Quick plays: TRISTAN MACKAY, THE KENNEDYS, VANESSA PETERS

Tristan Mackay - Wire & Wood

TRISTAN MACKAY Wire & Wood

The clue, as they say, is in the title – Wire & Wood is a pared back acoustic follow-up to singer songwriter Tiverton, Devon-born Tristan Mackay’s debut release Out Along The Wire (2012).

Originally ‘discovered’ on Myspace by Grammy award winning producer Martin Levan (John Martyn, Andrew Lloyd Webber) who produced both albums, Wire & Wood almost never happened.  Not long after the release of his debut Tristan was broke and returned to busking,

However it’s critical acclaim led to a flurry of offers to support the likes of Beth Hart, Rumer, The Proclaimer, Billy Bragg, Nerina Pallot, Robben Ford, Eric Johnson and Joanne Shaw Taylor.  As a direct result, he sold fifteen thousand copies of Out Along The Wire.

Crowdfunding was, however, still necessary to bring his band back together, this time featuring Hammond organ cameos from Ricky Peterson (John Mayer, Prince) and Don Airey, to strip his sound back to its roots and capture the essence of his live performances – intimate, emotionally raw, and honest portrayals of his songs.

And in that respect Wire & Wood meets all expectations – breathy mournful vocals that bring images of David Gray and Paul Simon to mind and immaculate, but unobtrusive backing and production.

This time around the focus is on the songs, the wire and the wood, with the Clapton-esque blues flurries all being played on acoustic guitars.  But the result is an equally classy record, even if it does only stretch to 33 minutes.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

The Kennedys - West

THE KENNEDYS West

Available in the UK and on the road only pending a three disc release including solo albums, West celebrates NYC Americana duo Pete and Maura Kennedy’s 20 years.

Formed in 1992, Nanci Griffiths was the catalyst for the band’s creation – Pete being her guitarist and Maura subsequently recruited as a harmony vocalist.  The pair struck a chord and soon started performing together as Nanci’s opening act.

Twelve albums on, West is an evocative reflection of the pair’s two decades of travel on the highways and byways of America  – Route 66 and the two lane back roads of Texas providing the inspiration for their latest set.

Heavily influenced by the late-sixties scene, West offers a veritable smorgasbord of roots inspired two part harmony songs ranging from the Glen Campbell ‘twang’ of the title track to the REM inflected ‘Sisters Of The Road’ and ‘Perfect Love’.

In between there’s diversions taking in folk rock (‘Elegy and Signs’), Buddy Holly (‘Locket and The Queen Of Hollywood High’), nods to Dylan (‘Jubilee Time’) and Simon & Garfunkel (‘Good, Better, Best’), and even the occasional Celtic feel.

Maura Kennedy’s pure vocals are one of the defining elements of The Kennedys sound and on a number of occasions I found the name Maddy Prior springing to mind.  A complement indeed.  So for anyone with a penchant for female-fronted roots/pop/rock, West is well worth exploring.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

CHRIS GRAY Diamonds In Your Tree

The debut album from Isle Of Man singer-songwriter Chris Gray is a pleasant and undemanding affair.

Having spent the last few years honing his bluesy brand of melodic folk and opening for the likes of Roger Daltrey, Peter Green, The Coral, John Power, Status Quo, Matt Cardle, Feeder and Turin Brakes, you might expect a bit more ‘ooph’ on occasions but for the most part Diamonds In Your Tree just idles along like a gently babbling brook.

With easy on the ear melodies and subtle 1960′s undertones it reflects Chris’s easy going attitude to life and unassuming nature.  But the singer-songwriter troubadour genre is one overflowing with talent and with the exception of the catchy up-tempo All We’ve Done, it’s hard to see Diamonds In Your Tree raising his profile beyond the folk clubs and ranks of talented opening acts.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

VANESSA PETERS With The Sentimentals

Texan singer songwriter Vanessa Peters’ last album The Burn The Truth The Lies (2012) was a ‘solo’ release that echoed back to the late 1980s / early 1990s when the like of Maria McKee, Susanna Hoffs, and Aimee Mann, in particular, were branching out on solo careers.

On this outing she’s teamed up with The Sentimentals (M.C Hansen – guitars, Nikolaj Wolf – upright bass, and Jacob Chano – drums, percussion) – a Danish  Americana band based in Copenhagen.  But what may seem like an unlikely pairing is a natural progression from touring and playing together on both sides of the Atlantic.

Recorded live in the studio with no overdubs in several pop-up studios in the Danish countryside in April and October 2014, the set includes 6 news songs, 3 revisitings of numbers from Peter’s back catalogue, and a cover of Pacific Street (originally recorded by Hem) which is the album’s highpoint.

It’s a far more restrained and ‘laid back’ affair than her previous outing with The Sentimentals providing a sparse, almost ethereal backing.  Again, it’s an album that treads lightly in the footsteps of Aimee Mann, but without any real ‘stand out’ tracks literally peters out towards the end of the set.

A pleasant enough listen, but the absence of memorable hooks makes it an album whose appeal is likely to be relatively short lived.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley


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Power Plays w/c 20 March 2017


THE WEEKS Gold Don’t Rust (Lightning Rod Records)
VANESSA COLLIER Cry Out (Ruf Records)
KOBRA & THE LOTUS You Don’t Know (Napalm Records)
INVIDIA Feed The Fire (SPV)
AS LIONS One By One (Better Noise)


Featured Albums w/c 20 March 2017 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Can’t Go Home (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 KXM Scatterbrain (Ratpak)
14:00-16:00 MADISON VIOLET The Knight Sessions (Big Lake Music)



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