Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Music 2013 - Part 23 - Karima Francis - Black

I received this in the post yesterday and I couldn't wait to give it a thorough listen or three. The word is that I'm liking it very much indeed.
It seems so long ago that I reviewed Karima Francis's first album 'The Author'. It was back in 2009; it was good and so, if maybe less original, was the follow-up 'The Remedy' in 2012. Beneath the surface lay a major career set back. Not very many would have the strength of character to overcome a rejection like that.

Four years later her third album 'Black' is the result of a successful crowd-funding venture. Karima is supported by an excellent band, the members of which apparently coalesced out of nowhere in the matter of a very few days by dint of good fortune and quick thinking on the part of Karima to get them on-board. It is a record just how the tight unit wanted it to sound, working free from outside interference.

Karima Francis - Black:
  • Black
  • City Walls
  • H.W.T.M.C.
  • Believe In Love
  • Regrets
  • It's Alright Now
  • Shout
  • Remember Me
  • Waves
  • Perfect Dream
  • Blue Moon
I can find no official release date as yet. 140dB Records is managing this release. What I really want to do now is see Karima and the band play live!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 22 - Cale Tyson - Careless Soul

While this is about a forthcoming LP, Careless Soul is the first full-length by American artist Cale Tyson, it is also a very appropriate vehicle for the continuation of a number of themes concerning the music industry that I have espoused over a period of a few years.

Cale Tyson - Careless Soul (Clubhouse Records, 8 April 2016).

Cale Tyson, born and bought up in Texas, now calls Nashville his adopted home.  Both these facts, perhaps unsurprisingly, have had a considerable bearing on his music but in ways that are either not immediately apparent to the mainstream Nashville music industry of the major labels or not to its liking for artistic (and by implication audience) control...
There is a great deal of tradition involved here - this is country soul - but very little pastiche. It was recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL, at Fame Studios and with top-drawer acoustic musicians. This is part of a wider revival and indeed re-invention of traditional country subject material. Careless Soul comprises twelve songs:
  • Staying Kind
  • Somebody Save Me
  • Careless Soul
  • Easy
  • Traveling Man
  • Pain in My Heart
  • Railroad Blues
  • Dark Dark
  • High Lonesome Hill
  • Gonna Love a Woman
  • Pain Reprise
  • Ain't It Strange
A fact perhaps more surprising is that it will be released in the UK before its North American release. In the last decade the change in attitude in the UK towards this kind of music - let's group it under the broad church of folk, roots and Americana just for the purposes of the here and now - has been nothing short of seismic. The traffic in artists has been bi-directional. A look at festival line-ups either side of the Atlantic, for 2016 or in the previous few years, will soon show that to be true.
Why has this happened?
Well I certainly don't know that, but it appears not to be a result simply of a single generation. Both artists producing such music and the audiences attracted by them have been becoming younger without, unusual historically-speaking, alienating older listeners; it pains me to feel I ought to count myself amongst the older listeners. The most encouraging thing is the egalitarian nature of the younger ones and the everyone-has-something-to-bring attitude to all this.

Cale Tyson came to the wider attention of UK audiences in 2015 when Clubhouse records released Introducing Cale Tyson, which is a complete synthesis of his previous two EPs/mini-albums High On Lonesome (2013) and Cheater's Wine (2014) that had only had official US releases.
As a taster, because I like it and it displays some of the old-time flavour, I have chosen this original song:

'Old Time Blues', the song later appeared on the High On Lonesome EP, live in Nashville, 26 March 2013.

Should you be wondering who the backing vocalist is, on the left as viewed here, it is Erin Rae and she releases her début album Soon Enough together with her band, as Erin Rae and The Meanwhiles and again through Clubhouse Records in the UK on 3 June 2016. I mentioned it here a couple of months ago. The pedal steel player in the above video, Brett Resnick, is also one of 'The Meanwhiles'.
I think it important that music is starting to rediscover that there is real value to be found in simple links like this. Music as a space to be shared by all those involved, from musicians to audience, rather than dog-eat-dog, short-sighted exploitation. That is another reason why learning to trust artists, independent labels, festivals and one's own instinct is coming to the fore again as a community aspiration after far too many years under the patriarchal hegemony of the major label system.

Added April 7, 2016:

Cale Tyson and the making of Careless Soul.

Another example of the change that all this represents are the possibilities provided by crowd funding. My next post is likely to be about an album made possible that way.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 21 - Ninebarrow - Releasing the Leaves

'Releasing the Leaves' is the second long-player from Dorset folk duo Ninebarrow, comprising John Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere. It was released on 26 March 2016.

