= March 2020 =  
 Kathleen Yearwood and Trappist Afterland
Andrew Hawkey
Mark McDowell & Friends
 Dodson & Fogg
 Pete Astor
 Close Lobsters
 Ed McGinley
 Jon Brookes
 Ontalva and Vespero
 Jonas Munk



Limited edition lathe-cut 7” on Future Grave

Reverb Worship have carved out a cottage industry for themselves by specializing in limited edition (typically 50-100 copies) releases in a very Terrascopic vein (Primordial Undermind, Kawabata Makoto,  Magic Carpathians, and Kitchen Cynics have been previously honoured). Future Grave is their new imprint that will specialize in limited edition lathe cut vinyl and focus in the Wyrdfolk genre. This first release of 50 is already sold out. A 33⅓ 7” single, it marks an hallucinatory collaboration between Australian acid folk wyrdies Trappist Afterland (music) and Canadian experimental folk singer/lyricist Kathleen Yearwood. Fans of the former will be right at home with the dreamy mood of ‘High In The Foothills’, it’s banjo-driven foundation combining with tinkling bells, assorted percussive Trappist trappings and Yearwood’s faraway voices that evoke the gentle folk of Sharron Kraus or Ellen Mary Harris of Saint Joan fame. Eerie, ghostly, and hauntingly heart-racing.

     Banjo is also centre stage at the spoken/sung tale wherein Yearwood airs various thoughts on ‘Arid Travels’. It flitters heavenward amidst cheerio whistling and meandering melodies and an occasional off-key vocal that’s endearing and rather memorable in spite of itself.

(Jeff Penczak)





(CD/ DL Available from Mole Lodge Records )

Well, this is a nice surprise, another album from Andrew Hawkey, it took 40 years for his first and this one only took him five years to complete!  It follows on from his 2015 album What Did I Come Up Here For, which I reviewed at the time. Andrew, now in his seventies, has been living in deepest rural Wales for a good few years now and has recorded this new album at a studio in Powys with his good friend Jeb Loy Nichols’s principle band member Clovis Phillips, who handles most of the guitar work. Andrew himself plays 12 string guitar, piano, organ and vocals.

All the songs bar “The Believer” (Bob Carpenter) and “You Know” by Zoe Llani Spencer, are written by Andrew. His last album was full of quiet, reflective songs, very much influenced by the passing of time and this album continues on in the same vein.

“Dear Friend” the opening song is gently grizzled and sees his world weary soft vocals framed by the backing vocals by Bel Merriman and Penny Joubert. “Golden Heart” is a lilting country rock song, enlivened by David Rothon’s pedal steel guitar playing. “Painter” is a finely observed song, a no time to stop and stare song with Andrew’s 12 string acoustic guitar and double tracked vocals. “Spirit” up next is a beautiful ballad, essentially about a reignited spark; this one had ethereal backing vocals by Zoe Spencer.

“A Little More”, is a beautifully observed ecological song, with some tasty guitar work and drifting organ, this ecological theme is alluded to on a number of the subsequent songs. Bob Carpenter’s “The Believer” has long held a fascination with him and he delivers a poignant version, the song has some terrific lines like ‘my dearest friends are total strangers’ and ‘a dream of a meadow, where I may lie in frosty sunlight, all between the earth’s grey shadow’.

Next there follows a warm Memphis shuffle, with plenty of organ, electric piano and Reggie Young style guitar, in which the classic Muscle Shoals studio sound is replicated in a studio in Wales. “You Knew” is a pretty ballad full of longing, underpinned by brushed drums, organ and lead guitar. Setting things up nicely for “Stony Land” a terrific post apocalyptic flee to higher ground nightmare of a song, up there where the eagle flies, embellished with touches of atmospheric bruised guitar. ‘Mama’s at the pot, boiling up some roots’, tasty. This excellent new album ends with the short title track “Long Story Short”, a gentle ballad concerning our old friends Mother Earth and a Father Time.

(Andrew Young)




(Vinyl/CD/DL  https://markmcdowell.bandcamp.com )

Dark Weave, Mark’s last album released in 2017 was one of my favourite albums from 2017 and this one is, I think, even better, being more of a solid band effort. This album features a lot more synth and the vocals are stronger too.

