Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Kacy & Clayton - The Siren's Song

(This review first appeared in issue #78 of Shindig! magazine.)

New West CD / LP

It's a brave move to reference the enticing voices of Greek mythology in an album title, though more than justified here. This follow-up to 2016's Strange Country finds Canadian cousins Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum reach new heights in terms of songwriting, performance and sound. With eight original songs, all of which could be taken for old or future folk/country standards, plus a version of traditional British folk tune 'Go And Leave Me', you're unlikely to hear a stronger collection of songs this year.

Produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy at his Loft Studio in Chicago, the addition of drums and bass is a masterstroke, lending some buckskin-clad country drive to the pair's folk stylings. The songs still take centre stage, full of characters, stories and emotion. There are countless sublime moments – not least the stacked harmonies of the title track, Kacy's pure voice, and Clayton's tasteful guitar adornments throughout. Irresistible.

Phil Everly - There's Nothing Too Good For My Baby / Mystic Line

(This review first appeared in issue #78 of Shindig! magazine.)

Morello CD

This two-on-one CD brings together two of the younger Everly's albums made during the brothers' ten-year separation, and comes bolstered with a couple of bonus cuts. The albums were recorded in London for Pye in 1974 and 1975. They're a decent if uneven attempt at striking out on one's own, Phil was still a fine singer and could turn out a reasonable tune. Mystic Line is the stronger album, aided by Warren Zevon's arrangements and songwriting input. Its title track, 'Better Than Now' and 'January Butterfly' among the highlights.

TNTGFMB also has some lovely moments – the sunshine pop on 'Summershine', and the intriguing lyrics to 'Invisible Man' (an olive branch to Don?), but is hampered by descents into the session player sterility and the MOR blandness prevalent at the time. Few will find the soft rock and old-timey pastiches essential, and both albums' attempts at reggae are excruciating. For completists only.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Keiron Phelan - Peace Signs

Beautiful songs, sumptuous arrangements, lounge-bar crooning and sceptical sideways glances!

What a year it's been for music. Though there's been no unifying next big thing or exciting new genre, there's been a steady stream of strong albums released over the last twelve months. One record label in the midst of a purple patch is Gare du Nord Records. Their year began with the eponymous debut by The Cold Spells, followed by great records by Papernut Cambridge and Jack Hayter amongst others, and now comes Peace Signs by Keiron Phelan. He has previous form as a member of State River Widening, Smile Down Upon Us and Littlebow, but I'm saddened to admit this is my first encounter with his work.

Peace Signs is an album that's easy to enjoy, full of gorgeous arrangements, lyrically rich and melodic, but also full of surprises, curve-balls and intriguing cul-de-sacs. The connection may not be obvious and I want to avoid comparisons where possible but the record it most reminds me of is Don't Stand Me Down by Dexy's Midnight Runners. Not only because it shares Irish showband textures at times, but also because it's a record that blurs the lines between the personal and the political. Similarly it's an album that takes serious subjects and sceptical sideways glances, adds a little humour and puts them into gorgeously arranged pop songs, though on Peace Signs there's the extra adornments of harps, woodwind, pedal steel and piano in addition to the Dexy's-style violin.

This gently intoxicating instrumentation is present on opening track 'New Swedish Fiction' set atop some subtly but funky drums, with Phelan singing of the joys of Scandinavian noir novels. The album's title track then follows, a piano-led ballad about hippie girlfriends with Phelan's deep-voiced lounge-bar crooning lending the song depth and poignancy. 'Satellite Hitori' is the catchiest offering here, containing all the hallmarks of a hit single. Pete Waterman would no doubt part with a some vintage train memorabilia to have written it.

By rights 'Song For Ziggy' should be the theme tune for a gentle television sitcom set in suburbia, centred around a warring but ultimately loving family. It's on 'Mother To Daughter Poem' where things take a really interesting turn, the song containing Polynesian folk textures, neo-classical composition and a tune and lyrics that bring to mind a nursery rhyme from the height of the industrial revolution. 'Apple Shades' acts as a mid album instrumental interlude, a short tone poem before 'My Children Just The Same' and 'Ain't She Grown' where the band sound like an accomplished but road-weary Irish showband playing melancholy songs for themselves after the bar has closed and emptied of punters. Both songs expressing the beauty and sadness found in the passing of time.

