Album/EP Reviews Americana Debut Indie Folk

Almond&Olive – Standing at the Precipice (Album Review)



Almond&Olive deliver an earnest and lyrically intriguing debut with a strong character and rapport in voice

Having released this debut last Friday (27th January 2017), artists Almond&Olive that consists of Natalie Alms (Almond) and Ollie Davidson (Olive) are no longer standing at the precipice but have taken a good look and lept over to meet whatever fate is on the other side. From the production, lyrics and delivery on this album, it seems like it will be a trampoline that should help them reach even higher than the mountain they started from.

A pairing which is undoubtedly  sweeter than the foodstuff mix (though I think someone will probably try it), they are a curious couple of artists together and individually doing a lot of good for charity (particularly animal charities) and their characters come through in the photography, it certainly does not look like an exercise in ego. This is just as well as the tables have turned the other way and impressively this debut has had pledged $10,000 in just 30 days of Kickstarter, and the duo will be donating some of the proceeds to animal shelter charities (see their website here for more information). Surely there must be something more than appearances and vivid photography that has got people excited to hear from them, making them stand out above other Indie Folk efforts (of which there are many)?

At first glance and listen without attention, it cannot really be the themes within the album.  Not to say there is anything bad in choice but relationships are a well-ridden path in Indie Folk (its probably the equivalent of songs about maidens from history in regular folk of which I’ve heard an awful lot of). But with an album such as this, which takes a lot of these issues and looks at them in earnest (and sometimes considering older love) it makes “Standing at the Precipice” sound like a well-spring as it bursts a layer of burning sand and sienna scorched rocks. It is strongly situated in youth and makes no bones about dedicating the whole album to this broad theme making it an album that speaks to those in the throes of passion, but not exclusively so. Sometimes it’s more excited, sometimes more sombre like a hint of heat delirium, it does what it sets out to do very well; there is something more here. Throughout there is an interesting dynamic of the duo,’s voices, the tracks have a varied instrumentation that fits each song accordingly, and the lyrics themselves sparkle the strongest amongst all these elements. The album has an overall feeling of being upbeat and interesting without being cocky about it, there is certainly some good, humble musicianship here to be enjoyed and admired. What about the tracks?

The first track, “We Will” is a delicate, dustbowl of a track. Melodic and catching it boasts some great instrumentation from the get go with it’s subtle banjo building into a much larger and incredibly appealing soundscape of big drum, brass, guitar and fiddle. An optimistic track that looks to two people spending their lives together, Alms’ voice is sweet with an expressive edge, a bit like buttercream which is soft and slightly grainy in all the best ways. The pacing of the track is kept with a familiar drumming and enhanced by the other musical sections; it has some fairly simple, but clear lyrics,”I will feel your heart, I will know where to start on my search.. to carry you home.” It is contentment in a song really, you can picture two older people toasting their lives and acknowledging a love that does not need to be spoken or the reasoning kind of love which imagines and pictures a practical partnership. A good opener which continues.

The second track, “Standing at the Precipice” wastes no time building momentum from the first track. It is full of primal sounds with a scraping guitar and a shrill harmonica bringing the slight menace of risk from hurt when in love. The imagery is rather shattering imagery as it describes this scene of emotional uncertainty in lavish and welcome detail. There are some nice cryptic lyrics too, “now the sky is getting darker, the books don’t ever explain what were looking to find,” I particularly love the small touches with this track such as the “whoops”, and the emotional yearning from the vocals.

Other songs that deserve a special measure are “Can’t Stop” which has a strong bassline, along with a precise steel guitar that rolls with heat through heat through cactus adorned sandscapes. The lyrics are particularly reaching and poetic on this track, “I won’t break like a diamond in the rough, I can never have enough.. I won’t break for you” and there is a splash of a number of synth/keyboard interjections that breathe even more life into a quick number. A crowd teaser it is one of the more optimistic of the tracks on the album it will doubtlessly be a popular number on live nights.”Nadine” is another standout track. Having a change in pace there a slower drum with an excellent interplay of voices with Ollie (Olive) seemingly taking a larger role, “Nadine.. this song was a dream.. could have fooled me.” It is beautifully solemn as it explores people splitting and going their separate ways. When listening it is quite a heart-tugging number as it effectively drags up your own memories of “almost loves” and partners past to parade for your minds eye. Time does not feel like the healer in the song, but rather like a cruel needle suturing a wound which in the end might recover but hurts so much along the way.

