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Spirit Kreek are a Herefordshire based three-piece rock outfit, who formed just over a year ago, since the band’s creation they’ve been hard at work honing their sound, performing live with the likes of Worhol, Hangfire and No Glory among others.

The band have also found time to record a four track EP (not counting brief atmospheric intro track) with producer Josh Watkins in Cobnash studios in an attempt to harness the band’s live sound.

Hitting play the first thing you hear is the aforementioned short and eerie introduction before frontman Scott Morris lets out a mighty bellow signaling the EP’s title track, a barrage of hard hitting riffs and a bombardment of beats as the band issue their statement of intent. Frontman, Scott has a powerful holler and he’s no slouch on the six-string either, churning out a number of addictive riffs and solo’s throughout the EP’s duration, whilst the rhythm section (Stoo McEwan on bass and Ryan Randolph drums) more than hold their own complimenting Scott’s flourishes with relish.

The band obviously take their influences from modern rockers such as Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry among others, as like the aforementioned band’s Spirit Kreek may hit hard but they also have that melodic bluesy edge, particularly evident on the five-minute plus All Gone Away, where the band build the track up with an acoustic guitar, before cranking up the electric as the track unravels into a fine melodic rocker. Whilst Alone In The Dark proves the bands chops as the track breaks down for an impressive instrumental middle section before returning to the hard hitting groove previously laid down.

Moonshine Man is an impressive opening salvo from Spirit Kreek, it’s powerful and ballsy whilst never losing sight of that all important melody, if the band can continue to develop and evolve at the rate they’re going, we could be in for something very special indeed, definitely one’s to watch in the future.

www.spiritkreek.com

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Singer-songwriter and Nashville native, Andrew Combs, is something of a new name to me, however he’s already been making great strides both in his native US and indeed here in the UK. Last September Andrew performed at the acclaimed End Of The Road Festival, as well as headlining his first London show. Whilst Combs debut album, Worried Men (2012), released on a small indie label, Coin Records, was named as one of the years best by American Songwriter, whilst Rough Trade made the album one of their choices of the month. Andrew also made something of a name for himself when he accompanied Caitlin Rose on both her US and European tour.

After the attention and acclaim for Andrew’s debut, Americana label of choice (and perfect fit), Loose (here in Europe) picked up Andrew for his second album, All These Dreams. As you would expect with any release associated with Loose, All These Dreams has that rootsy country tinged sound, however there’s more to Andrew’s sound than battered acoustics, he weaves a timeless pop element and hints back to the classic songwriting and delivery of the likes of Orbison and Paul Simon, for Combs has a rich and welcoming sound that could have easily been lifted from yesteryear and yet still sounds fresh today.

All These Dreams opens with Rainy Day Song and the first thing that hit’s you is the glorious deep soulful croon that Combs possesses, his voice is expressive from the outset , whilst the musical arrangement of shuffling beats, acoustic and pedal steel guitars and strings provide a beautiful, lifting melody that instantly captivates. Nothing To Lose adds delicate keys and plucked guitars to proceedings, whilst a glorious sustained vocal hook led chorus brightens even the dreariest days.

All These Dreams offers up a few welcome surprises during it’s eleven track duration, Foolin’ is more of a driving rocker, Strange Bird is an out and out country number complete with whistled middle section, whilst the likes of Pearl and the folky tale of redemption, Slow Road To Jesus are both slowburning ballads that really highlight not only Andrew’s stunning croon, but also his ability to write compelling and visionary tales, drawing the listener deep into the heart of the song.

Andrew Combs maybe a new name to me and I expect you as well, but after listening to this timeless masterpiece, I doubt you’d forget his name again in a hurry, tales of love, sin and redemption haven’t sounded this welcoming in many a year, another essential addition to your record collection courtesy of Loose.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 10

www.andrewcombsmusic.com

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In recent months Singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle’s stock seems to be on the rise, he released the critically acclaimed (and rightfully so), Single Mothers album, performed across the globe and has now returned with a brand new album, Absent Fathers.

The album was recorded at the same time as Single Mothers in view to the completed project being released as a double album, but as Justin began to sequence the tracks he felt that each half deserved to make their own statement and decided to split the two releases and deliver them a few months apart.

Obviously with the two albums being recorded at the same time, with the same line-up, sound wise they compliment one another quite beautifully, they both have that stunning blend of country, soul and understated rock and lyrically they both share that same autobiographical nature, where Justin lays bare his soul, his upbringing, love and loss on the duo’s confessional tales.

Single Mothers became something of a mainstay of my recent playlist and Absent Fathers is almost certain to much the same. From the opening Farther From Me, Justin captivates, his rich soulful tones tumble from the speakers over a wonderful slow and winding country-tinged ballad, featuring twanging guitars and an instantly infectious shuffling beat, from their pedal steel joins on the gorgeous, aching Americana of Why.