There has long been superstition around a malaise known as "difficult second album syndrome": these days even getting the first album out there and noticed is a huge hurdle. Without a doubt Ninebarrow achieved that, magnum cum laude, with 2014 release 'While The Blackthorn Burns' that I mentioned here.
Like its predecessor 'Releasing the Leaves' consists of a mix of original and traditional tunes and songs. The balance is approximately equal, but you would often be hard pressed to guess which fall into each category. That could be either a blessing or a curse. 
My inclination is much towards the former opinion - this record had a satisfying coherence and that is a very good thing. This is the track list.
  • The Pinner
  • For a Time
  • Lord Exmouth
  • To the Stones
  • Weave Her a Garland
  • Back & Sides
  • Three Ravens
  • Blood on the Hillside
  • Silent Prayer
  • Coming Home
  • Dark Eyed Sailor
The original songs are for the main part inspired by places that the artists love and the associated stories  This anchors them to the chosen traditional songs. If there were to be a critical counterpoint it is that some of the stand-outs that punctuated 'While The Blackthorn Burns' such as  Mother, whilst all present and correct, need more seeking and attention this time out. That I even feel the need to mention this is a situation quite enviable.
One of my bugbears is LPs that don't contain lyric information. Ninebarrow have gone beyond that here by making a Songbook freely available on-line - this includes both the lyric and also information about the inspiration and stories behind the songs.

I became aware of Ninebarrow not through recorded music and my biggest recommendation of all is to see the duo play live. Here is a slightly unusual slant on that taken from the hundreds of wonderful acoustic sessions that are most often recorded by Jon Earl in his remarkable garden shed in north Somerset - Songs From The Shed.

This is 'The Sea' and "The Shed on Tour" at its temporary home at Larmer Tree Festival, North Dorset, in 2014.

In the Songs From The Shed archive you may discover a cornucopia of music that you had not yet realised quite existed, or  existed but not quite in the form in which it appears here. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 20 - Grant-Lee Phillips - The Narrows

After a straight run of UK artists in posts here I guess I ought to return to my other musical influences. This release captured my attention this week and it was an obvious choice after only a few listens.

The Narrows - Grant-Lee Phillips (Yep Roc Records, 18 March 2016).

Careworn and resigned maybe, but not bitter and never malicious, is how this comes across as I listen to it.  Another important thing is that he is certainly no newcomer and I'll leave it to you to explore that aspect should you wish to do so.

This is the track-list :
  • Tennessee Rain
  • Smoke And Sparks
  • Moccasin Creek
  • Cry Cry
  • Holy Irons
  • Yellow Weeds
  • Loaded Gun
  • Rolling Pin
  • Taking On Weight In Hot Springs
  • Just Another River Town
  • No Mercy In July
An early stand-out is Smoke And Sparks. Yellow Weeds too, but to be honest there is nothing notably weak here in my opinion. I could listen to this whilst holed-up in the depths of winter or, equally, outdoors whilst watching the fire burn down with friends late on a warm summer night.
Here is 'Smoke and Sparks' live:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 19 - Sam Green and The Midnight Heist - Factory Studio Sessions EP

One of the things that frequently appears at or near the top of the side-bar of this blog is a poster under the title "Musicians to see live in 2016...". This poster will appear there too in a few days time but in the meanwhile here is a thought.
You could see Sam Green and The Midnight Heist at The Isle Of Wight Festival in June. Failing that you can catch the same at Boomtown Festival, Hampshire in mid-August. Or you could see them, eight weeks before the former, without the need for a ferry to the Isle of Wight and with no camping involved either, at a venue that guarantees that you will be amongst a crowd that does not exceed a hundred persons!
Cast your eyes to the last date on this poster...

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions - Sunday, 17 April 2016. Tickets: £11 (inc. £1 booking fee).

Note added 11 April 2016:
The above performance has been postponed to a later date, to be announced. Tickets are valid for the rescheduled date or refunds can be obtained by contacting Marnhull Acoustic Sessions via the website.

Should you be wondering what the 'Factory Studio Sessions EP', released sometime in April, might sound like then worry not. You can wrap your ears around it right now. That will be as nothing when compared with seeing and hearing the band live.

Sam Green & The Midnight Heist - The Factory Studio Sessions EP.

Note added 11 May 2016:
Sam Green and The Midnight Heist is now confirmed to play Green Man Festival 2016, on the Chai Wallah's stage.

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Music 2016 - some things forthcoming...

