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

Chuck Berry LIVE FROM BLUEBERRY HILL

Chuck Berry
Live From Blueberry Hill
Dualtone Records

Quite Rightly the King of Rock & Roll and Here’s Why.

Even in 2021 I’m pretty sure the vast majority of adult Rock Music fans would think of Charles Edward Anderson Berry ahead of any other pretenders to the King of Rock & Roll throne …. yes/no?
To me, Chuck Berry is the most influential songwriter and performer in the history of Rock & Roll, as his songs have most definitely kick started the careers of a lot more acts over the last 65 years than anyone else …. and that includes Elvis btw.
This album is the culmination of a bunch of intimate concerts at the Blueberry Hill Club in St Louis during 2005/06 and is being released to celebrate what would have been his 95th Birthday.
First off you’re possibly asking ‘Does the world need another Chuck Berry retrospective; never mind a 15 year old Live Album’ …. probably the answer is a resounding No; but what the Hell! This is a blast …. so what’s not to like?
The first thing you notice while listening to opening track *Roll Over Beethoven is that it’s a tad slower than you’ll remember; but remember Chuck was about 80 when it was recorded so the arrangement is obviously adjusted accordingly; and when you hear the piano/guitar duel between Robert Lohr and Charle Berry III you will forget his age in a blink of an eye…. he still Rocks.
Most of the hits and favourites are here; and while some have aged better than others; and certain subjects are not as ubiquitous as they once were; but it’s still difficult not to sing-along with Oh Carol/Little Queenie and of course; Sweet Little Sixteen ….. but what the Hell; this is all about living our youth again isn’t it?
I’ve never seen Chuck play live; but even at this advanced age you can still hear the unbridled joy in his singing and playing during Let It Rock and Nadine, even though he must have played them tens of thousands over the years.
To my ears there are two new songs here; one called Bio, which is pretty much ‘what it says on the tin’ and while he sound like he’s having fun; I can think of a dozen better songs from his back catalogue that would have filled these four minutes better; but the slow and sensually Bluesy Mean Old World is a rare treat and certainly deserves its place here; and if nothing else, daughter Ingrid Berry’s harmonica playing is as soulful as it simply sizzles.
Without My Ding-a-Ling being here; choosing a Favourite song has to be a toss up between the majestic Rock & Roll Music and when Chuck announces … “Here’s Johnny now” you know exactly what’s about to happen; and even though the perennial Johnny B Goode has been a staple of every single Rock band at one time or another …… hearing it come from the vocal cords of Chuck Berry himself is simply a total joy to behold.
Yes, you can live without this release; but if you want to treat yourself or better still treat a young music fan; Christmas Day will really rock if this is on the turntable.

*Roll Over Beethoven ….. as I said earlier I believe Chuck Berry influenced far more acts than any other single human being; and as an example the first time I heard this song it was on WITH THE BEATLES album; and they didn’t do too badly, did they?

Released 17th December 2021
http://www.chuckberry.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.dualtonestore.com/collections/chuck-berry


Bruce Cockburn GREATEST HITS (1970-2020)

Bruce Cockburn
Greatest Hits (1970-2020)
True North Records

A Mastercraftsman’s Work over 50 Marvellous and Interesting Years.

Living in the UK, as I do I wasn’t aware of Canadian Legend, Bruce Cockburn for 45 or more years of this magnificent retrospective; which is probably why I’ve become besotted with this album over the last week.
While Cockburn’s voice is instantly recognisable; each and every one of these tracks are inherently different and document how the singer and songwriter has not just evolved over that half century but experimented and seamlessly switched genres with ease as the years have gone by too.
The package starts with Going to the Country from his 1970 debut album; and beautifully charts a trip from Ottawa to Montreal in a sparkling solo acoustic style; and is followed by Musical Friends where Cockburn takes on the role of a full on band on a song that sounds very ‘New York’ to me.
Two very different songs from the same album set the scene for what is to follow, with Cockburn; unlike many of his contempories; resting on his laurels constantly repeating himself.

