mike davies july 2014

Further to last month’s column, it seems I may have been a little premature in regard to saying JO HAMILTON’s much anticipated new album would be out this month. Titled Fractals, it’s being previewed at the Durham Cathedral show, Fractal Sparks, but the album itself is still being recorded and isn’t due for release until around Christmas.


Prior to that, however, there’s ROBERT PLANT’s first album with his current outfit, the Sensational Shape Shifters, as well as his debut for Nonesuch. lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar is due for release on September 8, Plant describes it as sounding “powerful, gritty, African, Trance meets Zep” . It features 11 tracks, namely Little Maggie, Rainbow, Pocketful of Golden, Embrace Another Fall, Turn It Up, A Stolen Kiss, Somebody There, Poor Howard, House of Love, Up on the Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur) and Arbaden (Maggie’s Babby), of which all save for the trad opener are new Plant co-writes with all bar three being mixed by Tchad Blake.


The title track of their forthcoming debut album, JAWS release Be Slowly, a summery guitar ringing number with mixed back echoey vocals (and handclaps at the end) that suggests a meeting between REM, the Stone Roses and New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. Given what’s gone before, if the rest of the album is of the same standard then they’ll surely be following Peace’s chart-blazing path.

red bird sky

Mingling Irish roots with Americana, country, blues, and jazz, RED BIRD SKY are based around singer Bernie Maguire and guitarist Mike Seal and between the release of debut album Every Lesson In Its Turn and the just released follow-up, The Unravelling (Saira), they clearly spent some time in fruitful networking. The new album is produced by Nigel Stonier, who also contributes on a variety of instruments, and also features Rod Clements on mandolin, dobro and baritone guitar.

red bird

Again, it’s a cocktail of styles, kicking off with the driving twangy blues of She Ain’t Looking Back and the even bluesier stomp Being Human, though I’m still not persuaded that Maguire’s voice has the necessary guts and gravel for the genre. She’s much better suited to the more country and folk material, as evidenced here on the anthemic title track, the harmonica blowing Americana shanty sway of Travellin’ Light and acoustic guitar, cello and keyboard ballad Things Fall Apart where her voice suggests an Irish-tinged Mary Gauthier while the wind-lashed dramatic swaying Sea Of Dreams has hint of Baez and Mary Black. Falling Freely and Open-Minded Heart play to the honky tonks and bars, but they duo also venture into new territory for Coming Back Into The Light, a brooding acoustic number that, with its violin and accordion (?) harks (musically and lyrically) to the dark gypsy cabaret tones of Brecht and Weill and which ranks alongside Travellin’ Light and the title cut as the album’s strongest tracks and is easily Maguire’s best vocal performance, suggesting an area they might want to pursue further in future.

roots-and-branches.com 2020