Track 7 “Long Night” is also pretty special track with it being part a welcome song, an invite to someone’s hearth, home, and life. It gives off a kind of musky heat,”welcome me to a bed of no clothes” which Alms’ voice is like a reluctant carnality, it makes the heart race and engulfs you in what is happening. It stands at opposite to “Heartbeat” the final track. “Heartbeart” is instructional, either as someone’s conscience or as one friend to another it says that “nobody owns your heart”. The arrangement is slightly sparser giving the song to breathe a little bit more than some of the busier tracks on the album. The fiddle is essential and it’s coolness is a nice way to end the series of songs and experiences felt along the way.

Well arranged and sounding really polished for a debut album, this disc has more than a shade of Americana thrown into it’s Indie Folk mix though it takes a hard Cadillac left to avoid Stateside cliche. It instead goes for an attack of the lyrical and outshines a lot of the competition with it’s well-crafted words  and an interesting interplay and rapport in voice. Like the snakes of the Hippocratic oath symbol, their voices unfurl and meet together bringing their own styles to play. They resonate with one another in a way that grabs your attention and convinces you of the strength of their work away from the corn sepia photography and modern dress, their depth is there to see beyond a mere polished surface.

Give them a try, a nice debut and an album 150 backers certainly aren’t wrong about!

You can purchase Almond&Olive’s debut here.


Album/EP Reviews Americana Folk Music

EP Post Autumn 2016 #1: Steve Grozier (Take My Leave)

Hi all, I have had some interesting things coming through the mailbox in recent weeks (several in some cases).

I have finally had a chance to listen to it all and wanted to share the musical endeavours these artists are striving for early on their road to fame.

It is always exciting to find something new, so check out the first of my EP posts to get a lowdown on what I have been hearing.

First of all it’s Steve Grozier.

Steve Grozier (EP) Take my Leave 2016 – Released September 16 (BatCat Records)



Track List:

(1) Drink Before Dawn

(2) Porcelain Hearts

(3) Take My Leave

(4) Ringing of the Bells

Just as the Autumn has taking full hold, the leaves are changing to a more varied, vibrant mass the sun draws back and our days are not as long now.

“Take me Leave” feels like an album for this time of the year. There is sun and heat here, but it feels more like the heat of smoldering bbq embers: the food is cooked, now the bonfire and whisky spirits beckon. As a vampire tries to remember the day, the writer here is looking somewhere from memory for his inspiration. Steve wrote the songs on this EP whilst living in Canada and admits there is some pain in their reworking and re-recording with a new band as it unearths a relationship which I am presuming did not end well. Away from Scotland and in the USA, on return this EP has been crafted. It is tinged with a little melachony as it has been recalled; the coal has been prodded and the heat is spreading about the same way memory can ignite. Produced by Andrew Graham and with supporting musicians Roscoe Wilson (guitar, lap steel), John Dunlop (bass) and Dillone Hall (drums and percussion) we are brought a series of songs based around these memories with the predominant emotive element in the work being regret and nostalgia,which is channelled throughout.

The first track “Drink Before Dawn” does sound somewhat wistful in it’s way with words and music. A bouncy track which you can imagine being performed during a sunset, it gives you a snapshot into that silent time at night when thoughts are racing. The smell of Bourbon is all around, the song projects a feeling of the US, one wonders if Steve is sat on a porch somewhere with the spirit soaked into it’s wooden frame. The track has a gentle warmth and is tinged with optimistic sadness. There are no doubts that it very closely resembles a personal memory,  “it’ll creep up on you like an old Summer rain, and you won’t even notice til it’s gone.” Steve develops a convincing rapport with you in this track. It is a grounded number with minor flickers of arrangement that hint at the fallibility of memory. Overall a good number which touches on this dream-like quality of thought.

“Porcelain Hearts” is a similar affecting tune. Grozier has regrets as in the first song but he does bring some nuance as it does sound quite different, perhaps less efflorescent than “Drink Before Dawn.” It is more like the clear thinking, head-shaking worry that someone in later life might have in the morning when they are giving their arms and legs a shake to get them moving, “I’m old, oh lord I’m old.” Purposeful and regretful it is a rainy afternoon in a bar, a feeling of being sad and still in a place of movement. The third track “Take My Leave” is quite memorable for it’s swell guitar accompaniment and a bass that warbles in rapt reminiscence. The songwriting is quite introspective, the lyrics are pretty good in themselves and communicate some shared themes, though probably not as many as when I listen to particular folk tracks. I suppose what we have is a humbler, perspective of love one which the sound mix here allows Steves lyrics and voice to take centre-stage. The final track “Ringing of the Bells” reminds me of the Dire Straits for some reason. Alongside “Drink Before Dawn” it is one of my favourite of the tracks here and one which I feel conveys what Steve is trying to say in the best way. The guitar has a few snappy layers of Americana, the lap steel guitar adds a great deal too, and Grozier’s voice spirals all around with it being at it’s most emotive and accomplished in those two renditions.

