= September 2020 =  
 Jeff Kelly
 Ruffled Feathers
 Head South By Weaving and Alison O'Donnell
 Jonathan Hultén
 Dr Space's Alien Planet Trip
Ray Russell
Dodson & Fogg
Asteroid No. 4
 Big Blood
 Movies roundup
 Nick Perri & the Underground Thieves



(Sugarbush Records)

Green Pajamas multi-instrumentalist front man Jeff Kelly returns with what sounds very much like a concept album, a Galacian journey full of songs which highlight the Iberian peninsula of Portugal and Spain, inspired by fado, flamenco and femme fatales.

‘The Initial Kiss’ utilizes Spanish guitar and accordion. ‘The River Rain Part 1’, is a brief instrumental interlude of drifting accordion and piano which segues into ‘If Only’, a slow waltz of a song, full of foreboding and heavy with portent and longing. The mouthful of a title that is ‘Juliana Of The One - Man - Scanner Station’, is great, where desire is just an x-ray away. ‘Senor, Senor’, ups the rock quotient, plenty of terrific controlled lead guitar stabs and not a million miles away from Tom Petty. ‘Todo Por La Gitana’, rounds off the first side and takes us back to acoustic Jeff, reminiscent of the kind of stuff put out by Calexico, it’s an excellent lilting story song, very cinematic in nature which also finds room for some more of Jeff’s fine lead guitar lines.

Side two kicks off with ‘Moon Over Granada’, a mid-tempo song which highlights that awful, sinking feeling you feel, when you know that you have to leave but you really want to stay. ‘The Lisbon Vampires’, packs a lot into its three minutes, it’s a slow waltz, all high heels on tiled streets and a beckoning spider tempting you into her lair. ‘My Lily’, is delicate and classy, decorated with Spanish guitar, rinky dink piano, supple sinewy bass lines and light percussion. ‘Douro River Wind’, a paean to Portugal’s largest river and home to the rich port houses works well; it’s another song full of longing, a wishing to return. ‘Kiss The Moon Hello’, is just glorious, a swaying beauty of a song, let’s kiss the sun goodbye, and say hello to the moon. Another brief interlude in ‘The River Rain Part 2’, then it’s into the final song ‘Alleys Of Madrid’. An album highlight, adorned with lonesome mariachi trumpet and a shuffling rhythm, and so the album ends and we leave our hearts in the alleys of Madrid.

(Andrew Young)    



(self-released CDR)

Collaborations are usually interesting beasts. "Ruffled Feathers" is a privately released album in a limited edition in which Alan Davidson of Kitchen Cynics and our very own Simon Lewis (Phoenix Cube, The Golden Cake Company) combine their talents to create a rather marvellous album of what I suppose would best be described a psych folk.

The opener 'Rock Pool' is written by the former, a ghostly guitar, synth and vocal cut with a beautiful vibe, as is the second track, 'Twa Corbies,' in which Peter Lagan is the vocalist. This cut is trad folk, but re-envisioned. Simon Lewis provides the next two tracks, the first a spoken word whimsy set in a garden and (possibly) allotment - this one reminded me of Sproatly Smith - the second being a song of missed opportunities. Strange sounds and heavily flanged guitar underlie Davidson's vocals on the next track.

'Old Woodland In The Rain' is an instrumental created by Simon Lewis - psychedelic, analogue and ambient - with synths a-plenty, while 'Climbing' features clawhammer guitar and a really lovely melody. This song has a spring-like vibe to it. Next up is Simon Lewis' mix of 'Twa Corbies,' then it's another engaging piece of birdsong-haunted ambience from Mr Lewis. The album concludes with a flute and backwards-effect cut from Mr Davidson, enlivened here and there by vocals.

I liked this a lot. The tracks are all roughly in the same vein, yet there's more than enough variety within that to maintain interest, and as a whole it works very well. Fans of British psych-folk should certainly check this one out. It comes in ecologically-friendly packaging (hand made), and is available via the two musicians themselves. (Steve Palmer)



(Sugarbush Records)

A new album from Pugwash has just been released. It’s a collection of all sorts of outtakes, demos, unplugged and acoustic versions of some of their classic songs, from a growing back catalogue.

A fine version of ‘Apples’, opens the proceedings, a song which was originally on the Almanac album, a quirky melodic pop song shot through with mellotron. ‘Two Wrongs’, from their debut also has some ‘tron, it is a swooning, classy pop song, ostensibly a commentary on the games people play. ‘Always Be’, from the same album appears here as an acoustic demo. A couple of demos recorded in a shed appear next; they both date from 1992 ‘Biggles Dictates A Letter’, and ‘Kings And Queens Of The Land’. Biggles sounds very much like mid period XTC, I don’t believe either have been released before. The first side ends with a lovely alternate version of ‘Sunrise Sunset’.

