We first reviewed one of Anna Laube’s albums in 2015. She’s grown since then; since her 2016 album “Tree”, she’s now Anna Elizabeth Laube and her latest album, “Annamania” is a compilation of songs from her four previous albums dating back to “Outta My Head” in 2006. The song choice is heavily skewed towards the newer material from “Anna Laube” (2015) and “Tree” (2016) and also includes three songs previously either not released or given a limited release, including Anna’s reimagining of Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On”. Apart from this, it’s originals all the way.

The Tom Petty cover is a great example of making a song your own. Tom Petty’s original sounds like, well, Tom Petty, but Anna gives it a different spin, creating a piano arrangement with a Rickie Lee Jones twist and adding French horn tracks for an even more distinctive feel. It’s perfect.

The album has the variety and pacing that you would find on any of the previous four albums as Anna demonstrates her instrumental versatility and ability to move effortlessly from a pure, unadorned vocal (as on the album’s opener “Sweet Boy from Minnesota”) to the rasping, lo-fi twelve-bar blues of “If You Build It”.

“Annamania” is a perfect showcase for Anna’s work. It demonstrates her multi-instrumentalism, her perfect voice and her ability to create memorable songs across a wide range of subjects, from the innocent love song that opens the album to the environmental message of its closer, “Tree”. Her geographical and musical wanderings have all contributed to the eclecticism of this and Anna’s four previous albums. There are hints of Rickie Lee Jones in the Tom Petty reworking and also in “Oh My! (Oh Me Oh Me Oh My)” a mid-tempo shuffle that evokes Rickie Lee’s “Danny’s All-Star Joint” from the eponymous first album. The achingly beautiful “Please Let it Rain in California Tonight” even has a nod in the direction of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” in the chords leading into the verse. There’s a lot to love about this album.

If you haven’t listened to any of Anna’s previous albums, “Annamania” is a pretty good place to start. The songs are strong and the album clearly shows Anna’s variety of vocal stylings, multi-instrumental skills and studio expertise. Anna Elizabeth Laube is a unique talent and “Annamania” is a perfect introduction.

“Annamania” is released to download and stream on Friday January 22nd.

We reviewed Gerry Spehar’s latest album, “Anger Management”, about eighteen months ago. At the time, Trump was still in his third year in the Oval Office. He’d done enough in that time to alienate millions of Americans and Gerry was one of them. “Anger Management” was an angry album and it was all about the damage Trump had done to the American people. It was also a classic example of the protest album, packed with well-crafted songs that are full of fury. It’s just as relevant now and it’s one that I keep coming back to.

The “Lady Liberty” EP is coming from a different place. There’s still some anger, but the focus has shifted; Trump himself doesn’t get a namecheck, but there are still a couple of references, one in the title track and one in the second song “Laura Dean”.

“Lady Liberty, Day One” is set in the very near future on Inauguration Day and combines the celebration of a new, hopefully more inclusive, politics in the United States with the familiar Gerry Spehar themes of immigration and the refugee experience. It’s a brief look back to darker days, but a much lengthier and more positive look forward to the escape from Trumpism. The musical setting is a complex, swirling, trippy prog arrangement in 6/8 time that emphasises the random, hallucinogenic events of the last four years. Bear in mind that this was written long before Trump showed his true colours with events in DC last week. It’s a powerful song with a powerful message; the people make the choice between cruelty and kindness.

Skipping past the second song for a moment, the EP ends with “The Immigrant Suite”, three stories of attempted flight from Mexico to the USA (two kids make it, one doesn’t). “Barrier Reef” has a Latin tinge with violin and trumpet overlaying some Eastern European touches. “Boy and Beast” has an acoustic guitar suggesting the sounds of a train while the fiddle suggests the whistle moaning heads north to meet his mother in LA; both the main characters of these songs make it across the border. “Meet Me at the Moon” is based around Latin rhythms and is partly sung in Spanish; it’s the story of a twelve-year-old daughter who doesn’t even make it out of Mexico to join her father. All three songs are powerful evocations of the complex human issues of cross-border movement.

