Laura Benitez and the Heartache – With All Its Thorns

It’s my opinion that the current attempt in the blogosphere to ‘save’ country music is misguided and ultimately irrelevant. Genre boundaries are useful for the marketing people but artists should be free to go in any direction they wish – look at how the most popular Americana artists of the last few years are heavily indebted to indie and rock, as much as mainstream country is chained to pop and RnB. Blurring the lines of genre doesn’t cause any harm if the music is good, especially when there are still some artists out there who are concerned with keeping the traditional sounds authentic and alive. With All Its Thorns by Laura Benitez and the Heartache would have sounded like ‘classic’ country music twenty years ago but that feeling of nostalgia is exactly why this album is so appealing. Continue reading “Laura Benitez and the Heartache – With All Its Thorns”

Dolly’s Discography – Just Because I’m A Woman

Dolly’s career changed in 1967 when she got a phone call from Porter Wagoner. At first she thought he wanted to record one of her songs with his onscreen partner, Norma Jean, but little did Dolly know that she was actually being interviewed as a potential replacement for her. Soon Dolly was hired and began appearing on television performing to audiences of millions every week.

Starting on the show meant that Dolly left Monument Records and signed with Wagoner’s label RCA. Porter was central to Dolly’s move, as she explained:

“He made RCA a guarantee to get them to sign me. Porter told them he would pay them every cent they ever lost on me out of his own pocket. He never had to pay a dime.”

Porter’s belief in Dolly’s talent helped her career to flourish, although you could argue she was well on her way to success without him. Just Because I’m a Woman was released on May 4th 1968 and Bob Ferguson, RCA’s in-house man, is given the production credit, even though it was Porter himself who was in charge of the sound. The album contains songs which are populated by wronged women and suffering souls, yet somehow Dolly finds strength and even comedy in these dark moments. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – Just Because I’m A Woman”

Album Review: H.C. McEntire – Lionheart

Despite being raised on the sound of country music and hymns H.C. McEntire’s musical career actually began with her playing in punk bands, before eventually forming her alt-country group Mount Moriah. This debut solo album comes after McEntire spent time recently touring as part of Angel Olsen’s band. Lionheart is a quiet roar of a record, nine songs of experience which embrace a rich Americana sound. Continue reading “Album Review: H.C. McEntire – Lionheart”

E.P. Review: St Beauty – Running to the Sun

Alexe Belle and Isis Valentino met when working at a vintage store in Atlanta and bonded over a shared love of Diana Ross, Sade and Frank Ocean. They began working on music together and soon formed a band, naming themselves after a Stevie Wonder song and performing regularly in the basement of the shop, which had become more like a cultural hub. These shows brought them to the attention of Janelle Monae who signed them to her label Wondaland. Running to the Sun is billed as an EP, although with seven full length songs and some interludes it feels like a complete body of work. It’s a glittering mix of ultra modern RnB beats and sweet neo-Soul which sounds fresh and free. Continue reading “E.P. Review: St Beauty – Running to the Sun”

Album Review: First Aid Kit – Ruins

The word Ruins suggests the destruction of something but at the same time what’s left behind can be valuable too – a glimpse of the past to help us understand where we come from, where we’ve been, who we once were. This new album from First Aid Kit was written after a difficult period personally and professionally when sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg had begun living apart for the first time. It’s an album about heartbreak, growing up and making mistakes, and while it’s true this band have always had wisdom beyond their years, Ruins is filled with a sense of grace and hard won maturity. Continue reading “Album Review: First Aid Kit – Ruins”

On ‘Libba’ & How Folk Musician Elizabeth Cotten Inspired Laura Veirs

Acclaimed singer songwriter Laura Veirs is a longtime fan of the music of Elizabeth Cotten, the folk musician known as ‘Libba’, who is the subject of her beautiful picture book published by Chronicle Books. Cotten’s story is astonishing – a self taught guitarist who was only discovered in later life due to an unexpectedly wonderful twist of fate. Continue reading “On ‘Libba’ & How Folk Musician Elizabeth Cotten Inspired Laura Veirs”

Album Review: Caitlyn Smith – Starfire

There’s been some brilliant albums by renowned Nashville songwriters released recently, as though now is the time for the real talent to step out from the shadows. Albums by Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose were quiet, understated affairs but Starfire by Caitlyn Smith has the confidence and bravado of a true performer, with vocals so stunning you find yourself thinking back to the first time you heard Chris Stapleton in terms of the command she has of her instrument. How this woman is only now releasing her debut album when she’s in her thirties seems utterly incredible. Continue reading “Album Review: Caitlyn Smith – Starfire”

Dolly’s Discography: Hello, I’m Dolly

One of my 2018 blog resolutions was to review an artist’s entire discography, inspired by the incredible blog The Diana Ross Project. I contemplated a few possible artists but in the end the chosen one could only be Dolly Parton. These posts will consist of track by track reviews of the solo albums in order of release.

In February 1967 Dolly Parton announced herself to the world with her debut album Hello, I’m Dolly. She was only 21 but had been singing since she was a child and trying to make a name for herself after moving to Nashville when she graduated high school. Initially her record label Monument hoped she could be a pop singer but her early singles failed to chart. She was paid $50 a week to write for the label and when songs she penned with her uncle Bill Owens became hits for other artists, Dolly was finally given a chance to record a country album. And boy, did she grab the opportunity with both hands, and she’s never let go since. Dolly wrote or co-wrote ten of the twelve songs, covering themes of sexism, adultery and heartbreak. This album generated her first hits and eventually brought her to the attention of Porter Wagoner. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography: Hello, I’m Dolly”

Album Review: CupcakKe – Ephorize

When analysing the album of the year polls in December one thing was clear: rap is the dominant genre in music right now. Yet in 2017 albums by female rappers were almost completely shut out from critical and commercial success. In the Stereogum Rap Top 40 Albums of the Year only a handful of women appeared, most of whom were somewhat underground artists like Princess Nokia and Rapsody, in comparison to most of the men on the lists who are populating the mainstream.

Cardi B might have had one of the biggest songs of the year but she’s not an album artist yet, concerning herself with singles and mixtapes instead. Her music is going stratospheric but will she just end up being the one woman who is successful in this era (as per this Pitchfork ‘women in rap’ theory), or can she open the door for a wider range of female rappers to enter the music scene?

Rapper CupcakKe has made a promising start to the year, presenting her unique vision on this engaging and exhilarating album Ephorize. Continue reading “Album Review: CupcakKe – Ephorize”

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