Mhairi Hall – Airs
Mhairi Hall’s long awaited solo album is offers peace and sanctuary to all listeners. Ambient sounds from nature, archive recordings and layers of warm harmonium wrap around Mhairi’s beautiful piano interpretations of Scottish slow airs. A beautiful album of traditional and traditional-inspired tunes arranged and delivered in a delightfully non-trad and new age way.
I have to confess this is not my idea, but I have adapted it to suit this delightful album: sample it like a dram of prime malt whisky: welcome it warmly, taste it delicately, enjoy it slowly. I’m getting a seascape, the mountains, greys, brightness, mist, sunshine, solitude, a warm camaraderie, a tender loneliness, a depth of human emotions, a sense of things greater than us, beyond us, behind us, in front of us……Delicate.
G.F.Patrick – One Town Over
Americana through and through, .G.F. Patrick uses a Georgia-born post-country voice to examine the lives of everyday people and how their unique pressure points have brought them to the given moment. Moving from the bluegrass inspired folk sounds of Black Horse Motel, G.F. Patrick has moved into the rock and alt-country world, backed by renowned drummer Billy Conway (Morphine, Jeffrey Foucault), Frank Swart on bass (Patty Griffin, Norah Jones, Buddy Miller) and Mark Blasquez on guitar.
While staying true to the folk and country idioms, he deftly re-purposes song styles, crafting songs and telling stories to create opportunities for open and honest conversations. His debut suggests warm and friendly nostalgia but reveals it as a cruel and cold liar that whispers how bad things are now. Full-on.
The Dave Ingham Group – A Sea of Green
The Dave Ingham Group, formerly Pangaea, formed 2010 and this tenth anniversary sees the release of ‘A Sea Of Green’, taking inspiration from classic cool 50s and 60s jazz, and melding it with world jazz influences. All original material, there is a minimalist and explorative feel to their recorded music. Led by Soprano and Tenor Sax man Dave Ingham who also plays bells and flutes, he is ably accompanied by Stephen Mynott on Guitar, Vilem Hais on Double Bass, and Azzy King on Drums and Percussion.
The album opener ‘Upstream’, briefest of all tracks, is cool but energetic late 50s jazz with aforementioned world music elements, a world of Miles, Mingus, Max Roach and Brubeck. ‘Straw Dogs’ is filmic ethereal, lengthy alto and bass improvisation over a languid groove.The nine minute title track has hook and melody reminiscent of Paul Desmond or John Coltrane, double tracked sax lines harmonising and weaving around themselves with effortless and sophisticated cool, supported by deliciously understated guitar. Hypnotic and tranquil ‘Hometown Blues’ sees guitar have more of a role and evoke the spirit of Joe Pass. Album closer ‘Race To The Sun’, has upbeat, subtle rhythmic syncopation that underpins some free form yet melodic playing that encompasses big band, 70s Canterbury and world music influences. Languid.
Justin Wells – The United State
Recorded with acclaimed producer Duane Lundy (Ringo Starr, Sturgill Simpson’s Sunday Valley, Joe Pug), this is a really unifying universal musical experience: brothers Daxx (Cheap Trick) and Miles Nielsen (Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts) laid down rhythm tracks in Rockford, IL, Wells and Lundy cut vocals and guitars in Lexington with Laur Joamets (Sturgill Simpson, Drivin’ N Cryin’) and Alex Muñoz (Margo Price, Nikki Lane). GRAMMY-nominated producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist Justin Craig contributed additional guitar and percussion parts from his New York City studio, and a slew of Wells’ friends and collaborators joined forces to help put the finishing touches on things back in Kentucky.
The collective collection explores our innate humanity and everything that comes with it: the joy, the sorrow, the ecstasy, the pain, the hope, the fear. Deep, detailed alt-country, it follows a solo debut, Dawn in the Distance which, together with his live work, prompted the best reviews of Wells’ career, with Rolling Stone hailing his “ g i f t f o r m e l o d y ” and Saving Country Music praising his “ stunning insight and honesty.” That album reached #3 on Amazon’s Alt-Country/Americana chart. “Ultimately, this album’s about unity,” says Wells. “It’s about the common thread that connects us all. ” Timely.
Daniel Nestlerode – Windrush
Singer and songwriter, Daniel Nestlerode, covers a lot of ground on guitar and mandolin family instruments. Born and raised in central Pennsylvania, seasoned in California, transplanted to Cambridgeshire, and now settled in northern France, Daniel’s influences are as varied as his travels. Early rock bands in Pennsylvania gave way to acoustic in California, which led to bluegrass via the mandolin. Studied in mandolin, in England Daniel combined folk and Bluegrass music and began gigging as a solo mandolin performer. His first CD, More Than a Little Guitar (2013), was recorded in Cambridge with current engineer Chris Pepper features musical stories of Americans, self-written and traditional American folk music.
So we hear more electric mandolin than traditional mandolin on Windrush. And yes, the title track is a paean to the fortitude of the Windrush Generation, drawing fittingly, on influences both acoustic and electric, traditional and modern. It is equal parts Hugues Aufray and Ennio Morricone. Daniel says, “The Windrush scandal was breaking in the UK and I was thinking about the bravery of those people to leave their homes and lives in the Caribbean Islands to help rebuild the UK, where they found a complete change of climate, economic uncertainty, and racial hostility.” Blended influences of US and some UK folk, and bluegrass weave throughout a heartfelt, simple, storytelling album. Uplifting.
Ben Bedford – Portraits
Portraits features the best songs from his critically acclaimed first three albums; Lincoln’s Man (2007), Land of the Shadows (2009) and What We Lost (2012), none of which were officially released in Europe. Ben Bedford has established himself as a songwriter in the tradition of musical icons ranging from Bill Morrissey to Woody Guthrie, casting individual people in the theatre of the American landscape. A true son of the heartland, Bedford dips into the deep inkwell of classic American literature and writes with the ‘old soul’, landscape and time quality of his literary idols, such as John Steinbeck and Toni Morrison.
Ben Bedford’s voice is warmly expressive, emotive and personably believable, with a resonance to his guitar playing that evokes thoughts of Bruce Cockburn. He’s a gifted storyteller of vivid and engaging tales.