It’s been a fine year for quality music. This continues my personal favourite releases of the year from the latter half of 2016.
Once I’ve completed this I’m going to set myself an additional challenge which will be to distill from all my favourites the 20 must buy albums of 2016. Added to this I’ll also go for my 20 songs of the year selected from the full list of my favourites for the whole of the year.
Ruth Theodore – Cactacus
Ruth started creating her own music as a teenager, teaching herself guitar and busking on Southampton High Street. She’s lived in London since 2006.
I first discovered her gorgeous music in 2010 with her album White holes of mole hills. Captivated by this I’ve tried to keep an ear out for her music ever since so was delighted when I was sent a copy of her current album Cactacus which is released on Aveline Records in conjunction with her own River Rat Records. The other difference with this album is that whereas previously Ruth has produced her own records, for Cactacus the acclaimed producer Todd Sickafoose who has worked memorably with Anais Mitchell and Ani Di Franco, two artists I’ve been a longstanding fan of the music of.
The songwriting is outstanding and subject matter is varied. Many standout tracks with ‘The Carcass And The Pride’, ‘Everything is Temporary’, ‘Kissing in traffic’, ‘Loop Hole’, ‘You Can’t Help Who You Love’ ones that I’d like to draw particular attention towards. Cactacus is definitely one of those albums I just keep going back to and I’m can pretty much guarantee you’d do the same if you got yourself a copy.
Southern Tenant Folk Union – Join Forces
I’ve loved the music of Edinburgh based roots/americana collective Southern Tenant Folk Union since they emerged in 2006 so always look forward to a new album from the band. Since their last release, The Chuck Norris Project, the the membership of the band has changed a little however Pat McGarvey remains a constant and has been joined by Scottish singer songwriter Rory Butler, fiddle player Katherine Stewart, percussionist Steve Fivey and from Inverness, double bass player Craig Macfadyen.
In trying to find a name the band chose the ground breaking multi-racial tenant farmers collective from the new deal/dustbowl era the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. They’ve been described in the music press as ‘A folk band for the Occupy era – passionate, political and mischievous’ and Join Forces, which is their 7th album, and it’s predecessor 4-track EP What would you give for a leader with soul, are influenced by politics and social justice. And their sound is influenced by bluegrass, folk and americana.
Lewis and Leigh – Ghosts
I’ve enjoyed Al Lewis’s solo releases, particularly his Battles album from a few years back. On that he was joined on a number of the songs by Sarah Howells from the Welsh duo Paper Aeroplanes. He sounded great on his own but I loved him collaborating with a female voice.
Over the last 18 months Al has put out three EP’s with American singer songwriter Alva Leigh. Their voices sound excellent together. Al is from North Wales originally and is now based in South Wales and Alva Leigh is from Mississippi but moved to London with her husband in 2012. After the EP’s I was very much hoping a full length album would emerge and this was released in September, entitled ‘Ghost. It’s a collection of self-penned originals recorded in January 2016 at Urchin Studios in London with Matt Ingram. My advice is get a copy and then work your way backwards through the EP’s.