First impressions can be deceiving. Just one look at Black TarPoon and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d be about to experience an intensive stoner rock band, or maybe a massive riff-based juggernaut not too dissimilar to The Workhorse Movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. On their 2021 release ‘The Thad EP’ these Texan musicians go deep into a roots based sound where drawling vocals mesh with a country-blues groove. Their choice of band name – an anti-heroin reference – lends a certain sense of unease and Their cutting lyrics lend a further edge, but otherwise, their acoustic based sounds are surprisingly accessible. …And very retro in a 90s style.
“Time catches up to you…and comes for us all” sings Matty James Cassidy during the chorus of ‘After All’, an instant highlight from his 2020 full length release ‘Old Souls’. It’s a sentiment that really seems to fit, as for the artist formerly known as Matty James, it seems he’s had nothing but time to reach this point in his career. Over a series of independent releases, he’s honed his mix of rock, blues and country to the point where this album genuinely sounds like a work calling out for greater attention. For anyone previously aware of Cassidy’s work, it’s a record that will more than entertain and thanks to a stronger sounding band and a much better production value, he’s turned in some of his best songs to date. ‘Old Souls’ has very clearly been made on a bigger budget, although fans should not worry that “bigger budget” somehow translates into “smoother material”, or be a case of that old chestnut “selling out” (a favourite war cry by record buyers who fear change and aren’t musicians themselves).
It’s been well known for a while that Molly Tuttle is one of the biggest and brightest talents among young artists in the Americana scene, but the couple of tracks that have been released ahead of her covers album shows how well she’s able to adapt her talents to other people’s material. We’ve already heard her interpretations of Grateful Dead and Neil Young songs, but here is something unexpected…and quite special.
Stalwarts of the Americana scene, The Jayhawks have gone through a lot of changes over the years, both stylistically and in terms of line-up, but one thing that can usually be relied upon is their ability to release a great album. From their early records full of country influences, to the more commercial ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ from 1992, to the power pop infused ‘Sound of Lies’ and Byrds-ish ‘Rainy Day Music’, each record often borders upon essential listening. Even 2011’s slightly more downbeat ‘Mockingbird Time’ – marking the very brief return of founder member Mark Olson after a sixteen year absence – represented a band somewhere near the top of their game.
In 2015, Philadelphia’s Travel Lanes released ‘Let’s Begin To Start Again’, a hit and miss album that mixed a few pop and power pop influences with several rootsier John Mellencamp, John Hiatt and Connells styled moods. A few wobbly vocals let the side down from time to time, but there were a few decent tracks to be found within. Five years down the road, their third album only offers eight tracks in a very succinct twenty nine minutes, but its concise approach very much suits the band. Compared to previous Travel Lanes works, ‘On’ is far more consistent in terms of quality.