Entries in Sophia Marshall (2)

Friday
Jul142017

Reviews by Declan Culliton

David Corley Zero Moon Wolfe Island

Less than three years ago David Corley was virtually unknown in the music world. Zero Moon is his second full album following a whirlwind two-year period which saw his debut album Available Light make a considerable industry impact, particularly in Europe, and a tour that almost ended tragically when a heart attack on stage in Groningen, Netherlands resulted in a long period of hospitalisation and subsequent recuperation. While recovering Corley recorded the seven-track mini album Lights Out, much of the material a reflection on his near-death experience. Having not entered a recording studio until he reached his early fifties Zero Moon is a continuation of the creative purple patch that Corley is currently enjoying.

Much of his latest album is bleak, desolate, searching and questioning, and all the better for it. The striking artwork (created by Kevin and Cynthia Kehoe) is monochromatic and stark, as are the barely legible hand-written lyrics by Corley himself, the only hint of colour featuring in the track listing and emblem on the rear cover. Equally dark, cold and edgy are many of the lyrics that feature on the eleven tracks.

I often wonder if the classic Rolling Stones album Exile On Main Street were to be released today which of the numerous sub-categories would it be pigeon holed in, alt-country/Americana/indie rock or possibly country rock. Back in the day it was simply a ‘rock’ album, no more no less. David Corley’s music, for me, fits hand in glove into that simple one word categorisation and particularly on this new album. 

It’s a long player in the true sense, you’ll need to set aside the best part of an hour to play it start to finish and three of the tracks (Zero Moon, Desert Moon and Burning Chrome), each one memorable, contribute to about a third of the album.

Recorded at The Post Office Studio, Wolfe Island, Ontario and produced by Corley’s right-hand man Hugh Christopher Brown, the sound throughout is beautifully loose, flowing and sounding very much like a live recording.  The aforementioned Zero Moon and Desert Mission (inspired by Cormac Mc McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian) thankfully were not edited to the too often customary four minutes but instead were allowed to drift, ebb and flow giving the impression that things were going so well in the studio that the only direction was – keep on playing and see where we end up. His studio band are the same musicians that featured on Available Light and Lights Out. Chris Brown playing keyboards as well as production duties, Gregor Beresford (Barenaked Ladies, Suzanne Jarvie) on drums and Tony Scherr (Norah Jones, B.B.King, Al Di Meola, Ani DiFranco) playing bass. Sarah McDermott and Kate Fenner contribute backing vocals. Notwithstanding the quality of the musicians employed the most potent instrument is Corley’s voice, broken, whiskey torn, raspy and growling, perfectly suited to the subject matter that often concerns dark and painful landscapes. As with his previous recordings we are given a glimpse of Corley’s personal life, trials, suffering, frustration and distress. A door opened momentarily but never left open for too long, leaving the listener with only a brief opportunity to observe the contents.  His lyrics continue to be beautifully abstract at times "Then pirates arrive, knives in their teeth, and dancing girls are filling the streets"(Zero Moon). "Mean beings wring their hands and hang their heads in darkness while our imagination founders on the rocks"(Vision Pilgrim). Whirl recalls his recent health issues in no uncertain terms "I’ll just whirl and hope that the wind don’t die, just in case – you know who to notify, my next of kin."

Down With The Universe which featured on Lights Out is given a second outing and Take Me Down Some and Splendid Now both echo early 70’s Stones. A Lifetime Of Mornings tips its hat in the direction of Leonard Cohen, delivered semi-spoken.

Given the stature  of Corley’s output on this album and his previous work, one is left wondering where his industry standing would be had his career kicked off a few decades ago, though possibly it was the life and near death experiences that were the catalyst, inspiration and motivation for the wonderful body of work he has delivered in the past few years.

An album of the year contender for this writer, hands down.

