Declaration of Independents: May/June Issue Indie Spotlight

Another gathering of releases by independent artists who deserve wider recognition. 

Videos by American Songwriter

Annie Keating | Bristol County Tides | (Independent) 

Annie Keating is the epitome of what it means to be a truly successful singer/songwriter. Her songs are flush with emotion—not the phony sentiments some artists stir into the mix simply to elicit sympathy, but rather a grit and determination that’s clearly accompanied by actual experience. There’s a sadness about where you’ve been, I feel it coming off your skin, she sings on the song “Kindred Spirit,” and there’s little doubt that she’s sharing truths she’s witnessed firsthand. The melodies—spread throughout 15 songs on her new album, Bristol County Tides—underscore her commitment to a supple mix of sassy, sultry and suggestive missives (“Third Street,” “Lucky 13,” “Blue Moon Tide,” “Marigold”), bittersweet balladry (“Nobody Knows,” “Kindness,”“Doris,”“Song for a Friend,”) and the woozy ode to intoxication (“Hank’s Saloon”). It’s a decidedly affecting effort, one which resonates throughout and lingers even longer.

Scythian | Roots and Stones | (Independent) 

Washington DC-based Scythian has over twelve years in their collective corner since starting their band while still attending university and playing their music as street buskers performing for whoever would listen. In the time since, they’ve become major festival headliners, attracting a loyal following for their spirited blend of Celtic, bluegrass and old-time sea shanties converging at the intersection of where these disparate styles found common ground. Scythian’s  latest album, Roots and Stones, is an assured and energetic musical mix spawned from Old World tradition and infused with current populist norms. Songs such as “Sail Away Johnny,” “Duffy’s Cut,” “The Fight,” “Fire In My Heart,” “The Motherland,” and “Galway City” are tailor-made to rouse an audience and bring them to a full frenzy. Fiddle, accordion, mandolin, banjo, guitar and Wurlitzer organ prove an adroit combination that stirs the senses and brings the energy level to full throttle. A lively brew, Roots and Stones provides a decidedly down-to-earth encounter. 

The Dinallos | Self-titled | (Memphis International)

To turn a twist on an old expression, the family that sings together stays together. That seems to be the case with the Dinallos, a couple consisting of Michael Dinallo (whose credits include oversight of a critically acclaimed tribute to Charlie Rich and production work on the debut by Billy Prine, John’s brother) and singer Juliet Simmons Dinallo, who can claim a superb solo career all on her own. They also enlist nine-year-old daughter Annabel, who makes a marvelous singing debut while taking the lead on “Lemonade.” To be sure, they have outside help as well with an all-star roster of great guest artists, among them, the McCrary Sisters, ace session bassists Dave Jacques and Dave Roe, drummer Tom Hambridge, and Will Kimbough, whose harmonies help spark the upbeat “Purgatory Road,” one of several songs that give the album its rousing revival feel. Wholly written by the Dinallos—the sole exception being a fiddle-fueled take on Lindsey Buckingham’s “Monday Morning”—The Dinallos provides the couple with an exceptional duo debut, one that has us looking forward to more.

Kevin Abernathy | Mapping the Strange | (independent)

A fixture on the Knoxville, Tennessee music scene, Kevin Abernathy has released a series of outstanding albums on his own in addition to playing a key role in the High Score, generally considered one of the best rock and roll bands west of the Smokies. Abernathy’s new effort, a six song EP titled Mapping the Strange, offers a further example of his personable approach, an easy, affable sound that instantly envelops listeners and puts them in a tender embrace. “Talk” exemplifies that instant appeal, while the subdued yet sympathetic “Worry” shares the sentiment in the simplest and most direct way: I wish you wouldn’t worry, because then I worry too.” Despite his honesty and humility, Abernathy conveys his conviction with a drive and delivery that complements both his reassurance and resolve. The final song of the set, “Your Own Way Home” sums up those sentiments succinctly, offering emotional uplift that resonates with resolve.

Davie Furey | Haunted Streets | (independent) 

Davie Furey of Ireland makes an emphatic impact with his sophomore set, Haunted Streets, an album that finds a fit with lesser known but clearly accomplished artists like Willie Nile, Elliot Murphy, the Waterboys (whose Steve Wickham makes an appearance here) and Christy Moore, all tattered troopers who shake the rafters with their sound and sonics. Whether its a decided sing-along like “Spaces Full,” a surging anthem along the lines of “Flames on the River” and “Fire and Gold,” rich, reverberating ballads such as “Secret Light,” “Who Am I” and “Farewell Returning Blues,” the sinewy sound of “The Final Frontier” or the quiet caress that encompasses the aptly titled “The Magic of the Ocean,” Furey comes across as a well-rounded troubadour—part folkie, part arena rocker and fully committed craftsman. One thing is certain however—true to its title, Haunted Streets is a spirited entry.

Feature photo of Annie Keating’s Bristol County Tides album cover art

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