For me; and I suppose many who receive this Double Album as a Christmas present; there are surprises around every corner; not just with the songs but the accompanying photographs which seem to chart Bruce metamorphizing from his Elton John period via John Lennon until he becomes the handsome theologian we now know him as.
Obviously with thirty songs representing half a century of songwriting; everyone will like different periods; but quite a few songs have really caught my attention; especially the dark Bluesy duet with Kathryn Moses, Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long, the dreamy Wondering Where the Lions Are and the horribly imaginative If I Had a Rocket Launcher which should have been ‘of its time’; but is sadly still relevant about so many conflicts around the world in 2021!
As the first album unrolls and the second disc begins; we find Cockburn dabbling in 80’s and 90’s AOR but doing it in such a way People See Right Through You Waiting For a Miracle and, of course A Dream Like Mine, still sound fresh today.
Obviously not everyone Bruce Cockburn shared a stage or studio with 50 years ago are still on the scene never mind pertinent today, as he himself is …… but latter day songs like Listen For a Laugh, Open and the finale States I’m In could only have been written and performed by someone who has had a life well lived and is comfortable in his own skin.
With so many delights to choose from it’s not been easy selecting a single Favourite Song …… do I go for the prescient Coldest Night of the Year?
Any of the wryly observed Political opus’s, Call It Democracy, Stolen Land or If a Tree Falls?
Cockburn can really dig deep to write a love song too; so the melancholic shuffle Anything, Anytime, Anywhere has to be in the running as does All The Diamonds in the World from way back when in 1973; but a song from Cockburn’s Electro-AOR period in 1981 has stood the test of time; and somehow sounds like a soundtrack to the 21st Century …… The Trouble With Normal when played very loud is far and away the biggest surprise here for me; and therefore my Favourite Song.
Even though I have Bruce Cockburn’s last three releases; this retrospective has been illuminating from start to finish and really and truly showcases a Mastercraftsman at work over 50 marvellous and interesting years.

Released December 3rd 2021
http://brucecockburn.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.grooves-inc.co.uk/bruce-cockburn-greatest-hits-1970-2020-true-north-records-cd-pZZa1-2100411222.html?language=en&currency=GBP&_z=gb&gclid=Cj0KCQiAnaeNBhCUARIsABEee8WvOSroeu3Bmphr1-8ROP_ccVYRPW-dED1c0ZBmOzjYV-Js06FCET0aAm6JEALw_wcB





.

