Continuing his rummage through his album collection Shane
Gilchrist ponders the coolest of country. Today he ranges
from Lyttelton to Nashville, with a stopover in
The Eastern 'Hope and Wire'
The members of Lyttelton/Christchurch collective The Eastern
have, like many, been through a lot in the past year or so.
Yet they've managed to record their third long-player, a
20-track double album, in an eastern suburbs house (before it
was bulldozed) that is more about celebration than
Rooted firmly in the sung-story tradition of legions of
American country-folk and embellished by the rustic tones of
fiddle, guitar and banjo, core duo Adam McGrath and Jess
Shanks sing of restless times, restless hearts and spiritual
revitalisation. There is hope in these strong songs, even if
the phantoms of Dylan's Desolation Row whisper and weave in
the quiet spaces. For those who like: The Band meets The
Old Crow Medicine Show 'Carry Me Back'
The fourth studio effort from an outfit now based in
Nashville but which has its roots in Virginia is an exercise
in flexibility as frontman Ketch Secor and company roam from
double-time bluegrass (Carry Me Back to Virginia, Sewanee
Mountain Catfight) to folky ballads (Ways Of Man), western
swing (Stepping Out, Country Gal) and swampy, stompy numbers
that summon the spirit of The Band (Genevieve).
Blistering fiddle solos, stabs of harmonica, the occasional
Dobro lick and close harmonies all add to a sense that one is
witnessing a rare performance here. For those who like: Union
Station, Steve Earle.
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson 'Wreck and
Almost five years on from the acclaimed Rattlin' Bones, the
second fully collaborative studio album from Australia couple
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson again revels in warm
two-part harmonies set to banjo, fiddle and acoustic guitar.
Unashamedly country, Wreck and Ruin might be less adventurous
than its predecessor, but it's a joyful offering nonetheless
as the pair pay a gentle homage to domestic life (The Quiet
Life, Your Sweet Love), occasionally dig into their bag of
gospel-tinged lament (Have Mercy On Me, Adam and Eve) and
elsewhere kick up their bluegrass heels (Flat Nail Joe). For
those who like: Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit 'Here We Rest'
Jason Isbell might be better known as a former member of the
Drive-By truckers, but with the help of a recent support slot
for fellow American alt-country star Ryan Adams and the
release of Here We Rest, the Alabama musician might just gain
more than a few fans of his songwriting. Working in a genre
which tempts generic cast-offs, Isbell keeps well above the
average by way of excellent lyricism that mixes sentiment
with specific details Codeine and others) and a fingerstyle
guitar technique that verges on faultless (Daisy Mae). For
those who like: Steve Earle.