Our August 2020 best
Top Six New Releases
By Rob Dickens
2 October 2020
A band on the march until the pandemic hit, 49 Winchester hail from the deep hollers of southwest Virginia and demonstrate a legitimate brand of Appalachian soul. This quintet’s front man and songwriter Isaac Gibson boasts a mighty, raspy voice that belies his youthful looks (and reminiscent of the great Chris Stapleton) .
Recorded between Fat Baby Studios in Whitesburg, Kentucky and Classic Recording in Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee III (their third release…of course) is steeped in the rich musical vein of the Appalachian Mountains, where the legacy of Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, and many more artists whose ghostly presence remain.
The last track “Get Clean” is a stunner and worth the cost of admission alone. The clip below was recorded at the historic Radio Bristol in that historic town.
Via Team Victory Lap
Free Dirt Records
24 July 2020
We’ve had this one for a while at Listening Through The Lens HQ. Luckily digital files are pretty hardy, otherwise we may have worn this collection out.
Looking to escape or embrace isolation? If the former, this may not be right for you but I feel that this is the perfect melodious commentary of these incredibly challenging and confronting times.
Cinder Well is songwriter Amelia Baker and this album contains scant audio landscapes, the simplicity adding more to the ethereal, trance-like material. Baker moved from California to County Clare, Ireland to study traditional music of the region and she captures the mood perfectly.
Recorded by Nich Wilbur (Black Belt Eagle Scout, Angel Olsen), the original songs on No Summer are relentlessly rewarding, maintaining a continual seam yet providing plenty of diversity. Folk music at its best.
Via Hearth Music
Courtney Marie Andrews
Fat Possum Records
24 July 2020
Courtney Marie Andrews has featured many times at Listening Through The Lens. No apologies for that. Ever since she decided to get back into a fully-blown musical career, she has not put a foot astray.
A talented songwriter whose voice sounds perfect on every conceivable audio device (yes, even on my unassisted Lenovo laptop speaker!), her seventh album is intensely personal and courageous, reflecting on an intense romance gone south.
The instrumentation is solely by Andrews and just two others musicians, James Krivchenia on drums and Matthew Davidson on pedal steel, bass, pump organ and other things.
Old Flowers is exquisitely graceful.
A Dark Murmuration of Words
Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl Australia
4 September 2020
Born and raised in a small town in Western Australia, Emily Barker relocated to England a while back and began working her way up from open mic nights. Her song “Nostalgia” became the theme song for the critically-acclaimed BBC series Wallander and her Americana/folk offerings grew with her last album Sweet Kind of Blue winning for AMA-UK Artist of The Year.
Barker’s sixth full-length release tackles some heady topics – racism, climate change, sexism and more, with her sweet voice overarching the lyrics with much authority.
Barker enlisted to great effect producer Greg Freeman (Peter Gabriel, Amy Winehouse) to a broad and attractive musical palette. “Machine” provides ample evidence of the brave choices taken here. Contributors include Rob Pemberton (drums, percussion), Lukas Drinkwater (bass), Pete Roe (guitars, keys), Misha Law and Emily Hall (strings).
Via Jo Corbett Publicity
Paul Kelly & Paul Grabowsky
Please Leave Your Light On
Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl
31 July/14 August 2020
What to do when you’ve been a musical monolith for decades in your native Australia and across the globe? Paul Kelly‘s star has never dimmed for a few reasons aside from obvious talent, self-belief and the other critical ingredient for an artist, persistence. Two other factors are his ability to absorb his surroundings, literature, lessons of history and the other is a remarkable capacity to re-invent and refresh.
With Award-winning, sublime pianist Paul Grabowsky, Kelly takes a step back to Frank Sinatra‘s classic collaborations with Nelson Riddle. Grabowsky was asked to curate an event of duo settings and asked Kelly to participate which yielded such success that they decided to record what they had done, over three days last year.
There are eleven Kelly songs which Grabowsky adapted to a piano/vocal combination (“Winter Coat” for one has never sounded better) including Shakepeare’s “Sonnet 138”, plus Cole Porter’s glorious “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.
Paul Kelly’s CV just got bigger – late-night crooner.
A Small Death
Ramseur Records/Thirty Tigers
17 July 2020
An exciting and articulate voice.
Samantha Crain is a Choctaw-American musician and songwriter based in Oklahoma. Her past is dark – grief, trauma and debilitating physical pain which left the singer home in bed and barely able to perform or play an instrument.
What makes A Small Death so coercive is the reconstructive emotion ingrained throughout, an undeniable sense of hope and redemption in this her sixth studio LP. “I didn’t completely die, but I feel like I died a little bit and that allowed me this new beginning,” Crain explains.
The power of her vocals and sheer breadth of storytelling, along with wonderful arrangements are all big pluses here as well. “When We Remain”, in her native tongue, is gorgeous.
Crain won two NAMMYs (Native American Music Awards) and the Indigenous Music Award for Best Rock Album in 2019.
Via Sacks & Co.
Our August 2020 best