Friday, 16 August 2019

Byron Wallen - Meeting Ground, album review


Elegant and melodious trumpet so often infuses the songs on this album, these then worked with other instrumentation like the riff baritone sax of Tony Kofi beneath a Miles Davis-esque muted overplay by Wallen on opener Spirit of Bilal, where, in addition, found sounds and the vocal of Boujemaa Boubul provide further depths. These recorded sounds, for example, segue into the next track Captive Caravan with a storm as the field sample to start. Horn and sax work in a punchy tandem as well with other percussive instrumentation and vocal tunes to create an ambience of outdoors and expansiveness to then end on a cow/oxen growl beneath Gnawa percussion. This then itself segues into a fly-buzzed [uncomfortably so] intro to Sailor of the Sounds and a subsequent dub/hip hop rhythmic follow-on – the flies buzzing in and out – and Moroccan Boubul’s singing continuing to layer the ‘African’ landscape. The closing title track has a wonderful call/response between Wallen and Kofi that erupts into a furious debate, eventually defused to Larry Bartley on bass and Tom Skinner on drums [superb throughout] reminding them to pick back up on the dual melody. This wonderful mix exemplifies over and over the album's richly creative musical journey.

Imagine my happy anticipation of seeing Wallen play at Exeter next week.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Live at Woodstock, album review

No Chat Just Superb Rock

People will have arrived days before the actual festival began on 15th August, 1969, so here I am one day ahead of the technical start of the 50th anniversary celebration [I've rarely stopped] and I'm listening to this just released full set of CCR at Woodstock.

No scared shitless or hey man, we're a whole village [or whatever, and as fine as that was], just the most sublime song after song of rock'n'roll played live and heavy: 10 minutes of Keep on Chooglin' is a chugging gem [might be getting the harp out to play along...].

Eye Music 44

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Tim Ries - Life Changes, album review

Daughters and Other Inspirations

Tim Ries and Grégoire Maret - saxophone and harmonica: what a wonderful combination on a range of tracks, like As it Happens, the move from a melodically rich harmonica solo to a scorching sax follow-on, this then thundered further with drums by Jack DeJohnette, then sax and harp to merge sweetly as a duet at the end. This and so much else make for an outstanding whole album.

I will just mention a beautiful early favourite which is Eliana's Song, this named after one of Ries' three daughters, with Bill Frisell on glorious guitar. The family focus doesn't end there. We also have another daughter name-checked in Bella's Lullaby, a jazz 'standard' lovingly sung by third daughter Jasia who gets her own familial and musical hug with Jasia's Snow Day, Maret on harp with Ries accompanying on alto flute.

Closer Life Changes reprise is a looping gem. A lovely album you can listen to and get here.

No Face Music 28

Chuck Hawthorne - Fire Out of Stone, album review


This is a fulsome slice of Americana from a voice that is resonant lyrically and in tone, informed by narratives experienced, or with which stories and other realities are fully empathised. There is wit, as with opener Such is Life, about a biker persona/representative:

He smelled like marijuana
Two finger cologne
He smoked his Regal cigarettes
Through an ancient saxophone

and there are throughout words of love and loss as on the beautiful Amarillo Wind, graced with gorgeous viola, pedal steel and the harmony vocal of Libby Koch. Sara’s All the Way is another pedal steel lament graced by the songwriting and singing.

I’ve read elsewhere about echoes of Guy Clark, but I don’t really see this apart from the fine and apt singer/songwriter link. I hear here and there Bruce Springsteen, but more so Tom Russell if one wants a complementary touchstone. 

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Rosalie Cunningham - Rosalie Cunningham, album review

Music Circus Ringmaster

Just released, Rosalie Cunningham’s eponymous album is a delightful showcase of her distinctive and fulsome talent as multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter. The psychedelia of her significant time as leader of superb band Purson [albums and live reviewed here] is still wonderfully evident, but there is a coherence of the music circus to this fine set of tracks, and by this I mean a theatre of gypsy folk to psyche pop elements merging in the big tent circle of this performance.

In many reviews I often cite precursor touchstones and then either hasten to confirm the intended compliment or apologise for what are probably familiar [perhaps ad nauseam] references to musical echoes. Unabashed now, I simply reflect on hearing forebears like Clear Light and early Doors, then Affinity as well as one cosmic waft of Hawkwind opening a track, and also a favourite influence mentioned by Cunningham herself in the album’s inner sleeve, the Beatles, and by implication, George Martin.

All these inspirations coalesce in Cunningham’s assured interpretive flair, a musical focus she has honed with instinct and determination throughout her musical career and celebrated in this solo album. 

Rather than work chronologically through individual songs, I will highlight the collective pulses of this record from happily engaged notes I made on a first listen, starting always with the voice, Cunningham’s fulsome and resonant vocal and the occasional great swathes of warbling perfection and the harmonies quite beautifully expanded and overlapped. There are 60s/70s fuzz buzzes and space-rock backdrops. There is a portentous, punchy start. There are continuous examples of solo excellence in clever guitar leads, a pounding bass, and layered organ swirls.

Instrumentation and genre merge playfully and evocatively, from lounge piano to wah-wah to marching beats to orchestral keyboards/mellotron to the operatic, and on closing tour-de-force A Yarn from the Wheel, spoken narrative and rousing screams.

I am so genuinely pleased to have a vinyl copy added now to my Purson collection. I look forward to those of the future from this musical ringmaster.