J Shogren. Bird Bones and Muscle.

From the opening bars of this album it’s clear that Shogren has a unique take on traditional American styles. “Burnt Fields” squirms and squiggles with scratchy guitar riffs and banjo on a song that sounds like a cross between David Lindley and Loudon Wainwright. The Wainwright comparison continues on the next song. “Charlie Poole, Charlie Poole” which has lashings of banjo and a great driving rhythm. “Salvation” which follows maintains this glorious banjo driven take on country blues, imagine vintage Taj Mahal souped up with a glucose jag and you’re halfway there. Mention must be given to Jalan Crossland who carries banjo duties and who flails away like a man possessed on many of the songs here.
Shogren calms things down on “ Big Blue Bird of Happiness” which is a ballad in the manner of Guy Clark while “Paper Barn” and “Wandering Foot” are couched in the singer songwriter idiom and sound as if they were forged in the Texas of the seventies.
While there is a touch of the magpie here with Shogren visiting other genres (including polka and swamp blues) he has a sure hand on the tiller throughout. The title song is a pumped up voodoo blues with some great gutbucket guitar while “Younger” is a tremendous country rock song where the banjo takes on the lead guitar part. A highlight is “Southern Isle a Pearl” which has Shogren crooning over a dreamlike backing with swooning guitar, a miniature gem.
Overall this is a fine example of someone grabbing tradition by the collar and bringing it bang up to date.
You can buy the album here

Meanwhile Salvation awaits here

Doghouse Roses. This Broken Key. (Yellowroom Records)

This Glasgow based duo generally get rave reviews for their updated mix of Pentangle styled acoustic folk with mentions given to guitarist Paul Tasker’s debt to Bert Jansch and Iona McDonald’s vocals compared to Jacqui McShee or Sandy Denny. Well, this second full length release doesn’t betray any of the above but compared to their first release, “How’ve You Been All This Time?” there is a looser, limber approach which forsakes the strings which adorned that album and offers a basic bass, drums and keyboard framework on which to hang their wares.
While a song such as “The Rain” has that cool Pentangle jazz swing it strikes me that the overall sound is more akin to that of John and Beverly Martyn’s albums, Stormbringer and Road to Ruin. The former was recorded in Woodstock and featured a song of that name. In the same fashion there is a song called Woodstock here, the second on the album that recalls the Martyn song especially in the repeated use of the word tumble. Anyway, this song is an indication that the Roses’ sights are shifting to the Americas and this is maintained in the song “Thunder of The Dawn” which actually swings and benefits immensely from some fine organ (played by Alan Scobie). The band cooks up a storm on “Any Kind of Love” which almost has a funk going on, again courtesy of the keyboards. A jauntier side is then evidenced on “Evermore” where a banjo is added to the mix.
Throughout the album McDonald’s vocals are excellent. While perhaps not best suited to songs that let their hair down she approaches them with gusto. The overall effect is reminiscent of sixties folk singers discovering rock music which led then to some fine examples of baroque folk styles. Toward the end of the album however she shows why she is regarded so highly on a pair of songs (The Devil In Me and The Highwayman) that are simpler in structure and which allow her cool, clear, icy delivery to shine.
Overall a very worthy second album that grows in stature on repeated plays and portrays a band evolving and growing in confidence
Website here
Thunder of the Dawn

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three hit the Festival.

Fresh from playing at the Newport Folk Festival in the States Pokey and his gang return to our shores for a tour that includes three gigs at the Edinburgh Festival. If you didn’t catch them at Celtic Connections then you really need to do so now. If you did see them then you’ve probably got your tickets already.
A tremendous act with a genuine feel for old-time Americana, great dress sense and a wonderful stage presence,they will put a smile on your face while your toes are tapping away. A guaranteed night to remember.
They play the acoustic Music Centre at St. Brides (Fringe venue 123) on the 17th, 18th and 19th August.
If you can’t get there (or as we say in Glasgow, you’ll have had your tea) then they have several other dates including Monday, September 6, 2010 at Glasgow’s Classic Grand. Full tour details are here.
In the meantime here’s their latest video

Wade Lashley. Someone Take The Wheel.

How nice to receive a package from Flagstaff, Arizona. Seems silly perhaps but some names are really evocative of the music that dives little blogs like this. Like 50’s teenagers in a fleapit cinema, the cinematic portrait of wide open American spaces tugging at their own grey reality, rain swept Americana fans stuck in dreary old Glasgow have a yearning for places like Flagstaff, Winslow and Barstow. Vicarious, I’m sure, but there’s a little bit inside all of us who dream of driving down that fabled highway and stopping off to hear that definitive band. Not one of the big name bands but a truly authentic American bar band who can thrill and delight with tales of the road and the fabled American dream.
Wade Ashley might not be in the going to win many awards for his writing, singing and playing but if you crank this up with a few beers by your side it’s difficult to imagine a better travelling companion when you’re on the road. Full blooded country rock with lashings of guitar and heart-warming organ, Lashley sings and writes with the attitude of country outlaws from the past, Waylon Jennings in particular comes to mind.
The opening song “Turn around Southbound” is a terrific start, cards on the table, muscular, take no prisoners. The jalop that is “Coffee, Tea or Whiskey” soars along while “Someone Take the Wheel” is like a movie, wide screen and deadly. The keyboard/guitar interplay here is exhilarating and at times achieves the hights reached by The Band all those years ago. Allowing you to catch your breath there are songs like “Waiting on the Rain” with majestic piano playing which evokes another blast from the past in the shape of the Allman Brothers. By this point Lashley is in full command, his singing in particular and he pounds this home with a spectacular song “I Won’t Let You Down” which sounds almost like an outtake from Derek and the Dominoes.
All in all it’s unlikely that this crew will appear at your local tavern but if you fancy a night imagining you’re tooling down route 66 then this might well be the perfect soundtrack.
Wade’s webite is here
and here’s a taste, I Won't Let You Down