Gabriel Moreno – The Year of the Rat
Gabriel Moreno is a Gibraltarian poet, singer and songwriter. He has ten poetry books in both Spanish and English and
three albums under his belt: ‘Love and Decadence’ and ‘Farewell Belief’, “Whiskey With Angels” on Amber Records, and his EP ‘Poetical Resistance’. The album includes collaborations with musicians of the London and Barcelona underground music scene including Ned Cartwright (Heartworn Highways) Adam Beattie (Pica Pica, Band Of Burns), Fiona Bevan, Pearl Fish, Pablo Yupton, DG Solaris amongst others.
His folk songs are both poetic and political, mining the same rich seams as Leonard Cohen, Fabrizio De Andre and Georges Brassens. He blends languages and cultures as he explores the struggles and revelations of the arduous period of lockdown confinement from 2020-2021. 2020 was the year of the rat according to the Chinese horoscope and Moreno uses this context as he poetically explores the struggles of this year for musicians and other working folk. Just like the rat, shrewdness and ingenuity aids the survivors and Moreno’s survival technique has created a set of compelling songs. Poetic.
The Twangtown Paramours – Double Down on a Bad Thing
MaryBeth Zamer and Mike T. Lewis are the Twangtown Paramours and this is their third album, in contrast to their earlier acoustic work, a rhythmic electric full band album. The core group consists of MaryBeth on vocals, Mike on guitars and bass, and Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live band, Shawn Colvin and Roseanne Cash) on drums and percussion. Other musicians include Dave Keyes (pianist); Rave Tesar, Steve Conn (Sonny Landreth pianist), session piano player and organist Ed Alstrom; and horn players Dan Nigro and Vinnie Cutro from Smokey Joe’s Café
This is a mostly uptempo and upbeat album with whimsical elements, filled with excitement and a hard-hitting, largely retro sound, recalling those eras when catchy pop melodies and great blues-influenced grooves ruled, when dynamic Beatlesesque chord progressions were the soundtrack to a positive sense of society, and when music inspired positive action. Enjoy the positive feel and energy, be positive and at least try to cheer while listening to it! Jolly good.
Trip – A Drop for Neptune
Trip are a six-piece trad band based in Glasgow, Scotland, featuring Sligo flautist Tiernan Courell, Newcastle accordionist Michael Biggins, Manx fiddler Isla Callister and Scots Alasdair McKenzie on guitar and voice, Rory Matheson on piano and Craig Baxter on bodhran. No wonder influences from the various countries (and Isle of Man!) are reflected in their music. Formed out of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, this is a crowdfunded debut.
What they’ve achieved is a remarkable combination of both traditional and contemporary, self-penned tunes and songs to deliver an exciting take on traditional music. Inspired by the sea, something that connects and shapes us all, the music is evocative, powerful, driven and distinctive. The versatile top line of accordion, fiddle, flute and whistle are dynamically supported by rhythmic bodhran, piano and guitar. Their youth is astonishing when considering such an impressive tune selection, technical confidence and ambition. Imaginative.
Track Dogs – Where to Now?
Track Dogs are two Irishmen, an Englishman and an American, (Garrett Wall, Dave Mooney, Howard Brown & Robbie K. Jones), but they are no joke. Formed in the autumn of 2006 around the eclectic line-up of acoustic guitar, electric bass, trumpet and cajón, over the following 15 years they have added banjo, ukulele and mandolin as well as honing their four-part vocals. This 7th studio album has musical guests including Cathy Jordan (Dervish), members of Banter and of Robbie K. Jones’s solo project The Potato Monsters, UK violinist Kate Moran and US singer Delories Dunn.
With time to kill during lockdown, this collection of songs embraces introspection balanced with their trademark optimism and rhythm. Lush strings embellish this album, and from the rip-roaring finale of ‘Donna Lola’ to the intimate duo of Garrett Wall and trumpeter-singer, Howard Brown, on the title track, there’s new collaborative depth in their signature fun and polish. Check out their delightful cover of ‘Carolina in My Mind’, endorsed by James Taylor himself. “Where to Now?” Onward and upward!
Steve Dawson – Gone, Long Gone
Steve Dawson: guitarist, composer, sought after musical enabler and sideman. Since moving to Nashville in 2013, he’s produced albums for a slew of roots artists, toured and recorded, and his ‘Music Makers and Soul Shakers’ podcast has well over a hundred episodes. This is Steve’s first collection of songs since Solid States and Loose Ends came out in 2016. In lockdown he worked on a large volume of music that would never have seen the light of day otherwise. Using remote recording techniques, producing and playing on tracks for many other artists, he’s got enough solo material for three distinct albums; this is the first. It reflects Dawson’s mastery of songcraft.
Nine original cuts mostly co-written with Alberta songwriter Matt Patershuk and a soulful cover of The Faces’ ‘Ooh La La’. Subtle vocals and super arrangements abound, such as gentle guitar, pedal steel and a virtual string quartet on the title track. His guests contribute stellar performances: Jeremy Holmes (bass) Gary Craig and Jay Bellerose (drums) Kevin McKendree and Chris Gestrin (piano, organ, keys). John Prine alumnus Fats Kaplin adds sweet fiddle to ‘King Benny Had His Shit Together’ with swooping horns on ‘Dimes’ from Malcolm Aiken, Jerry Cook and Dominic Conway a highlight. Able.
The Remittance Men – Scoundrels, Dreamers & Second Sons
From Boston, Massachusetts, The Remittance Men formed during the worldwide pandemic and recorded their debut album. Penned and sung by singer-songwriter, Tom Robertson with Chris Anzalone, Kris Delmhorst, Mark Erelli, Zachariah Hickman, Eilen Jewell, Joe Kessler, Danielle Miraglia, James Rohr , Andy Santospago and Dave Westner .
They call their music Northern Country. We might call it it Americana, Classic Country, Alt-Folk or Polka infused. Tons of influences: Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Wilco, Dylan, Cash, Waits, Petty, Prine . Country ballads, ‘1973 ( Life on the High Seas)’, ‘Lonely & Silent’, ‘Avery Hill’, Tex-Mex, ‘Hacienda Santa Rosa’, evocative numbers, ‘Widow’s Walk’, ‘Sweet Thunder’, ‘Lila Page 8’, ‘A Room in Birmingham England, 1919’ and two covers, Tom Petty’s ‘Down South’ and Tim Gearan’s ‘Nobody’. There’s skill and beauty. Imagery and character. Snapshots of the American landscape. Dark and light.