 - Heavy Heart - Keepsake

Another band that was new to me as the result of seeing it live at a festival is London-based five-piece Heavy Heart. This was courtesy of Truck Festival 2014 and here they are playing then.

Heavy Heart, Veterans and Virgins stage - Truck Festival (18 July 2014).

As I mentioned in my last post there are acts that once heard are not easily forgotten and Heavy Heart is one of those as far as I am concerned. Throughout 2016 the band raised its profile on social media by releasing a new song each month. If you missed all this you can download or stream the songs from these links. In early 2017 it was announced that these songs would also gain a physical status as 'Keepsake' through new independent label I Can & I Will Records.

Heavy Heart - Keepsake (I Can & I Will Records, 31 March 2017).

It is still available but there is a catch.  The release  is limited to 300 copies, all numbered and signed, and it is only available on raspberry-coloured 12" vinyl (£10 + p&p), which quite frankly is a bargain given the prices being asked for many main-stream releases on vinyl at the moment.
This is the track listing:

Side A:
Time Will Stand Still
Teenage Witch
High Dive
Pretty Thing

Side B:
What Became of Laura R?
Fever Dream
Late to the Party
The World Is a Gumball
The Way Home

Now all I need to do is see the band live once again.

Note added 12 June 2017:
Keepsake is now available on CD too:

Friday, March 31, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 15 - The Secret Sisters - You Don't Own Me Anymore

It was only last weekend that I was discussing the impact that new music can have on me, particularly when blind-sided by something unknown and therefore quite unexpected. It has happened quite a few times now, most often at festivals, and it is a thrill that doesn't seem to diminish with each incidence thereof.
This is about one such act that I mentioned here and one that I am happy to report has resurfaced after a very challenging time that involved being dropped by their record label and various other soul-destroying events. This is one of the very few pictures I took then and long before all that happened to them:

The Secret Sisters - Garden stage, End Of The Road Festival, 5 September 2011.

I mention this because The Secret Sisters are back! Laura and Lydia Rogers had been writing songs in a desultory fashion and with no real expectations until towards the end of 2015 when Brandi Carlile coaxed them to play support for her in her native Pacific Northwest.
Then she 
told them that she was producing their third LP (that wasn't even written) in collaboration with her own co-producers the Hanseroth Twins.

This re-focussed the songwriting; the experiences of the previous few years becoming material for whole new set of songs and this is the result.

The Secret Sisters - You Don't Own Me Anymore (New West Records, 16 June 2017).

The Secret Sisters - You Don't Own Me Anymore
  • Tennessee River Runs Low
  • Mississippi
  • Carry Me
  • King Cotton
  • Kathy's Song
  • To All the Girls Who Cry
  • Little Again
  • You Don't Own Me Anymore
  • The Damage
  • Til It's Over
  • Flee as a Bird
That is the playlist and this is the opening song. I can't wait to see them live once again.

Friday, March 24, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 14 - Holly Henderson - Opium Drip EP

So this is another 2016 release that I missed. No surprise there I suppose, but what a fail this was. 
Holly Henderson has history as a guitarist known as 'Kitty Vacant' in all-female punk group 'The Sex Pissed Dolls'. I realise that this isn't getting me off to a promising start when it comes to enthusiasm for the artist, who hails from Maidstone, Kent. In terms local to here Maidstone evinces the same kind of sympathetic condescension as Trowbridge. Both are very forgettable county towns.

She decided to break away from the outright noise [although she now also plays with Los Angeles-based multinational hard rock outfit DORJA --- about which I shall mention more very soon] to record solo stuff that shows that she is a sensitive guitar player and
 also a fine songwriter too. The result is this, which she regards as an EP but at seven tracks and almost 33½ minutes in length is at least a mini-album. She is entirely responsible for the cover artwork too.

Holly Henderson - Opium Drip EP (self-released, 30 August 2016).

This is the playlist:
  • Breakdown
  • Life Has a Bug (I Fell Ill)
  • Side Streets
  • Your Hands
  • Cold Cold Heart
  • Opium Drip
  • The Game
A full LP is to follow soon and apparently the only track from the EP to appear on it will be the song 'Opium Drip'. If it is as good as the EP then it will be quite something.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 13 - Oka Vanga - Dance Of The Copper Trail

Thanks to many people, not least the band, this is the next in a series of posts about new music that has grabbed my attention for all the right reasons.

Oka Vanga - Dance Of The Copper Trail (Crazy Bird Records, 31 March 2017).

