The Rocking Magpie

rm logo 1

Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a box-room on the Internet for one man and a bunch of his Roots Music loving friend’s thoughts and musings on a wide variety of music, be it CD’s, Gigs, books and the occasional DVD. Usually; but not exclusively based around all things ROOTS:- Americana, Folk, Blues, R&B, all variants of Country, a bit of Ska, Reggae and Soul too.

After many years writing reviews for a variety of magazines, newspapers and websites I decided to break up the band and go solo in 2014; putting everything under one roof on ……THE ROCKING MAGPIE.

Me? I live in the North East of England; but receive music from all around the world….mostly  the UK, USA and Canada and our readership reflects this, but we have followers in over 130 countries across all 4 continents; plus my data tells me that ‘occasional visitors’ from 173 countries have actually visited the site so far; which is mind-blowing when you think about it.

Our priority is bringing you reviews of music that has actually been listened to and appreciatednot just the regurgitation of a Press Release  (like too many other ‘household name’ websites!).
We do this because we want you to get an Independent view from someone just like yourself; and in theory this will make you want to actually buy a copy not just scam a free listen on the likes of Spotify and Apple Streaming!
#BuyDontSpotify

Dig deep into the site; as the bonus is a myriad of my old reviews (400+), some dating back to 2010 which really are a snapshot in time – some I got bang on, others I raved about yet the album and artist still drifted into musical obscurity.
In January 2021 I’ve brought the RMHQ Music Hour Podcast back to life; it’s broadcast every Friday then available on Mixcloud alongside all of our back catalogue and every week will feature a musician talking about their ‘Gateway Album’ which helped get them to where they are now.


Keep in touch rockingmagpie@outlook.com or on Twitter @RockingMagpie

To ‘Follow’ us ,press the like/follow button for irregular postings of reviews that you can be read in the comfort of your own home…workplace, train or the loo (or wherever the case may be).
FAO Bands, singers and PR’s…….like all other writers and bloggers we put an inordinate amount of time and effort into these reviews; so please, please, please promote them on your websites, social media and the telephone ……they do actually lead to SALES….I have written proof!!!!

Alan aka The Rocking Magpie

If there’s one song that sums up our attitude to what we do and why we do it, it’s this song……. Rex Bob Lowenstein by Mark Germino

Jane Allison LIKE MAGDALENE

Jane Allison
Like Magdalene
Horus Music

Highly Talented and Americana Influenced British Bedsit Country-Folk.

This is odd; I was 99% sure I’d reviewed Jane’s album Just Another Girl, but can’t find it in our archives …… oops, if I didn’t!
Whatever; that was the past and LIKE MAGDALENE is not just the present; but in some ways the future too.
For the uninitiated this young lady from the rather lovely town of Aberystwyth in Wales; seamlessly and charmingly straddles the Folk and Americana spheres with ease, with barely a trace of her natural accent in her singing voice; which will surely give songs like the torrid and dour opener Don’t Spill The Water; which has more than a hint of Rust Belt Americana to it; most especially in the breathy and breathless chorus; making it ideal for Roots Radio everywhere.
Like so few of her peers; Jane isn’t afraid to wear her influences on her sleeve; with the emotional Shower of Stars and Kiss of Peace sounding uncannily like adaptations of something Leonard, Joni or RMHQ Favourite, Gretchen Peters may have written; but not actually released ….. but; no … these are from the pen of Ms. Allison herself.
Alonza Bevan’s production make’s Jane’s crystal clear voice and fascinating songs shine throughout; dipping in and out of 60’s bedsit melancholia that relationships of all types can bring; with ease on If I Was Famous, Banks of the Landwehrkanal and Summer Wind; but never allowing this album to sound even the merest hint of depressing; these songs will appeal to anyone and everyone who knows what ‘darkness’ feels like; but there will always be light at the end of that particular tunnel; and here it’s in the shape of the powerful title track Like Magdalene, the delightful Shower of Stars and especially High Road (when the shadow of Joni circa Blue encapsulates every word).
Then, there is one other song that captured not just my imagination when I first heard it; but my heart too.
It’s been a tough old 18 months for everyone; and I’ve not been immune to my own ‘black clouds’ especially recently; and while I’ve tried to blank them out somewhat with Tamla Motown and/or loud Indie Music; nothing speaks to more than a song from someone who ‘has been there’ and I can only presume Jane Allison has; as Frayed with its massive peaks and troughs will touch many another soul as it has mine; therefore making it my Favourite Song on a rather exceptional album.
I guess if I were to ‘pick at the seams’ I would hear the Celtic influences of Jane’s roots; but to me this is quite simply as good British take on ‘Americana’ (which knows no boundaries!) as I’ve heard in years; in fact it’s so damn good, you would be mistaken for thinking Jane Allison was Canadian!

Released June 12th 2021
https://janeallison.net/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://janeallison.net/store

https://janeallison.bandcamp.com/

The Rubinoos CBS TAPES

The Rubinoos
CBS Tapes
Yep Roc

Garage Meets Power Pop and Begets Punk ….. PLAY BLOODY LOUD!

BERKELEY, Calif. — On November 2, 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States. The events of November 3 were less earth-shaking, although it was the day the power pop pioneers The Rubinoos recorded this album. The group walked into CBS Studios on Folsom Street in San Francisco to, as band co-founder and singer Jon Rubin recollects, “have a ‘set up and get comfortable in the studio’ kind of affair.”

…….and, to some extent that’s what you get …… a Garage Band of young fearless musicians without a care in the world; or more importantly ‘Hit Records’ in the forefront of their mind.
All first takes; this in many ways is a Live Recording and to my ears; the forerunner of many Punk album that would follow in the next few years.
The only thing that would make opening track All Excited any better would be if the drummer counted everybody in ….. “1,2, 3 ….hit it!” The following couple of minutes is very much ‘of its time’ as is the album itself; mid 70’s Power Pop with edges so rough and ready they all become timeless …. and certainly haven’t dated as much as many of what their peers would record in the next 12 months.
That track is one of only three self-penned songs here; and all three sit very comfortably alongside the myriad of cover songs that the Rubinoos put their very own twist on.
If I’d had a band in 1976 it’s quite conceivable that I would have insisted the Archies’ Sugar Sugar and my two favourite Beatles songs; She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand were included in the set list; just like Jon Rubin did; but I wouldn’t have had the wit or imagination to have the Funk Classics, King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Strut and The Meters Cissy Strut in the mix too; as both only entered my collection ten or more years later ….. and here The Rubinoos certainly do justice to and show what great musicians they were at such a tender age.
For a Favourite Track I very nearly went for the Surf Instrumental Walk, Don’t Run …… but that’s because I’m re-discovering that much neglected sub-genre; which leaves a coin toss between Heartbeat, It’s a Love Beat (DeFranco Family? No; me neither) which has melodies and a chorus that sounds like The Adverts covering The Osmonds!
T’other is a Rubinoos original; and a song that blew my metaphorical socks off ……. I Want Her, So Bad …… a genuine contender for the very first Punk Rock song (although there are other contenders) and one I’ve subsequently totally fallin in love with.
The all too short album comes to a close with a Jonathan Richmond Song; Government Song done absolutely straight and possibly the one song here that actually is a forerunner to the fun time edgy Power Pop that The Rubinoos became famous for; but everything that precedes it; warts ‘n all, has to be there too to create the magic; doesn’t it?
Four weeks ago I had absolutely no idea what to expect; as I’m particularly suspicious of ‘previously unreleased albums;’ but 2021 is probably a case of ‘right place/right time’ for The Rubinoos to take over your car stereo for the second time as you re-live your youth and scare the bejaysus out of your kids and Grandkids ……. PLAY LOUD and PLAY OFTEN!

Released June 25th 2021
https://rubinoos.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://ffm.to/rubinooscbstapes




The Flatlanders THE TREASURE OF LOVE

The Flatlanders
Treasure Of Love
Rack’em Records & Thirty Tigers

A Timeless Set of Old and New Classic Tunes That Define Americana.

As the publicity shouts, this is the first album from the legendary combo in twelve years and therefore … expectations are high.
Content-wise, lockdown has given the trio the chance to collect and finish recording songs of their own songs and a few covers that have appeared in their live sets, but had never been fully realised in the studio until now.
The covers chosen suit the harmonies and heartbreak that have laced the Flatlanders’ output over many years – the Everly Brothers’ “Long Time Gone” sounds just as fragile as that earlier take, but now adds a wry world-weariness.
Initial single release “Sitting on Top of The World” is a rollicking turn-taking ear-worm, whereas “Give My Love to Rose” is as much imbued with the spirit of Johnny Cash as you’re ever likely to hear in the 21st Century.
Arrangements throughout are unfussy and wrought from the road; with the story and the timbre of the voices to the fore.
Allocation of song to voice is strong too – Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s tremulous tones suit the melancholy title track “Treasure of Love;” whereas Ely and Hancock tend to take the narrative course on songs like “Satin Shoes” and “Mobile Blues”.
In the trio format, there’s a good mix of turn-taking and two and three part harmonies, which offer a great deal of light and shade – “Ramblin’ Man” being a perfect example of where the egos retreat for the benefit of the song.
With fifteen songs to go at, there’s plenty of variety too – favourites for me are all the ones where Jimmy Dale Gilmore takes the lead; but especially “The Ballad of Honest Sam” with its Western imagery and mythology – timeless and Classic.
One low spot for me is the inclusion of the jokey “Mama Do the Kangaroo,” which is no doubt a live crowd-pleaser, but which sounds somewhat one dimensional and jars against the other material on offer – still, when you’ve got a skip button and fourteen other excellent tracks, I’m not complaining.
Twelve years did you say?
Let’s hope it’s not that long before The Flatlanders’ catalogue is further expanded, based on this timeless set of Classic tunes, old and new.

Review by Nick Barber

Released 9th July 2021
https://www.theflatlanders.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://recordstoreday.com/UPC/787790341659





Amelia White & Brett Ryan Stewart 11AM

Amelia White & Brett Ryan Stewart
11AM
Wirebird Records/Bandcamp

Cutting Edge Country Duets With A Classic Twist or Two.

I’ve been a fan of Amelia White for a few years now; so much so I occasionally play her albums for ‘fun’ and ‘relaxation;’ which may sound odd ……. but with so much new music to review during the week, Sunday’s are precious to us and generally mean delving deep into my/our music collection for something to play; so anything from the last ten years that gets on to the hi fi has to be very special indeed.
So when Amelia got in touch recently asking nicely if I’d give a listen to a new project with her friend Brett Ryan Stewart, my Scooby-Senses went into overdrive.
As she insisted this is not a normal Amelia White album; but a bunch of duets; so I wasn’t too surprised to hear a rich and smouldering man’s voice on opening track Somebody to Hold; a love song in the mould of Tammy and George if George was substituted by Charlie Rich, methinks.
Absolutely gorgeous and swoonsome, with some sublime guitar, deeply emotional viola and violin (from Molly Thomas) and accordion behind the star struck couple ……. just the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from Tim and Faith; but increasingly you’d be disappointed as Music Row’s favourite couple go full on Power-Pop.
It’s the same with Like I Do, which follows …….. slow burning and simmering; will their love explode or implode? Only time will tell.
The all too short EP close with Boom Boom; NO not the John Lee Hooker Classic; but a crisp and sharp Country sizzler with the couple surrounded by a sympathetic band and numerous finger clicks and handclaps as the two very disparate voices melt together to form a single sound that will tug at your already shredded heartstrings.
Which brings me to my Favourite Song here; the dark and gloomy Mr. Sunshine; which is predominantly Stewart on his own pouring his broken heart out over some shimmering guitar and a drum beat that sounds like continuous punches to the jaw; but never strong enough to knock you out ….. just soften you up as Stewart’s world weary and achingly beautiful lyrics take you out when you’re least expecting it.
7 or 8 years ago I had a period when Country Couples were being heralded as ‘the next big thing’ and personally, I was disappointed that apart from My Darling Clementine they all more or less disappeared into the ether after delivering some great debut albums.
Which is what I fear will happen here; especially as Amelia White has a new Kim Richey produced solo album coming out later in the year; which is great news ….. but …. but …… I’d love to hear a full album from the couple; possibly with their adaptations of some Country Classic duets ….. why not?
Surely the world is finally ready for such a magnificent beast?

Released June 4th 2021
https://brettryanstewart.com/
http://www.ameliawhite.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://brettryanstewart.com
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0942DN4QS?linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1&tag=theorc-20

Quinn Sullivan WIDE AWAKE

QUINN SULLIVAN
Wide Awake
Provogue Records

A Second Album That Elevates This Talented Young Man To A Whole Other Strata Altogether.

For many people who were once heralded as a child prodigy, the path to prolonged success can be fraught and disappointing; so many never seem to fulfil all that early promise.
That ‘prodigy’ badge is both a blessing and a curse, plus for the artist, an unnecessary millstone.
Quinn Sullivan certainly qualifies for the description and follows a long line of such ‘prodigies’ in the music world; i.e. Doug Sahm, Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood & Derek Trucks to name a just a few.

At 21 years of age, this inchoate musician from Massachusetts has already experienced so much more than 99.99% of aspiring performers, having the benefit of being under the guidance of Buddy Guy and releasing 3 previous albums (since 2011), all involving multi-Grammy winner Tom Hambridge. You can also add to his resume all the various live TV appearances and an array of gigs that include three Montreux Jazz Festivals and an Eric Clapton Crossroads Festival.

Wide Awake marks a vicissitude crossroads of his own, with a significant change of producer/collaborator, this time travelling to LA to work with Oliver Leiber (Paula Abdul, Ke$ha and Adam Lambert) with an obvious prescient to encompass much more than just his fabulous pluripotent guitar playing and strong singing voice. Although Quinn has always considered himself a songwriter, preparing for this album has seen him increase his efforts with pen and paper, concentrating on the lyrics and melodies with Leiber that will elevate his craft, not just for Wide Awake but for further albums down the road.

So, I hear you ask, has it worked on this, his fourth album. Well, from my perspective it’s very much a resounding yes. Much more of a mainstream rock effort with lots of hooks, overall it contains scale, scope and colours (not just blue) that project a whole gamut of sub-styles.
Baby Please” could quite easily have been a cover of a Ed Sheeran effort, while “In A World Without You” has a distinctive Latin feel, and then “She’s So Irresistible” has the twin cities funk of Prince Rogers Nelson all over it.

She’s Gone (and She Ain’t Coming Back)” starts off like a Coldplay classic but then vocally it moves into different territory; whilst lyrically there are some superb references,
we made love to Marvin;
singing girl let’s get it on;
baby I’ve heard it all through the grapevine;
that we’re done, that we’re done
followed by a beaut of a chorus.
It gets a little harder and bluesier with the punchy “Strawberry Rain;” with its ‘Oasis sounding like The Beatles’ chorus bolstered by an iconic wah wah guitar solo straight out of the Hendrix catalogue.
Jessica” provides some further poignant lyrics that recall another long lost love, with yet another memorable chorus “what do you see when you look in the mirror;
cos I see an innocent child;
Jessie I know you’d feel better inside;
if you could just see yourself through my eyes”.
For a 21 year old many of these lyrics are quite remarkable.

Honestly, there are no iffy fillers on here, but the King Magpie will want me to select my favourites.
The accolade almost fell to the song that was released as a teaser single, earlier this year, the anthemic “All Around The World” with its empowering message of positivity and hope.
But, I’m now leaning toward the blue eyed Soul of “How Many Tears” that sounds like it has come straight out of Philadelphia; sung by Hall & Oates at their almighty zenith.

Sullivan and Leiber have cast their net far and wide to encompass an entertaining range of musical influences into creating this enchanting album; and without any shadow of a doubt Messrs Guy & Hambridge helped create the very sturdy platform from where Quinn evolved and developed his awesome natural guitar skills and robust singing style. However, Wide Awake elevates this talented young man on to another strata, an altogether higher level that ought to ensure that he reaches a much, much wider audience.

Jack Kidd AKA “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released 4th June 2021
https://quinnsullivanmusic.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
LP https://www.mascotlabelgroup.com/products/quinn-sullivan-wide-awake-vinyl
CD https://www.mascotlabelgroup.com/products/quinn-sullivan-wide-awake-cd


Mark Rubin JEW OF OKLAHOMA

Mark Rubin
Jew of Oklahoma: The Triumph of Assimilation
Rubinchik Records

A Cannily Handcrafted, Smart, Fun and Decidedly Relevant Album.

Mark Rubin, the self-proclaimed Jew of Oklahoma, and co-founder of the Austin, Texas Americana band the Bad Livers, says this about using the banjo to play traditional Jewish songs:
It’s an instrument of my tradition, and Yiddish culture is also my tradition, so for me, at least, I don’t see why not.
Rubin, who’s played in traditional bluegrass and country bands for decades, is set on setting the record straight and righting wrongs with his album; The Triumph of Assimilation.
Rubin has remarked that he has as much a right to sing Folk songs and play the banjo as anyone, regardless of his DNA.
“Jewish-Americana” is an apt, well-deserved, and fitting description.
Kicking off with “A Day of Revenge,” a song based on a poem by Mordechai Gebirtig, Rubin sets the stage for an album of Folk-based and Yiddish-fuelled songs.
“Revenge” comes off first as revenge fantasy, then makes a hard left turn before the instruments fade.
“It’s Burning” is a wake up call for everyone to realize the tools most needed to affect a change are available to us all as long as we’re willing to open our eyes. As a Jewish person currently living in New Orleans, Rubin understands fully the difficulties with staying kosher in the ham-laden Southern States.
His song “Down South Kosher (A Dance of Hunger and Reconciliation)” is less a novelty song and more a clever and witty social commentary disguised as a novelty song.
Of course, the best way to follow a song like this is with the darkest song on the album.
If Rubin’s goal with this album is to right wrongs, “The Murder of Leo Frank” is a great place to start.
Frank was wrongly accused of the rape and murder of Mary Phagan; then hung by a lynch mob.
Rubin sets the story straight once and for all.
One of the finest things about this song is Rubin mentioning folk songwriter John Carson and the injustice he caused by fanning the flames of antisemitism with his songs.
Carson, a racist and KKK member singlehandedly inflected as much damage as possible just to get attention and Rubin does a fine job of wresting that from Carson, with his factual lyrics and impassioned singing.
Which brings to my mind the murder ballad album World Without End by songwriters John Murry and Bob Frank—instead of singing murder ballads of old, they wrote entirely new ones, based on true events. Dark, violent, and certainly not for the squeamish, Rubin’s “The Murder of Leo Frank” would fit right in and that’s a hell of a compliment. “Yiddish Banjo Suite” is a medley of three Yiddish tunes performed on a five-string banjo. Lively and fun, bizarrely this would fit right in during a Saturday night Square Dance.
How long before one of the many Psychedelic Bluegrass Jam bands pick up on this one, as it’s ripe for jamming and layers of improvisation.
(WAIT A MINUTE, did I say “Psychedelic Bluegrass Jam bands?” Yes, sadly, I did.)
“Unnatural Disasters” is more wry social commentary because; hey, Fake News is all the rage these days, and you just know that the Jews are behind everything bad that’s happening; with their space lasers and global warming and ‘stuff’; don ‘cha?
“Good Shabbes” is actually such great advice this old gentile should take it up.
Smartest thing I’ve heard in a long while:
You can put that phone away, it can wait til another day.”
Okay, there’s more, but you get the gist of it. Mark Rubin, The Jew of Oklahoma, has crafted a smart, fun, relevant album and you should definitely give it a listen or three.
What? Would it kill you?

Released 1st June 2021
Review by Roy Peak

https://www.jewofoklahoma.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://jewofoklahoma.bandcamp.com/album/the-triumph-of-assimilation

Mary Hott DEVIL IN THE HILLS

Mary Hott
Devil in The Hill
Self-Release

A History Lesson from the West Virginia Coalfields That Needs To Be Heard By the Nation At Large.

As the last child of a generation of Coal and Tin Miners I’m a sucker for a song about the coalfields, be that my local community in the NE of England or further afield in Nottinghamshire or even Olde Americae.
This particular group of songs and stories come from a tiny spec in West Virginia called Fayette County; that 99% of Virginians couldn’t find on a map ……. but need to be told for the generations that follow.
Even the background to the original concept is fascinating; with an old Coal Mining store being bought and restored to become a museum; only for ex-employees to make pilgrimages and tell their own dark and torrid tales,
These stories from the Whipple Company Store and similarly bleak recollections of coal mining and railroading life from other parts of West Virginia have been suppressed for too long.
At first, the people themselves kept silent and hid the stories out of fear and indignity.
When they finally shared their tales, their validity was often doubted, shaming them into believing that silence may have been the better choice.
And now the people who shared these stories are gone.
It is up to us to remember and continue sharing our history from the perspective of the people who lived it.

The album begins with Don Dixon talking about the mining community and how these stories have been passed down orally from Father to son and Mother to daughter for well over a century.
The rest of the album is West Virginian Folk Singer Mary Hott and a band of musicians who sound like they too ‘feel’ each and every one of these songs in their hearts …. and their scarred lungs.
The first song is They Built a Railroad; and proves to be a sad cornerstone for all that is too follow; with the now, romanticised Railway bringing workers in and then take the coal out ……. but the thread that weaves throughout is the way the workers were horrendously treated; most especially when they tried to form a fledgling Trades Union and make their working conditions slightly better.
“Our ancient hills held a rich man’s treasure,
They carried workers from Ellis Island.
They brought freed slaves to work the mines.
They trafficked girls for comfort and pleasure.
Total power over humankind.”
Powerful stuff indeed.
Then there is Annabel Lee, which follows; and this particularly dark tale of a beauteous young woman who is brought in to town; to ‘bring pleasure to the men’ ……. if your heart doesn’t cry out by the last verse; you’re reading the wrong review.
The emotion in Mary Hott’s voice, as she sings her songs is a genuine 8th Wonder of the World; as she has the capacity to go from passionate Honky-Tonker/Murder Ballad one minute, The Spot then grab your heart the next; squeezing out sparks the next with Devil in The Hills; then follow that up with the Gospel Infused Rise Up WV; which mentions all of the creeds and colours that were brought in not just from across the State but the Country to work the mine; and still make them all sound like a cohesive story; and never patronising the listener.
A rather fabulous album comes to a natural close; with Mary slowing things down quite beautifully with the traditional Gospel Ballad, Life’s Railway to Heaven and finally slow and heartfelt version of Take Me Home Country Roads; which couldn’t be any more fitting.
Which only leaves me to select a Favourite Song; which is hardly fair …… but the two songs/tracks that jumped into my head last night were the haunting 48 seconds of Blair Mountain Ballad, which will send a shiver down your back; and then, there is Room of Lost Souls which ….. well …… honestly; this raw tale of a miner who first goes down the pit as an 8 year old then eventually dies when his son is the exact same age; and the circle goes on ……. and sounds like a long lost Bobbie Gentry song; and if it was it would be heralded from the Rolling Stone rafters.
As well as a bunch of amazing yet horrendous songs; wonderfully created and constructed you also get a booklet that details the background (and more) to each and every story …… and this alone should be available in every school across America ……. this is your History; don’t forget it….. like the Authorities want.

