Written by James Killen

It has been almost two months since I began exploring the music from the recordings that I was given by the artists at this year’s SWRFA convention. I listened to each recording at least twice and many a bit more than that. There were some very unique and distinctive productions. People displayed natural and developed talents. Some works were richly produced, while others were bare bones and raw. The songwriters looked at the world from unique perspectives and expressed their observations in carefully crafted verses. Some artists made me laugh and others made me want to cry and others inspired me to make a stand. All of the contributors had the courage to put themselves on display and have earned my applause.

With very few exceptions, I enjoyed the productions. I chose to write a short review of all of the contributions that I wanted to hear more of after the initial two spins. If your disc didn’t get reviewed, please don’t be disappointed. Many were great early efforts and I encourage you to keep up the great work.

John Batdorf and Michael McLean- Soundtrax 2 Recovery

These gentlemen wrote some very easily accessible songs that are meant to sustain hope and encourage progress in anyone facing addiction or affliction. I can see that this disc would likely be a help to those on the road to health.


Buckley- Miles We Put Behind

Buckley hales from Canada and this recording was produced in Montreal, and very professionally so. The songs themselves are very well crafted. They are presented in a style that on the mellow side of a Nashville sound. The supporting musicians are very talented and tastefully restrained. This disc tells stories and tells them well.


K.C. Clifford- Coming Bare (Live at the Blue Door)

This record is a fine bare bones disc of K.C.’s original material featuring her lovely voice. What is most memorable about this recording though, is the inclusion of all of the stage banter that presents the artist’s sparkling personality and inspiring philosophy.


Wes Collins- Welcome to the Ether

Wes Collins rather sneaked up on me with this recording. I was very much impressed with his lyrical as well as his melodic content. His easy conversational style wordsmithing belies a complexity and depth of content. It’s very much a winning composition.


Ronnie Cox- Lost in the Words, Lost in the Music

This live recording of the actor/singer/songwriter famous for his part in “Deliverance” captures Cox’s wit and warmth on his introductions that are inserted between his songs.



Helene Cronin- Restless Heart

Helene displays her extremely talented vocals on a collection of family oriented country folk songs. The instrumental work as well as the production is extremely professional and well done. This one is radio ready.


Teghan Devon- Fingers Crossed

Teghan lends her distinctive voice to this disc of creatively written indy-pop songs.  Derrick Holleman lends his gritty guitar work to some of the more rocking numbers. Teghan is an up and comer.


Scott Duncan- On a Bus to Nowhere

Scott presented a record of traditional folk troubadour music. They are well written songs with a message, garnished with nimble finger picked melodies. Artists don’t follow this tradition like they once did and it was nice to get back to basics.


Kora Feder- Marigolds

Kora has this EP of songs put out in 2017 and is scheduled to put out a full lengths CD in 2019. Her songwriting is full of imagery and tightly crafted, showing an amazing command of the English language applied to her lyrics. Her timing and syntax add that extra emphasis to what she wants the listener to pay attention to. This young lady will go far.


Grifters and Shills- Long Tongue Liars

John and Rebecca Stoll recorded this disc with no original tunes. Instead, they chose a collection of traditional blues tunes from ages past and produced them in original ways featuring high energy guitar work and a contagious sense of fun.


Will Huneke- English Eyes

Will’s six song EP is a nice little collection of songs that each tell a story. It draws the listener in with Will’s distinctive voice and fine guitar work.


Joel McColl- The Return of Rosco Martin

Joel’s recording shows a diverse list of influences from country to blues to folk. Many of his songs come off a little bit corny, but they are good-natured, witty and fun.


Moody Little Sister- Wild Places

Naomi Hooley and Rob Stroup put together a very cool Indy pop disc with some nice hooks both melodic and lyrical.


Amanda Pascali- Immigrant American Folk Music

Ms. Pascali came to Houston from New York City where she had met a number of immigrants from a variety of countries. She lends her strong sweet voice to five compositions on this EP telling their stories.


Pushing Chain- Sorrows Always Swim

Boyd Blomberg and Adam Moe have written a collection of traditionally styled country tunes served up with guitar and fiddle. This disc was produced by veteran musicians, Bill Kirchen and Mark Hallman in the Austin studio, Congress House.


Cari Ray and the Shakey Legs- Bad & Better Angels

This duo has come up with a very diverse set of Americana songs displaying a wide variety of influences and original inspiration. Some of Cari’s songs remind me of Michelle Shocked. The vocals are on the spot and the stories come through clearly.


Jan Seides- Unsung

Ms. Seides has chosen to present a disc of songs that are written from the perspectives of lesser known Bible characters. She shows unique perspective and empathy in these compositions.


Geoff Simpson- Ragged Offering

Simpson has created a very tasteful disc of Christian music. Several of the songs are based on scriptures and several of them utilize King James pronouns and verb conjugations. The lyrics carry unmistakable messages of praise and morality. The instrumental portion of the disc is diverse, utilizing a church organ as well as a Hammond B3. There are acoustic guitar folk songs, country ditties with lively fiddle and mandolin, and songs with classic rock influences from folks like Carlos Santana and Stephen Stills. This disc will appeal to many listeners, both the devout and those that are not.


Suzie Vinnick- Shake the Love Around

Suzie’s disc is a wonderful selection of all things Blues, from hard driving “rockatious” guitar numbers to gentle bluesy ballads. Everything revolves around Vinnick’s nimble fret work and her smooth vocals.


Annette Wasilik- Songs from the Talking House

Annette’s production is a collection of songs looking at the world from a woman’s point of view. Her voice sounds hauntingly like Margot Timmons of The Cowboy Junkies. The melodies are simple and direct.


Jim Wyly- The Artisan

Jim’s new disc was a most pleasant surprise. His gentle unassuming demeanor cloaks a powerful, though simple songwriting talent. “The Artisan” was produced by Chuck Hawthorne and can boast backing vocals by Libby Koch. Jim’s style is unique, but at times I think that I caught wafts of Steve Young, Ted Hawkins and Ray Bonneville (who does contribute some sultry harmonica riffs). This one is worth seeking out.


I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to listen to these compositions and recount some of my listening experiences that I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks. It was also a privilege to have met so many of these talented individuals. SWRFA is still one of the most positive musical experiences that I can boast of having through the year and I can’t wait for 2019.