One thing you can guarantee with a Bob Malone album, it will be packed with musical talent. That starts with Bob Malone himself playing acoustic and electric pianos, organ, synth, glockenspiel, stomp box and tambourine; and he’s a pretty good singer in a raw rock/blues style. He’s classically trained, an accomplished writer and arranger and he has a day job (when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic) as keyboard player, accordionist and unwitting pyrotechnics target with John Fogerty’s live band. His solo work reflects his varied musical background, pulling in elements from classical, soul, blues, rock, funk and jazz into a glorious fusion that’s pure Bob Malone.

“Good People”, in common with a lot of recent releases is at least partly a lockdown project put together from recordings at various studios and has a couple of lyrical themes running through it; gratitude for the things that have seen us through the pandemic and a sense of loss for friends and family that didn’t make it through, for whatever reason. The latter theme is particularly important on “Good People”; Lavonne Barnett-Seetal of The Malonettes backing vocal team died in December 2020. Her stunning voice lives on and “Good People” is a fitting tribute.

There are eight original songs on “Good People” and three non-originals; I’m wary of using the word ‘cover’ after a conversation with the wonderful Galician finger-style guitarist, Iago Banet, who makes a powerful case for using the word arrangements instead. Either arrangements or interpretations would be more accurate for the three non-originals on “Good People”. The first reworking is a brave choice of the John Fogerty classic “Bad Moon Rising”. The menace of the original is emphasised by a piano riff that mixes “Come Together” and “Crossroads” and a slightly changed melody. Appropriately enough, it has a real New Orleans feel. Another brave choice is building the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac classic “Oh Well” around a turbo-charged piano riff replacing the guitar of the original. It’s a stunning response to everyone who ever told him that “Oh Well” was a guitar tune that wouldn’t work on the piano. And the final non-original, which closes the album, is the long-time live favourite “Tangled Up in Blue”, which is funked-up, rocked-up, Leon Russell-like, show-closing version of the Dylan classic that leaves plenty of room for piano and guitar solos – this studio version has solos from six different guitar players; yep, that’s right, six.

After interpreting the work of classic songwriters such John Fogerty, Peter Green and Bob Dylan, do the Malone originals match up? They certainly do. Bob’s songwriting on “Good People” reflects the times that we’ve lived through since January 2020. The message of the title song is really simple; there’s always reason for positivity because there are always good people around. In a turbulent year like 2020, particularly in the USA, it’s a message that many have forgotten; many thanks for the timely reminder, Bob. The beautiful ballad “My Friends and I”, with its sparse (mainly) piano backing, building up to a gospel choir finish, tells a story of loss that’s familiar to many of us over the last year. It’s an incredibly moving song.

As is “Empty Hallways”, stripped back to piano and strings. The pathos of watching someone slip away is emphasised by Bob singing towards the top of his range and it’s an emotional ride. The Malonettes backing vocals feature heavily again on “The River Gives”, a slow ballad about the danger of depending on unpredictable and dangerous natural resources; it might even be a metaphor for life itself. But don’t get the wrong idea about Bob’s own compositions; they aren’t all downbeat. The instrumental “Prelude and Blues” is an opportunity for Bob and the band to show their prowess in a gentle jazz/blues piece, while “Sound of a Saxophone” using the sax as a metaphor for jazz and music generally builds up to a big full band arrangement with strings and, of course, The Malonettes in full swing.

“Good People” is an album that captures the experience of the plague year perfectly and I think it’s his best yet. It’s a mix of remembrance, numbness, regret and, ultimately, recovery. It’s a bunch of songs that perfectly captures the experience of the last sixteen months and finishes on a note of pure defiance with joyous “Tangled Up in Blue” that you really need to see live. Until that happens, get your ears around this album and prepare for a treat.

“Good People” is released on Friday May 21st, until then here’s a little video for you:

Do you know what the ghost light is? Me neither, until I saw the press release for Bob Bradshaw’s latest album. It’s a single bulb left on after all of the other lights in a theatre are switched off. It might be superstition; it might be practical. Whatever the reason, it’s an appropriate metaphor for any album released in the grip of the pandemic; the album’s there and it shows that the creative juices are still flowing, but there’s no way to get out there and promote it in the theatres where the only sign of life is a single light shining.

