Reviews by Paul McGee

Jack Tempchin One More Song Bluélan

Jack Tempchin is an American musician and singer-songwriter, best known for writing songs with the Eagles. The classic, Peaceful Easy Feeling, being the most recognised. He also had a hand in writing Already Gone, along with others, including a number of songs with Glen Frey for his solo work. As you would expect with such a pedigree, Tempchin has a way with a melody and there are plenty of examples of his stellar song-writing skills on this, his ninth solo release.

He sings in an easy, laid-back vocal style that is unhurried and smooth, perfectly fitting into the acoustic based songs that are included here. He speaks of returning to his roots with simple musical arrangements and that is what he delivers with a late-night, by the fire, conspiratorial feel to the entire project.

Slow Dancing, Old River and Around Midnight set the gentle pace and sound before the sweet strum of Circle Ties That Bind brings the listener forward into the next phase of the recording.

So Long My Friend is a snapshot of the life that Tempchin has most likely lived with plenty of colour in the images and a philosophy of keeping on moving, living life one day at a time. Still Looking For a Way to Say Goodbye is a lament to lost love and the haunted memories of regret “Was there something you said that I did not hear; How do we lose the ones we hold so dear”. It is the stand-out track in this collection.

The very clever, I Got Her Where She Wants Me To Be, is a fine tune and highlights the song-craft on display. Song For You is one of empathy for life’s knocks and struggles while Tumbleweed is a slow reflection on trying to love a free spirit who cannot be tied down. The closing track, One More Song, would sit quite easily into any Eagles record with a perfect chorus that sums up the raison-d’etre of this skilled artist; “One More Song For the Times to Come”.

Esquela Canis Majoris Self Release

The Spanish word Esquela apparently means ‘notice’ or ‘announcement’ and that is precisely what happens here. This is the third release from a very versatile group of musicians, Esquela, comprised of a five-piece indie-roots-Americana band featuring vocalist Rebecca Frame, lead guitarist Brian Shafer, Chico Finn on bass/vocals, Todd Russell on drums and Matt Woodin on guitar.

Guest Musicians on the project include producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel on guitar/vocals, Brian Mangini on keyboards, Matthew Polashek on saxophone, Mark Spencer on Pedal Steel and Tom White on Banjo/Tin Whistle/Fiddle.

The song arrangements are very bright and the harmonies are full of fun and spark. Their sound is up-tempo and driven by the strong vocals of Rebecca Frame which carry the fine playing through the 10 songs included here. A pleasing contrast is the world-weary delivery of Chico Finn on songs like Sorry, a salutary plea for forgiveness from a lover to his partner.

Pine Tar tells of a famous baseball game in 1983, played between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals that was abandoned on a technicality just as the Royals were winning. Heated protests followed and the debate raged until the game was replayed 24 days later.

This band has a quirky, independent streak to their music and topics such as corporate greed (Too Big to Fail) and racial inequality against the Irish (Need Not Apply) are balanced against parasitic females who crave wealthy husbands to keep them in a pampered life of luxury (Gold Digger). Best of all is a song called Animals that celebrates the joys of our four-legged friends and is a real joy.

This is a recommended release that will impress and bring a smile…

Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy The Miller Girl Merf 

Steve Hussey is a singer/songwriter and producer from Washington, West Virginia and has been playing professionally for almost 20 years in various bands.

This project is based around 10 love songs that are all written by Hussey and deal with the various aspects and challenges that are the stuff relationships are made of.

From the Bluegrass vibe of tracks like Looking For Love and Little Shove to the more modern Americana sound of Master Your Mind and Chalk It Up, there is plenty to keep the attention and attract the listener. Joined by Bluegrass prodigy Jake Eddy on banjo, this is a very enjoyable journey through song arrangements that span all aspects of traditional Roots/Folk influences.

The other musicians include Jeff Martin on drums, Ben Probus on fiddle, Anders Bush on bass and Ron Wallace on backing vocals and the songs are brought to life around the acoustic guitar of Hussey and the banjo of Eddy.

The title song, Miller Girl, is a view of local, rural life and fancying the neighbouring farmer’s daughter while Long List of Goodbyes is a clever take on moving on from heartbreak to the next opportunity. Better Day is a nice song that stays in the memory and the stripped back nature of the arrangements is simple and laced with easy tempos such as, I Pick You, a sweet tribute to love and all the positives of finding the ‘right one’… A very enjoyable release.

