What is the difference between Folk/Alt Folk/Americana/Blues Rock etc? I had seen The Lone Bellow at the Sage Americana Festival so they have to be easy to class as ‘Americana’ don’t they?…… but that was before I listened to this album! Zachary Williams, Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin; under the excellent production of The National’s Aaron Dressner in his NY studio have produced in HALF MOON LIGHT an album to match their initial offering a few years ago. I Can Feel You Dancing could have come from a Bears Den album as the brass section slides into the middle of a very softly sung opener to reveal the first of their intricate harmonies. An especially song is the poignant August; a nod to Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson after his very sad death following a bout of depression; yet only months earlier I had seen him lead a superb set – a very good reminder to a much missed singer. Having originally ‘filed’ this under Americana, there are clear signs of a gospel and almost evangelical leaning on several tracks just to demonstrate the ‘genre’ concerns I have and are still there after a few listens. Zach’s very powerful voice comes to the fore on Count On Me, with the harmonies I mentioned earlier coming in on Was It Clean; and Kanene makes the most of a fine drum backing on Just Enough To Get By. Favourites for me are the opener Can Feel You Dancing and Illegal Immigrants where Kanene dragged me into believing I had come across a Phoebe Bridgers track by mistake, but in all honesty I could probably have picked at least another couple to earn the Best Track accolade. On first listening this was a 7 but after listening to it during my daily morning walks (no interruptions) it has to be a very solid 8/10. I would have loved to hear Kanene Pipkin taking a major role on more tracks, but if that’s my only gripe I can’t complain; although it would have been nice to see them on a longer UK Tour to accompany this.
Review courtesy the ‘Original Rocking Magpie’; Bill Redhead.
I love it when every now and then I come across an album that’s unexpectedly fun, rocking, and even daring. Dirty Power, by the band Girls on Grass, is this season’s winner in that category. Guitar-fueled songs with driving bass and pounding drums aren’t exactly a new thing in the world of “Americana,” but Barbara Endes writes and sings with such self-assurance and bravado that you have to sit up and pay attention. “I’m in like with a chick who likes good music” she declares in “Friday Night'” and the interplay between the guitars is so seamless and thrilling you have no choice but to like it, too. The first track, “Down at the Bottom” is part power pop, part Bakersfield, with smooth harmonies, and quite a bit of intended cheekiness amongst the twin guitar attack. “Into the Sun” reminds me of L.A. band That Dog in a myriad of good ways, while “Street Fight” is easily the equal of the toughest of Jen Trynin’s nineties tunes. With songs such as “Commander in Thief” and “Because Capitalism” it’s not hard to tell which side of the political fence they’re on and Endes happily pulls no punches while never forgetting that it’s easy to bitch and moan in a song, more difficult to make it rock out effortlessly while doing so, and then to seriously rock out. One thing I rarely get enough of, if done right, are instrumentals. Maybe it was all those years listening to surf rock in my Kentucky bedroom, the nearest beach hundreds of miles away, but it’s always been my opinion that a good instrumental tells a story just as much as a traditional song with lyrics does. And did I mention that there’s not just one rocking instrumental on this album, but TWO? Two solid rock instrumental gems that convey the fun this band must be having on stage. Their website tags them as “cosmic country surf garage” and that’s about as apt as it gets.