Reviews roundup – Marko Hietala vs. Snowy White vs. Carrie Tree vs. Deer Tick vs. Susan Williams vs. Willa Vincitore vs. Jahroom
Mustan Sydämen Rovio
Marko Hietala really, really wants to be the singer in Nightwish. It must annoy him something rotten that he sings on the demo recordings only for some lassie to come along and steal his thunder. His frustrated frontman syndrome is obvious when he does get to sing co-leads live. So it’s no wonder that he’s recorded a lot of material outside his main band.
That’s been primarily with Tarot with whom he’s released almost as many albums as the ever slow Nightwish have since he joined the latter but chuck in appearance with (deep breath) Northern Kings, Raskasta Joulua, Sapattivuosi, Sinergy, Ayreon, Dreamtale, Altaria, Amorphis, Delain, Erja Lyytinen and literally hundreds of others and his bursting creativity seems to be uncontrollable. And that has finally led to an actual solo album.
To be fair he hasn’t stepped too far out of his comfort zone as this is largely a dark prog like album that tends to cut out the metal side of things, throw in a wee bit of folk here and there and which sees his vocals eschew the high notes of Nightwish for a more controlled, deeper voice. And it’s really, really good. Now I haven’t got the faintest idea what he’s singing about what with my Finnish being a bit rusty but musically it’s a real treat. The lead track, ‘Isäni ääni’ (My Father’s Voice) is actually quite misleading as it plays up the folk metal element aiming, probably, for people who liked ‘The Islander’.
But elsewhere he gets on with his proggy side with ‘Tähti, hiekka ja varjo’ and ‘Kuolleiden jumalten poika’ really hitting all the prog marks along the way. He does riff it up a bit on ‘Juoksen rautatie’ which throws in a few growls to keep the metalheads happy before the grooves slowly work their way towards the closing acoustic led ‘Totuus vapauttaa’. It’s an excellent release so don’t let the Finnish vocals put you off. It’ll be your loss.
SNOWY WHITE & THE WHITE FLAMES
Snowy White / Soulfood Music
He’s got a long and distinguished career has Snowy White. As a sideman, though, what with his stints in Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd and Roger Waters.
On the solo front he’s not quite a one hit wonder as post the Top 10 ‘Birds Of Paradise’ he sneaked into the lower echelons of the Top 75 with ‘Peace On Earth’ and ‘For You’. But post those 24 months in the early eighties he’s ploughed a more selective furrow. And this latest release will please long term fans as it eschews his many blues diversions and sounds exactly like the original “White Flames” release. In fact it could easily have come out in 1984 as it’s follow-up.
Which means there’s lots of gentle balladic moments, some diversions into jazzy funk tinged rhythms, a hint of blues and lots of spoken word vocals. Because he seems to have largely given up trying to sing, something that was never his strong point and talks his way through the songs instead. But it works. I always had a wee soft spot for Mr White and his late night vibes and this record is no exception.
The band he’s put together for this set of White Flames includes the legendary Max Middleton (piano/keys), Ferry Langendrijk (keys), Jessica Lauren (keys), Juan van Emmerloot (drums)Walter Latupeirissa (bass), Jeff Allen (drums) and Kuma Harada (bass), the last of whom appeared on his first solo album way back in 1983. They all perform admirably and if you’re looking for some late night songs to kick back to then you’ll do just fine with the likes of ‘This Feeling’, ‘We Can’t Seem To Do Much About It’ and ‘Why Do I Still Have The Blues?’. There is a hint of melancholy to a lot of the material which may be down to his septuagenarian status but he certainly can still wring some amazing sounds out of his guitar.
Wild Cedar Records
I do like me some Scandi-folk and even though Carrie Tree comes from Sussex and the producer (and ambient musician) Markus Sieber is German they met in Iceland to record this record. So I’m claiming it!
It’s the minimalist, almost bleak nature of the music that lends itself to the above with some of the instrumentation barely audible as harp, flute, glockenspiel, clarinet and cello are joined by the more exotic ngoni, jarana, sitar, ronroco and balafon. I’m sure Ms Tree won’t be happy to know that first time out I didn’t hear any of the words that she’d so carefully crafted as I was drawn into the sounds that were popping from ear to ear in my headphones.
Second time out and it seems that the subject matter is pretty much what you would expect. Namely not a lot. But it’s the nature of modern folk music to be oblique. So mote it be But it sounds fantastic as she eases through ‘Honey Soup’, ‘Only Love’ and ‘Deep As We Dare’. I’m assuming that most of the songs are about love, loss and relationships but I’m sure you will hear what you want to hear.
And you should hear it because noises like this don’t come along very often. Delightful.