Sharon Goldman Kol Isha (A Woman’s Voice) Self Release

This New York based singer-songwriter has been producing music of real quality since early 2000 and has received much praise for her literary gifts as both writer and performer.

Kol Isha is based in traditional Jewish communities, where women are not supposed to sing publicly in front of men. Across 13 songs (Eliza Gilkyson's Rose of Sharon is the one cover), Goldman takes us on a spiritual journey that visits her Jewish upbringing and influences, including the dogma of orthodox religion, balanced against a modern all-embracing spirituality, that is more inclusive and empowering.

Memory mixes with myth and there is a strong imagery running through songs like Jerusalem, Lilith, Pillar of Salt and The Sabbath Queen. A modern feminist perspective reflects on the traditional roles expected of women and the biblical and ancient Hebrew references are coupled with insight that draws inspiration from an ongoing search for her own truth.

The project is co-produced by Goldman and the excellent Stephen Murphy (various guitars) and engineered by Mark Dann who plays Bass on one track. With the subtle skills of Cheryl Prashker on percussion, Craig Akin on upright bass and Laura Wolfe on harmonium and violin, the arrangements are understated with plenty of room for the players to express their individual talents. Abbie Gardner guests on dobro and harmony vocals, with Brian Prunka on oud and Amy Soucy on background vocals.

Goldman has a number of previous releases and plays an active role in song-writing communities. Her Folk inflected music is both powerful and enduring.

Katie Garibaldi Rooted Clarity Living Dream 

This talented artist has been on our radar for some years now and her song-writing skills continue to hone themselves into a very pleasant listening experience. With four previous releases to her name, including the excellent Follow Your Heart (2014), this San Francisco artist produces a 5-song suite that shines brightly. All songs are written by Katie and production duties are shared with Kevin Blair, who also contributes on electric guitar and acoustic bass.

Delightful is a song that speaks of believing in yourself and not letting anybody put you down or knock your self-belief. I Am, has a sweet melody and the strings, mixed with fiddle & mandolin, are just perfect for a song that lends support to a friend/lover who is going through a difficult time. In My Wildest Dreams is a rites-of-passage song where illusion shatters and love does not always stay around - ‘In my wildest dreams; Love Stays’…

On My Own speaks of leaving that little hometown and going out into the big bad world. A coming of age anthem for the hopeful dreamers whose ‘memories sit and watch you leave.’ Bird in a Cage ends the record with a plea to fly free from those who impose limits on our lives. Self- doubt and self-imposed chains are there to be outgrown and the plea to ‘fly away’ leaves an image of someone who has already taken to the skies and knows that there really are no limits.

Katie is blessed with a clear and pure vocal delivery and her excellent band assist in making these 5 songs a really enjoyable listen. Tim Fellow (Drums, Percussion), Arturo Garza (Keyboards), JP Shafer (Fiddle, Mandolin), Nathan Lowry (Violin) and Emily Nelson (Cello) join Katie and Kevin Blair in making this sweetly soaring music that comes highly recommended.    


Reviews by Declan Culliton

Kelsey Waldon I’ve Got A Way Monkey’s Eyebrows

"Well I was never trying to be a Queen, sings Kelsey Waldon, I just take a lot of pride in who I am, the way I sing."

The title of Kelsey Waldon’s sophomore album I’ve Got A Way (her debut The Goldmine was released in 2014) is a statement by an artist determined and unafraid to succeed on her own terms in the cut throat country music scene in Nashville. Following in the footsteps of fellow small town America female breakthrough artists Kacey Musgraves and Margo Price, I’ve Got A Way details the journey from a rural environment and the trials and tribulations of dodgy industry characters, unfulfilled promises and stereotyping. It has a defiant stamp of 'This is who I am, like it or not’ throughout and a determination of not being shaped into something that she doesn’t want. It’s also delivered with Waldon’s adorable vocal, pure unapologetic Kentucky drawl, thankfully not polluted by any technical devices to change to what comes naturally to her. Having Nashville whizz kids Brett Resnick on pedal steel, Jeremy Fetzer on guitar and Michael Rinne on bass (and production duties) round the circle and breathe life into a collection of well-constructed, honest and personal songs. 

