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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)

Gregory Alan Isakov - Evening Machines ****
Full time Colorado farmer Gregory Alan Isakov's seventh album comes from a difficult period in his life, and many of the songs have a deeply personal feel to them. The album starts with Berth, a song about immigration, something the Johannesburg born Isakov is well placed to write about. As with most of the tracks, it is a hauntingly beautiful song which begs to have the volume turned right. San Luis has a simple melody to it, but is wonderfully tender and evocative. There is a wonderful sweep and majesty to Caves, a song of change and the challenges that come with it. Wings All In Black is about loss, and trying to keep some semblance of resilience in the face of grief. This is an album with a quiet and intimate power to it, yet with an epic sweep that feels almost limitless. AJ

Echo Town - Kin ***
Kin is the follow up to acoustic rock brothers Ric and Rob Harrison's Be Strong Troop On, and it has all the energy and verve of a live performance. There is an impressive assortment of instruments on display, including lap-slides, stomp boxes, harmonicas, and didgeridoos. It results in a sound that feels at once familiar and unique; the kind of blues rock that has been honed over years of live shows. There is even the occasional diversion to really shake things up. No Different has a reggae twist, Old Friend introduces an indie anthem quality to a song about an ancient cherry tree they climbed together as children. While not every song hits home, and some of them do sound very similar at times, this is an entertaining album with a phenomenal effervescence to it. AJ

Vive La Rose - For She Who Hangs The Moon ****
This is the debut full album from Edinburgh-born David Luximon-Herbert, perfectly showcasing his characteristic gravelly vocals tied to delicate, beautiful melodies. There's an impressive amount at play here, tying in everything from folk to rock to Americana, and even a touch of rhythm and blues. There are some wonderful touches throughout, from the bird song that gently opens album highpoint Rio Grande, to the goose bump inducing space race speech snippets from JFK mixed in with piano and strings. It all makes for a warm and inclusive sound full of empathy, and cannot help but captivate and mesmerise. AJ

She Drew The Gun - Revolution of Mind *** Revolution of Mind is the second release from singer-songwriter Louisa Roach, following on from 2016's Memories of Another Future. The new album is powerful and intense; political activism enhanced with a poet's touch, balancing the occasionally vitriolic lyrics with an instrumental backing that can be delicate at times, and yet provide a sonic punch when called for. Roach doesn't pull her punches, and it makes for an almost overwhelmingly passionate musical experience at times, especially on the more overtly political Resister, and Revolution of Mind. There are lighter touches too; Wolf and Bird is a poetic change of pace, and Ocean Song allows you to calmly drift off towards an enticing horizon. But there's no doubt that Roach is at her best when she's spitting out caustic poetry with a driving beat behind her. AJ

The Tea Street Band - Frequency ***
Liverpool act The Tea Street Band are finally back, four years after their eponymous debut album. As you'd expect, this a record where melody is all important amongst the synth-pop overtones, and it's a little more polished compared with their debut. Frequency is a fine example of electronica infused indie, and songs such as Marseilles Blues and Only Love really shine. Pick of the album for me is probably Sacré-Coeur, which may be a bit of a change of pace for the band, but it's a song that can't help but leave you nodding your head in time to the beat. This is well worth a listen. AJ

River Roots - River Roots ***
Matt and Gem aka River Roots came together as a duo back in 2015, with their self-titled debut coming out earlier in the year. The album has that classic two guitar, two voices and the open road feel to it. This is music you can make anywhere with and without amplification, though on the album at least there are additional musical adornments. Both have good and interesting voices that blend well and hold your attention. It feels like it's been inspired by the great outdoors and feels like that would be a good place to hear it, relaxing on a beach watching the sunset and why not. NK

Dave Forestfield - Footsteps In The Snow ***
'Footsteps In The Snow' is Dave Forestfield's eighth album, which makes me wonder why he hasn't crossed my path before especially as he has won awards in the US and back in his Finnish homeland. This album, at least, is delivered in English and features a combination of both self-penned and his takes on industry standards from the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker, Gene Autry and Lennon & McCartney. The sound is ideal for pounding along the motorways at a certain speed and it's a difficult album t find fault with. Whilst doesn't push the boundaries, it doesn't let you down either. NK

Iona Lane - Golden Sleeves ****
Iona Lane continues to go from strength to strength whether performing with her band Waterside or solo as she does here. Like a lot of new generation artists Iona Lane has honed her craft with covers, posting many to YouTube and leaving proper recordings for her own songs, though she does include her own version on Tabor's 'The Month Of January'. 'Golden Sleeves' has a more professional feel to it from the sleeve inward, it's Iona's strongest set so far and she continues to be an artist to keep an eye and ear on, because the talent is there to build on. NK

Penguins Go Pop - 20th Century Pop *** Penguins Go Pop hail from 1986 East Anglia and since reforming back in 2014/15 have had quite a fluid with band leader Richard Penguin being a constant. '20th Century Pop' slid into the cd autochanger with more than a hint of trepidation and wonder if it would make the end of the road, let along the journey. I was instantly transported back to those mid-eighties days as this quirky post hit the speakers. Whilst a new recording, this is very much a recording of the time and tbh it's a guilty pleasure that would have found a home in the fanzine. NK

Captain Of The Lost Waves - Transient ****
Had this been judged on the drive out 'Transient' would have struggled to have made two stars yet finds its self here with four. This vaudeville show for the 21st century is not going to be the easiest album you are going to listen, but you'll find something intriguing in Captain Of The Lost Waves vibe even if you initially find it a bit too self-indulgent to start with, but you will hear enough to hook you and reel you back in. It's clever, at times pretentious, but it is worthy of your time and will drive the synaptics. NK

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