HMV Choice: Top 10 Albums
Singer-songwriter Angie Palmer blends folk and country with blues and rock and, while you can hear the influences of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, she also manages to create her own distinctive sound.
Palmer’s strong voice sounds equally at home on both melancholy ballads and chugging rockers-she gives a fine demonstration of her many different moods across the nine songs on ‘Road’, which finds her returning to her stripped down acoustic routes.
But don’t panic-Angie Palmer is no navel-gazing, bedsit-anthem composer. She brings a remarkably mature approach to affairs of the heart and intelligently waxes philosophical here. Her willing ness to jam songs with so many high-culture reference points brings to mind Bob Dylan’s mid- 1960s output, with the album?s last track, Down The Street Of The Cat Who Fished throwing up references to the likes of Godot, Catherine Deneuve and Desdemona.
Appropriately enough, Angie thanks ‘Cafe Philosophique’ for the aesthetics. This is definitely one for the grown ups.
Garth Cartwright, July/August 2004
Genuine Americana from Preston.
Imagine a Joni Mitchell raised on records by Robert Earl Keen. It’s not hard to visualise. For Angie Palmer the road has seemingly gone on forever – first via a seven year jaunt round Europe and more recently a gaggle of homeland gigs involving bars and Barns in Cumbria. A guitarist who can fashion great licks at the drop of a collection cap – “the better I played the better I ate” -she is a writer of considerable distinction as her wordy but worthy opener, Footprints In The Snow, demonstrates in spades.
Backed by a band that includes fiddler Richard Curran(Bert Jansch), guitarist Mark Townson(The Swamp Dogs) and Keyboardist Alan Gregson(Cornershop), Palmer hightails it through the stomping Fishtails and hits the melancholy button for the small but beautiful Followed Down Sundown.
One to be played at regular intervals.
Country Music People
‘Spotlight Album of the Month’: September 2004
This is an exquisite release, beautifully packaged and a credit to everyone involved in it. This is Angie Palmer’s third album and if they’re even half as good as this one they should be investigated.
She writes intelligent and literate songs with Paul Mason and they are all engaging in the same way as those of Mary Chapin Carpenter (particularly The Ballad of Love and Strife and the fascinating- and long at nearly nine minutes- final track The Street of the Cat Who Fished, which includes half a verse in French).
Fishtails is a little different from the other tracks, swampy R&B with lyrics reminiscent of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues that are basically a list. There are also elements here of Bridget St. John and Gillian Welch (the latter is also mentioned on Palmer’s website and her excellent band are called The Revelators, no doubt in polite acknowledgement of Welch’s Time The Revelator).
The subject matter of these songs is mainly about the trials and tribulations of romance, and maybe Palmer, who sings very well and also plays guitar and banjo (Gillian Welch again), has been a victim- but then haven’t we all? However Palmer makes this hackneyed subject sound interesting, which is a rare achievement.
There are more long tracks (five minutes or more) than short ones, but a measure of how well this has been arranged, performed, recorded, and presented is that boredom was the last thing on my mind when listening to it (and that’s a rare accolade these days).
This is one of those projects that exudes class from every pore, and which is likely to provide new highlights each time it is played. If the band goes on the road with this album only a fool would avoid seeing them. Let?s hope they are as good live as in the studio. A definite one for my albums of the year- if anyone asks me for a list.
This Month in Americana Nov. 2004
The Lancashire-based Palmer has a delicious hair-in-the-voice approach that gives her a tough edge over her more fey contemporaries. This her third album after 2001’s self-funded romantica obscura and predecessor ‘A Certain Kind of Distance’ is mostly just acoustic and voice, sparsely adorned with the decorative frills of guitarist Mark Townson, acoustic bass, violin, mandolin, and cello (the slow string fade of ‘Followed Down Sundown’ is outstanding).
We’re in Joni Mitchell/Shawn Colvin territory here- pin-drop ballads with the faintest country-blues undertow- but, as on ‘Fishtails’ she can pout like the sassiest of bar room queens too.
‘Road’ is unbelievably the third independent release from UK based singer- songwriter Angie Palmer; Unbelievable from the point of view that she has not been snapped up by a record company, surely one of the UK based labels could make room for an artist of this promise on their roster? Palmer finds herself back on these shores following years spent as an itinerant minstrel, busking the towns of Europe. This was time spent honing her talents as a performer & acquiring the emotional raw materials that she has shaped into the songs presented here.
Opener ‘Footprints in the Snow’ builds into a rollicking travelogue, employing vivid imagery and poets flourish that have handed Palmer her very own ‘Tangled up in Blue’. Whilst sadly she does not return to anything quite as raucous again it is still a beautiful collection. The subtle blues of ‘When You Call (for Lucia)’ and the exquisite ‘Less than I Need You’; the latter clearly informed by her years on the road…’I’ve been rich & I’ve been poor, Good & bad’s knocked on my door, I’ve seen the old turn into new, but I need tomorrow less than I need you.’ For those looking for a reference point, Palmer is not as grungy as Lucinda Williams, but possesses a definite edge over many of her contemporaries. I would like to have heard some more up- beat material on the record, not because the slow material was in any way deficient, simply because she does it so well.
I don?t just think she should be getting her stuff out to Loose, Snowstorm, Laughing Outlaw etc. I think they should be hunting her out, before she becomes the one that got away.
One of the Top Ten of 2004….Recommended.
We receive many self-released albums for consideration, in general they’re a mixed bag with the occasional gem, but unfortunately most just aren’t suitable – after my first listen to ‘Road’ I was checking to see if this really was a self released disc without a label behind it as it’s one of the most striking independent releases I’ve heard: it’s confident, assured, varied and a fully formed and realised collection.
‘Road’ is a really easy disc to listen to, this is possibly because there are identifiable vocal and musical influences throughout, but these are very subtle and rather than coming across as a pastiche, it gives the disc an accessible and welcoming feel, but she manages to strike the perfect balance between familiarity and freshness as this obviously a distinct and individual piece of work.
Lyrically this is an interesting album, she covers traditional songwriter themes well on many of the songs, but the first and last tracks are the obvious standouts, they’re both substantial songs with dramatic and vivid lyrics that are full of myth and metaphor and certainly open to varied interpretation. It’s a musically diverse album that moves between styles well, but overall there’s the slightest country feel throughout. This is probably due to the choice of instrumentation which has a good amount of excellent violin and mandolin on top of the standard acoustic and electric guitars. Other detail is provided by cello and Hammond, and this mix of instrumentation works together well and suits both the acoustic and the fuller sounding songs, but even at its busiest everything is well controlled and never overpowers Angie’s expressive vocals. There are a good number of standout tracks here, ‘Footprints in the Snow’ and ‘The Ballad of Love and Strife’ are both upbeat songs with great melodies that are very easy to listen to, and ‘Satellites’ is a track full of atmosphere with an excellent vocal. The final track is clearly the one that will stick with you, ‘Down the Street of the Cat Who Fished’ is a nine minute acoustic song that lyrically and structurally nods towards ‘Desolation Row’, it’s a wonderfully constructed song with a simple guitar riff and excellent lyrics.
Although Angie may not be well known outside the North West this excellent disc deserves to find its way to a much wider audience.
This is one of the best CDs we have ever received. With the warmth of Joni Mitchell, she’s the kind of artist that evokes a spontaneous exhale; a relieved sigh that comes from the comfort of her rich, solid songwriting and the modern ring of contemporary handling, reminiscent of Shawn Colvin. Angie Palmer weaves the ring of her guitar with the resonant buzz of her hearty voice and the lilting message of her songs, occasionally blessed by the voice of cello, into a collection of lightly country-tinged gems. So good in fact we are going to include it on our ‘sampler.’ This is normally reserved for CDs that sell the most, but we love this so much we are going to include it anyway.
