Category Archives: Music

Record Of The Week # 112

Maia Sharp – Mercy Rising

A move to Nashville from LA with the end of a long term relationship and the coming to grips with a new home fostered a desire to move on in many ways. This confessional album muses on relationships coupled with many wry observations and desires about those around her. She’s a great wordsmith and the music nods to several genres with singer songwriter being the most evident although this sits comfortably in the country/americana orbit. Sharp has made her living by being principally a writer for other artists; credits read the (Dixie) Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Terri Clark and Kim Richey (whose sound she is probably closest to on this latest album.)

Her voice is a siren call: warm with an impressive range that’s conveys emotions that come thick and fast through ten songs. From the sarcasm of “Nice Girl” to the lustful “Not Your Friend” she sings over a sophisticated soundtrack of smooth beats and the varied, sublime guitar sounds of Joshua Grange. The arrangements are uncluttered and you feel that every note has arrived in just the correct place after considerable collaboration. Sharp herself is accomplished multi-instrumentalist and wearing her producer’s hat, she demonstrates impressive mastery of the controls.

I enjoyed all the songs: most are co-writes with other Nashville-based writers and several songs have been around for a few years. The single, “Backburner”, draws metaphors from cooking and is a steamy love song – “It’s a hell of a way to say turn the flame up higher / When I put you on the backburner / You set the place on fire”. The rhythm is 80s The Police (maybe not a complete coincidence as Sharp was first signed to Miles Copeland’s IRS label.) On “Whatever We Are” Anna Shulze and Thomas Finchum join for harmonies to create a sublime sound over sustained electric guitars. All this smoothness however doesn’t draw the best out of “Junkyard Dog”. The edgy rock guitars and lyrics are there but it needs spitting out by an angrier soul, railing against their treatment like a neglected, tethered animal; Sharp comes across as the type of narrator who may think it but would never say it.

The cinematic “Missions” ends the album. She recounts a long drive across country with a sleeping passenger. Sharp reflects on their relationship, the trusting sleeper, and then ultimately, and ruefully, her dilemma: “I guess letting you go is tomorrow’s mission”. This release exudes class from start to finish.

Record Of The Week #111

Blackberry Smoke – You Hear Georgia

On YouTube you’ll find a video of the band in Nashville’s RCA Studio A easing their way into “You Hear Georgia”. It shows a band of 20 years laying down a butt-stirring rock groove whilst Dave Cobb cheerleads from the sidelines, no doubt pleased at the magic that’s being created. Cobb is still the prolific go to producer for Americana. Such is the demand that apparently he’s booked up three weeks after he’s dead. The latest album from Georgia’s finest is the very essence of 70s Southern Rock: a bluesy rock platform, soul vocals, an irresistible bass line and some raw electric guitar riffs; it contains all the vital ingredients. If you care to add occasional honky tonk piano and a soaring slide guitar you’ve elevated your dish from the ordinary to fine dining. Grab a napkin.

The jagged guitar riff on the opener “Live It Down” commands your attention the instant it sounded. This is classic blue collar rock – “Reachin ’up from the bottom / I tell ya it’s a bitch / It’s a helluva thing to break yo back / Just to make another man rich” sings principal song writer, vocalist and guitarist Charlie Starr. Next we’re into the title track, still as dirty and soul stirring but slower, giving more space to the funk and the backbone-debilitating snare rhythm. Starr says “Lyrically, the song is about the South being misunderstood. It’s obviously a rough and tumble world, and there’s a lot of bad people. But there’s a lot of good people too.” To add to the groove there are some scintillating electric guitar passages. I knew this was going to be fabulous 40 minutes.

Next we come to a “Hey Delilah”, which I’m surprised doesn’t include the sound of Little Feat’s Lowell George spinning in his grave: this appropriates his 1973 Dixie Chicken. (I note Starr has claimed he wrote this track, well he may have changed the words.) For all that, it is a fabulous track and has lashing of hot cajun spice. I can imagine you’d see the condensation on the walls on a hot Southern night as the crowd moves to the sound. “Lonesome For A Livin’” has Jamey Johnson step up to the mic and share the vocal. In fact despite this being another Starr composition this would sit on any of his (or Chris Stapleton’s) albums. Electric and pedal steel guitars weave around them on this slow burner. It’s not all full on electric and “Old Enough To Know” has Starr ruefully reflect, on a slower but attractive melody, “Don’t ever trust a grown man with a nickname / You will reap exactly what you sow / Nothing worth a damn happens after 2 am / They don’t tell ya till you’re you’re old enough to know.” 