The album’s built around a core of Bob Bradshaw’s electric band with remote contributions from the likes of Dave Brophy, Dave Westner and Zachariah Hickman and each of the eleven songs is a collaboration between Bob and at least one other writer. It might sound a little patchwork, but the unification comes from the quality of the songs and Bob’s honey-over-gravel voice at their centre. “The Ghost Light” occupies a territory somewhere between country and rock, with interesting little musical diversions like the Transylvanian tango of “Sideways”, which uses clashes of style and an element of discordancy to emphasise the story of a skewed and fascinating, but transient, relationship.

Bob Bradshaw isn’t a confessional singer-songwriter; his songs are generally separate and self-contained, each one building its own entirely believable world, although you can find themes linking the songs if you look closely enough (more on that later) and it’s not unusual to find a reference to well-known songs in the music or lyrics, which brings us quite neatly to the album’s opening song, “Songs on the Radio”, a full-band piece with keys and two electric guitars creating a lovely mid-tempo drive-time feel for a song that explores the nostalgia and memories that can be evoked by hearing a favourite song on the radio. There’s a reference in there to “Across the Universe” and a harmony guitar solo that’s more Wishbone Ash or Eagles than Thin Lizzy.

There are hints at the supernatural and mystical in the songs “Gone” and “Light of the Moon” (an everyday story of a ship lured off course by siren song) and there’s a strand of loss that runs through the album, particularly in a trilogy of songs as the centre of the album, “Blue”, “Come Back Baby” and “She’s Gone for Good” that chart the stages in the death of a relationship, from sadness through regret and finally acceptance. Redemption follows this trilogy in the shape of the foot-on-the-monitor rock ‘n’ roll of “21st Century Blues” with its apocalyptic environmental message, hinting at Jackson Browne’s “The Road and the Sky” (or is that just me?). The sense of loss and alienation extends into the brooding menace of “In the Dark” before the album closes with “Niagara Barrel Ride Blues”, a solo resonator-backed song that uses the barrel ride as an extreme metaphor for tackling life’s challenges; you have to expect a bumpy ride and you need a good team to support you.

As always, Bob Bradshaw has created an album packed with powerful, creative songs that seduce with their simplicity and hooks that just won’t let go. Its appeal is both instant and lasting and a testament to the songwriter’s craft.

“The Ghost Light” is released in the UK on Friday 30th April on Fluke Records (FR11).

Here’s the video for “Sideways”:

Authenticity’s something that’s often claimed but not always delivered. Not in this case; “Shadow Land” is a powerful and often disturbing collection of songs with a wide variety of themes. And the authenticity isn’t just in the lived experience of Ben de la Cour, although his life suffuses the songs. It’s also in the way the album was made; virtually all of it was recorded live. Brave, perhaps, but vibrant and raw when it’s done well. On “Shadow Land”, it’s done very, very well.

This isn’t a gentle, introspective album of reflective songs tinged with melancholy like Jackson Browne and James Taylor in the seventies. Their hell-raising generally didn’t make it directly into the songs (unless you count “Cocaine” on “Running on Empty”). With Ben de la Cour, it’s a different matter. It doesn’t matter how deep the barrel is, he’ll siphon out the most bitter dregs, then create potent songs from them. If you wanted a more current comparison, Ben has a lot in common with Michael McDermott both in the life lived and in the breadth of musical stylings they use to get the songs across.

“Shadow Land” moves effortlessly from the gentle triple-time pathos of another barely-mourned suicide in “Swan Dive” to the terrifying, hallucinatory “Harmless Indian Medicine Blues” sounding like a half-speed, minor key “Telegram Sam” played by Black Sabbath, with a side order of raw sax. And while we’re on the subject of terrifying, “Basin Lounge” is a full-on, full band romp through the story of a night in one of those bars that sensible people don’t visit, complete with cocaine references. It’s on the edge of falling apart at any time and conveys the stimulant headrush perfectly when the manic guitar solo kicks in.