Least I Got The Blues, is a stripped back, world-weary country blues number featuring Justin’s voice over a sparse mix of strummed acoustic guitar and pedal steel, Earle sounds weathered and almost beaten as he delivers a delightfully fragile vocal. Elsewhere Day And Night is another beautiful, subtle, candlelit country soul number, where you can hear the emotion in Justin’s voice as he pours his heart out, both Round The Bend and Someone Will Pay showcase a rougher rock n’ roll edge, but yet despite the more upbeat sound he still unveils lyrical barbed couplets (Round The Bend) such as “And your momma’s only boy, your daddy’s only shame” alluding to his upbringing and absent father. 

Absent Fathers much like its predecessor showcases a singer-songwriter very much at the top of his game, there’s no flashy arrangements or unnecessary flourishes, just stark, poetic portraits, compelling tales and Justin Townes Earle’s evocative worn vocals, stunning, simple and unforgettable.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 10

www.justintownesearle.com

 

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Before I begin this review I should say right from the onset that I’m something of a fan of Sam Genders and his previous work under both the Diagrams monicker as well his work with Tunng, so I guess before hitting play my expectations for Chromatics, were pretty high.

Since Sam’s debut album as Diagrams, 2012’s Black Light, he’s upped sticks from his previous London home and settled in Sheffield and with the move brings new friendships, relationships and indeed influences and Chromatics reflects all of that and more. Whilst the previous album fizzed with electronics, programmed beats and funk grooves, the new album has an altogether more organic sound, as Sam collaborates with a number of musicians to create a rich tapestry, combining folk, indie and pop elements to dazzling effect.

Chromatics fizzles into life with Phantom Power, a track that begins with a combination of strummed acoustic guitar and keyboards alongside Sam’s delicate soulful croon before reaching a wonderfully infectious pop-laden hook, that’s again reprised throughout the duration of the delightful three and half minute opener.

Gentle Morning Song, showcases Sam’s use of subtle electronics to pepper his material, layering effects and keyboards alongside electric guitar and distorted harmonies to form a wonderful, dreamy slice of indie-pop again with that all important vocal hook present and correct. The title track is a gentle, lulling, folky number that’s fused with a morse code like coda, bubbling away beneath the song’s surface, whilst Sam build’s a glorious keyboard led melody around his softly caressed vocals.

Both Shapes and Dirty Broken Bliss bring something new to the mix, with the former adding bird song, viola and wordless siren like harmonies as Sam offers a psychedelic tinged opus, whilst in direct contrast Dirty Broken Bliss, is an addictive, pulsating synth-led slab of electronic indie pop that could have been lifted directly out of Apples In Stereo’s songbook. The Light And The Noise could have been beamed straight from the sixties, with it’s phased vocals and retro melody, whilst the albums closing number, Just A Hair’s Breadth sees Genders crooning over an almost orchestral arrangement, again showcasing his widescreen approach to writing and arranging.

Chromatics hasn’t just matched my expectations, it’s blown them out the water, the eleven track affair is the first must have album of 2015, it’s a diverse, seductive and intoxicating look into the eclectic psyche of one of music’s modern day mavericks. Sam Genders has more realised and captivating ideas on Chromatics, than most groups muster in a lifetime.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 10

www.diagramsmusic.co.uk

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Singer-songwriter James Robinson first made waves in the music industry as the frontman of Brighton based alt-pop band Two Spot Gobi, a combo who managed a great deal of success, touring the US, UK and Europe and supporting the likes of household names Jason Mraz and Bruno Mars, but for James something just didn’t sit right and with a desire to express himself further he decided to break away from the band.

James resurrected lyrics written on napkins and forgotten melodies on old garage band files as he set about writing and recording a new four-track EP, showcasing a new maturity away from the screaming Mars and Mraz crowds.

Start A Fire is an impressive affair, the opening, title track is an instantly catchy affair complete with busy percussion an infectious vocal refrain and a melody that could have been ripped straight from the pages of Mumford And Sons songbook, whilst James vocal tones are rich and soulful with a lovely (native) Devon twang.

Demons is a slowburning, understated jazz-tinged number build around James expressive vocals, wonderful bubbling bass line and a simplistic yet effective beat, proving that James is no one trick pony and sounds equally at home, stripped right back. Holes In The Sky straddles that divide between indie and the more typical singer-songwriter sound, as busy drums and electric guitar joins, an already evocative mix bringing to mind the likes of Noah And The Whale, whilst the EP’s closing number, Smoke & Ashes is a hushed, subdued, reflective number with James crooning gently against a piano melody further highlighting the stunning arrangements contained within the four tracks on offer.

James is perhaps brave to venture out solo as there are numerous singer-songwriters out there, however the four tracks on here put him in good stead to make an impact, he has an obvious talent at writing infectious pop melodies (Start A Fire and Holes In The Sky) but it’s the bruised ballads that really help James standout from the crowd, along with that distinctive, soulful voice.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 8

www.jamesrobinson-music.com

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