Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Jack Savoretti's 'Before the Storm'

This English/Italian singer songwriter has completed his third album, 'Before the Storm' which is set for release sometime this summer. Following a false start to his career with the first album given away as a free download by gigwise.com, the musician hopes to regain recognition through this relatively upbeat and a well composed album.
Vocally, Savoretti has a slightly softer tone than Paulo Nuttini with the occasional rough edge ('The Proposal') that reminds me of Paul Weller ('Last Call'). His genre sways between country (‘The Propsal') and elements of rock and pop. 
My personal favourites on the album consist of; 'Take Me Home' (with its soothing vocal line and ‘friendly’ guitar parts), 'Last Call' (with its jazz influences), 'Lifetime' (a Jack Johnson-esque track) and 'Knock Knock'.
With songs such as 'Changes', where the build up is paramount, there's an excellent use of 'cello and harrowing vocals that I thought from the start may be a tad of a boring track, but ultimately ended up proving me wrong. It's heartfelt, emotive and stronger than I first assumed. I think this is a strong metaphor for the album in whole and do consider it quite the ‘grower’.
As good as it is to hear fresh, new guitar music in such a heavily saturated dance market at the moment, there isn’t much to mark Savoretti out from the crowd though.  As a maturer songwriter and performer you can certainly hear it in his songs, voice and especially lyrics "You'll find love, just wait your turn", "I hear songs in the key of sadness" (The proposal). As a positive, this adds layers and well practiced musicianship that’s perhaps missed by other, younger musicians such as Ed Sheeran or an early James Morrison. If there were more anthemic tunes on the record I would be more inclined to see him live and be encouraged to await another album. For the meantime I shall savour this album for mutual, social situations and easy listening on a Sunday afternoon or a hectic commute to help focus everything...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Honey Ryder's album teaser

British country/rock trio Honey Ryder have distributed their album sampler prior to their album release due this coming summer. With tracks worthy of release such as singles 'Marley's Chains' and 'You Won't Find Me' on the album, the band prove themselves to be a tight, well constructed and matured group. They have a strong grasp of genres including rock, pop and country as well as good songwriting skills and use of strong harmony and melody.

I'm usually quite skeptical of British musicians performing and writing in such an American dominated genre (of country), but the band have done it well and have still managed to incorporate elements of British rock (such as the use of classical strings as opposed to a fiddle in 'World's Way'). With influences including Sheryl Crow, Oasis and The Beatles however, the band was set from the start to include a real mix of musical genres. The result is a soft Corrs combined with Lady Antebellum and Athlete or Keane all fused together.

The track 'Marley's Chains' is my favourite because of its build and typical country sound. With fantastic harmonies and up-beat 12 string acoustic guitar sound, the track really stands out on an otherwise relatively average album. The anthemic opening vocal for the verses really captures the ear of the listener. 'You Cant Say That' is a condense and well co-ordinated song. With typical instrumentation, Shania Twain like fills on guitar amongst the predictable melodies, the build up the chorus is strong whilst the chorus itself is quite catchy.

Aside from perhaps 'World's Way' which includes the occasional catchy vocal line, other tracks 'The Orange Tree' (which sounds like perhaps a rom-com soundtrack) and 'You Wont Find Me' are relatively weak tracks with not as much as direction or perhaps outstanding elements to the song that attract me to buy the album in full on release.

Like Honey Ryder? Then you might like Alabama Shakes for more of a rock feel, for a soloist country rocker then try Marching Donald or for more of an indie vibe then give Ben Howard a go...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Alabama Shakes' debut album 'Boys and Girls'

Another week has flown by in the land of musikalische and I haven't had much time to review anything!! Luckily, this album is only a week old...so I pray you forgive me.

The southern-state rock group Alabama Shakes release their debut album 'Boys and Girls'. With roots in rhythms and blues, traditional rock, progressive rock and jazz the trio have music which includes laid back vibes, catchy hooks, indulgent riffs and vocals reminiscent of early Kings of Leon. On top of that you get treated to influences by Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones. A 'dusty' approach to the production works utter wonders (which is most noticeable on Heavy Chevy). The vocals sound crisp enough for today's audience but authentic and reminiscent of a rusty 60s-70s rock 'n' roll fused with Motown's real feel. The guitars are also perfectly produced with a combination of authenticity and full of character.

The distinctive single 'Hold On' which as been flaunted around extensively by both Xfm and Radio One (Fearne' Cotton's big thing a few weeks ago) is catchy and is an outstanding track with easy going rhythms, a recogniseable guitar riff and laid back bass. The build of vocals throughout the track is fantastic with the listening inevitably ending up shouting 'WAIT!' towards the end with the singer (and most likely out of time and followed with a big neck-jerk/head bash on the drum fills).

