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'North East'   

-  Label: 'Appaloosa'
-  Genre: 'Alt/Country' -  Release Date: '13th September 2019'

Our Rating:
On their seventh album, Session Americana, a Boston-based "roots collective", asked friends and collaborators from their home region to suggest and perform songs from New England, with no restrictions of era or genre. The result is a diverse and mostly rewarding selection although to appreciate fully you have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth.

The duds are entirely predictable. There is simply no way you can add anything meaningful to The Pixies' Here Comes Your Man or Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner so why even try? A de-discofied version of Donna Summer's Dim All The Lights, sung by John Pwhida also falls flat.

Possibly it helps if you are unfamiliar with the originals. For instance, a standout song is a sublime cover of the relatively obscure Driving. This tender song, written by Chris Pappas for his band 'The Everyday Visuals', has strong echoes of Iron & Wine's 'Naked As We Came'.

A kind of companion piece to this is Chandler Travis Philharmonic's Air Running Backwards which manages to improve on the original thanks to its elegantly restrained arrangement.

The latter is one of three bonus tracks that feature on the digital release. Another of these is Carly Simon's Coming Around Again sung by Ry Cavanaugh who also reinterprets James Taylor's Riding on a Railroad.

This is the only time we hear the same singer twice. On the 11-track vinyl version, each song has a different lead vocalist; seven male and four female.

The smattering of travel songs suggests that many north-eastern artists nurtured dreams of escaping the region's faded mill towns . At a stretch, the take on Jimmy Buffett /Martina McBride's Trip Around The Sun could also fall into this category.

Faded prosperity is a theme of Bill Morrissey’s You'll Never Get To Heaven as voiced by New Hampshire native Zac Trojano while the ghosts of a brighter past are also evident in Tom Rush's Merrimack County.

Sad refrains of a more personal nature inform Morphine's sombre The Night and a cover of Patty Griffin’s bitter-sweet Goodbye, the second of these is beautifully rendered by Ry Cavanaugh's wife Jennifer Kimball.

On the whole, the trip around the neighbourhood has a few bumpy moments. Not all the tracks lend themselves to an Alt.County makeover but it still makes for an enjoyable ride worth embarking on.

Session Americana's website

  author: Martin Raybould

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