Rod Melancon ScrollerSpringsteen did it with Asbury Park NJ and, much more recently, Michael McDermott’s band The Westies did it with Chicago. They created a strong sense of place with characters and incidents directly observed or based on reality. On his EP “LA 14”, Rod Melancon has gone down the same route with his own little corner of Louisiana. Of the five songs on “LA 14” (produced by former Dwight Yoakam guitarist, Brian Whelan), four are stories of life in a small town deep in the American South.

The opening song, “Perry”, is a mid-tempo rocker with a pumping synth bass, telling the tale of the town’s bad boy, before the tempo slows and the time signature changes to ¾ for “Dwayne and Me”, a look back at a childhood friendship ended by Vietnam. “Lights of Carencro” is a menacing and grungy, the production matching the story of sudden death and delayed revenge before the final song “By Her Side” slows the pace to tell the love story of a lonely old man, the melancholy feel enhanced by some delicate pedal steel from Marty Rifkin. The central song, “A Man like Me Shouldn’t Own a Gun” contrasts with the rest of the EP, as an uptempo thigh-slapping piece to make sure the atmosphere doesn’t get too maudlin.

The feeling in the songs doesn’t just come from the lyrics; they’re often pretty matter-of-fact. Rod’s voice, older than its years, seemingly always on the verge of cracking, and some superb playing from Marty Rifkin on “By Her Side” and Brian Whelan’s steadily-rising solo on “Dwayne and Me”, are powerful and emotive; you can’t listen to these songs and not be moved. Rod Melancon understands that the little details add to the pathos; “Lights of Carencro” is more powerful because we know that the dead brother’s favourite song was Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” and it’s always there as a reminder.

There’s a darkness on the edge of this town and Rod Melancon’s songs expose it, but they also capture the human touch that’s always just below the surface. LA 14 -- running all the way from pure pathos to supernatural menace.

“LA 14” is released in the UK on Friday June 17th on Blue Élan Records (BR1015).

Here’s the video for “Perry”:

kakkmaddafakka[1]It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and it’s about time for a quick single review. Kakkmaddafakka are from Bergen in Norway and the single “Young You” is a taster for their debut album “KMF”, due to be released on June 1st. The interesting mix of slowed-down Italo house piano, an ethereal, fragile indie vocal and a bubbling bassline evokes the era of the first dance/indie crossovers when bands like Primal Scream and The Soup Dragons first jumped on to the Ibiza remix bandwagon. This is one of the songs that’s going to sound great at festivals in the sunshine (not Glastonbury then); who knows, maybe it’s the beginning of the third summer of love. And, yes, we do get the EMF reference.

Here’s the video for the single:

Cotton SnowIt’s not a great time to be involved in the arts at the moment, particularly if you’re hoping to make a living out of it but, somehow, people just keep on plugging away at it, grabbing any opportunity that comes along to create something that will enrich the lives of people who see, hear, read or touch it. Dean Owens is one of those artists; constantly touring, recording, promoting and generally getting his songs out there. He knows that you have to take every opportunity that comes along and that’s why a breakfast in a Nashville greasy spoon with guitarist/producer Dave Coleman led to his latest single.

Breakfast led to a quick visit to Dave’s home studio, swapping a few ideas and Dave creating a moody and magnificent backing track featuring drum loops, live drums, bass and an eclectic guitar arrangement which Dean completed with vocals recorded in Edinburgh. Dean’s always been a superb chronicler of emotions and personal history, but recently he’s built a few songs around historical events, particularly on his EP “No Man’s Land” and “Cotton Snow” is a song in that vein, telling the story of a soldier realising the futility of the Civil War, or any war. And cotton snow? When the cotton gins and fields were bombed, the cotton fell back to earth like snow. It’s a sombre and beautiful piece of work that enhances his growing reputation.

If you want to see Dean live, he’s taking part in a fabulous event called The Men from Leith on Friday May 6 at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh featuring Dick Gaughan, Blue Rose Code and Dean with his band The Whisky Hearts.

“Cotton Snow” is out on Drumfire Records on Friday April 15th.

And just as a wee treat, here’s the video:

TLD ScrollerWell, it’s an interesting one. You can certainly pick out the indie influences (Radiohead for a start) but this adds a few touches that take it several rungs above 2016 shoegazing. “Looking Glass” starts with a simple bass riff leading in to an acoustic guitar part which sounds like the theme from a murder mystery set in a southern Italian village and keyboards which thicken the sound out while still leaving plenty of room for the high, ethereal, almost keening vocal. The guitar part alone sets this apart from most current indie bands, but the addition of saxophone as the song builds creates a very interesting soundscape. It’s a hypnotic and almost soporific sound which leaves you intrigued and eager to hear more.

As a first single, “Looking Glass” is good enough to stand on its own merits while hinting at the bigger picture of the album “Duelism” which is released on March 11th. If you want to see The Lazlo Device live they’ll be doing album launch gigs at Camden Barfly on Friday March 12 and Brighton Green Door Store on Sunday March 20.

Meanwhile, here’s the video for “Looking Glass”:

 

Righteous Reprobates ScrollerFor the follow-up to the rambunctious raunch of their first single, “My Psychosis”, Righteous Reprobates have taken a slightly different direction. The second single “We Go with What We Know” kicks off with a tinny pre-intro before launching into a simple guitar riff echoed by the unison lead vocal; it’s a lot like early Sabbath with a hint of late sixties psychedelia dropped in to the mix. When the guitar solo comes along, it’s not the shredding pyrotechnics of “My Psychosis”; it’s simple but effective. At about the two-thirds mark, there’s a tempo change before the riff reasserts itself in the build-up to the big finish.

In the run-up to the release of the album, this works well as a stand-alone single, but it also helps to establish, along with “My Psychosis”, that Righteous Reprobates aren’t just a one-trick pony. There’s a lot of subtlety to add to the blood and thunder and if the whole album’s up to the standard of the singles it should be very good indeed.

“We Go with What We Know” is released on April 15. Have a look at the video here:

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”:

 

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.

GIULIA ScrollerIt would be a little bit too easy to dismiss Giulia’s musical career as a vanity project but give this single an open-minded listen and you’ll probably change your mind. You’ll realise that she has an interesting voice with just enough of a raw edge to make it stand out against the background of the identically-schooled pop voices that you hear every time you turn on the radio. The combination of her songwriting and voice has managed to snag her a deal with M:89 records to release an album later this year and the single “Road Trip” this month.

The song is a rock-pop hybrid bouncing along on a wave of tribal drums, acoustic guitars and a Celtic-sounding keyboard hook which gets all the way to the chorus before the pulsing bass pushes it firmly into contemporary radio territory. It works as a pop tune, and it’s an intriguing taster for the album “Raze Me to the Ground” which is scheduled for late May release.

Don’t take our word for it. Have a look and listen for yourself:

 

Rubettes ScrollerOk, how about this to create a bit of a festive mood? The Rubettes featuring Alan Williams have just released a Christmas single. They were one of the few high profile acts in the early seventies not to score a Christmas hit before the bottom dropped out of that particular market, so they’ve missed out on all the repeat plays that the likes of Wizzard, Slade, Mud and Showaddywaddy get every year on local radio, shops, bars and clubs. So they’ve done something about it.

They’ve reworked Plastic Bertrand’s “Ça Plane Pour Moi” (with full writer approval) as a Christmas song and put together some visuals for it full of cute animals and Christmas images. It’s either a work of genius or totally cynical media manipulation; maybe it’s both, but it’s brilliant. They even manage to sneak in a reference to their massive seventies hit “Sugar Baby Love”. It’s top Christmas fun and you really should have a look at it here:

My Psychosis titleOK, just to give a bit of a heads up, if Noel Gallagher had been influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (™) instead of The Beatles this is probably what Oasis would have sounded like. You know from the kick-off that Righteous Reprobates aren’t doing subtlety here; “My Psychosis” storms in with a noisy Les Paul riff and Charlie Kenny’s pounding floor tom and kick drum while the lead guitar gently feeds back before crashing in alongside Jack Collier’s bass and Rob White’s vocals. It’s melodic, it’s fast, a little bit noir and the band seem to have thrown everything they can into four minutes to grab your attention, including a sixteen-bar solo from Jack Griffiths which runs through most of the range of rock solo techniques, including the obligatory fret-tapping and whammy bar abuse.

Go on, just crank it all the way up, jump about and wind up the neighbours; that’s the kind of song it is.

“My Psychosis” is out on December 7th. Meanwhile, here’s the video: