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Steve Black: All The Best/Alan West: The Way It Is

www.alanwest.co.uk

 Old friends and collaborators, Steve Black and Alan West are two English country musicians with strong American connections; heading to Nashville together, they have made two albums that are enriched by the skills of a bunch of Nashville players, with the wonderful Thomm Jutz at the centre of things.

Steve Black is above all a songwriter, and his album gathers "all the best" of his songs and places them in the beautiful settings provided by these Nashville guys. I would say his style is heavily influenced by what you might call blue collar country music - the world as seen from the viewpoint of the regular Joe. Though his songs frequently have an obviously American setting, he somehow manages to retain his own accent, which is a good thing. He has a whisky roughened voice with a nice warmth to it, strong enough and confident enough to carry the mini-epicChildren of the Rodeo, which has a hauntingly melancholic arragement of interwoven guitar lines. The songs are strong, exhibiting the kind of craftsmanship that country music encourages - a story, a melody and not a thing out of place. The approach might vary: there's a harder edged modern country rock sound toMiss You So(could be Drive-by Truckers) whilst the jaunty story songCome on Home , featuring some fine country fiddle from Justin Moses, could have been recorded at almost any time in the last thirty years or so. The English accent sometimes gives more of a folk feel to a song but mostly what stands out about this album is the satisfying sense of a bunch of talented guys coming together to make something that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. 

      Alan West's disc from the same sessions amounts to just six tracks: three more Steve Black songs (including a co-write with Jim Almand), one from Texan Hugh Moffat and two from Jefferson Ross (including a co-write with Alison Mellon). Alan is rightly celebrated as one of the treasures of the UK country music scene. He has a wonderful voice, so rich and resonant, and possibly a little more Dick Gaughan than Townes van Zandt.  These songs understandably cover similar territory to Steve Black's album, and are similarly embellished by the apparently effortless skill of Nashville's finest. The standout song for me is The Prophet Elijah (the Ross/Mellon composition), delivered with suitably stately seriousness by Alan, sounding pretty much like a prophet himself. He's so good at shaping his voice to suit the song, and six songs should be plenty enough to convince you that he's a man you'd like to hear for a whole evening.

     All The Best and The Way It Is are just two more examples of what fine British Americana there is out there these days.

John Davy

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April 2018

1
Courtney Marie Andrews
100 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
PK,CVL,DHO,JB,LK
2
Mary Gauthier
59 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
3
Caleb Caudle
49 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
TJ,TK,MP
4
Western Centuries
48 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
DD,GS,FS,HM
5
Vivian Leva
44 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
 
6
Ed Romanoff
42 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
7
Grant Peeples
41 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental
AN
8
Joan Baez
32 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
 
9
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
29 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
MF,HDB
 
Sam Morrow
29 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
JV
11
Chris Smither
27 pts.
Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
JSM,JD
12
Michael McDermott
26 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
CRS
13
John Prine
24 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
SP
14
Mary Chapin Carpenter
23 pts.
Sometimes Just The Sky
Lambent Light Records
 
15
Dean Owens
22 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
PJ
16
6 String Drag
21 pts.
Top of The World
Schoolkids Records
FCE,JS
 
Haley Heynderickx
21 pts.
I Need To Start A Garden
Mama Bird Recordings
 
 
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
21 pts.
Tearing At The Seams
Stax Records
RM
19
Abe Partridge
20 pts.
Cotton Fields And Blood For Days
Skate Mountain
MVP,RK
 
Adam James Sorensen
20 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
BM
 
Ben Reel
20 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
 
 
Chip Taylor
20 pts.
Fix Your Words
Train Wreck Records
LM
 
Kesia Nagata
20 pts.
Looking For Horses
Caramal Productions
GC,EZ
 
Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son
20 pts.
Clear The Table
SepiaPhone Records
SZ,PG
25
3hattrio
18 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
 
 
Marlon Williams
18 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans

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