Michael Rank makes continues his bid for the title of “hardest working Americana artist” with another wonderful album of original material, Red Hand is his sixth full length release in a little over four years on which he continues to roam the fertile land of American roots music this time “mapping sounds of the 1970s”.
Rank is again joined by Mount Moriah vocalist Heather McEntire who shares vocal duties 50:50 providing the perfect vocal counterpoint to Ranks world weary voice, there’s no credit to the band Stag on this album and it could be credited as a Rank & McEntire – but hey, maybe their saving that for the next release?
If there’s one Americana band who’s creative output fits the aesthetic of listening to music on vinyl, then surely it’s The Handsome Family? Rennie & Brett Sparks and their collaborators have being releasing quality albums steadily since 1984’s debut Odessa, the latest Unseen is their tenth studio album and another must have for connoisseurs of a sub-genres that one could file under Western Gothic or Country Noir, truth is of course these labels only sign-post the potential listener to what’s in store for them should they wish to delve deeper into the “intriguing surrealist lyricism which, explores the unseen stories, people and places of the American west”.
Following a familiar creative path Rennie provides the lyrics (plays banjo and autoharp), Brett the music, instrumentation and recording at the Sparks home studio, – with assistance by collaborators David Gutierrez (mandolin & dobro), Alex MacMahon (guitar,baritone guitar & pedal steel) and Jason Toth (drums).
I’m sure there are those who’ll contest my opening statement but in order to do so you’re going to have to get hold Unseen on vinyl and try it out for yourself – the good folks at Loose will sort you out.
Fri 7 London, Oslo, Hackney
Sun 9 Bristol, The Tunnels
Tue 11 Salford, The Eagle Inn
Wed 12 Glasgow, Broadcast
Thu 13 Newcastle upon Tyne, The Cluny 2
Fri 14 Waterford, Phil Grimes Pub
Sat 15 Kilkenny, Cleere’s Bar & Theatre
Sun 16 Dublin, Whelan’s
A little over a year from the release of his album 27 Berkeley CA based singer-songwriter M. Lockwood Porter is back with another classy album of original material, the new album How To Dream Again feels as if it will translate well to an acoustic live performance, though the recording strikes a balance and doesn’t let go of all of the rock and pop elements of its predecessor but the songs definitely have a stronger troubadour feel to them soaking up the history and tradition of progressive folk and roots artists the album draws inspiration from contemporary writers including Chomsky and Klein to create a heady cocktail of social commentary, in a world of increasingly apolitical music M. Lockwood Porter has an affinity and understanding of the need for music to push past the anodyne. Highly Recommended.
“I can’t have a conversation with anyone my age right now without talking about things like inequality, gentrification, racial injustice, student debt, or climate change. I wanted to make a piece of art that captures this time, where daily life is political.”
Perhaps currently best known for being Damien Jurado’s lead guitarist, Courtney Marie Andrews has been on the road since she was 16 years old, when she left home in Arizona for her first tour. She travelled up and down the West Coast, busking and playing any bars or cafés that would have her. Soon after she took a Greyhound bus four nights straight from Phoenix to New York to do the same on the East Coast. For a decade or so since, Courtney’s been a session and backup singer and guitarist for nearly 40 artists but has never stopped writing her own material. Picking up admirers like Damien Jurado and Ryan Adams along the way, she has quietly earned a reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter.
Courtney explains how the lyrics of “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” are based upon a lady she met whilst working at a small town bar: “During my bartending shifts I had met this woman many times. She is beautiful, but still somehow she searches for love that is a faded red, white and blue. In some ways she is strong for enduring so much heartbreak. In other ways she is naive for believing that love can save her and that it’s hers to own. I’ve always been drawn to the flaws in my characters because that is what makes them more relatable and more human.”
As the song goes “The jukebox is playin’ a sad country song / For all the ugly Americans / Now I feel like one of them / Dancin’ alone and broken by the freedom”. It’s really no wonder Ryan Adams called Courtney Marie Andrews “a phenomenal songwriter”.
“How Quickly Your Heart Mends” is released 26th August 2016 and is taken from Courtney Marie Andrew’s forthcoming album “Honest Life”, out 20th January on Loose and available to pre-order now on 180g turquoise vinyl, CD & download.
Richmond Fontaine will play a string of 6 UK dates this October- including London Electric Ballroom on October 21 2016- their final ever tour before founding member and songwriter Willy Vlautin disbands his cult group. Coming in the wake of Richmond Fontaine’s critically applauded tenth and final album YOU CAN’T GO BACK IF THERE’S NOTHING TO GO BACK TO (out now through Décor Records), which topped the official Americana charts and made Rough Trade’s Album of The Month, the farewell tour will also take in a support slot opening up for the band’s idol Willie Nelson and a handful of European festival appearances.
It’s been a twenty year ride, and a good one. At the start of 2016, just prior to the release of YOU CAN’T GO BACK IF THERE’S NOTHING TO GO BACK TO, Vlautin let out the sad news that the record would also be their last, saying; “Richmond Fontaine has had a great 20+ year run and these guys are my best pals so it’s a tough decision but the right one.” That said, the band’s swansong is also throwing up some consolatory ‘firsts’ – Richmond Fontaine will be reissuing their classic albums The Fitzgeraldand Thirteen Cities on 180gm vinyl for the very first time, just ahead of the live dates on October 14th. The farewell tour will also feature a requests portion of the show, where fans can choose their top ten tracks for the band to play- either leave a message on the bands’ Facebook page, tweet using the hashtag #RichmondFontaineRequests or email at email@example.com . The top ten choices will be picked a month before the tour and worked into the set.
Alongside the activity of his other band The Delines, Vlautin continues to remain in demand as a critically acclaimed author (published through Faber & Faber) who is revered by his fellow writers (Roddy Doyle, Donna Tartt and George Pelecanos are all fans). A BFI/Film4 film adaptation of his novel Lean on Pete- starring Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny- is shooting this summer, directed by the Oscar-nominated Stephen Haigh (45 Years). This will be the second of Willy’s novels to be translated for the big screen, with the adaptation of his first book The Motel Life released in 2006, starring Kris Kristofferson and Dakota Fanning.
Recorded and produced in Portland, Oregon by John Askew at Flora Studios, YOU CAN’T GO BACK features the stalwart lineup of Willy Vlautin on guitar/vocals, Sean Oldham on drums, Dan Eccles on guitar, and Paul Brainard on pedal steel. Freddy Trujillo joins on bass from The Delines, longtime friend Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists) plays keyboards. This album catches Vlautin’s songwriting at his strongest. Often compared to Springsteen and Lou Reed, Vlautin has established his own voice over his widely acclaimed ten LPs and four novels, and YOU CAN’T GO BACK IF THERE’S NOTHING TO GO BACK TO finds the band at its very best. Richmond Fontaine again has produced a wealth of beautifully executed story songs, the ilk of which is rarely matched in today’s musical landscape.
Formed in 1994, Richmond Fontaine rose to fame in 2004 off the back of their 5th album, Post To Wire, it went on to sell over 20,000 copies and earned them places in the top 10 year end polls which was again repeated the following year with their album,The Fitzgerald. The press snowballed with those and the following three albums which saw the band playing Green Man, Primavera, End of the Road, while building a loyal following over the last 11 years. Vlautin is a successful author with four novels published via Faber & Faber.
Oct 16 – Cardiff – Clwb Ifor Bach 7:00 *^
Oct 17 – Manchester – Deaf Institute 7:30 *^
Oct 18 – Edinburgh – The Caves – 7:30 *^
Oct 19 – Hebden Bridge – Trades Club 7:30 *^
Oct 20 – Nottingham – The Maze 7:30 SOLD OUT *^
Oct 21 – London – Electric Ballroom – last ever UK show
* Peter Bruntnell supporting ^ Jerry Joseph supporting