Released June 4th 2021
https://maryhott.com/


BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://maryhott.com/shop/albums/devil-in-the-hills/

Emily Barker, Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay at Jumping Hot Club, Newcastle

Emily Barker, Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay
Jumping Hot Club
Gosforth Civic Theatre
Newcastle
Saturday 29th May 2021.

Wahay!
Live Music is finally back!
Because of all the restrictions surrounding the first gig at this venue in well over a year, I only received conformation of my ‘seat’ an hour before the doors opened …… which initiated an excited drive across the city in the bright Bank Holiday sunshine, with Emily Barker’s A DARK MURMARATION OF WORDS not quite blaring from the speakers.
Once inside the venue it was equally weird and fascinating watching the limited crowd being escorted 2 x 2 to their pre-booked tables then given a full set of instructions, including how to order ‘table service’.
That said; if this is what it takes to get Live Music up and running again …… so be it.
Just to add to the ‘oddness’ of tonight’s event; the support act Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay were actually still in Nashville and being beamed to NE England via an HD Internet connection; which meant that they couldn’t hear or see any response to their songs.
Aha …… onto the music.
Following a nervy introduction Brennen introduced their first song as being a personal request from the Jumpin’ Hot Club promoter Graham Anderson; and what followed was quite extraordinary ….. Intergalactic Shipwreck Blues; a song I wasn’t previously aux fait with; but proved the perfect start to this particular evening.
As the song ended; and totally unknown to the couple; the applause from the 50 strong crowd was rapturous and as loud (per head) as the Beatles at Shea Stadium!
In fairness it took a couple of songs for the act and audience to settle into the scenario; but eventually everyone relaxed and the mix of new songs (Arlene and the divine Prairie Love Letter) with the couple’s standards (The Ballad of Tombstone Poker and Rosine (?) and After The Show) made their 45 minutes fly by.


The oddest thing for me was seeing the couple three times their normal size; and finally realizing what a scary look Noel McKay has when not singing ……. staring straight down the camera lens with cold beady eyes; and daring the audience not to appreciate Brennen Leigh’s singing voice.
The highlight was when Brennen introduced a fan favourite song; by saying she did understand the irony involved by them singing a song about the romantic idealism of Analog in Nashville, Tennessee and then High Tech beaming it thousands of miles to Newcastle, England.
The twenty minute break had regular Club attendees who hadn’t seen each other for a year or more, waving to each other and miming various ailments …… which could easily become a Saturday Night TV Game Show.
Then Emily Barker made her appearance; noticeably giggling with excitement as she and husband Luke Drinkwater set up their gear; then taking to the mic to welcome everyone and apologising in advance if she started crying at any time in the evening; as “getting back on stage after 14 months, meant so much to her.”
Although several friends in the hall had seen Emily Barker a dozen or more times over the years; this was my first time …… and even a minute or so into first song Geography made me see and hear why her fans are so loyal. Her voice (and songwriting) simply transcends what I know as Folk Music ……. as the night rolled on I heard elements and essences of Carole King, Emmylou Harris and Sandy Denny in the way Ms Barker sings and evolves her songs plus at one stage Emily and Luke embarked on the gentlest guitar duel I’ve ever witnessed.
The couple performed three or for songs from the recent album alongside a wonderful new single called Bound For Home; written and originally performed with Frank Turner; but tonight this lovely sad song was 95% Emily herself with Luke adding harmonies and an extra doze of melancholia by bowing his double bass ……. all of which sent the hair on the back of my head on end.
One of the joys of seeing a live concert is that there are no overdubs or any other jiggery-pokery; this is high-wire stuff; and Emily made a couple of mistakes mid song; starting again once and the second time simply raising her eyebrows, smiling and getting on with it …… that’s Rock and Roll kids.