Brandi Vezina #DONTSETTLE

Brandi Vezina
#DontSettle
Self-Release

Whatever Wins The Grammy Won’t Be Half as Country as This

Do seven tracks make this an extended EP or a short LP?
Whatever.
Like most everyone who will be reading this I’d not heard of Brandi Vezina before receiving this disc a few weeks ago; which also happened to be a couple of weeks after its release; which meant it went onto the ‘backburner’ ….. which came to fruition on a long journey home from the airport, when Mrs Magpie was nodding off in the car.
Not knowing what to expect opening track, Charming Narcissist certainly piqued my interest; with its edgy Country arrangement and a story of a torrid one sided love affair which I’d normally expect from Kacey Musgrave or Angaleena Presley.
With no background info to go by it’s been an absolute joy letting the music unravel; and listening to Brandi’s super expressive voice as the disc re-played 5 or 6 times on repeat.
Now I’m home it appears this is her debut release and Brandi is a descendent of the Metis Family in Manitoba; Canada and can write a Country song that will not just break your heart but make you smile at the same time.
There’s a harrowing intensity as Brandi and her band kick up a ruckus on track #2, Almost …… which may or may not be the aftermath of her relationship with the Charming Narcissist!
There’s a delightful ‘power’ to Brandi’s songwriting that really comes to life on Waiting On a Ring; which is as punchy as Country ever gets; and the type of song Reba and Loretta were famous for many years ago; as Brandi gets tired of waiting for him to put a ring on her finger; so bus one herself!
It would be doing Brandi Vezina a huge disservice to suggest that she and her band are a ‘great bar band’; but they are ……. this is the music you want and expect to hear on a weekend after a hard week at work and/or looking after the kids ……. this is raw/honest Blue Collar Country that will ring bells for everyone who hears Danger and finale Walk Away; extolling “Hell Yeahs” at every opportunity; even in the kitchen.
With only 7 tracks to choose from I’ve still had a problem selecting a single Favourite Track; as I’m torn between two absolute belters …… okay John Dillinger Type is an atypical ‘girls love a bad guy’ Country song; but the arrangement and the way Brandi delivers her heartbreaking lyrics is simply stunning; and up there with the very best of what I’ve heard this year.
Yet; there also happens to an even better and more memorable song here too!
I will tell you how good Alberta Rose is; I even dared to nudge Mrs Magpie awake in the car for her to hear it after I’d played it three times!!!
Oh man is this a Country tearjerker of the finest hue.
Even now I’m torn whether to tell you what it’s about or keep it a secret for when you first play the album …. oh, go on …. it’s a tale of the young Alberta Rose returning home in shame; and includes a couple of stunning opening lines that will take your breath away.
Her story unravels over the next year or so ……. and I defy anyone to hear it and not have tears in their eyes (which wasn’t perfect for motorway driving btw.)
Two days later I’m still no further forward with knowing much about Brandi Vezina; as even her website is enigmatic ….. but that matters not a jot; these seven songs could and should have the capacity to bring her to the attention of the Majors; be that labels or promoters, as she has talent in abundance.

Released November 24th 2021
https://www.brandivezina.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dontsettle-Brandi-Vezina/dp/B09DBV5ZT2




Treetop Flyers OLD HABITS

Treetop Flyers
Old Habits
Loose Music

A Soulful Brit-Rock Excursion to 1974 and Back Again via The Streets of Stoke Newington.

On this release, the Treetop Flyers (I agonised over the use of the use of “the” but the former English teacher in me; who likes the use of the definite article won) declare that they’re moving away from the West Coast US sound of prior releases, towards a more domestic/London sound. |
While that’s true in part, there’s no escaping the fact that the influences on their influences (very meta) straddle many geographical and musical boundaries.

Opener “Golden Hour” has a ramshackle Faces-type groove with hints of the Allman Brothers in there too; and all of a sudden we’re back in 1974 (but better produced and with more far more economical songwriting).
“Dancing Figurines” which follows features a wah pedal and soaring “sha-la-la” backing vocals over Ronnie Lane-alike goodness.
There’s even a bit of late Thin Lizzy doubled guitar too, which can’t be a bad thing; can it?

“100” starts off – and continues – as a soulful singalong stomper; sounding something that sounds like the house band at the Torch would have played to a touring US act like Major Lance, in the pre-punk days – plenty of enthusiasm, but with an extra gritty UK edge to the S.O.U.L.
That same soulful groove continues on “Castlewood Road” which is a tribute to where the band’s lead guitarist Laurie Sherman lives, and the accompanying video was even shot in Laurie’s house!
It’s got more of a Van Morrison vibe to the previous track in its staccato brass and soaring vocals.

“River” is more laid back, almost jazzy in tone and its liquid sax and guitar accompaniment provide a fine musical metaphor – it’s warm summer night music for the middle of December.
The title track “Old Habits” follows and straddles many musical boundaries – there’s Soul, confessional singer-songwriter piano and call and response titbits scattered throughout, which leads these ears towards more anglophile Father John Misty territory.
Which is an interesting place!

“Cool Your Jets” ups the pace – as it’s an early Slade album track writ large – no nonsense boogie, cowbell, motorbike sound effects and catchy choruses all jumping into bed with the song and everything takes off with a smooth sax solo, before a tempo change that will definitely catch you off guard.

“Out the Blue” utilises picked rhythmic guitar and shaker to evoke the Faces again, but with a smoother vocal than Rod the Mod ever managed. There’s even a bit of a psychedelic production wash too, which gives the track a bigger sound.

