Violet Road has officially been released for several months now.

With all things that are no longer new and sparkly, the chance of getting any more press to give my album a listen and review has dwindled to almost zero. I say almost zero, because I’ve just been forwarded a great write up by Samuel J. Fell (Rolling Stone, SMH, Rhythms) with permission to publish. Unfortunately, this review did not make it to print due to powers beyond Samuel’s control.

A big thank you to Samuel J. Fell for sharing his words and Karen Conrad for her persistence.

Sam Newton
VIOLET ROAD [Independent]
Three and a half out of five

Sydney native Sam Newton’s second full-length record is a gentle one. It doesn’t shove itself forward, jostling for attention, opting instead for a much more reticent approach – soft songs, often with the focus on Newton’s ubiquitously Australian voice which is itself unobtrusive, lilting and velvet, a real listening album.

All this isn’t to say it’s weak or insipid though. Newton proves here he’s able to conjure more than a little power with this gentle approach, the stories he tells vivid in their realism and relatability. Occasionally, he attempts to fit in a word or two too many, or add in a word which doesn’t really sit that well, but overall his songwriting is gorgeously simple, which is another reason why it projects this gentle power.

Sonically, he sits comfortably in the Americana arena, with more than a little nod to the blues and folk music, pedal steel playing an integral part in the overall sound, quietly strummed acoustic guitars and a subtle rhythm section, along with tastefully used harmonica and fiddle. Standout is ‘Homesick’, which is somewhat reminiscent of Eric Bibb, a folky number that utilises the blues as an inspiration, as opposed to direct interpretation.

Samuel J. Fell

As you can see from the previous top 3 albums post, there is a major advantage in having friends that share similar music tastes to you and who are also avid taste-makers. However, sometimes this isn’t the case. In those situations, don’t underestimate the power of quality music blogs.

Before I get going on my next top 3 albums of now, here are a few blogs that I both respect and follow. No write up necessary, just keep an eye on their movements:

Post To Wire

Post To Wire Blog

Timber and Steel

Timber and Steel Blog


Unpaved Blog


This week, I’ve decided to highlight a couple of my favourite releases from last year and an album from 2011 that another friend of mine recently put me onto.


1. Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread

Rosanne Cash Homepage

In writing about this album, let me make it clear that this is the only Rosanne Cash album that I have heard so far. Born in 1955, she has put out 10+ albums  with a wealth of original material ripe for the picking. I have a strong love for her dad’s (Johnny Cash) material, which makes me feel somewhat regretful for such a late showing to the party. All because of the pure awesomeness of this album. Be sure to hit me up with any of her other albums that you recommend I check out.

Everything about this album is appealing for me. The lyrics are great and littered with hooks, the session players are as good as they come, the production is polished but not plastic. Admittedly, it took me a couple of listens to really comprehend the high quality of this album.

All involved in the creation process should be commended – especially Producer John Leventhal. The flow between the tracks is seamless yet all are diverse. The River & The Thread is essential listening.

2. Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One

Tiny Ruins Homepage

Another release from last year, this is the second full length album from Tiny Ruins – the alter ego of New Zealander Holly Fullbrook.

My first exposure to Tiny Ruins was with this video recorded live on Radio National’s The Inside Sleeve:

The above song Me At The Museum, You At The Wintergardens is the opening track for Brightly Painted One and sets the mood for the entire album, which is one of deep introspective thought and spacious, acoustic beauty. When I first heard the studio version of the above song, I hit repeat about 3 or 4 times – maybe more.

Other personal highlights for the album include the tracks Reasonable Man and Straw Into Gold.

3. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

Kurt Vile Homepage

Years ago, I purchased my first Kurt Vile album. It was a second hand CD that the man behind the counter of a local record store highly recommended. I brought it home, moved house a few days later, and in the midst of the moving chaos, lost the album and forgot all about Kurt Vile.

Smoke Ring For My Halo is the first Kurt Vile album that I’ve properly listened to and absorbed and I love it. Every track see’s Vile sit cross-legged on the outskirts of folk, pop and rock obscurity. I feel like he has such a clear understanding of the elements that make up a great folk or pop tune that he can take a step back and twist the words and melodies into his own unique mould.

This album is not one for those who like to analyse lyrics and achieve instant gratification. With it’s intricate fingerpicking and hook-soaked chord progressions, it begs the listener to join Kurt Vile on the outskirts, close their eyes and take in the album as a whole.


Speak soon.

In addition to being a creator of music, I am also a passionate listener. From now and into the foreseeable future, I’ll be adding a weekly post sharing some albums that I’m currently listening to. My Top 3 Albums of Now will be from any era and are not limited by newest, edgiest, best or worst. Writing about these albums may not mean that I have just discovered them but may instead point to a revisit that I have to share with the world.

With these posts, I hope to not only keep this blog updated with quality content, but also share my musical tastes and influences with anyone who is interested.

Here are 3 albums that I’ve been enjoying over the past week:

1. Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory (2012)

Artists Website - Andrew Bird - Hands of Glory

I first discovered this album after learning the Ramblin’ Jack Elliott version of the song ‘Railroad Bill’ and doing some research. Andrew Bird is a phenomenal songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a very appealing writing style that sits somewhere in the realms of experimental folk and country.

This album features 2 different interpretations of the same song to open and close the album – ‘Three White Horses’. From here, it rises and falls between the rockabilly ‘When the Helicopter Comes’, the introspective folk storytelling of ‘Spirograph’ to the traditional ‘Railroad Bill’ and a beautiful cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘If I Needed You’.

With only 8 tracks and a 34min run time, Hands of Glory is short but sweet. Not one song leaves me fidgeting with the skip button.

2. Blake Mills – Heigh Ho (2014)

Artist Website - Blake Mills - Heigh Ho

The gem that is Blake Mills was a fairly recent find for me thanks to the encouragement of another Sydney Songwriter friend of mine – Leroy Lee. If you’re into a lyrics, guitar tones and clever production then this is an album well worth checking out. Then there is the technique, approach and note choice of Blake Mills. This guy is doing appealing things with the guitar that I haven’t heard before.

Heigh Ho features plenty of nylon guitar – often with a Cuban sort of twist (suggested by my guitarist and friend Cameron Henderson as due to his Ry Cooder influences), ear-candy electric guitar and some very accessible songwriting. Highlights for me include ‘If I’m Unworthy’ and ‘Three Weeks in Havana’.

If you are a guitarist in pursuit of the perfect tone, this record is a great place to start.

3. Cass McCombs – Big Wheel And Others (2013)

Artist Website - Cass McCombs - Big Wheel And Others

Another suggested record from the aforementioned musician to check out, Big Wheel And Others was a slow burner for me. With such a huge amount of content on the one album (22 songs@ 1hr 25min!), its hard to appreciate each song individually. And to tell the truth, I don’t like every song on this album. However this is made up for by the songs on it that I love.

This is another record for those who appreciate quality lyrics with the addition of chimey pedal steel. If you didn’t know already, I love pedal steel.

When you check out this album, which I highly recommend you do, there are a couple of songs that will be worth multiple repeats. Look out for ‘Brighter!’, ‘Name Written In Water’, ‘Angel Blood’ and ‘Morning Star’. The song ‘Brighter!’ also features a version of the same song sung by the late great actress Karen Black who died about a year after it was recorded.

Here’s an official video that was made to Honour Karen Black:


Expect another 3 albums next Monday.


Speak soon.