Albums Of The Month – February 2023

Our Top Six Releases Feb 23

Mighty Poplar – Photo: Brian Carroll

Top Six Releases

February 2023

Our Top Six Releases Feb 23

By Rob Dickens

Cody Christian

Canary In A Coal Mine

Independent

5 August 2022

Cody Christian gave up his job as a shipbuilder after eight years, declaring to his colleagues that he wanted an occupation where “my beard would be valued”. According to the bio on his website: “He’s been nominated for zero Grammys, no Billboard awards, and has never been featured in a major film sound track. He just released his debut full length album titled ‘Canary In A Coal Mine’. His quest to make noise in front of the masses by any means necessary is currently underway.”

Originally from the small town of Powhatan, Virginia, Christian’s songs on the aptly-named Canary In A Coal Mine hit hard on the impact of mining (black lung), reflections on his change of career (“Two Weeks Notice”), the struggles of making a living as a musician and the effect of his choice on those around him – “Wife and Kids” and “Someday I Am” (clip of latter below).

Apparently inspired by Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, his is a very imposing full-length debut with a fine, well-weathered voice and meticulously calculated lyrics.

OFFICIAL SITE

Helene Cronin

Landmarks

Independent

3 February 2023

Landmarks is the follow-up to this Texas-bred singer/songwriter’s 2019 impressive debut Old Ghosts & Lost Causes (here’s our review). The new album is an even better experience for this listener, perhaps indicating a growing maturity and wisdom from having that earlier release’s experience behind her.

Matt King and Helene Cronin have been working on this project for about a year and the hard work and attention to detail really pays enormous dividends. The songs are weighty and diverse in presentation and the session players are stunning – Byron House‘s bass, Kenny Vaughan‘s guitar work and Bobby Terry‘s steel, acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo riffs add many glorious layers. One example of the precision here is captured in the complete re-working of the powerful “Just a Woman” including Wendy Moten‘s nerve-tingling vocals on the song (clip below).

For almost twenty years, Croning has made an impact in Nashville songwriting circles, hosting writers-in-the-round sessions at the famed Bluebird Cafe and as a performer in small venues and support spots. It’s truly time she took much more of the limelight.

OFFICIAL SITE

Via Broken Jukebox

Melody Moko

Suburban Dream

Independent

17 February 2023

Melody Moko is as sassy as she is talented. I was a fan of her previous project Two Kids and A Radio (see review) which saw her bring home a Queensland Music Association Award, a Golden Guitar Award and a nomination for the prestigious Australian Music Prize.

Suburban Dream is another no-holds-barred triumph, opening herself up in her observations about life’s ups and downs and capturing perfectly the struggles and woes of suburbia.

“Suburban Dream was born from darkness and depression, the record is a diary entry into
what it looks like to hit rock bottom and documents both the downfall and the recovery, it’s
equal parts hopeful and hopeless”

Melody Moko


Moko played at AmericanaFest in Nashville last year and then worked with Grammy Award nominated producer, Neilson Hubbard to make this album and the quality oozes out, with its superb arrangements and razor-sharp lyrics.

The first single is “The Outskirts” (clip follows).

OFFICIAL SITE

Via Red Rebel Music

Mighty Poplar

Mighty Poplar

Free Dirt Records

31 March 2023

As is my usual practice, I didn’t pay much attention to the media release until I had listened to the Mighty Poplar album a couple of times, although I recalled reading the phrase ‘bluegrass supergroup’.

Absorbing myself in the music, I was taken by how the vocals sounded remarkably like Andrew Marlin (from Watchhouse), that easy and world-weary style that never ceases to captivate. Well, it turns out that it is in fact Marlin and he’s joined by Noam Pikelny and Chris Eldridge from Punch Brothers, Greg Garrison (Leftover Salmon) and Alex Hargreaves (Billy Strings), the collective forming as a vehicle for these artists to explore their love of improvisation in some kind of traditional bluegrass context.

The playing by these oh-so-fine players is in a sense reined in here, not wishing to overplay and interfere with the songs they selected. Marlin chose and sang lead on most of the ten songs here, bringing classics as well as deep cuts from greats like Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard, John Hartford, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Norman Blake.

“It felt so special and effortless; it didn’t take work, other than the work and effort we’ve put in the rest of our lives.”

Brett Eldridge

Masterful playing on classic songs. It does not get any better than this – the joy and artistry beautifully captured on Mighty Poplar’s ravishing debut.

OFFICIAL SITE

Via Hearth PR

Say Zuzu

No Time To Lose

Strolling Bones Records

10 March 2023

Say who? Say ZuZu is a New Hampshire six-piece – Cliff Murphy, brothers Jon and James NolanSteve Ruhm, Tim Nylander and Jon Pistey. The band formed in 1992, garnering attention for their blend of hard rock and folk insights and their popularity rose on the back of a gruelling tour schedule until early 2020 when New West Records owner George Fontaine, Sr. offered the group a deal with his off-shoot label, Strolling Bones.

Amazingly, while No Time to Lose is the group’s seventh studio album, it is their first original full-length outing in over twenty-one years, the twelve-song set was recorded over the course of just ten days in December 2021 and follows their 2022 retrospective, Here Again.

Terrific harmonies, lively guitar work and a set of fine songs make this a truly inviting collection.

OFFICIAL SITE

Via Victory Lap Media

Time Sawyer

Dig A Little Deeper

Independent

10 March 2023

Time Sawyer is a North Carolina based alt. country outfit and Dig a Little Deeper will be its seventh studio album, coming on the heels of Mountain Howdy (2019). The title of the new release reflects their (successful) intention of uncovering some more profound home truths centring on envy, self-reflection and their personal state of the union.

More particularly, the topics here delve on blinding superstition, modern dating, focussing on our differences rather than our commonalities and toughness. The anthemic “It’s What It Is” (clip below) is all about Joe Pesci’s tough guy persona and its harmful consequences.

“We like to find common ground between folks (conductors and pilots) but once we feel inferior, they’re our enemy, not someone who was seen as an ally”

The band’s Sam Tayloe

There’s also a nice cover of Jim Croce’s “Speedball Trucker” which rounds out the tracks nicely. Time Sawyer will support the album with a series of U.S. tour dates.

OFFICIAL SITE

Via Victory Lap Media

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LAST MONTH’S BEST ALBUMS

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Our Top Six Releases Feb 23

Our Top Six Releases Feb 23

Our Top Six Releases Feb 23

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Author: Rob Dickens

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