New Man Scroller“New Man” is a bit of a departure for Warme. It’s a step away from the riff-driven “Council House Opera”, their previous single, towards a quieter, more personal song telling the story of a recovering addict. The song moves up through the gears from the quiet despair of a close-miked voice and acoustic guitar to the redemption of recovery backed by the full band and backing vocals. “New Man” is powerful without resorting to any histrionics; the clean lead guitar and understated drums and bass act as framework for delivering a powerful and unforced vocal message. It’s a very good song.

Warme are Craig and Jamie Hamilton (guitars), Lee Walsh (vocals), Macaulay Haywood (bass) and Lewis Knight (drums) and they’re from Bradford; they’ve been steadily building up a live following with high-profile support sets and the album “Council House Opera” is out now. Here’s the video for “New Man”:


Hannah Aldridge Americana ScrollerIt would be so easy to make this a rant about the music business and how terrible it is these days; not like when we were younger and any artist could get multi-album deals. Here’s the reality check; there are a couple of generations out there who don’t even get the concept of paying for music and the only artists with contracts are the homogenised and ultra-safe packaged pop and stadium fillers. The music industry is just about irrelevant to anyone making genuinely creative music today and it’s sad that it’s not even contentious to make that observation.

But the world moves on and people are still making music and trying to work out the best ways of getting that music to an audience. If you can make a living from it as well, then that’s a bonus. If you want to make an album, you can self-fund it (maybe calling in favours from other musicians) or maybe go down the crowdfunding route, offering fans the opportunity to make an investment in your work in return for a reward. This is the route that Hannah Aldridge has taken to bring her second album to the world.

In 2014, Hannah released her magnificent debut album “Razor Wire”, packed with powerful, sometimes painful, autobiographical songs and impassioned vocal performances. It was one of the best albums I heard in 2015. Hannah toured the US and Europe with the songs, playing with a band when she could, but not afraid to strip the songs back to voice and acoustic guitar when performing smaller venues in the UK. On that tour, she introduced one new song, “Goldrush”. It didn’t need any incubation time; I was hooked straight away by the stark beauty of the solo performance and I knew instantly that Hannah Aldridge was no one-album-wonder. I’ve heard a few more songs since and this second album is sounding like a great piece of work.

Have a look at Hannah’s Indiegogo site for more information on the project and a list of perks. You can contribute anything from $15 to $5,000 for a wide range of rewards, and the knowledge that you’ve helped to launch a great album.

Me, I’ll be putting my money where my mouth is.


Jesus Don't Save Me ScrollerForget about the warnings of storms, sub-zero temperatures and torrential rain, there’s a more elemental force coming in over the Irish Sea to the UK in the first couple of weeks in March; The Eskies are coming over to beat you into submission with a high-octane mixture of folk, jazz, klezmer and vaudeville. Picture a New Orleans jazz band jamming with The Chieftains and Gogol Bordello and it might sound a little bit like this. If the download-only single “Jesus Don’t Save Me” gets anywhere close to representing their live set, this tour could be quite a ride.

The single has a gypsy jazz feel that intensifies in the second half of the song through a few key changes and builds up towards an ending that leaves you wondering what on earth is coming next. And that’s just three minutes’ worth. But don’t take my word for it, have a look for yourself:

If you fancy seeing this maelstrom live, the English tour starts in March and you can see them here:

Fri 4                 Nottingham Bodega

Sat 5                Bedford Esquires (with CC Smugglers)

Sun 6               Milton Keynes The Stables

Tue 8               London The Finsbury

Wed 9             Stroud The Prince Albert

Thu 10             Bristol The Old Duke

Fri 11               Newquay Whiskers

Sat 12             Falmouth Princess Pavilion (with Mad Dog Mcrea)

Sun 13             Birmingham The Rainbow Courtyard (with Mad Dog Mcrea)

We’ll be witnessing the mayhem as they take the roof off The Finsbury in London, and anyone catching the shows with Mad Dog Mcrea should be seeing something very special indeed.

Carly Dow ScrollerCarly Dow’s first solo album, “Ingrained” is one of those that grabs your attention right from the start. The opening song “Olive Branch” is a cappella apart from a kick drum and handclap combination which are just enough to keep the musical pulse going. It pulls together elements of spirituals and Native American music with a feminist theme and some gorgeous vocal arrangements. It’s beautiful and you know that anything following such an adventurous opening has to be worth hearing. Musically the arrangements are generally minimalist with a few exceptions, including the jaunty country of “Too Much to Go Back”, the blues of “This Dress” and the ominously jazzy melancholy of “Down This Road”.

Across the album the musical stylings are unusual, with banjo, lap steel and a thudding kick drum supplying the backdrop for “Soil to Dust” while the plaintive “Casanova” works perfectly with just a rhythmic acoustic guitar and electric blues harmonica. Each song has an interesting and innovative arrangement, generally avoiding the guitar, bass and drums format that’s designed to enhance the lyrical feel and allow Carly’s powerful but achingly vulnerable vocals (with maybe just a hint of k.d. lang) sit right at the front of the mix.

The album has a strong sense of Carly’s Manitoba roots, with references to the cold winters, harbours, frost and prairies creating a strong sense of place, woven into the fabric of love, loss, relationships, leavetakings and homecomings. “This Dress” serves up a perfect mix of these ingredients, opening with an eighteen hour journey and taking in love, the feeling of coming home and the attachment we have to that special place: ‘The feel of this place sticks to your skin, Makes you feel naked when you leave again, I’m like a newborn into the world, Each time I leave home.’ “Down this Road” combines themes of love and death against a laid-back jazz arrangement, which may not sound like a bundle of laughs, but the insanely catchy vocal refrain embeds the song in your brain and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“Ingrained” is a deeply moving and affecting piece of work combining powerful well-crafted lyrics with innovative arrangements to create a set of songs that are melancholy and memorable, but ultimately life-affirming.

“Ingrained” is out now and available at Bandcamp.

Home Sweet Hotel ScrollerAmelia White is from East Nashville. As Sam Lewis explained recently at Green Note, the distinction between downtown Nashville and East Nashville is one that means less and less the further you get away from Nashville, but it’s an important one. Downtown is the centre of the country establishment and East Nashville’s the edgy, hip satellite where you’re likely to hear something a bit out of the ordinary and “Home Sweet Hotel” certainly isn’t what you would call mainstream country. There’s a bit of a harder rock edge to most of the songs with a bit of overdriven guitar and some nice double lead guitar arrangements to spice the mix up.

The opening song “Dangerous Angel” is the first clue that this is a long way from mainstream country; there’s a slight emphasis on the offbeat which isn’t quite reggae, but it’s certainly leaning in that direction. From here on the album moves through a variety of musical stylings, including the uptempo country rock of “Leaving in my Blood” through the early Dylan feel of “Dogs Bark” to the slow sixties feel of “Right Back to my Arms” and “Six Feet Down” which close the album.

The lyrical theme running through the album is the performer moving along from town to town and it’s one that’s fairly common in current Americana. There’s no romance to being on the road, it’s just a succession of cheap motels and long drives and Amelia highlights this, and the longing to be back among family and friends (and with a lover). Her lyrical style is succinct; songs that seem to be densely packed with lyrics when you hear them turn out to be just a few lines long when you see them on the page. “Dogs Bark”, a warning against shooting your mouth off is a great example; it rattles along like some early multi-versed Dylan epic, but it’s really just a few very well-written lines (and some advice that Elvis Costello should have taken a long time ago).

Amelia sees herself as a songwriter first and performer second, and the craft in the construction of the songs is evident; there isn’t a word wasted and the lyrics are matched by the musical settings. And the East Nashville thing isn’t just about living there; Amelia creates a sense of place with references in “Rainbow over the Eastside” and the line ‘Hanging at The Family Wash’ from “Melissa”. It’s not just a place, it’s a way of life.

“Home Sweet Hotel” is out now on White-Wolf Records.

Another Black Hole scrollerIt’s just over six months since Malcolm Holcombe’s last album “The RCA Sessions” was released, so he’s obviously not spinning his wheels at the moment. “The RCA Sessions” was a retrospective with a twist, while “Another Black Hole” is ten new songs in the inimitable Malcolm Holcombe style. If your idea of a great voice is the kind of sanitised autotuned pap that you hear all over the radio, then we’d better say goodbye right here. Malcolm Holcombe has a voice that’s full of rugged character, matching the themes of his songs to perfection. As he sings in the title song, ‘The radio plays for the happy go lucky, that ain’t my set o’ wheels’.

Throughout “Another Black Hole”, most of the usual collaborators are present, including Jared Tyler, David Roe and Ken Coomer and there are a couple of guest appearances from the legendary Tony Joe White, notably on the album’s rockiest song “Papermill Man”, which combines the themes of nostalgia and life at the bottom of the ladder that run through the album with a raucous, rambunctious musical romp.

The language and imagery are more measured, but this album reminds me of Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball”, contrasting the Carveresque characters of the songs with the ‘suits and ties in the cubicles’ (“To Get By”) and the Vanderbilts who ‘hold the keys to the city’ (“Papermill Man”). If there was any doubt about where Malcolm Holcombe’s sympathies lie, “Don’t Play Around” nails it with the line ‘fuckin’ damn frackin’ and backroom stabbin’ knocks me down on my knees’. This is the ordinary, everyday Joe sitting in a bar and venting his anger over a beer before going outside to smoke a cigarette (and he makes it clear where that highway’s always going to end).

Malcolm’s voice may be a taste that you need to acquire, but the songs on “Another Black Hole” are beautifully-crafted vignettes of American life on the other side of the tracks, just out east of Eden. The playing’s perfect throughout, matching the music to the lyrical themes, without ever becoming overcooked. What more do you need?

Out now on Gypsy Eyes Music.