How about something interesting to kick off your weekend? We’ve featured acoustic duos in the last few months from Devon and the USA, so how about one from Croydon? Yeti Love are Pete Hamilton (former drummer, now guitarist and singer) and Dave Sears (guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and singer). As a drummer with a Galician heritage, Pete has a very rhythmic approach to his guitar playing which interleaves nicely with Dave’s style. His voice has tinges of seventies prog (think Gabriel-era Genesis) and the finished article, “Lonely Road” is folky, punchy and melodic. If you happen to be hung up on genre definitions, Pete and Dave describe themselves as ‘alt-rogue-folk-rock’.

As for the video; well it’s animated, a bit trippy and, well, see for yourself:

“Lonely Road” is released on June 15.

Villanelle TitleVillanelle” is the second instalment of a trilogy of albums released by Pete and Maura Kennedy in 2015. It’s a Maura Kennedy solo album but, not surprisingly, Pete’s a presence throughout, playing electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, organ, glockenspiel bass and drums. The album is a collaboration with Californian poet B.D. Love which was hatched in the summer of 2014 as a creative challenge. B.D. Love provided Maura with a set of poems which she had to be turn into songs without changing their structure. Now, that may sound like an interesting academic exercise but the project has produced some of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year by fusing poetic forms with a range of musical settings from across the Americana spectrum.

At fifteen songs long, I’m not even going to attempt to feature every song; there isn’t a bad, or even an average one, so I’m going with a few of my personal highlights, in no particular order. “She Worked her Magic on Me” is probably the most light-hearted of the lyrics; full of wordplay and double entendre, it’s a joyous romp of a song telling the tale of the amorous exploits of a magician’s assistant, featuring a nice gipsy jazz nylon-strung guitar solo from Pete. It’s not typical of the songs on the album, but it’s great fun. “Be the One” sounds like 1972 all over again with a groove that’s somewhere between Carly Simon’s “You’re so Vain” and Steely Dan’s “Do it Again” as a backdrop for a relatively straightforward love poem. As a bonus, Pete builds up the texture and atmosphere with some very moody organ.

Borrowed Dress” is a very feminist piece showing the human cost of economic migration and ending with a prayer that the daughter of the central character will live a better life because of her mother’s sacrifice. It’s heart-rending stuff set against an appropriately Mexican-tinged arrangement. “Darling Cutter” isn’t just heart-rending, it’s harrowing; the back-story is established quickly before plunging into a cycle of alienation and self-harm which the narrator can see and is trying to break, although there is a hint at complicity. The contrast between the lyrical darkness and the uptempo, almost jaunty, feel of the song helps to emphasise the pathos of the events which unfold.

If you ever need an example of perfect track sequencing on an album, here it is; the song following “Darling Cutter” is the absolutely gorgeous “I Cried to Dream Again”, which is inspired by Caliban’s famous dream speech in “The Tempest”. The theme of the song is an unrequited love, but the musical setting and the achingly beautiful chorus feel like a resolution to the previous song’s darkness.

There’s no argument here about whether song lyrics are poetry or not (and that’s a discussion I’ve had a few times) because that’s how these lyrics started. Maura Kennedy has risen to an incredibly difficult technical challenge by crafting arrangements across a wide variety of styles which enhance the poetry and, as always, her lead and harmony vocals are perfect. When you add Pete Kennedy’s multi-instrumental skills to the mix, the result is an album that’s technically flawless and packed with feeling and emotion. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Villanelle – The Songs of Maura Kennedy and B.D. Love” is out now on Varèse Sarabande (302 067 339 8).

You can read the interview I did with Pete and Maura in London earlier this month here.

 

Here’s one that’s already picking up plays on 6 Music. “Heroine” by Gengahr is from their upcoming album “A Dream Outside”.

The song builds up steadily from a quietly strummed riff and plaintive vocals to a thunderous climax before gently bringing us back down to earth again over the last few seconds cramming everything you want in a song into three minutes, including a raucous guitar solo. Two-thirds of the video is an almost-monochrome re-imagining of the ‘sleeping princess woken by a kiss from the questing knight’ broken up by some footage of the band in action. Have a look for yourself:

Annabelle Chvostek - 'Be The Media' - TitleIf you’re after an album that’s safe and unpredictable and you know exactly what’s coming next, then “Be the Media” is definitely not the album for you. Annabelle Chvostek’s fifth solo album moves away from the folky sound of her two previous albums “Rise” and “Resilience” to a sound that is lo-fi and embraces styles from indie thrash to psychedelia with several stops and detours on the way. It’s fair to say that with this album, you never know what’s coming next. Annabelle’s roots are in Canada, which may go some way to explaining the affinity to and parallels with Neil Young, who’s also had the odd change of direction along the way.

The album is built around live-band recordings with some overdubs added later and the raw, Stooges-like, power of the title song gives some idea of the direction the album’s taking, but there are still plenty of surprises to come. “Jerusalem” is mournful lyrically and musically with the added melancholy of some Middle-Eastern violin to season the mixture. “Black Hole” sets the controls for the heart of the sun with the simple, if bleak, message that we’re all irrelevant compared to the vastness of the universe, delivered over a soundscape that’s part early Pink Floyd and part Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane”; it’s certainly dramatic. “This Night” is the closest the album comes to a love song, if you count ‘Your hand is the hand I hold to jump out of the burning tower’ as a lyric. Powerful yes: cheerful no.

“Carnal Delights” is the perfect example of the albums’s twist and turns. From a doom-laden minor key verse, the song bursts into chorus in 3/4 time that’s straight out of a sleazy 1930s cabaret routine; and yes, that is someone playing a saw (Lisa Gamble, actually). It’s an odd one, but the contrast works perfectly. “You Can Come Now” is probably closest to Annabelle’s earlier work with gentle electric guitar and a vocal that isn’t pushing at the edges her voice’s power; it’s very different from the songs it’s surrounded by. As if to cement the Shakey connection, there’s a stripped-back cover of “Like a Hurricane” featuring mainly mandolin and piano with a touch of guitar. It’s very different and it works.

“Inside the Scream/Screen” returns to the spiky guitars and claustrophobic technophobia of the title track before another change of pace to “Say it Right” which has a hint of Television-styled guitars and the album’s only example of swearing; one use of ‘fucking’ for emphasis and a bit of shock value is so much more powerful than using it in every sentence.

So Annabelle Chvostek, Tony Spina (drums), Jérémie Jones (bass and organ), Lisa Gamble (saw and backing vocals), Jordi Rosen (backing vocals), and co-producer Jeff Oehler have created a piece of work that moves from menacing to mournful to manic but never loses its grip on your attention; you may not know what’s round the corner, but you can bet it’s going to be worth hearing.

“Be the Media” is released on June 1 on MQGV (ABC123).

Is it Summer yet? No, another few weeks to go yet; I’m not sure if I can hold out that long. How about if we find the most summery song and video we can and try to push things along a bit. OK, here we go.

The band Cosby is from Richmond, Virginia. It consists of brothers Chip and Chris Cosby and drummer Mike Levinson and the sound is influenced by the synth and guitar bands of the eighties; imagine Duran Duran in a soundclash with Spandau Ballet and Wham and you won’t be far wide of the mark. The band has a new EP (“Summer Gold”) out soon and the lead song is “Overboard”. The song combines the manic energy of Jane Weidlin’s “Rush Hour” with Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” vocal delivery and has what it takes to become a summer classic. All we need is the weather to make it work.

The video looks like a three dollar remake of Wham’s “Club Tropicana” replacing the cocktails with JD and using deliberately cheesy and low-rent effects with seventies beach clips, but it works because it’s obvious that no-one’s taking it seriously. Anyway, have a look and make your own mind up:

Into the SeaIt’s always been a bit of a mystery to me why Dean Owens hasn’t been more widely recognised as an outstanding British singer-songwriter. Despite a career with his band The Felsons and several solo albums which provided a couple of classic additions to the Scottish songbook (“Raining in Glasgow” and “Man from Leith”), before the release of his new album “Into the Sea”, Dean still wasn’t widely known, even in Scotland. It looks like this is the album to change that. In the run-up to the album’s release Dean has had well-deserved coverage across the media in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, in England.

Maybe there’s a bit of truth in the cliché about suffering for your art; 2014 was a difficult year for Dean for a variety of reasons but he’s used his work to weave the pain, the joy and the memories into an album packed with songs of love and loss; the stories of the people lost forever and the ones who are lost but still with us. “Into the Sea” is the work of a songwriter with experience of real life looking backwards to help make sense of the present, creating a lasting work of art as a result.

Some of the album’s reminiscences are triggered by objects, while others are triggered by events. The opening track, “Dora” is rooted in a family tree and a circus poster and tells the story of Dean’s grandmother and her circus background; “Closer to Home” was inspired by a letter written by a soldier on the way home from The Great War and “Kids (1979)”, a poignant story of diverging paths, is kicked off by an old photo of a school football team, while “Evergreen” starts from a holiday photo. All four songs are mixtures of happiness and sadness, reflecting the lives that most of us live.

The majority of the album’s songs are inspired by situations; “The Only One” (with Will Kimbrough’s vocal harmonies creating a nice Everly Brothers feel) and “Days Without You” both relate to the terminal illness of a friend’s partner, while “Sally’s Song (I Dreamed of Michael Marra)” combines teenage memories with a tribute to one of Scotland’s greatest songwriters. “Virginia Street” is the story of a friend’s nostalgia for happier days while “Valentine’s Day in New York” is an autobiographical piece dealing with the loneliness of spending time away from loved ones. “It Could be Worse” was the album’s problem child, coming together at the last possible moment with a bit of help from Will Kimbrough and also features as an instrumental reprise. The album’s final song (or special bonus track) is a duet with Suzy Bogguss on “I’m Pretending I Don’t Love You Anymore” featuring a bit of whistling from Dean and a nice Roy Orbison “Blue Bayou” feel.

It’s easy to underestimate the quality of an artist’s work when you see and hear a lot of them (and the Riot Squad have seen and heard a lot of Dean Owens over the last few years) so “Into the Sea”, as the first album of original material since 2012’s “New York Hummingbird” was an opportunity to take a step back and refresh the perspective. The songs tap into a rich seam of melancholy memories which work perfectly for Dean’s voice; the lyrics tug at the heartstrings while the band (Will Kimbrough, Evan Hutchings, Neilson Hubbard, Jen Gunderman, Michael Renne, David Henry, Eamon McLoughlin, Joshua Britt, Suzy Bogguss, Kim Richey and Heather Donegan) provide varied and sympathetic settings throughout. This album, for me, is the most complete and rounded piece of work that Dean Owens has produced and should be a part of any music-lover’s collection.

If you’re in the South of England and you want to see Dean playing songs from the new album, he’ll be playing at these venues in June/July:

Monday June 29         The Greys, Brighton

Wednesday July 1      Green Note, Camden

Thursday July 2         Green Note, Camden

Friday July 3               Venue TBC, Twickenham

Saturday July 4           The Hat Club, Beaconsfield

If you can’t get along to any of these gigs and still want to support Dean, why not have a look at the Kickstarter campaign for the video for his next single “Up on the Hill”? There are loads of ways to contribute and lots of goodies available.

“Into the Sea” is out now on Drumfire Records.

 

 

Don’t you just love it when something really good appears complete unexpectedly; you go to a gig and see a really good support band or someone shares a song on Facebook, you listen to it and it’s brilliant. Well it’s just happened today; credit where it’s due, this was shared by Mal Crawford (cheers Mal) and it’s a superb song written and performed by Nicola Hardman and several incarnations of Dan Barker.

The song opens with layers of strummed and picked acoustic guitars backing Nicola’s restrained vocal and builds up by adding bass, drums and electric guitar and (towards the end of the song) multiple layers of Nicola’s voice to create a Spectoresque wall of sound that you just can’t ignore. Don’t take my word for it, have a look at this:

And before the big production, it still sounded good like this:

Now that’s a pretty good way to start your holiday weekend, isn’t it?

Kennedys interview titleJust before the end of their recent twentieth anniversary tour of the UK, I was lucky enough to chat to Pete and Maura Kennedy at Kings Place in London just after their soundcheck. We talked about how they met, songwriting, technology and a whole lot more. Here’s how it went:

Allan – So, twenty years together this year. I’ve heard the story but I’m sure Music Riot readers will love it. Could you tell them the story of how you met?

Pete – Well, that happened down in Austin, Texas and we always say that the only trouble with Austin is that it’s surrounded by the rest of Texas, because it’s very much a college town and not typical of the American South at all but it’s a very rock ‘n’ roll and folk and songwriter-oriented town. There’s a place called The Continental Club which is the roots music Mecca of America; I was doing a gig there and that’s where the two of us met. First we talked about music, we didn’t actually play or sing and we then met up a day later at a little songwriters gathering and when we did sing together we found out that we loved each other’s songs and we had a bit of a harmony blend and so we started writing but I had to leave right away and play with Nanci Griffith up at Telluride, Colorado. I drove up there through the desert and into The Rockies and I called Maura after the show and we really wanted to get back together. We were talking on the phone and we decided that since we both knew that we loved Buddy Holly, we would meet at the equidistant point between Austin, Texas and Telluride, Colorado and it was Lubbock, Texas which is where Buddy Holly’s from and he’s buried there. We each drove five hundred miles solo with no cellphones, so we didn’t really know that the other person was doing this and we met at Buddy Holly’s grave and we’ve really been together ever since because very shortly after that, Nanci Griffith needed another band member, a female singer to do harmonies and Maura stepped right into that role and so we’ve been working together steadily ever since we first met.

Maura – And when we left for that tour, we were both in her band but, at the airport, she told us we were going to be her support act for that tour, back in 1993, and we’d only written that one song, we didn’t have an act worked up but we didn’t tell her any of this because we didn’t want to blow that opportunity so we bluffed our way through the first couple of gigs.

Pete – The Southport Theatre was the first gig.

Maura – And by the end of the tour we had our first album’s worth of songs.

Allan – That is a great story.

Pete – We always acknowledge Buddy Holly as our patron saint…

Maura – And Nanci Griffith as the bird that pushed the little chickadees out of the nest.

Pete – She was our mentor: no doubt.

Allan – The first time I saw you was actually in this venue two years ago and that year you had one album out, last year between you, you had two albums out, this year it’s three albums. By anyone’s standards that’s pretty good going, so what can you tell me about the three albums?

Maura – For some reason, both of us were on a real writing spree over the last six to eight months and we were both writing together, both writing independently and gathering songs and it was apparent that we had more songs than we needed for one album, but it also looked pretty obvious how the songs would divide up. The songs we were writing together would be on The Kennedys album, which is called “West”, and that came out last month. Then I was working with a published poet out in California; he provided me with all these lyrics that he wrote specifically for me to write music to and these had a different quality so we decided to have all those solo songs on my album “Villanelle”, which is coming out next week. Meanwhile Pete has been working on this, I think it’s his masterpiece, he’s been working on these songs a good five years. It’s a cycle of songs set in New York City and he sings on these. People are used to him releasing instrumental albums but this is a really cool rock ‘n’ roll album and it’s called “The Heart of Gotham” and that’s coming out in June. So rather than take the twentieth anniversary as a moment to look back we charged straight ahead.

Allan – So apart from having three albums of new material, over the years, how do you keep the live shows fresh?

Maura – Oh, that’s easy. For the past few years we’ve been doing all-request shows. Now we’ve got all this new material and we’re playing a lot of that but three albums is more than you can do in one show, so we’re mixing that up and playing a lot of new material this time. We always get people who have come to our shows before and they have requests so we try to honour as many of those as we can but the shows in the past four or five years have been really audience-driven and that keeps it fresh for the ones who come back to more than one show a year and it keeps it really fresh for us; we have to stay on our toes to remember all those songs.

Pete – We literally go through the audience right before the show and write down what people want to hear and that’s the setlist for that night, so every show is different. Right now we’re not doing that format because we have so many new songs we want to introduce those to the audience.

Maura – Although we have been getting some requests and last night we got requests for songs we haven’t played in a very long time, so we were brave and played them and it was fun.

Allan – That’s very like the New Jersey bands, Springsteen and Southside Johnny, they rely a lot on feedback from the audience and the musicians are good enough to do it as well.

Pete – I think because they came up playing in clubs and bars, and there you better play what people want to hear or they’ll throw things at you so you get used to pleasing the crowds, so to speak, and we’re lucky because, and I’m sure Bruce and Southside feel the same way, we have fans who know all our songs and they’ll ask for different songs from our catalogue so we can resurrect those.

Maura – I think maybe a lot of bands will get people who come out and see them once or twice; we have a lot of fans that come to every show that they can and so, to keep it fresh for them, it was a deliberate decision to make it audience-driven, for them more than anything else. It’s good for us too, but it was really to keep them coming back.

Allan – When I looked the twentieth anniversary thing, I looked back to 1995 and I thought that so many things have changed since that period in the music business…

Maura – In the world…

Allan – How have you reacted to the changes that have happened in the music business? Do you think it’s helped or hindered you?

Maura – There are so many different aspects to it. I remember when our very first album came out, “River of Fallen Stars”, it was on the very first Americana chart, there wasn’t such a thing before and nobody really knew what Americana was. At that time, independent artists really had a wide-open doorway into the music industry; radio stations were playing our stuff and there was very varied radio across the United States and I think that was probably true here too, and then things tightened up. The digital thing has really been difficult for a lot of people and I’m sure that our record sales in the traditional outlets are not as healthy as when we started but our audience, the baby boomers largely, are a segment of the population that has always valued music and they consider themselves to be patrons of the arts, so they come to shows and they buy records form us. In fact, I’ve often had people say: ‘How do you make more money, if I buy it from Amazon or from you?’ and they really want to know. I don’t know what we’d do without them, but we’re baby boomers too and we have the same outlook as far as the value of music is concerned.

Allan – It’s certainly my experience that most of the bands I see now aren’t really making any money out of record sales so people feel they have to buy a CD or t-shirt at the gig so that something goes back to the people that are making the music.

Pete – Record shops don’t really exist, in The States anyway, so it’s not like you’d put out a record and you sit back and wait for cheques to roll in (which never happened to us anyway) but that’s not a paradigm that even exists any more, so you really have to be playing gigs, which is OK, it’s been like that ever since the first cavemen were banging on rocks. They went out and played gigs and people gave them vegetables or whatever and this is basically that same system.

Allan – You seem to have embraced the social media side of things as well. I suspect that works well for you.

Maura – When we first started we had a mailing list and we would put stamps on and stick things in the mail and it was very expensive – it would cost about a thousand dollars to send out one mailer. One really good aspect of the digital world is that we’re able to contact our fans directly at no cost and what happened over the years is that we went from just putting out an electronic newsletter to embracing a number of social media outlets, not all of them, but the ones our fans use, Twitter and Facebook and I think what’s really important, and it’s worked for us, is to take a multi-pronged approach and get the word out in all the different realms. That way you’ll get a couple of people here, a couple of people there; it’s still word of mouth for us, it’s just that it’s digital now.

Allan – I can certainly see with your fans that social media enables you to create a community. It’s not so much artist and audience it’s everybody in it together.

Maura – People post photos and videos and they make song requests via social media and so they really do feel a part of it. One thing I do a lot if we’re coming to a town and ticket sales might not be as robust as we’d like, I’ll say ‘Hey guys, tell your friends we could really use your help on this show and we’ll love you forever’. And I find people really want to help; they do get the word out, they share that information and they really have a hand in helping us in more ways than just buying tickets and records.

Allan – It struck that your music seems to cross an awful lot of boundaries. How would you define it and who would you say has influenced you, apart from Buddy Holly?

Pete – Maura mentioned that we were on the first Americana chart and when we saw that we immediately had our own definition of Americana. A different one developed that was sort twangy, honky-tonk country and was restricted to just that and we never felt that was the entire breadth of American music. We do that stuff, our song “West” is a twangy country song because we love Gram and Emmylou and Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and stuff like that, but we don’t restrict ourselves to that at all. So we include George Gershwin and soul and jazz – that’s one of the great American art forms along with blues and rock ‘n’ roll and gospel; those things are all tied in together so Americana encompasses all of that stuff. Even “Closer Than You Know” has a kind of impressionistic feel to it and that’s Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn who were very heavily influenced by French Impressionism, so that brings that in too. Someone said the other day ‘You play a little Spanish sometimes’ and I said ‘Well, if you go down to the border of Texas, that’s the way people play down there’. So we’re trying to cover the entire geography because that’s what we do in our car and we try to do it musically too. We have the broadest possible definition of Americana.

Allan – Do you have a particular method of writing that you always use?

Maura – No, and that’s a real blessing; because we write in different ways, the music evolves over time. Our very first songs that we wrote together, “Day In and Day Out” was the very first song we wrote together, Pete gave me the title and I sang the title back to him and we wrote everything, music and words, together. The second song that we wrote together was “River of Fallen Stars” and he gave me an entire lyric sheet and I put a melody to that. On the album “Closer than You Know”, for a lot of those songs, Pete had recorded instrumental tracks with form but no melody and no words and I would put the whole song to that. On my new record, “Villanelle”, these are all lyrics that were sent to me by this poet B.D. Love and they’re in poem forms, forms I would never write in, so I’m trying to stay very true to the poetic forms and still make them sound like songs. Pete will sometimes write music first and sometimes lyrics, so we mix it all up. We try to not fall into a formula.

Allan – And what will the future bring? Next year four albums?

Maura – That’s a good question. We never know but we’re always really open and we always try and go with the flow. If you had asked us that question twelve months ago we wouldn’t have known we had three albums coming out; that came together in the last nine or ten months. So we don’t know but I’m sure it’ll be fun.

Allan – One last question. Do you have a song that makes you cry?

Maura – I’ve cried a lot singing songs. “When I Go” by Dave Carter is one of them. They change all the time. “I’ll Come Over” is a good example; that’s a song to my best friend and if I know somebody’s having trouble, I’ll dedicate it to them. I’ll start singing it and I’ll start crying; songs like that I can’t even talk about. And unfortunately, that was all we had time for before Pete and Maura had to get ready to go out and do their thing.

“West” and “Villanelle” are out now and “The Heart of Gotham” is out in June.

Hope You're Happy Now TitleWhen an artist writes that their latest album is influenced by Willie Nelson’s “Phases and Stages” and that they wanted to ‘make an old-school record that’s about quiet stories and steel guitars’, my attention’s well and truly caught. Throw in the fact that Grant Langston is based in Bakersfield, California (he’s a bit too raw to fit in with the Nashville scene and sound) and the expectations are running high even before I discover that the album was recorded live in the studio. So, does it live up to those expectations?

The album opens with “Drive”, which tells the story of two loners hooking up in a bar and features some lovely plaintive pedal steel. It’s almost the archetypal ‘two lonely people’ song, but the idea of giving the finger to the world adds just a little edge. “The Nonsense” and “Breaking Hearts” are both breakup songs, the first is uptempo and focusses on the social and financial manoeuvring involved in a divorce while the second explores the situation from the viewpoint of the wronged husband descending into alcoholism (another old country theme). “Fading Fast” wouldn’t sound out of place (vocally or instrumentally) on a singer-songwriter album in the early seventies, with a melancholy tale of denial as a relationship disintegrates, emphasised by a lovely, languid slide solo. So far, it’s almost straight-up country, but with a few hints at a harder lyrical edge.

“Born to Ride” is an electric piano-driven slice of boogie (Californian rather Southern), and the shimmering beauty of the pedal steel intro to “The Only One” leads us into relatively familiar unrequited love territory; it’s a nice slice of melancholy with some female backing vocals to add to the pathos. “The Trigger” is stripped down to the bare essentials of acoustic guitar and solo vocal as we’re taken inside the mind of an outsider who has committed an atrocity and given reasons why we might all share the blame. It’s a powerful message emphasised by the minimalist setting. “Don’t You Dare” is a series of admissions of guilt from the male partner in a relationship, with a little lyrical twist in the tail; whatever else he did, he always loved her. “All That I Can Do” is pure melancholy; it’s minimalist and desperate and the only way the mood can go from here is up.

And it does because the last three songs are all fairly light-hearted affairs. “I Work Too Hard” is an uptempo generation gap song with a nice lyrical twist at the beginning which sends us momentarily in the wrong direction before exploring the relationship between a hard-working father and his slacker son. “Me and the Misses” deals with a relationship which works despite, or perhaps because of, mutual incompatibility. The closing song, “Me and Margaret”, could be the logical progression from the album’s opening song as the two characters meet in a bar before going on to become serious drinking partners; it’s a honky-tonk which is horrific and hilarious at the same time.

Grant Langston’s laconic delivery and the laid-back arrangements on “Hope You’re Happy Now” focus the attention on the strength of the songs and they’re very strong indeed. His songs are in the country idiom but it’s twenty-first century country and it has the simplicity and realism that characterises the songs of writers who have been able to bridge the pop-country divide, such as Nick Lowe; it deals with the poetry, triumphs and tragedies of everyday life, working on a level we can all relate to. This is a little classic.

Hope You’re Happy Now” is out now on California Roots Union.

Grant has made the decision not to stream this album and has given his reasons in an open letter on his website. You really should read it.