I could list the tracks one by one as this is all killer and no filler, especially since some of their previous releases have not been as strong. Other song writing collaborations between Starr with Government Mule’s Warren Hayes, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Rickey Medlocke and Four Horsemen’s Dave Lizmi add even more quality to the release. Blackberry Smoke expand the content of the Southern Rock genre with few original detours such is their faith with its form. As they say ‘if it ain’t broken then why fix it?’. Perfect.

Record Of The Week # 110

South Pacific (soundtrack)

I’ve been sorting out some records. I’ve a pile of LP’s that were my mother’s. What do you do with these old pieces of vinyl? Several were loved and played regularly, sadly leading to them being badly worn and scratched. So the solution is establishing if they’re actually playable. This exercise led me to the stage, and then film musical, South Pacific. I was astounded by how magnificent it was. It seems I had all these melodies and vocals etched into my psyche. The setting is an idyllic island in WW2 where a US base is located. On the island the personnel strut their stuff in high jinx and courtships. In the meanwhile the locals look on with their attractive yet simpler life. All this is set against an imminent deadly battle with the Japanese.

You’ll know many of the songs if not necessarily the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. They created some of the most important popular music of the mid to late 20th Century with Oklahoma! The King & I, Carousel and The Sound Of Music amongst their creations. In addition they wrote with other collaborators; so their canon of work is more considerable and brilliant. If’d you asked me to sing one of the songs I could have probably got most of them but it wasn’t until I spun the disc that I realised I knew them all.

In 1958 the stage play made it onto the silver screen. The storyline was extracted out of the The Tales Of The South Pacific, a book which won the 1948 Pulitzer Price by James Mitchener. He found real life stories and characters on the islands during his US Navy years at the end of WW2. This adaptation, by Hammerstein, is in many ways an exploration of confronting racism between the Americans and the islanders. This racism is explored in a couple of love stories. In one love story the American dies in the last Act on a dangerous mission (and solves the thorny US family problem of not having to marry a native). The other love story has, in the play and film, a happy ending. In real life it didn’t! To adult audiences this story line may have been more obvious than to me, a young boy, who just loved the tunes.

So to the songs. Each is typical of a musical: they tell a story in the timeline of the plot, all melodies sit on top of sumptuous orchestral arrangements that pull at your heart in terms of pure tunefulness, beauty and sentimentality. None more so than the duet ballad “Some Enchanted Evening”. Frank Sinatra, Art Garfunkel, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan subsequently covered the song. Here the original voice is that of Giorgio Tozzi. A sonorous and captivating operatic bass then a mainstay of the Metropolitan Opera of New York. 

“There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame” is a classic. A chorus of sailors lust after women to ease their frustrations of being isolated on a sunny island. There is comedy and splendid vocal performances by the cast. If the clip from the film is exceptional then seared into my brain is the 1977 BBC TV Morecambe & Wise Show. Here they recreated the song with singing and dancing from some unlikely sailors. The ‘crew’ consisted of Eddie Waring, Frank Bough, Michael Parkinson, Michael Aspel et al. Another cover was Captain Sensible (not from the US Navy but The Damned) who took “Happy Talk” to No. 1 in 1980. It’s a little surreal that he sings a pidgin English lyric about being happy originally sung by a Vietnamese woman with a penchant for chewing beetle nuts. 

Each song is a minor classic and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” where the chorus, this time of nurses. join the lead female actress, Mitzi Gaynor in another beach side joyful knockabout tune. She then sings and dances “A Wonderful Guy” with such fervour and heart warming affection that you may also want to marry him.

I find the whole film and soundtrack intoxicatingly romantic and at a pace that savours every second of the fluctuating emotions of the lovers. It’s soundtracks like this that must have influenced generations of musicians; it’s age and simpler portrayals are irrelevant. As a good friend remarked it’s a perfect Sunday album to relax and maybe read the papers by. Or if you’re feeling more energetic watching all the clips of the songs from the film on YouTube. 

