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Johnny Black  |  Jun 20, 2019
This month we review: Jon Amor, Delicate Steve, Crows and Nick Waterhouse
Johnny Black  |  May 14, 2019
This month we review: The Steel Woods, Katie Doherty And The Navigators, Deep Cut, and MXMJoY
Johnny Black  |  Apr 03, 2019
This month we review: Raoul Vignal, Me And My Friends, Michael Blyth & The Wild Braid, & Frankie Davies
Johnny Black  |  Mar 06, 2019
This month we review: Foxtrott, Me And My Friends, Amos Lee, & Ed Motta
Johnny Black  |  Dec 01, 2018
This month we review: KT Tunstall, John Butler Trio, Ian William Craig, and Advance Base
Johnny Black  |  Nov 01, 2018
This month we review: Josh Taerk, The Molochs, Epic45, and Texti-tv 666.
Johnny Black  |  Oct 01, 2018
This month we review: Protoje, Tom Bailey, Jack Carty And Gus Gardiner, and C Diab.
Johnny Black  |  Sep 01, 2018
This month we review: Toure Kunda, Maddy Prior, Hannah James And Giles Lewin, Dan Stuart, and Judith Owen.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
The Coal Porters are but one facet of the abundant creativity of renaissance man Sid Griffin, who also helms a band called Western Electric, runs his own record label and writes excellent books on musical themes. The Porters, however, are the incarnation of Sid that you’re most likely to encounter in your favourite live music establishment, and their fourth album, Durango, is as splendid an alt-bluegrass excursion as you’ll hear all this year. A sprightly bunch of fiddle, mandolin and banjo-driven songs are fleshed out with choice covers, including a yearning version of Neil Young’s ‘Like A Hurricane’. Plus a video documentary on the band.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
Despite my instinct to reject Valerie Anne Poxleitner, aka Lights, because of the overtly religious content of so many of her songs, this Canuck electro-singer-songwriter has won me over on purely musical grounds. Her synth structures are gorgeous, if derivative, and her voice has hints of Kate Bush that make even her frequent use of auto-tuned vocals acceptable. (Actually, if I’m honest, I have no problem at all with auto-tune, so long as it’s used as a musical tool rather than as a repair kit). What I like most about The Listening is its fresh, innocent and disarming simplicity, like the very earliest electro-pop albums back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
You don’t need me to tell you that the Jimmy Webb songbook includes a bunch of timelessly great classics, like ‘Wichita Lineman’, ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ and ‘Galveston’. What Webb has done here is not just to re-interpret those songs with the assistance of superstar chums Billy Joel, Glen Campbell and Lucinda Williams, but also to take the opportunity to accord the same treatment to some of his lesser-known compositions, most notably ‘PF Sloan’ as a duet with Jackson Browne, and ‘If You See Me Getting Smaller’ with Willie Nelson. It’s not consistently wonderful, largely because Webb has never had much of a voice, but at its best it’s pretty darned wonderful. Sound Quality: 90% .
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
This is a charmingly odd collection of tracks recorded (and rejected) by eccentric New York folk-rock experimentalists Department Of Eagles prior to making their second album, In Ear Park. They were laid down in January 2006 in far from ideal conditions but, nevertheless, the collection boasts several appealing melodies with imaginative lyrics and free-wheeling musical arrangements, interspersed with several wilfully odd snippets described as Practice Room Sketches. It’s all very cerebral and sometimes sonically challenging but well worth wading through to get to sublimely bizarre moments like ‘While We’re Young’, ‘Brightest Minds’ and ‘Golden Apple’. Sound Quality: 80% .
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
With The Dixie Chicks on a seemingly endless recording hiatus, two thirds of the band, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, have emerged as Court Yard Hounds. It’s hard to imagine any fan of the Chicks not enjoying this outing but, happily, Robison and Maguire have come up with something noticeably more intimate and personal than a Chicks album. There’s a delightfully down-home quality to cuts like the Jakob Dylan duet ‘See You In The Spring’, and Robison’s recent divorce seems to have pushed her into emotional spaces she might not have otherwise explored. The anger of ‘Ain’t No Son’, the defiant spirit of ‘It Didn’t Make A Sound’ and the touching honesty of ‘Fear Of Wasted Time’ make this pretty damned irresistible.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
If only for his relentless persistence in the face of all the evidence that the world doesn’t need this sort of thing anymore, it’s hard not to harbour a sneaking affection, maybe even admiration, for Meat Loaf. A huge drum beat leads into a portentously cacophonous orchestral intro, after which it’s business as usual – double-scoops of the Jim Steinman patented blend of bar-room boogie mixed with gothic operatic bombast, decorated with tongue-in-cheek lyrics like, ‘Next time you stab me in the back you better do it to my face’. Steinman, however, isn’t involved so the whole thing’s just a knowing pastiche. Still, as a wiser man than me once said, this is the sort of thing you’ll like if you like this sort of thing.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
Now this is very special indeed. Joy Kills Sorrow are a contemporary folk-bluegrass Boston quintet and this, their debut album, is unutterably superb. Not only is the banjo and mandolin playing astonishing, but the singing (both in terms of soloists and harmonies) is gorgeous, and the songs themselves are true earworms – they get in there and lodge themselves firmly, demanding that you take the CD to the car and play it out there as well. Making bluegrass sound new, fresh and exciting is certainly a challenge these days, but Joy Kills Sorrow do it with ease.