Friday
Oct082010

Cam Penner 'Trouble & Mercy' Prairie Boy

Penner is a acoustic troubadour, a rough hewn voice in the wilderness telling tales of living on the fringes, of constant traveling and of low to no income survival. The focus is Penner's voice and his guitar with some subtle additional electric, steel guitar, violin and organ adding to the various songs mood and menace. This is music that evokes a sense of weariness but one that hasn't given up on better things to come. This is all summed up on a song like Tired Of This Town which is gently sung over a sparse accordion backing, it diffuses the romance of the pretend cowboy "you ain't no cowboy... this ain't no Wild West'. It has a insight that comes from viewing the world from the ground up. It has dirt under it's fingernails but warmth in it's heart and is, as a body of music, attractive and inviting. This Canadian singer/songwriter who has tenderness and grit in equal measure and who has made a stripped down album that is a good one. www.campenner.com

Friday
Oct082010

Brooks Williams 'Baby O Red Guitar' Blue Music

Looking not unlike a close relative of John Hiatt Williams shares a sense of raw blues with the former, though his musical palate is less wide ranging. The American singer/songwriter/guitarist recorded this, his 17th, self-produced album in England last year. Williams also has a strong warm voice that matches his skill as an acoustic guitar player on a variety of guitars including resonator and slide. He is accompanied by some accomplished local players including PJ Wright on dobro, electric slide and pedal steel guitars. The songs include some outside material from Son House's bluesy Grinnin' In Your Face to Mississippi John Hurt's Louis Collins to a striking instrumental slide version of the traditional Amazing Grace. Another instrumental, a more in gentle tone with some atmospheric pedal steel is Devil's Punchbowl. His own songs cover aspects of the human condition and fit the overall blues template as with the explanatory Walk You Off My Mind and Last Chance Love. Brooks Williams will appeal to acoustic blues fans and to Americana fans with this well played and produced collection of above average music from someone who understand the form well. www.brookswiliams.com

Friday
Oct082010

James and Amy Little Victories Self-Release

A husband and wife duo, James Cooper and Amy Kelly make melodic, memorable music. The albums opens with an a cappella version of Stephen Foster's Hard Times, this sets the tone for what follows, a selection of songs written by the duo either together or solo. The music is vibrant and rich in musical harmony with a largely acoustic backing. Peppered with banjo, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass and occasional percussion the music sound right for the songs, and the singers. Outside of the opening Hard Times the only cover is a version of I Hope You Dance, here stripped down to its core emotional content which makes the emotion of the song work in a way the more recognized versions tend to overplay. For this listener anyway. There is not a bad track here. It has warmth and welcome and while it is not doing anything that has not been done before, what it does it does in a timeless way that relys on good songwriting, singing and playing. This is music that celebrates those little victories of life. www.jamesandamy.com

Friday
Oct082010

The Frontier Needs Heroes 'Self-Titled' Self Released

A entrancing brother/sister duo of Brad and Jessica Lauretti who play a style of folk music that reminds of early Fairport Convention and their contemporaries as well as some of the more stripped down folk music being made today in America. It is neither old time or Appalachian, rather it is folk music that is influenced by the Smiths as much as Woody Guthrie Dolly Parton as much as Joan Baez. In other words what they play and the way they play draws of a range of influences that is wide and eclectic. The result is an album of self-written songs that start with the Brad's guitar, his voice and Jessicas. From that base they add textures like flute, violin, percussion as well as bass and electric guitar on songs like Leopard Eyes and No More War. There is, at times, a sombre melancholy at the heart of these songs but overall the music is uplifting and untrammelled. The sibling harmonies are as strong and striking as you would expect and add much to the overall atmosphere of the music. It is the sort of album that draws you in and one you can find much to admire on repeated plays. With musical frontiers becoming increasingly blurred we need to find heroes where we can.You might find some frontierneedsheroes.com.

Friday
Oct082010

Hennessy Keane Nowhere Fast Self-Release

A band built around the two members who give the band its name - Shaun Hennessy and Ian Keane they play country-styled roots rock, a fairly innocuous sound but a pleasant one with the band playing well and laying acoustic instruments under the electric guitar and bass. Producer Nicke Beere plays some Hammond to fill out the sound in places. But as this is the band's first album they can build on the obvious interaction that the band displays on this, their debut album. The two duo write together and deliver the vocals which have a warmth and balance that indicates that, although they are not new to the game, they have found a niche and a way to progress their music. Songs like Ain't Leaving Without You show them off well and they bring to mind a slightly under developed version of The Sutherland Brothers. A listenable album that has some good songs and a solid delivery that suggest that they would also make a good live band. www.hennessykeane.com