= January 2015 =  
Malcolm Morley
Dodson & Fogg
Chris Richards
The Carousels
Garry Masters
United Bible Studies
Ryan Lee Crosby


(EP from Shagrat records)

To be perfectly honest, former Help Yourself frontiersman Malcolm Morley could probably sing the contents of a discarded shopping list and still be on the receiving end of plaudits and accolades from yours truly. Quite why he’s not yet a national treasure is a mystery to me, but then again given that much of what I hold dear seems doomed to be similarly overlooked I’m probably not the best person to quiz on the wherefores.

Opening song ‘East Virginia [Dark Hollow]’ is despite being a traditional song (covered in the past by artists as diverse as Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and the Grateful Dead) classic Morley material, folky Americana sung in his most lovestruck plaintive tone with a strummed guitar to the fore and some gorgeous fiddle playing in support from Caitlin Suilibhan. Next up is ’Summerlands’ and with a flick of the skirts and a swirl of the strings Morley transports us straight to Andaluthia, the flamenco guitar flashing dark eyes of longing and suggestiveness. The second side opens with another lovely slice of Americana backed by bows and strings, this time a cover of Frank Proffitt’s ‘Poor Man’, a highlight of Morley's live performances of late, and closes with Morley’s own, achingly beautiful, ‘Where the River Bends’, a poignant tribute to his late partner, Jane. Arguably a highlight of the collection, the song is up there with classic Morley songs of the past like the sublime ‘Passing Through’ (a song I already chose for my own funeral service, not that I'm planning on using it just yet) and ‘Many Ways of Meeting’.

Go find this lovely little ten-inch EP from Shagrat Records with its John Hurford artwork, in itself a badge of honour, and let’s hope for more of the same soon. (Phil McMullen)



(CD on Wisdom Twins)

Following an adventurous, sometimes comical turn aided and abetted by ex-Young One Nigel Planer, Chris Wade (aka Dodson and Fogg) returns to more ruminative pastures with a set of melancholic folk tunes exploring love, loss, moving, leaving loved ones behind, etc. Change is not necessarily always for the good – when people you’ve played with as little children all of a sudden move away…when a loved one relocates for job or money…the passing of time and the increase in distances between friends and lovers is always a hard fact of life that isn’t always easy to accept and move on. And When The Light Ran Out has an air of finality about it – after the lighting and loving disappears, one is always left in the dark. Dealing with it is the subject of Wade’s seventh album, an album that itself almost didn’t happen, as Wade entertained ideas of sunsetting the project and… moving on himself.

            But we’re glad he decided to give it another go, albeit without usual contributions from our beloved Celia Humphris and Allison O’Donnell, who have graced most of his previous releases. This time out it is just Wade and his brother Andy (contributing a sprightly banjo), sitar stalwart Ricky Romaine, and the occasional flute flourish from Georgia Cooke (her fluttering touches on ‘Straight To The Sun’ are heartbreaking). But this is mostly Wade’s show and it clearly demonstrates that while his accomplices may help flesh out his musical ideas, he’s still the master of his domain.

            Interesting new elements include a fabulous Jew’s harp solo (!) to add an eerie air to opener ‘We Are Going Home’, tender, navel-gazing instrumentals (‘New Autumn’, the sitar-drenched ‘Sister Storm’), a gypsy jive to the title track, and the other-worldly, hallucinogenic Tyrannosaurus Rexian swirl of the pleading ‘I Never Want You To Go’. But Wade’s skillful, perfectly measured soloing (as on ‘Down Down (The Rain Will Fall)’) never overshadows his songs, and, like Nick Drake, the melancholia is never maudlin. The vibe is mellow throughout, favourably reminiscent of Ramases.

            That Wade continues to deliver such strong material at such an alarming pace (seven albums in less than three years) is a testament to one of our finest talents, a talent you owe it to yourself to thoroughly investigate. He’s even running a special on his website to help catch you up with his back discography!

(Jeff Penczak)



(LPs from www.sugarbushrecords.com)

Hailing from Detroit, Chris Richards seems to have nailed that classic Power-Pop sound on this fine collection of tunes. Opening track “In a Sense” has a great guitar sound, harmony vocals and a fine groove that gets you moving around the kitchen, or wherever you happen to be. Filled with energy “She Belongs to Me” rocks along nicely, crunching guitar and a memorable chorus making it one of the albums highlights.

