Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles. Lauries Music bar, Glasgow. Sunday 25th April.

For their Glasgow début this fine outfit toned down their usual full blown rock show to accommodate the cosiness of the venue. Tucked into a small back room with a small but devoted audience they turned in an almost perfect performance that may have lacked wattage but more than made up for it in spades with fine playing and a great sense of fun.
A disparate bunch with bassist, Binky, looking like Keith Richards’ attic portrait, guitarist Lyle Brewer sporting a preppy look, drummer Rob Dulaney seemingly Shel Silverstein’s’s double and the glamorously goofy Borges herself, they spent a great deal of time interacting with the audience. Borges and Binky are a great double act and delighted with their tales of hanging out with Glaswegians the previous night and her attempts to get around the local tongue.
Away from the banter however this is a serious band who play some mighty fine tunes tastefully and the highlight of almost every song was guitarist Brewer. Obviously acquainted with the work of James Burton, Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton he played tasty licks, tearing solos and towards the end grabbed a plastic pint glass from a punter’s table to produce some amazing slide sounds.
With songs ranging from rockabilly to honky tonk and country blues the two sets whizzed by. Standout songs included Daniel Lee, Symphony (a dream like version played beautifully) and a long sultry version of Cry One More Time. A version of Evan Dando’s Ride with Me topped the show before the band came back for a gloriously riotous encore.
A great night and a great band.

Jon Garcia. The Lake

Diving into this lake is an exhilarating experience. There are deep waters and strange currents that pull the listener under the surface, almost drowning but certainly enveloped in an almost dream like aquamarine state of mind (if such a thing exists). This is baroque pop with horns, woodwind and strings decorating a very strong set of songs that are melodic in the extreme as Garcia’s handsome vocals dominate proceedings.
Garcia is a 27 year old musician and filmmaker who moved from Austin to Portland a few years ago.  Immersing himself in the artistic scene there he has been making this album with a cast of dozens over the past year and a half. Although there are whiffs of the Buckley’s in Garcia’s vocals and the organic feel of much of the instrumentation is similar to much of the “psych folk” movement there is little to compare this album with without going back to the heyday of Van Dykes Park’s work with the Beach Boys and Harry Nilsson. Ornate, stately, almost orchestral at times there are moments of beauty. The shimmering strings, harp and violins on  “Leaving Me For a Bald Fat Man” are heart stopping. At the heart of the music however is a punchy rhythm section with some great bass playing (on Song for the Siren (not the Buckley song) for example).  At time the propulsion is akin to that of New Order with a side order of Kraut Rock and the closing song “Tram” echoes Wire circa Pink Flag.
In addition to the gothic shade afforded by the instrumentation Garcia as a wordsmith avoids sentimentality The best example of this is the contradiction at the heart of the aforementioned  “Leaving Me For a Bald Fat Man. “ It does tug at the heartstrings but the lyrics are barbed. Losing his love to, yes indeed, a fat man, the singer closes this wonderful “love” song with the words “don’t forget me, bitch.”
Highly recommended.

Check him out here

Sarah Borges in Glasgow this weekend.

Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles last album, The stars are Out, was a fine example of power pop with a countrified slant and even some retro garage punk on I’ll Show You How. The twang guitar on No One Will Ever Love You was sublime, think of a female Chris Issak and you are almost there. Anyway, Sarah and chums pitch up in Lauries’ Acoustic Music Bar on Sunday night and it promises to be an intimate occasion, not the full on rock version but a slapping, toe tapping night if the evidence here is anything to go by.

The Izzys. Keep Your Powder Dry.

Hailing from New York this crew were afforded the accolade of a John Peel session back in 2003 but apart from that they appear to have flown under the critical radar. This five song EP is their sixth release and it wallows in a fetching slapdash fashion with a homemade feel (and sound) about it. What it does have is a great, at times endearingly shambolic, guitar sound that reminds one of Keef Richard squaring up to Ronnie Wood or the hypnotic lines in The Flamin’ Groovies’ Slow Death.
Whether the country stylings of opening song Tear them Down (a late night bar band playing to the last of the lonely drinkers) or the lazy stroll that is Under The Sun this is music that will help to nurse a beer or two. The strangled guitar on You Are Free and the duelling solos on their cover of Jerry Garcia’s Deal fade far too soon leaving one to wonder what this lot are like live. Lost On The Way is perhaps the standout song, soaked in pedal steel it aches in all the right places.
Highly recommended if you want a superior bar band in your sitting room.

Check them out here

Lost On The Way

April pups.