Kicking off with “People Like Us” a sprightly opening song which features the Minilogue synthesiser in full string mode, a great mix of electronics and acoustics. “Wedlocked”, follows this with a more acoustic singer songwriter song, but again with a few electronics thrown in. “Give a the Gods”, ups the tempo with an electro pop song, before a couple of fine instrumentals hove into view, title track “Breakthrough” a sort of wicker-folk song, overrun with plenty of bleeping and “Strastreamer”.

“Breakthrough” announces itself with whooshing synth, ala Tim Blake Stylee, with some burnished guitar notes added, before things settle down with a steady motorik rhythm underpinning everything, allowing the synth plenty of room to fracture off into the atmosphere, great track this, ace. “Starstreamer”, (the other instrumental which follows this), is lilting song, again heavy on the synth, but more eastern sounding, rich with droning Bouzouki and other exotic stringed instruments. I think on the vinyl edition they would be separated with “Breakthrough” ending side one and “Starstreamer” at the start of side two.

“Sit 13”, is up next, this is a reasonably straightforward jangly pop- rock song, with a nice descending rhythm and exposed nerve guitar. “First Light”, reminds me a little in the vocal department of Alasdair MacLean from The Clientele, another reference in his vocal sound I think would be Al Stewart. “De Facto (Ode To Arthur Lee)”, follows this, a calliope rhythm introduces this song, which is rich with keyboards and acoustics, plus a dash of fuzz guitar. The 40 minute album ends with “Wedding Song” a mix of all that has gone before, with a few violin lines added into the mix. This is an excellent album pretty much a perfect mix of electronics and acoustics.

(Andrew Young)






(Available on Wisdom Twins)

The prolific Chris Wade opens 2020 with this thematic EP based around walking and waiting. ‘Living Proof’ is an acoustic strummer sauntering along a dreamy path through the forest, with touches of mandolins, keyboards and accordion (?) along the way. ‘Keep Coming Home’ ups the electrical quotient, with double-tracked vocals just this side of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’’s “woo-hoos”, a strategically-placed solo to ratchet up the blood pressure and Wade’s signature head-nodding melody that sticks around long after the coda.

     Another tasty solo splices through ‘Wondering What Waits For Me’ and the final three “walking” tracks kick up the energy level to encourage an enthusiastic stroll outdoors, literally in the case of the jaunty ‘You Should Take A Walk Outside’. A jolly little marching tune with a slight country air, it’s sure to put a little pep in your step! ‘Walking Hand In Hand’ nods in Young’s Harvest/After The Gold Rush direction for another lighthearted country-ish dreamaway that should also appeal to the West Coast singer/songwriter contingent, from Jackson Browne and Dan Fogelberg to the latest whippersnappers, a la Jonathan Wilson. Closing instrumental ‘The Morning Walk’ is a bit more tentative, easing into navel-gazing ruminative areas, with more tasty, crystalline Garcia-like soloing dueling with acoustic ballets floating along on cumulous clouds. It seems to end rather abruptly, so perhaps a revisit may be in store in the future to expand the themes into full-on mind-melting mode!

(Jeff Penczak)




Faux Lux/Gare du Nord/ www.garedunordrecords.comLP/CD/DL


Pete Astor is a man with a vast array of past projects, groups and solo albums already behind him and now releases an album of cover versions.  His first release was back in 1884 with The Loft, I believe, he then played with The Weather Prophets, The Wisdom Of Harry and Ellis Island sound to name a few. This is Pete’s eighth solo album now, releasing them through a variety of labels like Static Caravan and Fortuna Pop amongst others.


His hand picked band for these tunes consists of Dave Tattersall, Andy Lewis, Pam Berry, Sean Read and Nina Walsh with Pete and Ian Button producing. 


Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself’ kicks things off with a fuzzy guitar infested indie song, a light motorik beat and glammy guitars driving things along nicely. Next comes a lightly Latin flavoured cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Black Star’ the title of which is said to be the inspiration for David Bowie’s final album. ‘Chained To An Idiot’ is the only original song on the album dating from 1974! It tells of a smitten teenager chained to his needs. Cat Power’s‘Manhattan’ is next, a classic tale of lost love that I wasn’t familiar with until this record, I can see the attraction, it’s a definite earworm of a tune. ‘Nitcomb’ is a lesser known song by Joe Strummer and recorded by him with his Mescaleros, I remember having to have a few of these nit combing sessions at my old school in the early seventies. Richard Thompson’s classic motor bike song ‘Vincent Black Lightning’ follows this, a fairly straightforward (although definitely worthwhile)rendition that moves along nicely.