Side two starts with ‘Lucy, Oh Lucy,’ a skewed pop song from 2004 which is swiftly followed by the achingly gorgeous ‘Fall Down’, an acoustic demo from 2010 and originally on The Olympus Sound album. ‘It’s Nice To Be Nice’, the opening song from Jollity has strings and keyboards added to it, it’s almost like he handed the song to Sean O’Hagan, who gave it the High Llamas treatment. ‘You’re Like Manchester’, is a melodic pop gem from the pen of Jilted John AKA John Shuttleworth. ‘All Day’, is another shed demo. The album ends with a terrific ‘Fire In My Belly’, which was the b-side from the Apples single. So with this new album I found the good, I didn’t find any bad, but it’s definitely all pugly! (Andrew Young)




(https://alisonodonnell.bandcamp.com/ )

Recorded in spare moments between 2014/18, this album is a delightful collection of almost traditional Folk Rock, the collection glued together by Alison's delightful voice and some wonderful melodies, the playing bringing the best from each tune.

    Telling a traditional tale, “A Penny For The Wrenboys” has shades of Steeleye Span in it's jangly guitar and vocal arrangements, a great start easily matched by the jaunty romp of “Captain Swing And The Twopenny Trash” a song to get you moving around the room with its infectious beat and sweet groove.

    Opening in a melancholy mood, notes tumbling between the sad lyrics, “Waltzing In The Attic” draws you in with its storytelling, the music enhancing the lyrics allowing the listener to lose themselves in the words, like finding a dusty book of fairy tales, the second half of the track creating a dreamy waltz for your imagination to feed of.

    Taking the Rock part of Folk Rock, “Little Sandie” whisks us back to 1967 with its whimsical psych -pop sheen, although the song has a rough edge due to the hypnotic bass and guitar riff that drive it along. In complete contrast, “By The Banks Of The Itchen” is a wonderful slice of folk beauty, haunting melodies drifting like silk with Alison's voice giving a masterclass in control, the song stretching out  like the promise of a summers meadow, the rippling guitar only adding to the beauty.

    With a more contemporary feel, echoing Alison's work with United Bible Studies,

“Where Once Grew Five Forests” has some great percussion work and a more jagged feel, the song layered and textured in a different way from what has gone before, an excellent contrast keeping the album fresh and interesting.

    I kind knew there had to be some drone somewhere on the collection and it finally appears on “Dressed Stone on Stone” , the droning undertones proving the perfect foundation for another fine vocal performance this time entwined with excellent guitar work from Graeme Lockett, the song having an ancient mystical ambience, blends seamlessly into “The Whims Of Queen Matilda” another folk tale that shines brightly.

   Opening with some dirty feedback guitar noise, “The Whitwell Dilemma” takes the album in another direction again, a dark and stormy piece that fits into the overall feel of the album whilst simultaneously sounding like it is a completely different band, layered vocals adding drama to the mainly instrumental tune. Rounding off the album, the electric guitar becomes sunnier as we return to the psych pop folk of  “The Dancing Ledge” another delightful tune to get you dancing, leading you back into the real world like the Cheshire Cat dressed as the Pied Piper.

    This is a rather fabulous album with plenty of variety hidden amongst its grooves, in a perfect world it would be released on vinyl with a great gatefold sleeve, maybe someone could make that happen, I would buy one. (Simon Lewis)



(KScope Records)

My first CD purchase after lockdown was done on the strength of the cover art and the word "chants" in the album title.

Unknown to me when I bought this debut album, Jonathan Hultén turns out to be a remarkably talented man: singer, instrumentalist and artist. This fabulous album comes in a beautiful package, adorned with woodcuts by the man himself, all of them evocative of strange deities and lonely forests.

But what of the music? Well, it's somewhere between folk and psych-folk, with a bit of Scandinavian melancholy thrown in. Hultén's voice is reminiscent of Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt on the "Damnation" and "Heritage" albums. The opening track 'A Dance In The Road' sets the scene - acoustic guitar, multi-tracked harmony vocals, and a strong melody. This is a man who can write melody as well as a good lyric. 'The Mountain' is more of a soft lament, featuring more terrific harmonised vocals. 'Next Big Day' was maybe designated the single; a more urgent, soulful vocal here, though the arrangement is still acoustic. And 'Wasteland' is another vocal masterpiece with a gorgeous melody.