Emily Barker Sweet Kind of Blue Self Release

Having developed a quite British sound from her work with The Red Halo Band spanning nine years  and with over fifty unrecorded songs of varying  styles already in the slow burner, Australian born Emily Barker decided to experiment with a change of producer for her next project. While recording The Applewood Road (2016) album in Nashville -with Amy Speace and Amber Rubarth- she struck gold when a recommendation by sound engineer Chris Mara resulted in an introduction to Matt Ross-Sprang. Having produced a couple of the finest albums released in the past two years in Margo Price’s Midwest Farmers Daughter and Jason Isbell’s Something More, together with having worked at Sun Studios for eleven years, Ross-Sprang could not have been a better pair of ears to consider Barker's war chest of material.

On hearing a selection of Barkers songs Ross-Sprang wisely identified a core soul and blues tread in many of them and recommended Barker went on a musical diet of Ann Peebles, Dan Penn, music to her ears having grown up as a lover of Aretha Franklin and all things soul.

Never one to do things in half measures, fast forward to June of that year and Barker found herself at the hallowed ground of Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis surrounded by the tightest bunch of local session players you could imagine in David Cousar on guitar (Al Green), Rick Steff on keyboards (Lucero, Dexy Midnight Runners), Dave Smith on bass (Norah Jones, John Mayall) and Steve Potts on drums (Neil Young). Susan Marshall and Barker herself were on hand to contribute backing vocals. Recorded and mixed in seven days the resulting album is a collection of ten songs soaked in emotion and melody that work wonderfully together ranging from hard boiled soul and blues but also leaving plenty of room for the melodic ballads that Barker has a particular gift for penning.

Three of the songs included are co-writes with UK singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine, the heart wrenching and quite beautiful ballad – a tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Sister Goodbye, the equally moving Over My Shoulder and the upbeat Motown sounding More!, featuring saxophone and trumpet by Jim Spake and Marc Franklin.  No.5 Hurricane, co-written with Eric Palmqwist sees Barker visiting a style closer to her previous work with The Red Halo Band, an achingly gorgeous new love/old love song. 

 A hugely talented and focused artist, never standing on her laurels and always stretching her musical parameters, Sweet Kind of Blue is indeed a triumph and a delightful diversion for Barker.

John Murry A Short History Of Decay TV 

Much as I dislike rolling out the ‘difficult second album’ cliché, it could hardly hold more relevance than A Short History Of Decay, the sophomore album by John Murry. His debut The Graceless Age was considered by many in the industry as a masterpiece, a road map detailing a lifetime of emotional, physical and mental turmoil. Autism, mental health issues, institutionalism, rejection and drug addiction all contributed to an album that appeared to play out as cold turkey, exorcism and closure. 

Murry’s state of mind and health seemed to be in a good place and even if sales of The Graceless Age did not necessarily provide a retirement fund it presented him with a touring platform, a regular though possibly cult following, the confidence, motivation and platform to further his career.  His well-documented loathing at the prospect of residing in California resulted in a relocation to Kilkenny, where he was welcomed with open arms by the art appreciative community, and he appeared to be in a good place mentally, physically and emotionally. 

However, stability was short lived and over a few turbulent years further challenges presented themselves including the sudden death of Murry’s mentor and guiding light Tim Mooney, who had produced the previous album, and an acrimonious marriage break-up, both of which threatened to re-open scars barely healed and seriously challenge the vulnerable artist. Left without a regular touring band, no record label and limited income Murry continued to his perform raw, emotional live gigs sometimes with guest musicians, more often solo. He released the EP John Murry Is Dead in 2016 but the prospect of a second full album seemed to be drifting away.  

