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The Driving Test

A Musical Car Ride

Whilst we would love to give every album/EP/single a full indepth review,we are only human and don't have a time turner so we aren't able to give every release the time and attention it deserves.

In the past that would have ment that we either reviewed a release or we didn't, but now we have a third option, a middle way.

The solution here has been a simple one. Rather than review individual artists' CD's at length, we play them one after the other on a long car journey. The simple listening test is: "are they bearable in the car - interesting, enjoyable, not distracting". This may not be how the artists want us to hear their work, but it's how a lot gets listened to for the first time and at least raises awarenes! The rating system is simple and provides a shorthan for reference.:

***** Classic album, standout artist - a joy to listen to anywhere
**** Great album - the perfect soundtrack to a long car journey
*** Good album - pleasant background in the car - but nothing unique
** You have to be a fan of this music/artist. I've spared you a review
* You are either the artist or a close relative. (As I'm not, sorry no review)

Kelly and Woolley - Miner's Eyes ***
Exactly the sort of music you'd hear up and down the folk clubs of the UK week in, week out. This time out, the duo's classic guitar/fiddle/mandolin combination presents a first release of original compositions, drawing from folk music from both sides of the Atlantic. 'Miner's Eyes' gathers some dandy and catchy songs heavily weighted in Gary Woolley's songwriting favour, from a transatlantic hybrid fashion, the mandolin fuelled 'Cairo To Vincennes' a neat little swinging early highlight as they trawl some familiar paths. Easy on the ear with a few concessions to the melancholy, passing of time, fading of memories direction, they do a grand job at grass roots level. MA

Brendan Monaghan - Unbroken ***
Brendan's back with a cast of not quite thousands, but a set of back room boys and girls to contribute production skills, photographs and one or several musicians. Ultimately, it's his name on the cover and him, his guitar and his easy tones which grace the core of a dozen self penned songs that ebb and flow like the Lagan. From the shimmering "I'm coming home, I've been away too long" sentiment of 'Unbroken' to the country roll of 'Farewell' via encounters with Gospel Jim, dark hours, the Devil and blue skies an half hour or so spent with Brendan Monaghan is good for the soul. MA

Powersolo - Bo Peep **
One man, one guitar, one kick drum, one microphone and two bottles of absinthe. Sums things up pretty succinctly really. Kim Kix is the brains of the outfit, banging out thirteen songs that last just over half an hour. What more do you need to know? Weirdness and lo fidelity are the main ingredients for a series of bizarre fairground flavoured vignettes and curios. All delivered by the frantic and charged rock and roll outlaw who breezes in and out like a tornado, as in one of the song titles. You don't have to be mad but it helps. MA

Eryn - Lady E **** A Maryland-born blues and soul singer now based in New Jersey, Eryn (Shewell) has been spoken about in the same breath as Amy Winehouse. She's not there yet, but this six-track mini-album undoubtedly points the way, kicking off with the belting country-tinted soul of 'Hallelujah, You're Gone' leaving you in doubt as to the power of her voice. Piano ballad 'The Me Missing From You' and the slinky fingersnapping bluesy, Grapelli-styled violin-backed groove of 'Stranger in My House' show a slower burn side, while 'Our Love Won't Die' has a sassier swing and both 'Jump' and 'Running Red Lights' suggest she might have some Tina Turner in her collection. Most definitely one to watch. MD

PARK88 - The Fearlessness ***
Named for their hometown of Park City, Utah and the number of piano keys, this EP is the first proper musical pairing of pianist and erstwhile Eddie Van Halen protégé Rich Wyman and his songwriter/actress wife Lisa Needham, he being big in the Netherlands, apparently. Basically, it's the sort of 80s influenced rock and bluesy soul you can imagine Van Halen being into, Wyman's piano driving things along on the back of steady drum rhythms and beefy guitar, 'Soul Like A Flower' showing off his jazzier inclinations and her blues swing and sass style, while 'What We Got' opens with a big brass flourish before hitting the ivories for a driving blues-rocker. Fleshed out with a 'shit' deleted version of the title track and an extended version of 'Slow Down', it's solid stuff that you can imagine blowing up a storm live and, while you might not actively seek it out, if you stumble across it you're unlikely to leave before the end. MD

BRAD COLERICK - Nine Ten Thirty ****
The title the zip code of his adopted South Pasadena hometown, pop. 25,000, and recorded with the help of assorted local talent, among them I See Hawks in LA, as well as Grammy award-winning pianist, Billy Childs, this is an often blues shaded country set, the title track evoking a similar mood to 'Ode To Billy Joe'. That said, both stained by pedal steel, the strummed 'The Big One', about a drought and surviving the San Andreas Fault's ticking clock, and 'Bachelorette' have a border country feel while 'Weeds' and 'She Rides' both nod to John Denver territory, and the rousing 'Great Year' has a twangsome country heart. Riding a trucker's country highway, 'Superhero of the MTA' offers some playful storytelling and, staying on the road, it ends with a country rock n rolling cover of the staple 'Route 66'. Shop local. MD

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