Dirty Old Town, which opens the album, is more than a distant relation of Margo Price’s This Town with Waldon in no mood to be compromised or standardised when she asserts "Well there’s voices over here, voices over there, saying come along, come with me. Don't want a bridge to burn but I'm taking my turn, ain't gonna let 'em ever take me." It’s a fitting opener strengthened by some searing pedal steel solos from Resnick. All By Myself, which follows, could have been be nicked from Lee Ann Womack’s The Way I’m Living both in delivery and lyrics. Live Moves Slow lives up to its title, revisiting and escaping back to small town America and it’s simple way of live "So when I drive down the highway past that county line, I take a deep breath, I know I’ll be doing fine, Gonna save me some money, Gonna buy me a place you can’t find." Don’t Hurt The Ones You Love The Most visits similar territory, a reminder of the value of home, roots and family. 

Two covers are included on the album, both fitting in seamlessly. There Must Be Someone, previously recorded by The Gosdin Brothers and The Byrds and the Bill Munroe classic Travelin’ Down This Lonesome Road.

 The greatest compliment I can pay I’ve Got A Way is that the self-penned  songs all sound like covers of classic country tunes that the listener has previously heard and is being reintroduced to. 

With country radio at present awash with music often masquerading as country, it’s a refreshing that a close knit bunch of artists in East Nashville such as Waldon, Margo Price, JP. Harris are maintaining without compromise what many of us consider to be true country music. In recent years Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price have both proved, despite the obstacles and lack of industry support, that a breakthrough is possible. Hopefully Kelsey Waldon will follow suit, on the strength of I’ve Got A Way she certainly deserves to. 

The Black Lillies Hard To Please Black Lilly/Attack Monkey 

Anyone reading this review and sensing that they encountered this album in a previous life most likely came across it in 2015 when it was released in the States. The UK release of the album is a precursor to the bands UK/Europe tour planned for February 2017.

The history of the recording of the album in 2015 could take up column space in its own right with two members of the then five piece announcing their intention to depart the band just as they were about to enter the studio to record the album. Frontman Cruz Contreras also faced the challenge, for various reasons, of essentially writing the album in two weeks prior to entering the studio to record it. Contreras had written the bands previous three albums, Whiskey Angel (2009), 100 Miles of Wreckage (2011) and Runaway Freeway Blues(2013), in a more conventional  manner and timescale  and  gained considerable commercial success and exposure with them. Appearances at The Grand Ole Opry (more appearances than any other independent band in history), Stagecoach and Bonnaroo followed leaving the band on the verge of a major industry breakthrough.

The album was recorded at the House of Blues Studio D which was relocated to Nashville from Memphis in 2010, a studio where The Eales and Stevie Ray Vaughan among others had recorded in previously. The production duties were overseen by Ryan Hewitt (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Avett Brothers), unlike their previous albums which were produced by Contreras.

Contreras was joined in the studio by the bands two remaining members Bowman Townsend (drums) and Trisha Gene Brady (vocals) together with Bill Reynolds (bass), Matt Smyth (pedal steel), and Daniel Donato (guitar).

The net result of the hurried writing and recording of the album is an inconsistent yet wonderful collection of songs that switch from country to blues and straightforward rock with even a bit of bluegrass included for good measure. Contrast the rocking opening title track with the rockabilly 40 Days and the dreamy ballad Desire (harmony vocals by Jill Andrews). 

What is not in doubt is Contreras ability to pen a collection of great songs whatever classification which is more than borne out here.

Bob Bradshaw Whatever You Wanted Fluke

Working as a journalist and short story writer in Ireland, Bob Bradshaw, like many other young men in the mid 80’s, decided to seek employment and fulfilment away from Ireland. In 1985 he got a job as resident singer in a bar in Lagos, Portugal. Rather than return to Ireland Bradshaw then headed for Germany, living in Hamburg and Munich, sometimes sleeping in hostels though more often in a sleeping bag at a train station. His migratory lifestyle continued with spells in Spain and Sweden before acquiring a green card in 1989 and moving to the South Bronx where he worked at various jobs including doorman, roofer, landscaper and furniture mover. A further relocation to San Francisco followed where he formed the band Resident Aliens with fellow singer songwriter Scoop Mc Guire. They recorded two albums before Bradshaw, by now married, moved to Boston where he played bars solo again for a living. While in Boston he applied, as a mature student, for entry to the Berklee College of Music, surprising himself when he was accepted into the college. He applied himself judiciously at Berklee , studying song structure, timing and harmony together with courses in song writing and graduating in 2009.