“Sometimes” vocally sits somewhere close to a soulful Jason Isbell – tempo and dynamic musical shifts create a deliberately jarring musical mis-en-scene, but a firm melody ties it all together.
Things close with the more downbeat “Night Choir”, dominated by vocal piano, bass and drums with occasional fills from double-tracked guitar; it fits well with the jazzier sounds earlier on the album in songs like “River” and the title track.

So, it’s a sideways step for Treetop Flyers (No “the” this time guys!) – they’ve created a soulful Brit-Rock excursion to 1974 and back again via the streets of Stoke Newington; that will be the perfect soundtrack for warm summer nights and dark winter ones too.

Released December 3rd 2021
https://www.facebook.com/TreetopFlyersBand

Review by Nick Barber

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.loosemusic.com/page/product-detail/old-habits/

Laura-Mary Carter TOWN CALLED NOTHING

Laura-Mary Carter
Town Called Nothing.
Velveteen Records

A Great Solo Effort That Neatly Mixes Genres and Comes Out Victorious

When I was much younger and a devotee to the U.K. and USA charts; answering just about any question on a particular single; and in recent years I have also generally always been able to recall gigs and venues with absolute confidence.
However, I’ve never ever been able to remember the names of individual band members (apart from a few obvious groups); so when I heard about this release I never thought that it would be even remotely connected to Blood Red Shoes.
Despite having seen them on several occasions and having all of their releases, I never realised that Laura-Mary Carter is the female member.
Hang your head in shame Bill.
Naturally I was keen to see and hear how much her release would sit alongside the guitar driven modus operandi of Blood Red Shoes.
The simple answer is ‘totally different’.
The EP title relates to a place in Arizona that really is called Nothing and has a population of TWO!
Laura-Mary was so fascinated that she has visited it and with the assistance of Ed Harcourt has produced a lovely track backed with an equally good video – you can almost feel the tumbleweed blowing down the Main Street – assuming there is one in Nothing.
Get in my car.
Let’s drive to to nowhere.
In this town called Nothing’.

A beautiful vocal and guitar backing on a track that would fall easily into Alt Folk or Indie Folk, and is as far away from BRS as it’s possible to get.
To complete the story apparently Laura-Mary was told by a tarot card reader that she would find her heart in Arizona – she didn’t and there weren’t actually TWO people living in Nothing.
The opening track ‘Blue’s Not My Colour’ relates the sad story of a relationship ‘going nowhere in a hurry ‘ never caring for the likes of you my friend
it didn’t even bother me when you spoke sarcastically’.
The first time that we appreciate this is a massive change from her previous duo’s releases and it’s a lovely Country tinged  tune.
To continue the theme of broken relationships Ceremony emphasises how they can just drag on as there is
nothing worse than being stuck when the doors are being shut’.
The various tracks have been recorded in an assortment of studios across both the U.K. and USA and they reflect the artist ‘s clear leaning towards Americana.
The bulk of the tracks were written using an acoustic guitar while she was in LA; and she felt that doing so it allowed her to concentrate more on her vocals; but in a far more reserved and contemplative mood than on her duo songs with Steve.
It will be interesting to see what if any effect this will have on the upcoming Blood Red Shoes album due early in 2022.
A mere six tracks; but all different in their own way and all worthy of inclusion on a release that surprised me very pleasantly and hopefully, this won’t just be her only solo release. 
Before I finish I must bring up a Blood Red Shoes gig several years ago in Newcastle, which three of us had really enjoyed, only for Steve to offer an apology at the end, that ‘we hadn’t been at our best that night’ much to the amazement of the audience.
Great effort Laura-Mary with (hopefully) a lot more to come.

Released December 3rd 2021
Review Courtesy Bill Redhead
https://www.lauramarycarter.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://laura-marycarter.bandcamp.com/releases

Jimmy The Dog STRANGENESS and CHARM

Jimmy The Dog
Strangeness and Charm
Studio Dawgs

Good Old Fashioned AOR Songs From a Grown Up Songwriter.

