Quick plays: UNDERHILL ROSE, STEVE MAYONE

UNDERHILL ROSE  Live

UNDERHILL ROSE  Live [Release date 30.06.17]

Recorded in North Carolina in September 2016, Live finds Underhill Rose  Eleanor Underhill (vocals/banjo/harmonica), Molly Rose Reed (vocals/guitar) and Salley Williamson (vocals and upright bass) delivering a stripped back ‘best of’ set culled from their three studio albums, with a few covers  notably ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ and ‘These Boots Were Made For Walkin” – thrown in for good measure.

Recorded over two nights, two venues and four sets, and with extraneous audience contributions removed, the songs, the singers and some captivating playing  in particular, Underhill’s banjo  are brought into sharp focus.

It’s hard to fault the performance, and the vocals are faultless, but the recording is a little flat and fails to capture any atmosphere – polite appreciative applause after each number aside.  It also exposes the fact that their material, which tends to err towards the rootsy side of the track, lacks a commercial ‘bite’ that could see them vying for the Dixie Chicks abdicated crown.

A pleasant enough listen, featuring all the attributes for wider appeal, but, for now, still lacking that ‘pizazz’ factor, and  probably one for existing converts only.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

UK Tour Dates 2017
Jun 01 Railway Inn, Winchester
Jun 02 Green Note, London,
Jun 03 Grayshott Folk Club, Hindhead
Jun 04 East Grindstead Festival Mid Sussex
Jun 06 The Bronte Music Club Newry
Jun 07 The Sunflower Public House Belfast
Jun 08 Colfer’s Bar Bannow, Ireland
Jun 09 McAuley Hall Naas, Ireland
Jun 10 Woodend Gallery Scarborough
Jun 13 The Weem Inn, Aberfeldy
Jun 14 Admiral Bar Glasgow
Jun 15 The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh,
Jun 17 Beverley Folk Festival, East Riding Of Yorkshire
Jun 18 Beverley Folk Festival, East Riding Of Yorkshire

CHRISTOPHER RAYSON It’s Been Going On

The debut album from English singer-songwriter Christopher Rayson, who’s lived in France for over 25 years is more easy on the ear pop/soft rock than ‘singer songwriter’ fare.

With cited influences of The Beatles, Oasis, Crowded House, and Fleetwood Mac, It’s Been Going On has an even softer underbelly – the title track having vague read across to Paul Carrack/Ace’s How Long, and the set opener ‘This Don’t Sit Good With Me’ having a John Waite, ‘Missing You’ sort of vibe.

‘Message Taken Not Understood’ has a Happy Mondays, Madchester groove and ‘Growing Apart’ and ‘Living The Dream’ are coated in the West Coast sensibilities of Don Henley/ The Eagles, while on ‘Who’s To Say What’s Next’ Rayson adopts a nasally Gallagher tone.

It’s all very listenable, and you sense that It’s been Going On isn’t so much as statement of intent, but an album Rayson just had to make as an act of catharsis.  And on that level, it’s a success.  It may not light any fires, but it’s an album he can be proud to have made.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

STEVE MAYONE Sideways Rain (Janglewood Records) [Release date 30.06.17]

I thought the name was vaguely familiar, and yes, New York-based Americana singer songwriter Steve Mayone has featured in previous despatches – as part of The Cousins Project (2013) and as part of Annie Keating’s core band on her Trick Star release (2016).

Sideways Rain, his fifth solo album, is an easy listening affair  a balance of light pop, rooted in the Beatles and The Travelling Wilburys, more introspective numbers that hark back to the style of Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, and even a bit of blues and soul.

It’s an understated set that never really builds up a head of steam, and even when the tempo is raised there’s a lack of any apparent urgency.  And while the whole thing burbles along in a pleasant enough sort of way, there’s little to suggest sales will extend much beyond gig merch counters .

A talented enough side-man, but the jury remains out on widespread solo appeal.    **1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

GERRY SPEHAR  I Hold Gravity [Release date 23.06.17]

Gerry Spehar lived the late sixties dream, as evidenced by the country rock opener on I Hold Gravity, Dirt – a number rooted in the sound of the Woodstock generation.

Back then, things were on the up and as part of The Spehar Brothers he opened for acts like Boz Scaggs, and Townes Van Zandt.  But the day job and raising a family took priority and Spehar’s musical career got shelved.

After a 30 year hiatus, and enlisting I See Hawks In LA as his backing band, I Hold Gravity is a fingerpicking medley of swamp, county, folk and rock Americana dedicated to his wife and songwriting partner, Susan.

The opener aside, I Hold Gravity gravitates more towards ‘traditional’ country and, while an easy enough listen, offers little by way of crossover appeal to a rock audience.  **1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


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