Which brings us to “Laura Dean”. It’s much more simple than the title song, just finger-picked country acoustic and lap steel, but it’s every bit as powerful. Gerry Spehar writes very convincingly about individuals in difficult situations and “Laura Dean” is up there with his best. It tells the story of a true hero, a nurse dealing ceaselessly with dying patients while her kids’ grandma is dying at the other end of a Zoom call. This is all powerful stuff, but Gerry also contrasts it perfectly with the behaviour of Trump (un-named) and his hypocritical hijack of Easter 2020. This one will stick with me for a long, long time.

Following Trump’s election defeat, Gerry Spehar has moved on from the white-hot fury of “Anger Management” to a desire to return to the values of Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty poem “The New Colossus”- Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’, which is referenced in the title song. The remaining songs on the EP contrast the human stories of the USA and its neighbours with the current upheaval to create the balance of personal and political that runs through our daily lives.

The “Lady Liberty” EP is a heartfelt piece of work that highlights the damage already done to the Unite States while pointing the way to a more understanding and inclusive future. It’s brave and powerful and I recommend that you listen to it.

The EP is released on Inauguration Day (Wednesday January 30th) to download and stream.

It’s drizzling, freezing and absolutely miserable in the UK at the moment, so that would be the perfect time to listen to an album straight out of 1970s Laurel Canyon via 2020s British Columbia. There are more influences on the album than the Jackson Browne/Eagles/Linda Ronstadt coterie but the album still glows with sunshine of The Golden State, even though its creators Heather Read and Jonny Miller have fairly nebulous Californian connections but, hey, the first two Eagles albums were produced by Glyn Johns at Olympic Studios in London, while Peach & Quiet’s “Just Beyond the Shine” was put together with the help of producer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Dawson in Nashville, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. All of the songs are written by Heather, Jonny or both apart from the album’s closer, “Seven Daffodils”, written by Lee Hays and Fran Moseley.

The sun breaks through from the opening notes of the Byrds/Tom Petty-inflected opener, “Empty to Fill” and its poetic exploration of the contradictions and complexity of human beings. From there it’s almost constant Oakley and Ray-Ban stuff, with the exception of the slightly menacing Southern-influenced “Shoreline After A Storm” likening a bad relationship to a storm – they can both inflict terrible damage and leave a messy aftermath. There’s a little hint of “I Put A Spell on You” in there as well.

The songwriting is superb throughout, from the fairly straightforward love song “There’s A Very Good Chance” with its lovely Everlys harmonies to the more complex “Flowers”, which is based on the children’s book “Mr Cat and the Little Girl” which deals with love and loss which has a folky Byrds styling with a relatively complex arrangement that even features a bit of glockenspiel, courtesy of Steve Dawson.

There are themes running though the album; lyrically it’s all about love, whether it’s love for a partner who’s on stage every night (“Lucky in Love”) or for a place (“California Way”). The song arrangements are in the Eagles/Linda Ronstadt mode with layers of electric and acoustic guitars and some absolutely gorgeous harmonies, either as duets or as multi-tracked layers. There’s absolutely nothing out of place on this album.

And, as I finish this review, there’s no rain, and the sun is shining; that was pretty impressive work, guys. This album’s combination of superbly-crafted songs and subtle Laurel Canyon-era  arrangements is the perfect antidote to winter on either side of the Atlantic.

“Just Beyond the Shine” is released on January 15th 2012 on Peach & Quiet Music (P&QCD001).

Here’s the video for “Empty to Fill”:

 

There’s a music business orthodoxy that new singles and albums are released on a Friday. This is increasingly being challenged, mainly by artists outside the mainstream as new releases are popping up at times that work for the song, album or artist rather than the dictates of the music industry. Abby Posner’sDear 2020” is a perfect example. It’s available as a download or stream so there’s no reason why it couldn’t be released at any time. The song’s theme is saying goodbye to 2020 and was released on December 31st, which is entirely appropriate.

The finger-picked guitar intro and Abby’s voice give “Dear 2020” a rural blues feel, while the addition of a second guitar shifts the song to a more contemporary setting, and the upbeat rhythm creates a positivity that fits the overall mood of the song.

The basic message of the song is positive because Abby’s encouraging us to carry hope with us into 2021. There’s an acknowledgement that, for most of us, 2020 was awful but also that most of us have something to take away from the year (new skills, new friends, new audience) and build on into 2021; I’m totally behind that and “Dear 2020” is perfect accompaniment to a positive start to the year.

“Dear 2021” is out now on download and streaming platforms.

This is the final album review of the strangest year I’ve had in a very, very long time. It’s quite unusual to release albums of original material in December; it’s normally a time for retrospectives, compilations and TV personalities singing Christmas songs. This year, however, all bets are off as the virus has closed so many doors while opening a few new ones. Musicians have been adapting to a rapidly-changing environment throughout this century, so what’s the big deal about a pandemic? Home studios have been with us for a long time and it’s routine now to share huge audio files online; you can make an album with dozens of musicians without ever meeting them.

The album “Mayone”, by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Steve Mayone, has a couple of reference points. The uncertainty generated by COVID 19 gave the Steve the impetus to get this album together, and the first Paul McCartney solo album “McCartney” (fifty years old this year) gave him the inspiration. The parallels between the two aren’t just around the experience of working alone in the studio alone as therapy; Steve has echoed the ebb and flow of Paul McCartney’s album, and some of the themes as well (more about that later).

The first listen to this album left two lasting impressions; that it was a guitar player’s album and that it had a very seventies feel. Before reading the press release, I felt that the album had the feel of a solo Beatles project (right) and that the solo Beatle was George Harrison (wrong). It’s definitely a guitar player’s album, though; there are multiple layers of acoustic and electric guitars throughout the album, with the additional spicing of mandolin, banjo, ukulele and lap steel. I’m sure one of Steve’s aims was to make people revisit “McCartney”; it worked in my case and I’m recommending it to you as well.

“Mayone” has thirteen tracks (as does “McCartney”) and mixes up instrumental soundscapes with some beautifully-crafted songs. The instrumentals are perfect little vignettes scattered across the album, starting with the finger-picked acoustic, “The Sweet Suzanne” referencing McCartney’s “The Lovely Linda” even down to the alliteration in the title; Steve Mayone is paying serious attention to detail here.

There’s a huge variety to the songs here, from the no-prisoners-taken rock of “Sweet Little Anchor”, hinting at Bob Seger and Tom Petty to the melancholy “Airport Goodbyes” and the archetypical Christmas song (with an ironic drunken stupor twist), “Happy Alcoholidays”. These are all great songs but the perfect McCartney match is still to come. “Stuff” is a takedown of consumerism on a personal and global level that moves McCartney’s “Junk” on by fifty years, but Steve takes it a stage further. The McCartney “Junk” appears in a vocal version on track six and as “Singalong Junk” (an instrumental) on track eleven; guess the track sequencing of the “Stuff” vocal and instrumental on Steve’s album?

Steve Mayone has created an album of material that’s totally original, while cleverly referencing and emulating McCartney’s “McCartney”. “Mayone” is a 2020 classic; let’s hope it lasts as long as “McCartney”.

“Mayone” is released in the UK on Friday December 18th on Mayone Music.

 

Here’s Allan’s final set of photos for this restricted year. He’s saved the monochromes until the end this time and we think we can see why.

All but one of these photos were taken before the first lockdown (incidentally, using bodies and lenses that have all been replaced now, if anyone’s interested) and they’re examples of the different reasons for using monochrome processing. I started taking family snaps in the sixties using black and white 120 roll film and I’ve had a bit of a nostalgic soft spot for it ever since (I was way too young to know anything about the culture wars over monochrome/colour played out by the pros – there was just no way I could afford colour film at that time). Moving forward nearly sixty years, I’m enjoying monochrome photography again, this time as an option.

Will Sexton @AMAUK Showcase January 2020

Will Sexton is the musical and marital partner of Amy LaVere and they played as a duo at AMAUK in Hackney this year. One of my usual reasons for monochrome processing is bland stage lighting and that was the case here as well. However, as soon as I flipped from colour, the shot took on a whole new meaning. Will’s stage image took the shot back about sixty years and evoked Ronnie Hawkins and maybe Duane Eddy. From Hackney to Memphis with one toggle:

Roseanne Reid @AMAUK Showcase January 2020

Yep, that Roseanne Reid; daughter of Craig of The Proclaimers and a cracking writer and performer. This wasn’t a question of the monochrome processing as an option, it was a necessity because the lighting was horrendous. It took a bit of time to find the angle where the lighting worked, but it was worth it:

Hope Winter @The Bedford

Oh those happy days at The Bedford when you could wander round the entire venue without a mask and get up really close to the artists with a 35mm lens. There’s a lot of luck involved in this because I happened to be right in front of Hope when she dropped really briefly into this pensive mood with her long hair highlighted and the embroidered jacket picked out perfectly:

Nicole Terry @The Essex Arms Brentwood

This was only a few weeks before lockdown. I was with my mate, fiddle and mandolin player Steve Stott who was seeing Morganway for the first time. I love Morganway; I love the quality of the playing, the songs and the energy. Nicole is a ball of fire on stage so this shot is a bit uncharacteristic, but it shows a contrast with her usual frantic bowing and backing vocals in one of those serene and focussed moments:

Iago Banet @Luna Lounge, Leytonstone

Just a few weeks ago, but it seems much longer now. This was an Acoustic Sanctuary livestream with Foxpalmer from the basement of Luna Lounge (which is a great venue) that I was invited to shoot some stills for. If you get a chance to see Iago solo or with ColorColour, I recommend you take it; you won’t be disappointed. This was one of those gigs that had monochrome stamped all over it from the start. Iago’s fairly mobile on stage and it’s usually just a question of catching the right moment:

When you think that this is the year music went over the cliff (well, live music certainly) we’ve been pretty busy with album reviews as artists faced difficult choices about whether to release their material in a time when they couldn’t tour to promote it. Despite those difficult decisions, we still reviewed over thirty albums this year and we asked Allan to pick out five of his personal favourites.

I’ve always loved the MusicRiot ethos of reviewing; it’s not about trashing albums that we aren’t keen on, it’s about highlighting the albums that we really like and telling the world why we like them. We don’t review high profile albums, nothing we say will help Springsteen, Dylan or Young sell half a dozen more units, but we might actually help someone self-releasing their work, even if it’s only with a quote to use on their next press release. Now I’ve got that out of my system, I’ll tell you about five albums that I’ve had on high rotation this year. As always, in no particular order:

“What in the World” – Michael McDermott

Michael McDermott keeps cropping up in these year end lists, with good reason. He’s a great songwriter and he knows how to present his songs on record and live. “What in the World” was a bit of a departure for Michael; his focus has shifted towards protest songs. When Michael takes a pathway, he commits to it completely. The title song is “Subterranean Homesick Blues” for 2020; it’s a headlong rush through the final year of Trump’s presidency and pulls no punches – ‘It’s not hard to see The President’s a criminal’. While “What in the World” is one of only two protest songs on the album (the other is “Mother Emanuel”), its power and ferocity mean that it defines the album, although there are plenty more songs from Michael’s post-addiction and recovery space to make a great and varied album.

“Can You See Me” – Maya Rae

This one was very different from the MusicRiot staples. Maya Rae isn’t the kind of artist we usually hear about from our sources. She sent a demo tape to producer Steve Dawson (Black Hen Records) and he hastily put a band together to record the album in three days. Maya wasn’t even eighteen at the time and she had already been singing professionally for six years. The album’s fresh and zingy and full of the insights about young people’s lives that you can only get from a young person. The musicianship on the album is superb as the band step effortlessly from pop to sinuous funk. Try it, you’ll love it.

“Iago Banet” – Iago Banet

I don’t think I’ve ever featured an entirely instrumental album before in my High Fives, but I’d never heard “Iago Banet” before this year. Iago plays in a style that he describes as Galician finger-style from south, south, south, south London. If you haven’t seen Iago play live you would think that each song features at least two guitarists (a bit like Martin Harley’s Weissenborn playing), but only one track on the album features a second guitar and that’s the fun blues hybrid ”Octopus One”. Iago’s playing evokes pictures ranging from Greater London scenes (“Morning at Greenwich Park”) to more prosaic domestic scenes (“There’s a Mouse In my Kitchen”). And there’s also a wonderful swing arrangement of Van Morrison’s “Moondance”. What more could you want?

“Tangle of Souls” – Scott Cook

To paraphrase the Marks & Spencer advertising strapline, this isn’t just music. “Tangle of Souls” as a standalone album is a superb piece of work, but it comes packaged with a hefty booklet containing Scott’s writings, printed on had-crafted paper. It all adds to the experience, but the album stands on its own musical and lyrical merits. The album’s centrepiece “Say Can You See” is a political statement that isn’t partisan; it’s about not trusting anyone from the DC elite. The album has more of a political edge than some of Scott Cook’s earlier work, including an update of Dick Blakeslee’s “Passin’ Through”, which includes a reference to 1970s Chilean martyr Victor Jara. It’s an album that will make you listen and make you think.

“The Sleepless Kind” – Andy Fleet

This was another one that came out of left field. Andy is a musician who makes a living in the same way as a lot of musicians these days; a bit of performance, a bit of recording, a bit of teaching and a bit of anything else that comes along. “The Sleepless Kind” tells the stories of the musicians who entertain us in our clubs and bars every night (or did before the onset of this plague) and gives us a unique perspective on Soho through the eyes of an owl. It’s an album that rewards repeated plays and has an end of the day feel to it. You should probably listen while nestling a single malt in one hand.

And here’s a little bonus ball for you. I wouldn’t normally include a compilation in this selection, but this one merits a mention.

“The Man from Leith” – Dean Owens

This is a seventeen-song Dean Owens retrospective. I’ve followed Dean’s work for nearly ten years now and he’s a songwriter who writes beautifully about Scottish and global themes. There are songs about family, songs about friends, songs about events and even a sing inspired by Ronnie Lane. If you want an introduction to Dean’s body of work, then this is the perfect place to start. And whether he’s playing solo or with a band you should try to see him live as well.

Is anyone ready for a few more of Allan’s photos? He hasn’t had the bumper gig year he was expecting but he still managed to get in a few before lockdown, a few over the summer and a few more after lockdown lite. Let’s see what he has to say about this set of images.

From the end of January 2020 it was obvious that 2020 wasn’t going to be a normal year for anyone. I was cramming in as many gigs as I could get pre-lockdown and hoping that post-lockdown might be a bit easier; so much for that. Over the last few years, I’ve done a fair amount of monochrome work, partly because it worked for certain images and partly because of lighting that was a bit meh. At the limited number of gigs I’ve done this year, I’ve had some decent lighting for colour, so here we go:

Tales from the Towpath (1)

Belle Roscoe had an album to promote and very few opportunities of getting punters to gigs so someone had the radical idea of taking the gig to the punters; on a barge. Starting at Hackney Wick and moving north during the afternoon. This was the second time I’ve shot a gig on a barge. The first one was at Kings Cross on a gorgeous summer day; this one wasn’t quite so warm, in mid-October, but the sun was shining. Matty Gurry just looks like a rock star (as does his sister Julia); all you have to do is get the right angle and press the shutter. I suppose the wind-swept look didn’t do any harm either:

Tales from the Towpath (2)

The album Matty and Julia were promoting (and still are) is called “Talking to the Walrus”, so why not have a walrus to help with the promotion. Not a real one obviously, but a very sinister walrus mask. Now, it’s not every day that you get introduced to a walrus, is it? Did you know they speak with an Australian accent? So, a photo of a walrus in a naval jacket? Works for me:

Greenwich Blues & Beer, Eddy Smith

Eddy Smith has a great blues/rock/soul voice and is a cracking keyboards player. He’s also a really good bloke. I’ve photographed him many times, solo and with his band. Eddy creates on particular problem for photographers; he wears a baseball cap which throws a shadow on his face when lit from above. Fortunately at this gig at The Old Joinery in Greenwich he was lit from below and not in full-on blues shouter mode. The soft, warm lighting emphasises the serene mood of the shot:

Greenwich Blues & Beer, Georgia and the Vintage Youth

From the same mini-festival at August Bank Holiday, I had another opportunity to photograph Georgia Crandon. It doesn’t matter how many times you photograph Georgia, you always get something different. The look is never the same for any two gigs and it’s always interesting. Like the previous shot of Eddy, the lighting’s quite soft and portrait-friendly and Georgia’s rose-tinted glasses add the finishing touch. I’ll be photographing Georgia in 2021, absolutely no doubt:

SJ (Morganway)

Two weeks before the first lockdown I met up with my friend, mandolin and fiddle player Steve Stott in Brentwood to introduce him to the Morganway experience. If you haven’t seen or heard Morganway, you really should. If the world returns to something resembling normality in 2021, they should be playing bigger venues and building a massive fanbase. They are the real thing; a live band where everyone plays an important part and they and do the whole lot from unplugged acoustic to no-holds-barred rock. Here’s singer SJ, giving it plenty:

Bit of a bonus, here’s Morganway’s “Hurricane” live:

Morganway – Hurricane [OFFICIAL VIDEO] – YouTube

 

We like to have a visual element to our High Fives, and we like to feature the work of as many gig photographers as we can, not just our own resident snapper. We’re hoping to feature some guest photographers later this month but, in the meantime, we’ll start with five from Allan because he’s got five ready to go. Here’s what he has to say about this year:

There was a time earlier this year when I wondered if I’d have enough pictures for this feature. This was supposed to be a great year for gigs and January, February and the first half of March was living up to the promise; loads of gigs around London, a weekend mini-festival in Fife and my first shoot at the legendary Fairfield Halls in Croydon. A week after the Croydon gig, we were in lockdown. I was lucky enough to squeeze in a few gigs between lockdowns but let’s just say I won’t be doing a calendar this year. I normally shoot a lot of portrait-style shots with one person in the frame, but for various reasons, including avoiding brother/sister fallouts, I’ve shot a few group shots this year. Here’s a few of them:

The Velveteen Orkestra

I photographed Dan Shears at a John Lennon 79th birthday gig at The Hard Rock Café in 2019 and following on from that, we arranged to do some shoots at upcoming gigs in 2020 with a variety of Velveteen Orkestra line-ups. The second shoot I went along to was an early evening gig at Jamm in Brixton with Dan and violinist Sarah Boughton. I got lots of good solo shots of Dan, but having Sarah out of focus in the background gave some depth to this shot.

Amy LaVere & Will Sexton

What could be better than dashing around between venues in Hackney for two nights at the end of January. This was the annual Americana Music Association UK showcase 2020; it needed careful planning, stamina and shoeleather, but there were good shots to be had if you were fast and lucky. Amy LaVere and her husband Will Sexton were individually photogenic, but I was keen to get both of them in the frame. Amy draws the attention by staring straight at the camera, as Will plays the supporting role. If you want to know why this was a black and white shot, it was down to some flat and not very colourful lighting.

Belle Roscoe on a barge

I love shooting Belle Roscoe. They’re a brilliant band and, like the Velveteen Orkestra, they play in a variety of configurations from a duo format to full rock band. Whatever the format, they’re great to listen to and always interesting to shoot. Coming out of lockdown, I shot them at The Bedford in Balham and a few days later they announced a series of guerrilla outdoor gigs on a barge on a Saturday afternoon starting at Hackney Wick. After mistaking the River Lee for the canal and getting totally lost (and horribly late), I finally found the location for the first gig just as the band moored the barge to set up for the gig. As always, the band rocked and there were a lot of interesting shots there for the taking. I think the shot captures the strange setting, the cold and windy weather and the rock star quality of Julia and Matty Gurry.

Dean Owens, Hannah-Rose Platt and Rab Noakes

This was a couple of weeks before lockdown. I had train tickets booked months in advance and fingers firmly crossed that the UK wouldn’t grind to a halt before the event. It was a weekend at The Woodside in Aberdour curated by the fabulous Scottish singer-songwriter Dean Owens celebrating Johnny Cash’s roots in The Kingdom of Fife. The weekend featured a wide variety of artists including Fay Fife and my favourite crime novelist, Ian Rankin.

My favourite session of the weekend was a songwriters’ circle on the Saturday evening featuring Dean, Hannah-Rose Platt and Scottish folk legend Rab Noakes. They complemented each other perfectly and I was positive that there was a good shot coming at the end of the set, so I got myself into position and waited.

Georgia and the Vintage Youth

Just before the first lockdown again, this was a bit closer to home, at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney. The gig was an EP launch and Georgia had the full band for this one. I have to say now that this is probably my favourite shot of the year. It was almost at the end of the set and I’d packed away the zoom and just kept the 35mm lens ready for any close-ups that might happen. It got interesting when Georgia sat down on the stage, got more interesting when guitarist Charlie Manning got in on the act, and absolutely perfect when Georgia flicked the ‘V’. It’s not technically perfect, but I love the Sid and Nancy/Kurt and Courtney feel of it.

I always thought that hanging on in quiet desperation was just the English way. Apparently not; Jeb Barry of the Pawn Shop Saints has created a collection of nine songs, one a Jason Isbell co-write, that tell the stories and introduce us to the characters of forgotten America. The places that have lost their industries, jobs and hope, but not their self-respect. “Ordinary Folks” is also the sound of someone examining their own prejudices in an attempt to understand the lives of the people that he wouldn’t normally meet day-to-day; it’s a timely reminder that progress doesn’t necessarily benefit everyone. We understand that fossil fuels damage the environment, but that’s no consolation to the mining communities that have been wiped out. It’s not a cheerful album, but it’s uplifting; we see individuals and communities that refuse to be broken whatever the world throws at them.

Musically, the stylings are string band-orientated with some nice twang guitar as a bit of occasional seasoning (although there are nods in the direction of gospel and skiffle as well) and fairly minimal and muted percussion throughout. There’s enough going on to embellish the songs, but not so much that the power of the lyrics is diluted. And they are certainly powerful lyrics.

The songs are roughly split between social comment and personal reminiscence and there are a few themes that run through the album. The personal stories include the autobiographical high school outsider tale of “Lynyrd Skynyrd” and the tragedy of a life that is only made bearable by cigarette breaks and a beer or two told in “Pack a Day”. Taking a wider perspective, while the album’s first three songs, “You Don’t Know the Cumberland”, “Old Men, New Trucks” and “Body in the River” all deal with the loneliness, isolation and alienation of life in forgotten towns, passed through by the politicians, and against the backdrop of the constant threat of flooding.

“Ordinary Folks” is a grainy black and white photo of life in the towns after the vultures have picked the bones clean and moved on. And somehow people still hope.

The album is released on Dollyrocker Records (DR20201) on Friday December 11th.