The Blue Note Project – Amrap (Big Towne)
Amrap refers to Parma (spelt backwards), the small Polish suburb of Cleveland where Blue Note Project main man Eddie Taska learnt his chops, hanging out with his musical heroes, like the James Gang and Joe Walsh. As you might have guessed from their name, the blues provide the backbone of the band’s sound, though they integrate a host of soul and rock influences. “Cruisin Sunset” gets the ball rolling with a funky Albert King style workout, and although there’s no major lapse of judgment or any issue with quality control anywhere on Amrap, standout track “Watering Hole” is three minutes of total blues-rock bliss.
Lynn Hollyfield – Layers (Independent)
Lynn Hollyfield’s Layers is a collection of ten original songs and a couple of well-chosen covers. Her indie-folk-pop style would have gone down a treat 25 years ago when she would have been opening up for 10,000 Maniacs or Cowboy Junkies, and it still sounds pretty good now. Hollyfield’s voice is strong and seductive, and her songs are warm and inclusive. Her version of the classic “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” strips the song back but takes no rash liberties with either tempo or arrangement. The title track – one of her own – is a beauty, which harks back to the best work of goth-folkies All About Eve.
Mary MacGowan – Morning Glory (Independent)
Drawing comparisons to The Roches and the McGarrigle Sisters can’t be a bad thing for any aspiring singer-songwriter, and Mary MacGowan certainly earns the kudos with an album of quirky, heartfelt songs that faultlessly showcase her unusual, but perfectly lovely voice. The title track, with Bill Kelly and Ellen Paltiel, is the outstanding song, the sort of thing that Wogan would have picked up on in the past and made huge. Kelly and Paltiel turn up on a few other tracks too, but whether singing solo or with friends, this is MacGowan’s album and it’s a winner. Song samples can be found on her website (link below).