Jimmy The Dog aka Jim Ferrie is probably better known within the British music industry as a Producer/Engineer more than as a musician; but to RMHQ Readers he’s a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Singer-Songwriter of some renown; certainly judging by the reaction to his last release RATTLESNAKE LOVE.
Thankfully Jim had prepared me in advance for the change in direction; no longer a Blues Rocker; this release is a lot more AOR/Singer-Songwriter, with the main instruments being acoustic guitars; which neatly allows the songs to be come to the fore.
Hopefully it will come back to me; but opening track Twister reminds me of someone/something from my teenage years in the 1970’s …….. breathy vocals, a tight and almost claustrophobic arrangement with a song using the ‘Twister’ as a fascinating metaphor for a relationship constantly ‘on the brink’. Although there is a tinge of Laurel Canyon to it; and Jim’s swirling organ in the background certainly gives it more of a London-centric feel.
After playing the album a couple of times I certainly feel it sits comfortably in the old Adult Orientated Rock section of any self-respecting Record Shop; as Ferrie covers several different idioms in nearly every song; starting with Toodle-Oo, he delves into Americana Territory; but that rolling piano sounds very ‘Pub Rock’ to my ears; and the song itself will mean a lot more to listeners over 40 than under.
Even the quaintly titled Summer Sunshine targets grown ups rather than teenyboppers, as does That’s What Heaven Means To Me, too ….. you have to have ‘lived a life’ to understand where the singer is coming from.
Not that I ever want you do this; but Ferrie’s way with a melody makes this whole album a perfect accompaniment for making dinner or doing the ironing; but if that’s you, you are missing a veritable treat from listening to the words and stories in his songs; especially Run, Bombardier’s Moon or the Olneyesque Citrus and Vine too.
It says a lot about Jimmy The Dog is the fact that he wrote every song, produced and engineered the final product and plays every instrument (apart from the fiddle on Citrus & Vine) yet at no stage does anything sound even close to being self-indulgent.
Without ‘over selling’ the contents to you; this album and its predecessor sit comfortably in my collection alongside David Olney, John Martyn and Rodney Crowell and not far away from Cohen and Waits; who all may or may not have casually influenced Skimming Stones (Down By The River) and Weather Vane too.
The finale The Odd Mad Shallow Man finds Ferrie going back to his Roots, with the most Folky song here; but the contemporary edge saves it from being something aimed at ‘finger in the ear’ Arran sweater wearers.
That brings me to my Favourite Song; the charming yet ‘deep’ Pick Me Up; which took me surprise the third or fourth time I played the album. I’d obviously heard it previously; but that afternoon it was something of a Eureka moment; and a case of ‘right place/right time‘ for the mood that I was in at that time; and the song somehow touched on my own relationship with my ever forgiving wife.
It probably goes without saying that this album won’t get a mention in any end of year Top 10’s never mind the Brits or NME Awards; but it’s well worth taking a punt on if you want to hear some good old fashioned grown up songs from another like-minded grown up songwriter.

Released December 1st 2021
https://www.jimmythedog.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.jimmythedog.com/music




