Favourite releases of the last 6 months of 2016

Into the final entries for my best of the year blog. Few more to come over the next few days. And then that’s it until some more new music emerges in 2017.

Nancy Kerr and the Sweet Visitor Band – Instar

Without doubt one of the finest gigs of the year for me was catching Nancy Kerr and the Sweet Visitor Band when they played at the Musician in Leicester in September.  I really liked her previous release Sweet Visitor and excellent though that album is Instar surpasses it for me. It’s almost folk-rock in it’s sound, definitely a good thing in my view.

The songs are inspired by contemporary nature writers Rob Cowen and his book Common Ground and George Monbiot and his book Feral, by life in Sheffield (Nancy lives in the city) and political and social issues. Standout tracks, well there are many, but I’ll name four. Instar, the title song has been my earworm for a while now. Then you have Goodbye stony ground, possibly one of the few, perhaps only songs to include Karl Marx in the lyric and Written on my skin, which is a song Nancy contributed to the Sweet Visitor project, another best release of the year for me which I blogged about on an earlier post. Then there’s the first track I played on the show, Gingerbread which you can see and hear below.

My advice? Check out Instar and if you get the chance to see Nancy and the band play live you’re in for a treat.


Cera Impala – Tumbleweed 

A few years back one of the albums I was enthusing about on the show was by a Scottish band called Dark Green Tree. They’d just issued their debut album Secret Life. Boo Hewerdine was involved in the production of the album and Cera Impala was the third member of the band. Her contributions really added that extra dimension to what was already an excellent album. So when I received a copy of her solo album Tumbleweed I was intrigued and had high expectation. I’m delighted to report that those high expectations were met with what assailed my ears.

On Tumbleweed there are influences from americana, country, folk, blues and jazz. The combination of these varying elements weaving their way into the mix on the album work exceptionally well. Cera has travelled a good deal, originally from the US and living in various towns and cities there she is now based in Scotland.  Cera’s musician husband is also part of her band and sometimes plays alongside one of my favourite Scottish bands, Southern Tenant Folk Union. I’ve blogged about them previously, do check out their Join Forces album. But I digress, have a listen to Cera Impala….


Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart like a levee

I’ve been following the musical exploits of M.C. Taylor who releases music under the name Hiss Golden Messenger for some years now. The last album Lateness of dancers was so good I was wondering, how is that one going to be followed up? It felt like a hard act to follow. Well, Heart like a levee is just as fine an album. Songs that draw you in, a bit of Dylan-esque drawl at times. I love it!

M.C. says of the album “The writing of the songs that became Heart Like a Levee started in a hotel room in Washington DC in January of 2015 during a powerful storm that darkened the East Coast. At that time I was feeling—more acutely than I had ever felt before—wrenched apart by my responsibilities to my family and to my music. Forgetting, momentarily, that for me, each exists only with the other. How could I forget? Though maybe my lapse was reasonable: I had just quit my job, the most recent and last, in a series of dead-end gigs stretching back 20 years, with the vow that my children would understand their father as a man in love with his world and the inventor of his own days. They would be rare in that regard. And then—driven by monthly bills and pure fear— I left for another tour, carrying a load of guilt that I could just barely lift. But in that snowy hotel room I found the refrain that became my compass: I was a dreamer, babe, when I set out on the road; but did I say I could find my way home?”



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