Published on May 24th, 2016 | by Mike Ainscoe2
Mike Ainscoe’s May 2016 Album Round-Up
A shedload of music has been coming thru the Bandwagon mailroom as usual, some of which we can feature on the show, yet sometimes it’s worth digging a bit deeper into the albums and the bands. So, with the remit of being disciplined enough to restrict the appraisals to a concise 100 words and make us more like Q magazine, here goes:
SERA OWEN – ‘CREATIVE SIDE’
The first of a couple of Folkstock releases we’ve got a hold of. The single which pairs ‘Creative Side’ with ‘Waterside’ shows the bilingual singer songwriter from Caernarfon delivering the lush and the melodic in a pair of tracks which give a snapshot of her range. ‘Creative Side’ has a familiar hook, in its bright acoustic folky vibe, while ‘Waterside’ is much more in the melancholy vein as Sera switches to piano with a subtle string accompaniment. Should be interesting to see which direction the imminent new album will take.
JAMES EDGE & THE MINDSTEP – ‘ON A RED HORSE’ EP
Touted as more on the progressive side of folk, the six songs certainly err on the darker side of the genre. The title track, evolving into an experimental multi instrument semi improvisation, which sits in contrast to the gentle guitar, which provides the main musical feature, alongside the opulent strings which add their presence throughout the EP, but appear more fully realised on closing track ‘Becoming’. Lighter moments come in the form of the jaunty, ‘Where We’re Going’, giving a lift to the generally laid back nature of the EP.
MIKEY KENNEY – ‘THE COUNSEL OF OWLS’
Singer, songwriter, Irish folk, bluegrass and Americana style fiddle player gives an indication of the folk tinged soundscapes you can expect from Mikey Kenney. The title track finds him sawing at his fiddle alongside a haunting backing; a variant of which pervades the whole album. Hardly what you’d call a raw sound but more organic, both in terms of creating intimate little cameos and those which lift and soar into another place. Inspired by places from Lake Michigan to Lancashire and the Mersey Estuary, there are some terrific brief walk on parts for his fiddle skills too!
IN ISOLATION – ‘A CERTAIN FRACTAL LIGHT’
While the band name and the album title might suggest something more pretentious, thankfully that’s not the case. Yet something was nagging away while listening to this album, a sound vaguely reminiscent of something like It Bites, the prog popsters from the late eighties, a period turning out to be quite influential amongst the indie rock traits which run through their core. Polished and refined, their debut album plays it essentially safe in sticking to a poppy three piece format coloured with some keyboard washes making for a friendly combination.
JAMES McCARTNEY – ‘THE BLACKBERRY TRAIN’
You may be familiar with the (sur)name, and yes, you’re probably guessing correctly. When you also get a fleeting appearance from Dhani Harrison, it’s probably as close as you’ll get to something of a Beatles reunion. There’s a harder edge to ‘The Blackberry Train’ from his previous album. Following ‘Waterfall’, ‘Paralysis’ fairly rocks along. Not surprising though with Steve Albini on production, yet there are more relaxed moments punctuating the flow. And perhaps it’s in the genes, but there’s an innate sense for melody and songwriting which feels quite natural.
LUKE ELLIOT – ‘DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION’
With the monochrome cover conjuring up images of Leonard Cohen, the sense of expectation of a brooding darkness is fully realised within a few moments of the needle hitting the groove (or its digital equivalent). An unusual gestation in heading from New York to Norway in a bid to evolve as an artist, the album shifts from softer ballads to bolder and driving atmospheric reflections. The songs are coated with Elliot’s distinctive, jaded and yet occasionally distraught vocal, with a relaxed cover of Tim Hardin’s ‘Reason To Believe’ offering a stand out moment.
ADAM BEATTIE – ‘THE ROAD NOT TAKEN’
From the slight jazzy inflections of the lead track, ‘The Man I’ve Become’ through to ‘Welcome Home’, this is an album which feeds off the influence of co-producer and respected jazz musician, Fred Thomas. Mixing his credentials with a set of quirky and innovative Beattie compositions which pull in folk, blues and country influences results in a fascinating low key set. Essentially an ambient acoustic based collection, the occasional foray into band territory courtesy of Brooke Sharkey’s backing vocal and violin from Piotr Jordan, plus subtle drums of Marco Quarantotto adds some diversity to an inventive album.
MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK – ‘ON A MISSION – LIVE IN MADRID’
No doubting Michael Schenker’s pedigree even though his temperament has occasionally been his downfall. This double live CD (like UFO’s ‘Strangers In The Night’ and the MSG ‘Live At Budokan’) finds him in his element. Essentially a career retrospective packed with choice cuts from UFO, MSG and even The Scorpions (the band features former Scorpion rhythm section Herman Rarebell and Francis Bucholz). It’s the Scorps’ choice material which comes off best in the hands of vocalist Doogie White who seems to struggle a little more with the classic UFO cuts, giving them a hackneyed rawk reading. Shame.