Monday, May 22, 2017

Single release: 'Fireflies' by Ange Boxall

Tasmanian singer-songwriter Ange Boxall released her album Into the Wind towards the end of 2016, and the latest single is the ballad 'Fireflies'. Boxall has a lovely soprano voice and in this song it tells the story of a mother wanting more than the life she has now. It's a song about frustrated old dreams and plans for new dreams.

The video can be seen at Boxall's website:
www.angeboxall.com

You can buy the album on Bandcamp or on

Single release: 'Forget Her' by Jen Mize ft Duncan Toombs

Jen Mize's latest album, Warnings & Wisdom, has yielded a second single: the slice of wonderfulness that is 'Forget Her'. Mize was in the studio with producer Shane Nicholson when Toombs - who is well known to country music audiences as he turns up in a lot of bands playing a lot of different instruments - stopped by to record backing vocals. Mize was so impressed by what she heard that she rewrote 'Forget Her' as a duet. Once you hear this song, you will understand why. Mize's rich, honeyed, husky tones are so well balanced by Toombs, and the song is a bittersweet rendering of longing, hope and pragmatism.

This is a song you'll want to play over and over - which you can do by watching the video below. You can also buy Warnings & Wisdom on





www.jenmize.com

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Album review: Gilded by Jade Jackson


A small amount of research on Californian singer-songwriter Jade Jackson will reveal that Lucinda Williams – I want to call her a troubadour, but perhaps ‘raconteur’ is better – is an influence on her music. That influence is there in Jackson’s singing style, in the way she is sometimes tempted to flatten a note to emphasise it, and in her willingness to mine the less shiny parts of life, but its impression doesn’t last long. At the risk of offending Williams fans, let’s just say that Jackson is a singer and Williams is, well, a raconteur. That’s Williams’s style, but Jackson’s instincts as a singer are stronger than any influence, and they will likely become stronger as time goes on and she feels more comfortable in her own musical identity.

This is not to suggest that Jackson doesn’t sound comfortable – more, that there is a rich, rounded, gutsy voice there and it sometimes feels like she’s holding it back. Of course, that means there is certainly more ahead for her fans: more layers to peel back, more depths to plunge into. And there is a lot already on Gilded, which could be defined as country-blues-rock and which would also respond well to the label announcement – as in, Jackson has announced her arrival.

There is no way to properly define or describe talent – there aren’t many words for it, just that one word – and it’s clear Jackson has it in spades. It’s also clear that she has the work behind her to actually make something of it: the songs each have a story and a purpose; they are cleanly constructed and thoughtfully executed. This album is not the creation of someone who rushed that announcement. There are no bad or even half-baked songs here, only songs that will grab you right away and hang around for a long while, welcome visitors all.

The opening track, ‘Aden’, is a lost-love track but even as Jackson sings ‘you are tearing me apart’, she doesn’t sound sorry for herself, and the beat of the song suggests she’s moving forwards even as she’s looking back. ‘Finish Line’ was released as a single along with what looked like an autobiographical video, although it seems that all the songs on Gilded are drawn from Jackson’s personal experiences. ‘Motorcycle’ is a riveting, growling declaration of self-sufficiency. There is sentimentality on this album, as on ‘Back When’, but it’s of the reflective, not sappy, kind.

The album was produced by Mike Ness of punk-rock band Social Distortion, but Ness has certainly not tried to turn Jackson into a mini-me. Rather, it sounds as though he’s used what he knows about songs done economically for their own good and applied the principles on Gilded. There are few instruments, and Jackson’s voice is the main attraction, as it should be. Because we can hear her quickly we can hear all the emotion in her songs, as well as the imperfections that make them more perfect.

Gilded is out now from ANTI-

jadejackson.com





Thursday, May 11, 2017

Interview: D Henry Fenton

Singer-songwriter D Henry Fenton is Australian in origin and now divides his time between his homeland and the US. Fenton has opened shows for acts including Keith Urban, Kasey Chambers, The Corrs, John Mayer and Colbie Caillat. He released his third studio album, Twice I Fell Down Once, in April and recently played some shows in his homeland accompanied by his band, The Elizabethans. I spoke to him by phone while he was in Sydney.


I know you’re in Australia visiting from the United States and I was looking on your website and saw that you’d taken a photo of a clip from a Kalgoorlie newspaper and in that paper they called you an ‘LA singer’ – do you feel more LA than Australian these days?
These days I’m kind of mixing between them both because I’m spending time here and there now, whereas when I did that I was mainly based in Los Angeles. But I feel an affinity for both, actually.

What’s prompted you to come back here more?
I’ve been in LA since 2006. I was there for eight years and then I got homesick or something. I started coming back more regularly because Australia’s an amazing place. It’s a lot more peaceful. I miss the energy from here – as soon as you get off the plane in LA it’s bang, it’s almost like this energy coming up through the ground, whereas in Sydney – or Australia – it’s a lot more laidback, which is good too in a different way.

I think a lot of us Sydneysiders would think there’s not a lot laidback about Sydney any more – however, we do have a lovely harbour.
You do have a lovely harbour. I’m staying in Taylor Square, near Oxford Street [in Darlinghurst] and that’s a bit of a bustle there but it’s still chilled.

What I didn’t find in my research was a reason why you first went to the United States.
Ah, it was a girl. I never, ever thought I’d spend any time in America, growing up. I always wanted to go to London. But I live in the US now.

When you went, presumably with guitar in hand, did you think you’d try to get a musical foothold there or did it just kind of happen.
I just wanted something different in my life. I’d always been playing but I just took my guitar because it’s my hobby. Paul McCartney says it’s his hobby so if he says that it’s probably all right for me. A lot of people say, ‘It’s my life, man’ – I’m going, ‘Yeah, right, okay.’ There’s more to life, you know. But I took the guitar and ended up doing okay, and I got a record deal over there – that was my first album. Just started playing over there and eventually found some like-minded people, got a little band together, and I flew out the bass player – she came out for this little tour we did [Fenton has just toured Australia]. My drummer, Dave Krusen, his first band was Pearl Jam – he played on the Ten record. So he got inducted into the Hall of Fame the other day, so he couldn’t come out.

[Laughs] That’s the best reason ever.
I know, right? [Laughs] He’s a really cool guy. When I first got there he goes, ‘Henry, I really like your stuff’, and I said, ‘Oh thanks.’ I didn’t know who he was at the time – I knew he was a drummer – but I found out later. He said, ‘Anytime you want me to play I’d really like it.’ So he’s been playing with us for about two and a half years now.

It’s one thing to try to make your connections in a city the size of Sydney, but with so many more people playing music in LA, what was it like finding your people?
I think you just get lucky. I found this little bar called Craig’s – I got taken there in the first week or two I was there, and there was a whole bunch of like-minded folk there, a community there, and we all sort of bonded. There was a girl called Lizzie from there – she’s played out here a bit and been quite successful. Elle King, too, she was from that scene – Xs and Os singer. A band called Truth and Salvage Company. Andy Clockwise – he’s an Aussie and he’s in that scene too. Have you heard of him?

Look, I’m fairly entrenched in country music these days, so … no.
When I write it just seems to come out in a country way. I don’t try. People say it’s kind of like a Tom Petty, Neil Young-ish thing.

I actually used to disparage country music. But I think if you’re interested in storytelling, the genre is really set up for it more than any other genre, and there’s a lot of flexibility musically speaking, so you can take the heart of country and also connecting to your audience – take those principles but still be a bit loose around what you’re doing musically but find that country audience regardless.
Someone said to me it’s the only white music with any soul, and I kind of agree.

You mentioned your band – how did The Elizabethans get their name?
Oh gosh, I don’t know – I remember seeing something on TV and thinking, Oh, the Elizabethans, and my name’s Henry, so I thought maybe I’d just call my band that. But it’s a bit of a mouthful. But people, when they hear it, say, ‘That kind of works’.

Now you’re saying it like that, I can see it. You could call yourself Henry the Eighth and the Elizabethans.
Yeah, I don’t know – he wasn’t such a nice cat.

And with a reduced band you’ve had your Australian tour, so how did that go?

I think pretty well. People seemed to really dig the music. We sold quite a few CDs. Adelaide was tough because they had the Adelaide Crows versus Port Adelaide [AFL] game and that was 50 000 people, sold out, and Adelaide’s not a big town. And Tim Rogers was playing around the corner. We did all right but we would have done a lot better without that going on. But the owner, she loved it and we made some friends and fans. The tour’s just basically to let people know that there’s a record out.

Speaking of that record – it’s said to be about ‘ghosts, love, obsession and revenge’. Have the ghosts been exorcised?
No, they’re still floating around. I’m not sure what ghosts are any more … No, they’re still around. I was trying to describe what I was writing about. There’s a song called ‘Love is a Tough Commodity’ on the record and one of the lines is, ‘Ghosts in my vision and my spirit’s on the run’.

So that’s where the ghosts have come from. Everyone lives with them, I guess, and clearly they can be good fodder for lyrics.
Exactly. I think I want to do a clip for that song. I’m imagining some party and kids in sheets poking their heads around the corner and I’m the only one who can see them.