Following his graduation three albums have been released including the very impressive Whatever You Want, a collection of twelve well-crafted songs that not only appear to benefit in structure from his formal training but from his life’s experiences over the past three decades in general.

The first three tracks alone revisit Bradshaw’s life travels, the brutal break up title track Whatever You Wanted has a fluent Celtic feel, Crazy Heart has a woozy shimmering Latin sound and the first track The Start Of Nothin’ starts with the lyrics "I was a young boy runnin’, My shoes a blur, I had something to tell you, Didn’t know where you were" a possible reference to the young man leaving Ireland unsure of what road he should follow.

Go Get Along is melodic country ragtime, sang as a duet with Annalise Emerick and the album closes in style with the Randy Newman sounding The Long Ride Home with Bradshaw’s vocal up front alongside some beautiful piano playing and lap steel in the background. 

Co-produced with the aid of his long-time friend and former band member Scoop Mc Guire, who also plays bass, the album was recorded at Dimension Sound Studios, Jamaica Plain, MA. It may have taken over thirty years for Bradshaw to release a body of work as impressive as this but it’s an album that he can justifiably feel proud of.

Bill Johnson Cold Outside Oxborough

Bill Johnson has been a stalwart of the Canadian blues music scene for many years as a guitarist with numerous blues bands, fronting his own band and playing solo. He has opened for household names such as Otis Rush, Dr.John and James Cotton. Cold Outside, his forth release, follows his 2010 recording Still Blue, which received a Juno nomination together with three nominations by the Toronto Blues Society. It’s likely that this offering will receive equally positive plaudits. It consists of eleven tracks all written by Johnson, all blues based but coming from different directions. The splendid title track, with a semi spoken lyric, is a harrowing tale of death and destitution, enriched by some wonderfully atmospheric guitar playing by Johnson. My Natural Ability is BB King sounding blues heaven with bubbling guitar touches and wicked piano playing by Darcy Phillips. Makes A Fella Nervous, similar to quite a lot of the recordings has a ‘live’ sound to it, the listener could be sitting on a high stool in a barroom listening to a top notch blues band. 

Johnson together with drummer Joby Baker produced the album at Baker’s own studio in Victoria BC. Rick Erickson plays bass, Darcy Phillips adds piano and organ and both Ross Hall and David Best play drums and piano respectively on three tracks.

Dan Stevens Angels In The Sand Gatorbone

Gulfport, Florida resident Dan Stevens spent over thirty years playing in various rock bands such as Apathy, Cottonmouth & Groove Moon to name a few, before concentrating more on his singer songwriter skills.

Angels In The Sand is his forth solo album release and the thirteen tracks contain a variety of styles ranging from the Warren Zevon sounding title track, the UK folky vibe of both Deep Blue Mystery and Just A Carpenter and the more rocky and electronic The Ghosts of Time and I’m Already There.

Produced by Stevens and Gatorbone records and engineered by Lon Williamson and Jason Thomas, the album features a collection of musicians including Elisabeth Williamson (guitar), Lon Williamson (bass), Gabe Valla (guitar), Jason Thomas (fiddle) and Tai Welch (percussion).

Darin and Brooke Aldridge Faster and Farther Mountain Home 

Twenty-four months after the release of the critically acclaimed Snapshots, husband and wife Bluegrass duo Darin and Brooke Aldridge appear to have set the bar even higher with Faster and Farther, the sixth album release on the Mountain Home Music Label. An indication of their current standing in modern Bluegrass circles are the inclusion of iconic artists such as Vince Gill and Pat Flynn in the recordings. Gill contributes vocals to Highway of Heartache and Mountains in Mississippi, while three songs written by Flynn (Lila, Cumberland Plateau and Kingdom Come) appear on the album with Flynn also playing guitar on two of the tracks. 

An act that regularly feature at the business end of the Gospel, Bluegrass and Americana/Roots charts, the duo journey comfortably between traditional bluegrass, roots and gospel on Faster and Farther.

