WILDWOOD KIN Wildwood Kin Silvertone/Sony [Release date 04.10.19]
Alt-folkies Wildwood Kin – sisters Beth and Emillie Key, and cousin Meghann Loney follow up their 2017 debut (Turning Tides) with an altogether more ‘grown up’ sounding sophomore self-titled release.
Majoring on gorgeous three part harmonies with choruses punctuated by distinctive percussive beats, I have to confess only a couple of tracks from their debut left any lasting impression on me.
And the opening pairing here – the haunting ‘Never Alone’, and the throbbing ‘Time Has Come’ which is about as ‘rock ‘n’ roll as Wildwood Kin get – similarly sets a benchmark that the rest of the album struggles to reach.
A bit like The Pierces (whatever happened to …) but with a more folk rooted sound, my main beef is that a lot of the material sounds like it’s written to a fairly rigid template and ‘Beauty In Your Brokenness’, and ‘Headed For The Water’, for example, just burble along pleasantly without really ever going anywhere tangible – a bit like a folkie Kings Of Leon.
But when the girls do hit their stride like on ‘Wake Up Sleeper’ – with its ‘Albatross’-like back beat, or the upbeat ‘The Crown’, then Wildwood Kin are eminently listenable. To my mind, they’re still not quite the finished article, but this self-titled release – even if something of a mixed bag – is a very positive step in the right direction. ***1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
PAMELA SUE MANN Break
Maniac Squat Records [Release date 29.11.19]
When you hear albums like Break – experimental New York singer songwriter Pamela Sue Mann’s latest other worldly release – you realise what a far reaching impact Kate Bush continues to have.
Because while Mann isn’t really like Bush, except in some of the more ambient moments and some quirky aspects of her vocals, it’s clear she’s following the path on the other side of the wall that Bush careered through all those years ago.
A release that’s impossible to pigeon hole – packed with weird time signatures, ghostly half spoken/half sung vocals and with rhythms ranging from jazz to clockwork, Mann’s backed by a top notch band of musicians not averse to going ‘off piste’ including Byron Isaacs (bass), Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey) – always a joy to listen to – on sax and Paul Cuddeford (Steve Harley) on guitar – both of whom featured on this year’s Last Day Sect album, as well as Bowie collaborators Sterling Campbell (percussion) and Gerry Leonard (guitar).
A strange, avant garde, dream-like collection that draws listeners in on more than one level, Mann’s understated creative magnetism and sensuality demands Break be given repeated exploration if you like ethereal eccentricity. ***
Review by Pete Whalley
CATTLE & CANE Navigator [Release date 12.11.19]
Cattle & Cane – North East based brother and sister duo Joseph and Helen Hammill – are a new one on me, despite two previous albums, Home (2015) and Mirrors (2017).
Delivering modern ‘pop’ with a nice line in ‘soul’, singer/songwriter Joseph takes most of the lead vocal lines with Helen providing mainly harmony and chorus lines. It’s an easy listening format that you’d most likely describe as ‘nice’ if you happened to alight on any of the tracks here while surfing the airwaves.
With his ‘Becks’ stubble, and her tousled looks, the pair would be equally at home on a catalogue photo shoot, and while earlier line ups included other siblings, without the album credits it’s unclear who the players are this time around.
Joseph’s vocals have a soulful hint of Gary Christian (in particular, on ‘Mexico’ and ‘I Wish I Knew Jesus (Like You Do))’ and if Robbie Williams recorded ‘Loving The Hurt Away’ it would likely be regarded as the greatest comeback since the second coming, and his best since ‘Angels’.
But in the round, immaculately as Navigator is undoubtedly put together, I’m left wondering who the target audience is. Certainly not the growing old disgracefully and loving it ‘old fart’ 60+ rockers, and probably not their 30+ offspring who are stuck in their own time loop.
Which I guess leaves the Glasto youth market, and the rapidly dwindling Radio 2 audience. If you fall in either, you might want to give Cattle & Cane a listen. **1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
CHRISTOPHER HOLLAND Golden Hour (Cosmic Harmony) [Release date 01.11.19]
You would have thought that being the younger brother of Jools Holland you would (a) hide the fact (b) hide. I’m afraid his supercilious smarmy sibling doesn’t really do it for us here at GRTR! Our backs are immediately raised. Our blood boils.
Perhaps amazingly, this is brother Chris’ seventh studio album and to be honest I’ve never been aware of his music. Admittedly there’s been a six year break since his last offering ‘Corner Green’. In the meantime he’s been touring with the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. Of course.
It’s difficult to know who this album is aimed at. Musically competent but hugely derivative, it’s a homage to seventies and eighties pop. In that respect, it tends to ape antecedents rather than forge anything original. Two songwriting collaborations with Chris Difford fail to hit the spot.
The use of different (female) vocalists is clever because frankly Chris has a weedy and a tad irritating voice (especially weird on the Difford co-write ‘On Blackheath’). So we get several showcases for Sumudu Jayatilaka including a very Carpenters-lite ‘Cosmic Star’ and the Gallagher & Lyle evoked ‘Escape Into Happiness’.
Elsewhere Stevie Wonder is referenced on ‘Beautiful Fantastic Planet’ featuring Katy Shotter who also fronts ‘Hotter Than Sun’ whilst Siobhan Parr completes the female trio with two songs.
And, let’s get cynical now, there’s a a song called ‘Christmas Time’ and ‘My Dog And Me’ which basically means ‘buy this for your gran’ ahead of the festive season.
We’re not against well constructed pop here at GRTR! and we are as eclectic as we are forgiving . But really this is average and bland fare. My guess is that Chris will wangle his way on to Later with… even under a pseudonym and – like most of the artists on that show – quietly disappear into the ether never to be seen or heard again. **1/2
Review by David Randall
SCRATCHES Rundown Czar Of Crickets [Release date 11.10.19]
Dark, cinematic rock from Basel, anyone?
For those who like their rock dark, broody and moody, enshrouded in spiderwebs, dank cellars, bats and ghosts, Rundown is the 3rd cinematic album from Scatches – a four piece from Switzerland.
A dark indie electro-based song collection, with vocalist/keyboard player Sarah Maria Burgin’s rough, scratchy vocals underscored by soundscapes of Sandro Corbat (guitars/ loops), Marco Nenniger (bass) and Jonas Prina (drums), Rundown follows up the band’s 2014 debut Fade, and it’s successor Before Beyond (2017).
I won’t even begin to suggest it will be to everyone’s tastes (including my own) but fans of Nick Cave, Portishead, The National, David Lynch will likely find much to appreciate here. **
Review by Pete Whalley
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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