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Music Album Reviews with Ian Sinclair: December 2, 2020

Hjalte Ross
Waves of Haste
(Wouldn’t Waste Records)

★★★★

FOLLOWING his beautifully melancholic, Nick Drake-influenced 2018 debut LP, Norwegian singer-songwriter Hjalte Ross returns with the Waves of Haste, written during stays at a remote Norwegian lighthouse and in New York City.

Engineered by John Wood (John Martyn, Cat Stevens and, yes, Nick Drake), there is a noticeable expansion and maturing of his acoustic folk sound, with more varied and complex song structures. The tired-sounding Off My Mind includes strings, piano and some lonesome sax, while the horns-boosted Thinking About You is positively upbeat.

His hushed, whispered vocals still centre the music – sounding a lot like criminally overlooked artists such as Tom McRae and Kevin Tihista on tracks like the yearning Adrenaline.

Still only in his early 20s, it’s exciting to consider the hugely talented Ross has probably still not reached his artistic peak yet.

Deeply impressive.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Return To Greendale
(Warners)

★★★

NEIL Young’s archives series keeps rolling on.

Return to Greendale is a live performance of Greendale, his 2003 “audio novel” with Crazy Horse. Set in the aforementioned small Californian coastal town, the record was released to mixed reviews. With its themes of corruption, corporate power, invasive media and environmentalism, it’s certainly an ambitious and intriguing project, though I’ve always thought it never quite worked. Was a little unfocused, a little too blunt.

The concert finds Young and the Horse tacking closely to the recorded versions of the songs. The angry Grandpa’s Interview is a brilliant 13-minute workout for the band, with Young railing “It ain’t an honour to be on TV/And it ain’t a duty either.”

Best of all is the stunning take on the exquisite Bandit, one of the greatest acoustic tracks of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s later career.

Jennifer Castle
Monarch Season
(Paradise of Bachelors)

★★★★

AFTER 2018’s impressive Angels of Death, Canadian singer-songwriter Jennifer Castle’s sixth album is arguably her first solo release.

Recorded alone in her kitchen looking out over Lake Erie, with the windows wide open, it’s an exquisite set, with crickets and the lapping waves providing background accompaniment throughout. Castle plays all the instruments – acoustic guitar and piano, mainly. There is also some evocative harmonica work that brings to mind the rural quiet and spaciousness of Neil Young circa Rust Never Sleeps, and Bruce Springsteen on Nebraska.

Things proceed at pretty much a glacial pace, her countrified vocals singing of baseball and love on NYC, while Justice seems a more direct and simpler song.

A beguiling folk record full of poetic musings, file alongside the work of California’s Suzanne Valli and, from an older vintage, Joan Baez and Judee Sill.

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