The first of a pair of instrumentals follows: a full band cut, then a ¾ vocal workout without lyrics. 'Where Devils Weep' is another fine sung melody, before the second pair of instrumentals arrive. 'The Roses' features subtle synths, while album closer 'Deep Night' sounds big, with some deep voices but more of a baritone pitch on the main vocal. A great conclusion!

This is a really fine album that I've returned to a lot in recent weeks. Beautifully sung and arranged, it deserves your listening time. (Steve Palmer)




(LP/CD http://spacerockproductions.com/ )

Recorded in 2019/2020, this sprawling double LP is heavily influenced by the electronic end of the German Kosmiche Rock sound, inspiration coming from Tangerine Dream in particular. Originally Hasse Horrigmoe (Tangled Edge) was invited to add guitar to the already recorded electronics but this proved difficult so Hasse switched to Bass (hence the title), creating deep and otherworldly drones and pulses that act as the perfect foil for the electronic sounds created by Dr Space.

    Filling the whole of side one, the nineteen minute “Vermis Ex-Deus Primero” creeps and rumbles from the speakers a distorted, hypnotic bass surrounded by whispering, chattering electronics, bringing to mind the slow motion beauty of “Zeit”, music that needs listening to in order to bring out its textural qualities and subtle nuances.

     With a harsh electronic sequence running through it, “Bemushroomed” is a slightly more challenging listen, the stark alien ambience needing the listener to re-tune their ears before diving in at which point you discover an inner playfulness to the music especially towards the end when a whole basket of sequences and sounds gets emptied into the mix, creating a little squall of electronic chaos. Sticking with the theme, “Third Eye Into The 4th Dimension” is another deep space bleep fest, sounds tumbling over each, the piece slowly changing as different sounds come and go in a vaguely disorientating way, people who are prone to motion sickness shold approach with caution.

    Only available on the vinyl addition, “Rolling Quark Secretion” reminds me of the deep space ramblings of My Cat Is An Alien, the bass again a distorted glue (possibly a secretion) that hold it all together, the electronics dripping and oozing through the gaps, creating a dense, claustrophobic sound that is slowly lightened as brighter pulses and sequences push through like cosmic seedling rising from primordial ooze.

    Dark and pulsing, “Blackcloud”, is another dense cloud of noise, although way in the distance there are traces of rising melody that cut through the gloom, a cosmic sludge that has a ominous quality to it, unsure of where all this might lead until hints of light are created with bright pulses of rhythm and sequence, maybe there is hope after all.

     It's been a long journey but we have finally reached Side D, which kicks off with

“Bass Karma” a slice of lysergic dance music, possibly, Bass and sequencers entwined together as they climb towards the stars. Halfway there however this cosmic union begins to break apart, the sounds and tones change the music coming to rest on a faraway star to enjoy the views of Earthrise and a herbal cigarette.

   Finally “Lament For The Wicked” sounds like The Orb had they been German and 18 in 1973, all it needs is a few samples of chickens and Minnie Riperton.

    Lovers of seventies electronic music will find much to enjoy in this album, such sounds are always subjective and you often have to be in the mood, or have the time, to enjoy them but when you are then this one is a tasty box of kosmiche chocolates, dive in. (Simon Lewis)




(LP/Digital on Jazz in Britain)


(Digital on Jazz in Britain)


Guitarist par excellence Ray Russell has had a long and storied career, including session man, film and television soundtracks, and his own many music projects and collaborations.  He’s employed a wide stylistic range, though much of his work has centered on pushing the outer boundaries of jazz guitar past the limits.  Early in his career he joined the John Barry Seven, taking the chair abandoned by Vic Flick (the Vick Flick, who played the iconic James Bond theme guitar part), winning the audition by wowing with his chops while faking that he could read music (he would later learn).  Decades filled with great music later, the man is a legend.  Sadly, he’s not known nearly as well in the States as in Britain, which is a pity, and hopefully that will change.


Jazz in Britain has released the cracking Spontaneous Event – Live Vol. 1: 1967-69, credited to The Ray Russell Quartet.  The short-lived aggregation also included on piano Roy Fry for the bulk of the performances and Pete Lemer on one track, the great Dave Holland on bass for about half the tracks, and Ron Mathewson for the remainder, and Alan Rushton on drums.  Culled from broadcasts and taken largely from Ray’s archives, the sound quality is good, though slightly less than audiophile level, but this is splitting hairs, because this is truly a treasure trove of great stuff.


Many of the tracks also turn up on the Quartet’s fine studio recordings Turn Circle (1968) and Dragon Hill (1969), but these cuts really thrive in the live environment.  The style is trad jazz - guitar jazz that is - made for a smoky nightclub.  While Ray dutifully stays within the borders of the button-down format – barely - he is clearly straining at the reins to go exploring, that genre-bending which would mark the subsequent phases of his career.  His playing is virtuosic, expansive, fluid, melodic, and occasionally mind-blowing, such as on cuts like “Peruvian Triangle” and “Dragon Hill.”  He manages somehow to be astonishingly brilliant, but not a show-off.


I can’t say enough good things about pianist Roy Fry either.  His playing perfectly complements Russell, and his solos swing with a flamboyant groove, such as on the ten-minute title track.  His playing reminds me at times of more famous contemporaries Dave Brubeck and Vince Guaraldi.


Spontaneous Event is a wonderful time capsule, capturing an enduring legend live near the beginning of his career, kind of like those images that glimpse early galaxies formed after the Big Bang.


Now, advance forward only a short time later, to 1970.  Jazz in Britain has also released the single “Street War:  Live 1970” by Ray Russell’s Rock Workshop.  The Quartet was in the past, and the restless Russell formed another briefly-lived band, Rock Workshop.  If ‘Spontaneous Event’ was all smoke-filled night club trad jazz, with Ray getting his Wes Montgomery on in an edgy sort of way, “Street War” couldn’t be further distant.  Instead of Wes Montgomery, this is more Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain,” and Russell is Eddie Hazel, shredding from the depths of his soul.


The large band is somewhat similar to the “big horn section with guitar” bands that thrived at the time, such as the aforementioned Funkadelic, Chicago, Electric Flag, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Keef Hartley, etc.  I hear a bit of Frank Zappa in “Street War” as well.


Recorded live in London (no audience is heard), “Street War” is a six-minute blazing inferno ignited by rock, jazz and funk.  First the powerful five-piece horn section wails away.  A little over two minutes in, Russell enters, and if your only exposure to this giant was in his previous guise above, this will knock your socks off.  All loud fuzz, distortion and impossible by the laws of physics shredding mayhem, let me just put it this way:  the guy sure knows how to make an entrance.  “Street War” would be cut in the studio for the Rock Workshop’s 1971 album The Very Last Time, stretched from six to nine minutes, with Russell having even more time for his explosive soloing.


Jazz in Britain has teasingly released only the “Street War” single, not telling us whether there’s a full length live 1970 LP from Ray Russell’s Rock Workshop in store.  If “Street War” is any indication, prayer rugs are in order.


Russell has indicated there’s plenty more in the vaults (and Spontaneous Event is labeled Vol. 1 as if to emphasize the point).  And at 73, he shows no signs of slowing down either.  He has a new album, Fluid Architecture, due out in just a few weeks.  Here’s to Ray.


 (Mark Feingold)




(CD on Wisdom Twin)

Chris Wade made constructive use of his lockdown time by recording two releases, a full length and this six track mini album, wherein he leads his pseudonymous Dickensian duo through an engaging mix of reflective, relaxing acoustic ballads and propulsive, rocking toe tappers.

     Wade’s cover painting of a section of Palma de Mallorca’s vibrant Passeig Des Born and titles like ‘Come Outside And See It All’ and ‘On This Sweet Night So Clear’ lend a conceptual vibe to the work that is enhanced with Spanish-flavoured guitar flourishes (on tracks like ‘Gone Away’) reminiscent of recent releases by Green Pajamas frontman Jeff Kelly, who explored a similar cultural milieu on his Iberian-inspired When The World Was Younger and Beneath The Stars, Under The River.

     Wade is equally at home ripping off paint-peeling electric solos (‘Come Outside And See It’) and strumming along to lazy-afternoon, cloud-staring dreamaways (‘No Difference’, ‘Do You Know What’s Happening Here?), reining in excessive flourishes while softly tugging at our heartstrings for another round of memorable tunes to help us while away our self-imposed exiles awaiting better days ahead.

(Jeff Penczak)



(LP from https://cful.bandcamp.com/ and https://littlecloudrecords.com/)

One of the more seasoned names on Cardinal Fuzz’s fluid roster, Asteroid No4 can now number their releases in double digits. Yet it is to their credit that they’ve managed to keep their sound fresh and invigorating, clearly a band that still enjoy their craft. Maybe they should bottle it or else find a way of mailing it over The Pond (we could use a good news story from over there).

To the chase, then. The Asteroids have crafted a distinctly Anglophile sound celebrating indie/psychedelia from a bygone age predating Britpop. Northern Songs alternates between the winsomely radio friendly (if your station of choice happens to be Radio 6 Music) and the more dangerous reverb saturated under belly of psych revivalism. The approvingly titled ‘Paint It Green’ exemplifies the lighter and more commercial offerings, as Ocean Rain era Echo and The Bunnymen re-imagine ‘Heroes’ for the benefit of listeners marinated in Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Just Like Honey’. Elsewhere on the same continuum there are palpable attempts at teleporting us back to some point in the early-80s (‘All Mixed Up’ is the Teardrops’ lost classic stab at New Romanticism), while the jingle-jangle of ‘Northern Song’ and ‘Stardust’ is the dose of aural vitamin D that not even the most curmudgeonly of Terrascopic scribes could possibly quibble with (and as usual I tried my best)

All fair enough, but as is so often the case it’s the dark side that exerts the more irresistible gravitational pull. ‘Hand Grenade’ for instance will delight fans of The Cult of Dom Keller as the Asteroids mine the dark, dank recesses of reconditioned garage psych. ‘Juniper’ manages to find the middle ground with Nowhere-era Ride coupling with the Brian Jonestown Massacre in all their zonked pomp, with soaring guitar and vocal harmonies. However the star in this particular firmament is ‘Swiss Army Myth’, which billows forth a wall of sound shoegaze and blasted, almost can’t be arsed melodies which have been done a thousand times but still manage to floor me with the sucker punch no matter how often I see it coming. Verdict? A decent B+ kind of effort and don’t let no Ofqual algorithm devil tell you otherwise.

(Ian Fraser)


(LP from https://cful.bandcamp.com/ and https://feedingtuberecords.com/)

It’s a rule of thumb that if you come across a release jointly badged by Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube Records then grab it with both hands. Dark Country Magic proves hands down that the thumb rules.

They both like life/music partner acts too judging from recent collaborative output and while Portland, Maine’s Collette Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin (with assistance from their young daughter, here making her intentional debut) at first seem poles apart from “label mates” The Left Outsides, there are parallels, not least a similar lifespan (both acts formed around the mid noughties), distinct nods towards traditional music and a soft spot for the drone. Thereafter the similarity becomes hazy, as in Big Blood’s case what we have is a low tech cottage industry manufacturing sometimes uneasy yet strangely compelling combination of skewed country, American Gothic and psychedelic moonshine. Wheezy rather than breezy, their sound possesses a heady bewitching quality that brings to mind hedge row hairdos and, if not exactly horsehair then homespun garments and a larder that screams “homemade produce”.

From the outset (or get go, if you must) the public address-voiced ‘Oh My Child’ with its short wave feedback is appealingly disconcerting and the slightly spooked out ambience is ramped up a notch by the queasy ‘Creepy Crazy Time’ (the anguished sound of some irregular folk getting 16 Horse-powered), and on the ominous and see sawing ‘Ringer In The Fold’, a ghostly campfire incantation that may well Find The Cost of Freedom yet sounds so disconsolate that it’ll probably end up ruing the day it does. The most striking feature in all of this, though, is Kinsella’s expressive and compelling voice, no better showcased than on the stunning ‘Coming Home Pt III’ the delivery crystal clear and beseeching, coaxed by acoustic guitar and otherwise typically understated (almost to the point of indistinct) instrumentation. Add to this the atypically rousing ‘Song For Ro He Ge’ (a centre for experimental music in Maine, or so my scant research would suggest); some quirky little vignettes in the style of a backwoods Bongwater, and daughter Quinissa’s peculiar spoken word ‘Moo Hoo’ and really what is there not to like?.

Dark Country Magic? It certainly delivers what it promises. Much as we’d probably all like for this year to be done and dusted already it’s way too premature for end of year lists. Time will tell whether this one will find its way into some of the more discerning “best of” round-ups. Well without wishing to undermine what I sense may be a cherished outsider status I’m going to throw my 175 lbs behind an early “vote yes” campaign. All you need do is part with £16 of yours.

(Ian Fraser)



(LP/CD/Digital on Verve Forecast)


Ondara, also known as J.S. Ondara, is a Nairobi, Kenya-born singer-songwriter now living and working in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He may be young, but he’s an old-school acoustic guitar and harmonica troubadour.  With Bob Dylan as his hero, and inspired by a copy of ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ while still in Nairobi, he took up the Bard’s early style and even moved to Minnesota to pursue his musical dream.  His 2019 debut album Tales of America and its follow-up expanded edition won him many admirers, a Grammy nomination, and opening spots with the likes of Neil Young and The Lumineers.


