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LINDSAY LOU AND THE FLATBELLYS Ionia CD review and UK/Ireland tour dates



(EARTH WORK via Kickstarter)

Only six weeks or so into another year and already the bar has been set high as far as quality of earthy Americana releases is concerned, with Ionia, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys’ second album.

All four members display scintillating musical prowess, swapping instruments, harmonising almost effortlessly, a consequence, they claim of the physical closeness of the intensive four day recording session of which Ionia is the sumptuous outcome. And the overarching delight is that whilst bluegrass and folk are the Flatbellys' roots and anchors, they soar above and beyond any unhealthy strictures that might apply, with Lindsay Lou’s own phenomenal voice their trump card, reminiscent in its often-joyous abandon of Eddi Reader or Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price.

The opening light funk- jazz and colourful mandolin coda of ‘Hot Hands’ sees Lindsay Lou get soulful over PJ George’s inventive bass and forty minutes later, this is neatly bookended by ‘Smooth and Groovy’, closing the album with a jerkily-riffing 12-bar, as if Free or Humble Pie had rolled in and performed unplugged.

Intensity is ramped up in an insistent folk thrash, featuring Joshua Rilko’s gleeful Stonesy mandolin attack in ‘Everything Changes’, whilst ‘Old Song’ is more wistful, with an almost-geometric melody allowing Lindsay Lou to display her unbridled and joyous bluesy passion.

‘Criminal Style’ is a knowing and pointed steady rolling country blues with beautifully-pitched dobro fills, a sparkling mandolin/dobro instrumental break, the deployment of both instruments as percussion and needle-sharp harmonies.

Arrangements refuse to conform to accepted acoustic boundaries. ‘The Fix’ is strident and dramatic, fusing folk and funk with breathtaking instrumental and vocal interplay. With Mark Lavengood’s edgy vocal fronting Ben Fidler’s ‘Sometimes’, it could be Little Feat in its languid, syncopated funk and bluesy harmony, and is the stand-out track of a dozen worthy contenders.

When the band does display a bit of conformity, the title track is a deft all-in-the-mix vocal-free homage to the Michigan town where the album was recorded.

The only slight drawback is that the review CD is the radio version, so suspected naughty profanity on ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Criminal Style’ are unsubtly obliterated. Still, that’s what Spotify is for.

Tour dates for this side of the Atlantic are listed below, and these performances, on the strength of available videos and the content of Ionia, promise to be well worth attending. See you in Glenbuchat.

2015 tour

Thurs April 30: Shetland Folk Festival                                     

Fri May 1: Shetland Folk Festival    

Sat May 2: Shetland Folk Festival   

Sun May 3: Shetland Folk Festival  

Tues May 5: An Tobar, Tobermory, Isle of Mull     

Wed May 6: An Tobar, Tobermory, Isle of Mull      

Thurs May 7: Acoustic Music Club, Kirkcaldy       

Fri May 8: Tradfest, Edinburgh

Sat May 9: Performing Arts Centre, Kilbarchan       

Sun May 10: Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine    

Fri July 17: HebCeltFest, Stornoway                                       

Sat July 18: HebCeltFest, Stornoway          

Sun July 19: Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

Mon July 20: Traverse Bar, Edinburgh        

Tues July 21: Kilbarchan (venue TBC)            

Fri July 24: Poole Festival, Dorset    

Sat July 25: Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington, North Devon 

Wed July 29: Grand Pavilion, The Esplanade, Porthcawl        

Thurs July 30: The Atkinson, Southport        

Sat Aug 1: Square & Compass, Worth Matravers                    

Sun Aug 2: The Canteen, Bristol (afternoon)                           

Tues Aug 4: The Red Room, Cookstown                                 

Wed Aug 5: DC Music Club, Dublin                                       

Thurs Aug 6: McCrory’s, Culdaff, Co Donegal                       

Fri Aug 7: Balor Arts, Ballybofey, Co Donegal                         

Sat Aug 8: The High Tide Club, Castletownbere, Co Cork     

Sun Aug 9: Belfast (venue TBC)                                                 

Wed Aug 12: Eastgate Theatre, Peebles                                   

Thurs Aug 13: Glenbuchat Hall, Aberdeenshire                      

Fri Aug 14: Universal Hall, Findhorn                                      

Sat Aug 15: Birnam Arts Centre, Perthshire                            

Sun Aug 16: Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine

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