Their formula is quite simple, well-chosen and arranged songs and technically outstanding playing. However, the ingredient that makes the whole package gel is the vocal capability of Brooke Aldridge, whose exquisite voice would effortlessly grace any musical genre.

The album is certainly evidence of this with tracks such as Mountains in Mississippi, Lila and This River, with Darin taking lead vocal, of a standard that would not be out of place on any Alison Krauss and Union Station album.

Kingdom Come, the opening track, takes less than twenty seconds to put the listener on notice of whats to follow with a belting mandolin, guitar and fiddle intro before Brooke’s powerful vocal kicks in. 

Fit For A King is country gospel at its finest with Brooke’s vocal aided in no small measure by gorgeous harmony vocals courtesy of Charli Robertson of Flatt Lonesome. Heaven Just Got Sweeter For You closes the album in style with the focus on the duo’s harmonies with mandolin, guitar and acoustic bass adding the perfect background. 

Altogether a hugely impressive effort sitting comfortably at the crossroads between bluegrass, country and folk.  Beautifully punctuated by powerhouse vocals of Darin and Brooke and in no small measure by their band Tyler Collins (banjo, dobro, guitar), Tim Surrett (acoustic bass), Shay Cobb (fiddle) and their guests Vince Gill, Pat Flynn, John Cowan, Charli Robertson, Barry Bales ( in the band?) and Carley Arrowood. The album was produced by the duo and recorded at Crossroads Studios, Arden, North Carolina with recording engineers Van Atkins and Scott Barnett

The album cover depicts the couple on an airport runway alongside a jet possibly suggesting from the album title that this talented couple are on a forward journey to spread and share their wonderful talents and intend doing so at speed. Safe travels indeed!


Review of the Year 



Reviews By Paul McGee

Kelley McRae The Wayside Self Release

This is folk/roots music of the highest order. The eleven tracks included on this release are superbly crafted and played by an ensemble of musicians who gel perfectly together in delivering a work of some sophistication and strength.

McRae directs the gentle grooves on display with her guitar and a wistful longing in her vocal delivery. Her partner in all things creative, Matt Castelein, plays beautiful lead guitar and also sings sweet harmony vocals. Backed by Brent Clifford on guitar & vocals; Roy Salmond on piano, keys, bass & percussion, with Kenton Weins on drums & percussion; we are given song arrangements that serve the project beautifully as the song, If You Need Me, states “Anything worth holding onto is worth letting go”.

Reach You is a soft regret on scoring relationship points against a futile future “there was a time when joy came easy…”.

Land of the Noonday Sun sums it all up with the line;” time goes by like a dream, no matter how hard you run”. The dreamlike quality of her music just pulls you along on a breeze of calm and reflection.

Having travelled extensively across America and performed hundreds of shows, this duo has gone on to tour in eleven countries and performed at festivals. Theirs is a celebratory sound which reminds me of the Indigo Girls when they first appeared on the scene & both Hard Night and Red Dirt Road are perfect examples with their swagger and tempo. I also hear Patty Griffin and Emmylou in these songs but in mentioning these greats, I only hope to elevate the creative talent on display here.

A Long Time and All the Days That Have Come Before, are real nuggets that unveil themselves on repeated listen, while Rare Bird is a moment of reflection with a rueful look back at old friends, gone along another path. Tell It Again contains the most sublime guitar break and Rose is a tribute to a child (daughter?), that is beautifully gentle and heart felt.

The press release for The Wayside speaks of the ‘hope that comes with stepping onto unknown soil’. Perhaps a “place along the side of the road where things get left behind, or where you go to rest awhile, or where you go find something you lost along the way.” Well, that just about hits the nail on the head.

With four previous releases to her name, Kelley McRae has arrived at a perfect place where creative essence meets with mature and poignant reflection. Everything you would look for in a release of quality song craft and understated performance. A must buy.

C. Daniel Boling These Houses Berkalin

This represents the seventh release in a career that has seen this American Folk artist receive widespread acclaim for his singer-songwriter talents and compared to the artists like Steve Goodman, John Prine and Tom Paxton.

Of the 13 tracks here, 3 are co-writes with Tim Henderson (Buffalo Nickels/Miss Amelia Harris/Spinster) and Andrea Renfree (Growing Old in New Mexico), and there are also 2 songs inspired by the war veterans of a New Mexico organisation who helps with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (I Brought the War With Me/Crumble).

