James McKeown, guitarist for Hi-Fiction Science, steps away from that lab and into a more pastoral setting for his upcoming solo release, English Dream. Building off his earlier self-titled, English Dream is another departure from the more progressive work with Hi-Fiction Science, though the folk underpinnings of that outfit are nurtured here as well, but in a more lilting, subdued fashion. McKweon tackles the vocal duties as well, save for a couple instrumental cuts like the outstanding Life Aboard The International Space Station, marryinghis ethereal voice with a heavy dose of acoustic guitar work. English Dream revels in a bucolic vibe, frosted with a twinge of melancholy, shored up by the languid tempo and lyrics (shallow graves never sounded so enticing and tranquil as they do on The Architect’s Grave). Going by the album’s title and rural, folk bent you’d expect some sort of idealized postcard of the countryside across the pond, but English Dream carries more weight than is apparent on the surface. Lyrical and musical roots in the loam make the stories, passages and the dream more tangible, and relatable, yet still as elusive as they need to be.
It’s a lofty and unusual compliment to say that a songwriter reminds you more of John Milton and William Blake than any of his music-making contemporaries. But Sean Ragon, the creative wellspring behind Cult of Youth, functions with such a sense of literacy that it’s not absurd to call him something of a poet. His latest album, Love Will Prevail, emerges as the neo-folk followup to Cult of Youth’s post-industrial self-titled LP. In it, Ragon sheds much of the dark static that swarmed over Cult of Youth to blossom forth with a rich, fiery sound that’s as intellectually stimulating as it is musically provocative.Like most other avant-folk and post-industrial albums, Love Will Prevail constructs its drama within its own time, its own space, its own universe. It’s not quite the wild old-world underbelly of Nick Cave, nor is it the universe on the precipice of non-existence as in the work of Current 93 and often Swans. We’re not peering down at the end of all being through Ragon’s bloodshot eyes, though titles like “Man and Man’s Ruin” and “New Old Ways” certainly suggest a not-so-latent skepticism regarding the future of humanity. Still, despite a firm aesthetic commitment to a kind of folkloric darkness, Love Will Prevail ultimately proves to be as hopeful as its title suggests.
Folk and blues with no gimmicks as it was in simpler times. Tom plays a real bluesy finger pickin’ style, or “Eclectic Soup” as he puts it, and carries on a tradition in the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, and back times done by W.C. Handy (father of the blues), Muddy Waters, Sippy Wallace and Reverend Gary Davis.