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Farmer Jason and Buddies NATURE JAMS Hip-O Records: B0016420-00 HHHH Optimistic and infectious—you can’t help but like this collection of children’s nature songs, no matter what your age may be When winner of the Americana Music

Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Jason Ringenberg decided to create his family music character in 2002, and release a children’s album based predominantly on his childhood experiences of growing up on a farm in Illinois, he probably had no idea that his entertaining, educational pre- school-aimed venture would end up being so successful. Ten years down the line, with bags of

positive acclaim and two albums tucked nicely beneath his belt—A DAY AT THE FARM WITH FARMER JASON (2003) and ROCKIN’ IN THE FOREST (2006)—the story continues as Farmer Jason returns with his third chapter of tunes, FARMER JASON AND BUDDIES: NATURE JAMS—an energetic CD/DVD combo of sixteen colourfully spun and memorably inspiring songs (and four music videos) about nature and outdoor activities such as ice-skating, canoeing, whale watching and hiking. Each track is accompanied with a guest artist; banjoist, Alison Brown (Can You Canoe); Jason and the Scorchers (The Glacier); Nashville singer, Kristi Rose and Jason’s two daughters, Addie and Camille Ringenberg (Skating Along) appearing on the line-up, as well as Suzy Bogguss dueting on Meadowlark In Central Park with beautiful recorder and violin accompaniment courtesy of Fats Kaplin, who appears throughout the album’s duration. The release also comes with a vibrantly designed 20-page booklet about the 18 guest star artists and instruments used in each song. Still a kid at heart, I have to say I did

enjoy listening to the rocking Well Oh Whale, which sees Jason joined by Celtic rock band, The Saw Doctors; the intro to The Moose Lives Where? with folk singer, Todd Snider and Norwegian mystery author, Jo Nesbø, making me laugh; the musically rich Prairie Riddles, with Iris DeMent and the folky-fused Matinee about a tusk-less walrus; Hank Williams III’s voice adding a comedic element. Farmer Jason too shouldn’t be left unmentioned here;

78 Maverick

his optimism and infectious enthusiasm for the project and indeed during each song is something to be utterly admired. Each song is different from the next, and if this cleverly composed collection can appeal to a 21-year-old like me, then I’m sure kids all around the world are going to love it. Not wanting to admit it, but I’m sure this album is going to stay on my playlist for quite some time. Emily Saxton

Hatful of Rain WAY UP ON THE HILL Union Music Store HHHH Bluegrass with a folkish edge is a delight, evoking sights of smoke-filled mountains in Kentucky There is a surfeit of banjo and mandolin-

based bands floating in and around the Americana/roots music community at the moment. In order to get ones head above that mass of twanging and plucking you need to deliver something a little bit special, and I feel that Hatful of Rain have managed to do just that. You wouldn’t think that they hail from the quite mountainless county of Sussex, as they have a sound that is definitely rooted over from the other side of the Atlantic. It’s the beautiful vocals of Chloe Overton

that define this group—her voice can both soar when required, as on the opening title track and on the lively No Return, but also add just the right amount of pathos and catch in the throat as evidenced on Winter Rose. The rest of the band—James Shenton (fiddle, piano), Phil Jones (banjo, double bass, vocals) and Fred Gregory (guitar, mandolin, vocals)—are excellent musicians and provide a perfect platform for the tunes and songs to stand out. On Welcome To The Family, which could be a follow up to Little Feat’s Willin’, the whole band provide some sublime singing and playing. It is easy to pin the bluegrass label on this bunch, which in my view does them a disservice, as while their songs encompass the usual round of death, love, heartbreak etc. by adding elements of British folk, managing to sound refreshingly different. They were a knockout at the recent Maverick Festival. Go and buy this album if you want to know what all the fuss is about. John Jobling

Jason Heath and The Greedy Souls PACKED FOR EXILE Still Small Recordings: SSR1002 HHHHH Well-crafted, and thoughtfully written 14-track sophomore release from the greedy 5-piece Infectious, deep and incredibly thought-

provoking, PACKED FOR EXILE provides the perfect follow-up release from frontman, Jason Heath (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, harmonica) and the Greedy Souls, comprised of Jason Federici—the son of the late E Street Band member, Danny Federici who passed away after suffering from Melanoma; a disease the group raise money and awareness for, known as the Danny Fund—(accordion, Hammond and vox organ, melodica, vocals); Abraham Etz (drums, percussion); Adam Gitnick (lead guitar, vocals) and Will Mack—whose father is the jazz art specialist, Willie J. Mack—(electric and upright bass, vocals). Having already received positive acclaim,

with several of the featured tracks proving to be of hit substance, this well-carved 14-track release is an enthralling whip of country, folk-fused rock delight, bound together with folkish storytelling, tight harmonies and a depth of admiring quality that contributes to the album’s sparkling integrity. The memorable, lead single California

Wine—a cautionary tale, which has seen its own successful wave of airplay—gets things off to a deceptively buoyant start, with its thick musical backdrop, tinged with zydeco sounds and an animated structure, providing the perfect opening. An album built predominantly on life, Ghost In My House, #1 With A Bullet—one of two anti- war songs—and A Fighter’s Lullaby provide the album with some memorable hooks; the former, a melancholic tale about being in a close relationship, yet still feeling alone, whilst the acoustically led latter focuses on support and comfort. Three more songs that stand out for

me include the handclapping highlight, Runnin’ Like A River—a cleverly mixed, whimsical number with lush harmonies and a memorable chorus—the country- rock tinged Devil Ain’t Talking, guitar- led, stomping and versatile, and the rather comedic, yet eerily mixed Killing

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