Ondara’s second release, Folk n’ Roll Vol. 1:  Tales of Isolation, is [another] work born of the pandemic.  What makes his album unique in that growing artistic pantheon is its lyrical descriptiveness and its focus on the human toll of body, mind and spirit.  Whereas some other works are artistically vague, touching on loneliness and despair, Ondara is literal, and takes on the point-of-view of a variety of people who could be you or your next-door neighbor, all affected by the scourge in different ways.  It’s very much in the musical style of the early Dylan albums, but His Bobness would’ve never made a topical concept album like this; in that way, it’s more like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Phil Ochs’ All the News That’s Fit to Sing, or John Prine’s numerous touching tributes to everymen everywhere, before, ironically, the pandemic that this album’s about took him from us too soon.


Opener “Pulled Out of the Market” is about ordinary people losing their livelihoods to COVID-19.  Restaurant workers, factory workers, retail workers – they’ve all suffered, and Ondara laments at the end “oh, I’m not an essential worker.”


Ondara is very handy with the turn of a phrase, and “Mr. Landlord” is full of clever (but depressing) lyrics:  “If I sing you a tune/On the screen, on the Zoom/Will you give me at least until June?” or “Well I’m good with my hands/I can till your lands/Oh I’ve got no other way to heed your demands,” and finally “You can give me a task/To knit you a face mask/Oh I’ve got no other means for the next few months.”


“Lockdown on Date Night Tuesday” is another bittersweet, tragicomic tale of domestic heartbreak:  “I’m gonna put my grey suit on/If you will put your red dress on/I’m gonna meet you at the dining table.”  The emotionally devastating “From Six Feet Away” is from two points-of-view, an emergency room worker named Rita Lu, who tends to COVID patients and sometimes sees them die, and her lover back home who laments “I’ve already seen Tiger King three times through.”  They want to love each other and comfort the other’s soul, but must be content to do it “from six feet away.”


“Isolation Anonymous” is about an alcoholic’s spiraling descent.  “Shower Song” is another tragicomic personal examination.  The a capella track sounds like it was literally recorded in the shower, running water and all.  The character coming apart at the seams observes, “Oh, I’m so tired of being inside/Only friends allowed are cigarettes and rye/I think I’ve lost touch with what is, what was, what has been, and what’s going to be.”  “Pyramid Justice” uses a once sharp, but fading suit as a metaphor for one’s unraveling ideals of right and wrong as the lockdown wears on.


Speaking of writing the album, Ondara says “It just evolved over a couple of weeks.  I found myself in this mental rut because of the isolation.  I woke up one morning and basically started vomiting songs compulsively for three days.  That’s really how it felt.  I didn’t have any control over what was coming out.  I wasn’t trying to make a record, but just trying to get through the situation.”  My only nick against Folk n’ Roll Vol. 1 is that it needs editing.  At one hour’s length, it tends to repeat itself by about three-quarters in.  Three consecutive tracks in the back half totaling over 18 minutes saying I’m bored and depressed isn’t a way to entice listeners.  And final track, the ten and a half minute “Ballad of Nana Doline” about a good person who succumbs to the virus, is Ondara trying to do an extended Dylan “Visions of Johanna” type opus in which he loses his grip on the listener.


Still, Folk n’ Roll Vol. 1:  Tales of Isolation will be a long-standing reference both now and years from now when people want to understand the expressions of art and the human toll of this pandemic.  As Ondara says, “blame it on the pathogen.”


 (Mark Feingold)




Running out of movies and TV shows to watch, and love music?  I’d presume at least the latter or you wouldn’t be reading this.  Well, the good news is that the various TV streaming services have been stepping up their game and serving up plenty of fine music content if you know where to look.  Here’s a roundup of some of the best ones out there that’ve come out this year.


Once Were Brothers:  Robbie Robertson and The Band is a fine documentary, lovingly made, based on Robbie’s autobiography.


Laurel Canyon:  A Place in Time revisits an oft-filmed subject, but does the best job yet showcasing the artists who were there and made the Canyon so special.


Miles Davis:  Birth of the Cool came out in the months before all life as we know it changed, but is an engrossing documentary about this complicated, brilliant man.


Gordon Lightfoot:  If You Could Read My Mind is an endearing look at one of the most wonderful, yet underrated singer-songwriters of our time.

Creem:  America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine peers at an interesting time capsule in rock journalism.  I haven’t yet seen the adjacent rock magazine doc Melody Makers:  The Bible of Rock ‘n Roll, but it’s out there too, and I can’t wait to fire it up.


Vinyl Nation is about the vinyl revival.  The depiction of the gargantuan annual Austin Record Convention was news to me, and I’m afraid is going to become a rather costly pilgrimage when all this nonsense is done.  And blood-filled albums, anyone?


John Was Trying to Contact Aliens is a 16-minute Netflix documentary about a unique, but totally beautiful person who beamed awesome music into outer space for aliens to hear.


The Library Music Film is from 2018, but, like most of these movies, the wonderful doc will make you fall in love with its subjects and want to buy every album they made, an especially costly endeavor in this case.


Long Strange Trip is from 2017, but the six-part Grateful Dead documentary really struck a chord with me, and made me love these icons and their music even more.


Jazz on a Summer’s Day.  This one is my favorite of the bunch.  The 1959 film about a day at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, was conceived as more of an impressionistic tone poem than a documentary.  The stunning 4K restoration blossoms with several immortal legends from Louis Armstrong to Mahalia Jackson to Chuck Berry (imagine a pristine 1958 performance of “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and with a clarinet solo from one of the jazz players onstage!).  The shots of crowd members lazily taking it all in in the fashions of the day reminded me lovingly of my family’s old home movies.


 (Mark Feingold)



(LP/CD self-released on nickperrimusic.com)


Sun Via takes you back to a part of the 70s when pop-rock artists ruling the radio airwaves were often also guitar gunslingers (or bands who had one), like Rick Derringer on “Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo,” as well as T. Rex, Cheap Trick, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Dwight Twilley and countless others.  Philadelphia-based rock journeyman Nick Perri has been making music for nigh on twenty years, in bands and playing in artists’ touring bands, such as that of Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell.  His latest project, Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves, has Nick firmly in control of his own destiny for the first time, and it’s a celebration of feel-good rock.


Perri is in somewhat similar musical territory as Michael Rault, those bouncy 70s powerpop songs.  However, where Rault has embraced Macca-like tunefulness with clever lyrics, Perri goes after toe-tapping guitar struts.  Nowhere is that more evident than lead single “Feeling Good.”  It’s a funky, good-time rock anthem with some fine guitar work by Perri.  In fact, Perri plays splendid rock solos on just about every song on Sun Via, earning praise from no less than the Gibson guitar company!  “Feeling Good” also has some nice squiggly synths and Hammond organ by Underground Thief Justin DiFebbo.  And as for the party-like sentiment of “Feeling Good,” Perri says he wrote it at a time when he was decidedly not feeling food, when he was going through some tough times, as a sort of pep talk to himself and anyone else who could use one.


The Underground Thieves, all old Philly friends of Perri, are one tight backing band, and give Nick the support he needs.  Besides the aforementioned keyboardsman Justin DiFebbo, Anthony and Michael Montesano provide great backing vocals throughout, and there are some sharp multi-part harmonies on Sun Via.


Other standout tracks include “Everybody Wants One,” which combines a stomping rocker seemingly with the backing chorus from Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances,” crowned by Perri’s scorching guitar.  Also, the album’s one “serious” track, “Daughters and Sons” is a plea for civility in these hurtful times.  “5.0.1” is a live instrumental, and showcases Perri’s fierce fret fingerwork, and the solid backing of The Underground Thieves.  Closer “White Noise” could’ve been the love child of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and Donnie Iris’s “Ah! Leah!”


No deep thinking is required to take in Sun Via.  It’s not that kind of record – just put it on and have some fun.  On the subject of releasing a light, upbeat collection like Sun Via in the middle of a pandemic and other unpleasantness, Perri says “I’m well aware of the heaviness of the situation we’re in.  I’m aware of the trying times that people all over the world are going through.  I’m living through it with everyone.  It’s okay to simultaneously be conscious of what is going on in the world while allowing yourself even five minutes a day to take a walk or do something with a family member.  Just allow yourself to feel good.”

Sun Via is easily enjoyable, ultra-catchy pop-rock from an outstanding musician.  Nick Perri has paid a lot of dues, and will hopefully reap some benefits from a world that could use some “Feeling Good.”

 (Mark Feingold)

KORB – II (LP on Weird Beard Records)

As might be gleaned from the title, this is Korb’s second release following their debut in 2018 on their own Dreamlord Recordings label. Jonathan Parkes and Alec Wood originally began their musical association in a jazz quartet but a shared love of Krautrock and experimenting with vintage instruments led them to collaborate on a number of projects of which Korb is one.

The record kicks off with ‘Dirty Robots’, a widescreen dark and brooding space rocker with a heavy shuffling groove and waves of electric noise all glued together by an eastern tinged riff. ‘Hollow Earth’ takes a more kosmische direction with a solid motorik beat at its heart and a trance like haze of cosmic electrogroove goodness that takes time to catch its breath but never loses its dancing shoes. ‘Megastructure’ raises the dance factor a notch with an infectious electro pop beat from which some fine spacey adventures in cosmic guitar and synth interplay jump out to test the listeners ability to dance and listen at the same time. ‘Korbs Next Android’ again hits the spot with a quirky off kilter rock and roll inspired motorik beat and an urgent Kraftwerk caught on speed camera feel to the synthesised layers above. ‘Tape to Tape’ has an almost Zeppelinesque rhythm and momentum but with the energetic synths and fuzzy guitar taking the sound into a cosmic prog world of foot tapping and head nodding pleasure. ‘The Beyond’ has a deep and brooding kosmische sound with a touch of widescreen epic and indeed an elegant quality that has big screen sci-fi or arthouse thriller written all over it. ‘Hidden Temple’ takes the sound back down from the heights to make more use of interwoven minimal melodies, drones and rhythms in a cleverly layered and complex piece that slowly builds its own drama and intensity with strong post rock leanings albeit with space rock and kosmische colours. ‘Night Vision’ completes this fine record and has a rich, dark sound with a subtle touch of laid back funk in the drums and bass. The swelling synths have a gothic elegance that isn’t unlike the sweeping sounds of Sigur Ros or The Cure at their most cinematic and orchestral.

This is a wonderful record that travels the spaceways between space rock, prog and post rock whilst calling in to pick up a touch of electro pop groove on the way to create an enthralling soundscape that can be lush and epic one minute and intricate and minimal the next. It wears its influences well and the experimental nature and indeed jazz grounding of Korb brings a lot to the table in terms of pushing sound boundaries whilst keeping a focus on rhythm and melody. It’s a very visual and evocative sound and tailor made for soundtracks to movies and television programmes that have yet to be made. In the meantime I can recommend you pick up this record and sit back, dream up your own visuals whilst nodding your head and tapping your feet at the same time. Remember, multitasking can be fun.

(Francis Comyn)

BARRINGTONE – BONANZA PLAN (LP/CD/DL on Onomatopeoia Records)

Bonanza Plan is the debut release from London based Barringtone whose previous incarnation was post-punk electro pop band ‘Clor’. They released a well received album back in 2005 that adventurously straddled genres including electro pop and angular post punk with an experimental edge to their sound and members of the band have played in a range of diverse settings since. 

Barringtone take that spirit of adventure and diversity forward on Bonanza Plan which certainly doesn’t sit still long enough for anyone to pigeonhole it. ‘Foxes & Brimstone’ has a touch of math rock and prog complexity allied to an early XTC frantic melodicism which works really well as a statement of intent and also an energetic and captivating opening shot. ‘Gold Medal Vision’ follows with an urgent stop/start riff and a post-punk infused prog feel in its jerky but strangely melodic instrumental gymnastics. ‘Dream Boys’ takes the energy levels down a little, but only a little and has a crisp almost jazz fusion quality with a touch of post rock off kilter melody in the quirky choral vocals. I was at times reminded of bands like Jaga Jazzist who move between and bring together influences very successfully. ‘Into The Woods’ has a jaunty electronic melody which lives in the space between math rock and Krautrock. ‘The New New’ is another instrumental workout that once again features a driving backbeat with a slightly more metallic and punchy progressive melodicism before returning to a quirky vocal piece with ‘Emily Smallhands’ where eccentric melodies and vocal arrangements and punchy psychedelic guitar pop come together nicely. ‘Feverhead’ most overtly presses the electro pop buttons but again incorporates interesting guitar colours giving it a rockier edge. ‘Technollipop’ takes inspiration from the more experimental end of jerky post-punk pop and once more the early XTC sound comes to mind but in the context of a math rock instrumental canvas. To finish ‘Pet Gazelles’ in a sense brings together much of the eclecticism of the album in one short burst of energetic rhythm and riffing that incorporates snatches of frantic vocals, dance beats and sharp time changes but all the while keeping a melodic core however much the tune twists and turns.

I like this record for its eclecticism and ambition which in lesser hands would just be a jumble of ideas and a confused listening experience. Barringtone have a wide range of influences and clear instrumental ability and they have used their experience wisely to make the album hang together and work really well. It’s a record full of hooks, sharp bends and handbrake turns and none lead us up a dead end. If you think post punk power pop, math rock and proggy fusion have no place in the same song then think again as Barringtone have made it fun.

(Francis Comyn)