Film Review: A Star is Born

**Please Note This Discussion Contains Spoilers**

Looking at the most popular movies of recent times you would have to conclude that most of us don’t want to see a tragedy set in the modern world. Maybe we feel safer, more reassured if the potential horrors are set in a post apocalyptic landscape or a world populated by superheroes. Telling the truth about the nasty struggles of everyday people is a tougher sell. Thankfully that fact did not deter Bradley Cooper from remaking A Star is Born, refusing to shy away from addressing some of the all too real complexities of life as a famous musician and an addict. Anyone who enters the theatre expecting a lightweight tale of the rise of a pop star will be surely shocked at the depths of despair this film is prepared to reach.

Tragedy on such an epic scale could only be set in the world of show business, where it seems even the biggest stars lurch from one inexplicable personal horror to another, with many dying young or in desperate circumstances. Another tragic element of the industry, and of life I guess, is that eventually your time runs out and another younger, fresher talent is waiting to step into your spotlight. To balance the downfall A Star is Born, as the title suggests, will also brings us the rise of a superstar, with music so good it will crush your heart in two. Continue reading “Film Review: A Star is Born”

Album Review: Amy Helm – This Too Shall Light

On the cover of her new album Amy Helm stands strong surrounded by the majesty of nature, the colour green, the cloudy sky and imminent light, suggesting this will be an album concerning the reality of the world around us. Musically the album is rooted in the rustic outdoor world where songs are sung to fight against approaching storms. With a varied mix of covers and originals This Too Shall Light offers a natural haven for the listener, a place of shelter, faith and community togetherness. Continue reading “Album Review: Amy Helm – This Too Shall Light”

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – Wouldn’t It Be Great

Having suffered a stroke and a broken hip in the last few years, you might expect living legend Loretta Lynn to be taking it easy now she is in her eighties. Instead, after a little delay for her recovery, she is releasing her third of five planned new albums produced by John Carter Cash and her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell. Loretta’s music remains steadfastly traditional and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great’ contains a mix of re-recorded songs and new material in the classic country style which made her name. Continue reading “Album Review: Loretta Lynn – Wouldn’t It Be Great”

Album Review: Kari Arnett – When The Dust Settles

Americana singer Kari Arnett is currently based in Minneapolis but like so many great artists before her she has a plan to move to Nashville. Her debut album When The Dust Settles is full of quality songwriting and has a rich roots sound which suggests her spirit is already haunting the hallowed streets of Music City. There’s also real resilience and grit in the wise heart of this album. Continue reading “Album Review: Kari Arnett – When The Dust Settles”

Album Review: Lola Kirke – Heart Head West

September always feels like the saddest month of the year to me – as the leaves begin to turn, California dreaming sometimes is the only thing that gets me through. Step forward the recently released album from songwriter and actress Lola Kirke to offer me some charming end of summertime melancholia just when I need it. Inspired by Gram Parsons, Laurel Canyon and heady doses of three chords and the truth Heart Head West is full of rich, warm hues – a perfect soundtrack to the changing seasons outside and in. Continue reading “Album Review: Lola Kirke – Heart Head West”

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”

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