TRACK DOGS Kansas City Out Groove
Mondegreen Records [Release date 01.06.18]
Made up of two Irishmen, an Englishman and an American (no, it’s not the opening line of a joke), Track Dogs came together in 2011 when the four folk / acoustic musicians met in Madrid, bringing together four voices, and a fusion of styles including folk, Latin, Americana, bluegrass, and pop.
Their 4th long player, Kansas City Out Groove features their signature four part harmonies, alongside acoustic guitar, ukulele, bass, cajón, and trumpet, with some banjo and mandolin thrown in for good measure.
Recorded in Madrid using an ex Abbey Road analogue tape machine dating back to 1972 and believed to have been used by Pink Floyd and for some of The Beatles remastering, Kanasas City Out Groove aims for a Latin, south of the border, groove the album reflecting the band’s adopted Spanish roots.
And from the opening strains of The Deep End they hit the bullseye in that regard, the Latin rhythm and Howard Brown’s ‘Tijuana’ trumpet meaning all that’s missing is a mule, a sombrero, and a poncho. And Dead To Rights would fit neatly onto a Santana album if the trumpet were replaced by Carlos’ six string.
But it’s not all music Trump would rather keep on the south side of the border – Gonna Get My Way offers up a country ‘pedal to the metal’ hoedown, A Lucky Man and Born In Love CS&N infused soft rock, and I Don’t Wanna Ruin It light breezy pop. The gentle acoustic Everything Went South even features a Man With No Name ‘whistle’.
Ultimately though, I was left a little flummoxed by the variety of roads travelled. And while Brown’s heavily featured trumpet provides a signature sound, it’s perhaps a little too dominant for most mainstream audiences.
Track Dogs are playing various UK, Spain and Ireland dates though April to September 2018. **
Review by Pete Whalley
FUNNY COW – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The main selling feature of the original soundtrack to this 2017 comedy drama – charting the rise to stardom of a female comedienne through the working men’s clubs and Northern England comedy circuit in the 1970s and 1980s – is the 14 tracks written and performed by Richard Hawley and relative newcomer Ollie Trevers, including ‘I Still Want You’ performed by Hawley and Corrine Bailey Rae.
But fans of Hawley shouldn’t get too excited. Aside from composing some of the instrumental sequences, there’s actually only three new ‘songs’ here – the title track, the Bailey Rae duet, and ‘A Little Bit More’.
Personally, while I adored Hawley’s acerbic Standing At The Edge Of the Sky (2012), I’ve never much cared for his other works and here he’s at his cloying melancholic ‘best’, swathed in period strings now so beloved by that other Northern crooner, Elvis Costello. To be fair, the title track and his duet with Bailey Rae are pleasant enough fare. But ‘A Little Bit More’ is nothing more than a vignette running to just nine short lines over 2:31 minutes.
As for Ollie Trevers contribution of four songs, a couple are upbeat ‘pop’ numbers, and a couple are ballads. In the context of a soundtrack they’re OK, but they’re not going to make him an overnight star.
Buyer beware. **
Review by Pete Whalley
ULTAN CONLON Last Days Of The Night Owl
Darkside Out Records [Release date 01.06.18]
They say ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’.
Despite treading a thin line between heartfelt lyrics and outright sentimentality, and at times sounding a shade contrived, Get Ready To ROCK!’s Pete Feensta was ultimately won over by Irishman Ultan Conlon’s emotive delivery on his sophomore release ‘Songs Of Love So Cruel’ (2016).
But back home, the Irish Times were less forgiving, accusing the album of plodding along in a rather dull fashion, lacking spark and innovation, and being an unfortunately limp collection.
The Galway-based singer songwriter is now back with a new set of songs written on both the west coasts of Ireland and America recorded mostly recorded ‘live’ with brass and strings added at Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield by Mercury nominated producer and Richard Hawley collaborator Colin Elliot, and pedal steel recorded in Nashville by legendary session player Russ Pahl.
So the question is (in the words of that infamous Russian MasterChef, Vladimir) ‘is The Last Days Of The Night Owl tasty or toxic?’
Well, this time around Conlon focusses on matters of the mind and not the heart – like trying to let go of negative circular thoughts (‘As The Light Gets Low’), habits and repeating rituals, and not always good ones (‘The Town Square’), and retracing a long remembered road trip to find it’s nothing like the memory (‘Ojai’).
But from a musicality perspective, this is ‘dark ages’ stuff, a bit like falling through a time portal and finding you’re watching The Andy Williams show on a Saturday night in the mid 1960′s. Glen Campbell ‘Easy On My Mind’ style country (‘As The Lights Get Low’), shades of The Big O (and of ‘You Got It’, in particular) on ‘Fond Memories’, and Bill Hayley meets Cliff going on a ‘summer holiday’ on the 50′s inspired single ‘The Measure’.
Despite being almost 10 years into his recording career and having shared the stage stateside with the likes, Jackson Browne, Shelby Lynne and Benmont Tench while touring with The Watkins Family, Conlon seems to have missed the bus in terms of contemporary roots music.
Tasty or toxic? Just plain unpalatable. *
Review by Pete Whalley
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