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Reviews by Paul McGee

Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough Mockingbird Soul BDM

This is one impressive record, filled with plenty of soulful playing and singing. Add in a strong country blues feel and you are getting close to the signpost that says ‘Stop Here’.

Twelve tracks across 43 minutes that touch the heart and the head in equal measure. The yearning at leaving runs through, Everything and I Can Hear Your Voice – one song about a reunion yet to happen; the other about the passing of a parent and the lessons left behind. The title track is a wonderful example of passionate delivery and subtle playing while the giddy groove of Running Round recalls endless summer days of being young and free.

The trio of Brigitte on ukulele/vocals; Chris Donohue on upright bass and Will Kimbrough on guitars/harmonica/vocals produce songs that are a real joy and flow together into a complete and full experience, laced with superb playing.

Bonnie Raitt (The Juke) and Patty Griffin (Rainy Day) come to mind in the influences but it would be trite to compare Brigitte to such enduring artists. Suffice to say that she has her own strut going on … A cover version of October Song (Incredible String Band) is an inspired choice and shows off the playing talents of these musicians. The lines; "I used to search for happiness, And I used to follow pleasure, But I found a door behind my mind." And that’s the greatest treasure’ seem to sum up the career that this artist has navigated. DeMeyer has six previous albums and this self-produced collection shows a real maturity in both her vision and writing, delivering a work that carries real depth. The playing and harmony vocals are compelling throughout and there is not a weak track here. A must-buy and already on my list of favourites for the year.

John Statz The Fire Sermon Why River

Originally from Wisconsin, this singer/singer-songwriter delivers his seventh solo release since 2006 and the debut appearance of Dusk Came Slow. This record was produced by Megan Burtt who also contributes as a musician across the ten tracks included here. There is a sense of laid back playing in the song arrangements and echoes of Tom Petty in the delivery.

We Never Talked is a stand-out with some fine electric guitar lines by Julian Peterson and Independence Pass talks of a former lover who has moved on and a look back at the relationship that was doomed to fail. The melodies are radio friendly and drift towards a contemporary sound. Red Rose Motel rocks out and is a co-write with Peter Mulvey. Tell Yourself The Truth has a funky rhythm while Two Weeks brings the tempo down to a slow groove and a satisfactory conclusion.

Russell Joslin Hey Mathematician 2+2

Four releases since 2007 for this English songwriter who has written all 14 songs on this latest album. Russell Joslin also sings and plays guitars, electric bass and modular synth. The entire project runs for over an hour, which requires dedicated listening, and perhaps he could have trimmed some of the excess in order to tighten the album as a whole. The sound varies from rock to folk and there is certainly an angry artist in the lyrics on some of the numbers.

He is joined on harmony vocals by Sarah McCaig for 7 songs and cello is provided on 2 songs by Anna Scott with violin by Georgina Leach on another 4 songs. Double bass on 3 songs by Kurt Barnes and drums played by Jacob Wheeler on 6 songs. Outside of these varied and telling contributions, it is very much the Joslin show as he shows his dexterity on guitar with songs like Billy’s Funeral, Shipwreck and Early Woman.

The quiet frustration of Shackles is replaced by the righteous anger of If I Die A Tory and We Are 40 Now, a song that hits out at the lack of social change and the lost activism of younger days. The hidden track Pittsburg It Is brings everything to a close with a gentle guitar strum and another fine harmony vocal by Sarah McCaig.  

Susan Kane Mostly Fine Self Release

This is a release that dates back to June 2016 but only found its way to our door very recently. More’s the pity, as had it arrived last year, it would have figured in the ‘best of’ listings. Proof indeed, if it were needed, that timing is everything…

There are ten tracks featured across almost forty minutes of songs that really inspire. This is sweet country music with superb playing and arrangements that both move and stir the soul. Produced by Jeff Eyrich, who plays Bass on all tracks, the understated dynamic among the musicians allows plenty of space for the melodies to work their magic. The use of violin, cello and viola on certain songs augments the organic flow of accordion, dobro, mandolin & lap steel.

There are three covers that sit nicely into the whole project; two from the Grateful Dead (Brown Eyed Women and Comes A Time) and a song by Rob Marsberger (A Man Of Much Merit) that references a letter written by a dying son to his Father.

 All other songs are written by Susan, including two co-writes, and her ability to look at life with both humorous (Worn Out Lines / Slip On Shoes) and sensitive (Crying Babies/Away/Jacksonville) perspective, goes to highlight an artist of some depth. 

Cary Morin Cradle to the Grave Self Release

Acoustic Blues played in a very impressive style by Crown Indian Cary Morin. The eleven tracks are all performed by Cary with just his acoustic guitar and incorporate a finger-picking style that suggests some jazz influences (Back On The Train/Lay Baby Lay).

A cover of Princes’ Nothing Compares To You, shows a more commercial side, but it is tracks like Dawn’s Early Light, Trust and Ghost Dog that stay in the memory and highlight the unique talents and soulful voice of this accomplished guitarist and artist.

He has won the Colorado Blues Challenge Solo Championship and was also nominated for Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year and Best Blues CD in the Aboriginal People's Choice Music Awards.

Elaine Mahon Reach for the Stars Self Release

Folk artist Elaine Mahon plays acoustic guitar and sings in a beautifully clear voice that grounds the 14 songs here. They span 50 minutes of concentrated listening and her message is one of positive energy in the universe and how blessed we are to be part of this magical mystery. With an academic background in extragalactic astronomy, this performer has penned songs of hope, joy and thanks for all the possibility that life puts in our path. Shine, You Are Not Alone, Reach For The Stars, Look Up and Lean Into Love, give a flavour of the message in the words. There is real optimism and purpose to her writing and collaborations on three tracks make the acoustic feel of this release all the more inclusive. Earnest songs and performed from the heart.

Amelia White Home Sweet Hotel White Wolf

These ten songs touch on the tired and weary life of a travelling artist and the isolation is captured perfectly in the opening track, Dangerous Angel, a song that smoulders with the dangers of loneliness on the road and the temptations of desire.

A life on the road, with the freedom to travel an explore new experiences, is the initial draw to many a young musician but on the other side of that coin lies the years clocked up to a less romantic reality and the lyric "I call up to say I miss you, it's been a long and lonely highway."

This is an artist who has received increased interest in the music press as her career has grown. A life of nomadic wandering is captured on Leaving In My Blood, pushing the protagonist further on that Lonesome Highway … "You said I'm like a riddle riding in the wind - singing my song for strangers in every town I'm in ..."

The slow burn of the title track highlights her song-writing talent, which is very evident with sublime mood pieces and arrangements that reveal more and more on repeated plays. This lady has lived the life of a touring musician and Road Not Taken may not be autobiographical but it certainly feels that way - "She heard him knocking at the door, but it's just a memory and nothing more."

The studio band play with an understated sense of the songs and the presence of Sergio Webb (guitars), Stuart Mathis (guitars), Paul Gordon (Keys), Molly Thomas (Fiddle) and a strong backline of Marco Giovino (drums/producer) and Ron Eoff (Bass) really compliment the arrangements. A recommended release for lovers of Country music with a dark thread. 

David Starr The Head and Heart Cedaredge

This 6-song EP is arranged and produced by John Oates (Hall & Oates), who also shares acoustic guitar and vocal duties with David Starr. A Colorado based singer/songwriter, David Starr has released much fine music in the past which showcases his skills as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. This project features seasoned musicians with Dan Dugmore on lap steel, Pedal steel and mandolin; Tom Bukovac on electric guitars; Nat Smith on cello; Steve Mackey on bass and Greg Morrow on drums.

The experience across 23 short minutes is a real joy as the gentle arrangements and understated playing give plenty of room for the expressive vocals of Starr to really stand out. A cover version of California Dreamin’ (Mamas & Papas) seems a strange choice but it sits nicely into the overall feel of these songs which reflect upon the personal and the cold reality of living.

The title track speaks to the pull & tug between logic and emotion – ‘where does the longing end and the true love start’. Songs of frustrated passion (Dancing With My Pride) and burning desire (I’ve Come For You/Waiting in the Dark) mix with dreams dashed on the rocks (California Dreamin’) to produce a release of some quality and a strong statement from this excellent artist.

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