The Cousins Project Steve Mayone & Kristina Stykos - Beautiful Blood

The Cousins Project Steve Mayone & Kristina Stykos – Beautiful Blood 

In 2006 singer songwriters Steve Mayone and Kristina Stykos met by chance at a gig and discovered they were second cousins.  Fate had led them down similar paths – songwriters, producers, and independent artists.  ‘Beautiful Blood’ – an Americana blend of folk / rock, ballads and blues, recorded at their home studios charts the combining of their different styles into a single tapestry.

Mayone dominates vocal proceedings in a James Taylor sort of way, although Stykos provides harmony vocals and takes the lead on several tracks.  Hers is maybe a less accomplished delivery but it has a Marianne Faithful style charisma.  In fact the whole set has a retro, West Coast Laurel Canyon acoustic, soft rock feel.

And while that’s rather pleasant it doesn’t exactly cut new ground and is unlikely to significantly raise their collective profiles.  That said, there’s much to be enjoyed, in particular the rather lovely ‘South Of The Chelsea Line’, and the swamp bluesy ‘Sugar’ and ‘Deep Deep Baby’.  ***

Kevin Doherty – Seeing Things

The fourth solo outing from Donegal native and Dublin resident Kevin Doherty – a member of the folk ‘super group’ Four Men & A Dog – is, for the most part a mellow and melancholic affair with sparse arrangements – mainly guitar, piano and backing vocals.

Lyrically and melodically occupying the same space as the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Wait and Randy Newman it focuses on soul searching, introspection and social commentary.  As such it’s not an album to be enjoyed in the company of others – more one for consumption in isolation when you’re feeling like weeping into the bottom of an empty whisky glass.

Beautifully recorded and with Doherty’s rich Chris Rea/Johnny Cash style vocals the centrepiece, a mournful, reflective set for those whose life is heading off the rails.  You also get a ‘free’ pencil, although I’m not sure it’s wise to supply the album with a sharp object. **1/2

Christopher Paul Stelling – False Cities

Acoustic troubadour Stelling’s rootsy Americana debut – Songs Of Praise And Scorn – was released to a flurry of critical acclaim last year, and having spent the majority of 2012 on the road his follow-up is relentless in both angst and tenderness.  It’s an album that bares its teeth, spits and snarls.

The tenderness comes from Stelling’s campfire finger acoustic picking style that at times strays into almost flamenco style.  His vocals, on the other hand spill out like a pent up volcanic eruption – you can almost visualise the spittle, sweat and protruding veins and eyeballs as they are forcibly expelled.

It all adds up to an incendiary meeting of Gothic folk and punk.  A strange brew indeed, and not one for the faint hearted or casual listener.  **

Review by Pete Whalley

JJ GREY & MOFRO – This River

Alligator/Proper Records (Released 24th June)

JJ Grey is a blues/soul singer/songwriter who released his debut album back in 2001 and this album is his seventh overall (and fifth for his current record label).

The album does drift away to be honest and although his guitar playing is soulful, it is not an album I would honestly see myself playing many more times in the future. That said, ‘Your Lady, She’s Shady’ with its cheeky lyric recalls Taj Mahal. ‘Tame A Wild One’ reminding you of Robert Cray, being a well crafted and compact song.


Jason Ritchie

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