Michael McDermott – What in the World
Possibly one of America’s most rated, unknown songwriters, he’s a rock and roll/singer-songwriter tour de force. “I could have been a contender,” Michael sings, not out of pity but defiance.: a glorious middle finger to those gods who picked him as boy wonder three decades ago and then left him to wallow by the side of the road, crawl inside a bottle and pull the cork tight over his head. Six years later the clear-headed candour suffused in What in the World is evidence of a driven artist, bloody and unbowed.
In fact, he’s thriving. 2016’s Willow Springs went to Number One on the Euro Americana chart, and the string of critically-acclaimed albums go back to that major label debut, 620 W. Surf, in 1991, and the semi-successful single ‘A Wall I Must Climb’. What in the World is a cavalcade of emotions and textures. Pain and pathos mix with snarl and defiance. He’s been kicked around enough to know that today is the day. Yesterday went and tomorrow might not happen. So, in spite of the darkness, music happens, joy happens, and you can’t keep a good man down. Lifeworn.
Stripmall Ballads – Distant
Weird name. It’s the moniker for Phillips Saylor Wisor, founding member of the old-time duo, The Shiftless Rounders, and touring banjoist for the IBMA award-winning bluegrass band, King Wilkie and is an in-demand clawhammer banjo teacher and long-time troubadour. He creates original outsider folk music that owes as much to Neil Young as it does Maybelle Carter. This album owes its life and story to a backroad excursion, freshly heartbroken and adrift across dirt roads in Middle America, and a summer of wandering through the American heartland and underbelly that led inexorably to encounters with various souls, both fraught and forlorn.
The songs that came out of those various free rides and intersections are herein collected – beautiful folk-rock alt-country celebrating wanderlust and serendipity through character explorations and dark-end-of-the-street real-life confessions. “Introspective darkness offering honest and vivid stories you just don’t get in music these days” says Eugene Weekly, “Paradoxically rich lo-fi style – bringing to mind Gillian Welch and Townes Van Zandt”. Yup, that says it all.
Ward Richmond – Highly Meditated
Ward Richmond has lived many lives, from a high school football career in East Dallas, to his wild days as a member of bands like Slick 57 and Boys Named Sue giving him a few stories to tell – and a lot to meditate on. With Slick 57 and the Dallas honky tonk band Boys Named Sue, Richmond toured the world, recorded six albums and shared stages with Waylon Jennings, ZZ Top and Wilco. In 2006, Richmond decided to quit touring (and waiting tables at AllGood Cafe) to begin a career in commercial real estate building an eCommerce and logistics real estate business with projects in over 50 cities worldwide.
So we get a reflection of wild nights and turbulent days and everything from fatherhood to self help and the future. Only , this East Dallas fixture isn’t ready to ride off into the sunset just yet. Highly Meditated has traces of the “rootsy vibes” from Richmond’s past, but also draws inspiration from groups like Weezer, Sublime and Cake. The album features some incredible talent from a local backing band and the result is an electrifying album that will satisfy fans of Richmond’s earlier bands, while heralding an exciting and reflective new chapter for the Dallas music veteran whippersnapper.
Minnie Birch – You’re Not Singing Anymore Pt 1
This release sees a mix of passion for folk music with football, asking the question “where else do people all sing on mass together? Other than at worship or a folk club? At a football ground. It is both a folk record and a look at what it means to be a football supporter; and the rough, social, historical and political messages behind the songs they sing on the terraces.
Minnie started “collecting” and reworking songs inspired by football or heard sung on the terraces and presents them here in “You’re Not Singing Anymore” recorded by Nick Harris at Spare Room Recordings. The result is like no other, which will have you recalling well-known trad songs whilst reflecting as she weaves in audio recordings of people’s memories of the terraces. Clever reworkings and a delightful voice create an ode to the beautiful game and its intrinsic relationship with music. Niche.
Ben Avison – Lovers Leap
Acoustic folk singer Ben Avison, originally from the Yorkshire Dales but now based in Oxford, has carefully honed the craft of songwriting, telling a story in every song. Music critics singled his 2013 debut album Good Day Mr. Magpie, describing his songwriting as “perceptive,” “authentic” and “inspiring”.
But there’s more – a U2/Coldplay vibe for a start. Then a smokey folk/jazz shuffle. And then a 70’s soul-funk touch. Then a delicate songwriter’s ode……..in other words, if you haven’t worked it out already – a chameleonic ability to cross genre whilst retaining the rootsy foundation. Ten 3 minute songs both clever yet honest and homely. Lovely.
The Magpies – Tidings
Four accomplished musicians in their own right, The Magpies is a combination far greater than the sum of its parts: award winning singer-songwriter Bella Gaffney, mandolin virtuoso Polly Bolton, acclaimed fiddle player Holly Brandon and Sarah Smout on cello. Having played at top-tier festivals such as Glastonbury, Cambridge Folk Festival and Shambala, Tidings is a rich and varied showcase of the music this band has been performing to rapt audiences pre-lockdown.
Rich and powerful lead vocals from Bella & Polly over a huge range of exquisite instrumentation from all four members on mandolin, guitar, fiddle, cello, bouzouki and banjo provide a full soundscape for stories with a fresh and full-on female voice. Plenty of experience on display for the listener. No niceties or fragility here – a womanly depth embedded in celtic, appalachian and balkan sounds. Sleek.