Record Of The Week # 109

Garrison Starr – Girl I Used To Be

This is a beautiful album of strong heartfelt vocals and sublime melodies, sung over simple arrangements. Starr is well into double figures of album releases but to her credit she’s still turning out music of considerable quality. There’s a definite pop sensibility housed in an Americana sound. My research I found her being interviewed after opening for Steve Earle in 2003; all this suggests a recognition of her talents and circulation, for some time, amongst the luminaries of Americana. 

However the album doesn’t come from an overly confident artist in her pomp, but one whose trauma of dealing with her sexuality in a Mississippi fundamentalist Christian community still haunts her several decades later. The nine songs deal with anger, loneliness, rejection, anxiety, lost time and eventual empowerment as she surfed a wave of hostility related to her identity as a lesbian. A gay female musician is not an unusual story nowadays, especially when you consider her contemporaries. However, it must be a difficult journey and I remember the audacity and bravery of Mellissa Etheridge’s 1993 ‘coming out’ album Yes I Am.

“Devil In Me” is a single with a thumping beat and memorable chorus where the devil in question is her difference from those around her. “Don’t Believe In Me”, a slower song, has an electric guitar motif in the background and captures the essence of her emotions with the lyrics ‘Stuck in purgatory but it feels a lot like hell / Buried in the story and it’s getting hard to tell / Am I running from my dreams, family, Jesus or myself’. “Just A Little Rain” is country and could be a hit in the hands of another more mainstream artist. In fact several of these songs were written some time ago and had been available around Nashville as songs for sale. “Make Peace With It” brings Brandi Carlile to mind with the vocal, melody and the lyrics which seek to dial down her exasperation with the hand she’s been dealt. The country-tinged “Dam That’s Breaking” ends the album with her gently rasping voice over acoustic guitar chords and a simple but powerful vocal with a passionate message.

Sonically the album is a very tuneful listen which lures you in, taking you through her journey. Now, that ladies and gentlemen, is craft.

Record Of The Week # 108

Sara Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree

Multi-instrumentalist Watkins has recorded an album of standards for children….no, no please bear with me it’s wonderful. I must admit on getting the brief from the magazine I wondered what I’d done to upset the mothership. However parking all reservations I dipped in. Covers can be a corruption of your favourite memories but if you look at the track listing it’s certain that at one time or another you’ll have sung several if not all of the songs on the album. If you’re a parent you may have also crooned these songs to placate a fractious offspring in the backseat or as you lie on a bed in the early evening, fighting the pulling powers of sleep, whilst your little precious shows no signs of wearying.

Watkins has a beautiful ethereal voice that immediately sounds like a mother singing to a child with all the tenderness that might have. She’s joined by several guests throughout including Nickel Creek and I’m With Her on a couple of songs. The arrangements are delightful and the sound is acoustic, lush and entirely enchanting. The album progresses seamlessly with the mood maintained throughout as if raising the volume or changing the gentle acoustic accompaniment might spoil the moment (or wake the child).

It’s an age old eclectic selection of songs ranging from The Beatles (“Goodnight)”, Harry Nilsson (“Blanket For A Sail”), Disney films (“When You Wish Upon A Star” and “La La Lu”) and Rodgers and Hammerstein (“Edelweiss” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”). Two songs are original compositions; several of the rest have become standards because of their original performance on the silver screen. It’s easy to imagine this whole album as some sort of soundtrack. It is the quality of the melodies that are the lasting impression and the aspect that makes this enduring rather than a one off project for a younger audience.

After starting at a young age in the music industry Watkins made her name in Nickel Creek where terrific string musicianship and vocals ensured their permanent place in the pantheon of premier roots folk acts. They split permanently over a decade ago but occasional reunions are common and she regularly plays with one of the band members, her brother, Sean. Other projects including touring as part of The Decemberists and the trio, I’m With Her. It wasn’t a big stretch to follow another muse, not least as the mother of a toddler. It’s beautiful.

Record Of The Week # 107

Mac Leaphart – Music City Joke

Mac Leaphart is new to me and one of the most delightful discoveries I’ve recently had. The recruitment of Brad Jones  (Hayes Carll, Chuck Prophet, Over The Rhine amongst many) as producer is inspired and Leaphart’s accompanying notes, with the album, talk of Jones being a demanding task master who extracted the best out of him. Leaphart has constructed 10 superb stories, some allegories, with exceptional americana country tunes. He’s also the possessor of winsome tubes that reminded me of Boo Ray or Ryan Bingham.

