Hemifran Records

Fine songs, new names, an impressive guest list and a reinvented genre

Here’s an album that reminds us of the past, whilst acting as a pointer to the future, with some excellent material and a quartet of wonderful emerging artists. The concept is based on an idea that seems to have rather fallen from favour since a peak in the the late 70s – that good old fashionedsampler albumwhereby a record label presented a number of new or emerging artists at a reduced price on a single (or sometimes double, or triple) album.

So, right here we have a Swedish label presenting four American singer-songwriters and making an effort to reignite that good old genre with some spiffing new material and a number of high profile guests. Greg Copeland, Keith Miles, Bob Cheevers and Barry Ollman are the four new artists in question and each deliver four or five songs that are all, well, exceptional. Each singer has support from different guests that include the likes of Jackson Browne, John Fulbright, Garry W Tallent, David Lindley and Spooner Oldham. It’s difficult to pick out highlights in an album with some many highlights! However, I’d single out Keith MilesKerouac Days, Barry Ollman’s The World Is Your Apple, Greg Copeland’s Pretty Girl Rules The World and Mistaken For Dancing as the pick of the crop because they are superb songs delivered by fine musicians into a world that really needsem.

Kerouac Days has a wonderful lazy guitar riff threading through it with Mileslaconic vocal recalling Jack’s classicOn The Roadnovel in the strummed guitars and a road weary lyric – wonderful stuff. Bob Cheeversresigned and angry vocal in Progress decries the way in which technology can isolate us from the real world and looks wistfully back to simpler times. Commencing with a sad slide guitar and a halting, world weary, vocal he asks accusingly,where did all the small places go?

Over the 18 tracks all human life is here with love, loss, friends, politics, death and music laid bare. It’s a great introduction to four writers using a tried and tested, if little used, method gaining insight into these artists that I will certainly keep my eye on. Fellow singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy sums it up neatly in the press release telling us “I say here, keep those singer-songwriters coming along, no matter how much the popular culture seems to find them uncomfortable, regardless if radio won’t play them, because we are defiant and rebellious … and we say what nobody wants to hear.” Amen to that, brother. Greg Johnson


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