Album Review: Pistol Annies – Hell of a Holiday

For me the best Christmas music contains truths about the emotional complexity of the season: from the drunken conflict of Fairytale of New York to the aching sadness of River by Joni Mitchell. Too many recent Christmas albums seem content with cliched offerings or weak cover versions of classics designed to capitalise on the streaming algorithm, rather than having anything meaningful to say about the season.

Luckily for us then our resident reality check heroines Pistol Annies are here to offer us something fresh with their brilliant new Christmas album Hell of a Holiday. We last found Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe on the Interstate Gospel, searching for comfort in Jesus and dealing with heartbreak, inertia and family trouble. Christmas then, being the time of year where women and relationships are stretched to the limit, is a natural fit for their songwriting skills. Continue reading “Album Review: Pistol Annies – Hell of a Holiday”

Album Review: Carly Pearce – 29: Written in Stone

During the recent nominations ceremony for the upcoming Grammy awards there was one notable absentee from the country categories – Carly Pearce. Perhaps her snub was even more obvious since they’d invited her to present some of the nominations on the telecast, which is usually an indication of future success. Many fans took to twitter to highlight the injustice, underlining the fact that, with or without award nominations, 2021 has been a fantastic year for the woman from Kentucky. Continue reading “Album Review: Carly Pearce – 29: Written in Stone”

Album Review – Aimee Mann – Queens Of the Summer Hotel

Susanna Kaysen once said that what inspired her to write Girl, Interrupted was ‘rage and a desire to dissect this world.’ The book, about her stay in a mental hospital in the 1960s, was not a traditional misery memoir of personal confession, it was postmodern and episodic, full of silences and omissions – an ‘artefact’ rather than a transcription of reality.

The filmed version abandoned this structure for a more traditional narrative arc, so much so that Kaysen said she felt like she ‘didn’t even write this book’. Despite its deviation from the source material, the film’s central performances from Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie still encapsulated the madness and despair of the book. The excellent soundtrack used sixties pop songs with sweetly miserable lyrics like ‘Downtown’ by Petula Clark and in one shocking and brutal sequence ‘The End of the World’ by Skeeter Davis.

A few years ago plans were made to write a Girl, Interrupted stage musical and singer songwriter Aimee Mann was enlisted to compose the music. The project is much delayed and may never see the light of day, so Mann decided to release the songs separately as a full album.

Queens of the Summer Hotel’ uses the original elliptical nature of the book’s structure and successfully captures the true essence of the source material in beautiful songs of despair, dark humour and quiet hope. Continue reading “Album Review – Aimee Mann – Queens Of the Summer Hotel”

Album Review: Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days

When Brandi Carlile won her Grammy for Best Americana album her speech was not just a moment of personal celebration, it was also a statement about the genre itself:

Americana music is the island of the misfit toys. I am such a misfit. It is this music that has shaped my life and made me who I am. I came out of the closet at 15 years old…and I can assure that you I was never invited to any parties and never got to attend a dance. To be embraced by this enduring & loving community has been the dance of a lifetime. Thank you for being my island.

To find a place where your difference makes you not an outcast but part of a kind and harmonious patchwork of people is not just what a musical genre can be, it’s an ideal that America, and the world itself, should strive for. A lifted lamp by the golden door. A welcome for all. Continue reading “Album Review: Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days”

Album Review: Adia Victoria – A Southern Gothic

On her last album Adia Victoria was deep in the Silences, wrestling with death, the devil and the blues. Last year, in response to the turbulent traumas inflicted on her country, she released the potent single ‘South Gotta Change’, a rallying call for a new American future. Interesting then that ‘A Southern Gothic’ does not include that song, offering instead a narrative arc which explores the push and pull of the place she has long been ‘stuck in’, ultimately finding some peace within the oppressive reality of living in the South. Continue reading “Album Review: Adia Victoria – A Southern Gothic”

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