It's time for our monthly round-up of new albums sent to me via the good folks at ReviewShine, and after a quiet month last month we have five crackers for you today. That's "crackers" as in "things that are good", not as in "Southern white trash". Or "biscuits". Or "things you have at Christmas with bad jokes and hats".
Best known of the five acts, by some distance, is Steve Forbert. He has rather dropped off the radar at least in terms of media coverage since his heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s but he has been making consistently good records ever since (1992's "The American In Me" being a big personal favourite). His new album, "Over With You", comes out in September on Blue Corn Music and is well up to his usual high standard.
"Pollyanna" - Steve Forbert
With something of the same flavour as Steve's music, Dave Hardin is a new name for me. I believe "Miles of Nowhere", that came out a month or so back on Ride Records, may be his first album but he is no wet behind the ears naive young thing. Having joined the US navy straight from school, then had to make a living to support his family, it is only fairly recently that Dave has got back to making music. It has been worth the wait. His songs tell you he is a man who has seen the world and has sized it up pretty well. Like this one, apparently inspired by a news story about two brothers who robbed a petrol station.
"Gospel 101" - Dave Hardin
Next up we have the exotically named Natalie D-Napoleon. Originally from Western Australia but now based in California, her debut album "Leaving Me Dry" came out on Household Ink Records at the end of June. You can't always judge an album by the guest appearances, but with the likes of Greg Leisz and Victoria Williams on there you know there must be a chance it will be a decent album. And so it proves. It is a solid alt-country album, with good songs well played and well sung. There are no discernible Australian influences - not even a single Slim Dusty cover (boo!) - but that is a minor criticism.
"The Well Song" - Natalie D-Napoleon
Moving along, here are Big Snow Big Thaw, a Pittsburgh combo whose self-titled debut album is now available via Bandcamp. They describe themselves as having a "front porch" sound. Whether they can see the pawnshop on the corner from their front porch they don't go on to say. The album has a nice laid-back feel but with enough of an edge to it to stop it becoming merely "mellow". The highlights include "Rain-Streaked Map", a mandolin-led version of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog" which shouldn't work but somehow does, and this, the opening track of the album.
"Damn Allegheny" - Big Snow Big Thaw
We finish off with some indie rock from California, courtesy of an outfit called The Shape Of The Earth. Their latest album is called "Fire, Then Rain", which is available now on Bandcamp along with their previous releases. From the same school as the likes of the Decemberists, it occasionally gets a bit too anthemic for my tastes, but when it works it works very well. My favourites include "Pharmaceuticals" and this next one.
"Re: Telescope Eyes" - The Shape Of The Earth
For today's clip, here is Steve Forbert back in the days when he was battling out with Bruce to be the New Dylan (with a bit of the New Van Morrison thrown in for good luck). I have to say that of the two of them, I prefer where he has ended up.