Roy Harper’s first album in 13 years is an absolute corker on which he runs the gamut from cutting protest songs (Cloud Cuckooland, which lays into vacuous celebs and bankers) and sweet balladry (January Man) to mystical folk odysseys (the 23-minute suite Heaven Is Here and The Exile, nearly the equal of The Same Old Rock from Stormcock). I particularly like The Stranger, which finds him staring into the mirror at “some old ghost”, and the way the initially wistful Time Is Temporary heads off into a bluesy jam with a banjo. The album boasts arresting string arrangements throughout which could almost have been done by the late Robert Kirby, and the fluid electric guitar and booming fretless bass on the last track are gorgeous. Seventy-two not out: a great record.
David Gibb and Elly Lucas, a youthful duo from Derbyshire, may be known to some as finalists of the BBC Young Folk Awards 2011. Having put out an EP in early 2011, and debut album “Old Chairs To Mend” through Hairpin records just last year, this is an act that is clearly not wasting time in getting out new material. With David on guitar, melodeon and vocals, and Elly on fiddle, viola and vocals too, the duo build an impressive sound, guesting other players throughout the album.
The album opens as it means to go on, with real drive and purpose behind the music. “Jackwire”, the first single from “Up Through The Woods” leaps and bounds through accomplished rhythmical guitar, executed to a tee, and delectable fiddle rolls – it opens the album in roaring fashion, an anthem seemingly against the machines taking the trades of their ancestors.
As it progresses, the album is a joy to listen to – the delicate ‘The Way Through The Woods’ is peaceful and precious, ‘Dalmation Cradle Song‘ is simply a study in harmonies and elegance of the voice and songwriting itself. ‘England’s Skies’ is so fantastically inherently English, as soon as the exquisitely performed fiddle roll comes in you are simply sat in your favourite pub having one of those merry ale fueled evenings with friends. However, Gibb and Lucas are so much more than another pub folk act. No better is this demonstrated than in the simply brilliant ‘Waterloo Johnny’, with echoes of Dylan (not just because of that storming mouth organ throughout) as much of as traditional folk, the duo are forging a fiercely strong album. It is undeniably spectacular.
Alternative country has its agreed-on pioneers – Nineties wheatfield-rock bands such as Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks. But a decade before there was a No Depression scene, there was the bold and bracing rural electricity of the Long Ryders, founded in Los Angeles in the early Eighties and associated with that city’s Paisley Underground, even though the band’s singer-guitarist, Sid Griffin, was Kentucky-born and a keen student of the iridescent-country strains of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers. (Griffin’s 1985 book, Gram Parsons – A Music Biography, was the first full-length study of the ex-Byrd and Burrito.) Griffin’s current band, the Coal Porters, has been going for nearly two decades – he and the group are now based in London and has evolved from a deeper mining of the country in the Ryders’ acid-tinted drive to a pure acoustic bluegrass written and played with natural in Griffin’s case, native flair on Durango (April 17 April 30) (Prima Records). You can tell how live-in-the-studio these performances are: The traditional Pretty Polly opens with a false start, while Griffin and Carly Frey seem to be singing to each other across one mike in his surrender ballad Lookin’ for a Soft Place to Fall. (The Porters recorded the album last year, in the two weeks of the subtitle, at the Colorado studio of Ryders producer Ed Stasium.) And Griffin’s belief that Bill Monroe and Neil Young are cut from the same North American granite is affirmed by the buoyant poignancy of the cover of Young’s Like a Hurricane, with Frey’s sawing and skydiving fiddle where his scouring guitar distortion would be and sounding right at home.
1. Baby I’m in the mood for you
2. Long ago, far away
3. Don’t thinks twice, it’s all right
4. Tomorrow is a long time
5. Masters of war
7. The times they are a-changin’
8. With God on our side
9. Long time gone
10. Mr. Tambourine man
11. Blowin’ in the wind
12. Paths of victory
”Sonic Bloom” is an explosion of reverb soaked rock and soul blended with sharp drone numbers and classic rhythm and blues founded tracks. From the haunting psychic groove of ”Seven Poison Wonders” to the sparse Zombies-influenced ”Playing Dead” to the squealing ruckus of ”Rat King,” ”Sonic Bloom” harkens back to the outer corners of rock and roll radio of yore. Since their inception in 2010, the Seattle-based band have spent the past few years relentlessly touring, hitting over 20 countries. The trio–featuring Danny Lee Blackwell on guitar/vocals, Tarek Wegner on bass/vocals, and James Traeger on drums/vocals–will keep up this pace, touring this Fall and Spring in support of ”Sonic Bloom.” To date they toured with the likes of The Black Lips, The Black Angels, Ty Segall, Roky Erickson, The Growlers and many more.
The Zach Huckabee Band is a three piece country/rock/folk band based out of Lampasas, TX that plays the Texas Music scene. Zach Huckabee has been professionally singing and writing songs for over 4 years. His first record with the Zach Huckabee Band is entitled Tequila Angel and made its debut in 2007. The band is coming out with a new record in the summer of 2009 called Was It You? It is being produced by Texas Rocker, Phil Pritchett. Throughout the years the Zach Huckabee Band has played with such notable Texas acts as Randy Rogers and Stoney LaRue to Billy Joe Shaver and Ray Wylie Hubbard. They draw most of their influences from 60’s and 70’s rock bands like The Band, CCR, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan, Jason Eady, and Ryan Adams.