Celtic Connections. Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three/The Wiyos.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

An old time Americana night at Celtic Connections was too good an opportunity to miss. Both these bands play ragtime, swing and Hillbilly music although with contrasting emphasis on their roots.
LaFarge and his band are from the South, Mississippi territory and embody much of the grace and emotions churned up there. A true Southern gent with a huckster’s attitude Pokey engaged with the audience throughout while all four played brilliantly. As an ensemble they add so much to what was already a great act solo.
The Wiyos in contrast are a more cosmopolitan bunch. With an almost vaudevillian approach and different members fronting songs they are smoother but they draw their inspiration from the same well as Pokey and the South City Three. Again there was much musicianship on display and some genuinely funny moments to boot.
At the end all eight musicians gathered for a rendition of Diddy Wah Diddy that showcased all their talents and had all of us begging for more.
There’s a chance to see both bands (separately unfortunately) tonight and tomorrow with Pokey playing the City Halls (again as part of Celtic Connections) and The Wiyos in Kilbarchan on Friday at what should be a tremendously intimate gig.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

The Wynntown Marshals. Westerner.

Westerner

Can white men sing the blues? Can Scotsmen play Americana? Well you can argue the first question till the end of time but if anyone asks you the latter just thrust this disc into their hand, end of argument. This is the Marshals’ debut album following an excellent EP and single released over the past 18 months. If either of those whetted your appetite then here is the main course.
“You can have My Heart” welcomes you in to Wyntown territory. Chunky guitar and hoarse vocals are backed by what sounds like the Glimmer twins “whoo whooin’” in the background. A thumping great piece of guitar then whips up a storm before singer Keith Benzie comes back in with the title refrain. This is followed by their celebrated cover of the LA Guns song “Ballad of Jayne.” Originally recorded for a tribute album to “hair bands” and then released as a single, it fits right in here. Done as a ballad laced with sweet pedal steel and stinging lead guitar it is excellent. The interplay between guitarist Iain Barbour and pedal steel player Iain Sloan is exquisite and exhilarating. “Snowflake” is a country-tinged romp with a dark story in the lyrics. “48 Hours” almost literally revs up the twang guitar with organ and a clipped guitar solo on a song about a picaresque greyhound bus ride.

On their first release The Marshals unveiled a song called 11:15, an epic retelling of a historical flood. On a brace of songs here they again stretch out with impressive results. “Thunder in the Valley” slouches along, slow, deliberate, at times majestic with stately piano. “Gil” is another historical tale, the story of Gil Elvgren, an American illustrator which captures the age of innocence when classic pin up girls (such as those enjoyed by WW2 service men) were not seen as sleazy. The song seems to contrast his artistic worth with the eventual debasement of advertisers using his talent to sell tyres and beer. All this in a very attractive country waltz setting that like other songs here has a bittersweet sense of joy and sadness. “All That I Want” is a plaintive love song with some tasty tortured guitar work at the end of another 6 minute song. .
The band romp towards the finishing line with “Nelly My Love,” a sunny love song with jaunty guitar duelling. It segues into “Divine Compassion,” an apocalyptic anti war song with heavy martial drumming from Keith Jones and moody guitar, told from the perspective of a traumatised veteran.
“Two is Company” ends the album on a brighter (although bittersweet) note with cracking (almost power pop) guitar solos and a driving rhythm.

Overall this is a stunning album with guitarists Barbour and Sloan shining throughout while Benzie’s vocals are impassioned and heartfelt. Drawing from the likes of The Drive By Truckers, Wilco and Neil Young, The Marshals manage to forge a sound of their own. I’d recommend that you buy this album and go see them at the earliest opportunity.

Ballad of Jayne

Buy it here – Wynntown Marshals Myspace

Michael Hurley

Sadly it seems as if Hurley is not going to be playing here this month as I reported earlier review of Ida Com Snock
Hopefully this will just be a temporary setback in his bid to conquer all right minded listeners and he’ll wing his way over at some point.

Anyone who still believes that Michael Hurley will be touring in the UK in January and February ’10 is still believing the untrue. There had been plans of such but they fell thru. The new plan is about having him in the UK and Ireland in July of ’10.” Snockonews

DeSoto Rust . Highway Gothic.

Philadelphian roots rockers Desoto Rust had a big impact here at Blabber n Smoke when their debut disc came out in 2004, a no frills barrel down American highways and byways with a large degree of swagger that was impressive for a first step. Five years later they unveil their third disc and again it is an impressive slice of blue-collar rock with shades of the Drive By Truckers and yer man Springsteen . High praise indeed but listening to this album reminds one of what drew one to this music initially. Ray Hunter sings with gusto and the band play with hearts and guts. The dirty slide guitar on Open Road is reminiscent of classic southern rock with echoes of Little Feat. The poetic guitar runs on Calgary and the classic driving rock of Northern Road may be the highlights here but at their best DeSoto Rust don’t break through barriers or reinvent the wheel they simply play an excellent version of tried and trusted Americana mores and they are all the better for that. Closing the album there is a gloriously chunky and uplifting version of Dylan’s New Morning, a rootsy and rousing end to what is overall a great little album.
Someone somewhere should pony up and put this band on tour over here, they get lots of great press from our Euro cousins who have always had a refined taste in American music (Gene Clark for example had albums released in Holland when no one else would touch him). So if you’re looking for some honest to goodness, no mess, great American music you could do worse than to seek this out.

Hear them here

The Tailors. Come Dig Me Up. Trash Aesthetics.

The Tailors, who they? Well their debut album Wakey Wakey scored high in the Americana community three  years ago with some  comparisons to Wilco. This London band led by Adam Killip have now released their second offering and the Wilco comparisons abide. Ditching the pedal steel and country sound that was a hit on songs like “Lonely Pockets” on the first album,  keyboard and electric guitar dominate a set of songs here that dip into a universe recalling Big Star at their darkest and Wilco in their latter introspective phase.
With nine songs and at only 33 minutes a lot is crammed into a small space. The album opens with an optimistic bounce, “Pictures of Her” is a kitchen sink production with big harmonies and a sweet guitar outro. “Bow Road” is as poppy as this band gets as piano and guitar and harmonies shine on a song that sounds as if it jumped out of Jeff tweedy’s pocket, “Animal Humour” continues in this vein with a propulsive beat. The mood is changed on the title song, which stars off with a skeletal piano and guitar background as Killip sings plaintively and apologetically in an attempt to rekindle a relationship.  “I’m sorry darling I messed this up, but I’m OK now, come dig me up sometime, maybe some day we’ll work this out but not today.” As he sings the band chime in before coming to an abrupt end. In the press releases Killip describes this song as a bit of blind optimism, overall the sense is of a lost opportunity, gone forever. From here on Killip’s world view is that of a dreamer, “Impossible Wonder” strains against past failures, compulsively repeating a hope that someone will call as he is “ over the piney nosed tree tops emotions.”  Set over an achingly beautiful melody this is a tremendous song. At the end one is left, sadly, with the feeling that she will never call. The remainder of the album cannot match this but “Crocodiles” with its shimmering guitars comes near and segues into the closer “Flying Blues” which is a no holds barred rocker with all players at full volume.
The Tailors might be new to you and might not pop up on yer local radio station too soon but on this evidence they should be sitting on that pile of albums next to your player. Have a listen to Animal Humour.