J. Hardin The Piasa Bird Self Release
This is the first release from John Everett Hardin under this guise. He had previously released albums under the name Everett Thomas but had decided to take a break from music to concentrate on some other aspects of his life. During that time, he’s written a number of songs but wanted to get his friend and fellow artist Hayward Williams to produce them. This they did at a converted farmhouse studio in Illinois. There, Hardin and Williams were joined by Daniel McMahon on guitars and keyboards and Darren Garvey on percussion as well as Liza Day and Naomi Marie on backing vocals. Hardin played acoustic guitar and sang while Williams played bass. They have done this two-sided set of 8 songs some justice.
The end result is a mini-album named after a mythical wall-painted Native American dragon which were less mythical and more about the often mystifying aspects of relationships. There are odes to a particular female characters in Oh Sophia (parts one and two), Woman Like You and Run Jackie, Run! Other songs such as Drifter and Shot My Baby Down are equally evocative. The former opens the album in a relaxed style that brings voice music and story together in a relaxed, full band folk/rock style that is rewarding and receptive. Though much of the album follows in this relaxed, restless mood the band can add weight and depth as required. Shot My Baby Down is a song just waiting for its place on the likes of a True Detective. It has a darkness that is underscored by the reverb guitar and funeral pace.
The lyrics are good here but it is the overall atmosphere that you are drawn to. One that sets the tone for the song even when, on initial listen the lyrics are not totally decipherable but enough is understood to know that these are full of imagery and invocation. The pace picks up, naturally enough given the title, for Run Jackie, Run! The album closes with Oh Sophia (Part 2) with Liza Day’s shadowing vocal echoing the poetic nature of the sense of intrigue and innocence of missing a person. It is stripped back to the voices and guitar and ends the album with you wanting some more. Hopefully this team will work together to bring a little more music to a waiting world - even if it doesn’t know it’s waiting.
Trevor Alguire Perish In The Light Self Release
When you hear a striking album and find out that it is the artists 6th release you realise just how much good music (and bad) remains to be discovered. On the evidence of this Trevor Alguire is well worth seeking out. A Canadian singer/songwriter who has co-produced and written all the material here and these are songs that have an immediacy that is as convincing as it is confident. For want of a better sound comparison I would say that fans of Blue Rodeo would be well at home here. Indeed, that band’s steel player (Bob Egan) is one of many players to add their noted contribution to the album.
Keyboards, violin (and pedal steel) enhance the bass, drums and guitars on what is essentially an Americana (or should that be Canadiana) album. There are up-tempo dance floor ready romps like Flash Flood that sit easily alongside a song like Out Of Sight/Out Of Mind that looks at life today from the perspective of a 93 man and how life has changed in his lifetime. It is an evocative piece of writing that hits home. Another stand out is My Sweet Rosetta a sing that starts in silence before revealing the longing and love that is the lady in question. It is a duet with noted Canadian singer Catherine MacCellan who both share the vocals and take individual verses to describe different viewpoints and perceptions.
Wasted Ways, Wasted My Time With You are both songs that consider how easily time can be so easily spent on pursuits that have no satisfactory conclusions. Relationship that are going nowhere fast or simply a way to pass time - for a time. The use of time is considered again on the final track If I’d Stayed In School. The title of the album is taken from a line in the first song The Ghost Of Him about a man who is comfortable in the shadows but who would perish in the light. Likewise, music sometime equally need that exposure to grow stronger and Trevor Alguire already has that in his native land but could easily use some of the wider recognition that this album deserves.
Silver Lake 66 Let Go Or Be Dragged Saw Tooth
Formally of L.A. based band The Ruby Trees, the duo of Maria Francis and Jeff Overbo now record and play under the name of Silver Lake 66. They play a roots music blend of country, rock and blues. They moved to Portland, Oregon and began to play sessions there which resulted in them gathering a group of players around them for live sessions. This became the nucleus of Silver Lake 66. Bass, drums, dobro, pedal steel, keyboards and fiddle were all added to the duo’s guitars to make this album. They wrote and produced the album together and it’s a summation of their music blend.
The opening Bury My Bones In Arkansas has organ and pedal steel running through a slow song about music and place. Jeff takes the lead with Maria providing harmony. They change roles though throughout and the next track up Magnolia is another slow paced song with more of a late night bluesy tone. Change Your Mind is taken at a similar pace and features a strong vocal from Maria. Sinuous steel and twang laden guitar are behind the duet Devil’s Lookin’ For Me a song that finds both declaring their allegiance to places that may be less than savoury. The album continues largely with this moody blend of influences that is less dance floor orientated than it is meditative. Sherman County is another strong country style song and a couple of tracks that definitely up the tempo in a welcome change of pace are San Francisco Angel and Don’t Have To Tell Me You’re Blue .