The package you get is a melodic set of tracks with some considered lyrics. The EP feels like it is in orbit of this other place and time in Grozier’s life; there is no denying it closely reflects the act of looking back and it quietly broods like the sun setting. Grozier’s words and voice do sound older than his years, are heartfelt, and he gets some decent mileage in these four songs from these experiences. It has a feel of Americana whilst not swimming in it, it is part this and part of an introspective sound somewhat like a less USA Steve Pledger.

Check it out, particularly if you are an acoustic fan. The theme is quite specific which some will like, others maybe less so but there are things to take from this release either way. I often prefer tracks with a deeper folk relationship, but pleasantly I don’t get a feeling of fatigue from this showcase of tracks here which for me is a positive sign about what Grozier has done.

Steve has a couple of dates left on his tour in Glasgow, check them out here, if you are interested in the EP you can buy that here for £4.

Americana Canadian Folk

South Yorkshire FRW Music Festival – Sep 2016: Madison Violet

Madison Violet

“light Americana which grabs and appeals across the board”

Starting off the South Yorkshire Folk, Roots, and World Festival there was the incredibly talented duo of “Madison Violet”. Madison Violet consists of Brenley MachEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, two great robust names and musical artists with a sound I am going to describe as glazed pinewood, quite light in character and incredibly well polished.

Colourful in name and compelling in presence this Canadian act has more than a few hints of Americana and Roots to it, though it’s strength is in their wide appeal to a full audience. Having released seven albums following a busy schedule of touring and working together for the last 14+ years, they are of course on another big tour which is stopping off in many countries, though sadly not much longer here (check out their website for details here). Their touring seems integral to their character, their professionalism and confidence certainly shows in the set in Doncaster as they made a lot of new fans in a potentially a difficult slot in a day when people are usually hunting Yorkshire Puddings rather than live music (first slot at 2pm on a Sunday).

They started the set with “The Heat”, a track that was swerving and engaging in equal measure. This alongside “Ohio” were introductions that describe the character of Madison Violet quite well: the sound is clean, their performance is unforced and their instrument changes seamless. Under the shine of the unexpected Doncaster sun and the fleetingness of the afternoon, they were a great way to spend the time. Much of the set was older material than “Ohio” a more poppy number from their latest album, “Year of the Horse”. Whilst some fans are split on the new influences with the later album, it seems that whatever material the women reach for has at least a modicum of appeal to a general audience; and this is no bad thing, many fans of Americana might be seeking the grimier side of life but treading that furrow can equally be a worn exercise.




Moving on to “Come as you are” and “Crying your eyes out” the strength of this group is in their intimate portrayal of emotion; “crying your eyes out” was, as admitted by Brenley as being in part about her brother (who passed away) and part on discovery of the chemical complexities of the tearful act. A sad number yet catchy and memorable. My favourite song from the group had to be “The Ransom”, one of those songs that while tip-toeing a lightness that their music embodies, it describes the pits, the desperation, and worry of being broke. Inspired by an Australian motel, you can almost feel the broken aircon through the guitar strings and searching lyrics.

Not “husky” but with a touch of darker sweetness, maybe a vanilla pancake with brown sugar (does that exist, I want one?) their voices show that time has been put into their craft and the decision to reduce production to a barer sound throughout their career is a very good choice, it puts their voices and hearts centre stage.

A great start for a good day. Check out my brief video for a thought, then check out some other clips on YouTube below, see if you like them- if so head over to their website, several of their albums are available on Amazon too,

And from their recording sessions with MusicFog and others.





Album/EP Reviews Americana Folk Music Indie Folk

Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles – Making Mountains (Vol 1)

An artist with old school authenticity and a collection of songs aptly wrapped in the phenomenology of experience drenched in Americana which takes the best aspects of modern music

Album: Making Mountains (Vol 1.)

Label: Paper Label Records


Release Date: 3rd June 2016

I don’t often venture into Americana I regret to inform. 

There are some of the old tracks that get the mind going and capture a time and place though, so now and then I will pop my head in and see what is happening when Twitter shows me an interesting video or an artist has does something else with the genre to get my attention; and those are the times I wish I listened to a bit more. Edd Donovan goes a long way to prove this notion to myself as he takes indie-folk and Americana and makes it his own. I had not heard of the artist so I was intrigued to find out about him.

