Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 8 - Ags Connolly - Nothin' Unexpected

The second full-length from West Oxfordshire native and resident Ags Connolly has been a while in the making, quite deliberately so it would seem.
The first was 'How About Now' and  it appeared back in 2014. That was around the time that the blossoming of the indigenous UK Americana scene was starting to be noticed
 as the real change it was, rather than just the preoccupation of die-hard fans and would-be journalists.

Nothin' Unexpected - Ags Connolly (At The Helm Records, 3 February 2017).

The title of this latest is 'Nothin' Unexpected' and might sound almost underwhelming but that is quite deliberate too as the music is no such thing. The point here is that it is not flash or crass in any way at all. It is however very well done indeed - from the ten songs (nine originals and a cover of the Loudon Wainwright III song 'I Suppose'), to the instrumentation that accompanies them and the carefully balanced production values. It ticks boxes.
  • I Hope You’re Unhappy
  • Do You Realise That Now
  • When The Loner Gets Lonely
  • Neon Jail
  • I Suppose
  • Nothin’ Unexpected
  • Haunts Like This
  • Fifteen Years
  • Slow Burner
  • I Should’ve Closed The Book
It is certainly often wistful and resolutely stoical, especially about times spent alone and this applies as much to the honky-tonk influenced numbers as to the others; there's both a time and mood for that.  I happen to be listening sat in front of the fire on a dark and wet winter's evening but it would be just as good heard in the early hours around the dying embers of a summer campfire, with the last few burnt BBQ ribs and a beer to go with it.

One thing even better would be to see him play live, preferably in one of the old small-town bars that are mentioned in a couple of songs. Rather like this...
Ags Connolly, Saloon Bar stage, Truck Festival 2015.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 7 - Otis Gibbs - Mount Renraw

Serendipity has played a large rôle in determining that which appears in these pages and so it is with this artist, whom I knew nothing about until I poked my camera lens over the door of the Saloon Bar at Truck Festival 2014. This is that picture. Why wouldn't one want to be party to a gig like this?

Otis Gibbs, Saloon Bar stage, Truck Festival, 18 July 2014.

It was around  a month before the release of his LP 'Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth'. I was smitten - it was exactly the start of my ongoing infatuation with this most unlikely, yet astonishing, of festival stages.  That album, like the others before it is down-to-earth roots songwriting and performance. It is also far more complicated than it might seem on first listen.
This is the follow-up by the native of Indiana and released into a world now full of uncertainty, which is grist to his mill.

'Mount Renraw' - Otis Gibbs (Wanamaker Recording Company, 13 January 2017).

Otis Gibbs - Mount Renraw:
  • Ed's Blues (Survival)
  • Bison
  • Great American Roadside
  • Sputnik Monroe
  • Empire Hole
  • Blues For Diablo
  • 800 Miles
  • Copper Coloured Fools
  • Kathleen
  • Lucy Parsons
  • Wide Awake
If this, from the previous LP, doesn't resonate with you in some way or another then I wonder why I write about stuff at all.

'The Darker Side of Me' (official video).
The railway footage in this is actually entirely shot in the UK. It will, obviously, make putting locations to the lyrics quite impossible!

Friday, January 13, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 6 - Scott H. Biram - The Bad Testament

Thus far my series of 'New Music 2017' posts has taken a predominantly acoustic path. This is where it takes a turn towards electric squalls...  well almost certainly it does, for this album has not yet been released. It could turn out to be an album of lullabies and  gentle ballads but neither artist nor label history make that seem anything other than extremely improbable!
The title of the LP tends to reinforce that idea too...

'The Bad Testament' - Scott H. Biram (Bloodshot Records, 24 February 2017).

It seems that the often-solo Texas bluesman will be taking us down the rutted dirt roads, rusting rails and haunted backwaters once again. Should you be wondering what I thought about his 2014 LP 'Nothin' But Blood' than that is here and it was my first introduction to the world of his music.

This is the track list:

Scott H. Biram - The Bad Testament
  • Set Me Free
  • Still Around
  • Red Wine
  • TrainWrecker
  • Long Old Time
  • Swift Driftin'
  • Righteous Ways
  • Crippled & Crazy
  • Feel So Wrong
  • True Religion
If you buy CD or d/l versions then you get the three tracks from his 'Lost on the River EP' too. I have a certain feeling that I will head for this option.

Here is a taster from the new record:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 5 - Wildwood Kin - The Author

This is the new release from the trio Wildwood Kin based in the south-west of England.  The music strays far beyond that locale and furthermore 'The Author' is a song more contemplative when compared to 'Warrior Daughter' that was released in 2016.

In addition to the release of this new song, and an album to follow soon, the band has just been announced as the recipient of an award to be presented at the UK Americana Awards 2017  that take place at St. John's, Hackney, London on 2 February.
To put that in proper context, Bob Harris has been around the sun a fair few times and in the top echelons of new and independent music discovery for a very long time too: 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' with Bob presenting ended decades ago (it ran thus from 1971-1978). In that sense he has been there since the start of my music experiences. I still remember seeing bits of that as a child. Since then he has become something of a lodestar for those interested in roots and acoustic music beyond simply UK and Irish folk and through most of those decades it wasn't a part of mainstream musical fashion, to say the least. How times have changed!

The Author (Croft Sessions, in collaboration with Sidmouth Fringe).

It would appear that I didn't mention the release of 'Warrior Daughter' at the time, although I certainly intended to do so, so I shall make amends now.

Here is the video for that song too:

Warrior Daughter (official video).

As soon as learn more about the album I'll be reporting back; don't imagine otherwise.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 4 - Emily Mae Winters - Siren Serenade

Looking back on my recent post concerning 'EPs and mini albums of 2016' it has struck me that there are several rather surprising omissions. One of them is the 'Foreign Waters EP' by Emily Mae Winters.

I'm going to get out of this particular problem by subsuming it into the announcement of her début LP 'Siren Serenade'. Produced by Ben Walker, as was the aforementioned EP, but this time also in collaboration with Lauren Deakin-Davis, it will be released in April 2017.

The first track from it, it least as I can find is 'The Star' and a song inspired by John Keats' poem 'Bright Star':

'The Star' (official video)

This is the artwork for the album cover.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 3 - Cup O'Joe - Bluebirds

I can't tell you how many bands I have mentioned in recent years that include the participation of siblings but it is considerable. It's a theme of kinds and I see no reason to discontinue it. 
Here is another - three siblings in this case - that were you not to know otherwise might be imagined to hail from the far side of the Atlantic. That isn't the case at all and this is their first EP.

Bluebirds EP - Cup O'Joe (self-released, 2016).

Cup O'Joe is Benjamin (upright bass), Reuben (guitar, mandolin) and Tabitha (banjo, fiddle) Agnew and they actually call Armagh, Northern Ireland's smallest city, home. The EP has six tracks:
  • Bluebirds
  • Pretty Fair Maiden
  • Blackwaterfoot
  • Homesick
  • Tell Me Darling
  • Black Coffee
They play predominantly self-written material that crosses the range from bluegrass and gypsy to old-time, western and jazz and all three contribute vocals. Definitely another band that I want to see live in 2017.
If you have a little while to spare for listening then there is this.

Cup O'Joe, Coastline Bluegrass Festival, Llangollen, North Wales, June 2016.