January was a busy month at RGM with loads of news, new albums and tours announced. If you've missed anything, or just have a hunger to check out some new music, why not take a listen to our first Spotify Playlist that showcases artists featured during the month.
2018 got off to a great start with the arrival of the first EP by Walker McGuire and continued with strong releases from Glen Hansard, Mary Gauthier, Althea Grace and the debut from Dane Joneshill. Amongst the newcomers featured in January were folk duo Percival Elliott who bought us 'Forever' which bodes well for an upcoming album and multi-national country/pop duo O&O released a new single. Elsewhere Norwegian Torgeir Waldemar won't release his new album in the UK until March but for those of you who prefer things with a little more rock edge 'Streets' should fit the bill. On the soundtrack front, 'American Folk' looks like a cool film and the soundtrack is folktastic. January concluded for RGM with a trip down to Islington Assembly Hall to catch Deer Tick play two sets, one quiet and one not so quiet which was pretty cool. February is just around the corner and who knows what'll turn up, all I do know is a new favourite song/artist is waiting to be discovered.
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…
Laurie Mansworth had already seen action with NWOBHM act More when in 1982 he decided on a more transatlantic musical approach for his next musical venture. The result was Airrace and a deal was quickly inked with Atco/Atlantic records for their debut album ‘Shaft Of Light’ produced by Beau Hill (Ratt, Streets, Kix). The 1984 release of the album was well received by press and fans alike, although the majority of the reviews did focus on teenage drummer Jason Bonham (Foreigner, Black Country Communion) for obvious reasons. This did the band a disservice as ‘Shaft Of Light’ had some fine tunes, a terrific singer in Keith Murrell (Mama’s Boys, Cliff Richard), Toby Sadler’s (GTS, Samson) tasteful keys and Mansworth’s punchy guitar contributions. The band toured with heavyweight acts such as Queen, Meat Loaf and AC/DC but by 1985 Airrace was over and the band members went their separate ways. In 2011 Mansworth, Murrell and bassist Jim Reid reformed as Airrace and signed a deal with Frontiers which resulted in ‘Back To The Start’ and a busy touring schedule before things again went a little quiet. Fast forward to 2018 and Airrace are back again with ‘Untold Stories’ as classy a piece of 70’s influenced AOR as you’ll hear this year.
Guitarist George Lynch recently claimed the following about Ultraphonix and their debut release ‘Original Human Music’ “The album sounds like a fusion of early Chili Peppers meets King Crimson meets Judas Priest! It’s a super fun band”. Throwing such an eclectic mix of names into your press release definitely creates interest, which is sure to increase when you find that the ex Dokken guitarist has partnered with Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover for this project. Add in a rhythm section that consists of bassist Pancho Tomaselli (War/PHILM) and drummer Chris Moore (Cry Wolf/Damage/DeathRiders) and you've got the majority of the musical genres hinted at covered. If the rhythm section looks familiar then you probably own the 2016 album by Project NfidelikAh a band that featured Lynch, Tomaselli, Moore and Fishbone singer Angelo Moore.
For the ninth studio album of their twenty-year career, Lucero were seemingly keen to switch things up a little. After a run of albums with producer Ted Hutt that utilised horns and more complex arrangements to fashion a Memphis soul-influenced sound (they even found room to slip in a tune by Memphis’ favourite sons Big Star) frontman/songwriter Ben Nichols and the band went in search of inspiration. They found it in the rear view mirror as ‘Among The Ghosts’ strips the arrangements back to their very foundations and reveals a darker sound more in keeping with their roots. When coupled with a change in Nichols’ approach to his writing, bought on by a settled family life and the birth of his daughter, the results are impressive. The horns may have gone but the soul remains.
Formed way back in 1985, Cowboy Junkies have become something of a Canadian institution over the decades with a run of albums released to both critical and fan praise. Things started off on a slightly unusual note with a covers album ‘Whites off Earth now!!’ before their sophomore release ‘The Trinity Sessions’ would put them on the world map selling over a million copies. Thirty years on from that particular landmark Cowboy Junkies return with their first album since 2012’s ‘The Wilderness’. This new release has been referred to by songwriter-guitarist Michael Timmins (one of the three Timmins siblings that form 3/4 of the band) as “These songs are about reckoning on a personal level and reckoning on a social level”. With this in mind, and as few bands do reflective melancholia better than Cowboy Junkies, this should be good.