And I was also interested in the idea of revenge: do you think it’s a dish best served cold?
Yeah, it is. You can’t get emotional about it. I’m not a vengeful person but that song … a lot of the stuff I write about is inspired from my life, as a lot of songwriters draw from. It was just someone in my life who wasn’t the sweetest person. I thought ‘an eye for an eye’.

And the great thing about having the ability to create art is that you can take something in your life that has felt a certain way and transform it into something else so that someone else gets to relate to it for their own life.
I find that with other people’s songs, too. That song in particular – the revenge song, ‘you step on me and I’ll step on you’ – I started singing in French. There’s this lyric and I didn’t know what it was saying, and it was, ‘The sea is me and the sea is you’. It’s kind of like, ‘Hey, we’re all part of this but if you cross me I’ll cross you back.’ But as a person I wouldn’t necessarily do that, but the person in the song [would].

Writing a song is a little way of doing that, but a gentle way.
And it’s a detached way of doing it because you’re not quite as involved.

The other word that interested me was ‘obsession’ – can any musician really be non-obsessive?
No, they’re all obsessive, I reckon. Some may hide it, but … That one’s a song called ‘Down Your Street’, which is basically a song about driving down your ex’s street, for not fiendish motives but just a reflection or accidentally [doing it] – ‘I wonder what they’re doing’. One of those songs.

Even though, as you say, guitar is a hobby, musicians at your level of creation and touring and production of albums, there’s that element of always wanting to improve on your hobby.
Oh yeah, absolutely. I’d love to build my audience and stuff. A lot of people have said, ‘You deserve more from this’, and if it happens, that’s great. I’m doing everything that I can. I’m getting a radio promoter in the US to push the album. I’ve already sent it to him and he really digs it and he’s already picked the songs that he thinks might do okay over there. And I have Karen Waters and Stuart Coupe helping here.

It’s also just thinking of that – giving it to a radio promoter. In the olden days, which weren’t that long ago, there was that really limited time in which to get your music to people. For better or worse, with the way things are now with streaming and whatnot, albums can take on different forms. So you’ve created that body of work but in terms of how people listen to and the lifespan it may have, it’s a lot more unpredictable now how long it will last and who it will reach and how.
Totally. People bring out records all the time now, famous acts, and they just fly by and you don’t hear of them. Tom Petty put an album out not so long ago ... It’s just tracks now. Apparently Drake’s the one who’s the master of just putting singles out, or just streaming songs. He’s got such a huge audience, he can do that. I don’t know if the album’s dead or not – I keep reading that it is. I’m in the old-fashioned way but I just wanted to record those songs and put them out. What do you do? I’m not sure.

I think an album’s an art form much like a novel, in that it’s longer-form storytelling. And where you can’t really take chapters out of a novel and have them make sense, you can take singles out of an album and have them make sense. But if you’re the one who’s created that longer form, it’s not easy to say, ‘I’ll just give up that longer-form storytelling.’
No. It’s hard to do that. Next year I’m going to put out an EP of Howlin’ Wolf songs that I’ve recorded and then do another album, I think. The title of this album – Twice I Fell Down Once – I was reading a book on Woody Guthrie. He had a few children and one of his kids died in a house fire when she was nine, in the late ’40s. Her name was Cathy, and she’d say these little things to Woody, and he used to love them and write them down. One of them was, ‘Twice I fell down once’. It was just so beautiful. I wrote it down in a book and then a few years later I came across it and thought, That’s what I’m going to call my record. I thanked Cathy Guthrie on the record too.

In terms of how you create your songs, are you the sort of person who writes bits and pieces down and then collects them later?
Yes, I do that. I can collect fragments over time and then put them together. The tunes can come together all at once but I’ll work them a little bit. I’ll have a little bit then work out a little bit more. These days I’m trying to find something to write about, too. I hate repeating myself musically – I don’t want to write a similar tune to something else I’ve done, or a lyric. So it takes me a little while until I can find something that I think is more unique. I had a friend who told me, ‘I based a groove around this Jonathan Wilson song’, and I never do that. I don’t try to copy any song, I just write the song and give it to my band and then we play it a bit, and that’s how it comes out.

Do you tend to head into the studio with more songs than you need orhave you already curated your selection by that stage?
A few more. There’s a few songs that didn’t make the cut. I usually go in with a bunch and then that gives me a reason to write more songs. Because I really love recording. It’s really therapeutic because you’re trying to work out harmonies – ‘What if we played a nice tune here to balance countermelodies?’ I really like doing harmonies and guitar lines, working them out. It’s just fun. I just like it. It’s great. And for me to do that, I need songs.

