Album Review: Dolly Parton – Dumplin’ (Original Soundtrack)

The new Netflix movie ‘Dumplin’ begins with the heroine Willowdean Dickson in her car, singing along to Dolly Parton’s debut single ‘Dumb Blonde’, a song about subverting the expectations of those who judge you unfairly on appearances. The film, based on Julie Murphy’s wonderful novel, concerns a plus size teen who decides to enter a beauty contest as a protest and finds out she really is pageant material after all. Continue reading “Album Review: Dolly Parton – Dumplin’ (Original Soundtrack)”

E.P. Review: Rachel Baiman – Thanksgiving

Rachel Baiman released one of my favourite songs of last year, the stunning Shame from the album of the same name, which exposed the hypocrisy of men and religion in a fiery three minutes. On this follow EP, Thanksgiving, she continues to explore modern life and ideas, in an old timey folk style. The honesty and urgency of her message and music is as engaging as ever. Continue reading “E.P. Review: Rachel Baiman – Thanksgiving”

Dolly Parton’s Discography: ‘The Bargain Store’ – Album Review

In 1975 Dolly Parton found herself at the high point of her country music career, being in the middle of a run of four number one singles and finally winning the CMA for Female Artist of the Year. Her first album of that year was the controversial classic ‘The Bargain Store’, one of the strongest collections of songs Dolly was to release in this impressively productive period. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: ‘The Bargain Store’ – Album Review”

Album Review: The Watson Twins – Duo

It’s been over ten years since The Watson Twins worked with Jenny Lewis on their classic album Rabbit Fur Coat. I feel incredibly privileged to have heard the twins sing live with Jenny a few times and was delighted to see they had released this new album called Duo. The album is produced by Russ Pollard and the excellent backing band includes Vanessa Carlton, members of My Morning Jacket and Mickey Raphael, who has worked with Willie Nelson. On these eight Americana-inspired songs Chandra and Leigh meld their voices together to create a truly heavenly sound. Continue reading “Album Review: The Watson Twins – Duo”

Album Review: Cat Power – Wanderer

Cat Power has always been a singular artist, someone who walks her own musical way. Being a distinctive stylist means she can create evocative widescreen moments within the simplest of arrangements. Her voice makes original songs and covers all sound like they were born from the same moment of pain and joy which is uniquely her own.

Her last album Sun was something of an outlier in her catalogue. At the time it felt like she was experimenting with new sounds and synths in an intriguing way. Listening to it now, years later and the layers of sound feel like she’s stretching at times, trying to navigate the confusion of life through musical experimentation. When it worked it was exhilarating (like on Nothin But Time and Manhattan), but you had to wonder if she was entirely comfortable with this new direction.

So it is unsurprising to hear her new album, Wanderer, strip things back to basics. Gone are the kaleidoscopic electronics, and the soulful jazz flourishes, now replaced with simple guitar and piano. Together the introspective songs sound like one glorious lullaby.  Continue reading “Album Review: Cat Power – Wanderer”

E.P. Review: boygenius

A noticeable twenty-first century trend in indie rock is the proliferation of solo artists rather than your typical four piece band. In a way it is a reflection of our online culture, where to be heard over the din means stepping forward into the spotlight and selling yourself. Many solo artists now work with the same group of musicians but have to use their own name, or some form of pseudonym, for easier recognition. Maybe something is lost when the merging of different musical personalities is no longer the dominant form, but you can see the benefits of being solo from the start – no creative differences, no-one to share the songwriting credits with, no complicated break-ups.

However when you look closer at the sleeve notes of these solo artists you see that actually most of them are still co-writing and collaborating with others, just in looser, more flexible arrangements. Sometimes, though, the need for solo artists to work together on a shared project becomes more tangible and significant. Sometimes you have to give it a name. Continue reading “E.P. Review: boygenius”

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