‘She got knocked up and kept on drinking / Smoked a half a pack a day / She didn’t want that baby / But, she had him anyway’ are the first words you’ll hear on “El Paso Kid”, about a child who didn’t have an auspicious start in life but was determined to beat adversity. This story is played out to a traditional country tune with Will Kimbrough playing acoustic guitar and Fats Kaplin weaving sonorous delight on the fiddle. Kaplin has played with a lot of country and americana royalty including John Prine. That connection is pertinent as Leaphart’s lyrics and sound are redolent of this master’s work. 

“The Same Thing” is about unrequited love. Over a picked acoustic guitar, and Kaplin now on pedal steel, Leaphart ruefully observes her at a distance: she’s happy, and in the company of another. The tender melody is quite the heart breaker. However humour permeates the album whether wry, deprecating or off beat. Irony is evident on “Blame on the Bottle” where a walking bass drives this country stomp, with Kimbrough adding electric guitar licks.  In the song an old hell raiser friend has now discovered the Lord and been convinced of the evils of alcohol to the extent that Coca Cola is his tipple. Leaphart points out that the whiskey didn’t pour itself in the first place! Off beat is “Ballad of Bob Yamaha or A Simple Plea in C Major” where he assumes the persona of a Japanese acoustic guitar that longs to be played properly. (Worryingly I have a Yamaha acoustic guitar that no doubt feels the same.)

“That Train” barrels along with a Bob Dylan Blood On The Tracks era feel with fiddle and shuffling rhythm doing the heavy lifting. Leaphart describes the arrangement as ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ with a full band including mandolin and harmonica. “Every Day” is a paean to his wife who he describes as the ‘breadwinner for our family’; whilst he pursues his art she’s keeping food on the table, not a piece of support he’s overlooked.

This is a complete gem; to think he had to crowd fund the project with no record label support is a surprise. Over a decade he’s paid his dues and this, his fourth album, just goes to show that life isn’t fair. He deserves a large commercial break with this.

Record Of The Week # 106

Esther Rose – How Many Times

Sonically this is an upbeat record, in contrast to the slough of despair that apparently inspired the album. Rose’s third long play release comes on the back of a tough couple of years as regards matters of her heart. However, as you listen closely to songs about failed relationships, the lively americana country tunes roll out. She has the melancholy resignation of a woman who’s been passed up and is now moving on to her next lost cause. She’s quite a collector and relays the stories with honest reflection and deprecation. Her voice is occasionally (and interestingly) off-tone and fragile but mainly fits the mood and her range carries the arresting tunes.

“How Many Times” has her standing in the shower until the water runs cold and taking pills to cope with a broken heart. This single release has her voice over a snappy snare beat whilst the fiddle plays around a chorus of voices to make the melody a little country. “Keep Me Running” is a pacy highlight with the fiddle of Lyle Werner again to the fore. All the tracks on the album are underpinned by an upright bass and give the album an acoustic feel. Throughout Laura Cantrell came to mind because of the short personal stories and the type of acoustic country and roots she purveys.

“My Bad Mood” is a two-step over the insistent snare that sees Matt Bell’s pedal steel come to the fore. Max Bien Kahn’s picks some tasteful electric guitar on “When You Go” – ‘Well I guess your little lie was the last of our goodbyes’.On Songs Remain over a gentle acoustic backing she sings wistfully  ‘Black coffee and bacon fat / You’re an inner city lumberjack / Yeah, a country boy through and through / I think that’s why I fell for you’. “Are You Out There” is made more tender-hearted by the dance tunewhich accompanies more rejection. Againmore male departures and sad Saturday nights at home. Another two-step finishes the album as the band strike up a lively rhythm on “Without You” and Rose serenades us with a splendid melody. Despite more lovers left behind whilst she’s on the road, she seems to be bearing up.

There’s not a misstep here, not least helped by an accomplished band, accessible lyrics and considerable songwriting talent. It’s a very engaging and consistent album. If this pleasing 40 minutes is the result of a dysfunctional love life then I hope she continues using songwriting as her therapy.

Record Of The Week # 105

Lainey Wilson – Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’

After three years of living in a caravan, hoping for a break in Nashville, Wilson is starting to get traction. The album includes earlier single releases. A check on the internet sees her being identified as ‘one to watch’. This isn’t her first release but now there’s discernible momentum, with a major record label behind her.

She has an expressive and mellifluous voice often backed by harmonies on the chorus. The backing doesn’t lean on traditional instruments and is a pop rock confection with the odd acoustic guitar and mandolin. If that isn’t enough country for you then her voice and breadth of sounds compensate. The triumph of it all is that the ‘session musician catatonic contribution’ with its digital homogenous hard brittle finish is absent and in its place vibrancy, authenticity and funk. It’s hook-drenched and radio friendly.

The alchemist is Jay Joyce: he is amongst the doyen of country producers with Ashley McBryde, Eric Church and Brothers Osborne on his CV. And you can see how His earlier rock career influences his contribution, thoughtfully applied rather than the usual bro-country torpor. Lyrically it tumbles into Nashville storylines of small towns, drinking, partying, ‘single and free’, ended relationships and knee bending for the legends of country music including the song “WWDD” (What Would Dolly Do?).

“Neon Diamond” is a sing-a-long rock song made country by Wilson’s delicious Louisiana drawl and delivery. She eschews wedded bliss (and the ring) for a night on the town – ‘my left hand ain’t interested in anything but a drink’. “Sunday Best” tells us ‘right now forgiveness ain’t something I can find’ with drink easing the pain: but more importantly this is wickedly funky with a bass line that should also be bottled. “Small Town, Girl” also has a memorable bass line with an outlaw vibe and the combination of a great melody, voice and wailing electric guitar solos elevate it all. 

The mood is taken down to something more reflective and slower with “Dirty Looks”, where such censure comes about as she gets amorous in public. On “Things A Man Oughta Know” the electrification gets dialled down. A sensitive and heartfelt lyric that encapsulates her voice inside a belting melody, whilst a tasteful and bluesy guitar adds depth before a mandolin ends this too soon. Things are wrapped up with “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’”, an admission of guilt that she wears her heart on her sleeve with no filter: the declaration is about a relationship and its honesty. It sounds like after all the fun and braggadocio that’s preceded this she’s signing off being deadly serious. The hypnotic locomotive insistent beat and the harmonies are compelling. 

I reckon this is an end of year pick already. I hope she soars.

Record Of The Week # 104

Midnight Flyer

If this album was a person it’d be banging on your door shouting ‘Let me in’. After gaining entry it’d barrel past you with an impressive swagger. It has it all – a great vocalist with a unique voice, a tight accomplished band and great tunes. However on its release in 1981 it flew beneath the radar and it’s only a 2020 remaster that introduced it to me. It originally appeared on Swan Song Records. This was a label set up by Led Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant. By all accounts not an easy man should you ruffle his feathers. This former bouncer and wrestler became a most feared and respected rock band manager. The record label hosted Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Dave Edmunds and Sad Café. Maggie Bell, the Scottish lead vocalist, was on the label prior to Midnight Flyer. She was the female equivalent of an early Rod Stewart with rough, whiskey soaked tones, capable of a fearsome roar and a blues diva’s interpretative talents. 

Bell came to prominence with a band called Stone The Crows in 1970. Other outings included an appearance on Rod Stewart’s 1971 break through album Every Picture Tells A Story: she’s the female vocalist on the title track. Other claims to fame are as the chanteuse on “No Mean Streets”. This was the theme to the 80s TV detective series Taggart. One way or another she may be a familiar voice to you. I saw her with Stone The Crows at a festival at Charlton Athletic’s ground (with The Who topping the bill). It was another 44 years before I saw her again in Hull with Dave Kelly (from the Blues Band) on acoustic guitar. She was a small frail figure who looked a little bewildered in the small and closely packed club, nevertheless, it was good to see her still in fine voice and making a living. 

Hull 2018

It’s everything I love about rock: ballsy vocals, blues piano fills, incendiary guitar breaks and a solid rhythm backing of bass and drums. I was so taken that I ventured onto Discogs and bought a second hand copy of the original vinyl. If it were a glass of wine the bouquet gives hints of 70s Joe Walsh, Deep Purple, Rolling Stones and Little Feat. However there are some commercial 80s touches with the arrangements and melodies that may have been an attempt to get wider airplay.

“Hey boy” is a rip-roaring honky tonk boogie at a pace that takes your breath away. Whilst your attention is drawn to Bell’s vocals, you’ll love the sympathetic, tight and rocking band that chugs, squeals and thunders behind her. Antony Glynne’s electric lead guitar is razor sharp and delights with more flourishes and darts than D’Artagnan’s sword. Tony Stevens’ bass coupled to Dave Dowle’s drumming provide a rhythm platform of real drive. The difference often comes with John Cook’s keyboards whether electric or piano: he gives the whole sound more bluesy shades with repeated honky tonk runs. 

“In My Eyes’ is as near as you’ll get to a ballad as the band slow to a subsonic pace and Bell croons majestically. “Do You Want My Love” has a catchy chorus, no doubt written to order to tempt chart recognition. “French Kisses” is a funky blues rocker with Lowell George slide guitar, bliss. In fact the whole album is tuneful; the band members composed the whole album.

The title track “Midnight Love’ with synth keys sounds American with clear distinct bass lines and splashy drums. Eventually a long piano intro delivers “Rough Trade’ and the last track on the album. Over this accompaniment Bell gives us a tour de force. A vocal that soars, a vocal that draws us in and a vocal that confirms her as one of the all time great female rock vocalists.

Sadly they didn’t last and went their separate ways. How this album didn’t spawn a great career is a real mystery. I’m so glad I found it*.

*Gratitude to the Mighty Jessney on Vixen 101’s Nothing But The Blues who brought this album to my attention

Records Of The Year 2020

So it’s that time of the year where I submit my Top 10 albums of the year. This year I’ve received the usual 200 plus digital downloads: some of it by famous artists eg. Drive-By Truckers, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan and Shelby Lynne but most of it by folk you’ve never heard of or I’ve never heard of! The source has been from my man in the USA at The Americana Music Show, Country Music People and my own purchases. I’ve bought about 60 albums during the year. A few were new releases but most were of earlier years. As a consequence my list below includes these.

  1. Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Came

Enthralling from start to finish. Walker’s comfortable mastery of so many country styles with layered arrangements elevates these fabulous compositions to my No. 1.

2. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions (2020)

My Americana album of the year. Terrific melodies and diverting stories often following his philosophical muse with wry observations. A master at the top of his game. 

3. Will Banister – Everything Burns (2020)

Everything you could hope for in a pure country album. A sonorous baritone linked to a tight band with compelling tunes. Inevitably he was ‘too country’ to dent the US charts.

4. Brandy Clark – Your Life Is A Record (2020)

Humour, philosophy, tearjerkers and love songs. Her lyrics could make a TV box set of every day USA. For me, a journalist highlight was getting complimentary tickets to her Gateshead concert in January to review the gig.

5. Ashley McBryde – Never Will (2020)

Complete ‘ear candy’ as she produces another fabulous set of blue-collar testaments to love, striving and survival over an upbeat contemporary country Nashville soundtrack. 

6. Marshall Chapman – Songs I Can’t Live Without (2020)

Her covers album is an absolute delight with numbers by Leonard Cohen, Elvis, Bob Seger and Carole King. A care worn voice redolent with all life’s experiences and never hurried. Arresting.

7. Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space (2015)

After having heard one track off a sample CD I eventually bought the album and was captivated by soundtrack about manned exploration flights into space. They caught the majesty, tension and breath taking bravery of man’s endeavours.

8. Pete Atkin – The Colour Of The Night (2015)

I first discovered Atkin playing Ealing Technical College in 1974. From there I collected all his records until his long hiatus. An internet search threw up this fabulous latter day singer songwriter album with Clive James’ words. For me it was like meeting an old friend.

9. Talk Talk – It’s My Life (1984)

A bit like Martin Peters, Talk Talk or Mark Hollis, were ahead of their time. This is elegant and innovative rock with its rhythms and imposing deep vocals. This band should be more lauded than they are. This turned up from a neighbour’s record collection. Result!

10. Ray LaMontagne – Monovision (2020)

He seldom fails with an album and this is a return to form after Ouroboros. Playing all the instruments his gentle ballads serve up a cathartic, melody fest with that staggering voice that captures you from the first track.

You’ll find album reviews of Joshua Ray Walker, Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark, Marshall Chapman , Public Service Broadcasting and Talk Talk on the website. Just click the links.