Edd Donovan is a singer-songwriter and this is Edd’s second album. His first album “Something to Take the Edge off” did make a splash, at least enough to allow him to tour quite a lot with the band and individually, and to be recognised by the The Guardian newspaper. A distinctive point in which he has been recognised and identified is by a fact that he shares with myself: we are both social workers. This piques my interest as in his day-to-day work I am presuming he sees and hears a lot of interesting things (like I do myself) and this throws down the gauntlet to Edd to see how these things are worked into his album, and whether he has found a clever way to use these unique and often precious observations of people; it is these things after all that will set him and his band apart from other stuff that is out there. “Making Mountains” does actually paint a wide-range of experiences into it’s construction which can be owed to Edd inhabiting the mindspace of people in love, people in search of meaning and people grieving. As a collection of songs there is a feeling of a first-hand account of these details that has helped to layer the album with a kind of spirituality that is rooted in it’s acoustic warmth.

I have heard of artists (and other Eds) who circle the chart scene while it has it’s on-off relationship with acoustic music, and some can make an excellent living from it but I get turned off by some pop-acoustic music that is separated from history, social justice or personal feeling that is anything different to the search for teenage identity. For me this could be the quality of writing or it could just be that I’m getting old and not requiring young men to describe my feelings of angst and love anymore. “Making Mountains” isn’t this kind of disc making this kind of advice. It is youthful, but youthful in a wise way, capturing a young mindset within an older body, perhaps one which is more succinct at describing it’s feelings from the passage of time while not missing it’s initial, budding charm. It’s energetic in a ginger ale drink way, the vocals are light like bubbles crackling and moving through a sharper liquid of emotive constructed lyrics. There are a number of tracks on the album that illustrate this quite well, but the joy in Donovan and band is that when you become comfortable with some of their sounds, they will turn the whole thing on it’s head and graciously surprise.


“Dog’s don’t bite” is a spring-stepped start to the album. It has some persistent and solid drumming and a lightly haunting violin which adds a bittersweet companion to Edd’s affective, gliding vocals, “I want to go where the dogs don’t bite”. It builds up nicely and manages to wind a thread of joy and desperation into a track that takes the listener to the late Summer of a relationship. The subject seems to want to be with their significant other while the shadow of rejection creeps over the sun, “I’ve got nothing better to do than wait for you.” Later on, “Who will Show Us” likewise muses on the moment, wondering what is in it and what is just around the corner. It is the most galloping of tracks with a person who is waiting, possibly on the cusp of something great but unsure what this current time is about, “I’m waiting for something to happen.. I spend all my time smiling and laughing.” It is almost existential as the singer searches for meanings in the gestures and the possibilities in free choice, and is a highly melodic addition to the album.

“Talking Jesus” has a fresh, chiming vocal harmony backed by a poetic, soulful set of lyrics that sear in their originality, “my engine’s burning hotter than a heart attack.” It also quite visceral in it’s descriptions of “razor” blades and “cocaine” as it feels like it is describing a hedonism at it’s height like Jordan Belfort transplanted into the Americana of the Wild West. There is a mood of the singer seeking God and meaning within miles of dusty brutality, it is stirringly shocking and evocative. Much of the earlier tracks on the album are cited the most by media, but “Talking Jesus” for myself is the indicator of a tipping point towards the more interesting tracks on the album.

“Pink Belly” is a greatly rebellious track. I have up to this point characterised Edd Donovan as a mostly cheerful character, but with this track’s double bass, skulking guitar and almost prophesying voice we move to a more deconstructing and discontenting song,”the human race is failing and their systems don’t work.” The track has the character and feel of “One Step Beyond” and Madness, it is very two-tone and it’s appearance on the album is revealed suddenly and gleefully like the identity of Scooby Doo’s villain of the week. It is a major surprise on the album which speaks volumes of the artist’s versatility, and a firm favourite with myself.

In Review

Edd’s pellucid singing voice shines throughout bringing a deceptively idiosyncratic album into the mix which rather than sitting in it’s wicker chair of Americana prefers to perch on the edge, comfortable where it is but with it’s focus all around for inspiration. It is a characterful album which is quite distinctive in it’s phenomenological lyrics, song and instrumentation that blend into discrete experiences that reward re-listening. It is for this reason it has taken me a little while since release to begin to think about it’s intricacies and messages and in a good way, I think I’ll be at it a little while longer.

It is a nicely diverse album with some good composition, thoughtful songs, and accomplished musicianship that brings a lot to the table and leaves you sitting there fulfilled but wanting to know what all the ingredients are. 

It is certainly worth a look before Edd Donovan looks to the second volume and brings his lightness of touch and sincerity to a further work.

Check out a sample below:


Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles are currently on their “Making Mountains” tour and has just been at Wychwood Festival. Details of upcoming festival appearances can be seen here, where you can also sign up for their newsletter. 

If you want to get their album, go straight to the bandcamp page here and support them directly.