When David Leask reflects on the reasoning behind his latest release, “6/8 feels like a musical home to me, a signature of time, a sense of place” he sounds like a man at peace with his surroundings and the creative process. It’s hardly surprising then that the six songs on this fantastic EP are so impressive, even if the initial idea seems a little off-kilter. Six songs recorded in a 6/8 time signature might sound a little strange until you realise the great range that 6/8 allows, especially when coupled with superior tunes. If you’re wondering about 6/8 then think of it as a variation on a waltz—a lilt if you will—and you’ve got the idea. Many of your favourite songs will have been written in this time signature, trust me we’re not talking weird Frank Zappa approved strangeness here.
To get the songs just right Leask recorded in a range of locations with stops in Montreal, Toronto, Nashville and Muscle Shoals utilising eleven different studios and ten sound engineers as he and co-producer/guitarist Justin Abedin perfected each song on the EP. The record was then mixed by Chad Carlson and mastered by Peter Moore (Bob Dylan) both Grammy Award winners with impressive results as you would expect.
‘Indescribable’ opens proceedings and finds a tongue-tied Leask at his most romantic with Abedin’s smart lead guitar fills adding colour. ‘Red Balloon’ a co-write with Alec Steinwall follows and Leask, Scottish by birth but now resident in Canada, embraces his Celtic roots and perfectly captures the melancholy of a 6/8 tune as we follow Amy through the events of her life. Leask beautifully conveys just how important even the most insignificant event can be to us at the time; from losing a balloon as a child to divorce and the loss of a loved one. Rob Ickes’ Dobro; Loretta Reid's flute, whistle and concertina and Doug Romanow’s accordion further enhance storytelling that is sure to resonate with many listeners. ‘Caught in the Tide’ finds a couple at the crossroads of their relationship but I’m hopeful those rising guitars are emphasising the chance of a positive outcome.
The piano ballad ‘When You Think No One Loves You’ sounds both sparse yet remarkably full due to Jonathan Goldsmith adding deft touches of B3 organ to his piano lines while Quisha Wint’s superb backing vocals sound like a full gospel choir. ’Can’t Make It Back Home’ is another gem that reminds me of Billy Joel circa ‘The Nylon Curtain’. Dealing with the issue of returning from conflict and PTSD ‘Can’t Make It Back Home’ finds Leask in fine vocal form while that gentle, syncopated electric guitar part lurking underneath blends beautifully with Kevin Fox’s cello. The album concludes with ‘Between Him & Me’ a rousing look at the relationship we have with whichever faith we follow.
‘Six in 6/8’ does more in 20+ minutes than many albums do in 60. Expertly produced and performed by a first-rate selection of musicians this is a terrific record full to the brim with fantastic songs. This one has been out for a little while but it really is well worth your time to track it down.
When David Leask reflects on the reasoning behind his latest release, “6/8 feels like a musical home to me, a signature of time, a sense of place” he sounds like a man at peace with his surroundings and the creative process. It’s hardly surprising then that the six songs on this fantastic EP are so impressive, even if the initial idea seems a little off-kilter. Six songs recorded in a 6/8 time signature might sound a little strange until you realise the great range that 6/8 allows, especially when coupled with superior tunes. If you’re wondering about 6/8 then think of it as a variation on a waltz—a lilt if you will—and you’ve got the idea. Many of your favourite songs will have been written in this time signature, trust me we’re not talking weird Frank Zappa approved strangeness here
It really is hard to believe that two years have passed since the release of the last Seth Lakeman album ‘Ballads Of The Broken Few’ (review) an album that found Seth working with folk trio Wildwood Kin on what would turn out to be a really terrific record. The album’s stripped back acoustic sound added an Americana style spin on Seth’s folk roots and the result was a record that still makes regular returns to the RGM stereo. In those two years Seth has toured ‘Ballads’ extensively often with Wildwood Kin along for the ride. He also took up Robert Plant’s offer of a spot in Plant’s Sensational Shape Shifters for a world tour that would find Seth pulling double duty as the opening act on occasion. You’d think that’d be enough to keep most people gainfully employed but Seth also found the time to record a new album ‘The Well Worn Path’.
As one half of the Indigo Girls for over thirty years, Amy Ray’s feistiness and grit always served as a contrast and balance to Emily Saliers’ tenderness and sheen and this is doubtless what has made the duo such an enduring success. Ray has, by now, rightly earned her place as a member of folk rock royalty and on Holler, her sixth (who knew?!) solo record, her creative fires are burning as bright as ever.
Danny Kiranos aka Amigo The Devil arrives on the scene with ‘Everything Is Fine’ and the one thing I can tell with absolute certainty is that things most definitely are not fine. In fact, we’re as far from fine as it’s possible to get. “This life is a joke and death is the punch line” gives you a good idea of Kiranos’ state of mind as Amigo The Devil. So join me, if you’d like to partake in an hour or so of Southern gothic murder folk country, with an occasional hard rock/metal left turn, because you never know things might turn out fine in the end, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Canadian singer-songwriter Colleen Brown first came to our attention here at RGM back in 2015 with the single ‘Soap & Denim’ which was followed by some low-key UK live dates. Brown was, by then, already a seasoned solo artist with a few albums under her belt but for us - here on this side of the water - it felt like the discovery of a new and rare talent. We’ve kept up with Brown ever since and now that she has a new full-length LP out (her first fronting five-piece Major Love) we feel the strong urge to let as many people as possible know about it.
