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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.:

Rough Island Band - Sou'wester Sessions Revisited ****
Scilly Isles based Rough Island Band have taken their debut album, and completely reimagined it a decade later. Formed in St Agnes, the band wrote songs inspired by this tiny island which had no indigenous music. While much has happened in the last ten years, with the band having all had their fingers in other musical pies, St Agnes has been a constant for them. The revisiting feels full of shared nostalgia and has many lovely moments such as Family Jam, which is a pure delight. The highpoint comes early with Barnaby Lane (and it's later reprise), but this is a lovely album destined to be revisited many times.

Matt Steady - Chasing Down Wolves ****
Chasing Down Wolves is a concept album from Leicester based singer songwriter Matt Steady. While ostensibly about a Saxon blacksmith caught up with Viking raiders leading into the Battle of Maldon, surprisingly Steady stuffs the record full of very modern themes. Family, politics, nerves, PTSD, immigration, poverty… he manages to show how these things are universal through history. A true independent musician (he writes, records, mixes and masters himself), Chasing Down Wolves is well worth purchasing.

Tony Denikos - Gravity Wins ***
While at first Gravity Wins appears to be a very conventional country blues album, Maryland born Tony Denikos has one heck of a secret weapon. The album is full of a fantastically rich sense of humour, which in other hands could overpower the music, but Denikos uses it to enrich his songs. The likes of Lil' Chrome Fish, Only The Mammas Know, and Night Lamp Jesus are full of wit and warmth, while never feeling less than authentic. As an album it has its ups and down, but there's enough at play here to make it worth multiple listens.

Kaja - Origo ***
Origo is the fourth album from the Swedish trio, and is chock full of European influences. With their eclectic mix of instruments, including the Violinquintone and the Accordian, the trio manage to create a sound that is completely unique to them. If the European sound wasn't enough for you, Origo also brings in West African music, jazz and electronica. The album is a constant surprise and never quite goes where you think it might. The high point comes half way through with Tram No. 9 and Stains, though the quality does dip slightly towards the end with the Infinitus sequence.

The Epstein - Burn The Branches ****
Burn The Branches is the third album from Oxfordshire band The Epstein, some seven years after their last release. They are just as hard to pin down in musical terms, being part Americana, part folk, part indie rock, which gives their music a fresh feel. The highpoint comes early with opener That Voice, a great anthem that sets the tone well. Other great tracks include Grand Canyon, which is a wonderful slice of Americana, while Red Rocks is gloriously laid back with the focus on Olly Wills' vocal performance. Burn The Branches is a strong album, full of moments of pure magic, with such variety that there's something here for everyone to love. Immersive, endearing and inspirational, stick it on when you want your mood to soar.

Dustbowl Revival - Is It You, Is It Me ***
Some bands really can't be pinned down to one musical genre, but few have changed quite so drastically as Californian group Dustbowl Revival. The new release is a little more indie rock than previous albums, with a strong roots foundation. There's also a political edge to Is It You, Is It Me that is far from hidden in subtext. Get Rid Of You is a prime example, one of a growing number of songs about school shootings, and certainly one of the better ones. There's plenty of lighter moments on tracks like I Wake Up, a catchy love song, and Nobody Knows (Is It You), about an accidental president. There's a lot of depth here, but most of all it's just a really enjoyable listen, full of fun moments.

The Bloodstained Angels - V ***
Scottish Singer-songwriter James Nixon releases his debut album as The Bloodstained Angels, giving us a release that is honest and very intimate. This isn't a bells and whistles CD, this is one man with a guitar pouring his heart and soul into his music. As with many such debuts, there are hits and misses here, with the impression that he's throwing everything into this first album. When it hits, it really hits. Lost in the Moment is captivating and beautiful, Two Slugs is unconventional but quite lovely, and She Rocks and Rolls Me is full of Ryan Adamesque longing. This is a solid if unspectacular start, but there's enough here to suggest more and better to come. The Bloodstained Angels could really be one to keep an eye on.

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