That’s a shockingly bad name for a band. And an equally bad name for an album as well. It’s Salad Cream or nowt round my way.
Remarkably I’ve never heard of them considering how long they’ve been doing the rounds. Mind you, I abandoned the world of Uncut and Mojo quite some time ago and I reckon this is the sort of thing they’ll lap up over there in inky land. Turns out this is a “companion piece” to “Deer Tick Vol. 1” and “Deer Tick Vol. 2” which came out in 2017. One was an acoustic album and one was an electric record. They had ketchup and mustard covers hence the arrival of this one comprising what is presumably left overs not regarded as good enough for the main records.
And it’s mainstream US indie rock which means they look to REM and Nirvana in equal measures. You don’t need me to tell you which is which in terms of the acoustic / electric split. There’s nine originals with four covers of The Pogues, George Harrison, The Velvet Underground and Ben Vaughn which couldn’t scream indie more if it had Indie tattooed to a loudhailer with a man-bun screaming Indie at the top of his voice.
So not my thing but even this hoary old rock horse was taken by the jazz country of ‘Limp Right Back’ and the bleak ‘Strange, Awful Feeling’. The less said about their run-through of The Pogues ‘White City’, where I saw the final English Greyhound Derby before demolition. One for the fact fans there. If this is the Sort of Thing you like then you’ll like this Sort of Thing.
SUSAN WILLIAMS & the Wright Groove Band
It’s About Me!
Well the gimmick appears to be that there are two bass players in the band. Ms Williams on bass and Darryl Wright on lead bass. Maybe it works live but you’d never tell if indeed there are two basses at play in the studio.
Away from that we have an album of soulful mid-tempo blues which seems to have a 1985 vibe about it. Now that’s not a bad thing. It’s when the teenage me was first getting his blues on so I’ve a soft spot for this kind of mellow vibe.
There are some really nice guitar lines from Mike Gallemore and when they get a bit raunchier as they do on ‘I Love What You Do’ things really hit a sweet spot. There’s a lovely shuffle on ‘Shame On You’ and as someone who believes that a blues shuffle is God’s chosen music that makes me very happy. I must admit some of the slow blues on offer leave me cold but then the band pulls out another treat like ”You’ve Got Another Think Coming’ and they win me over again.
The songs all seem to be about relationships with a very high proportion of disreputable men getting called out. That’s when Ms Williams isn’t getting her heart broken. Which is why they call it the blues.
When the debut album from Willa came out back in 2017 I said “She’s working in that whole Bonnie Raitt / Etta Britt world where blues and soul rub up against each other in close harmony”. Now back with album number two the only change that’s been made is the use of her full name. And this is one time when more of the same is a good thing.
It’s one of those records that covers blues rock, trad blues (the fabulous ‘Everything Hurts’), more mainstream rock and soul. And even an Annie Lennox cover (‘Money Can’t Buy It’ from “Diva”). The rest of the songs are all originals and there isn’t a duff one to be found. She has a strong and powerful voice that can take on ballads and rockers with equal aplomb.
It’s the kind of album that the mid-seventies would have treated very kindly with ‘It Is What It Is’ moving forward a decade into massive eighties power ballad mode. A 1985 hit single, guaran-dam-teed. Her core band – Doug Abramson (bass). Karl Allweier (guitar), Lee Falco (drums) and Scott Milici (keyboards) have largely been retained from the first album and they have an affinity with the songs that really brings songs like ‘Need A Little Help’, ‘Bite Me’ and ‘Trust’ to life. Add on some well thought out additional percussion and a great saxophone solo on ‘These Days’ for your additional listening delectation.
If your thing is the world where blues meets soul and pop you’ll be hard pushed to find a better record out there. One for the Beth Hart fans, this is a fantastic release.
Cut-Price Goods / Nyx
To Moscow (Russia not the village outside Kilmarnock) for some noise.
And by noise I mean experimental prog meets metal meets drone noise. Yup, that’s what Alexander Nenashev – bass, Timur Dzhanzakov. – drums and Rasel Rahman. – guitar are all about on this double CD reissue of their first two albums.
They mention the likes of Can, Tortoise and Burzum amongst their influences which certainly explains my experimental prog meets metal meets drone sentence up above and they certainly know how to pull off the whole light and shade thing. At times they head off into the world of psych which is something that makes ‘Cut-23’ (with bonus trumpet) so utterly alluring.
“Nyx” dates from 2012 and you can see how much better they’d got in the three years between that and “Cut-Price Goods”. The aforementioned ‘Cut-23’ is so far beyond their first offerings as to almost be on another planet. It’s an out there sound for out there people so if you want to take the chance of your head imploding as the cerebral receptors fail to recognise what’s going on, then this is the place to be.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton