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

Friday
Oct082010

Heather Bristow 'Hope On The Vine' Self-Release

The North Carolina native now lives in Gloucestershire in the UK. These she carried on her interest in playing bluegrass and folk music and formed a duo High Lonesome. This is her first album under her own name and it's a good one. Her voice lives up to the name of her previous band and her original songs are perfect vehicles for her voice. The players, which include producer Ben Winship, do a great job and there is never any doubt about the music strengths and authenticity. She cover life and death and in between with songs like Who's Gonna Tend Your Grave?, Aint Glory Grand? and Counting Memories cover the loss side. The Miner's Tale could as easily be on a Steeleye Span album as one from Appalachia, it's acapella delivery makes it an album highlight, as is the duet with John Lowell Lonesome Lullaby. Despite the bittersweet subject matter of some of the songs they are always delivered with a sense of positivity and hope. All in all if your a bluegrass or just a fan of good acoustic music then Hope On The Vine will bear fruit for the listener.

Friday
Oct082010

Rosanne Cash 'The List' Manhattan

The story about how these songs came about is, by now, well know so here are 12 songs which formed a part of the 100 important country songs. They are oft covered and well know so it's a tribute to Cash and producers John Leventhal and Rick DePofi that they give them in Cash's hands a new perspective one that his tailored to her emotive and perceptive voice, an instrument that has gained much through the years. On a number of tracks she is joined by a guest vocalist, some of whom add more to the overall effect than others. Bruce Springsteen is a good duet partner on Sea Of Heartbreak, singing the chorus and a verse with Cash. As is Elvis Costello's who sings the choruses on Heartaches By The Number and again what comes across on this album, and many of the similar cover albums released recently, is the strength and integrity of these songs. These are on a list because they are simply strong words and melodies that have stood the test of time. The arrangements here are not overtly "country" but always aware of the songs origins. They are equally, for the most part, suitably sparse and refreshingly understated allowing the vocals to tell the story, to breathe life into the songs. Though an accomplished writer herself Cash takes these songs to heart, makes them her own and delivers one of her finest albums.