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It took me longer to get into this album than most penned by Paul Heaton, it's not as instant and one reason for that is it's focus on both the sound and feel of the other side of the pond. "Acid Country" lacks the poetic whimsey that we've come to associate with Heaton's songs and vocal style. It's not until you reach the title track, nine in, with Heaton in full rant mode that the album starts to make sense. The rage and contrasts suddenly become more profound and you wonder how you missed
them, or was it just me? "Acerbic Country" might be a better description, harsh biting.
Single:Push It Away
"Push It Away/Waste Time" is the debut double headed single from Seerauber Jenny who seem quite keen on taking that old shoe-gazzy sound a make over and giving Manchester a new sound for the 2010s. Like most good new things you can feel the historical echoes in it, the ghosts from the past that fleetingly haunt the present. Fran Baker has a warmth in her voice, it surrounds you like a blanket and tries to keep the harsh reality of the world at the door. Much of that harsh reality comes via
Neil Claxton, ex of Mint Royale, still suffused in electropop.
JJ Grey & Mofro
Any album that features a line like, "Yellow and black , and tough like an old-school Tonka toy." is going to do it for me. That said line is strapped to some drawling southern blues rock, pretty much seals the deal. "Georgia Warhorse" is named after a mean old grasshopper and sound like it was put together by an entirely different sort of grasshopper, if you know what I mean. Raw and kinda swirly, JJ Grey seems to like his blues a little fuzzy around the edges, with a vocal to match. This
is the sort of blues that could buy you redemption or a hot place in hell, pretty much your choice.
Jez Lowe And The Bad Pennies
It's a brave man from the North East who might suggest that Blackcats are close to angels whilst Magpies'll try to kill anything, even themselves, but that's what Jez Lowe appears to do on "It's A Champion Life" a football track on "Wotcheor!" Naturally with this being Jez Lowe you can feel the tongue pushing out through his cheek. Local football rivalries are just part of the backdrop to an album inspired his home region. It's when he gets more serious that he delivers the track of the album,
"Darling's Other Daughter" a song about heroine Grace Darling's sister, so poignant and moving.
Album:Live From The Phoenix Theatre
A seated gig in a theatre with a quiet respectful audience in a theatre may not on the surface seem to be the key to a great live album, it's certainly got no Johnny Cash in Folsome Prison vibe. Matt Andersen is larger than life both in frame and personality, he can take his blues from solo picking on an acoustic guitar right through to that full band gospel choir sound and feel right all the way down the track. Aided and abbetted by one of the most powerful and spiritual voices on the scene he
cranks the audience to a point where no one was anywhere by the aisles.
"Obstacles" is an album that deflects off at many different tangents, sometimes even in the same song. There's a structure that sometimes fails to hold up the clutter that obscures the view of a song as it decends into chaos before scattering dust and debris headlong into the listening audience, only to rise from the rubble and build it's self again, but lacks the foundation to do so. There are fascinating musical and vocal landscapes, but don't think there's enough to sustain the album through it's
length, it exceded thresholds of tolerance, but took dipping into well.
The standard for Scandinavian pop was set so high in the 70s that it's never really been bettered, Swedish based Finn, Maini Sorri is the latest to give it a go with five track ep/mini album "Somebody". In fairness it's a reasonable release, classic pop sensibilities, made slightly more exotic by Maini's accent and the way she attacks certain words and phrases, it makes you give it a second take, but ultimately there is a feel of radio fodder about most of the album, until she gets to the reprise of
"I'm Leaving", "Lahden Yksin" sung in her own language feels on the mark.
Nathan Watson And The Sound
Single:Reach Out(You've Got A Friend)
Taken from the forthcoming album, "Student Of Life", "Reach Out(You've Got A Friend)" serves to introduce soul/funk singer/songwriter Nathan Watson. He takes in a number of influences from the contemporary, Mika, Scissor Sisters, Rufus Wainwright, to the legendary, James Brown(Who gets a namecheck in the lyrics) and even the Jackson Five. He actually sets himself quite a task and to his credit, the single lives up to it, but it's only one track and it worries me when a single features a couple of mixes
of the same song. Intrigues me enough to want to give the album a spin.
"Albeit Nothing" is a frustrating album, Richard O'Flynn has so obviously put his heart and soul into this album. He pens all eleven of the tracks, plays most of the instruments, Sindre Skele adds drums and producer Snorre Bergerud picks a guitar or two. O'Flynn has a good voice for well crafted pop as the songs themselves flit between more organic feeling acoustic centred pop songs and more electric rooted ones. The problem is that part way through the album, I was no longer listening to the album, I
was just hearing it. It tantilisingly fails to hold attention.
"Songwriter" if you are ever going to judge a book, well in this case cd, by it's cover, this one has to be a prime candidate. Andy White has been turning out well crafted aural songbooks now for almost as long as I remember, both solo and as part of groups of others of his ilk. For the fourteen cuts on this album he's taken a band approach and sounds that include folk and country rock to a more blues pop field. Allison Russell joins him as both a lead and backing vocalist to deliver an album
that is as thoughtful as it is entertaining, as evocative as it is friviolous.
If any band is responsible for putting the drink, drugs and debauchery back into the heart of folk music and by that I mean playing the traditional songs that put it there in the first time around, it's Bellowhead. "Hedonism" is an album that reminds us that our heritage isn't all jam and Jerusalem, there was a fair amount of frolicking and carousing. Bellowhead themselves are argueably the finest gallery orchestra to have got together. The instruments may have changed, but boy can you feel the heritage. This is
about as riotous and raucous as you can get without being arrested.
Shady Bard delivers an album of big songs in a style that's slightly reminiscent of the likes of the Divine Comedy, taking in that orchestral pop sound and building it around considered and distinct lyrics that are as much spoken as sung. If these songs were paintings, you'ld be looking at huge murals, having to step back to see the whole picture and still finding small scenes you missed weeks later. The tonal quality of the vocals combined with the to die for arrangements make "Trials" one of
those albums that resonate long after the music's finished.