Some new Americana I've been digging

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 12:19 25/03/2014

On Sunday I had a chat on Radio Active's Americana show with long-serving, great music-playing host Shady. He'd first invited me onto the show about two years ago, we bump into each other at gigs almost all the time. And there's been much to and fro going on - a slow exchange ofRobert Ellisnumbers and emails and then, because it's Wellington, one day I bump into him outside my house, turns out he's pals with a neighbour.

So it's on. 

The brief was - well - brief. Bring some country/Americana tunes in to play. And we'd have a chat.

I had a blast.

There was a suggestion to bring some of my favourite Americana music from across the last decade - but that was far too hard, I narrowed it right down to a few things I've been listening to a lot just recently.

First up I played the opening song from Robert Ellis' new album.
Laura Cantrell
I love this guy. I haven't always. The first two albums suggested an artist still growing, still working out where he wanted to be, how he was going to get there. But his latest, The Lights From The Chemical Plant, wow! Has to be my favourite album of the year (this week). So many great releases flooding in already, but I've got a feeling about this one, it'll be like other - recent - years where the Paul Buchanan and Bill Fay and Sebastien Tellier albums have been the ones to return to, just that little bit more special...

I know I've already mentioned the new Laura Cantrell album recently (as part of this blog) but I'm still pretty wrapped up in that so that was next on the menu. The closing track from that album. Love her voice, the playing on the record - her writing, the production. Everything about it seems just right but it's never too slick, just the right kind of perfect.

And then it was to the debut album from The Haden Triplets. Pretty hooked on this too, they doThe Haden Tripletsold country and close-harmony singing, the triplets are the daughters of jazz legend Charlie Haden, sisters to Josh Haden of Spain (the latest Spain album is super-good too by the way). But this Haden Triplets album is very cool - tunes from back in the 50s, a bit of Kitty Wells. And then on to covering Nick Lowe...it's produced by Ry Cooder and he plays on every track. So it's worth investigating simply because you're a Ry Cooder fan. (And you should be).

Then it was to I'll Trade You Money For Wine by Robbie Fulks from his 2013 album, Gone Away Backward. This is a great record, and one that got me going back through Fulks' catalogue, such a great songwriter.

I also played a Drive-By Truckers song, an older song, not one from the band's latest album. Although I'm still finding new favourites on that record - and still finding new favourites across their back-catalogue.

There was time for a couple more from Robert Ellis - so I played his cover of Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years. What a great version! And also the title track from the Ellis album, Robbie Fulksa beautiful song. His voice is stunning, the guitar playing is inventive - interesting; it seems to come from jazz players and improvisers, his music has this otherworldly quality, but somehow there's a stateliness to it too - in and around the ethereal. It seems to sit in its own world, occupying its own space, existing it its own time.

And that was the hour up.

Had a bit of a chat about how I came to a lot of country music - including mention, of course, of Johnny Cash. A warning, don't rush out and buy the brand new (posthumous) Johnny Cash album. That single, cleverly,Johnny Cashcarefully chosen, might do well in selling you the album. But really it's a turkey. Should have stayed buried. But no, time to milk a bit of cash from Cash. Obviously. You have been warned.

So, what new albums or artists in the Americana sounds and style have caught your ear?

And see anything here you'd like to hear?

Postscript: I'll write more about the upcoming Record Store Day soon but for now the list of exclusive Record Store Day vinyl reissues and new releases is available here. See anything you like there? Any must-haves?

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