Derek Sivers, February 6
Folk and Roots
Palmer’s style broadly falls into the ‘Americana’ genre with clear Country and Country rock influences, amongst others, whilst certainly not being a carbon copy of any of the current well known crop from across the pond.
“Road” consists of nine jointly composed tracks and Palmer is accompanied by Acoustic Bass, Fiddle, Mandolin, and Cello alongside her own Vocals, Guitar and Banjo playing. She has also co-written all the lyrics with Paul Mason which range in subject and tempo from the more reflective “Down the Street of the Cat who Fished” to the more Honky Tonkish rocking Fishtails whilst detouring through the smoother Country song “Ballad of Love and Strife” and opens with the strong and country rocking “Footprints in the Snow”. Apart from Palmer’s mature and diverse vocal styles the lyrics themselves are incredibly strong and whilst they deal with human relationships in the broadest sense they are the signs of a very strong storyteller in their own right.
Rarely has an independent recording come along (although to be fair Palmer has spent many years learning her trade, years that were well spent) which contains such a strong mixture of songwriting, vocal and musical skills, combining a firm edge with sensitivity, a rockier component with balladry and more contemplative elements such as the lengthy Down the Street of the Cat who Fished” (worth buying for the song title alone), this is a recording that really doesn’t fail to please, no fillers, every track stands out on its own merits and a clear indication of the strength of the whole. That aside I still suspect that Palmer’s strengths even more in her live performances, and I’ll certainly be grabbing the first opportunity to test that hypothesis.
This is Palmer’s third release and with this recording she has started to mark the impression she rightly deserves (the strength of this recording alone should be suffice to ensure that) and I would imagine or more accurately predict that she will be a far more regular booking in the better venues schedules soon.
Barely two years after releasing an unbelievably mature second CD (Romantica Obscura), Angie now steams along with a third, which, as its title might be taken to indicate, is less a stop-off at the Crossroads than a timely drive down the highway of rootsy Americana with no more than a passing visit to the heartland of the blues along the way. Again, Angie’s penned all the material herself in collaboration with Paul Mason, and her writing is characterised by an uplifting optimism that’s tempered by realism, giving rise to a neat kinda vibe of loose rollin’ on, movin’ on through life, that runs through the album like that very road.
Just as on Romantica Obscura, Angie ably demonstrates her innate musicality and her credibly canny way of varying the textures and tempos within the span of the album. The opening Footprints In The Snow, an uptempo slice of homespun cautionary philosophy, comes complete with a jangly momentum that marries Desire-era Dylan with Untitled-era Byrds. This cut exemplifies the sensitive and empathic approach taken by Angie’s backing band The Revelators (whose lineup doesn’t contain a single John, but does include Richard Curran on violin and mandolin!), who accompany her on Road. Additionally, and notwithstanding the considerable expertise of her four-piece band, Angie keeps the backings delightfully sparse for the most part, and on one or two cuts (When You Call, and especially Less Than I Need You) I sense she’s been taking lessons from the Gillian Welch book of restraint (the latter might well have been a lost GW outtake!). The tender Satellites, more in the soft-rock mould, could almost have come from the pen of Chris While or Julie Matthews, and gives Angie a chance to show just how fine a singer she is, on a range that takes in husky, full-throated and head-voice with equal power and conviction.
Fishtails is a kind of 12-bar Subterranean Homesick roller (superb guitar work from Mark Townson here, by the way) that comes on like a bluesier Thea Gilmore, while the country-shuffle of The Ballad Of Love And Strife marries an airy, catchy Lindisfarney mandolin riff to a familiar, pithy contemporary morality. The drifting chords of Followed Down Sundown convey so well the lyric’s combination of carefree confidence and scary uncertainty (Rebecca Maunder’s cello is used to good effect here). Finally, the more lengthy but compelling Down The Street Of The Cat Who Fished is a cryptic and knowing Joni-esque parable.
This a fantastic and highly assured third album from Angie, housed in a really attractive arty digipack sleeve; and it’s high time her distinctive talents were discovered and feted further outside her native north-west.