   Softer in sound “Don't Forget about Love” is a delightful jangly tune that floats through the air, whilst “She's Just falling Out of Love” closes the “Mysteries” side in delicate fashion. A sweet acoustic tune that tugs at the heartstrings, the early seventies West-Coast sound drifting into country rock territory in a delightful way.

   Over on the “Sounds” side “ I Can't Quit Her” sounds like Teenage Fanclub covering the Byrds, the tune having plenty of energy as it jangles along, the same sound and vigour heard on “Consolations” making for an excellent opening brace. With some sugar-coated power chord adding a sweet bite to the tune, “I, Miss July” is a fine slice of Power-pop that maintains the momentum. In fact, side two seems to be consistent in its approach and quality with the excellent “I Do Declare” ending the side in style, a magnificent tune that rocks along with both power and melody leaving you with a wide smile and keen to play the whole thing again.

    Hailing from Scotland this is the first vinyl release from The Carousels and features a selection of new songs plus some from there back catalogue. Mixing gentle Psych, folk, and country with plenty of melody this is an album for drifting away to on a sunny day, as demonstrated on “My Beating Heart” the opening tune which possesses a mellow groove that reminds you of hazy summers days. With a definite nod to The Byrds “Drifting Back” is another sweetly drifting song, whilst “Never Know What Live Is” brings the country influence to the fore, by which time you are happily lazing in a summers meadow oblivious to live's worries. Taking us back to those halcyon days of the summer of love, or at least the imagined ones, Both “Leaves In September” and “Where I Fall” sound like they were composed in those times with hints of The Mamas and Papas, a mellow Airplane or The Peanut Butter Conspiracy to be heard in their gentle grooves.

  Over on side two this gentleness is taken to sublime levels on the beautiful “Down The Line” a song so sweet it should carry a health warning although I had to play it three times just now. Further into the side “Marianne” attempts to define Jangle, and does a pretty good job before “ (I Hope I Never) Get You Off My Back” ends the album with washes of nostalgia through sound, an emotion drenched harmonica combining with the lyrics to create a song that moves summer into autumn leaving you relaxed and content with your life.

   As ever the packaging and sound of these releases is excellent, top marks to Sugarbush once again. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from http://amzn.to/1Bb2rld )

Garry “Moonboot” Masters will be best known to readers of Terrascope reviews from piloting free festival favourites the Magic Mushroom Band, and also, in earlier incarnations, Astralasia. Now a contented family man and a creatively active resident of Australia, “Elecktrified Moonboot” is a brand new album that returns the man to his rocking roots by way of ten excellent tracks, all of which (as the man himself says) should be played loud.

Opening track ‘Born This Way’ begins with a Hendrix-style riff and sound, with the vocals also hinting at Hendrix (Moonboot is an unashamed devotee of the master). The lyrics are positive and uncompromising – “I’m okay… I was born this way.” The second track opens at high speed with another riff and some metal guitar, before more positive and uncompromising lyrics – “Be what you are, not what they say you are.” Fans of the MMB will already have grasped this important message: “Don’t be a sheep, don’t be asleep.”

‘Chasing The Dragon’ features a particularly heavy guitar sound, but ‘Touch The Moon’ is more of a blast from the past, with a really nice acoustic guitar, over which Moonboot’s evocative electric solos – a terrific cut, this. The electric solo flows on under Moonboot’s singing in lovely style.

‘Freudian Slit’ and ‘Zombie Vampire Love’ follow Moonboot’s love of classic horror films, echoed by the purple-and-green CD artwork, which uses appropriate imagery and a ghoulish font. The latter song has entertaining lyrics, as Moonboot describes a love affair of vampiric type…

‘Petite Papillon’ is all about becoming the butterfly you really are, with lyrics set over more excellent riffing and soloing; here the guitar follows the singing in Hendrixy style, but it solos also as the song progresses. There is a distinct nod to the early Black Sabbath sound here.  ‘Raga Khan’ features an Arabic sample, and here there is also a hint of the Sabs’ sound, in the overall feel anyway. The track is an instrumental, and is another album highlight.

The album concludes with ‘Voices In Your Head’ and ‘Certifiably Crazy’, both of which merge Moonboot’s own style with hints of his influences. But the sound is original throughout, with a nice Leslie-amp guitar sound in the former song. ‘Certifiably Crazy’ has one of those loping riffs (in E/A/B) that Cream used to use in some of their cuts, but there’s also a fast-tempo section with lots of riffing and soloing over the top, including some subtle guitar harmonies. The track ends with some vinyl crackling – like the opening. It’s clear in which musical era Moonboot’s heart lies!

Those who remember and loved the Magic Mushroom Band, or who know or want to know what Moonboot is up to these days, should definitely check out this excellent solo CD. Fans of the heavier side of music will love it, as will MMB fans. (Steve Palmer)



(CD from http://ayearinthecountry.co.uk/)

Available in four different hand-crafted editions this beautiful six-track collection is filled with atmospheric melodies that invoke visions of imagined countryside and haunt you long after those visions have faded.

     As with most UBS albums, each track contains a different selection of musicians including David Colohan, Aine O'Dwyer, Richard Moult, Michael Tanner and james Rider, to name but a few, the fluid nature of the group meaning that music explores many avenues whilst the singular vision of the players means that each song fits perfectly into the album as a whole.

    Like the slow unfurling of a summer bloom “Helix” opens the album with soft purpose, a tinkling piano dancing with a misty drone to lead the listener in before “Clay In My Hands” introduces some beautiful Harp that glides over some heavier guitar flourishes, the sound akin to a lost Acid Folk classic. On the title track seven players combine to create an enchanting piece that slowly rises from a sweet cloud of drone to become an experimental slice of sound featuring percussion, sax and electronics, the track having a mystical cloaking, bringing visions of Eastern mountains and half-forgotten temples.

    Featuring the voice of Alison O'Donnell, “The Blackened Fields” is folk music that looks both forwards and backwards, the traditional structure frayed with the use of Electronics and Ipad Sampling, creating a song that is unsettling yet beautiful. Mixing Harpsichord, sampled Mellotron, Voice and Synth, “Seachranai” is languid and delightful, waves of Synths reminding me of Tangerine Dream, the tune far too short.

   To end, the 13 minute “Halo” is an amalgamation of all that has gone before, a long drifting piece that is hypnotising, clouds of voices floating above tiny melodies and dissolving electronics, music that is easy to get lost in.

  Over 37 minutes UBS have gone for understated atmospherics rather than the disorientating walls of sound that can also create, especially live, giving this collection a wonderful sense of timelessness and a fragile beauty that ensures it will remain one of the finest things they have created. (Simon Lewis).



(Vinyl LP from Cardinal Fuzz http://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com)

Following on in short order from their breakthrough (again vinyl only) Rocket Recordings release “Outside the Circle”, Heads guitarist Paul “Prof” Allen and his Big Natural colleagues Jessie Webb and Gareth Turner serve up some tantalising and appropriately cosmic sound collages not to mention wicked astral jams.

Each track named after an alleged UFO sighting (alleged? Oh you sceptic Fraser) the teasingly noodlesome “Southend on Sea” gently nudges us into the astral maelstrom (“Bexleyheath”) that we know, love and let’s face it expect. This is Prof doing what he does best when let loose on so many effects. As usual there’s almost an experimental wonder of “what happens when I press this and bend that” throughout although this accidental sound is nothing less than finely crafted sonic science – not for nothing is Allen called “Prof” it seems. As each track bleeds into the other the collective force of this hits you. As individual tracks you might be hard pressed to pick a stand-out, but as a conceptual whole it is hard to fault. What we don’t get is vocals or conventional song structures as we did on “Outside the Circle”, more a set of studio jams in which Prof gives his “Crow with sore throat” (he was after all the second best singer in the Heads) a well earned rest. The sonic tide ebbs and flows – the mesmerising, beat-free 7 minute flying saucer attack of “Warminster” (one of my favourites here) contrasts with free radical “Brixham” and the interplanetary piledriving of “Owermoigne”. Remember “On the Run” from Dark Side of the Moon? Well “Owermoigne.” is a speeded up and orbiting out of control version of that, 40 (light) years into the future, eventually throwing itself into some Vulcan vortex never...to...be...heard...of...again? Almost as compelling, mind, are the acid jams “Berwyn Mountains” a place where I freely admit to only ever having experienced sore calf muscles and wet feet and “Weedon BEC” Astounding sounds? Yup.

