Esther Rose’s 2019 album You Made it This Far, was one of the most underrated releases of last year. Her mix of classic country and indie folk sounded fresh and distinctive – songs like Handyman, Only Loving You and Lower 9 Valentine were outstanding examples of what inventive Americana songwriting could be. She now follows up that release with this short and sweet EP of cover songs, which form a sort of playlist of influences on her musical style.
The first time I heard the Indigo Girls was in 1995, watching Glastonbury on TV. I had just begun reading the NME and gorging myself on loud alternative rock and yet the acoustic performance from Amy and Emily stopped me in my tracks. They were singing Closer to Fine, of course, and their words, voices and harmonies got me in the heart. Some songs and bands are just instantly with you for life.
Look Long is the Indigo Girls’s first album in five years and the band continue to appeal to a wide audience, influencing younger artists like Brandi Carlile and Justin Vernon. The title and songs suggest these legendary artists are still seeking truths, considering the world and moving forward musically. To go with them is to walk in unity, creativity, hope. Continue reading “Album Review: Indigo Girls – Look Long”
In a recent conversation with Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, Jess Williamson discussed how she was inspired by Kacey Musgraves’s ‘Golden Hour’ to fully embrace all her musical influences – from indie, to country, to pop, psychedelia and beyond. The musical results she conjures up on this new album Sorceress are shimmering and glorious. Continue reading “Album Review: Jess Williamson – Sorceress”
As I’ve been reviewing Dolly Parton’s discography the book ‘Not Dumb, Not Blonde: Dolly in Conversation’ which contains interviews spanning across her whole career, has become a valuable resource and reference point in helping me understand both her astonishing career and the psychology of what made her a legend.
Across these series of conversations one unlikely theme recurs often: depression. People may have the misconception that everything is butterflies, rainbows and rhinestones in Dolly’s world but that is simply not the case. In fact her insights and advice on dealing with dark moods and motivating yourself after failures are as inspiring as her songs. Continue reading “Dolly Parton on Depression”
Norah Jones, Catherine Popper and Sasha Dobson this year reunited their side project Puss N Boots to release fun and feisty new album Sister. Norah has said the band are a chance for her to embrace ‘fearlessness’ and they all come to the project with an ‘eagerness to jump in’. That involves all three playing different instruments , bringing solo written songs to the project, writing together and doing covers. Continue reading “Album Review: Puss N Boots – Sister”
The power of Mexican folk songs, traditions and culture is conveyed in Natalia Lafourcade’s new album Un Canto Por Mexico. Lafourcade has described the album as representing a visit to a Mexican market – the people, the sights, sounds, everything you find in such a place is in her music. To walk with her in song is to join in with a joyful celebration of life.
Her last project, the Musas albums, shifted Lafourcade’s focus towards folk music, taking her artistic ambitions in a revelatory direction. From there she was nominated for the Oscar for her contribution to the Coco soundtrack and she performed at the Grammys. Her star in Mexico is huge and she is now rightfully known beyond the narrow confines of ‘world music’. What Lafourcade is doing is transforming traditional folk music for a modern Mexican audience, and showing that to sing for your county is to sing from your own soul. Continue reading “Album Review: Natalia Lafourcade – Un Canto Por Mexico”
Last week musical platform Bandcamp waived fees on their site, allowing artists the entire profit of sales from downloads, physical music and merchandise. In the face of the worldwide collapse of the live music industry and the closure of record stores this was a way to directly support artists and contribute something to the economy of the music industry in a positive way – if you could afford it that is.
As I logged onto my social media feed and saw the infinite number of tweets asking people to buy music I felt more than a little overwhelmed. Consumerism and the demands to constantly buy, buy, buy is one aspect of the music industry which can be difficult to deal with at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. Continue reading “On Music & Materialism”
Rainbow was the first of Dolly’s albums for her new record label Columbia, after her nearly two decade long relationship with RCA ended. When signing with CBS she reportedly envisioned rotating the style of her albums, with one pure pop followed by one pure country. The problem with that plan was exposed almost immediately. Rainbow was Dolly’s lowest charting album for nearly fifteen years and the Trio album with Emmylou and Linda (also released this year) was her most successful in a decade. The public had spoken: they wanted Dolly back singing country music. At age 41 her pop dream was dead. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Rainbow (1987)”
Lucinda Williams comes from a long line of rebels with passionate causes. Her family were liberals, feminists, pacifists, integrationists, union organisers, civil rights protestors willing to stand up in the face of inequality and injustice. As a teenager she herself was thrown out of high school for refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag, as part of her opposition to the Vietnam war.
To be a punk is to have a spirit of rebellion – being willing to stand apart and defy the way that society wants us to live. Musically the movement was about simplicity, directness, anger: three chords and the screaming truth. On this new album Good Souls Better Angels Lucinda Williams lets her punk rock spirit loose with staggeringly brilliant results. Continue reading “Album Review: Lucinda Williams – Good Souls Better Angels”