Mean Old Fireman DUMPSTER FIRE

Mean Old Fireman & The Cruel Engineers
Dumpster Fire
Self Release

A Bunch of the Coolest Cats in Bluesville Having The Time of Their Lives

Let’s start with the name; ‘Mean Old Fireman& The Cruel Engineers’; the pseudonym of singer-songwriter, and ex-firefighter Ned Bolle; which made me presume this would be a Rock/Indie type band; when he’s actually a grizzled Blues Singer; then of course there is the album cover ….. it’s so bloody awful it actually caught my attention, making me play the disc to ‘see if it was just as bad’ ….. and it certainly isn’t!
The adage ‘write about what you know’ comes to fruition on opening track Tour #3; where the singer virtually bares his Soul to the listener; without ever sounding maudlin or twee; this is the real deal kids ….. Bolle sings from the heart and aims his words directly towards your very own heart.
I guess most of these songs will also work in a solo format; but as a band offering; which it is …. is a masterstroke, especially the occasional use of saxophone and harmonica, which gives quite a few songs an extra lustre that you don’t expect.
This is especially true of McArthur’s Cunning Ruger, when Marty Phillips’ honking on the sax and Bolle’s scintillating slide take the song deep into Beefheart territory.
There’s a clever and intriguing mix of covers and originals here; the stark re-make of Stack O’ Lee is reverential and timeless; suiting Ned’s exotioc and beguiling voice almost perfectly.
Rocket 88 was arguably the first ever Rock & Roll song; yet hardly ever gets played or covered these days; and these cats do it and its memory a rare justice, with that Phillips’ honking horn and Bolle’s (Jerry Lee meets Dr John influenced) piano make it sound like it was recorded in a dodgy Juke Joint one Saturday night 40 or 50 years ago; not a studio in 2021.
Even on a first play, it was apparent that Bolle and his clan are all Blues lovers to the extreme and loved their time in the studio, (reliving their lost youth?); and this is never more apparent than You’re Mind is On Vacation, which can be a bit of a bore at times but here is liberally sprinkled with musical stardust.
For a man who has come to songwriting late in life; Ned Bolle can really put a story to music like the best; with the slow and wistful Got No Spoons coming from his time in the Fire Service, while Outrun The Blues is a simple yet rip-roaring ‘everyman’ tale that will have everyone dancing be that on the barroom floor or your own kitchen!
In many ways listening to this album has been like a breath of fresh air; as a lot of what I hear on a daily basis can be a bit ‘worthy’ and even ‘tiresome’, no matter how well intentioned; but The Mean Old Fireman sounds like he’s been waiting all his life for this opportunity and is grabbing it with bothy hands; hence three or four songs vying for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song.
To paraphrase Eric Morecombe; Too Much Alcohol has all the right notes; just in a different order to the version I know from Rory Gallagher and the world is a better place because of this timeless Rhythm and Blues Deluxe arrangement.
Then there is the tremendous remake of Robert Parker’s Barefootin’ ……. man! How cool is this version of one of my favourite ever songs?
Very, very Cool ….. is the answer.
But, there is one other song that I’ve simply fallen in love with; Cold Women (with warm hearts) is as good a song to force feed someone who doesn’t know what Real R&B is. From the subject matter, through Bolle’s honky-tonky piano playing and a swinging band that follows the beat with military precision ….. but somehow making it all sound ‘professionally sloppy’ makes this my absolutely Favourite Song by a gnat’s hair.
What else can I tell you? This is the type of band that you’d stumble on playing a bar in the seedy side of Town on a Thursday night; or a tent at the back of the field where some Multi-Platinum; but boring headliner is going through the motions; and you pop your head in and see a bunch of the coolest cats in town having the time of their lives ….. and you get the calling to join in ….. and if you did, you’d never regret it.

Released November 2021
https://meanoldfireman.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://meanoldfireman.com/store#mean-old-fireman-dumpster-fire




Ken Pomeroy CHRISTMAS LIGHTS in APRIL

Ken Pomeroy
Christmas Lights in April
Horton Records

A Major Stepping Stone and a Great Indication of Finer Things to Come.

Sometimes it’s nice to hear an entire album where there is no showing off from the musicians, just simply letting the songs happen organically.
Oklahoma native Ken Pomeroy’s clean guitar lines and a smattering of understated pedal steel are mostly all that’s here to push these songs along, and pretty much all that’s needed too.
Her clear voice—with just a hint of twang—is the highlight here, as are the songs, all written by Pomeroy from the age of 14 to 18. She’s still learning her songwriting craft, but she shows amazing promise. Pomeroy’s earlier release, her EP, Hallways, showed her with a plaintive and yearning voice which has now grown more assured, more honest.
She’s also learned to trust her instincts and how to let loose a bit more.
This is an album of songs mostly about love and memories with some thoughtful observations to lead the way.
The first track, “Joan,” starts with soft notes on guitar and then the pedal steel sneaks in right before Pomeroy sings the all too true opening lines:
Flowers grow and then they whither away,
just like I knew we would.
“White Noise” has some nice pedal steel throughout to complement a tale of lost love.
“Grey Skies” is a sad memory of a love letter as much as a wish for understanding. Eyes feature many times in Pomeroy’s songs, and in “His Eyes” she relates a tale of noticing darkness in the eyes of a —friend? a lover? a family member? but you catch the fondness she has for them, an empathy we could all use more of.
“Rain” is observations of a wanting love with a charming melody and a sweetness not found anywhere else on the album.
The title track, “Christmas Lights in April,” is another lost love song, but honestly spoken of, not sad as much as it is earnest.
Old folk songs were mostly matter of fact, the singer commenting on life and what they see, and how they are getting through the days, and several of Pomeroy’s songs fall under this tradition.
But it’s the song “Flannel Cowboy” that really got my attention here.
Pomeroy’s performance gives out serious Neil Young vibes with its cryptic imagery and the way she doesn’t tell the whole story, letting the strum of the guitar and the wailing vocals fill you in.
A plea for a return to love, to be forgiven, a wish for a safer future?
The darkest song on the album, and definitely my favorite.
Sometimes it’s not the flawless performance, that’s the perfect one.
If Pomeroy keeps writing and performing songs like this she’ll stand out in a crowd of singer-songwriters anywhere she goes.
This isn’t a perfect album as some of the lyrics could be tightened up a bit; and Pomeroy could allow herself some room to stretch the tempo more often, but this is a great indication of finer things to come.

Released December 10th 2021

Review by Roy Peak
https://www.kenpomeroymusic.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://hortonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/christmas-lights-in-april


Malcolm MacWatt SETTLER

Malcolm MacWatt
Settler
Need to know Music

A Gentle, Cross-Ocean Set of Musings, Grounded in Tradition.

The links between European and American music are long-established – Nick Tosches “Country – the twisted roots of rock’n’roll” is probably the best starting point for that investigation – and on “Settler,” Scot Malcolm MacWatt re-establishes that link, both in the tone and instrumentation, along with several high-profile guests from across the US side of the pond.

On the opening track “Avalanche & Landslide” Jaimee Harris is the first of those guests, providing backing vocals to an old-timey tale of protest regarding the effect of mass movements on affecting societal change.
“Letter from San Francisco” which follows, ploughs American Folk narrative territory with a Bluegrass flavoured accompaniment; then it’s back to this side of the Atlantic on “Ghosts of Caledonia” – both musically and lyrically, which has a Scottish musical lilt to this tale of how historical characters can affect our present – and how we’ll, in time, have the same effect.
Laura Cantrell shows up on the next track “The Curse of Molly McPhee” – it’s a timeless song of female victimisation and Cantrell’s vocals add a nicely sharp counterpoint to MacWatt’s smoother tones.
Gretchen Peters is the next guest to appear on “My Bonny Boys Have Gone,” which moves into Dougie Maclean territory – again it sits astride the Atlantic divide, being a tale of the mothers who were left behind when their offspring went off to the new world.
Eliza Carthy is the first non-US guest to show up on the album and she appears on the English folk-trad-sounding “The Miller’s Daughter;” another age-old tale, this time of forced marriage.
“Trespass”, which follows, is a Robin Hood type tale of stealing from the rich to support the poor and its unfussy guitar and backing vocal arrangement puts the lyrical message to the fore.

“John Rae’s Welcome Home” features fellow Scot, Kris Drever on electric guitar – he’s the only other musician on the album, as MacWatt plays everything else – and as well as play, Mr Drever adds a distinctive vocal contribution too, to this mid-paced ballad-esque tribute to the Orkney born explorer.

“Banjo Lullaby” is a bit oxymoronic in message – as MacWatt himself admit in his album notes, how could a banjo lull anyone to sleep?
The song itself has a gentle, rolling feel which contrasts with the lyrical tale of a drunken father who’d play the banjo at his children’s bedtime.

