Flyinshoes Review

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             Released in America last year to some acclaim, Scotty Alan’s new solo album has recently received its UK release and this former punk rocker from Upper Peninsula, Michigan will, I’m sure, be making friends over here on the back of it. Marrying a country/folk vibe to a punkish energy, these fifteen songs chart the progress of a relationship that didn’t work out. Opening with the “goodbye” song, Scotty winds back to the days when it all looked good, finding along the way that there were always signs that this wasn’t going to work out. He’s sad, he’s confused, but if he’s bitter he only allows himself to express it for comic effect (“next time I fall in love, I’m gonna do it alone”). Rather these songs are written in the spirit of the chorus to Was it Ever?. “Was it me/was it you/was it there/ was it true/ was it ever” he asks, and the whole cycle of songs is all about investigating how it all happened and how it all went wrong.

              Scotty sings in an appealing rasp that sounds remarkably Irish at times – shades of The Pogues or The Waterboys linger unexpectedly, especially when David Lindley’s fiddle playing is to the fore. Scotty’s voice is strong enough and distinctive enough to hold the centre of attention but this is a fully worked out production from Bernie Larsen (it was a bit of a trek from Michigan to LA to get this record made) and there’s a whole host of instrumentation fleshing out Scotty’s songs: organ, accordion, mandolin, slide guitar and piano (from Ian McLagan!) all find their place, and there’s a generous dose of backing vocals to boot. This record sounds best at it’s most upbeat, the old punk still enjoying it best when he can put some bounce into the performance. Your Hero? combines the energy and the folk style nicely (very Waterboys), whilst the most irresistible song is Ain’t Much, its heart-on-his-sleeve charm and rockabilly bounce hanging round just long enough to leave you wanting more. The finest song, though, may be Barn Dance; it’s a long song by his standards but marrying the state of the relationship to the drawing in of winter in Michigan gives the song a broader reach that works really well. David Lindley’s fiddle and the rolling epic nature of the song again strongly invites Waterboys comparisons but I’m not complaining about that. This is truth, honesty and entertainment all wrapped up in one package, and it’s rather good.

John Davy

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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