These are well-crafted story songs and influenced by his upbringing in a traveling Air Force family, along with some years spent as a National Park Ranger, a Criminal Investigator for the US Bureau of Land Management.

The assembled musicians serve the songs with quiet restraint and colour the words with sensitive playing around the arrangements.

The title track is right out of the great American folk tradition and it is no surprise that such a varied band of musicians assemble to pay tribute to the past as well as honouring the present. Songs such as I Will Not Go Gently and Leadbelly, Woody & Pete close the project with a nod to the struggle that continues… ‘We are here to make each other strong and whole…’ A fine performer and song-writing talent.

Anna Elizabeth Laube Tree  Ahh…Pockets!

Anna Elizabeth Laube is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer and this is her fourth release. The nine tracks selected include a cover of Bob Dylan’s Wallflower, together with a version of XO, originally written by Beyoncé. In a way, these two extreme opposites sit as a perfect summary of this excellent artist who is prepared to take chances in her writing and song arrangements.

The title song is a sweet reflective piece that reflects on growing up and childhood memories. The innocence of youth is captured in lines like "You’re the hideout in my backyard”. The light touch and jazz swing of Sunny Days is just so sweetly subtle and sung in a lazy care-free style that frames a number of the songs here. The musicians are all very impressive in their varied cameo roles but it is the skills of Ms Laube that knits it all together, whether playing guitar, bass, harmonica, piano or just using her disarming voice.

The country-style violin that frames the Dylan cover brings the song to a new place and the Beyoncé track (XO) is given a stripped back acoustic guitar treatment with some very fine muted trumpet from Charley Wagner.  

With previous releases, Laube has been honing her song-writing skills and this fells very much like a complete and mature realisation of the days spent learning her craft.

Please Let It Rain in California Tonight is a beautiful prayer for healing in the World that has reflective compassion with lines such as “ Please let love rule our bodies, hearts, and minds, and melt away every single chain that binds”.

The narrative in “Lose, Lose, Lose” is of an ex-addict falling off the wagon on Christmas Eve and is such a poignant song both in delivery and mood. The final song “All My Runnin” is a knowing nod to love and the pedal steel of Dan Tyack frames the sentiment as Laube sings “Darlin’ all my runnin’, led me to your face”. A terrific release and one that delights as much as it surprises.

Magic Car Meteorites Tiny Dog

Twelve songs that fall into the broad space of folk/Americana from this 5-piece who are based in Nottingham, UK. All songs are written by Phil Smeeton (guitar) and feature the clear vocals of Hazel Atkinson.

Formed in 1994, the band has released three previous records and Yellow Main Sequence, Family Matters, European Punks has now been joined by Meteorites. There are songs about novelist Mario Puzo (Only in America), Summer ending (Summer Storm), Local down 'n’ outs (King of Pool), Ladies of the Night (Manwhippa!), nature escapes (Fritz’s Beach) and fractious love (Meteorites). The sound is easy on the ear and the playing is accomplished without taking any unnecessary risks.

You could sink into the easy jazz groove of Working Woman or the acoustic shuffle of The Bends and the time will pass by quite pleasantly. A varied and interesting collection of songs.

Errol Walsh & Ted Ponsonby Just Sayin' Self Release

I remember Errol Walsh with some nostalgia. I was a young man growing my musical tree in Dublin city when I was first introduced to the great sound of Stagalee, fronted by Errol, all authentic swagger and country blues/ roots rock attitude. It was a terrific live band and boasted many members that came and went through changing line ups that never seemed to diminish the quality of the music.

Years later I came across a solo release, Waltzin’ in the Water, which gave me great comfort to know he was still ‘out there’ and doing his independent thing…

So, when this new release came in my review batch I was understandably enthusiastic to catch up with his recent past. I am glad to report that this talented song-writer is not only alive and well but is making excellent music, as evidenced on the 13 tracks included here. With 6 co-writes and 7 self-penned songs, Errol spans quite a few styles with country waltzes, light jazzy numbers, folk and rhythm & blues, complete with some Irish trad touches and some slow soul grooves.

Something to suit everyone then but not a hint of the overall sense of direction being overtaken by the variety on display.

