Friday, 18 August 2017

Hands Music 25

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer - Not Dark Yet, album review

Wonderful Expectations

The one original song on the album, Is It Too Much? co-written by Lynne and Moore, is a plaintive, questioning yearn for commitment and care to share a burden, the lamenting guitar-work carrying it along emotively. The vocal harmonising is beautiful, and the answer is of course how this singing together here and a lifetime of shared experience binds the sisters closely and poignantly.

The other songs are covers of variously Bob Dylan, The Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard, Nick Cave, Nirvana, Jason Isbell/Amanda Shires and others.

The more overtly contemporary songs get a mixed rendition: The Killers’ My List starts the album and is Band-like, it seems to me, anthemic organ and piano rises, and the vocal harmonies sweetly tight as they will be throughout the album; Nirvana’s Lithium is bound to engender the poles of liking, its ‘heaviness’ either a welcome tangent or intrusive divergence from the whole, the dissonant harmonies totally in keeping with the song’s origins and, for me, a stroke of fun, the line I’m so horny seeming quite corny in the lyrical surrounds of all the others on the album.

They took a risk. The Louvin Brothers’ Every Time You Leave is more classic Country lament and bears the production affection for such from Teddy Thompson who has overseen the whole project. Dylan’s title track is delivered with marching percussion, organ underpinning, and individual/dueting vocals that rise in emotion with the organ and piano scoring.

The Isbell/Squires song The Color of a Cloudy Day is a pretty song prettily delivered here, and Merle Haggard’s Silver Wings follows this with exquisite vocal harmonising as well as crisp soloing – obvious, but these vocal are simply superb. I don’t believe in an interventionist god is the great opening line from Nick Cave’s Into My Arms and its assertion belies the tender love song it is and which gets sung with a sensitive asserting of love by the sisters here. This is gorgeous.

The whole album is essentially gorgeous. Subtle throughout, this will grow with playing as the fine nuances become expectations. On my fourth play, those expectations are always met with such pleasure.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Liane Carroll - The Right To Love, album review

Sauteed in the English Frying Pan

Quite simply, a fine vocal performance from Carroll whose singing and piano playing I’m sure I first watched on YouTube years ago, but never followed up even though I remember being impressed then. It’s the energy in the covers that strikes right away – nothing astonishingly original by any means, but damn good, like the significant scat-version of the standard Georgia. There’s a sweet, sassy offering in It’s a Fine Line where the voice is emotively charged.

There is, however, something quite distinctive in the version of Tom Wait’s great song In the Neighbourhood – which is naturally so firmly steeped in his performance – when Carroll intones in her emotive, sauteed full-volume

Well, the eggs chase the bacon round the fryin' pan

and with its clear English accent. A nice rendition of I Get Along Without You Very Well follows this and closes the strong album.

Butt Music 10

Altona - Altona, album review

Bass Walking the Boulevard

Enjoying this re-release of the 1975 krautrock band Altona and their jazz fusion/rock offering where the saxophone playing of Michael von Ronn, Wolfgang Wulff and Karl Heinz Blumenberg [also vocals] provide the formulaic – a la Bloodwyn Pig – but nonetheless nostalgically pleasing listen. Boulevard is an excellent representative track: powerful vocals, ensemble sax playing, walking-jazz base and funky wah-wah rhythm guitar backdrop; Frustration with its vocal scatting is solid too: these are not melodic, but riff-driven, semi-complex song structures.

Think BP, as already said, Greatest Show on Earth, If and a host of other 70s gem bands of this ilk.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

David Rawlings - Poor David's Almanack, album review

A Hymn to Signature Sounds

I’m into my third listen of Rawlings’ latest album Poor David’s Almanack streamed here and released on the 11th August.

It is everything we have come to expect from Rawlings as a solo artist and with partner Gillian Welch – the two inseparable and unimaginable as anything other in terms of their musical output. Rawlings does of course get foregrounded vocally on his solo work, a distinctive enough timbre of a vocal that is quite light but always the perfect pairing to Welch’s more renowned singing.

The opening two tracks Midnight Train and Money is the Meat in the Coconut are signature American roots/bluegrass/Appalachian fare from either of these artists, the violin playing of Brittany Haas getting in the latter song, and throughout the album, its own foregrounding. Indeed, Rawlings’ other individual signature – his guitar playing – gets less of a focus in the whole.

The first of two Neil Youngish tracks is third Cumberland Gap, that echo largely in the percussive rhythm, but also the song melody and vocal harmonies which remind of tracks on Everybody Knows the is Nowhere. This is more folk and some elements of rockfolk. It’s fourth Airplane that has the strongest Rawlings/Welch sound, here Rawlings playing those classic guitar lines of his, Haas again providing dominant violin, this time in sweeping strains. It is a slower, beautiful song, Rawlings on solo vocal until Welch joins in the perfect tone that is their tandem voice.

Fifth Lindsey Button is simple and gorgeous, reminding me just a little of The Incredible String Band – with American accents! The sound of good-time Old Crow Medicine Show [who sit in occasionally on the front porch of the album] is presented in sixth Come on Over My House, and then seventh Guitar Man is the other Young-ish track. Is the slow drawl of eighth Yup any fun? Yup.

Penultimate Good God a Woman is more ol’ time country-choric gospel; the album closing on another gospel tinged song Put ‘Em Up Solid: these two offering a light and then solemn tone to end, the band as a whole in glorious unison.

A balanced, wonderful album.