Friday, 18 April 2014

Good News From The West Volume IX

I haven't done one of my round-up posts in a long, long while. My inbox is building up with artist submissions from further afield than the Irish coast. So now is as good as time as any to highlight a few that I have been listening to. There is no reason or rhyme why I picked these artists out. They are just the mails I came across, liked the music and decided to feature. However coincidently, they all hail from east of here so instead of featuring music from America, today post is all about good music from the east.

Lars Bygden
Lars Bygden is an Swedish singer-songwriter. The song here 'I believe in You' is taken from his third solo record titled simply 'LB'. The man has been involved in the music business for a number of years in his native Sweden. Lars background includes the founding of Sweden's first alt-country band 'The Thousand Dollar Playboys' which released two albums in the late 1990's.

His music reminds me, in a way of Beck (circa Sea Change era). The harmonies are gentle, the vocals soft but still impactful. Just lovely soulful music. Also check out the video for 'The Hole'. Both animation and sound are quite beautiful. More info at larsbygden.com





The Boombox Hearts
Another Scandinavian americana artist for you. The Boombox Hearts are a Danish outfit made up of Ivan Petersen (Vocals, guitar), Steffen Christensen (Lead guitar, banjo, vocals, lap steel, harmonica), Mikkel Max Hansen (bass, vocals), Kathrine von Seelen (keys, xylophone, vocals) and Arne Matzen (drums, percussion). The group have recently released their debut lp, 'Hamar'. The group describe themselves as slacker-folky-indie-sadcore-rock. However I might add that there sound is generally a more mellow affair than that very specific genre description. The group do incorporate elements of folk, rock and americana. The lead single from the new release, 'A Million Believeres' is reminscient for me of the output of The Handsome Family, a gothic, folk, country song. The vocal style is relaxed with the sudden guitar led arrangement keeping you on your toes. The song just seeps into you. The group got a lot of attention in 2011 upon the release of their first ep ('Monte Carlo') which featured a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Cover Me'. Check them out on Bandcamp and find them on Facebook. The album is up on iTunes too
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Danni Nicholls
Coming more westwards, Danni Nicholas is a London based but Bedford raised soul country artist. Last year she released her first album, 'A Little Redemption'. The album was produced by Chris Donohue (The Civil Wars, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant) whom she met while he was touring as part of Emmylou Harris band. The album was recorded in Nashville and as you might expect features some exceptionally talented musicians. The album is pure soul-country. The vocals are so smooth, the arrangements shimmering,never intrusive, the songs exquisite. The opening song on the album 'First Cukcoo of Spring' sums this discription up. It's the perfect soundtrack for a indie-western film i.e. it would have been perfect on True Detective. Check out her Facebook page and the album on Bandcamp for more.




Owen Tromans
Finally today, another English purveyor of americana. Owen Tromans is from The Black Country as they say over there (west midlands. He was a member of the group 'San Lorenzo' before persuing his solo career. With his band, 'The Elders', Owen is set to release his newest lp 'Golden Margins' on May 5th. The lead single is the title track. It's a little gem of a tune. Led by spirited horns, the song sails along, a pop-americana tune that is reminscient, for me of artists like Mark Mulcahy. The music is summery and feels like the perfect soundtrack to this time of year where spring is slowing melting into the warm, long evenings of summer. Check the Facbook page for more on the upcoming release.





So that's a round-up for this month. Hope you find something you like here and if you do come across something that you feel would fit the blog, please get in touch.
Images: Owne Tromans/Music Ninja/Lars Bygden/Danni Nicholas

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Rattling Kind

Something a bit left-field for this Monday afternoon. For a left-field blog the artist featured this Monday afternoon is a even a bit left-field. The Rattling Kind are a folk/indie outfit who hail from Dublin city. Indeed it is hard not to notice from the groups output, that the band come from the northside of Strumpet city. The group formed in 2012, since then they have contributed a track to Near FM for their compilation CD, "Near Musical Express" and also headlined a gig in the Academy last year. The band released their début ep last August, entitled 'Rise Up', the ep contains seven tracks of a blend of folk and rock.

The band wears their roots on their sleeves and it informs both their lyrical and musical style. Lead vocalist Eddie Sherlock (rhythm guitar) along with other members Tom Forde (bass and vocals), Ben McGinn (lead guitar and vocals) and Anthony White (drums and percussion) have melded a sound that clearly draws its roots from the new folk acts of the 1960's such as the Dubliners.

I am definitely struck by the fact that I am in some way reminded of Luke Kelly when I listen to The Rattling Kind. The vocal style obviously draws the first main comparison but also the lyrical content of their songs are reminiscent of Like Kelly. Songs of the people, for the people. That is especially the case on the song 'All Around The Town'.