An encounter with Michael Timmons of Cowboy Junkies fame followed, (Murry opened for them at a show in Glasgow), a friendship developed and Timmons greatly encouraged Murry to consider recreating, in the studio, the raw passion, emotion and honesty that pours from every inch of his body during his live performances. After a few false starts a recording session lasting five days was lined up at Timmon’s studio in Toronto with Peter Timmons (brother of Michael) on drums, Josh Finlayson (Lee Harvey Osmond) on bass and Cait O’ Riordan contributing backing vocals and most likely also moral support - having performed on stage previously with Murry. All guitar and keyboards were handled by Murry with Timmons, always the master of atmosphere, providing the structure, guidance and most importantly the discipline necessary to get the album down over the short period with the emphasis always on Murry’s vocal and his parables. The sound is more often than not paired to the bone, toned down, forthright and at times delightfully shambolic. Gone are the layering, multi instrumentation and sound effects that adorned The Graceless Age, Timmons simply and cleverly provided Murry with a blank canvas to express himself and set about creating an unobtrusive musical backdrop that never gets in the way of the vocals.

Most importantly Murry, with more than a helping hand from Timmons, did not attempt to create The Graceless Age Act 2, what would be the point and ironically the only track on the album that might have fitted snuggly on his debut is a remodelling of the Afghan Whigs What Jail Is Like.

The album is named after a book title by French philosopher Emil Cioran and the tracks One Day (You’ll Die) and Countess Lola’s Blues (All In This Together) both consider mortality - a subject which Murry appears enthralled by – though it’s difficult to decipher whether irony outpoints rancour, which can sometimes the case with Murry’s song writing.

"All I Do Is Fix Whatever I Broke the Day Before" admits Murry on Under A Darker Moon, testament to his chaotic behaviour. It’s a driving song with layered, echoed vocals and screeching guitars with more than a nod in the direction of Velvet Underground. As with much of the album it takes on another dimension when heard on headphones where the production and mix really hit home. Defacing Sunday Bulletins is equally turbulent, fuzzy guitar glancing over the shoulder of Finlayson’s thumping bass lines. 

In many ways it should be celebrated that this release has seen the light of day given Murry’s wayfaring existence. A slow burner without doubt and one that even the most astute ear may require a number of visits to get fully on board but a more than laudable successor to The Graceless Age. Highly recommended. 

Sophia Marshall Bye Bye Self Release

Due for release in late August Bye Bye follows Sophia Marshall’s five track EP The Paper Thin, released in 2015 and is further testimony to the vocal and song writing talents of the former member of boy/girl duet The HaveNots.

Marshall’s industry internship has included support act to Peter Bruntnell, Frazey Ford, Tift Merritt, Be Good Tanya’s, The Sadies and Sam Outlaw and it’s not difficult to identify certain influences gathered along that journey, most particularly in her capacity to fashion uncomplicated compositions using the basic tools, simple language and abundant hooks. 

Boasting a beautifully unadulterated and natural voice, which sounds all the better for Marshall’s tendency, unlike many UK Americana artists, not to adopt a West Coast accent but to use her own natural pronunciation to full effect. 

The album brings to mind the work of fellow UK artist Thea Gilmore in many ways, mixing powerful hard edged catchy songs like the title track and Losing You (co-written with Liam Dullaghan) with the more acoustic Sarah’s Room and surreal Beauty Sleep.

Catch Me shifts in the direction of Jesse Sykes with lots of twang and boldness, Hey Al, Woah! (great title!) is equally edgy while the atmospheric two-minute closer Drunken Sailor is delivered vocals only with Marshall given a helping hand by Jay Hardy (Hardy Band) and some cleverly plotted over dubbed vocals.

While titles such as Bye Bye, Losing You and Missing Pieces suggest looming despair and hardship, the subjects are dealt with in a positive, upbeat and assured manner suggesting an artist that is marching forward ready to embrace anything that comes her way. Most impressive and perhaps a door opener for Miss Marshall.

Suzanne Jarvie One Take Only Dirt Road

I have to admit arriving a bit late to the party when it comes to Suzanne Jarvie. She played Ireland in September 2016 in support of her album Spiral Road album but I was abroad at the time and did not get to see her show. Having been really impressed by her performance in Kilkenny recently supporting David Corley, I welcomed the opportunity to review her mini album One Take Only released in 2016 as a stop gap between her debut album and it’s successor In The Clear, due to be completed later this year.

