Session Americana – North East

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

It’s probably unusual to come across an album made up of songs from such diverse sources as James Taylor, The Pixies, Tom Rush, Jonathan Richman and Donna Summer, unless that is, you consider the geographical area from which all these artists came. New England is a melting pot of styles every bit as important as other notable musical areas of the United States and it’s by bringing these styles together that some of this can immediately be seen. The musicians at the core of Session America are joined here by a handful of singers and musicians to help breathe new life into some familiar and not so familiar songs from the Northeast, hence the album’s title. Fading in with a faithful reading of James Taylor’s “Riding on a Railroad”, which could quite easily be James Taylor, the songs take us on a journey through the past, with several voices adding spice to the main course.

Produced by Kris Delmhorst and Ry Cavanaugh, Northeast informs us that the roots of Americana are still a vibrant force in this particular area, and in a way echo the sort of thing explored in the late 1960s just outside Saugerties; although rather than plowing the tradition as in the case of The Band, these musicians are very much focused on contemporary songwriters from the Massachusettes and New Hampshire areas over the past half a century. One or two of those musicians are no longer with us, Morphine’s Mark Sandman for instance, whose song “The Night” is given a convincing melancholy reading by Ali McGuirk, whilst Donna Summer’s “Dim All the Lights” is treated to an Axl Rose vocal courtesy of John Powhida, offering a change rather than a rest. It’s perhaps with performances such as Jennifer Kimball’s reading of Patty Griffin’s “Goodbye” though, that gives this particular collection its heart.