The song is a commentary piece on life in the city; drugs, death and politics all feature. A song that builds slowly then, propelled by a rolling bassline, hits its groove. Commentary songs are often, while robust in their comments, hard to listen to as the melodies never quite match the words. That is not the case here. Like the best commentary songs, 'All Around The Town' seeps in until you will end up singing the words without even realising it.


Another quality song on the ep is 'Follow The Moon'. Underpinned by flowing drums, the song is cornered by a banjo melody with vocals that sway you into into a foot tappin' journey.


It's always reassuring to hear vocalists sing in their natural accent. The Rattling Kind are carrying on a tradition of Dublin folk artists singing of their surroundings that has continued for many years and deserves to inherit and carry on that mantle.

You can find more out about The Rattling Kind on their Facebook page. You can stream the songs on their Soundcloud page and purchase the ep though the Bandcamp page

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Tupelo

Been distracted by the real world this week hence the delay in posting. Today I introduce a band that going by their name have a fondness for a certain town in Mississippi or else are clearly influenced by what are considered the founders of the alt-country genre.

Tupelo are a four piece group hailing from Dublin. The group is made up of multi-vocalists and multi-instrumentalists members James Cramer, Kevin Duffy, Damien McMahon and Paul Murray. Formed in 2008, the group have been steadily building a presence here in Ireland and abroad. The band members were previously part of The Backlane Band but in 2008 re-branded so to speak and it seems, took a different musical direction in the guise of Tupelo. It wasnt long before the group began releasing songs. In 2009, the group released their first lp Leavin' Paradise. The album seems a straight-up country affair and in some-ways reminds me of the Gram Parsons records; alternative musicians playing country music.

In late 2010, the band put out their second record 'Dirty Money'.On the back of this, the following year the band signed to Crashed Records. Of the singles released off that album 'Irishman' probably offers the perfect opportunity to discuss the sound of Tupeo.



In some ways a rebel song, in some ways a traditional folk tune, 'Irishman' features a verse featuring the names of those that were executed after the 1916 rising. While the words might relate to Irish history, the melody draws more clearly on american influences. The soaring fiddle dominates and its hard not to hum along to the chorus even though it feels like the arrangement doesn't seem to fit the subject of the lyrics. I would point to another song on the album; 'Firefly'. Here the band incorporate a saxafone led melody that presents the band's sound and ability of what they are about, best, appealing pop-folk rhythems.



Their new album 'Push On' was released in February. The album does that mix of americana and traditional Irish and american folk so well. The lead single off it was 'Old Country'. With a slow-burning introduction, the melody is full of fiddle licks,with an addictive poppy chorus that blends the vocals of the four members so well. The song builds to a big messy, stompin' crescendo of uilleann pipes and hectic drums.



Very Annoyingly the band have a soundcloud page that only features one minute clips of their songs. Something that is quite irksome when you are trying to get a feel for a group. Anyway the band were voted by Hot Press readers last year as the 'Best Folk Act 2013'. They must be doing something right. You can find out more on the band and purchase their albums through their official website. For more daily notifications, check out their Facebook page.
Photo: Tupelo

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Marc O'Reilly

I was actually browsing Whelans website for upcoming americana related gigs at the venue for my international artist March/April gig preview post when I spotted a brief mention of Marc O'Reilly. I can't remember what pipped my interest in Marc but gladly I did more research and thus we are led to today's post on the melodies of Marc O'Reilly.

Marc hails from Co. Waterford. There isnt too much information on his background. He was apparently in a number of alternative bands around the Waterford area before settling on working on a solo career. That resulted in him releasing his début album in 2011. Titled 'My Friend Marx', the album is an roots/blues guitar tour de force. It would be interesting to hear of Marc's own influences.Not too many blues guitarists come out of Waterford. 'My Friend Marx' is built mainly around the fingerpickin' style of Marc and his grovely vocal style, the collection of twelve songs that slide between delta blues, american folk and more world influences.

As I always am, I was drawn to the western sounding 'Tell Old Joe'. Beginging with a simple but saturated riff, the song slowly builds with rhythm and bass adding to the seeming forboding of the song before it takes off like a speeding train with some virturso guitar playing tieing it all together.

The pop Latino styled 'La Question' sits apart from the rest of the songs here but again demonstrates his beautiful picking style as well as showcasing that Marc is as comfortable in those soft vocals as he is belting out the blues melodies.



'My Friend Marx' does contain an amalgamation of a number of styles from folk to roots to americana. Because of the finger-picking style, you might be reminded of a variety of artists from José González to Otis Taylor. The lyrics covers so many themes as well, from relationships (F.O.O below) to the Iraq war (Lord of War), making it hard to pin the man down.



And to make sure to keep us on our toes, Marc is about to release his new lp which stretches his style further. From the sounds of it, he has taken his blues/roots base and added some noise to the mix. The single 'Reach Out' is straight-up blues-rock. The song is a swirl of crashing symbols, echoy guitars and an addictive chorus.


From listening to 'Reach Out' and the first release off the new album; 'Lighthouse', it seems Marc is building upon the foundations of 'My Friend Marx'. With a voice full of character and some very impressive guitar skills, it seems we have another stellar exponent of blues and roots music in Ireland.

The album; 'Human Herdings' was just released last week. Hopefully I will have a full review of the album on the blog soon. To stream his songs, check out his label's Soundcloud.

You can find out more of what Marc is up to through his website where links to purchase his two lps are available. Also check out the Facebook page. Marc is currently touring having just finished his Irish dates, and now on his way to England, Scotland and the Netherlands. I'm sure though he will be playing plenty more gigs in Ireland over the summer.
Photo: AMA/Marc O'Reilly

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Album Review: The Viking Project - The Viking Project

The Viking Project have been featured on the blog previously. The band are a five piece that are set to make an impact on the Irish music scene with their first official release.

The group hail from north Wicklow and include Michael Purcell (Harmonica, Vocals), Ste Guyett (Guitar,Vocals), Andy Guyett (Drums, Vocals), David Tully (Guitar, Vocals) and Caimin Gilmore (Bass, Vocals). The band formed in April of 2011 and since then have put out a few tracks and videos. However this self-titled six track ep/album/mini album is their first official release.

There must be something about the water in north Wicklow as I believe fellow hard-folk enthusiasts 'The Cujo Family' (who also happen to be supporting them on the album launch night) hail from the same vicinity.


And that is what the sound of 'The Viking Project' is: hard-folk, blues rock. The first single from the album is 'Coral Bay'. As track 1 on the album as well, it definitely does what you hope to hear from a opening track. Leaping into your ears, the song is a rock/blues/alt-country fusion of crashing symbols and harmonica licks.



With a group made up of four vocalists, the group is not lacking on singing talent. The sound is as you might imagine from a group with a name that The Viking Project conotates; heavy on rhythm and rough around the edges, the songs here are real sweaty bar room tunes. 'Same Ole Lies' is a real rollercoaster of a composition, with an immersive melody, heavy guitar lick and that soaring harmonica, the song hits you on all sonic sides.

That is not to say that the group are throwing noise at the songs to hide anything else. 'Constance Keane' is a story-led tune that showcases the groups vocal and lyrical talents. Meanwhile 'Got Sunk Down' is poppy blues tune that soars into life in the coda.The stripped back 'Same Ole Reprise' instrumental has a haunting air about it, different from the parent tune and feels like it  should be on a Coen brothers western soundtrack.

A really enjoyable twenty odd minutes of folk blues rock. Theses days some band concentrate on over complicating songs, meloides and themes. The Viking Project keep it deceptively simple. That makes for pure foot-stompin' aural pleasure.

The group are launching their mini-album next week on Friday 28th March in the Purty Loft in Dun Laoghaire. Support is from the excellent Cujo Family. This is only the beginning of their planned releases this year with a full debut album to follow later on in 2014. You can keep up to date on the goings on of The Viking Project through their Facebook page and the official website.

Photo: The Viking Project

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Album Review: Lost Parade - People Like You

Well back to my backlog of recently recieved albums for review. Today one artist that I have not actually mentioned on the blog before even though I have been aware of the band for a long while. For the uninitiated: introducing The Lost Parade.

The band was previously known as Martin Staunton Band and then Martin Staunton & The Lost Parade. The group was formed in 2006 by Martin and his sister Emma and features a changing line-up which includes James Kemp (bass), Emma(alto sax & vocals), Martin (guitar & vocals), Grainne Foster (piano and violin), Sebastian Jezzi (drums) and J.J. Leto (lap steel guitar). Under that guise of Martin Staunton & The Lost Parade, they had some moderate success with their 2009 self-titled debut release. In particular the single 'My Luck is about to change' got some well supported national radio play and charted successfully in the Irish charts.

Their latest effort has found the band dropping the frontman monkier and subsumming Martin into the group. Now just known as The Lost Parade, the band have recently released their second record. The album was self-produced with all tracks written by Martin. When you here an artist going down the self produced route, you might worry about self-indulgence (double albums and the like.) This is clearly not the case here. This is one of the best releases I have heard in the life of Eirecana. Ten songs of americana-rock expertly arranged, confidently produced and beautifully performed.

The album opens confidently with the epicley tinged "Canada". With a solid rythem, a surpurb hurdy-gurdy solo (is it a hurdy-gurdy?), the melody slowly draws you in. As relevant as a song title can be in these times, the lyrics deal with being confronted with what has happened to this country. You have to admire Martin for not avoiding to address the issues of the day. The words "I got a friend in Canada/Says he can hook me up/I just need to get moving now/and get straight to work" will resonate with a lot of people.



The albums style mixes between contemplative mid tempo tunes and more aggressive musings on love.'Heart and Soul' is jazzy, country tinged rock melody. With the saxophone refrain, its hetic pace and that angular guitar strikes,the melody feels as angry as the lyrics convey.



Others like 'Caroline' and 'Smile' are evocative of alt-country stalwarts like John Hiatt and Chris Knight. That relaxed singing style, the rolling rhythm, those words especially, evokes something of Haitt and Knights style. The working man against the world.



Like those men I previously mentioned (John Hiatt, Chris Knight), Martin brings up similar themes throughout this album. Those issues affecting young men; love, hardship, making a living, making the best of your world. Not that this is an album for any particular gender or age group. This album is a life-affirming record for all. Yes I wouldnt be fond of those clunky cheesy plaudits myself either but that is the closest I can get to my appreciation for the songs here. While it deals with some forlorn issues, the record is still lined with positivity. As Martin sings in 'Blue Skies'; "Though you feel so alone and your heart is numb/Though it doesn’t seem worthwhile/Bluer skies will come".



It is one of my favourite albums and more importantly, in my opinion one of the best albums of the last few years. It manages to capture both the essence of the period it was recorded in and still feel a timeless record. Criminally underrated, criminally under-exposed (I've seen no national media reviews of it), this is an album that you should own and play and play and play.

For more infomation on The Lost Parade, check out their official website or alternatively consult their Facebook page. No sign of any gigs coming up but hopefully that might be rectified soon. You can find the album to buy on iTunes, Deezer or if you want a physical copy, get it through the bands website. If you want to stream it, consult their Soundcloud page.

Photo: Lostpadare.com

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Nicole Maguire

Still catching up on my backlog of album reviews to be completed at the moment but I said I would distract myself...and ye with a short post on a talented new artist emerging on the scene lately. It's great to see another female Irish artist on the americana/folk scene. Joining the likes of Deetrich, Jayne Trimble, Lisa Hake and Rachel Austin is Nicole Maguire.

Nicole Maguire hails from Conna in Co. Cork and has come to prominence recently (and my awareness) as she is due to release her album in the next few weeks (March 28th).

Nicole started her musical quest at an early age, taking up the guitar at 12 after doing quite well for herself entering competitions at primary school. She seems to have had a singular vision of her career and of a life in music as she began writing songs at a young age and was even posting them to Paul Young for feedback. By age 15 she was already gigging. She slowly built up her experience and after approaching Damien Dempsey at one of his gigs ended up supporting him at his next gig at Vicar Street in Dublin. After this Nicole recorded and released an ep (of which I cannot find anything about). However the gigging and ep release paved the way for her to, by the recommendation of someone, end up supporting Nanci Griffith on her Irish tour. From Nanci and her band members, she was recommended to record in Nashville. After a spell there, she contacted the producer Mitchell Froom (Pearl Jam, Crowded House, Randy Newman,Ron Sexsmith). After hearing a demo, he agreed to produce her album and after working in two jobs to fund the recording, Nicole travelled to the US and the recordings began.

One of the things that strikes you when you listen to the music of Nicole Maguire is the style of her compositions. Clearly influenced by early americana of the Laural canyon, Nicole music attracts obvious comparisons to Nanci Griffith, Sheryl Crow and especially Lucinda Williams. Going by her biography, she seems to have picked up the style and melodies from her families record collection of those early 70's California songwriters.

The lead single on the album is "Hard Love". With lovely lead guitar licks and backing vocals by Vonda Shepard  (Trivia fact: she who did the soundtrack for Ally McBeal ),  it's a gentle, arresting, melody.



The musicians that Froom gathered for the recording included Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ drummer, Pete Thomas; CSN bass player Bob Glaub and Val McCallum, guitarist for Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams. The album is superbly produced. The arrangements allow her words to shine through offering the perfect sublte accoimpment. Nicole's voice is centre stage on the title track. A vocal style that is reminiscent of Alison Krauss, the melancholic paced song simply soars.



A lot of the album was recorded live and it feels that way. The album works as a collective rather than a bunch of songs thrown together. That's hard to find these days. One of my favourites off the album which isn't available to stream here but you can find here is "I don't". Again led by the strong vocals and a shimmering guitar licks, it compares very favourably with early Lucinda Williams for me.

Keep an eye on her website for the latest. Nicole plays a few gigs in preparation of the album launch in Cork. She plays upstairs Roisin dubh Galway (Fri 21st March), upstairs Whelans, Dublin (Sat 22nd), Cobblestone Joes Limerick (Sun 23rd) and Coughlans, Cork on March 28th with a full Irish tour to follow after the album release. You can find more information on her Facebook page.

You can purchase the album through AmazoniTunes and through her website.

  Photo: Nicolemaguire.com