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   Wednesday, July 21, 2004  
It's homespun and relatively unadorned.  A little bit back porch, a little bit bar-room, a little bit arts club but a whole lot wonderful.  Now that there's finally some proper heat in the days, Shelley Short's debut Oh' say little dogies, why? cools like the small antique fan that belonged to your grandmother.  A kind of worn-in timelessness pervades this limited edition release (150)from boutique label KEEP Recordings, itself one of the year's most encouraging musical enterprises.  Back in Feb this blog recommended KR release #2, the low key country-folk demos of Chad King's Love your engine; record #6 is even better.
Oh' say little dogies, why? was recorded (not 'produced', not 'mixed' just 'recorded') partly at the Type Foundry in Portland and Adam Selzer's Norfolk&Western gang join in on several of the 14 songs.  They bring drums, bass and Wurlitzer into the spare acoustic mix but the unfussy immediacy and natural ambience is never lost.  Uncomplicated folk-twang is mostly what's on offer, the musical equivalent of lollopin' wagons bobbling over stony terrain.  Quite simple 'dum-ching' guitar, a.n.other instrument and lilting harmonized vocals - it's all you need with tunes as taking as these.
Not that you'd really claim it as especially inspired songwriting, it's just very, very appealingly rendered.  Opener Who am I to fall takes your legs clean away, barroom charmer Carbon paper skys promptly pins you down and at least half a dozen more winners  - Sugar falls, the amblin' Buy a fish (perfect with just a picked electric and twin vocal), Pullin', pullin', pullin' etc - subsequently pile in, pummelling you sweetly insensible by the end.  And the end is Time oh' time where a young child's uncertain vocal accompaniment momentarily threatens to bring the wheels right off the charm wagon.  But it's only a wobble and quickly resolves into possibly the most affecting tune of the lot.
Echoing the style and spirit of The Be Good Tanyas and Nina Nastasia, with a dash of Patsy Cline, at her first attempt Shelley Short gets so many things right (right down to the artwork).  Now you know why you never quite got round to buying those Jolie Holland or Tres Chicas records, all the time you were really waiting for this...

A similarly open-ended acoustic is just about all You're going to love our defeatist attitude by The Remote Viewer shares with the Shelley Short record but this minimalist laptop electronica from the post-industrial NorthWest of England dovetails really quite well.  This blog has so far been unconvinced by the lauded 'folktronica' cross-fertilization of the likes of FourTet and Adem Ilhan; two plus two seems to equal about three-and-a-half.  At the moment, D-I-Y compilations still work better.
Reinforcing the admirable slacker ethic of it's title, tracks like It occurred to me. and went away and Let's not do much about it develop spartan but lush melodies through deep speaker-rumbling notes, some acoustic guitar and occasional female vocal, all tricked out with a grab-bag of whirrs, blips and knocking noises. It's quite intimate-sounding yet works best in a large spartan room. But a word of warning for pet-owners: This music will totally unsettle your cat...
[Available from Boomkat]

Got your ticket for M. Ward yet?  Chop chop:
Aug 7 London Bush Hall
9 Leicester The Charlotte (rightly, they're excited)
11 Brighton Hanbury Ballroom

Sufjan Stevens returns in October:
26 Lock 17, London
27  Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin
28 Night & Day, Manchester
30 The Venue,Edinburgh

In addition to the August dates posted earlier, Joanna Newsom pops into Rough Trade's Neals Yard bunker for a free lunch time recital Aug 19 1pm.  Can't make it?  Worry not, she'll be back:
Sept 19 Nottingham, The Social
20 London,  Cecil Sharp House
Nov 3 London, ICA 
Are roots-pop marvels Nadine really finished?  Who knows.  Maybe Adam Reichman will tell us when he tours solo in September with the bloke from Stewboss and the bloke from Dolly Varden:
Gregg Sarfaty, Adam Reichman and Steve Dawson:
18  Buckingham, The Granary
19 London Half Moon, Putney   
20 Brighton The Greys   
21 Nottingham The Maze  
22 Barton Carnival  
24 Isle of Arran
25 Isle of Arran  
26 Isle of Arran  
27 York  Fibbers 
28 Leicester Musician 
30 Belfast The Errigle  
Oct 1 Berwick Barrels Alehouse 

   posted by SMc at 3:13 PM |

   Thursday, July 08, 2004  
London, Bristol, Brighton, er, Hay-on-Wye..are you ready? He-r-e's Joanna! Yes, seeing is (surely) believing as the singularly captivating Ms. Newsom makes her solo UK debut next month. You've gotta be there, basically:

Aug 16 London, 12 Bar
17 Bristol St Bonaventures
18 Brighton, Komedia
21 Hay-on-Wye, Green Man Festival

Words like 'gorgeous', 'Ryan Adams and Gillian Welch' and 'acoustic tunification' are attaching themselves to Aussie duo The Small Knives' debut, Rain on Tin. One of the sample tracks provided by Candle Records is called Hardin your heart which gently hits you over the head with another clue. If you're tempted, this blog recommends retailer Half A Cow (AUS$25/£9.75 inc. p&p, super-prompt service)...
The Small Knives | Candle Records | Half A Cow

Nightwalking, track 2 on the new Unbunny album Snow tires gets pretty close to the sound of Slowreader's fine debut; not that they're that far apart but the title track drops mid-point between Tracker and M. Ward; echoes of Matthew Sweet, Mull Historical Society, etc. If an album kind of sounds like half the stuff you've been listening to for the past five years it's gotta be a straightforward thumbs-up, right? No, not quite. There's not a lot wrong with this record and reallyrather is happy to have it. But whatever it is that compels the urging of others to chase it down, that's missing. The quality's consistent (verging on sameyness); there's nothing you'd skip but no track especially stands out either. It's pop for a rainy afternoon. Distinctly Lennon-flavoured in places, Nothing comes to rest comes on a bit like Neil Young remaking Jealous guy. If that's your territory, it's available here...

Unbunny were aided & abetted on the album by Paul Chastain of Velvet Crush who it's rumoured will accompany Matthew Sweet to London in September...

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names. Maybe in Swedish that translates into something cool-sounding, like the open-faced acoustic pop Johan & Peter are offering up under that moniker. Actually there's nothing to buy as yet, just a pair of taster tracks ahead of a debut EP. Love will (which puts the chorus melody from Jacko's Human nature to rather better use) is particularly worthy of your attention...
SKWBN | Labrador | Love will mp3

And while they may have a crap name, at least it's spelt correctly. No excuses for home boy Declan Bennett. At the moment it's merely birthplace affinity which prompts reallyrather to bring 'acoustic soulfolkster' SumLadFromCov to the table [site]. Hopefully the music's more inspired than the all-too-dismally representative name. Several chances for Londoners to find out next month:

Aug 2 Big Note@The Comedy Pub, Oxendon Street, London
4th The Easycome Acoustic Club, The Ivy House, 40 Stuart Road SE15
5th The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham
11th The Grey Horse, 46 Richmond Road, Kingston
17th Aug, 12 Bar, Denmark Street, London

New edition of Comes With A Smile scheduled to hit the streets today - Sufjan, Innocence Mission, The Last Town Chorus amongst those interviewed & on disc...

'The beauty of this effort is that there are several radio friendly songs yet nothing calculated in the song writing. It is sincere material presented without pretension or overly slick production.' Which is just how we like it, no? Oh yes...
   posted by SMc at 4:12 AM |