Here’s a surprise, John Martyn’s song about Nick Drake ‘Solid Air’ is next and works very well, some tasty electric guitar and a cool rockin’ rhythm section, to try to replicate his echoed guitar fills we have some tasty wah-wah with hints of echo. Back over to the states now with Pete’s cover of The Replacements song ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ a song ostensibly about longing, of being away on tour itching to get back home. Conor O’Brien’s song for his recording project Villagers is another winner, catchy and heartfelt, a lover’s rock. David Berman’s song ‘Suffering Jukebox’ for his band Silver Jews follows this and is another album highlight, it also has some fine guitar action from Neil Scott (Felt and Denim). It tells of the record machine in the corner breaking down and pouring out heartfelt emotions. The record ends with Loudon Wainwright’s moving ‘One Man Guy’. Pete has chosen some unusual songs here and some that are new to me, it’s well played and sung and well worth seeking out.

(Andrew Young)






(Available on Last Night From Glasgow)

More than three decades after their previous album, Paisley’s power poppy purveyors of jingly jangly loveliness return with that long-awaited follow-up to 1989’s Headache Rhetoric, a swan song that thankfully was not to be! Coaxed out of retirement in 2012, several Popfest appearances followed (Madrid, Berlin, New York, Copenhagen) in the run-up to their comeback “Kunstwerk In Spacetime” EP in 2014, followed by the “Desire and Signs” EP the following year (all four tracks comprise Side B).

     ‘All Compasses Go Wild’ could have been recorded 30 years ago, its incessant earwig melody placing all comers back in those heady ‘80s when foxheads stalked the land kissing flowers in bloom and skyscrapers set the knees a-tramblin’. ‘The Absent Guest’ is even better, delivering heart-fluttering smiles and fond memories of like-minded pop perfections from the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Candyskins, TV Personalities, and the glorious Weddoes.

     ‘Godless’ and ‘Let The Days Drift Away’ feel all set to be the next big anthemic singalongs, lighters akimbo and arms swaying to the heavens. The Clobbers are back with a vengeance, storming into your hearts and minds with one of the best releases we’ve heard this year.

     Close observers will also appreciate having the EP tracks close (sorry!) to hand to complete the package of post-breakup releases, but the new material is as fresh and exciting as the first time we were blown away by ‘Just Too Bloody Stupid’ kicking off their debut with a rousing surf riff and snappy backbeat morphing into a jingle-jangle ramble that announced a talented bunch of Paisley poppers were ready to take on all comers. Welcome back, lads! Now about that title….

(Jeff Penczak)




Sonic Justice Records www.edmcginley.com  CD/DL

A very nice album has just arrived for review, and unusually for this column, was actually released last year.

When a songwriter of the calibre of Bill Fay recommends an artist then I sit up and listen. Bill has been saying how much he likes Ed’s cover version of his song Cannon’s Plain on this album and tips him as a real talent.

Ed was leader in The Winters and has also played guitar and written songs for The Dixons. Featuring a core band of players the album is firmly in the singer/songwriter tradition with the music touching on folk, country and blues. The band consists of Kevin Malone: drums, Garvan Gallagher: bass, James Delaney: organ, Darragh O’Kelly: piano, electric piano and harpsichorgan with Ed himself playing acoustic and electric guitars, organ and vocals. 

‘The Curse of the Midnight Special’ the opening track has a cool descending riff some tremendous drifting organ. ‘Tattoo on my Heart’ is a tender bruised love song with nice brass touches. Tim Hardin’s song ‘Shiloh Town’ sees Ed and band (augmented with banjo and fiddle) relocate to Appalachia giving the song a slight bluegrass flavour. ‘Highlands’ is a beautiful ballad, decorated with pedal steel played by Percy Robinson. ‘For the Last Time This Year’ is a terrific song, rumination’s on the passing seasons, tethered to emotions and situations, with some tasty organ and electric guitar fills.

Next sees a well placed cover of Hank William’s classic mournful song ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ which here is introduced by a low key funereal brass fanfare, some bluesy electric guitar licks and taken at a slow pace, I love nightjars and Hank sings of the haunting sound of the whippoorwill (which is basically the American variety) in this song. ‘Long Ago and Far Away’ has more pedal steel and is a timeless tale of relocating and memories, nice organ and a cool percolating rhythm section. ‘The Willow and the Oak’ is slightly folkier in nature, a sad tale of a drowned girl, the seasons change, tangled roots and twisted tales. ‘You’re Never Coming Back’ follows and its best to have a box of tissues handy as it tugs at the old heartstrings big time, it also has some nice brass touches, electric piano and keening pedal steel. The album ends with the aforementioned cover of Bill Fay’s ‘Cannon’s Plain’.   

(Andrew Young)



Clay Pipe www.claypipemusic.co.uk LP/DL

Jon Brooks and Clay Pipe have had a fruitful relationship; this is his fourth record with the label. The artist and label both sharing a similar ethos across a number of albums, and they fit together like hand in glove.

‘Fonn’, the album's opening song is a pastoral delight, the drifting dreamy tones of a mellotron, piano, percussion, plus acoustic guitar, all find a place to weave together into a beautiful opening track, it’s drowsy and bucolic. ‘A Lesson on Attachment’ twinkles into life, echoes and flanged guitars sending out probes, I wasn’t expecting the big drum sound to arrive but it kicks the song into life, anchored by deep bass, synths squiggle about throughout, again its quite dreamlike. Funnily enough the next song is entitled ‘Dreaming And Further Still’, where things start off slowly, before the melody establishes itself, some nice found sounds appear, old crackles and windup toys; again beautiful piano notes are dropped like dust motes caught in the light.

‘Dandelion Clock’ spins around to a cyclical three note melody, sequencers and synth dominating as the track progresses, joined by drums and bass which drive the track forward. I’m reminded of the sound of Tangerine Dream a little. ‘Siorraidh’, again has more drum than I was expecting, and the bass sound is very deep, all the various components complement each other highlighting the melody. The start of ‘Neist Point’ is slightly menacing, all sepia keyboard tones, like some old thriller film music; this then becomes the melody around which the song revolves. ‘Well Then’, has a simple melody, pretty and descending, it is joined as the song progresses by all sorts of instruments, pulsing and flashing. The final song on this 40 minute instrumental album, is the title track ‘How to get to Spring’. I love a bit of bird song and this one has plenty, it’s another elegant, bucolic, peach of a track, a dreaming in Albion, we hear the distant ringing of synthesised bells, a collective sigh in the warming breeze, nothing is hurried and it gently unfurls like a new leaf in spring. Another cracking release from Jon and another must have Clay Pipe release.   

(Andrew Young)




(CD/Digital on OCTOBERXART Records)


Sada is the second studio collaboration between Spanish guitarist Ángel Ontalva and beloved Russian space-prog-jazz-psych geniuses Vespero.  The two previously broke ground on 2018’s ‘Carta Marina,’ which in turn led to the live album ‘Sea Orm Liventure’ before this latest work. Clearly, they have a good thing going, and they bring out the best in each other.  (There’s even a new album, ‘Shaman Rock,’ featuring just Ontalva and Vespero’s bass/synth player Ark Fedotov, for some dialed back guitar and atmospheric moods).  I strongly recommend ALL of these albums.  Ontalva and Vespero make a superb combination.  Their works - all instrumental - remind me a great deal of Mahavishnu Orchestra.  So kindle your inner mounting flame and come along for the ride.


Ontalva is a gifted, passionate composer and guitarist.  He’s also a very talented artist, his work including Sada’s cover art.  Although the guys knew each other from mutual R.A.I.G. records days, it was actually an Ontalva art exhibition in Vespero’s home town of Astrakhan that finally led to their first sessions and the Carta Marina album.  (I love when performers cross over into the other arts.  OK maybe not William Shatner.)  Vespero shows great versatility in adapting their sound for Ontalva.  What we hear is a bit less spacy and more prog for them.  But since we are talking about musical virtuosos each and every one, they are fully up to the challenge.  And it definitely contains their trademark musical thrill rides through musical peaks, valleys and hairpin turns.  


It proved to be somewhat of the “difficult second album” (as a collaborating team at least).  I was a bit surprised to see that revelation from members of Vespero, masters of some extremely complex music.  But according to bass and synth player Ark Fedotov, more of the music on Sada is composed by Ontalva than the group improvisation-based Carta Marina.  It is deeply personal music for Ontalva, straight from the heart and soul, and required Vespero to go outside their comfort zone.


I mentioned Mahavishnu Orchestra, but there are also moments that sound like Steve Hackett on ‘Selling England by the Pound’ or “Los Endos” from ‘A Trick of the Tail.’  And when you think a track is mellow jazz, it will veer off into high-paced prog.  Or when you’re settled into a prog-based passage, Vespero just might launch you back into outer space to ponder the cosmos, with Ontalva zigging and zagging the damn ship with an impassioned jazz guitar lead.