Brian Molnar & The Naked Hearts. Miss You is a live album recorded one night in Tennessee although apart from the applause you wouldn’t know it. Molnar is a songwriter very much in the mould of late sixties/early seventies folk like Arlo Guthrie. His studio albums have an earthy, country sound with dobro and steel guitar appearing. Here, confined to his five-piece band with keyboards high in the mix, this is smoothed out with no sign of spontaneity or fire in the belly. Probably best left to fans who have been to a gig.

Donna Ulisse’s Holy Waters, on the other hand, positively bristles with jaunty bluegrass dobro, fiddle and banjo. Judging by the lyrics and the extensive liner notes Donna is a fully paid up committed Christian who talks it like she walks it. However this is no evangelical call to arms but a rather excellent collection of devotional songs very much in the vein of The Carter Family that are as fresh as a mountain stream.

In contrast Darcie Miner on Loneliness Anonymous has a bit of a dirty mouth on her with a warning sticker highlighting the potential perils for the unwary deejay. Just as well that eight of the ten songs here are playable on the radio as Ms. Miner slams into the opening song “Vulnerability” and doesn’t let up for the remainder. Miner’s a fine singer and producer Jimmy Patton and the rest of the band shine with a big fat guitar sound and a fully formed pop sensibility. At times reminiscent of Kathleen Edwards Miner’s lyrics for the most part are about the vulnerabilities of young women cast adrift in a dangerous world but she seems tough enough to cope. Overall this is a tremendous listen and the pick of the litter here.

Have a listen here……………………..

Brian Molnar & The Naked Hearts Santa Fe

Donna Ulisse Caney Creek to Canaan land

Darcie Miner Vulnerablility

Woodenbox With A Fistful of Fivers. Album launch

A packed crowd in Mono on Sunday night heard this splendidly named band play all of the songs from their debut album, “Home and the Wildhunt.” Loud and raucous and tight as the proverbial duck at the end of a promotional tour they played with gusto and appeared to be enjoying it as much as the audience. The horn section (and whistling) did at times conjure up the spirit of Morricone and spaghetti westerns (to wit the name) but were also able to add slabs of sound giving the impression of a soul revue from back in the days of Stax. Difficult to call a favourite moment here but the radio friendly Twisted Mile drew cheers and Besides the Point was like seeing The Violent Femmes on a particularly psychotic bend. The closing song My Mule had an almost psychedelic start before the band hammered into the song.

The album itself is a bit of a tour de force. With twelve songs delivered in the space of 40 minutes there is hardly time to draw breath. There are the radio friendly hooks of Twisted Mile and the Calexico stylings of Hang the Noose but the baroque pop of Heart Attack, sounding like something Mark Mulcahey might have written, is a gem while the segue from the harmonies on the opening Intro to the horns on Life From Above is excellent.

Gathering a reputation as a hot band live and radio plays from the likes of Marc Riley and Radcliffe and Maconie the album only cements the possibility that Woodenbox are set for greater things. The album’s released on Electric Honey and is another feather in the cap for this label based at Stow College.
Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers – Besides The Point by Triad Publicity “>

Check them out and buy the album here

Jim Dead

Well, with a name like that you have to listen, don’t you? I heard Mr. Dead a few weeks back on a session he did on the Sunny Govan Switchback. With an interesting list of influences and some songs that beggared belief that they didn’t originate in some dusty back town off of Route 66 I went in search of him. With two releases, a solo album and a single (backed by The Doubters) under his belt he had this to say for himself.

You were in a “succession of local bands” before coming to your present incarnation. What type of music were you playing then and what led you to the current set up?

I sang and occasionally played guitar in rock bands since 1997. My big influences were the bands that came form the ‘Alternative Rock’ explosion in the 90’s … Nirvana, Blind Melon, Jane’s Addiction etc. Among the rock music I had some Johnny Cash and Tom Waits … but I started paying a great deal of attention to alternative Country / Americana in 1998 or so after I heard Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac and Richard Buckner’s Bloomed and Devotion & Doubt. They were shaping how I wrote songs and I brought that influence in to the music I was writing with the band … certainly within the lyrics … and Whistle of a Distant Train came from then. I guess Jim Dead began when the ideas I was bringing in weren’t sounding as I imagined. I never specifically wanted to play country music, but I wanted to strip the songs right back and focus on the words and the stories.

I read of a T Shirt that said “ Old Punks Never Die, they just go Country.” Not that we’re saying you’re old but any relevance there?

Could be that it’s easier to sing? I guess it would be fair to say that it’s a lot easier to tell a story without shouting. It’s also a completely different feeling … and a complete departure. It’s like missing the rush-hour and getting a seat on the bus.

Who or what are the particular influences in your style and songwriting?

There’s so many … Johnny Cash is obviously a huge influence, as is Richard Buckner, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, Damien Jurado and Steve Earle. There’s been other artists that I’ve heard over the years that have had an impact on what I’d like to bring to my music, but I always tend to come right back to those early influences.

Where does Jim Dead and the music come from?

I have an interest in the mysterious, and that Golden Age of Medicine Shows and Carnivals. It’s about a community that existed back then, where those sorta shows would come along and stir up the imagination of the locals … so I write about everyday things that happen in a sleepy town called Deadsville.

Go Tell the Congregation was all about hope … and the familiar settings for bleak Americana records, but it was doing things a little different without being gimmicky. For me the album was a reaction, and exploring how people react to things.

Your album was a stripped down affair, the EP with the Doubters had more flesh on it. Will you be pursuing one of these directions or continuing on both fronts?

At the moment I’m working on my own and with the Doubters. Most gigs that I’ve played have been solo, though those guys had been involved in two great events at the end of last year. Essentially it’s solo where I get the most enjoyment … maybe because that’s how the songs were written and nothing gets lost. But it’s been great to see how the songs translate with those guys and I’m sure I’ll keep recording with them and we’ll do some shows. I see The Doubters as a collective … and there’s still work to be done. I want to stretch myself … see what we can do.

Aside from the usual suspects you mention Giant sand/Howe Gelb as influences, when did you hear of them? Anyone else that you haven’t mentioned?

A friend of mine introduced me to Giant Sand … there’s something about the sound that just pulls me in. At times it’s ramshackle. And when you listen to their discography it’s sorta like listening to Howe Gelb’s never-ending road trip … crazy, vibrant, dusty and tired.

Whiskeytown, The Afghan Whigs are also great bands that have a bit of an influence in how I structure things.

Current favourite albums/songs?

Surprisingly I think Johnny Cash is the only ‘country’ artist that I’ve been listening to. American VI was a huge record … I just think it’s great. I’ve been listening to Mos Def [The Ecstatic] and the Wu-Tang Clan [Iron Flag and 8 Diagrams] … though I guess you could say that there’s a link between Hip-Hop and Country. And a friend of mine has introduced me to James Apollo. And Craig Hughes’ Pissed Off, Bitter and Willing to Share.

Finally, what’s coming up. Anything you want to plug?

Since this is a wonderful chance to plug myself, my debut record, Go Tell the Congregation, is available via iTunes, CDbaby and Amazon MP3 … all the latest Jim Dead news is on

I have a few gigs coming up which should be great. I’m playing Café Tibo on Duke Street with Lou Vargo on April 18th … I’m particularly looking forward to that. Then I’m playing at That Devil Music (The State Bar) alongside Craig Hughes and Man Gone Missing on May 7th. The Doubters are playing The Free Candy Sessions at The Liquid Ship on Great Western Road on May 14th.

I’m also working on some new songs and I’m hoping to get some new music out there soon.

Best of luck with that then.

Bone Blue Moon when done with The Doubters has a forlorn, fatalistic sense about it. The electric guitar sings as if in a canyon and Dead sounds like he’s kinfolk of Will Oldham on a song that drinks deep from the dark well of American folk. On the same song and shorn of the ornamentation provided by the band the solo Dead sounds as if he’s been touched by the ghost of Harry Smith. Spooky stuff indeed..

Check him out here

Jim Dead and the Doubters. Bone Blue Moon

Jim Dead. Before I Die

Raina Rose. When May Came.

Fourth release from this songwriter from Portland, Oregon, this took some time to come to terms with. Initially it seemed to be a fairly lightweight confection very much in the general female singer/songwriter mode. Repeated listening (one in particular, late at night with some wine to accompany it )offered a greater insight into what is a warm, embracing and comforting album.
The primary problem here was the jauntier songs including the opener, Sun Comes Back which is pleasant but innocuous and Desdemona which trots along at a brisk pace but failed to engage me. The meat of the album is in the slower songs which dominate the latter half of the album. Rose sounds more comfortable on these, her voice assumes a sultry tone missing in the more upbeat numbers. Stone Around my Neck is a particularly effective song with discontented rumblings creeping in on keyboards at one point reflecting the discontented state of the relationship she is singing about. The musicians (a select bunch of Austin players) excel on the following What Do You Bury which is sumptuous and beguiling on an obituary for a drunkard partner with a lyrical tour de force. The mood continues on Heart Broken Open with warm bass notes and a vulnerable vocal performance with great alliterative wordplay.
So overall a grower, an album to sink into, really rather nice.
Have a listen here