The album's final closing song include a country and western instrumental ('Country Song'), a gentle swipe at religion ('Hippie Priest) and 'Canterbury' where a spoken word vocal pays homage to Chaucer while the music pays tribute to Canterbury's reputation for jazz and folk-infused rock. Apologies for breaking down this record into its individual songs, and thanks for reading if you've made it this far. I may have not quite done this record justice but if you give it a listen you'll be richly rewarded as you'll hear new things with each listen, be it an insightful lyric or an instrument tucked away somewhere in the arrangement. A highly recommended release.


Click here for Gare du Nord Records.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Hot Sauce Pony - 'What You Don't Know' - Video Premiere!

Hot Sauce Pony are at the forefront of an increasingly happening Brixton scene centred around local label Brixton Hillbilly Records. It's a great honour for us at HD to unveil their latest single and video ahead of its November 16th release.

'What You Don't Know' is a sonic rendering of domestic strife, its dueling yin/yang vocals detailing a relationship in meltdown. Driven by a bass-heavy industrial barrage and topped with buzzsaw guitars, the track is a taster from the band's eponymous debut album which is set for release early next year. It was recorded with the help of legendary producer Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago. It's a darkly humorous track matched by a suitably disturbing video. Set in seemingly normal suburbia it features blindfolds, rope, teacups, and er.. strawberry cake with cream. Once seen, always remembered, check it out!

Hot Sauce Pony are:- 

Caroline Gilchrist - Vocals
Anna Dodridge - Drums
Ross Davies - Guitar
Stephen Gilchrist - Bass


'What You Don't Know' by Hot Sauce Pony. Taken from their upcoming debut album.

Recorded/mixed by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Chicago.
Mastered by Sean McGee at Abbey Road Studios.

Video by Chris Purdie. Featuring Stephen Winfield.
Brixton Hillbilly Records (c) & (p) 2018.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Peawees - Moving Target

Back and blasting! New album from Italy's good-time rock and rollers!

As we enter the season of dark nights and mornings it helps to have a soundtrack that blows away any hint of wintry downbeat sentiments. One record that's been an audible tonic and companion to me recently is Moving Target, the sixth and latest album by Italian quartet The Peawees. The band formed in 1995 and have released a string of albums and 45s mixing garage-rock with old school rock 'n' roll, played with a smile and an innate powerpop sensibility.

All this is evident on the album's opening track - 'Walking Through My Hell' sounds like the best song Elvis Costello never wrote, killer chord changes, impassioned vocals, neat guitar runs, melodic twists and turns, all delivered at a hi-octane tempo. It sets the template and standard for what's to come. Over following nine tracks the band's brand of good-time rock 'n' roll intoxicates and delights in equal measure. This is an album that's sure to lift your spirits. Another highlight is 'Justify', one the album's more laid-back moments, still catchy as hell with a very likeable Nick Lowe/Stiff Records vibe.

Between them, the band members may not own a record made later than 1978 but that's to their (and our) benefit. This is an album that takes its cues from Brill Building songwriting, girl vocal groups, and a string of boys-with-guitars bands ranging from Hamburg-era Beatles to the Flamin' Groovies. Moving Target is released on CD by Rum Bar Records and on vinyl LP by Wild Honey Records. I suggest you get on board.

The Peawees are:-

HervĂ© Peroncini – Vox/Gutar
Carlo Landino – Guitar
Fabio Clemente – Bass
Tommy Gonzalez - Drums

Click here for The Peawees' website.
Click here for The Peawees on Facebook.
Click here for Rum Bar Records.
Click here for Wild Honey Records.

Ace Of Cups - Ace Of Cups

First studio album from San Francisco's legendary all-female rock band! Featuring stellar guest appearances!

There's a school of thought that claims band reunions are always something of a let down, as anyone waiting for half-decent new songs from the Stone Roses must surely agree. But once in a while there's a comeback that bucks the trend. Ace Of Cups formed in San Francisco in 1967 and for the next five years were an integral fixture on the city's music scene, highly regarded by audiences and peers alike. Despite regular high profile gigs and support slots with acts such as the Grateful Dead and the Jimi Hendrix Experience the band never got around to recording a studio album. Until now.

Though the band folded in 1972, the four founding members would continue to make music individually and perform collectively when opportunities arose. A performance at Wavy Gravy's 75th birthday party brought the band to the attention of High Moon Records. The label had originally planned to release some Ace Of Cups archive material but a new plot was hatched to make an album featuring new songs along with newly recorded versions of their '60 songs. The newly invigorated Ace Of Cups were able to call on old friends to come and join them on the record, hence guest appearances by Taj Mahal, Bob Weir, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jack Casady and Charlie Musselwhite, amongst others.

