Beards, Banjos and Bar Room Brawls #1

Welcome to the first in an occasional series that will collect together a bunch of the latest releases that fall loosely under the category of folk. So we may see Americana and roots troubadours rubbing shoulders with agit-folk shouters or even with some good old fashioned country music. Whatever your predilections there should be something for you here.

Lincoln Durham - The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones

With Lincoln Durham's slightly laconic drawl and razor-edged guitars to the fore this is as haunting, menacing and downright gripping an old school blues album as you could wish for. With passion, style and talent by the bucketload this young man should go far.

Nanci Griffith - Intersection

For her twentieth album of her long and illustrious career, Nanci Griffith has delivered an introspective album fuelled by rage and anger at the curve balls life can throw at you. Her classic country twang soars majestically above the sometimes uncomfortable subject matter and the crying call of ‘Hell No (I’m Not Alright)’ could be the signature tune for everything that is wrong with the world. Impressive stuff.

The Popes - New Church

With its saloon bar, Americana feel the latest album from Shane MacGowan’s sometime cohorts The Popes is, for the most part, a real blast. There are rip-roaring rockers (‘Storming Heaven’), whisky-soaked blues ballads (‘Thrown Down Your Aces’) and good old fashioned bar room stompers (‘How Many Bullets’) that would be worthy of The Gaslight Anthem. It is a trifle too long and the overall quality suffers slightly as a result but, that aside New Church would provide perfect jukebox material for any self-respecting dive establishment.

Crowns - s/t EP

A rollicking collection of good time sea shanties and folk-punk stompers that would fit neatly into the collection of any discerning Pogues or Gogol Bordello fan. Good clean fun that is probably best served live and with a pint of very strong cider and a girl who swears like a sailor.

Chuck Prophet - Temple Beautiful

Erstwhile Green On Red mainman Chuck Prophet delivers yet another collection of cracking Americana tunes with twanging guitar, bar room ballads and driving rockers. His uncanny knack for telling a tale is particularly strong as piano led ‘I Felt Like Jesus’ and the rip roaring ‘Who Shot John’ exemplify. Buy this album then go see Prophet bring these songs to life on stage. You won’t regret it.

Athena - Peeling Apples

If you are looking for some pleasant background music for those lazy Sunday mornings then Peeling Apples should be right up your street. It rolls along gently with Athena’s dulcet tones lulling you in to a nice cosy world that you could easily fall asleep in - but that is the real problem. There is no bite, no dark, riveting ballads to wrench you from your torpor, just an album of unremarkable, easy listening niceness that leaves no lasting impression.

Scotty Alan - Wreck and the Mess

There is some fine fiddle action and a nice twang to Scotty Alan’s voice but the occasional nods to The Waterboys and even The Boss can’t lift this album from being what it is: a collection of good old country hoedowns and ballads that, enjoyable while it is on, doesn’t really hold much replay value.

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