Thursday, 31 October 2019

Molly Tuttle - When You're Ready

Rating: 4/5

A good album from a stunning guitarist

Molly Tuttle is an amazing guitarist; this is a good album but I’m not sure it really shows off her extraordinary talent to the full.

When You’re Ready is a good album of well crafted, nicely varied songs. Molly sings them very well and the band and production are also good. The thing is, I saw her live with Transatlantic Sessions and then again at Bush Hall very recently and she is just phenomenal. Great stage presence, terrific vocal delivery and some guitar work which is just breathtaking. She was the first woman to win Bluegrass Guitarist Of The Year and it was a very well deserved award; some of her playing would have done Doc Watson proud and I that’s about the highest praise I can give. Look on YouTube for her playing White Freightliner Blues and you’ll see what I mean.

So, this is a good album which is well worth hearing and which I listen to with pleasure, but if you get the chance to see her live, grab it with both hands. Molly Tuttle is something really special.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Pine Hill Project - Tomorrow You're Going

Rating: 4/5

Good, not great

This is an album of covers by two very fine but underrated artists. Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell are excellent musicians and they create a lovely sound together, well balance between the two of them and with some fabulous harmonies and the instrumental excellence you would expect from both. The band are very good, too, as is the production and there are some fine tracks – notably for me, Making Plans. Overall, though, this is a good album rather than a great one. I’m not sure why – possibly it’s the choice of material, but whatever the reason, this doesn’t quite stand out as albums like Careless or Over The Hills do. It’s still well worth getting, but I don’t think it’s among the best work of either Lucy or Richard.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Colorado

Rating: 2/5

Another substandard album from Neil

I’m afraid Colorado isn’t very good. It’s not as bad as The Monsanto Years, but that’s really not saying much.

Frankly, I only tried this because Neil was back with Crazy Horse. They’re good, of course, but the material really isn’t up to much, with disjointed, unfocussed lyrics, very little in the way of melody and too much directionless, tedious noodling. Neil’s singing isn’t great these days, and there’s a sense of him just blurting out thoughts a lot of the time – a lot of them about environmental issues, of course – rather than crafting a song and performing it with skill and care, which is what used to make him so great.

Colorado does have its moments – Olden Days is a good, touching song in places for instance – and it’s at least recorded in a way which makes it bearable to listen to (A Letter Home, anyone?), but overall it’s the sort of rather rambling mess that has characterised Neil’s recent albums. After half a century of loving him, I keep thinking that this is my last Neil Young album and then trying just one more, in the hope of a flash of the old genius, I guess. Well, it’s not in evidence here, I’m afraid, and even as a long-term fan I can’t recommend Colorado.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Lucy Kaplansky - Over The Hills

Rating: 5/5

A little gem

I think this is a cracking album. I was only dimly aware of Lucy Kaplansky through her work with Eliza Gilkyson but I heard Manhattan Moon on a Putamayo compilation, loved it and took a punt on this album. I’m very glad I did.

Lucy Kaplansky has a lovely voice and can really bring a song to life. Her own material is good, and often excellent, with good tunes, intelligent lyrics and fine production which does the material real justice. She has also recorded a handful of covers here, all of which are good, and her version of Roxy Music’s More Than This is just wonderful, I think. It’s a prime example of how to do a worthwhile cover version, bringing a wholly new take on the song while preserving its original quality and making a great track in your own right.

I’m delighted to have discovered Lucy Kaplansky’s work and I’ll be looking into more of her albums. In the meantime, I can recommend this very warmly; it’s a little gem.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Danny Kortchmar - Kootch

Rating: 3/5


I’m a huge admirer of Danny Kortchmar’s work with people like Carole King, James Taylor and all those others, but I’m afraid that this is another of those albums which show that a lot of brilliant sidemen (and women) don’t make great solo artists in their own right.

There’s no doubting Kootch’s brilliance as a guitarist and the whole thing is very competently performed and produced, but the material is pretty ordinary and as an album it’s no more than OK. Some other reviewers plainly think it’s terrific, but it really doesn’t do much for me and the overall effect is rather generic and a bit dated – and not in a good way. I might have quite liked it in 1973, but I can’t say it’s aged well.

You may like this more than I do, but personally I can’t really recommend it.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Ragged But Right; Great Country String Bands of the 30s

Rating: 5/5

Terrific stuff

This is an absolute joy of a disc. I didn’t know any of these bands or songs before, but I’m very, very glad that I do now. There is some truly fantastic music here, with real instrumental brilliance and an utterly joyous approach. There are great songs, some fantastic instrumentals like Hawkin’s Rag, terrific talking blues like Go Easy Blues and so on.

I defy anyone to listen to this without smiling. It’s terrific.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

David McWillams - Lord Offaly

Rating: 4/5

Still a very good album

This remains a very good album. I can’t quite regard it as a classic as some other reviewers have done, but it’s full of very nice songs, well sung and well produced.

There is some truly lovely stuff here in places – the instrumental Spanish Hope is a prime example – and all the songs have a very nice sound to them. McWillams had quite a distinctive style, especially in his use of minor chords, and that comes through here, giving the whole album a slightly mystical, melancholy air but it’s never depressing or turgid. Somewhere between folk and early-70s pop, it’s an album which has lasted much better than many from that era and I can recommend it warmly.