Friday, 16 April 2021

Album Review: Jason McNiff - Dust of Yesterday

Jason McNiff is a highly respected English singer songwriter accruing much praise for his intrinsic finger picking guitar style and often literary focused approach to lyrical conveyance. In his seventh album scanning a period close to twenty years, DUST OF YESTERDAY sees McNiff in fine form as he uses this release to look back and commit some key moments of his life to the permanence of a recorded song. 

On a record where cello and violin feature succinctly to complement the heavily Bert Jansch influenced  guitar playing, McNiff commits this effort to nine tracks including one reflecting upon an unconventional train trip ('A Load Along'), time spent as a Flamenco guitarist in 'Damaged Woman' and 'Mary Jane' which is probably best left to the imagination. 

The depth and attributes to DUST OF YESTERDAY are likely to fall favour with those previously hooked in to his music. Additionally, there is milage in this album finding more fans for Jason McNiff as the tentacles of promotion expand the reach. While shoring up your core is always wise for an independent artist, there is no harm in seeking new admirers. On this front , this south coast based artist is fully equipped with the armoury to win over folks inspired by guitar spun tunes akin to those generated from the greats of English folk and its strays into rock territory. 

One final note to end on is McNiff contemplating that memory is something anchored in the present and not necessarily confined to the past. Wise words indeed from one composing some impressively interesting and spellbinding music. 

Album Review: Jesse Aycock - Jesse Aycock

My recognition of Jesse Aycock began three years ago when he accompanied Carter Sampson on her UK tour that included a gig at Birmingham's Kitchen Garden. On that evening he showed a glimpse of his performing talent in an opening duo set with fellow touring co-partner Lauren Barth alongside his well renowned playing prowess when backing the main performance. Since then his name has turned up on several other projects often emanating from his home state of Oklahoma and he contributed one of the prime moments on last year's Back to Paradise album celebrating Tulsa's artists.

Now is the time for Jesse Aycock to command centre stage and truly show what he can deliver when granted an extensive canvas. Although he has recorded albums backdating to at least 2005, solo projects have often been sporadic leaving the bulk of the time being a hugely in-demand session and touring musician. With a touch of role reversal, this self-titled album released on his usual label Horton Records sees Aycock rule the roost and add his own take on the country rock legacy.

Within a personal and vulnerable demeanour, Aycock has tapped into rock's mild and moody mode dispelling the myth that thirteen is an unlucky number by acutely structuring his album around that number of largely temperate songs. In fact when you reach the end of the record, the defining feel is one of burrowing deep down a rabbit hole of mellow sounds that prove the perfect vehicle for Aycock's softly conveyed vocal style. 

While the album as an entity is an enticing listen, there are three tracks that propel the appeal further. As we approach the midpoint, the utterly gorgeous 'Sadder Than a Sunset' with its country folk roots feel has the ability to bring the strong to their knees. On the other side of album's pivotally placed track, the more rockier and upbeat 'Past Life', lies another standout in the delicate and breezy number 'Roll South', warming the cockles with a summery feel. To balance out the tempo, the third track on the virtual podium is the psychedelic booster song 'Under the Gun', one syphoned off for promotion via the official video.

Without sounding too lazy in association, there are intermittent connotations of Neil Young and The Beatles, the latter most profoundly in the floaty number 'Passing Days'. Among a raft of hazy, dreamy, trippy, delicate tracks, the odd fiery effort ignites the template, perhaps no finer than 'High Hopes'. One impression that never leaves you is that this record would not be out of place in the parade of fine albums that defined a stretch of early Americana from the late sixties to the mid seventies. One that seemed to elevate higher the further west you went. 

Some may construe that this Jesse Aycock album is ripe for connoisseurs of classic Americana country rock. Whilst not in a position to concur with that suggestion, it is certainly one to lose yourself in along totally owning the atmosphere it generates, the mood it induces and the landscape painted.