Everyone here is firing on all cylinders instrumentally.  Ontalva is a brilliant, emotional guitarist who can combine technical virtuosity with soul and passion.  Vespero uses what I call their “secret weapon,” violinist Vitaly Borodin.  Every time Borodin enters the picture, he lifts up the song to the skies and beyond, casting his warm glow of light on the melody.  There are some priceless little moments of Borodin on violin and guitarists Ontalva and Vespero’s Alexander Kuzolvlev playing off one another (“Theme for Sada,” “Futari Kiri”).  The rhythm section of the Fedotov brothers, Ark on bass and Ivan on drums, generates tremendous power, with Ivan’s drumming especially more dynamic than ever.  Keyboard player Alexey Klabukov expertly fills in spaces in this guitar-dominated album.


My favorite track is the finale, “Futari Kiri.”  It’s a real tour-de-force, full of light and shade, with all sorts of eddies and currents, with everybody contributing his best.


Sada is a tremendous work of style and energy, with Ángel Ontalva and Vespero contributing visions of jazz and prog mastery.  It’s a bountiful guitar lover’s dream, inscribed equally by brush strokes of colorful starbursts and inner journeys.  Long may they continue their musical paintings.


 (Mark Feingold)



(LP/CD/Digital on Azure Vista Records)


Jonas Munk has many musical identities.  The Odense, Denmark native is lead guitarist of stoner psych gods Causa Sui; he’s made many solo albums over the years, both under the moniker Manual and in his own name; he’s collaborated with artists such as Nicklas Sorensen, Kanaan, Ulrich Schnauss, and Billow Observatory; he runs two record labels – El Paraiso Records, in which he shares duties with fellow Causa Suigian Jakob Skott, and his own Azure Vista Records; and finally, he’s a talented producer and recording engineer.  He’s a very busy man.


If your entre into Minimum Resistance is Munk’s psych guitar brilliance with Causa Sui, you’ll be surprised – but not in a bad way – as this is an electronic ambient record, and an outstanding one, which is part and parcel of Munk’s solo oeuvre.  The sounds on Minimum Resistance may seem like they were made by keyboard synths, but the majority is actually processed guitars and effects.


I want to tell you how I listened to Minimum Resistance, because it had a profound effect.  I listened in the car, on one of the last days where working at home due to the horrific Coronavirus was still recommended, but not yet mandatory for many, so workplaces and towns were in an eerie limbo of partial capacity, more empty than full.  It was a chilly, overcast day.  The roads were nearly empty.  Businesses in town were closed.  The usual yellow school buses were missing, their children home, possibly for the rest of the term, even before the spring.  Parking lots looked like they would at 3 am.  The trees had not yet started budding leaves, their limbs looking like Nosferatu’s claws waving in the breeze.  A brisk wind whipped through farm fields in the grey morning.


It was in this environment, in this mood, that Jonas Munk’s atmospheric, chilling electronic ambience laid down a cinematic soundtrack never to be forgotten.  Even the silence between tracks seems to be just a few beats longer than normal, as if to pause and reflect, which made me think of our increased hand washing and cleansing, and how it adds just a little more empty but necessary time to our daily lives.  While I’m sure Munk didn’t set out to create dystopian incidental music for a pandemic (the album was recorded before all this misery arrived), it hits a nerve and strikes a mood for the times.  Minimum Resistance manages to be both stark - minimalistic, yet full of sound and color, albeit a drained or faded color, at the same time.  It evokes a late winter scene.  The ten tracks average about five minutes apiece, just right, and never overstay their welcome.  This isn’t New Age navel gazing.  It has a quiet, stately beauty.  While it doesn’t really plow any new musical ground, the music is very appealing, very soothing.  You want to keep listening to it, and then you want to hear some more.  An indelible piece of work.


While we’re on the subject of ambient instrumental, please go listen to the new one-off track “Scene Suspended” by Jon Hopkins.  This melancholy song takes a completely different tack than Jonas Munk.  It’s a solo piano piece, developed from an improvisation Hopkins did during a January performance at the Sydney Opera House.  There’s some tasteful violin accompaniment (played by Emma Smith), and the whole thing’s achingly gorgeous.


Be well.


 (Mark Feingold)