AMANDA RHEAUME  Holding Patterns

AMANDA RHEAUME  Holding Patterns [Release date 21.10.16]

On her last release Keep A Fire (2014) we suggested that Ottawa songstress Amanda Rheaume’s song writing is more ‘popular’ than ‘pop’ and a pleasant enough Radio 2 style listen.

In that sense, nothing much has changed with her latest release – Holding Patterns is another easy listening rootsy/pop affair that Rheaume will promote on a short UK and Ireland tour in January – February 2017.

Regularly winning folk music awards on her home turf, Rheaume fits neatly into the country/pop crossover field once dominated by the likes of Shawn Colvin.  But that part of the market has been heavily saturated in recent years, and while Rheaume’s voice has a very pleasing timbre, and the personal nature of her songwriting is equally enthralling, I don’t hear enough here to think that Holding Patterns will do anything more than keep her profile on its existing flight path.

But if she’s playing anywhere near you, Amanda Rheaume is well worth checking out. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

SKYWARD Skyward [Release date 30.09.16]

The debut from this Charlottesville, Virginia quintet is almost impossible to pigeon hole.  Brigaded loosely under the ‘alternative’ rock banner, the band are spearheaded by vocalist Jonathan Huang, Anna Breeding on synths and harmony lead vocals, and Anna’s brother Jordan on guitar.  The line-up is completed by Caleb Gritsko on drums and Jeremy Hashiguchi on bass.

A powerful mixture of electro, pop, emo, funk, and rock influences, but always with an eye for the melody, gives the band a unique signature with Huang’s vocal style lending a vaguely late 80′s early signature to the band’s sound.  Anna Breeding is for the most part confined (vocally) to highly effective counterparts, but shows herself more than capable of stepping into the spotlight on the catchy ‘(M)arrow’.

The highly effective vocals sit above a driving rhythm section and some really punchy guitar work from Jordan Breeding.  If there’s a complaint it’s that the set drives forward relentlessly with little pause for breath.  The quieter moments – as demonstrated on the acoustically driven bonus track ‘What You’ve Become’ – show the band are more than capable of subtlety, but for my liking I’d have preferred to see a greater overall balance of power, light and shade.

But to their credit, Skyward’s debut is highly polished and sounds like no one else currently out there.  That’s not an easy task to pull off and the band show great potential.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

ANDY BENNETT Thinkin’ Drinkin’ Singin’

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and one time Ocean Colour Scene member Andy Bennett’s solo album Thinkin’ Drinkin’ Singin’ is rooted in the 1960′s, the set comprising numbers recorded largely live in the studio and others stitched together with Bennett playing everything but strings and piano.

The string laden opener ‘Hole In The Road’, could sound equally at home on a Paul Weller album, while ‘Drift Away’ echoes Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Punky’s Dilemma’ – complete with whistling.

‘Fool No More’ and ‘Baby Blue’ are constructed in classic Rod Argent/Georgie Fame writing style, with Bennett’s gruff, Joe Cocker style, vocals addling to the period feel.

‘Old Pair Of Jeans’ sees Bennett offering his own take on a song he offered up to OCS, and several numbers sound like they wouldn’t be out of place in Rod/The Faces catalogue, but the pick of the bunch is ‘You And I’ – a bluesy Claptonesque number.

Thinkin’ Drinkin’ Singin’ may be highly nostalgic in its construction and delivery, and Bennett may not be the most naturally gifted of voclists, but he’s nevertheless managed to come up with a good, ‘honest’, no-frills solo album. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

EILERA Face Your Demons

Face Your Demons – Eilera’s fourth album, after a mid-career spell with Spinefarm records (before they were subsumed by Universal), sees the French-born songstress living in Finland where the album was recorded and produced.

Some mild Celtic influences (occasional fiddle courtesy of Emilia Lajunen, and Celtic harp on the two bonus tracks by Lilly Neil) aside, Face Your Demons is fairly standard, what I would describe as ‘symphonic-lite’ i.e more rock/pop, than metal influenced.  Not quite Eurovision, but edging in that direction.

With all songs written and composed by Eilera, some alarm bells signal as early as track two – ‘Your Way’ – with a chorus that consists almost entirely of ‘la, la, la’s’.  That, and a difficulty in distinguishing the lyrics without the help of the lyric sheet – due mainly to Eilera’s European vocal inflections, are two not insignificant stumbling blocks.

But it’s not all bad news – Tero Kinnunen (Nightwish) gives the production and mix a decent punch, the band are crisp and tight with some decent guitar and keyboard work throughout and Eilera’s vocals are strong (with vague Bjork and Tori Amos references).  But generally speaking the material just isn’t strong enough – it’s predictable and lacking in originality.  **1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

HANG MASSIVE  Distant Light

It’s easy to be taken in by numbers – 60 million views for Hang Massive’s instrumental Once Again (2011).  128,000 YouTube subscribers, and 150,000 Facebook fans.

The Bristol based Anglo/Swedish duo – Danny Cudd and Markus ‘Offbeat’ Johansson – specialise in mood/ambient pieces played on the ‘hang drum’ – an acoustic metal percussive instrument made of two pressed metal cups.

Sumptuous vocal contributions by Victoria Grebezs on several numbers aside, the ‘songs’ are ambient instrumental pieces of the sort you might hear at meditation, aromatherapy, and alternative medicine clinics.

Depending on your mood, – it will take you to a higher plain, or be the musical equivalent of Chinese water torture.  Grebezs it has to be said is quite a find, but she features only spasmodically and when there’s only the endless ambience of the ‘hang’, Hang Massive make Enigma look like extreme metal peddlers.  But hey, each to his own ….  **

Review by Pete Whalley

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 21 November. Next session 12 December. The video above was a Halloween Special, streamed 31 October.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 21 November 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT 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 23 November 2021.

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From 29 November the Featured Albums and Power Play segments will reflect those artists and tracks featured during 2021.

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