The resulting album is impressive. Not least because the core band can still really play, sing, and write. A bumper collection of top notch songs many of which posses a unashamed spirituality. There are celebrations of family and new life alongside heartfelt remembrances, simple homilies and calls for more tenderness. Love and peace ideals that are as relevant and needed today as they were in the late '60s. With music that ranges from bluesy and folksy, to psychedelic rock to an occasional in-the-garage blast, there's a warmth that permeates the whole album, not least due to the band's vocal harmonies and obvious belief in the material. Ace Of Cups is an album of charming modern Americana that honours the band's '60s legacy and begins a new chapter for the band. If that weren't enough a second volume is set for release next year. For more on Ace Of Cups check out the mini-documentary video below.

Click here for Ace Of Cups' website.
Click here for Ace Of Cups on Facebook.
Click here for Ace Of Cups on Twitter.
Click here for High Moon Records.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Various – Running The Voodoo Down 2 (Explorations in Psychrockfunksouljazz 1965-77)

Superbly curated compilation exploring the African-American music's myriad shoots.

A compilation album curated with care and expertise can be an absolute joy. It's not necessarily just a historical exercise either - In the past decade or so seminal compilations have helped form current scenes and even inspired bands to form. The resurgence of acid-folk collectives can be traced to to Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs' Gather In The Mushrooms compilation. Similarly the current raft of retro-glam led by bands such as Giuda and Faz Waltz owes much to the Velvet Tinmine reissue series.

Whether this latest compilation on TAD Records will have the same inspirational reach will only be known in due time but it is without doubt one of the finest genre compilations to be released this year, mixing well known tracks with lesser-known gems. Its subtitle (Explorations In Psychrockfunksouljazz 1965-77) tells you much but doesn't spoil the surprises and inspired juxtapositions that come your way. Much of the music is directly inspired by the civil rights movement and mirrors the rise of black consciousness that was also present in literature, poetry, art and sport. Collectively this grouping together of songs brims over with anger, intelligence, sonic attack, superb musicianship, poetry and the sense of fun that comes with being at an exploratory cutting-edge.

The collection opens with John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme, Pt 1 Acknowledgement'. Coltrane's quest to the outer limits of music and spirituality permeate this collection and its fitting that several of the tracks explicitly honour his influence. Outside of the jazz scene, white rock musicians were also taking note. The following two tracks highlight Coltrane's influence on rock music. The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High' famously features atonal guitar lines by Roger McGuinn, his attempt to echo Coltrane's saxophone playing. Similarly influenced by Coltrane is 'Starship' by MC5, a manic poetic meditation reaching for the outer limits.

It's a fantastic opening trio of songs but there are other joys to come, the standard doesn't dip. Other highlights include Sonny Sharrack's 'Black Woman' its wordless vocal alternating between ecstasy and agony while chains rattle symbolically in the background. Then what about 'Ungena Za Ulimwenga (Unite The World)' by the Temptations, a prime slice of psychedelic soul from the early '70s. It's a track I'd not heard before but it had me staring at my hi-fi speakers in disbelief.

Running The Voodoo Down Volume 2 positively explodes with spirit, ideas and open up multiple avenues of further exploration. If you only buy one compilation this year this should be the one.

Click here to buy via Norman Records.

CD Tracklisting
John Coltrane – 'A Love Supreme, Pt 1 Acknowledgement'
The Byrds – 'Eight Miles High'
MC5 – 'Starship'
Joe Zawinui – 'In A Silent Way'
Shuggie Otis – 'Aht Uh Mi Head'
Melvin Van Peebles – 'Sweetback's Theme'
Sonny Sharrock – 'Black Woman'
Chairmen Of The Board – 'Life And Death in The C&A Suite'
The Temptations – 'Ungena Za Ulimwenga (Unite The World)'
Dr John – 'Zu Zu Mamou'
Jimi Macon – 'Jimi's Guitar Raps'
Lou Bond – 'Do The Establishment'
Isaac Hayes – 'Do Your Thing'
Sarah Webster Fabio – 'Equinox'
Bob Thiele – 'Lament For John Coltrane'

**Vinyl LP contains a bonus track – Herbie Hancock - 'Spank-A-Lee'**