The album’s twelve songs all are well performed, produced and written material that, of itself, may not make you feel that you’re hearing something you haven’t heard before. However, what you do hear should please and it is an album with many moments that feel right and should encourage you to listen back. Maria Francis and Jeff Overbo are definitely making music that they can be satisfied that they are achieving what they set out to do when they wrote and recorded these entertaining songs.
Chip Taylor Little Brothers/I’ll Carry For You Trainwreck
By now Chip Taylor should have perhaps achieved some of the status that Leonard Cohen has achieved. Both have an understated semi-spoken delivery of well thought out and written songs. These two albums however taken a more personal direction.Little Brothers opens with a song about his granddaughter Alex on a ride home after winning a golf tournament. Each of these song has a little explanation note about it’s particular inspiration. There are a number of song that are dedicated and draw inspiration from his wife Joan. All are affecting and delivered in his inimitable style. Like Enlighten Yourself! has a spoken introduction that encourages to do just that. In fact, Chip tells some tales throughout not unlike a concert setting which in fact it pretty well is a live in the studio set-up. The musicians who accompany Taylor include long time guitarist John Platania. There is also upright bass (Grayson Walters and Bill Troiani) and some essential keyboards from Gøran Grini (who also co-produced the album with Taylor). Backing vocals are also present with some from his granddaughters. Refugee Children is a somewhat topical song that tells of an encounter with a group of them fishing in a forest in Sweden.
The second album here is a shorter set of 8 songs that are inspired by Brooke and Brittany Henderson, two Canadian golfing sisters. Not a subject often taken on by singer/songwriters but then there’s Chip and anyone who is aquatinted with his previous album and live performances will know what to expect and will smile and be drawn into the Taylor way of doing things. There are some piano instrumentals on the album composed by Grini. While Platania is also present on guitar. A bonus track is the title song performed by Shave Zadravec. Taylor’s song is about striving to achieve against odds and succeeding (or not). He delivers it in a committed and emotional voice.
Chip Taylor may not be for everyone but those who have got to know his music will recognise a human being who cares and observes and tries to put his feelings and beliefs into his music. Something he does with these two albums.
Kalyn Fay Bible Belt Horton
The debut album from the Tulsa, Oklahoma based artist is a contemporary take on a mix of country, folk and rock that is immediately accessible and pleasing. Fay is of Cherokee ancestry and a graphic designer by trade (she designed the album’s cover). She also sings and plays guitar and, although it doesn’t clearly state on the cover, has written all the songs too. She and co-producers (Scott Bell and Dylan Layton) gathered some musicians together to realise these songs with their skill and support.
Cody Clinton on electric guitar, Roger Ray on pedal steel and Cory Mauser on keyboards and Kevin Warren-Smith on fiddle are some of the team who join Layton on bass to lay down the tracks. They do so with an understanding for these, often, relationship related songs. Songs that show off Fay’s voice to good effect. She has a voice that has an intimacy and instinctiveness that allows these tales to be told with an understated ease. Black & Blue, Looking For A Reason, Wherever I Feel Right and The Fight all consider the way that relationships can twist and turn while Oklahoma, Tula and the title track are related to people and place. Spotted Bird wonders what secrets the titular creature keeps.
Bible Belt is a very promising start to Fay’s musical career and a chance for listeners to get to know her music in its recorded form from its inception. Her take on country music has a quality that makes it a living breathing form that is capable of going in different directions. There is a video of her playing an acoustic version of Oklahoma with a banjo player that shows another aspect of these songs. But for now this album is worth seeking out for a good listen.
TV Jones & The Tomahawks Self-Titled Self Release
This mini-album comes from a Kilkenny band who specialise in all things ‘Billy. Be that rock, psycho and more. There is a lot of twanging guitars and full bore energy displayed on these 50s style songs. The band have written all the songs and they stand up well within the parameters they have set. Ones that usually come from locations far from Ireland’s shores. The band co-produced the album with Leo Pearson who would seem a perfect partner in crime for the recording.
The majority of the songs are paced like there’s a hellhound on their tail. There is no TV Jones to be found but his is a fiction of the quartet who are in fact Jimmy Conroy, Tony Doherty, Noxie Noonan and Pius Maher on vocals and guitar, electric guitar, upright bass and drums respectively. The themes are oriented to a time period that is instinctively American. Dragging My Chevy is about a favoured car and has some nice slide guitar. Other songs talk a somewhat darker B-Movie tones with songs like Die, Die, Die and Night Of The Living Dead.
There has been a healthy support for rockabilly in Ireland through the years with a number of prime exponents from the USA and Europe have played the Kilkenny Rhythm & Roots Festival through the years so it is good to see a home grown unit continuing that tradition and doing with some gusto and aplomb. In truth nothing too radical is happening here but that is not really the point. They are playing music that truly motivates them and they do it with the passion of those who live and breathe their inspirations and that should translate across to devotees and ‘Billy believers.