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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March 2018

1
Mary Gauthier
95 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
JD
2
Ed Romanoff
89 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
BK,EZ,JF,SP,MP,ML
3
Dean Owens
43 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
PJ
4
Marlon Williams
41 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans
CVL,DHO
5
Rod Picott
39 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
 
 
Vivian Leva
39 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
DD,HM,RB,TK
7
H.C McEntire
38 pts.
Lionheart
Merge Records
HB,JV
8
3hattrio
34 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
 
9
Alela Diane
32 pts.
Cusp
Allpoints Believe
RM,MG
 
Ben Miller Band
32 pts.
Choke Cherry Tree
New West Records
FC
 
The Lynnes
32 pts.
Heartbreak Song For The Radio
Independent
HDB,HH
12
Adam James Sorensen
30 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
GC,AL
13
John Oates
27 pts.
Arkansas
Thirthy Tigers
MB
14
Cameron Blake
26 pts.
Fear Not
Continental Song City/CRS
CRS
 
John Gorka
26 pts.
True In Time
Red House
 
16
I'm With Her
25 pts.
See You Around
Rounder Records
 
17
The Reverend Shawn Amos
22 pts.
Breaks it Down
Put Together Music
 
18
Beth Wimmer
21 pts.
Bookmark
Independent
BM,PH,PR
 
Chris Smither
21 pts.
Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
 
 
Dayna Kurtz
21 pts.
Here, Vol 2
Kismet Records
 
21
Joan Baez
20 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
 
 
Kacy & Clayton
20 pts.
The Siren’s Song
New West Records
TJ,JB
23
Caleb Caudle
19 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
RK,MVP
24
Ad Vanderveen
18 pts.
Denver Nevada
Continental
BP
 
Ben Reel
18 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
 
 
Bruno Deneckere

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