“North Atlantic Summer” closes things (there is one more track after this, but more of that in a moment) with a gentle account of the geological and meteorological connections between the opposing Atlantic land masses.

Things close with a spoken word over instrumentation explanation of the album
About the songs..an oral explanation”…which seems somewhat superfluous to these ears – the album is strong enough to stand for itself without the need for this bit of extra explanatory content.
Is it too late to chop it from the release or leave it as a Bandcamp freebie?

Malcolm MacWatt has constructed a gentle, cross-ocean set of musings, grounded in tradition and commonality that will be appreciated by fans of folk-flavoured Scottish songwriting, that’s given added spice by the guests who accompany him.

Review by Nick Barber
https://www.malcolmmacwatt.com/

Released 26TH November 2021

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://malcolmmacwatt.bandcamp.com/merch

Catfish Keith LAND OF THE SKY

Catfish Keith |
Land of the Sky
Fish Tail Records

Back to The Roots of Roots Music and The World Becomes a Little Bit Better Because Of It.

As someone with barely a musical bone in his body; I’m never less than amazed when someone like Catfish Keith; who has been recording and touring for 40+ years, can still come up with new and fresh ideas for songs and even tunes and melodies too on this, his 20th album.
For the uninitiated Keith is from Indiana but is something of a World Traveller, collecting many and varied influences and ideas along the way; but never really straying too far from his first love; Acoustic Country-Blues and keeping that flame alive.
Opening track, Jimmie Rodgers,’ Away on The Mountain is not your typical Catfish Keith; as he attempts a yodel on each and every chorus of this impassioned story told via his road-worn baritone voice and some intricate guitar picking too.
Personally I’ve liked Catfish Keith for a good few years now; especially his regular visits to the Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle and this album shows no signs of his talents diminishing or even wearing out.
This is followed by Bimini Girl; certainly a song that will divide opinion among his fans; as he takes inspiration from a Bahamian guitarist called Joseph Spence on what’s meant to be a ‘fun track’ but wasn’t for me at all; especially the strangulated vocals.
Skipping neatly past, there is a whole lot to like here; none more so than Little Bitty Bird and the punchy Red Nightgown which features some really scary slide guitar.
Like his musical forefathers; Leadbelly, Charley Patton, Rev. Gary Davis and the like; Catfish Keith is an extraordinary singer-guitarist; but far from ‘easy listening’ …… this music isn’t for the faint hearted; it’s for aficionados; and only connoisseur’s of the Art will be stunned beyond belief by Keith’s re-interpretation of Memphis Minnie’s Dirty Mother For You and his own fragile Little Bitty Bird too.
Even as a fan, LAND OF THE SKY has taken some ‘getting into’ for me; but it’s been well worth it as I’ve discovered some absolute gems of songs in the way Catfish delivers his take on the Rev. Gary Davis’s Samson & Delilah and Charley Patton’s Some of These Days, which closes the album in a darkly mesmeric fashion.
Selecting a single Favourite Song has been nigh on impossible; as it’s not that kind of album …… there sure ain’t any radio friendly singles here; that’s for sure!
But; if I had to point you towards a couple of songs as ‘tasters’ I guess it would be the jaunty Scoodle Oot ‘n Doo or Bust ‘Em Down which are probably the easiest on the ear; but that’s not the point of these songs or indeed the whole album; you need to invest time and patience to get the best from them.
As it’s that time of year; I will forgive Keith for slipping in a Christmas song; Walter Davis’ Santa Claus Blues which is the total antithesis of anything you will hear on radio in the Festive Season; as only the bravest or craziest of DJ’s would ever play this for public consumption …… but I bloody love it!
One last note, before I sum up …… while I don’t understand the intricate differences; guitar fetishists will love Catfish Keith’s notes on which guitar he used on each track.
From what I remember; I think Catfish Keith has gone back to his Roots here and the world is a little bit better because he has.

Released 27th October 2021
https://www.catfishkeith.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.catfishkeith.com/product/land-of-the-sky-cd/