Album Review: Cry Pretty – Carrie Underwood

Few artists have had the sustained success in country music as Carrie Underwood. When more and more women in the genre are seeing doors slam in their faces and are making moves towards pop or Americana or indie or oblivion Carrie has remained at the top of the game, faithful to the genre and its songwriters. She seemed to be the only one immune to the misogyny of the mainstream country music genre – hitting the top of the charts, getting support from radio and streaming platforms, headlining festivals, winning awards, selling records.

However two long years have passed since her last album, and the landscape has shifted so much that even she is now feeling the impact, with the lead single from this album underperforming (albeit only against her own high standards). At a time when the mainstream needs Carrie Underwood she has bravely decided to try something a little different, a little more thoughtful, a little more personal. Cry Pretty might not be what radio wants to hear but in my eyes that means it might just be her most important album to date. Continue reading “Album Review: Cry Pretty – Carrie Underwood”

Album Review: Juanita Stein – Until The Lights Fade

With the release of her second album in a year Howling Bells’ lead singer Juanita Stein is certainly not hanging around in establishing herself as a solo act, having also toured with the likes of The Killers and Bryan Ferry. On this new album ‘Until The Lights Fade’ the dreamy Americana sound she created on her debut (one of my favourite albums of 2017) is combined with a return to her indie rock roots, resulting in a confident and catchy collection of songs. Continue reading “Album Review: Juanita Stein – Until The Lights Fade”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – Bubbling Over

On her 1973 album Bubbling Over we find Dolly changing direction again, moving away from the deeply personal, autobiographical songs of My Tennessee Mountain Home. This lighter album feels like another step towards finding the sound that would eventually help her make the breakthrough beyond the country charts. The cover image is memorably kitsch with Dolly’s grinning face emerging from a fountain, taken by Les Leverett near the Country Music Hall of Fame. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Bubbling Over”

Live Review: Clare Bowen @ Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Clare Bowen has just finished a six season stint playing reluctant singer songwriter Scarlett O’Connor on the hit show Nashville and is now forging her own path in the music industry for real, leaving a trail of joy and glitter behind her. Last week she released her lovely debut album and arrived in Glasgow to perform as part of her first solo U.K. tour, backed by a band which included her husband, brother and long time Nashville music director Colin Linden. The show was a warm and friendly family affair, showcasing a singer with enough charisma and sparkle to light up any room. Continue reading “Live Review: Clare Bowen @ Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow”

Album Review: Clare Bowen – Clare Bowen

The television series Nashville finished up its six series run earlier this year, and while I think it jumped the shark after they killed off a certain character, I still count myself a fan, in particular of the performances by Clare Bowen as Scarlett. Still I always had my doubts about whether anyone in the show actually wanted to make it in the music industry for real (and indeed whether they could cut it). Thankfully I’m pleased to say with this excellent self titled debut album Clare Bowen proves me dead wrong. This is an elegant collection of dreamy Americana, full of songs with something quietly interesting to say. Continue reading “Album Review: Clare Bowen – Clare Bowen”

Music Book Club August: ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’ by Angela Davis

In her work ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’ Angela Davis states her aim is to discover what we can learn from three pioneers of blues music: Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. She wants to look beyond biography to investigate how their work reflected feminist attitudes and helped shaped black consciousness. The work is academic in tone and purpose, a rightfully serious but also personally passionate account of the significance of these often overlooked artists and their legacies. By placing their music in a wider sociocultural context, Davis gives these women the respect and acclaim they so richly deserve. Continue reading “Music Book Club August: ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’ by Angela Davis”

Album Review: Shemekia Copeland – America’s Child

On ‘America’s Child’ Shemekia Copeland infuses blues, classic rock, country and soul music into songs which wrap traditional sounds around words reflecting the concerns of now. The magical voice of Copeland gives us all hope for a better future – we see that optimism reflected on the album cover where a little girl wears the American flag as a comfort blanket, even if her eyes are downcast you sense the potential of a new day in the warm glow of the sun behind her. Continue reading “Album Review: Shemekia Copeland – America’s Child”

Album Review: Mitski – Be The Cowboy

In an interview a few years back Mitski responded to Damon Albarn dismissing modern musicians as the ‘selfie generation’ by saying ‘Young artists talking about themselves can be the most political thing done today, and is something a lot of them couldn’t have done before, or at least not to an audience.’ On her new album ‘Be The Cowboy’ Mitski’s songs use the personal try to make sense of the complex world around her; constantly asking questions and contemplating her relationships. In the cover picture (coincidentally reminiscent of Blur’s Leisure album) Mitski is preparing for her performance, a knowing nod to the unreality of our image driven world. She looks at us sideways, unsmiling. We press play and she dives in. Continue reading “Album Review: Mitski – Be The Cowboy”

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