Somewhere between the works of Martin Rossiter, Old House Playground, The Bad Seeds and…The Connells lies the music Morning Bells. Purveyors of the finest thoughtful indie pop/rock, this Raleigh based collective is perhaps a little restless on their ‘Fall From The Velvet Sky’ EP. The five featured tracks wander a fine line between the gothic and soulful, between the honest and mournful, before ending up somewhere unexpected. The band’s way of working on the hoof and creating music borne within a moment means that sometimes, stylistically speaking, there’s a huge variation in sound. However, whether tapping into sad sounds or something a little more lively, they often create interest from the beauty of their unease.
Best known as being one of the creative forces behind Nashville’s The Great Affairs, Denny Smith is a prolific songwriter. At any given time, he’s stockpiling ideas for new songs and recording demos. He even seems to instinctively know whether the song idea is destined for his main band, a solo album, or even a side project where oddities ultimately end up.
Various stripped back ideas formed his first solo album ‘An Overnight Low’ in 2016. It was a record that appeared to reach an audience of twelve people. His second solo record, ‘From The Dark’ gathers more introspective material that wouldn’t all fit with the Great Affairs mould of straight up roots rock, but fans of that band will surely find an easily recognisable voice within the album’s ten songs. As its title suggests, ‘From The Dark’ is an album that often seems concerned with a future unknown and of life’s unexpected wobbles. The songs are often presented in a way that its messages come from up close and, in Smith’s own words, are “stripped of artifice”. Although he says the album isn’t about story-telling in the strictest sense, more a case of “getting things off [his] chest as unself-conciously as possible”, From The Dark’ is personal, but rarely feels like a voyage into abject misery. Even at its most heart-wrenching, it appears thoughtful and reflective; you won’t find anything here that’s as laid barely as, say, Mike Viola’s heartbreaking ‘Painkillers’ or Joni Mitchell’s ‘Little Green’.
Combining the talents of singer-songwriter Stephen Smith and Bellyachers guitarist Brian Mello, The Morning Line are a jangling power pop/melodic alt-rock band heavily indebted to 90s sounds. They claim to appeal to fans of Ted Leo, Teenage Fanclub and a whole bunch of stuff in between and just one listen to their 2019 album ‘North’ is all it takes to realise that not only do they recycle a lot of influences with love, but every so often, they’re more than capable of hitting the listener with a very catchy chorus.
Ten albums into a long career, singer-songwriter Josh Ritter really managed to strike gold when writing ‘Fever Breaks’. As he says himself, the songs were “reflective of the times in which they were written”, and that’s something that very much gives the record a very personal quality. Also, by teaming up with the legendary Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, the album comes with an incredibly earnest musical backdrop that almost feels timeless. It’s a record that feels very much like a musical travelogue, moving through several moods across its ten songs. In a way that instantly grabs the attention, Ritter opens this platter with a couple of genuinely great alt-country rockers, giving both himself and the 400 Unit plenty of opportunity to release some energy.
Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has a new album out at the end of April. Recorded in collaboration with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, ‘Fever Breaks’ is one of his finest records to date. Taking in a couple of rockers, a track heavily indebted to moody Springsteen and a whole world of Ritter’s own alt-country charm, it’s a record we think fans will love.