Reviews

Lucky Bones. Together We Are All Alone

A vehicle for Irish songwriter Eamonn O’Connor, Lucky Bones are now a bona fide band but this album was recorded by him with local musicians in Texas after he met producer Stephen Ceresia while touring. Overall it’s a fine collection that showcases O’Connor’s writing that is poetic to read and sits well within the songs. However the variety of styles on show here leads to a sense that he has still to find his own métier. There is Americana, delivered on the opening title song which is a jaunty road trip with banjo and fiddle well to the fore and Longshot which has a power pop jangle and a driving rhythm. Elsewhere Stand So Tall is a smoky tale of a mysterious femme from New Orleans and has a fine mellifluous guitar sound which is used again on Frank Sinatra, a ballad which verges on the lachrymose and which, despite the stark Carveresque lyric almost blunders into bland James Blunt territory.
Two songs stand out. Magnificent Mistake marries O’Connor’s Irish sensibilities with the cool, laid back delivery of the late Gene Clark to the extent that I had to check to see that it wasn’t a cover of a Clark song. It isn’t. O’Connor follows this up with Unbelieving Eyes, a harrowing tale of a pointless murder, delivered with a passion and the tune of which seems to be based on the Times They are A Changin’. More of this and we would have a much more interesting album.

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Lucky Bones-Unbelieving Eyes by paulk

Hank Woji. There Was A Time.

Back to basics with this one. There Comes A Time is a great example of Texan troubadouring. With Woji channelling the greats including Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Woody Guthrie this is a fine rootsy album that digs into the past with an excellent version of Deep Ellum Blues and brings things bang up to date with The Ballad of Bernie, a song about the disgraced Ponzi fraud felon. From the opening Warm East Texas Rain to the closing My Last Ole Dollar Wolji delivers the goods. Anyone who digs acoustic Earle, John Prine or Butch Hancock will find much here to whet their whistle. Woji has the required (and attractive) weathered voice, the guitars and harmonica sweep all before them and his writing is well above par. The aforementioned Ballad Of Bernie would sit well on a John Prine album with Wolji turning in a humorous and topical observation with some panache. No One To Talk To shows another gentler side, a gorgeous and gentle lovelorn snapshot. Well recommended.

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Hank Wolji- The ballad of Bernie by paulk

Sarah McClurg. Tennessee Rain.

Ms. McClurg is one of those ballsy female singers who hails from a country background but delivers her goods with a rock attitude. The danger here is that Nashville has cottoned on to this and McClurg occasionally dances dangerously to the edge on this album with a few of the songs coming across as so much AOR fodder. Overall however the scales tip in her favour. The title song is gutsy while Little More Highway is a classic crash between a road song and a lost relationship tale. Out of Nowhere has some gutsy guitar and it’s fair to say that throughout the album the guitarists excel along with the legendary Al Perkins on pedal steel. There’s a Rolling Stones touch in the raunchy Home Is Where You Are while Sunday Morning swirls with organ and jumbled guitars to produce a great Southern soul sound. The best song on the album however is the closer Tumbleweed which resembles classic early seventies country rock with piano well to the fore while the guitars grumble and growl.
Ms. McClurg is currently touring the UK and appears at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on February 20th.

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Sarah McClurg- Home Is Where You are by paulk

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Winter Warmings.

Some more of the sounds that pitched up in the dying, snowlashed days of 2010. A mellow bunch for the most part although room for some fine honky tonkin’.

First up is the appropriately named Rain Perry (well it rains a lot here in winter) with Internal Combustion. Raised by a somewhat wayward hippie father following her mother’s death when Perry was aged just seven (a lifestyle she used as material for a previous album and play) and affected by rheumatoid arthritis which meant she had to give up guitar, she has nevertheless surmounted these obstacles to produce a very fine album indeed. Ably assisted by producer Mark Hallman (who plays several instruments as the Congress House Band on the album) Perry’s songs are very much in the hallowed singer songwriter tradition. Wordy, elaborate, reminiscent of masters such as Randy Newman, Rickie Lee Jones, Dory Previn and John Prine. The music has, for the most part a warm, sultry feel with well-nuanced horns, organ and even at times a sexy slippery seventies funk feel.
It’s hard to pick out any favourites here as the album as a whole feels just, well, nice and perfectly formed. There are three covers with her version of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s get It On perhaps the one fly in the ointment. Although her delivery of this iconic song is fine the original is just too closely identified with its author. No problem with her cover of Bob Segar’s Till It Shines which is glorious. Paul Simon’s Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog after The War is also given a fine rendition and it’s Simon’s mid career style which perhaps best describes Perry’s own muse. The opening song The Compartmentalised Thing could easily sit on a Simon album as could the funky slink of So You’re The Muse.
Elsewhere Perry uses tapes from the Bethel Tabernacle church she attended in her infancy to add colour to the Muscle Shoals sound of Next Best Thing, a powerful indictment delivered with gusto. However Keanuville which portrays a fanatical devotion to Mr. Reeve (almost like an aural equivalent of Scorsese’s The king of Comedy) shows that Perry has a fine, dark sense of humour, something that is carried on to the liner notes which are entertaining to read.
So a very fine album and well recommended.

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Rain Perry-The Compartmentalised thing by paulk

Kete Bowers Road.
Amazingly enough for someone who sounds like a Texan troubadour, Ketes Bowers is a Liverpool native who says he has his grandmother to thank for steeping him in the country tradition. Slow and deliberate with lashings of Dobro and pedal steel there are definite echoes here of Steve Young and Guy Clark. Bowers sings in an anguished, desperate way with no hint of a Liverpudlian accent. Rather he sounds as if he’s made some deal at a crossroads somewhere. With the great B. J. Cole on pedal steel there are no quibbles here about the music, some of the songs however are bordering on the maudlin, Regret being the main offender. However the sparkling quickstep of Gold and the heartfelt Isobel are hearty songs. The closing song which is untitled even has a hint of classic Randy Newman around it although without Newman’s acerbic wit.
Overall a brave stab at achieving an authentic Americana sound that should open some doors for Mr. Bowers.

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Kete Bowers-Isobel by paulk

Charlie Roth is old school with rough-hewn folk ballads and ragtime pickings populating Broken Ground. The 13 songs here are all attractive with Roth’s voice standing out, almost but not quite hoarse, weathered, authentic. The title song which opens the album is also the best here, laced with sublime pedal steel it trots nicely out of the speakers with Roth sounding like a cross between Dylan and Butch Hancock. The pity is that the remainder of the songs fail to impress sounding as they do like numerous others that have preceded them. On the whole the uptempo numbers fare better and according to reviews he is a fine live act. Maybe better to catch him live before buying the album.

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Charlie Roth-Broken Ground by paulk

Next up is Donna Beasley, another ex member of a fundamentalist church, in this case Baptist, who told her it was a sin to listen to rock and roll or go to the movies. Thankfully she’s moved on and on Under the Rushes she has a fine stab at contemporary Americana Nashville music. Cosseted by some fine players and singers including Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll Ms Beasley is another sultry alt-country siren. Just what I’m Looking For is a cracking song, tasty guitar licks, banjo and accordion melt into a seductive stew while Can I Get a Ride is Dobro heaven. Heart Like a Wound is a song that Steve Earle could have written and the jaunty Makin’ Love is a honeysuckle rose of aw shucks country music. Overall a fine album.

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Donna Beasley-Just What I’m Looking For by paulk

Last one up is Leyla Fences with Liars, Cheats and Fools. The CD comes with its own rhinestone and bar napkin and a whole lot of attitude. There was a culture of “answer songs” back in the fifties when macho r’n’b and country songs were taken up by feisty females who responded with their take on the male point of view. Here we have a sassy update on the likes of Loretta Lynn or even an aural equivalent of Thelma and Louise. Leyla sings with guts while the band swings mightily behind her. Hard drinking, cheating and yes, truck driving all feature. Hardly Livin’ is a honky tonk hymn to the hard working housebound mother while Getting Over You describes a hard drinking woman who realises that imitating her man’s behaviour is not going to help. Listening to this one wonders how well this would go down in a typical honky tonk tavern but if it was a girl’s night out then Ms. Fences would probably not be allowed to leave the stage.

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Leyla Fences-Gettin Over Him by paulk