With tracks 'You Aint Alone', 'Boys and Girls', 'I Found You', 'Be Mine', and (the brilliant interlude and rhythmically delightful) 'Goin' to the Party' with their jazz chord sequences and bluesy vocals, the band stand apart just that bit from their southern rock and roll contemporaries The Black Keys. 'I Found You' is a feel good track with uplifting wah wah guitar, passion, an excellent build up for the chorus, release for the verse, chord bashing at end on keys and is overall refreshingly familiar. 'You Aint Alone', with its 6/8 time and swung rhythms has everything there that screams at you recognition, tradition and full of roots. But the application of rock vocals and harsher than usual guitar spikes make it stand out from a-typical blues.

'Typically rock' tracks include 'Hold On', 'Heavy Chevy', 'Hang Loose' and 'On Your Way' where the fills and guitar lines remind me very much of Kings of Leon. 'Hang Loose' has a care-free guitar line that keeps the rock in the song whilst the layers build up later to include a brilliant saloon style piano part. With lines like "Don't you ever worry about a thing/Don't be your own worse enemy" it's impossible not to chill out when listening to this one. Cider. BBQ and sunshine. That's what I want when I hear this song. This also applies to 'Rise To the Sun' which is championed by the inclusion of an organ part.

I imagine the band to be spectacular live and have already pencilled them in on my top list to see at Bestival this summer. Favourite tracks off the album are; 'Hold On', 'Heavy Chevy', 'You Aint Alone, Goin' To the Party', 'On your Way' and 'Be Mine'.

Like Alabama Shakes? Try The Black Keys and Marching Donald.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Ryan Davies' debut album 'Marching Donald'

Folk rocker Ryan Davies launches his debut album under his pseudonym 'Marching Donald'. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and an impressive growler (steady on), this passionate musician demonstrates his undoubted guitar talent and extensive song writing skills.

So he's not compatible to any Ed Sheeran or up and coming Lewis Watson of the acoustic singer/songwriter variety but is more comparable to rockers and undoubtedly his influences; Bob Dylan ('Love & Theft'), with AC/DC like rhythms and a elements of Paul Weller thrown in for good measure. Suitable contemporaries of today to compare him with include Jonny Flynn and Belle and Sebastian.

Production here is not top priority with Davies as a starting out musician on undoubtedly a low budget, limited hours, lack of multi-tracking and in an amateur studio. There are, in parts peaks and troughs. Generally, there's a perfect balanced between guitar and vocal parts ('Author of the World', 'Touch of Blue') and an excellent level of reverb ('Touch of Blue' and 'Creeping Thistle'). 'Release Me' has an addictive and emotionally charged vocal line that is obviously heartfelt and very emotive. There's a few out of tune squarks, but at least The Donald doesn't have the audacity to use auto-tuner which puts the finger up to current acts such as Will.I.Am and captures a raw feel, which let's face is is what guitar music is about.

'Author of the World' introduces us to the album with an up-beat pace, chords full of character and honest lyrics. Catchy, impressionable, simple and effective. Heavier rock-orientated tracks 'Praise for your Portrait', 'Drowning Appetite' and 'Valley Skies' include passionate but distinctive vocals. Occasionally forced in parts, but necessary in others, such as the impressionable 'Praise to your Portrait' which helps define the vocal line. Otherwise these three really stand out as something that pushes Davies away from the ever so smoochy Sheeran and towards a maturer approach to singer/songwriting that doesn't always include the a-typical contrast between tentative vocals or pedals and loops. 'Valley Skies' are owed much recognition for its build of tension, alternative takes on each verse and the break down towards the end of the track which I can vouch for is always impressive live.

Softer tracks 'Touch of Blue', 'Grindstone', 'Creeping Thistle' and 'Duvet Day' show a softer side to Davies and demonstrate his instrumental playing as not just a rhythm guitarist but also his capabilities as the lead with interesting riffs and fills ('Touch of Blue', 'Creeping Thistle' and 'My Book'). The ironic 'Touch of Blue' has beautiful melodies and a delightful ending. Lyrics "You're just so bright, with a touch of blue" and "Just when you think your thread is bare, some harmless breeze comes and throws you off your chair" particularly warm the heart. 'Creeping Thistle' is reminiscent of southern-state melodies with accents on the vocal line, a plucked guitar line and twists or hammering on throughout. Doubling up on guitar and melody vocals are quite simply charming on 'Duvet Day'.

Best tracks include 'Praise to Your Portrait', 'Release Me' (with it's brilliant chord sequences), 'Valley Skies and 'Creeping Thistle'.

The album launches Friday 6th April across many online retailers including amazon, iTunes and napster. Follow him @MarchingDonald and keep up with gigs and his antics also at facebook.com/marchingdonald OR head to marchingdonald.co.uk for a FREE download.

Like Marching Donald? Why not check out: Ben Howard and Lianne La Havas