As anyone who saw them at Liverpool Psych Fest last year will testify (well except the guy who bemoaned the absence of melody, I mean come on...) Anthroprophh work up a good racket and the good news is they can slice the Dijon equally well live and in the studio. If anything can make contact with the stranded Beagle 2 then this one can. Space rock, alive and well and living in... I dunno, Saturn some place? Ian Fraser



(LPs from https://jellyfant.wordpress.com/releases/)

Hearing John Lee Hooker's “Boom Boom” as a child led Ryan Lee Crosby into a life of music with his fascination for the blues becoming stronger every year, believing it to be a powerful, spiritual music that searches deep inside. On this, his latest collection, that love of the blues has distilled itself into crystal vision, the album containing a mix of original tunes and covers of some blues classic, the beauty being that a casual listener would not be able to tell which is which such is the authenticity of Ryan's quest.

    Opening with a classic blues theme “Ever Since I Quit the Bottle” it is quickly apparent that this is the real stuff, some excellent guitar playing propelling a driving rhythm, over which Ryan's voice sings with passion and emotion. On “There's a Fire Burning” the Hooker influence is very obvious, quite possibly channelled through the spirit of Hendrix in blues mode the whole track benefiting from a dose of volume and  a glass of something fiery.

   Next up, a cover of “Jinx Blues” (Son House) maintains the traditional blues feel, as does “Was I Wrong” an original with plenty of power and a sleazy guitar sound that really lifts the tune. To end side one “Down The Dirt Road Blues” (Charlie Patton) adds a country twang to proceedings, the guitar wailing with emotion throughout.

    Slowing things down, side two opens with “Winter Hill Blues”, Ryans voice edging into a higher range giving the song a different feel that I really like.

    Featuring four covers, side two is a sweet history lesson, songs by Robert Johnson, Skip James, Robert Wilkins and Mississippi John Hurt confidently handled with great playing and an understanding of the music that means there is plenty to enjoy on this album without it becoming a mere exercise in nostalgia. It is also worth mentioning that this album takes a couple of plays before it really registers its excellence.

    Working under the name Rivulets, Nathan Amundson has being making wonderful unique music for many years honing his craft until this remarkable album that is haunting, personal and emotional, the music creeping under your skin in a way that happens only occasionally, the sounds becoming part of your own life, an album that needs to be listened to.

    Opening with a ragged guitar “Reinforced : Delicate” burns with emotion Nathan's vocal delivery making the tune personal, the guitar creating tension around the repeated phrase “Are You Ready Now” the words creating a myriad of meanings in your head.

   As the album progresses there is a feel ssimilar to the one created on Bon Ivers' first album, the notion of a man alone writing personal tunes for himself, art in isolation that cries to be heard.

    With a simple, strummed guitar riff, “My Favourite Drug Is Sleep” wraps itself around you, the downbeat atmosphere sweetened by the arrangement and melodic chorus, reminding me of Galaxie 500 in its sonic approach. Equally beautiful is “Summer Rain” another example of the magic in simplicity, the track's slowness equalling that of the Red House Painters whilst a ringing distorted guitar adds some bite. To end side one “Is That All You Got” is as sad as the title suggests, a song built on voice and guitar, the sparse arrangement leaving plenty of pace for the emotions to bleed through.

  Over seven minutes, “Ride On, Molina” sounds like a slowly rising Velvet Underground, the piece having a lysergic, time distorting atmosphere, its repetition pulling you into its centre before releasing you as the energy levels rise.

    To be fair, this is an album to be heard in one sitting, each track feeding off and into those that surround it, the album so filled with an aching beauty that, by the time “Wrong All the Time” slowly fades, the listener is left drained yet strongly tempted to play the whole thing again.

   It seems that there has been a slow increase in labels producing quality vinyl over the last couple of years with Jellyfant playing its part, releasing quality albums that come from the heart rather than the machine. (Simon Lewis)