Roots in April

Dan Walsh – O’Neill’s Tunes

“This is basically the album I’ve been wanting to make my whole career! It’s these wonderful tunes that inspired me to play banjo in the first place played clawhammer style with guitar accompaniment. It’s simple but I’m so happy with it and I can’t wait for you to hear it! ” Well, if you are going to release a book of your arrangements, you might as well make an album too, might you? Dan Walsh – five albums to his name, regular performer, session musician, teacher (1-2-1 and at Newcastle and Sheffield Universities), and collaborator with the likes of the Urban Folk Quartet, American bluesman Brooks Williams, North East concertina legend Alistair Anderson, and fellow banjo player. John Dowling

“…plenty of tunes in G tuning, double C tuning and sawmill as well as one in my newly invented A major tuning that allows the banjo to get those lower notes of a tune that are usually out of our range….” Well, to the non-educated like me, it all sounds awesome! Subtitled ‘a collection of jigs, reels and hornpipes…’ you get exactly what he says. Underpinned by his own guitar at times, free flowing and fluent banjo lines float and flit over solid rhythms. It seems effortless yet you gleefully and respectfully acknowledge the talent and intricacy, making this one of the sprightliest, cheeriest, most upbeat and uplifting albums to emerge in recent times. Delightful.

Angela Perley – Turn Me Loose

Perley launched her career as the frontwoman of Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons. The group debuted with 2014’s Hey Kid – an underground hit where the album peaked at Number 6 on the Euro Americana chart – and returned with 2016’s Homemade Vision. Perley continued the momentum with 4:30, her debut as a solo artist. Produced by pedal steel guitarist Brandon Bankes, Turn Me Loose is the continuation of that acclaimed solo career, featuring contributions from her Howlin’ Moons bandmate, Chris Connor, as well as a new band of road-worn roots-rockers.

Angela Perley makes music for road trips across the American heartland. Rooted somewhere between alt-country and rock & roll, with a psychedelia that flits between Dylan and Procol Harum, and an amplified Americana, it’s a vintage sound for the modern world, glued together by a world-worn singer-songwriter. She leans into the rootsy textures that have always underscored her music. Laced with pedal steel, Telecaster twang and Gibson grit, the album embraces the grey areas between genre and generation, with Perley breathing new life into her 1960s and ’70s influences. Worldly.

Sean Taylor Band – Sean Taylor Band Live

Sean has released many albums over the years as a solo artist but now he’s joined by multi-instrumentalist Mike Seal on double bass and the Thompson Twins (ah, heady days!) percussionist Paulina Szczepaniak. Unbeknown to Sean the sound engineer at one of his band gigs in 2022 recorded the whole concert, and once Sean heard the recording, it sounded so good that it would be perfect to showcase the band format.

His songs are best described as roots; influenced by blues, Americana, jazz, spoken word and folk music. As well as a prolific songwriter he is a multi-instrumentalist; a singer, guitarist, pianist, and harmonica player. Ten songs are written by Sean with two unique covers of Richie Havens Woodstock classic Freedom and a psychedelic version of the anthemic You’ll Never Walk Alone. Sean’s soulful vocals are centre stage as he effortlessly moves between guitar, piano and harmonica. This album captures Sean and the band at their best, in front of an appreciative audience. Rootsy!

Steve Dawson – Eyes Closed, Dreaming

The third instalment of Dawson’s ‘pandemic trilogy’ was recorded under lockdown conditions with artists contributing their parts from various corners of Nashville, Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver. Birds of Chicago partner, Allison Russell, Keri Latimer and daughter Casey Dawson contribute vocal support, Nashville legends Fats Kaplin and Tim O’Brien play mandolin and various strings, LA drummer Jay Bellerose joins house band Gary Craig (drums), Jeremy Holmes (bass), Chris Gestrin and Kevin McKendree(keyboards). String arrangements by Ben Plotnik (viola/ violin) and Kaitlyn Raitz (cello) and horn section of Jerry Cook, Dominic Conway and Malcolm Aiken.

Four original songs – ‘The Owl’, ‘A Gift’, ‘Hemingway’ and ‘Polaroid’- form the centrepiece -graceful, heartfelt and keenly literate in their observations about love, attainment and the ephemeral nature of time, each a masterwork of roots music songcraft. And there is a tasteful assortment of song interpretations that do not disappoint. With beautiful melodies, inspired instrumentation and soulful vocal performances, Dawson’s newest music soars effortlessly and deserves recognition that this is, in fact, the third record to be released under his name within a year. And as so often with hard workers, their quality remains astounding. Workaholic.

The Leaves – Never Too Late

An impromptu jam led to an acoustic demo, then a full band formed which gigged and rehearsed, finally putting some stuff on Myspace (ah, remember that?!). A new generation may have come along since Patrick Steel, Ben Avison, Thom Paisley and Sam Jones were playing as The Leaves, and they’ve continued to be creative in life and music in the meantime. Ben has released albums, with The Moonbeams and with world music stars Rise Kagona and Seby Ntege; Thom and Paddy released material as Daylight Dark. Fifteen years on comes the debut album that captures that history.

Different band members share singing and song writing duties on the 11 tracks, drawing on their experience of moving to London and all the love, loss and longing they felt there. From the warm romance of Three Minutes to Fall in Love and London’s Burning to the tragic drama of Junkie James and Ghost Ship, The Leaves tackle a wide range of stories and feelings. Musically, The Leaves draw on a number of styles. Highly memorable tunes find their natural expression in a melting pot of early blues, punk and folk. Described somewhere as “Simon and Garfunkel being goaded into a fight by Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band” (but I hear loads of other influences), The Leaves have a raw, idiosyncratic and energetic sound that still sounds fresh and distinctive today. Evergreen.

Rachel Baiman – Common Nation of Sorrow

Baiman made her way to Nashville at 18 with the dream of being aprofessional fiddle player and has since released two solo records and an EP, alongside session and side-person work with Kacey Musgraves, Kevin Morby, and Molly Tuttle among many others. Baiman is the sole producer of Common Nation of Sorrow, which she recorded in her hometown of Nashville. After recording for twelve days in Nashville with Grammy-Award-winning engineer Sean Sullivan, Baiman spent two weeks mixing the record with famed engineer and producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket/The Decemberists/First Aid Kit)

As a songwriter, she has garnered a reputation for her specific brand of political and personal lyricism, which Vice’s Noisey described as ‘Flipping off Authority one note at a time”. This album is no exception. On Common Nation of Sorrow, Baiman’s third LP, she tells stories of American capitalism, and the individual and communal devastation it manifests. “The reality is that the vast majority of us are being taken advantage of by the same brutal economic and political systems. Maybe that shared oppression is a place in which we can meet and fightback”, she explains. Baiman displays a certain self-awareness and comfort with the inability to be all things, while simultaneously pushing to new heights with her message, and delivering a heartbreaking, albeit beautiful, assessment of her country. Honest.

ne Adam One – Where Do I Begin

Americana Veterans Adam Reichmann and Todd Schnitzer have come up with this band debut. The two met in college and went on to form the core of seminal Americana band Nadine, making a splash in Alt Country circles with a number of albums including the genre touchstone ‘Downtown, Saturday’.

This five-song mini-album paints an intimate, poetic picture of modern life in a fast-changing world. Bewilderment, love, longing, and hope are rendered with heartfelt detail, all with Reichmann’s seasoned tenor at centre stage. Listeners will recognize the classic songcraft of artists like Tom Petty and Big Star combined with a modern approach. Lush.

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