Wednesday
Sep082010

Jewel 'Sweet and Wild' Humphead/Valory Music

Fitting into the current vision of contemporary country singers should be seen as the more grown-up relative of Taylor Swift. A singer and songwriter well capable of delivering these songs that deal with love, in a mostly positive and uplifting way. The backings are a radio friendly mix of upfront drums, big sounds with some steel and fiddle in there with the B3 and big arrangements. Something that is highlighted on this deluxe edition that has a second CD which has exactly the same songs delivered in a very sparse setting of just Jewel and her guitar. This shows her undoubted talent as singer and songwriter rather than just the vocal addition to a producer's vision of the songs. That Jewel was involved with the production of both supposes that the two sides of this coin are designed to offer different perspectives on her songs, both valid and both likely to appeal to different sets of listening moods. Given the choice I prefer the Sweet and Mild acoustic set over the full on Sweet and Wild side. Either way you can make that choice yourselves and decide which Jewel shines the most for you. Either way both ides should have mainstream appeal if they get picked up by radio. If they do then Jewel can join the list of artists who may make a impact on European sensibilities. Lovers of hardcore honky-tonk though should look elsewhere for their fix.

Wednesday
Sep082010

Larkin Poe 'Spring' Edvins

This duo grew out of the Lovell Sisters and after the departure of elder sister Jessica now consists of Rebecca and Megan Lovell and a trio of additional musicians who make up Larkin Poe. The music is loosely defined Americana with touches of both pop and folk. The set subtitled The Spring EP features 9 songs written individually or together and featuring both sisters on vocals. The harmony singing is a key part of the sound which also has adds the sonic textures of lap steel, mandolin, ukulele, banjo to the bass drums and guitar bedrock. The arrangements are full of subtle melodies that stretch out across the songs making it the kind of album that requires attention to get most out of the songs. But, on occasion, songs like The Principle Of Silver Lining the emotional appeal is more direct. They have in their previous incarnation performed with Elvis Costello and the projection of their music to where it is now is undoubtably influenced by that search for craftsmanship and musical adventure. Spring is a first step, one that will have resonance with those who like their music to have some depth and to cross genres listening and looking out for the next adventure. www.larkinpoe.com

Wednesday
Sep082010

Rose's Pawn Shop 'Dancing On The Gallows' Self-Released

This LA based quartet are part of a selection of bands who take acoustic bluegrass and old-time music and add additional layers onto that core. In this case the acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin are give additional drive by the presence of upright bass and drums. They are helped out on this Ethan Allen produced album by an additional seven players and two vocalists. All of which gives the album a full and decidedly powerful sound. The music then is well able to cover a lot of bases from country, country rock as well as the core layer of bluegrass. The end result has been described as "Del McCoury meets Mick Jagger" and be that as it may this is strong enough to stand on its own feet. But the description and the punkish attitude means your in for a fast ride. They come as a part of the LA country music tradition that was spearheaded back in the eighties by Dwight Yoakam's country with rock attitude that saw hardcore country being played in punk rock clubs as well as in the Palamino. Lead singer Paul Givant possess a strong voice that can deliver the out and out energy of Ball Of Flames as well as the more poignant place of Patiently. He is ably backed up by the rest of the band with well positioned vocal harmonies. An album highlight however has to be One Last Of Whiskey, a song about the pain of trying to quit, once again, the lure of alcoholic absolution. Rose's Pawn Shop are a welcome addition to a strong legacy of country music emanating from that town south of Bakersfield. Dancing On The Gallows will have your feet tapping and your heart racing and Rose's Pawn Shop is will worth redeeming. www.RosesPawnShop.com

Wednesday
Sep082010

Michael Weston King 'I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier' Valve

This new album amplifies again what a under rated artist King is. This album which features songs of protest that when ever they were written are completely relevant to the endless cycle of conflict that seems to know no end. King explains the genesis and inspiration for these songs in his sleeve notes as well as providing a list of other songs that could easily have been included. What is here is a set of songs some original, some sets of words that MWK has written music for and arranged. The outside songs chosen include two Phil Ochs songs Cops Of The World and Is There Anybody There? Bob Dylan's I Pity The Poor Immigrant, Bob Darin's Simple Song Of Freedom. The title track, Life Is Fine and Parish Of Rope are among the sets of words that KIng has written music for. The album is rounded off with three MWK originals. The music is coherent, passionate and compelling and is undoubtably one of the best albums that Michael Weston King has yet released. The songs are delivered at the most direct by just guitar and voice but elsewhere Alan Cook on pedal steel, Rob Bon Homme on snare drum and Paul Hesketh form the backbone of additional players who bring life to these songs. Even if you weren't aware of the nature of the songs the music on offer is strong and striking and should be heard by a wider audience that is likely. This is a shame on may levels and a sad reflection on the channels that music get delivered through. For more and for a listen go to www.michaelwestonking.com and it's related sites.

Wednesday
Sep082010

East Nashville 'More Music From The Other Side Vol.3' Red Beet

There's a thriving community of songwriters and musicians living in the low-rent section of town know as East Nashville. It has little to do with the big machine that consumes artists up there on Music Row. It is an inter-active network that produces some of the best music coming from the town known as Music City. It offers a varied and mixed stew of music that, in truth, has as little to do with traditional country as has much of Nashville's mainstream releases. Rather it is a haven to the art of the below-the-radar singer/songwriter. Volume 1 was a double CD that was produced by label founder Eric Brace, as is this volume. A few of the artists from the initial set are also featured here, something to do with the transient natute of the working troubadour. Among those who appear on both are Kieran Kane, Stephen Simmons, Kevin Gordon, Tom Mason and Tim Carroll all of whom contribute some of the best music on offer. Some of the songs are unreleased, like Elizabeth Cook's On The Wire, which is a little different from her usual output being rockier with a distorted guitar backing that offers a wider view of her talent. Given that the songs on such compilations are not usually the best song from an artist's album, understandably, it is a perfect vehicle to use an used track or to give the listener an idea of what an artists music is like in the main. In that light it makes you want to check out artists you may not have heard before. Artists like Matt Urmy whose Renaissance Rodeo has a Todd Snider sense of wordplay and underlying humour. Nashville treasure Phil Lee opens and closes the album with tracks from his So, Long It's Been Good To Know You and if you don't know Phil Lee then this is a good way to check him out along with 18 other East Nashville residents. No matter where they've come from. Say hello to antipodeans Audrey Auld and Anne McCue. Check out Red Beet and its other release at www.redbeatrecords.com and for links to the sites of the artists featured here.You won't be disappointed.