Flyinshoes Review

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         English singer/songwriter Jamie Freeman produced a debut album a couple of years back which sounds like it may have been focussed on his solo performance. Not so this ambitious, bright, exuberant follow-up. The full band are there to give things beef but a lot of studio time and some mighty guests from across the Atlantic (Larkin Poe, The Good Lovelies, Brandy Zdan and transplanted English finger-picker Richard Smith) all add up to a sound that is bursting at the seams with great musicianship.  Mark Chadwick from The Levellers helped with the production, which might lead you to expect a stronger English folk element than is actually manifest. No, this album springs firmly from a host of American influences: there is twang, there is swing, there’s rocking country, white gospel and even something of a muscular rebel yell going on.  Is it too broad, too unfocussed? Not at all, because this is a record of full-blooded commitment that sweeps all quibbles aside and leaves you smiling at this guy’s enthusiasm for his chosen art form.

            There are occasions when you feel the kitchen sink has been chucked in for good measure – the soaring gospel vocals on Key of Me, for example, are pretty wonderful but detract from an equally wonderful break on the electric guitar which is played, I think, by Jonathan Hirsch. Mostly though, I find myself appreciating the time spent on details that add some new unexpected pleasure. On the same song, Rachel Davies sings a harmony vocal on the opening verse that lifts the whole thing marvellously. In fact, she contributes a vocal performance to nearly every track here and sounds pretty special – a great voice with a talent for fitting her voice to those around her.

             The music might be distinctly American but the lyric writing has a quirky, down-to-earth Englishness to it most of the time. There are three co-writes: one with Brandy Zdan and a couple with poet Amy Tudor. One of those is called Scrabble in Afghanistan and sounds like the most obvious single here – on the strength of it’s punchy, exuberant verve rather than the slightly unlikely title, which unfolds as the tale of a soldier in Afghanistan escaping the strains of his posting with occasional on-line word games.  It is perhaps typical of the songs here in the sense that the thought tends to get ahead of the emotion which makes him sound over-earnest at times. He compensates for that, though, with a dedication to his craft that makes this a pretty special album, a tour-de-force tour of Americana from an English perspective. 

John Davy

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July 2018
1
American Aquarium
93 pts.
Things Change
New West
BK,TJ,JB
2
Gretchen Peters
56 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
ML,GF
3
Patrick Sweany
51 pts.
Ancient Noise
Nine Mile Records
FC,RK,BM,CVL,TK
4
Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
47 pts.
Downey To Lubbock
Yep Roc
SP,JBO,JJC
5
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
34 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
Independent
 
6
Ry Cooder
33 pts.
The Prodigal Son
Perro Verde Records
DH
7
Jenny van West
32 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
RST,NC
8
Brooks Williams
30 pts.
Lucky Star
Red Guitar Blue Music
 
9
Levi Parham
29 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
 
10
I See Hawks in LA
26 pts.
Live and Never Learn
Western Seed Records
WR
11
Rory Block
25 pts.
A Woman's Soul
Stoneyplain Records
MB,AL
12
Phil Cook
24 pts.
People Are My Drug
Thirty Tigers
LK,JD
13
Mike Aiken
23 pts.
Wayward Troubadour
Northwind Records
BP
14
Karen Jonas
22 pts.
Butter
Independent
HVB
15
Buckley
21 pts.
Las Cruzes
Rum Bar Records
 
 
John Prine
21 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
 
17
Neko Case
20 pts.
Hell-on
Anti Epitha
MW
 
Sam Lewis
20 pts.
Loversity
Loversity Records
HDB
 
Verbraak Van Bijnen
20 pts.
Endless Road
CRS
HH,TV
20
Jesse Dayton
19 pts.
The Outsider
Blue Elan
LM,SZ
21
Dieter van der Westen Band
18 pts.
Me and You
Independent
 
 
Hadley McCall Thackston
18 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
CRS
 
Willie Nelson
18 pts.
Last Man Standing
Legacy
 
24
Carter Sampson
17 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
 
Tami Neilson
17 pts.
SassaFrass!
Outside Music

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