Jarvie is yet another impressive female singer songwriter to emerge from Canada in recent years following the path taken by Sarah Harmer, Oh Susanna and Lindi Ortega. Born in Honk Kong and raised in Toronto, a lawyer by profession and the mother of four children, music was primarily a hobby for her from a very young age. However, a near tragic accident whereby one of her sons fell down a spiral staircase and his subsequent recovery was the trigger for her debut album Spiral Road. The album made a favourable impression particularly in Europe where it reached No.7 in the Euro/Americana charts.

This mini-album includes six tracks in total, two originals and four cover versions. Produced by Hugh Christopher Brown, Jarvie is joined by her daughter Sara Jarvie Clark on backing vocals and violin on Believing, a track which featured on the TV series Nashville. The covers versions included are Dylan’s Senor, Sweet Carolina from Ryan Adams and Hills of Home written by Ralph Stanley. However, it’s the two original songs that shine most brightly, the stripped to the bones opener You Shall Not Pass  and closer Shadow of the Sultan both of which feature  angelic vocals that above all seem to be delivered by an artists that actually loves what she is doing.

Jean Shephard Country Music: Pure and Simple HumpHead

Jean Shepard, who passed away in September 2016, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for sixty years and one of the most iconic female honky tonk singers in the history of country music. Often overshadowed by artists such as Kitty Wells and Loretta Lynn she made her debut in the country music charts as a teenager in 1953 with A Dear John Letter. Released as a duet with Ferlin Husky it charted at No.1 in the country charts and remained there for six weeks. Totally uncompromising, Shephard was an unapologetic champion of traditional country music, a principal that in many ways may have limited her career opportunities at certain times. Uniquely and unlike the majority of female country singers, she launched her career as a solo artist whereas her peers generally performed as family groups, band members or duets. For ever a risk taker many of her early releases were quite daring for the times with titles such as Then He Touched Me, Many Happy Hangovers To You, Don’t Fall In Love With A Married Man and My Arms Stay Open Late. Her debut album Songs Of A Love Affair, considered to be the first concept country album to be recorded, was released in 1956 when she was only 23 years old. The album featured some of the industry’s finest including Buck Owens, Tommy Collins, Bill Woods and Clarence Lee and consisted of twelve original songs with Shepard having an input into the song writing.

Shepard signed to Capital Records in 1952 and this double album collects no fewer than fifty songs released on that label between 1964 and 1978. Interestingly the tracking is not in any chronological order kicking off with A Real Good Women (1968) and closing with I’ll Take The Dog (1966). The real winner is the consistency of her incredible voice throughout and her staunch insistence in ‘keeping it country’ and avoiding any pop crossover regardless of the pressures from Music Row.  Shepard survived many industry and personal difficulties, most particularly the tragic death of her husband Hawkshaw Hawkins, who perished in the plane crash that also claimed the life of Patsy Cline yet she continued to perform until twelve months prior to her death from Parkinson’s Disease.

 This delightful collection of songs is an absolute vindication of Shepard’s insistence of keeping country music simple, pure, and unadulterated and far outshines the majority  the hybrid product currently masquerading as country on Country Music Radio.   

Erin McLendon Making It Up As We Go Self Release

Ticking all the boxes for what passes today as radio friendly pop country this is the second release from Music City resident Erin Mc Lendon following her 2015 recording Fire & Wine which was nominated as an album of the year by IMEA (International Music and Entertainment Association). 

Originally hailing from Durham North Carolina, Mc Lendon graduated with A Bachelor of Music degree in Commercial Voice, a qualification that involved particular emphasis on the business side of the music industry. Her musical inspirations include a diverse range of artists from The Beatles to Tina Turner in the more popular genre but also soul queen Aretha Franklin and country icons Brad Paisley and Reba McEntire.