It is true that I have not written here for a fortnight. What is not true is that things have stagnated hereabouts. Far from it indeed - I have been listening both recorded, and sometimes live, to all kinds of things. That includes artists playing at festivals that I am attending this summer as well as many others that I hope I might see live too.

This is the very latest that I have seen live, as in yesterday evening, and I'll be mentioning this tiny venue again very soon indeed!

Megson have a new LP 'The Good Times Will Come Again' that is released on 27 May 2016 and they played a few tracks from it in their extended set yesterday evening. It will not disappoint methinks.

That isn't however the forthcoming album to which I am listening as I write. I'm listening to one that I have already mentioned here. It is released 25 March 2016 and I'll say nothing more about it...  at least for now.
That is not even to mention all the artists added to festival lists in the last few weeks. Some I have seen before, some I never have, some I just can't wait to see once again. Then there is everything else.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 18 - Moulettes - Preternatural

Brighton-based, Moulettes return soon with their fourth long-player. The band's core remains, with Hannah Miller and Ruth Skipper providing most lead vocals in the past as well as a variety of instruments less commonly seen, including bassoon and autoharp.  There is a new band member for this project and that is Raevennan Husbandes (vocals and electric guitar).
What I strongly suspect is that the Moulettes' universe of unpredictable alt-folk-prog-rock is going to expand again.
Whereas a loose theme of their last LP, Constellations (2014) was the unknown boundaries presented by cosmology this one is taking a journey into the last unknown frontiers of planet earth --- from a tiny nematode worm (Halicephalobus mephisto and 
the title of track 4) to all the strange creatures, both newly discovered and those yet unknown to humankind, that inhabit dark and cold (or otherwise the very hot volcanic vents) of the ocean depths and similar inhospitable environments. What I am quite certain about is that the musical vision that accompanies such esoteric subject material will not disappoint.

Moulettes - Preternatural (27 May 2016).
It can be pre-ordered here (at a discount) in many formats and also bundled with related merchandise.

Moulettes - Preternatural:
  • Behemooth
  • UnderWaterPainter
  • Coral
  • Hidden World (Halicephalobus mephisto)
  • Pufferfish Love
  • Patterns
  • Rite Of Passage
  • Medusa
  • Parasite
  • Bird Of Paradise (Part II)
  • Silk

Moulettes tour the UK in April/May and internationally thereafter.

Friday, March 04, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 17 - Låpsley - Long Way Home

After a few posts rather defined by their predominantly acoustic outlook here is a change of emphasis. I return to things most decidedly electronic, and also to these shores, with Long Way Home, the first full LP from Låpsley. She hails from Formby, which is a town on the coast of north-west England.
She was the UK Blog Sound 2015 poll winner and, despite a number of short format releases including one that I mentioned then, t
he wait has seemed a long one. A couple of songs from those releases also appear here but to be fair it was worth it. It should also be borne in mind that the artist behind all of this doesn't turn twenty for almost six months. 

Låpsley - Long Way Home (XL Recordings, 4 March 2016).

I have given the record a couple of plays and I like it. It is much too early to say what I might regard as album highlights, however. It is perhaps at its best on contemplative tracks such as 'Love is Blind'.

There is also a growing body of evidence that indicates Låpsley is an artist I wish to see play live.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 16 - Half Deaf Clatch - The Life and Death of A.J Rail

I was sure that I had mentioned this before but it seems not. If I have then I'm simply going to do it again.
Sometimes it takes a really shit and needlessly frustrating day to make one realise just how important music is. And how healing it might prove to be. I had some ideas earlier this week about writing another "virtual trip in music" as the first amused me in the making and I now have several itineraries in mind.

Tonight however is the time for this, and simply this...

Half Deaf Clatch - The Life and Death of A.J Rail (2015, self-released).

I saw Half Deaf Clatch play live in Frome at an intimate gig last year and it rates amongst the best performances I saw all year. Great clawhammer banjo blues and slide guitar, without any ornamentation, combined with his gritty vocals and earthy songs.
I'm too frazzled to write a detailed review just now. On the other hand I'm delighted to see that I wasn't the only one to be so impressed. This (in English) is one such from across the water courtesy of Blues Magazine in the Netherlands.

Here, with archive video from the US Signal Corps that will be familiar in essence to some in the UK during the winter now ending, is the song '1927 Flood' taken from the above-mentioned album.

Half Deaf Clatch is very much on my list of artists to see live again and his other recordings are well worth searching out too. It just so happens that the artist comes from Hull, UK.

Note added 11 May 2016:
The Life and Death of A.J Rail is now one of the British Blues Awards 2016 finalists in the category 'Blues Album'.