The album isn’t just about the personal. There’s a smattering of murder ballads in there as well. The album opens with “God’s Only Son”, the tale of double-crossing bank robbers set to an Ennio Morricone-style arrangement, complete with whistling and mandolin while “Amazing Grace (Slight Return)” is a much more mellow take on a hushed-up murder in a small town. There’s also a takedown of corporate greed in the swamp-rock of “In God We Trust … All Others Pay Cash”, but the focus is mainly on the searingly honest depictions life in general and of the Janus faces of dependency and recovery in particular.

Two of the standouts in this vein are “The Last Chance Farm”, a gentle, bleak story of two characters meeting in rehab and the title song with its dystopic alienation and a perfect description of eternal damnation: ‘The Revolutionary Suicide Jazz Band plays all night long’. It certainly sounds a lot like Hell to me.

“Shadow Land” isn’t an easy listen; it’s not meant to be. It’s the product of a difficult life and Ben de la Cour doesn’t shy away from honest depiction of this life. The musical settings are perfect for the subject matter of the songs from the terrible clarity and Jack London references of “Valley of the Moon” to the raw rock and hedonism of “Basin Lounge”. You never know quite what’s coming next; it could be Townes Van Zandt, it could be Nick Cave. Whatever it is, it won’t be dull.

If you like your albums spiced with a murder ballad or two, a touch of the supernatural, terrifying stories of substance abuse, suicide, alienation, Armageddon and cross-dressing, then it’s your lucky day.

“Shadow Land” is released in the UK on Friday April 9th on Flour Sack Cape Records (FSCR-0010).

As a special treat, here’s the video clip for “Harmless Indian Medicine Blues”:

‘Learn something new every day’. Today’s was an absolute beauty; I discovered what a shuitar is. I won’t describe it because its creator, Jano Rix, does that in this piece of video:

Jano Rix is the co-writer for almost all of this album and plays percussion (including shuitar) and keyboards (including a bit of mellotron). However, the name on the sleeve, the voice (and what a voice it is) and the lived experience are very much Brigitte DeMeyer’s. There’s a little piece of pure invention here, but most of the songs are personal, whether that’s personal stories or personal viewpoints. The title’s appropriate, not just because of the song of that name but because there’s a strand of longing and melancholy running through its ten songs; longing for friends, longing for family, longing for truth and longing for familiar places.

But let’s start with the untypically humorous song because it links in neatly to the rest of the album. “Cat Man Do” has a loose jazz feel and a central character that could be the son (or grandson) of the Chuck E featured on Rickie Lee Jones’ first (and best-selling) single, “Chuck E’s in Love”. The song’s similar in style to the autobiographical “Ain’t No Mister” which also features a central character in the same mould as Chuck E; that’s jazzers for you. It’s difficult not to draw parallels between the vocal styles of Brigitte and Rickie Lee Jones; they can both sing with the delicacy of angels and produce a 4-packs-a-day growl when it’s needed.

The title song sounds like seventies Laurel Canyon, which is appropriate in a song about moving back to California and searching for truth, love and a friend or two. “Roots and Wings and Bones”, which follows “Seeker”, and closes the album, is a love song for Brigitte’s son, which might contain a little musical reference to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (or my imagination might be working overtime). The trilogy of very different love songs is completed by “Already In” for Brigitte’s husband and “Louisiana” (with a reference to the classic “Georgia On My Mind”) is about loving and missing New Orleans with an appropriate Big Easy arrangement and a few nods in the direction of Allen Toussaint.

It’s almost obligatory on an Americana album these days to have a political view or two; it’s a natural reaction to four turbulent years. The album’s laid-back opening song “All of the Blue” sings the praises of under-valued cowboys, while the bright honky-tonk of “Calamity Gone” skewers the politicians trying to claim spurious solidarity with working people. Yep, we know who they are and we have them in the UK as well; and I don’t see any swamps being drained on either side of the pond just yet.

“Seeker” is a fine piece of work. There’s plenty going on musically to keep the listener’s interest but it’s Brigitte’s highly personal lyrics that make the album a spiritual experience and privileged window into her life. And she also knows when to inject a bit of fun as well.

“Seeker” is released in the UK on Friday March 26th on BDM Records.

