Rock, March 2019

hfnalbum.pngThe Steel Woods
Old News
Thirty Tigers WDS218 CD

Southern roots rock isn't exactly my home turf, but these boys have definitely got something going for them. Recorded mainly live, the album gains enormously from its spontaneity and the carefully considered shapes of their songs, rooted in blues-rock and country but infused with a forward-looking spirit that refreshes and enlivens everything they do. Mainmen Jason Cope and Wes Bayliss are both accomplished axemen whose guitar duets are impressive, but whose greatest talent lies in how they couple that virtuosity with their songwriting to make every track rich and vibrant. Even when they lean on well-worn lyrical clichés, eg, in a cover of Black Sabbath's 'Changes', their evident sincerity overcomes all potential pitfalls. JBk


Katie Doherty And The Navigators
And Then
Steeplejack Music SJCD023

It's taken a while, because her first album appeared in 2007, but folk-oriented singer-songwriter Katie Doherty's sophomore effort has been worth the waiting. The huge promise she showed on her debut, Bridges, is realised here on ten songs which find her more assured than before, addressing topics as diverse a motherhood, changing seasons and social media. Between these two albums she's been busy both as a composer for stage productions and as an MD for the RSC, but it feels as if she's spoiled for choice songwise, because there's no sub-standard material here, and her band perfectly adorn her powerful melodies and insightful lyrcs. JBk


Deep Cut
Different Planet
Gare Du Nord GDNCD028

Given that a certain amount of retro seems inescapable in music today, let me just say that this is how I like mine. London-based fivesome Deep Cut formed in 2006 but you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd fallen through a time warp from Los Angeles in 1967, stopping off along the way in mid '70s Germany. Jangling 12-string guitars, close vocal harmonies and counterpoints, rock-solid beats, growling synths and a shameless pop consciousness throughout make it an effortless listen. Emma Bailey's voice is suitably dreamy and songwriting partner Mat Flint drives it all along on endless fuzzy guitar licks. I love it, but can't see them ousting Ed Sheeran just yet. JBk


London Field Recordings LDNFR02

Billed as 'the dramatic reimagining' of '80s funk maestros Maximum Joy, by two founding members – vocalist Janine Rainforth and percussion wiz Charlie Llewellin – this lot will bring wide smiles and tapping toes to anyone who remembers them from those days. Hugely important to the evolution of the Bristol post-punk scene, they can still produce compulsive dance beats in avant-garde electronic settings, enhanced by some tastefully effective sidemen. Like many of their contemporaries they also touch on socio-political topics courtesy of Rainforth's lyrics, delivered with all the soulful conviction her quiveringly effective vocals can muster. JBk