Album Review: Joy Oladokun – Proof of Life

A notable recent trend in pop music has been the rise of the heartfelt singer songwriter, offering songs about ordinary lives and love without any fancy trimmings or concern about their image. Of course all of them hitting the top of the charts have been male. You don’t see many women in any genre just standing on stage in a hoodie playing their guitar and gently singing from the heart.

Joy Oladokun’s new album ‘Proof of Life’ offers us a female version of that kind of honest, understated anti-style. What makes her even more interesting than those crop of solo singer songwriters is the inventive and fresh sound she creates on this record – taking pop, folk, indie and jazz influences and fusing them into something new of her own.

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Album Review: Bella White – Among Other Things

Brought up on bluegrass and folk music by her musical parents 22 year old Canadian songwriter Bella White is already releasing her second album, which is maybe not surprising considering she’s a precocious talent who wrote her first song aged 7. Her debut album was self-released in 2020 and led to her signing for Rounder records. She recorded this new collection ‘Among Other Things’ with producer Jonathan Wilson (who has been working with many Americana-leaning artists lately like Erin Rae, Margo Price and Angel Olsen).

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Album Review: Esther Rose – Safe to Run

On her previous releases Esther Rose perfected a cool yet catchy sound through a sweet combination of light pedal steel, fiddle, soft vocals and vintage Americana production. On her new album ‘Safe to Run’ she continues this aesthetic, while also expanding her horizons – her newly blonde hair and a change of location from New Orleans to Santa Fe perhaps inspiring a new sense of artistic looseness and freedom.

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Dream Setlist for a Miranda Lambert ‘Eras’ Tour

On her recent appropriately titled ‘Eras’ tour, Taylor Swift has been blazing a trail for how to curate a setlist that appeals to your hardcore fan base while also appeasing those who may just have been dragged along and only know the hits.

Taylor has split her setlist into ‘eras’, playing a selection of tracks from every album (except her debut) in sections, totalling 44 songs from her ten albums. To keep things interesting she includes two random song choices near the end of her set. The running time of the show is about three hours fifteen minutes, rivalling even Springsteen for stamina.

What’s great about this idea is that unlike a Greatest Hits show or a show that focuses on a new or old album, Taylor is clearly trying to celebrate her back catalogue by honouring the fans who have been with her since the beginning and those who have invested time in her discography. She knows she can’t make everyone happy (that would involve her performing every song, from every album on a loop for the rest of her life only stopping to break up with a new boyfriend and write new songs) but she’s doing her best in the way only Taylor can.

And so I got to thinking about some other artists who I’d love to see do an eras-style setlist. Miranda Lambert is the obvious choice to me since she’s my favourite but also because she has enough albums to make it interesting.

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Album Review: Rachel Baiman – Common Nation of Sorrow

Earlier this year Rachel Baiman previewed some of these songs during her set at Celtic Connections, and on the strength of that performance I’ve been looking forward to hearing this new album ever since. ‘Common Nation of Sorrow’ offers thoughtful, state of the world folk music – a rallying call to unite against the suffering caused by economic and political oppression.

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Album Review: Elle King – Come Get Your Wife

With her twangy voice and tattoos, Elle King fits perfectly into a particular type of country music: the rock and roll inspired style perfected by Miranda Lambert and taken up by Ashley McBryde in most recent years. Having made her name with a catchy pop song or two, Elle made successful guest appearances on mainstream country songs and has now made the full leap over to the genre with this recent album ‘Come Get Your Wife’.

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Album Review: Brit Taylor – Kentucky Blue

This past week has seen Kentucky native Brit Taylor making her debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage, a lifetime ambition realised for this hardworking songwriter who moved to Nashville sixteen years ago. The album which has propelled her to these new heights is ‘Kentucky Blue’, thirty three minutes of stylish classic country, co-produced by Sturgill Simpson no less.

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Album Review: Iris DeMent – Workin’ On A World

More than most in the music industry, Iris DeMent is a thinker. Her musical output is slower than most, not because of indifference, but because she makes sure she has something worthy to share with the listener first. Of these songs on her new album ‘Workin’ on a World’ Iris has said: “Not everybody’s going to get them, but there’s people that get them – and they need them.”

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Album Review: Margo Price – Strays

To stray is to go off the beaten path, wandering without a home, scratching survival on your own terms.

No surprise then that Margo Price would name her new album ‘Strays’, since she has embraced that identity since the beginning of her career. In her recent memoir Maybe We’ll Make It she underlined how hard she’d worked to remain a stray – to never compromise the vision she had for her music.

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