Produced by Errol, Ted Ponsonby and Joe Murray in Ireland and something of an organic creation, the entire project is fully deserving of great credit to all concerned.

Errol is joined by Ted Ponsonby (Dobro, Acoustic/Elec guitars, Hammond Organ),​ Sarah Ponsonby (Fiddle), Gary Porter( Drums), Denise Boyle(Fiddle), Dave McCracken (Bass), Donna Murray(Harmonies), Rory Clements(Piano), Gordon Murray(Acoustic guitar), Sean McCarron (Saxes),Martin Hughes(Drum programming), Cloudy Henry(Piano & accordion), Stephen Quinn(Percussion), Seonaid Aitken( Fiddles) and Joe Murray on Bass, Drum programming, guitar, Harmonies & vocal arrangements – quite an ensemble to control in a studio environment and it is to their great credit that the songs just fit perfectly together as they move across the various genres.

Long Way Down has a jazz feel with horns and piano to the fore, Seventeen is steeped in Van the Man influence with the lovely piano, warm keys and gentle guitar strum all reminiscent of the great man. Matchbox Billy is a first for the best of Country traditions; a tribute to the life of a Pyro-maniac. Queen of the Glens is a beautifully realised song with a great lead vocal from Donna Murray.

Somewhere in the Middle has a Folky groove while Looney Tune finishes everything off with some style and a tip of the hat to the old acoustic blues players of the past. Terrific stuff and this is a release that I can recommend to one and all.

3Hat Trio Solitare Okehdokee

3hattrio play what they call 'American Desert Music'. The three musicians, Greg Istock, (acoustic bass, percussion, vocals, production, arrangements), Hal Cannon, (banjo, guitar, vocals) and Eli Wrankle, (violin, vocals) make a music that is both timeless and essentially familiar. It is comprised of varying influences, yet has a strong sense of the cultural traditions of the deserts of the American southwest.

Living in the region of Zion National Park in Utah brings the three musicians into daily contact with their roots and the indigenous influences of the region and all who have passed before is interwoven into the haunting, ghost-like violin playing of Eli Wrankle, the banjo melodies of Hal Cannon and the free-form jazz like runs of Greg Istock on stand-up bass.

There is a quality of isolation and other-worldliness in the playing and the spaces created by the arrangements. The singing of Greg Istock is particularly engaging, adding fresh layers to the overall atmospherics, especially when he sings in scat style improvisations to add colour to these songs.

Solitare is the third release from this trio and in our review of the previous release, Dark Desert Night, we stated that their music was simple and sublime. I see no reason to depart from this description of what is offered up on this new recording; ten songs that create a sense of returning home yet retaining the spirit of the nomadic traveller.

Texas Time Traveller is an atmospheric opener and features the free form vocals of Istock while the more reflective Rose speaks of moving down the road with the sense of nature all around. Mojave displays the finesse of the musicians to play off each other and interpret the flow of ideas contained in the elemental arrangement. The abiding message is one of the surrounding land and the place we take in the unfolding journey through time. Both Range and Blood River point to forces that are greater than us mere mortals and the drive of this music is something that powerfully captures nature in a way that is both fresh and understated. A recommended purchase.

Michael Tomlinson House of Sky Self Release

This Seattle-based singer/songwriter has 11 previous releases to his name and the 16 tracks included on this new release take over an hour of listening time. Quite a commitment is therefore required but the effort is rewarded in the positive, life enhancing lyrics and sweet vocal delivery of this accomplished singer song writer. The production is very clean and delivered by Tomlinson himself, together with the essential input of Jay Kenney, co-producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist.

It is hard not to repeat yourself across so many tracks and his optimistic messages remind me of the music of UK’s Charlie Landsborough. The writing is strong enough to hold the interest, from the light jazz groove on tracks like Boulevard Rain to the acoustic swing of Daddy O’; the catchy Wyoming Wind and reflective Thanks For the Wind. This is folk/rock played with accomplished ease and delivering a very genuine message of thanks, hope and peace, as Michael Tomlinson sings from the heart with a genuine passion and belief in his spiritually uplifting songs. 




Season's Greetings To All

The team here at Lonesome Highway would like to thank all the artists, management, record labels, PR agencies, venues and readers who helped contribute to the site over the last year. Long may the good music continue.

Here's to the next year.

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