Oka Vanga - Dance of The Copper Trail:
  • The Wicken Tree
  • Capercaille
  • Ashes To The Wind
  • She Moved Through The Fair
  • Don't Let The Clouds Roll In
  • The Devil's Tide
  • Song of the River
  • Rose of the Hill
  • My Sweet Guitar
  • Out Of The Fire
  • This Train
The heart of this duo is husband and wife Angela Mayer and William Cox, the former from South Africa and the latter from London, but what you get here goes far beyond anything that those facts might begin to reveal. This is their second LP, following 'Pilgrim' of 2014 that was instrumental. If songwriting and singing talent was hidden under a bushel then, neither is the case any longer! This album also features Patsy Reid from Scotland on fiddle and Oliver Copeland on double bass. The variety in the songs is just about perfect.
'The Wicken Tree' is a new revelation of many an old theme; 'She Moved Through The Fair' is a song about as venerable as any that can be reliably traced - the air is likely of mediaeval origin and may have origins in the music of south-eastern Europe. Regarded as of Irish tradition numerous versions, yet still recognisable as such, are to be found throughout the folk canon of the British Isles and especially so in the Romany communities of Ireland as well as further afield, particularly in North American tradition.
The lyric is usually adapted to fit the place and circumstance so it is probably rather recent by comparison. It has been serially adopted by players and singers wheresoever they have found themselves, often far away from their native home, and this elective mutability is another key attribute of folk tradition.
You could 
sing about the hardships of cod fishing on the Newfoundland Banks when stuck in drought-stricken Oklahoma during the years of the dust bowl and depression, if only for the sake of remembrance. Most likely you would still sing but about things more immediate and pressing.

One of my particular favourites, given just a couple of listens through the whole album so far, is 'The Devil's Tide'.
I'm wondering if this has subconsciously to do with the fact that last week was the fiftieth anniversary of the disaster that was the wreck and foundering of the oil tanker 'Torrey Canyon' off the SW coast of Cornwall on 18 March 1967. The French called the shoreline pollution that the spill caused "la marée noire" - the black tide.  It is in fact about a quite different peril 
on the high seas - piracy -  and in this case a female pirate from Co. Cork, Ireland!

Here is the aforementioned 'She Moved Through The Fair' performed live:

There is also a song about the plight of coal miners 'Rose Of The Hill' and one about railways 'This Train', so that has most of my folk interests covered.
This is the variety you get here and it is well worth your time to explore it. Oka Vanga is well and truly added to my list of acts to see live.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Imaginary Appalachia - a road trip through Americana.

These posts are the hardest kind to write but, perhaps because of that, also some of the most interesting and rewarding to attempt.  I was never one for writing fiction when at school and I doubt that I could do it convincingly now.

We start this trip, the title of which is inspired by the title of his 2015 EP, with Colter Wall, a native of Saskatchewan, Canada. His first LP 'Colter Wall' is coming soon.
Colter Wall - Colter Wall (Young Mary's Records/Thirty Tigers, 12 May 2017).

This is a live version of 'Kate McCannon' from that LP, recorded in 2015. He supports Margo Price on her US  spring tour.

This next artist isn't from Appalachia either and is not so well known in her own right as perhaps the songs and certainly the artists for whom she has written or co-written. This collection is about the place, quintessential rural America, which she remembers as the home of her grandfather in Puxico, Missouri. It is all her own but the supporting musicians and the production (by her husband Mike Wrucke) are absolutely top class.

Natalie Hemby - Puxico (GetWrucke Productions, 13 January 2017).

In this next record we are finally approaching Appalachian territory; Rayna Gellert, a co-founder of Uncle Earl, is a traditional fiddle player with roots deep in mountain and string band territory.

Rayna Gellert - Workin's Too Hard (SoundStory Records, 20 January 2017).

She is also a fine songwriter and this, following 'Old Light: Songs From My Childhood and Other Gone Worlds' (2013), is the second release in her pursuit of that space. Her desire in this is that innovation need not be, and indeed should not be, stifled by the desire to preserve tradition. Both outcomes can co-exist to the benefit of all.
Of the seven tracks here five are written or co-written by Rayna Gellert. The other two are interpretations of the traditional songs 'Oh Lovin' Babe' and 'I'm Bound For The Promised Land'.

This next record is a paean to the value of the journey itself rather than the knowledge of its ultimate destination.

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness (Grapefruit Record Club, 13 January 2017).

If you like finger-picked acoustic guitar and contemplative lyrics, as I do, this might be right up your street. Originally from Buffalo NY she has travelled and lived across much of the continental USA in places as far removed from each other as New Orleans and Seattle. Sometimes she briefly heads to Europe too. If all goes as planned then our paths will cross in August as Julie Byrne plays Green Man Festival 2017.

The journey's end is this album, likely  the best known artist/album of the five as a result of her work with Carolina Chocolate Drops and then her 2015 LP 'Tomorrow Is My Turn', which was all covers and now this that is not.  Whilst the record was quite certainly planned, conceived and recorded before the denouement was known, the title and subject matter could hardly have been more prescient.

Rhiannon Giddens - Freedom Highway (Nonesuch Records, 24 February 2017).

Rhiannon Giddens playing fretless banjo, Stage 1, Cambridge Folk Festival  -  1 August 2015.

Well that's it for this post. Five albums, one soon to be released and four already released in 2017 and we're only just approaching the Ides of March!
There is certainly no shortage or variety of new music that a little exploring can't uncover. The only problem with trips like this is that as soon as one is over the bug bites again. It is time to start planning the next.
The question is should it be Antipodean or Scandinavian?