The relationship between mathematics and music is established – and what you’re describing there sounds like working out mathematical puzzles.
It is. And I think it’s already there – the songs are already written. I always try to make things simple, too. This album is kind of different. The last two albums have been singer-songwriter and I’ve hired different bass players and drummers when I was in different towns and got the best I could do. But this one’s just the band and a couple of friends added a few things because I thought it might be fun. But it’s just me, Dave and Mary Beth pretty much on everything. And people seem to be reacting to it a bit better than the last one, which I thought wasn’t a bad record.

If you’ve been playing with them for a while they’re now collaborators, which gives a different energy to what you’ve created.
Yep. And Mary Beth, my bass player, we co-wrote a song on the record – ‘Dusty Wings’. I don’t know if you have the record.

I do. I’ve listened to it – several times.
Thanks for having a listen. I’m never sure if people listen to stuff.

If I’m going to talk to you I like to listen – also because I’m interested in people’s musical lineages, so I like to listen to hear if there’s a lineage there or not.
Can you hear any influences in it?

Not really – which is why it’s interesting that you said you don’t base what you do off others’ work. I can hear that in your music. I can’t hear a direct reference to anything.
I really try to just let it all flow, just me and the band, rather than copy a groove. But apparently [copying] is how a lot of people write. I’m not saying that’s bad, I just don’t know how they do it.

Twice I Fell Down Once is out now.








Sunday, May 7, 2017

Album review: Chuck Westmoreland

This is another from my better-late-than-never files: an album that was released at the end of 2016 yet, of course, the date is not relevant to how the music sounds, and in the case of Chuck Westmoreland's self-titled debut solo LP, that's largely because the music is timeless will still being of its time.

I'm fond of using the word 'troubadour' when it applies - not that I do it often. It's a useful word because it contains so much: the notion of, usually, a man who can tell a story in song and carry people along with him so well that those people almost seem bewitched. It's a great example of how beautifully useful language can be: one word to convey all that. 'Troubadour' isn't usually associated with someone who has rock 'n' roll sensibility but there's no reason it couldn't be. In Westmoreland's case, it fits.

While this is Westmoreland's solo debut, it's not his first rodeo: he was in a band called The Kingdom that sounds like it had very little in common, musically, with his sound now. That sound is country rock of the type that sounds laidback if you couldn't detect that the person making it was not at all lackadaisical about making it. It is country roads and late nights on a bar stool. It is hints of Neil Diamond and Willie Nelson and even a bit of Kenny Rogers - and if you think those references sound cheesy, you haven't been listening hard enough to the music those fine pop/rock/country artisans have produced.

Westmoreland's experience shows in the fact that these songs sound like they have been written carefully without being overworked, and he sings them as if he's had time to let them mature for a while until he understands exactly how they need to be conveyed. There's dirt under the fingernails of these songs, either because they've hauled themselves up from underneath or because they've dug for their own roots. They're sturdy, and while there's darkness in them, there's also a fair bit of reaching for the sun.

This album will carry you along with it, and bewitch you a bit too, so the next time this troubadour comes to town, you'll no doubt welcome his arrival.

Chuck Westmoreland is out now. 

www.chuckwestmoreland.com


Single release: 'Bricks and Mortar' by Paul Crowder

Paul Crowder hails from Lithgow, NSW, and he has a terrific country sound, full of heart (and fiddles), that will appeal to those who like tones of Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell and Troy Cassar-Daley. In 2016 Crowder released the EP From the Heart and the latest single is 'Bricks and Mortar'. Listen to it on Soundcloud or the video below.

Buy From the Heart on cdbaby or




Find Paul Crowder on Facebook.

Single release: 'Baby Blue' by Smith & Jones

Sophie Jones (guitar, harmonica, vocals) from Tamworth and Abby Smith (keyboards, vocals) from Bathurst, NSW have been playing as Smith & Jones since 2013 and recently released their debut album, Dark Gives Way. From that album comes the single 'Baby Blue', a song of a woman on the run.

Smith and Jones have beautifully complementary voices that, combined, give more power to the song than they might have alone, especially for a cautionary tale like this one. And although they have been described as alt country, like many performers who are placed in that genre I tend to hear more actual country influence than anything too alt. Smith and Jones are Australian country music artists, and they sound like it, and the country music audience will recognise them as their own.

Watch 'Baby Blue' below.
Buy Dark Gives Way on



www.smithandjones.net