The really great thing about country music these days is the wide range of music associated with the genre. If you like your country with that Nashville sheen, or maybe look for something a little more pop or bro it’s out there. If you’re looking for a good old-fashioned tune, that’ll bring a tear to the eye because your dog died, or your wife/significant other left you, it’s out there. In many ways, due to the sheer weight of music being produced these days there really is something for everyone. I’m happy to check out pretty much anything under the country/Americana banner but I must admit that you can’t beat an album that sounds old-school and timeless yet current. With that in mind, J.P. Harris has delivered a record that feels right, looks right and above all sounds right.
RGM first encountered Josh Taerk in late 2017 with the release of his ‘Stages’ EP a five track collection full of lyrical positivity and melody. Less than a year later and Josh is back with ‘Beautiful Tragedy’ which takes up where ‘Stages’ left off. I’m pleased to report that despite a serious haircut Josh hasn’t endured a Samson style loss of his creative strength.
S. K. Wellington’s debut EP is the lovingly-nurtured baby of Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Kemmers. It follows a long period of stepping back from her musical endeavours to stop, reassess and rekindle her creative fires. As a result there’s a confident, easy and nothing-to-lose vibe coursing through this four song collection which significantly contributes to its appeal.
Ruston Kelly has one of those back stories so strange you couldn’t make it up. Born in South Carolina Kelly's early childhood was fragmented as his dad worked in paper mills and travelled often for work, so every couple of years the family upped sticks. In his early teens Kelly hoped for a career in figure skating, so he moved to Michigan and joined an Olympic coaching team, which proved to be a very tough and lonely existence. Those dreams didn’t pan out, but with the music of Jackson Browne and his dad’s old guitar for company, the songwriting seed was sown. It wasn’t until his senior year in high school that he discovered The Carter Family and Johnny Cash in, of all places, the Belgium city of Brussels that things really started to click. At seventeen he returned to the USA and moved in with his sister in Nashville. Eventually, in 2013 a publishing deal was signed and Kelly placed songs with Josh Abbott and Tim McGraw — that helped pay the rent — before he snagged his own record deal and released the ‘Halloween’ EP in 2017 to impressive reviews.
A decade and a half ago, Tom Baxter, was riding the wave of an acoustic singer-songwriter renaissance, championed by the New Acoustic Movement and Roadworks tours, which played a part in the successes of Tom McRae, Ben & Jason, Polly Paulusma and KT Tunstall. Like Tunstall, Baxter landed a major label deal but Columbia didn’t invest in him as a long-term prospect (Tunstall was, conversely, carefully developed by Relentless). Baxter was dropped after his debut Feather & Stone failed to cut the commercial mustard; a criminal state of affairs, given that the album was an incredible, hit-riddled record, dripping with giant string arrangements and emotional energy. The independently recorded yet equally strong Skybound followed in 2007 and spawned the single ‘Better’, a cover of which - for better or worse depending on your view - was a big hit for Boyzone a year later. Fast forward to 2018 and Tom Baxter - having been married, divorced and married again in that time - is back with The Other Side of Blue, a record that is devoid of all the whistle-and-bellery that adorned his first two outings. Every song features just a solo vocal with only guitar or piano for company. Brave? Foolish? Let’s find out…
After a spell touring as a duo, Dublin-based Lucky Bones have returned to a full band sound for their third album Matchstick Men. Rocky and reflective in equal measure, the record doffs its hat to some musical heavyweights and doesn't pale in comparison. It also offers us a glimpse of songwriter Eamonn O’Connor’s gift for pitching downbeat emotion against a decidedly upbeat musical sensibility.
When Glenn Frey passed away in 2016 he left a legacy of music of which any artist would be proud. Over the years his work as a solo artist and with the Eagles seems to have divided opinion, for every Eagles fan there seems to be hater just around the next corner, a situation I’ve always found very surprising. ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Their Greatest Hits 1971-75’ (the latter of which is the second bestselling album of all-time with 29,000,000 sales in the USA) are a fitting tribute to Frey and his talents. After forty years I’ll still happily spin 'Hotel California' and those early hits, which I consider to be solid gold classics, and I’m pleased to report the Library of Congress selected the hits album for preservation as "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" so I’m in pretty good company. The 3-CD + 1-DVD set ‘Above The Clouds’ finds us venturing far from those early country rock roots as Frey the solo artist seemed content to follow his muse wherever it took him, generally in a soft-rock / soul / R&B direction. The results, especially looking back in the cold light of day, are uneven but not without some genuinely standout tracks, all of which are presented with a professional sheen when maybe, on occasion, a little grit would have been welcome.