As a bonus, here’s a video shot for Bob Harris’s ‘Under the Apple Tree’ when Brigitte toured the UK with Will Kimbrough and Dean Owens in March 2017:

Update 02/03/21 – We’ve just discovered a video for the wonderful “Louisiana”:

Where do I start with this one? Five stars would be a good place, I suppose. It’s not even five stars that needs a lot of thought. It’s not an album that needs to grow on you; it’s all there instantly first time around. David Olney already has a fabulous legacy, but this is a pretty impressive final piece in the jigsaw. If you absolutely must have a label for it, you would probably go with Americana but there’s a spectacular range of influences and references here, pushing the boundaries in all directions to create a rich and incredibly satisfying album.  The album’s credited to David & Anana Kaye (his protégés, for want of a better word), it’s a trio effort with writing and playing credits going to David, Anana, and her partner, Irakli Gabriel. To stretch the Americana boundaries a little further, Anana and Irakli are from Georgia, the one that Paul McCartney sung about, rather than Ray Charles.

Maybe it’s hindsight, with the knowledge of David Olney’s death last year, but ”Whispers and Sighs” has valedictory undertones, particularly the album’s closing song, “The Great Manzini (Disappearing Act)”, looking at life through the eyes of a worn-out and weary entertainer. It sounds resigned and laconic rather than cynical because of the warmth of David Olney’s smooth baritone delivery, the layered a cappella Anana Kaye intro, and the bowed cello and pizzicato violins. It’s the perfect end to the album.

The ideas and influences (musical and lyrical) are varied and you can expect a surprise around every corner, whether it’s the melancholy string fragments that open and bisect the album, “The Station” (Prelude)” and “Sideview (Interlude)”, the layered Anana Kaye celestial choirs or Rolling Stones-influenced dystopian rocker “Last Days of Rome” kicking in like “Start Me Up” and morphing into “Sticky Fingers” era Stones with Bobby Keys-style sax, a raw David Olney vocal and lyrics that obliquely reference the Trump administration.

And that’s just the start, before we get into the Shakespeare references. The title song is influenced by “Romeo and Juliet” and features Anana’s layered choral vocals and a string quartet, while the busy and angry uptempo “Lie to Me Angel” ends with David declaiming King Lear’s ‘blasted heath’ speech to end the piece as the manic backing fades out. Coming straight out of “Lie to Me Angel”, almost without a gap, is “Thank You Note”. It’s a song with a sinister feel, a tango overlaid with Eastern European strings and lyrics hinting at supernatural histories. You could imagine this song soundtracking a vampire movie.

“Whispers and Sighs” is a classic album, seamlessly pulling together a huge variety of musical references to create a work that surprises at every musical turn and is packed with subtle and thought-provoking lyrics that encourage the listener to think, rather than hammering a message home. As well as the classic country themes of longing and regret, you’ll find anger, mystery and history in my favourite album of the year so far.

This album is a fitting memory to David Olney as the flame passes on to Anana and Irakli.

“Whispers and Sighs” is released in the UK on Friday March 19th on Schoolkids Records (SMR-067).

Here’s a sneak preview with the video of “My Favourite Goodbye”:

We’ve all been reminded over the last year that music is a social phenomenon. Musicians love to work together, in the same room, face to face. Most of them love to interact with audiences in the same way, up close and personal and we’ve missed out on that over the last ten months in the UK. But life goes on and we adapt; the conditions aren’t ideal but musicians are collaborating online and still producing great albums and singles. Rick Shea’s twelfth album “Love & Desperation” is one of those collaborations, started under fairly normal conditions in 2019 and completed under COVID conditions in 2020.

The playing throughout is subtle and understated; the album relies more on subtlety and nuance than technical wizardry for its impact (that and a tidy selection of songs across a range of styles, with a few little surprises thrown in) and some interesting song pairings across the album. The fact that Rick has a voice that bears comparison with Merle Haggard might also help a bit. There’s also a suggestion that, after forty years as a musician, Rick might be thinking about his legacy; there’s a hint of that with the inclusion of the moody and atmospheric Mexican noir story “Texas Lawyer”, which closes the album, which appears for the third time on one of Rick’s albums.

So, how about those pairs of songs? Well, “(Down at the Bar at) Gypsy Sally’s” (taking its title from Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley”) and “She Sang of the Earth” look at different diversions, one physical, the other spiritual, but equally temporary. The arrangements echo the themes for each song with a gentle country feel for “She Sang of the Earth” and a more sinister guitar and accordion-led styling for “Gipsy Sally’s”, which instantly evokes the Doors’ “People Are Strange”; and that’s appropriate given the list of characters that populate the song.

“Gipsy Sally’s” neatly ties in with “The World’s Gone Crazy”, tying in the Doors instrumental style to the lyrical style and structure of a gospel song; it’s another example of the album’s eclecticism, from the standard slow blues of “Blues at Midnight” to the mariachi polka of “Juanita (Why Are You So Mean?)”. The musical variety of the songs is matched by the range of lyrical themes from the album. There’s the love song “A Tenderhearted Love”, which Rick felt he owed his wife, the references to the harshness of Nashville in the title song “Nashville Blues”, and the environmental and social concerns of ”Big Rain is Comin’ Mama”.

There’s plenty of love running through this album; love for music, love for family and love for the world and, honestly, very little desperation. If this is Rick Shea’s shot at a career-defining album, then it might just have done the trick.

“Love & Desperation” is released in the UK on Friday February 12th on Tres Pescadores Records (TPCD-12).

Here’s the video for “The World’s Gone Crazy”:

The opening line of the press release for “Little Thunderstorms” introduces KB Bayley succinctly: ‘Guitar player, songwriter, composer. Lover of wood, steel, valves and song.’ It’s good as far as it goes but it’s far too modest; there are a few superlatives missing in the first sentence for a start. KB’s a stunningly good player who knows what to play (and what not to play) to accompany his vocal. There’s quite a list of musicians playing on the album, but none of the arrangements feel cluttered as the players are used sparingly to create moods and atmospheres, such as the melancholy pedal steel on “Throw It in the River” and the muted trumpet three-in-the-morning jazz club feel of “Night Dogs”.

The songwriting’s powerful and personal and it’s obvious that KB has a keen interest in the art of the song and great writers. “Night Dogs” in name and arrangement is a nod in the direction of Tom Waits, while the album’s opening song “Cold Rain” turns around Leonard Cohen’s line from “Anthem” to ‘someone said there’s a hole in the sky where the night gets in’. Despite KB’s reputation as a session guitar player, the songs aren’t dominated by guitar gymnastics; they’re individual works of art where the words, melody and instrumental backing work together to evoke strong feelings and sometimes painful memories.

Blood Red Lullaby” aside, with its initial setting in Dallas and JFK reference, “Little Thunderstorms” is a very British album, packed with references to the north-east of England, where KB grew up, and the south coast where he now lives. The sea and the shore are the constants that will always pull us back regardless of how far we leave them behind, and the little thunderstorms are the things that happen to us between leaving and finding our way home again.

Almost inevitably for a touring musician, there are a couple of road songs, the laid-back jazz of “Night Dogs” telling the ‘same hotel, different town’ story, while “Time to Leave Town” is the ‘same partner, different town’ story. Of the album’s eleven songs, there are nine originals plus Jeffrey Foucault’s “Cheap Suit” (a beautiful song about the persistence of a dream that hints at passing the dream to the next generation) and a slide resonator version of the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger (Redux)” that has echoes of Mark Knopfler’s acoustic work – maybe it’s a Geordie thing.

“Little Thunderstorms” straddles the world of the seventies folk singer-songwriters (post-Judas era Dylan when you could use more than an acoustic) and the grittier sound of modern Americana where any mix of styles and instruments is acceptable, and encouraged. The songs are a potent mix of memories where the melancholy outweighs the happy and the vocal is just the right side of raw to pull out the emotion in each one. If that’s your thing (it’s certainly one of mine) then this is the perfect way to start 2021.

If you want a quote to sum up the quality of the writing and the album’s message, how about this: “someone wrote a sign saying ‘jesus lives today’, I look around, I think he moved away” from “Throw It In the River” (check out the video below as well).

“Little Thunderstorms” is released on Friday February 5th on CD, LP and download and streaming services.

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”: