Wednesday
Sep082010

Forest Sun 'Harlequin Goodnight' Special Rider

A talented San Francisco artist with several albums to his credit delivers this confident and clever album. Co-produced by Forest Sun and Michael Winger with a core trio of Sun, bassist Steve Adams and drummer Michael Messer. Add to that backing vocalists, cello, dobro, keyboards and accordion and the songs are full of contrasting instrumentation that covers quite a few musical stepping stones. All of which makes this an album offers much to the listener with an open mind. It has no foot in any particular genre other than good music but overall the feel is of a rootsy base that should appeal across the board and is an example of the fact that there is a lot of music out there fling under the radar that is unlikely to get the attention it deserves in a situation where specialist music programmes are being squandered rather than encouraged by a system that prefers everything to be the same rather than encouraging individualism. Forest Sun makes music that may not appeal to all but their is not doubting the craft on display here. His voice is strong and confident throughout and the focal point of the album. Gurus and Rockstars, which features Larkin Gayl on equally strong duet vocals is a song in search of a movie or some mainstream placement. The one cover Dylan's She Belongs To Me is giving a treatment that makes it fits with the overall context of the album but also shows Sun reverential to the original but giving the song his own touch. Harlequin Goodnight will tuck you in after entertaining you. www.forestsun.com

Wednesday
Sep082010

Eric Brace & Last Train Home 'Six Songs' Red Beet

A six track ep from this accomplished band that mixes a couple of covers along with material from various band members. Soul Parking is a robust guitar led uptempo song with strong vocals. By way of contrast the three covers My Baby Just Cares For Me has an altogether cosmopolitan feel with hints of jazz in the mix. What Now My Love, sung in French and English again takes on a different mood that sees the band having fun with the different touch stones being displayed. Autumn Leaves is given a semi-Cash/surf treatment until the vocals, again sung in French come in and the song eases off the pedal. Big Fish is fun and taken at a rate of notes and is the most obviously countryfied song here. The opening Always Raining On My Street again emphasizes the band's skill and versatility and shows that next time out they could further explore any of these avenues or a different one entirely but either way Six Songs is what it is and is a fun excursion. www.redbeatrecords.com

Wednesday
Sep082010

Kim Beggs Blue Bones Black Hen

A Canadian singer-songwriter who plays folk-Americana and who has a couple of albums under her belt before this current release. Beggs has a distinctive edge to her voice that wouldn't be unfamiliar to Iris DeMent fans. Utilizing a full band including fellow singer-songwriter Steve Dawson, who also produced the album, it has a full clear sound that never overwhelms the song or singer. Beggs own songs are about the travails of love while others like Can't Drive Slow Yodel is just what it says a song that states that Beggs has to travel at speed even though she's not going to the rodeo or about to give birth and the chorus is a full on yodel. It is a diverting and humorous moment. KIm also covers some classic songs from writers such as Bob Dylan, Jack Clement and Patty Griffin. The former's I'll Be Your Baby Tonight is given an appropriate pedal steel softly sung delivery while Clement's Just Someone I Used To Know is a well rounded duet with Gurf Morlix. The traditional I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes is equally given a countrified reading. Griffin's Trapeze highlights Beggs vocal skills on a restrained take on the song. Her own songs are usually more upbeat though Summertime Lonesome Blues is a recognition of time spent apart. The Longest Dream is a lovely duet between Beggs and Natalie Edelson where the voices blend over a pedal steel led backing that emphasizes the dreamlike quality of the song. Blue Bones is an album to get to know and enjoy for a lot of different reasons. www.kimbegs.com

Wednesday
Sep082010

Guy Penrod 'Breathe Deep' Servant

With his surname and a look straight out of an Alexandre Dumas book Pernod could be making any type of music but Breathe Deep is a solid country album. It's one that is the antithesis to the likes of Hank 111. This is an album about love, family and belief in God. Values that are solid in mainstream country and it's something of a surprise that this album isn't on a major Music Row label rather than on an affiliated one. It could be that Pernod is a still a little too country, and old, for radio success. Which is strange as this album is full of songs that resonate with that audience. Produced by Brent Rowan and featured a host of the current A-team studio crew it sounds good in the way that records that go through that process do. The songs are solid and from the pens of former artists and now primarily focused songwriters. Pernod isn't a writer and so delivers some assured and upfront vocals that sound convincing in their tales of the common man and suburban and rural lifestyles. On occasion the songs touch on subjects like those who have nothing.The Broken Ones is about seeking and finding redemption for those who have fallen through the cracks and see the value in a person or thing if given love. And it's that word which is paramount here. It may not suit the honky tonk lovers but it has it's time and place and is superior with strongly rendered songs like The Maker Of Them All - a song that places faith at the centre of life. As a say not everyones cup of tea but few will deny the overall positivity and strong music on offer here. 

Wednesday
Sep082010

Fiery Blue 'Self-titled' Doubloon

This duo are produced by Kimmie Rhodes son and producer Gabe Rhodes who chooses a wide sonic palate in which to set these songs. The duo of Simone Stevens and Paul Marsteller are joined by such luminaries as the aforementioned Rhodes on a large variety of instruments and Hunt Sales on drums a man who has played with David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the past. The music is roots in overall tone but quite likely to take a diversion every now and then. It's all held in focus by Stevens strong, expressive vocal presence. The eighteen tracks build up a wide picture and hold attention if you slip into the fiery blue world. Some may find the album and overall tempos too similar but there is a textural substance at work here that gives the tracks added depth beneath the vocals central place in the mix. In that light this is an album where the music should be listened to in context and from that favourites will emerge but there are few tracks that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the material. But at this stage I can recommend Magic, Virtue and Diamond Ride as a trio that were memorable for there musical settings. The songs were written by Marsteller in the main with Stevens Rhodes co writing a track each. What makes this album special is the thing that makes all albums work that combination of song, playing and voice and Fiery Blue have produced an album that may never become mainstream but for those whose musical tastes expanded beyond country, in a kind of subdued "Wrecking Ball" mode then this album is worth seeking out. www.fieryblue.com