Opener When God Made a Woman is particularly radio friendly, densely layered, lots of hooks and a gospel like closing chorus. Don’t Believe My Eyes Anymore takes a swipe at the insincerity of dating sites and Honolulu Love is a stripped back ukulele lead song dealing with young love.

The title track suggests a random care free artist taking things as they come. However, the album gives the impression of an artist with her finger firmly on the pulse and more than aware of her market and the type of product that opens doors. McLendon is one of so many young female artists that are products of the America’s Got Talent formula sound but to her credit Making It Up As We Go has the songs, the sound and the self assured vocal delivery to position her ahead of a lot of her contemporaries.

Jeffrey Halford and The Healers Lo Fi Dreams Floating

The title of the album is a reflection on Jeffrey Halford’s efforts to make a recording with a particularly warm sound reminiscent of some of the classic recordings of the 1950’s and 60’s. Co-produced by Adam Rossi and Halford and using vintage equipment including Sears Silvertone, Danelectro and Harmony guitars, the album without doubt does succeed in nailing the intended stripped-down sound. 

Texas-born but spending much of his childhood in various parts of California, Halfords childhood was never conventional as his nomadic parents moved from location to location, sometimes by choice and other times by necessity. Heavy exposure to classic AM Radio and artists such as The Doors, Marvin Gaye and Howlin’ Wolf sowed the seeds for a musical career that kicked off by playing street corners in San Francisco, forming rockabilly band The Snappers and for the past two and a half decades touring and recording with his current outfit The Healers.

Lo Fi Dreams is his eight release and represents everything roots music stands for, mixing blues, country, soul, rock and roll and most particularly attitude in abundance.

Elvis Shot The Television is a funky recollection of a bored and wired Elvis misbehaving, opener Two Jacksons is a slick, smooth tale of an encounter with an attractive sales assistant. Halford lets loose and cranks it up a notch or two on Bird of Youth before slowing things down with the atmospheric and amusing Sweet Annette which recollects a visit to a remote diner.

Thursday
Apr062017

Reviews by Declan Culliton

Samantha Crain You Had Me At Goodbye Ramseur Records

Samantha Crain’s last visit to Ireland in 2015 featured an appearance on national television where she performed Big Rock from her then current album Under Branch And Thorn And Tree on The Late Late Show. That album featured highly in Lonesome Highway’s Best of 2015 and was a career best for the Oklahoma resident. Not one to stand on ceremony, Crain freely admitted that after that tour it was back to bread and butter issues with the prospect of working shifts at a pizza parlour to earn cash to finance her next recording and subsequent tour. The result of her toils is You Had Me At Goodbye, the fifth full album by Crain and a worthy successor to its predecessor.

Engaging the same production team of John Vanderslice (The Mountain Goats, Strand of Oaks) and Jacob Winik (The Magnetic Fields, Hot Buttered Rum) and recorded at Tiny Telephone Studio in San Francisco the album finds Crain in a more experimental and relaxed mood than on previous recordings. A recent quote from the young Shawnee Oklahoma resident noted "With this album, I just wanted to have some fun. I’ve spent the majority of my young adulthood taking myself and my music very seriously."’

Well, it is indeed fun but certainly not throwaway. Crain may have felt more carefree than on her previous recordings but her gift as a prolific and passionate songwriter continues to glow as she considers sincerity, self-respect, grieving, mental illness and relationships over the ten songs that make up the album. The album kicks off with the upbeat and hooky Antiseptic Greeting which agonises about the pressure on people to continually put a brave face on, when sometimes it should be ok and acceptable to be in bad form and not under pressure to be expected to mask it. The Loneliest Handsome Man deals with lost friendship and is delivered with an almost sleepwalking vocal and delightful piano and strings. Crain employs her ancestors native Choctaw language on Red Sky, Blue Mountain a melodic and hypnotic song and possibly the stand out track on the album. Grieving and loss are visited on Betty’s Eulogy which deals with a widow’s loss. Interestingly the album includes Crain’s first recorded cover song When The Roses Bloom Again from the Mermaid Avenue Sessions. Its appearance on that album featured music by Jeff Tweedy to lyrics that were discovered in Woody Guthrie’s journals but which had been written by the composer Will D. Cobb.

This album is a slight departure from Crain’s previous work but captures the lyrical beauty that has permeated all her output to date and fits snugly in a back catalogue that should be included in every serious listener’s collection.

Holly Macve Golden Eagle Bella Union

‘I looked at the world with different eyes’ announces Holly Macve in White Bridge, the opening track from her debut album Golden Eagle. In a certain context these words could well describe the direction the twenty one year old Galway born artist has taken her musical inspirations to create a most impressive and individualistic recording.

Possessing a quite unparalleled vocal which dips and soars throughout the ten tracks on the album, Macve excels in the art of storytelling with a maturity well beyond her years. Produced by Paul Gregory of Lanterns On The Lake, the album was written when Macve was, by her own admission, going through a difficult period emotionally. Often the motivation for creativity, her dark moments have delivered some wonderful stark stories depicting lost love (Heartbreak Blues), the comfort of childhood innocence (Sycamore Tree/Timbuktu), isolation (Shell) and loved ones departed (All Of It’s Glory), often delivered with minimal instrumentation and Macve’s  luscious vocal always out front. 

Make no mistake, her warbling, yodelling vocal will not be to everyone’s taste. It is quite distinctive and it did take a few listens to fully connect with but the time invested and particularly with the lyric sheet in hand certainly reaps rich rewards.

While heavily influenced by old time country, one is constantly reminded of Hank Williams, comparisons could also be made with Angel Olsen and no doubt Macve has the talent and potential like Olsen, to make a major industry breakthrough on the strength of Golden Eagle.

Country noir at its finest and highly recommended indeed.

The Black Sorrows Faithful Satellite Rootsy

Listening to Cold Grey Moon, the opening track on The Black Sorrows latest album, you could be forgiven for assuming it was an outtake from Elvis Costello’s 1999 album Painted From Memory, the album he recorded in collaboration with Burt Bacharach. Glorious vocal, horns and strings combine to give the song a full and rich delivery. No coincidence possibly as Costello was instrumental in a process that elevated The Black Sorrows from a covers band to big hitters. Frontman Joe Camilleri had raised the finance to record the band’s first album by playing birthday parties and weddings, the resulting album Sonola was recorded for a mere $1300. Costello happened upon the album when visiting Gaslight Records while playing in Australia and plugged them on the national airwaves and TV, creating a wave of interest in the band.  Costello in fact went on to cover Joe Camilleri’s So Young on his 1987 compilation album Out Of Our Idiot.  

Camilleri has since been at the forefront of Australian music culture for decades and was inducted into The Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame in 2007. Under his stewardship, The Black Sorrows have recorded seventeen albums to date and continue to be one of Australia’s most loved live acts. 

Faithfull Satellite is an album that packs a hefty punch from start to finish with the artists that excited and influenced Camilleri well represented. Costello’s trademark is all over the opening track and is revisited on Love Is On It’s Way, with a reggae beat Watching The Detectives style. It Ain’t Ever Gonna Happen comes across as time honoured Cohen with accompanying backing vocals and Winter Rose recalls a classic Van Morrison sound. Not content with merely paying homage to their peers they also dust down their banjos and fiddles for the country (ish) Fix My Bell and move more up tempo with a classic power pop melody with Carolina.

The album was recorded at Woodstock Studio in Melbourne with production duties shared by Camilleri and keyboard player John Mc All. The twelve songs were written by Camilleri and executive producer Nick Smith.

Conor O’Donnell Come On In Self Release

Conor O’Donnell’s father Al was very much part of the mid 60’s flourishing folk scene in London, rubbing shoulders with household names such as Peggy Seegar, Billy Connolly, Martin Carthy and Ewan Mc Coll. In Dublin he performed alongside The Dubliners and for a brief period  was a member of the traditional folk group Sweeney’s Men. He sadly passed away in 2015 and Come On In, Conor O’ Donnell’s debut album, is dedicated to his late father.

Featuring eleven self-penned songs, the albums stand out track is the haunting ballad Trouble I’m In and embraces the full range of roots music with nods to rockabilly (T Minus 20), country (Trucks A Gonna Roll) and two songs (Bobby Cole and Come On In) that recall the work of Simone Felice.

Recorded at Orphan Recording in Dublin the album was co-produced by Garvan Gallagher who also plays bass and keyboards and guest musician Gavin Glass who contributes keyboards and slide guitar. Also guesting on the album on violin is Leo O’Kelly with regular band members Kieran Mc Evoy (guitar, Duesenberg, vocals) and Sean Devitt (drums, vocals) completing the line up.

Donald Byron Wheatley Moondogs And Madogs Maiden Voyage

A number of the music magazines we subscribe to include in their review sections ‘Rediscovered’ features, reminding us or introducing us to forgotten or little known acts that released quality music back in the day but for some reason did not reach a market or were unappreciated at the time. Listening to  set me thinking that this album may feature in a similar scenario twenty years down the road as an extraordinary recording that did not get its due recognition when released. It’s an excellent album to say the least and exceptional in that the artist has never played onstage to a live audience. 

The title Donald Byron Wheatley conjures up an image of an aristocratic public schooled English gent most likely dressed in tweeds from head to toes and clad in hand made Barker Alderney brogues. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Wheatley spent his childhood in the family’s travelling business erecting and dismantling helter-skelters at various carnivals and fairgrounds up and down the country. His introduction to music was through his father’s love of the blues, regularly playing Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and eventually progressing to the early classic Dylan recordings. Both his father and grandfather were musical, playing the guitar and accordion but purely as a pass time.

Wheatley had notions of becoming a professional musician in his youngers years and wrote some songs which he intended to include in an album at some stage. However, life moved on with family responsibilities a priority and the idea of stardom soon faded into the background. Some years after his fathers passing and difficult times encountered by some close friends, he felt inspired to write again and with the encouragement of his cousin John Wheatley put the songs down on tape at Reservoir Recording Studio in North London.

The resulting album was produced by Chris Clarke (Danny & The Champions of The World) and John Wheatley (Suburban Discs) and features members The Champions, Chris Clarke, Steve Brookes, Andy Fairclough together with Siobhain Parr and UK pedal steel supremo BJ Cole.

The musical influences on the album are obvious, Wheatley wears his heart on his sleeve in this regard, but the quality of the material from first to twelfth track is staggering. On second listens I was convinced that some of the tracks were cover versions that I had previously heard such was the impact they made.

Opener Life’s A Beach is a semi rap type delivery in the style of Aaron Lee Tasjan and uncharacteristic of what follows. Smoking Gun and Hand Me Down Leopard Skin Hat recall mid 60’s Dylan and Not Tonight Josephine explores similar territory with its Band like driving rhythm, hammond organ solo and layered backing vocals. Nothing is the stand out track on the album, of a standard that would sit comfortably alongside anything on John Lennon’s Imagine.

There’s no doubt that Wheatley could be accused of raiding Dylans piggy band for much of the material but the same could be said of numerous other artists. Fans of the Felice Brothers and The Band will lap this up and rightly so. 

