Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sing Me A Song, Writer

The past week has been brutally eclectic, personally. Anything from raging hardcore to soothing electronica to whimsical indie has graced the
H-T-A speakers, along with any number of individual tracks further confusing the issue. One constant, however, has been the humble singer-songwriter. An individual who pops up, amidst the chaotic noise, to offer a slow-burning, gentle word, more often than not with only an acoustic guitar and a quality tune in hand and heart.

Rather than tackle each individual via an album review or random babble, I thought it would be most appropriate to tie them all together in one post. And what better way to soothe the mind ahead of a thoroughly insane week of live music ahead? Aside from prescription drugs, of course. I'm English and, accordingly, much less heavily medicated than this Ritalin-addled continent.

First and foremost, I believe it was the new Langhorne Slim spinner that really pushed this whole singer-songwriter kick. A reflective and varied listen, 'Be Set Free' is by turns upbeat, with hints of down-home soul (Boots Boy), and elsewhere more melancholy (I Love You, But Goodbye). As such it satisfies a plethora of emotional musings and affords the listener both solace and cheer, although it can also feel stretched if one gravitates towards a particular style on any given spin. Overall, though, this Pennsylvanian tunesmith has delivered a genuine and diverse record that many will take to their heart.

MP3: Langhorne Slim - I Love You, But Goodbye (Live/MOKB)

Buy it at Insound!

Casting eyes all the way across to the other hemisphere for the next worthy artist, Australian songwriter Lucas Kane has actually made his new home right here in New York City, so revert your gaze back this way. All the better for us residents, as Kane is no stranger to hitting the intimate stages of Manhattan's Lower East Side or Brooklyn's northern environs. With a strong pop influence informing his creations - the sublime, summery Tomorrow being a case in point - the songs are often catchy and uplifting. He's no stranger to wrenching hearts either, something that becomes evident on EP title track 'Stars & Blue', a song that could easily accompany an evening spent staring into a series of drained pint glasses.

It can be a hard slog getting noticed as an individual songwriter in such a massive city, yet the enthusiasm with which Kane approaches his music is the most important step in achieving just that. Witness it first hand at Parkside Lounge on Wed 28th October, that is assuming the preceding CMJ week hasn't damaged all eardrums beyond repair.

MP3: Lucas Kane - Tomorrow
Taken from the 'Stars & Blue EP'
, out now

Shifting sneakily onwards, I must admit that the next artist making flirting with my iPod isn't strictly sticking to the policy of acoustic guitar and vocals. In fact, Danny Ross has something of a way with the old ivories and tinkling them is a fairly regular occurrence on new album 'One Way', released earlier this month. Furthermore, one of the great strengths of the album as a whole is the lush and wide-ranging instrumentation utilised by Ross. His personal blog offers some detailed insight into the background and composition of each song, something I personally love, offering as it does the opportunity to connect more deeply with our own personal favourites. In a time when artists have ever-increasing platforms through which to reach their audience directly, it's amazing that so few songwriters actually make the effort to do so. End proselytysing.

Danny Ross - Country Wind
Taken from new album 'One Way', out now - Buy

Buy it at Insound!

Soapbox firmly stowed back under the sofa, 'One Way' is more of an album of strong individual songs from my perspective. As an overall listen, it can become overly saccharine and, as a result, somewhat cloying. With upbeat, undeniable cuts like the title track or And The Trumpets Sing, though, Ross can exude happiness and immediately evoke it in his audience. Elsewhere, the western-tinged Country Wind provides an early highlight that any roadtrip compilation would do well to possess. Throughout, his voice is honestly soft and effecting, adding up to a release with some hugely enjoyable moments.

As time now weighs on and attention spans wear thin......Ritalin on standby.......a brief nod to other notable songsmiths to have contributed to this
current obsession:

  • Chuck Ragan - Ex-singer of the iconic Hot Water Music, with new album 'Gold Country' out now. Follow up to the utterly compelling debut 'Feast or Famine'.

  • Sara Watkins - Must catch up with the full album, but I was moved enough by a couple of tracks to cover here earlier this year.

  • Frank Turner - Of course I can't throw enough superlatives in the general direction of this gentleman. Search the H-T-A labels for previous posts and all will become abundantly clear.

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