The Equatorial Group are from Eastbourne, East Sussex. However, on the evidence of their new session, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they hail from East Nashville. Featuring some fine steel guitar playing on a couple of the tracks, there’s a lovely mood to all of the songs in the set. Kudos to the Broadoak Studio for capturing the sound and the images so well. The Equatorial Group – one to watch out for in 2017.

Joe Sampson is a label mate of Kramies on Hidden Shoal. He’s a singer-songwriter in the spirit of Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen. In September he released a 5-song EP, Songs of Delay. It featured a track with Nathaniel Rateliff of the Night Sweats fame. Now, there’s a full album. Entitled Chansons de Parade, it hallmarks Sampson’s fragile-sounding style. But it’s not bedsits and microwaves. There’s a playfulness to the lyrics and a lovely chiming quality to the guitar sound that lifts the songs.

Songs of Delay is available as a free download from Sampson’s Bandcamp site. Chansons de Parade is also there and for a name-your-own-price deal. As a taster, here’s Joe Sampson and Nathaniel Rateliff singing ‘Songbird’ from the Songs of Delay EP.

She Makes War is the creation of the incredibly talented Laura Kidd. Based in Bristol, she was recently touring Europe with The Levellers. Earlier in the year, she released an album entitled Direction of Travel. Packaged with some amazing artwork by Alex Bertram-Powell, the sound will appeal to those, like me, who appreciate artists such as Lykke Li and Bat For Lashes. With a great hook built around some gorgeous strings, one of the stand-out tracks is ‘Stargazing’. Direction of Travel shows that Laura Kidd is more than a writer, performer, or musician. She’s all of these for sure, but she’s also someone with an all-round vision of what she wants from She Makes War. I like that.

There’s much more about She Makes War from her website. You can get a copy of Direction of Travel from her Bandcamp page along with previous material. And here’s the video for ‘Stargazing’.

In July, St Mojo released an EP called Sacramental Wine. It’s a genuinely fine debut release that deserves to be on the best-of-the-year playlists. Written by guitarist and singer, Michael Jacob, the songs feature the steel guitar playing of Robby Turner, who has worked with pretty much every Nashville legend that comes to mind. It says a lot that Turner’s willing to give up his time to play with the band. But, listening to the EP, it’s not too surprising. Michael Jacob has a great voice. The stories he tells are really strong. And, boy, these guys can play. I can’t recommend Sacramental Wine highly enough. I’m really looking forward to hearing some more material from St Mojo in the new year.

You can find out more about St Mojo at their website. They have a Facebook Page. And here’s one of the stand-out tracks from the Sacramental Wine EP.

Rounding off the year by giving some time to a few artists who have been kind enough to bring themselves to my attention over the last few months, and who deserve to reach a wider audience.

To start with, here’s Rick Barry. His most recent album, Curses, Maledictions and Harsh Reiterations, came out a couple of months ago. It’s a really nice collection of songs. The mood is mellow, but the emotions are intense. With some help on vocals from Nicole Atkins, some lovely fiddle, dobro, and mandolin playing by Larry Campbell, and contributions from Bon Iver band member, C.J. Camerieri, on horns, the sound is really rounded out. Recommended.

You can listen to Curses, Maledictions and Harsh Reiterations on Soundcloud. You can buy a hard copy from his website. You can also find his earlier work on Bandcamp. In the meantime, here’s a lovely animated video for the song ‘Wanderlust’ from his fine album.

The waiting is over. My favourite albums of 2016. All instant classics.

Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

angel-olsen-my-woman

An album of two halves, both of them exceptional. Not a single bad track and all of them delivered with real emotion. But why can’t I stop calling her ‘Angle’?

Marissa Nadler – Strangers

marissa art

If you like your indie artists communing with black metal merchants, then Strangers is for you. Marissa Nadler has come a long way since Songs III: Bird on the Water.

Damien Jurado – Visions Of Us On The Land

damien

I literally lost the plot a couple of albums ago. But Damien Jurado rounds off an epic trilogy with his very best offering to date. What’s next? A prequel? Yes, please.

Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To

YouCantGoBack_web-1024x1024

On their valedictory album, Richmond Fontaine add another essential release to their catalogue. If you don’t feel sorry for Little Joe on ‘Wake Up Ray’, then you’ve no heart.

Jim James – Eternally Even

homepage_large-c6f87d76

MMJ’s It Still Moves was already one of the standout re-releases of the year. But the Yim’s second solo album exceeded all expectations. And they were already very high.

David Bowie – Blackstar

blackstar_front_cover

It’s difficult to separate the music from the loss, but what a way to bow out. It’s worth adding ‘No Plan’ from the Lazarus soundtrack to the playlist.

Bat For Lashes – The Bride

Bat For Lashes - The Bride

The Bride is an exhausting but exhilarating journey into the restless imagination of Natasha Khan. The songs may be full of elemental imagery, but the tone is quiet.

Wye Oak – Tween

homepage_large-8d606a51

Outtakes from their last two albums presented as a new offering. It’s not the most promising start, but this collection shines nonetheless.

Kevin Morby – Singing Saw

8ded819b

When the actual singing saw kicks in, you start to run for cover. It seems like it’s really out to get you.

Band of Horses – Why Are You OK

Why Are You OK

Deceptively casual. Behind the seemingly good-time songs, demons were lurking. It wasn’t a confessional album, but it was more than just the soundtrack to a house party.