Osborne Jones Only Now Continental Song City

Unapologetically inspired by Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the classic country sound of the 60’s, you could be forgiven for assuming that Osborne Jones was a Nashville country crooner. They are in fact David-Gwyn Jones and David Osborne, UK born and bred who have assembled a team of musicians to produce an album that delightfully recalls the traditional sound of both Bakersfield and Nashville. Featuring ten tracks, nine of which were written by them and one co-write with Nigel Osborne, the songs are punctuated in no small measure by the stunning playing by Rick Shea who contributes mandolin, acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitar. A renowned artists in his own right, Shea also produced the album which was recorded by Mark Linett (Beach Boys, Los Lobos, Rikki Lee Jones, Randy Newman) at Your Place Or Mine Studios in Glendale, California. Also brought on board for the recording are David Jackson on bass, piano, organ and accordion, Shawn Nourse on drums and Cindy Wasserman and Gia Ciambotti on backing vocals.

The album is a fulfilment of a common love of the classic country sound between two long-time friends and part time musicians and though now residing in different continents they have managed to realise that ambition. As would be expected heartbreak and loving feature in large doses, no better than on Only Now with more than a nod to Elvis  and  Heartbreak and Six Strings and I Still Think She Cares both of which are soaked in pedal steel guitar.

Never intended as a project to attack the Billboard Country Music Charts it achieves precisely what it set out to do in accomplishing their ambition to create a body of well fashioned songs and particularly impressive musicianship which they can justifiably be proud of.

Dave Desmelik Lifeboat Self Release

Lifeboat, similar to the other works in the back catalogue of Dave Desmelik, is not an album to pop in your cd player and start singing along with the choruses after one listen. The Brevard North Carolina resident’s albums fall into a similar category to the work of Jim White, John Dowd, Richard Buckner and possibly Vic Chestnutt, no compromise, from the heart and music that demands a considerable investment of your time to fully appreciate.

It’s his eleventh recording in a career that dates back to the late nineties when he was part of the Arizona band Onus B.Johnson. Not quite a one man show, though Desmelik does contributes vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, cigar box guitar, baritone ukulele, bass, piano, organ, drums and percussion together with recording and mixing duties. The cover artwork also features a sketch by Desmelik.

Despite employing many and varied instruments in the recording the eleven tracks are in the main raw, stripped back yet never fail to atmospherically create vivid imagery for the listener.

The delightful Surgery, Recovery and Love features only three spoken words by Desmelik and is basically an instrumental with the addition of sporadic words by children Holmes, Elena and Vince who, unaware that they are being recorded, reveal their innocent inner thoughts. 

A Strange Realization, the longest track on the album at over nine minutes and one of the highlights, is a dreamy kaleidoscope of sound that could be mistaken as a demo track for an early Pink Floyd album.

Battlefield is a more up-tempo inclusion on an album that often sounds desperate, intense, honest and hurting, yet when penetrated, grabs the listener from the outset and doesn’t let go.

Sophia Marshall The Paper Thin EP Self Release

In a previous life and as a teenager, Leicester born Sophia Marshall’s was part of The Havenots, a duo with Liam Dullaghan whose album Bad Pennies, released in 2004, was possibly a decade ahead of its time and combined luscious boy/girl harmonies in a manner that is certainly more hip today than it was then. The Mastersons, Shovels and Ropes and Whitehorse have perfected the approach and one is left to wonder what impact Bad Pennies would have in the burgeoning Americana scene were it to be released today.

In more recent times, 2015 to be precise, Marshall began concentrating on her solo career and this five track EP, her debut solo release, demonstrates not only her beautifully subtle vocal but also her ability to create songs that contain both melody and depth in equal measures.

Comparisons with Eddie Reader come to mind on both Wasted Days and Living  Things. Her vocals ebb and flow, layered delightfully on the closing track and tour da force The Devil and The Hollow. Produced by her band member and guitarist Andy Jenkinson, the emphasis is always on Marshalls perfectly paced voice.

In her former and current career Marshall has played support to Frazey Ford, Peter Bruntnell, The Sadies, Sam Outlaw and Tift Merrit. On the strength of this recording, given the exposure it deserves, there is little doubt that she has the potential and talent to make a lot of people stand up and take notice.