Campfire Tales: August 2013

Howdy! This is the first of a new, regular column where we’ll wander through the whole range of genres and sub-genres that are related to Americana, with occasional moseys into other folk and roots fields. So what can you expect? Well, we’ve obviously got new releases, but there are also re-releases, live albums, the odd bit of news, maybe a question or two with some soon to be famous cowboy or cowgirl, as well as some worthwhile upcoming gigs.

We’ll get the rodeo going with Scud Mountain Boys as they can tick two boxes: something old and something new. The Early Year (8th July) contains their first two albums, both released in 1995. Confusingly, it’s a reissue of itself, from an original release in 1997. Both albums are relaxed collections, Dance The Night Away has a bit more urgency to it, Pine Box sees each song slowly meander to its conclusion. The standout track is ‘Silo’ which is on both albums. Across the 27 songs you can almost live the transition from the traditional country music style to modern Americana. This is music for late night thinking. Having given up the game after their third album in 1997 the original foursome reformed in 2011 and are about to debut their fourth album, Do You Love The Sun (26th August). If you’re into the band's original incarnation then you’ll be happy with the continuation of their chilled out Americana on the ten new tracks; ‘Orphan Girl’ in particular, couldn't be anymore relaxed. The delicately paced ‘The Mendicant’ is as energetic as they get.

Scud Mountain Boys- Grudge F*ck from Ashmont Media on Vimeo.

Scott Cook’s latest release solidifies his clear voiced troubadour approach to roots music. One More Time Around (5 August) is played mostly in a simple fashion; tracks like ‘Among The Trees’ and ‘When We’re Back Around’ are built around just the Canadian and his guitar. There's the odd more expansive song, like the title track and ‘Pass It Along’.

The polar opposite of clear-voiced is Sam Baker. His vocal style pitches somewhere between singing and talking and on Say Grace (19 August), Baker touches the darkest parts of America with the noir-ish drama of 'The Tattooed Woman', and cheery paean to the drudgery of married life, 'Ditch'. The song titles don't hide much ('Migrants', 'Panhandle Winter', you get the idea.) What he lacks in levity he makes up for in his storytelling, and songwriting - just take a listen to 'Feast' as a taster

A real treat this month comes from the dirty blues of Patrick Sweany and his Close To The Floor (12 August) album. Starting heavy with the White Stripes-alike ‘Working For You’ and fantastically old school ‘Every Night Every Day’, he encompasses a smoother soul section (‘Bus Station’, ‘The Island’), and ends with the twanging blues of ‘Terrible Years’. This is proper, good, honest music.

There must be something about that Monday as former choral singer Julie Feeney released her eclectic new collection that day. Once you get acclimatised to Feeney’s soprano-ish vocal range you’ll discover the brilliant (‘Cold Water’), the sublime (‘Dear John’), and the strange (‘Every Inch A Woman’) on Clocks (12 August). One thing’s certain, these eleven songs are always interesting.

Brit-folk singer Lucy Ward releases her second album, Single Flame (19 August) this month; it’s a mix of drama school emoting and MOR folk-ness. Opening track ‘I Cannot Say I Will Not Speak’ comes across all drama and outpouring of pathos. It’s interesting up to a point, but sags badly in the middle before the fiddle-tastic ‘Marching Through The Green Grass’ picks it up a little.

Changing tack, and sounding like a sharply dressed, well behaved bar band Drew Holcomb & the Neighbours release their latest, Good Light (26 August) at the end of the month. Five studio albums in, the band have honed their sound almost to perfection. Their straight-laced take on rock ‘n’ roll includes a couple of nods to country, and a large wink to soul. The real stand outs are the down the line rockers, 'Another Man's Shoes' and 'A Place To Lay My Head'.

Gigs, lets talk about gigs. As End Of The Road Festival takes place on the last weekend of August it means there’s plenty of excellent acts doing the rounds in early September. Houndmouth are out and about between 3rd and 9th September, including the intimate setting of The Louisiana in Bristol. The excellent John Murry has a few dates 3rd to 5th September as does fellow new boy John Fullbright. We liked Diana Jones Museum Of Appalachian Music album and you can catch her on a short four date tour.

8 July Scud Mountain Boys - The Early Year 6/10

5 August Scott Cook - One More Time Around 6/10
12 August Patrick Sweany - Close To The Floor 8/10
12 August Julie Feeney - Clocks 7/10
19 August Lucy Ward - Single Flame 5/10
19 August Sam Baker - Say Grace 7/10
26 August Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors - Good Light 7/10
26 August Scud Mountain Boys - Do You Love The Sun 6/10

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