As a newcomer to the delights of Emily Barker I obviously didn’t recognise several songs; but that mattered not a jot as this was a total joy from start to finish with Where Have The Sparrows Gone? when Emily’s crystal clear voice soared and swooped like the bird itself and then there was The Woman Who Planted Trees ….. phwoar what a powerful song and the story Emily told of the woman who inspired it was tear inducing to even an old soak like me.
The main set ended with Emily taking to a piano; and there was an effortless grace to both Sister Goodbye and Sonogram that to some degree totally unexpected if no surprise; judging by what had gone before.
For the obligatory Encores, Emily returned to her Folk Club roots with Billowing Sea and The Blackwood which brought another round of very noisy applause and a race between Emily and her fans to get to the Merch Table in the foyer!
For me, this was a really lovely way to get back into Concert going; seeing one act that was previously relatively unknown to me and catching up with a couple I’ve loved and admired for a few years now …….. Long Live Rock & Roll (in all its forms).

The Rocking Magpie.



Allison Russell OUTSIDE CHILD

Allison Russell
Outside Child
Fantasy Records

An Album Full of Stark Contrasts, But With a Light That Ultimately Shines Through The Cracks.

For a change, I’m gong to start at the end with this review, as I believe the closing track “Joyful Motherfuckers” holds the oxymoronic key to this release – if ever there was an album which was a cathartic release, this is it.
Allison Russell has seen and experienced a lot of the dark in her life; but her attitude is
If you’ve got love in your heart,
but it’s way down in the dark
You better let it see the sun
.”
– it’s a message of hope that cuts through the centre of everything on this debut Solo Album.
There’s a gratitude for experience that is seen from the off with “Montreal” a jazzy opener that veers between Taylor Swift, Richard Hawley and especially Jane Birkin its delivery.
The last time I saw Allison was alongside husband JT in concert as half of Birds of Chicago was in a tiny pub in Glasgow; and on that occasion she told a lengthy tale of the genetic/spiritual bond that links generations – and “Nightflyer” takes that as its core – again there’s oxymoronic tension in the deep lyrics
I’m a violent lullaby”,
but set this time it comes out as laid-back Gospel-Soul.
“Persephone” takes a more Countryfied vein and is a celebration of salvation through the strength or existence of a sympathetic other
My petals are bruised but I’m still a flower
– placing the past in context and making sense of a person and a time.
“4th Day Prayer” is a really tough listen
Father used me like a wife
Mother turned the blindest eye
Stole my body, spirit, pride
He did he did each night

but even amongst this horror, there’s the preservation of strength and an indefatigable desire to survive despite everything …
One for the hate that loops and loops
Two for the poison at the roots
Three for the children breaking through
Four for the day we’re standing in the sun

– this section is a unified, determined chant, which underscores the sentiment’s absolute strength at its core.
“The Runner” continues this theme and uses Indie-Soul to tell a tale that listener’s to the Velvet Underground’s “Rock’n’Roll” will be familiar with
– the redemptive power of music.
“Hy-Brasil” is another song that deals with the the theme of ancestry, but this time, it’s a deep dive into the mystical, set against a Celtic heartbeat rhythm and distant echoed parallel vocal, all washed in a serving of reverb.
“The Hunters” returns to the dark story of Russell’s abuse by her step-father and is verbalised in childlike, fairy-tale language.
It’s darker side is insidious – you could hear this on Radio 2 or in a high street chain store and it’s radio-friendly soul would wash over you – until you started to listen a little more closely to the lyrics.
“All of the Women”, set against a simple banjo rhythm creates an ode to the universal –
the women who disappeared” from a personal story of connection.
“Poison Arrow” is somewhat of an outlier in the settings of the album in that its starting point is based in the present, rather than a past experience – it’s about dealing with a place that was once painful, but which now offers new hope, seen through the fresh eyes of Russell’s young daughter
Je te souhaîte une deuxième chance” (I wish for you a second chance)”.
Its light Philly Soul reinforces this sense of optimism.
Penultimate track “Little Rebirth” is a musing on our insignificant/significant place in the universe
Chimes in the morning
Feet to the Earth
We’re all transforming
A little Rebirth

– set against a sparse arrangement, it places Russell’s voice to the for; adding extra gravitas to the singers’ sentiments – and her use of the French language throughout (which happens frequently across the whole album) adds a cosmopolitan universality too….and then it’s back to where I started, with ‘that’ powerful closing track “Joyful Motherfuckers”….
There are some albums that are just heard and some that need to be intently listened and then thought about – Alison Russell’s debut solo release is very much the latter – it’s an album of stark thematic lyrical contrasts in which the light ultimately shines through.

Review by Nick Barber

Released May 21st 2021
https://allisonrussellmusic.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://store.fantasyrecordings.com/collections/allison-russell

https://allisonrussell.bandcamp.com/



Shipcote & Friends LOCAL STARS

Shipcote & Friends
Local Stars
Low Fella Records

Rather Lovely and Thought Provoking Tales From the Mind of the King of Geordicana.

*Here’s my Bi-Annual disclaimer; Shipcote aka Graham Anderson Co-Boss of the legendary Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle is one of my closest friends in real life.
That said; I sort of became his friend some time after first being a fan of his music, so I’m confident in my relevent impartiality …. or not.
In many ways; this album is ‘more of the same’ but that’s
a) no bad thing
and
b) after all these years; quite some feat!
For the uninitiated Shipcote treads a lovely path between Olde-Timey Country Music, gentle singer-songwriter fayre and what the cognoscenti know as Geordicana.
The opening track is quite delightful and took a while to unravel; as Lorraine is a an insightful look at being half of a pair of twins; and as he sighs they are actually like ‘chalk and cheese’ and; it’s the type of song that many siblings who get to hear it will appreciate the sentiments involved.
Just like all of his peers Shipcote wrote and recorded these songs during the various Lockdowns that blighted 2020 and early 2021; taking advantage of a window of opportunity when two people were allowed in a studio at a time (socially distanced of course) to actually ‘lay down the tracks’; so compared to recent releases this is quite a stripped back to basics recording; but he has still managed to try out the new fangled interweb to get the help of a couple of friends; most notably guitarist extraordinaire Bry Younger who adds sparkle to just about every song here; most especially the prescient Swiftly Drift Away, but the instrumental finale Saltwell Stroll Pt:1 is100% Shipcote himself …… proving what an underrated guitarist he is himself.
I’m not sure how long Oh, To Be Singing Again will last in Shippy’s live sets, as it’s very much ‘of its time’ …… about the cramped yet observational world of a singer-songwriter while cooped up in the house and unable to go outside ….. by Law; and it’s fair to say it’s a Classic of it’s type.
But there are a couple of other guests here and there too; local Popstar Rob Heron gets to duet/harmonise on the droll Let’s Get Set For Winter; and the pairing works a lot better than I’d have guessed beforehand
Gem Andrews appears like a Summer Breeze on Bad Situation; adding a bit of a Country-Swing tone to a dark song about the perils of being locked in the house for fear of the Pandemic outside …… and a pairing that I wouldn’t be averse to hearing a lot more of.
Just saying, like.
This is immediatly followed by Paris France which lurches back to Shipcote’s humble beginnings; neatly combining Hot Club d’Paris swing and sass with a singer-songwriter’s sharp observations; and again it’s been all too easy for me to take Bry’s guitar talents for granted over the years; but he totally excels here.
It never ceases to amaze me that songwriters can still delve into their imaginations to come up with songs like Slow Walk on Wheels. It doesn’t necessarily make sense in the literal context; but just sit back and wallow in the melody and delightful way the singer delivers his almost poetic words.
Can I take you back to Track #2 Paul Torday?
A rather lovely and thought provoking song about a Durham Lad and Author that found fame late in life yet died at the tender age of 67. I’d not heard of him before hearing this song; but the way Graham sings with tenderness made me delve into his background …… and I am now the proud owner of two of his books. The power of music?
Then, unlike on all of his previous albums; there are not just two but three really, really special songs here ……. all well worthy of plays on National Radio and your attention.
The first is Texas Rose; a razor sharp song about the songwriter ‘looking at himself’ both physically and metaphorically and coming out the other side with a song that 99.9% of us can relate too; or perhaps just me …… but I doubt that very much.
Swiftly Drift Away, yet again comes from the mind of a songwriter confined to the four walls that he calls home; and only his imagination and his memories to call on for a song; some have been better at this than others recently; but here Graham not just taps into his own subconscious but one that weirdly mirrors my own and I guess many of you reading this damn review …… spooky.
The other, just might be one of my Favourite Songs by Shipcote of all time; Sweet Sorrow; the other duet with Gem Andrews and featuring young Bry on some of the most spine withering lap-steel I’ve heard in many a year; just creeps up on you every time you play the album and covers you in a mist of beauteous loveliness; as the couple sound like two lovers who know their relationship is coming to an uneventful close; just like so many marriages …… pulled apart by the mundane things in life, rather than one explosive event.
There’s a robust simplicity to these songs and the album as a whole. As I say the circumstances that surrounded the writing and subsequent recording were (hopefully) a once in a lifetime thing; and Shipcote has managed to use them to his advantage on one of his finest and fearsomely honest albums.

Released July 9th 2021
http://www.shipcote.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://shipcoteandfriends.bandcamp.com/album/local-stars