The Rocking Magpie

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Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a box-room on the Internet for my thoughts and musings on a variety of music, be it CD’s, Gigs, books and the occasional DVD – usually; but not exclusively based around all things Americana and Roots; but I love Ska, Soul and all things Mod too.

After years of writing reviews for numerous magazines and websites, in late 2014 I thought that the time was right to put everything under one roof on my own blog/website and decided to break up the band and go solo.

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Me? I live in the North East of England; but receive music from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and all corners of Europe (very little from the vibrant scene in my home region ; which is sad); and our readership reflects this, with followers in 74 countries across 4 continents who receive e-mail updates whenever reviews are posted; plus my data tell me we have ‘occasional visitors’ from 111 countries have actually visited the site over the years!

My priority, will of course be bringing you reviews of soon to be released CD’s as soon as I get them. Plus there will be the occasional preview of albums, videos and gigs that interest me; but primarily you will read EXCLUSIVE reviews of Country, Americana, Folk, Blues, Ska, Punk and indeed all things Rock & Roll where the music has actually been listened to…not just the regurgitation of a Press Release like most other websites.

I’ve accidentally evolved a ‘house style’ which means that, just like in the olden days when we visited a record shop I check out the artwork on the sleeve first and if it appeals I (‘ask to’) play the first track which is always the key to the palace of delights that will follow, which is why I still place such emphasis on that song; regardless of the artist being a household name or someone self-releasing something they have recorded in their bedroom.

Dig deep into the site; as the bonus is 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.

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Keep in touch; let me know what you think and what you want to read more of – and feel free to keep in touch rockingmagpie@outlook.com or on Twitter @RockingMagpie

We do like feedback, so leave comments, re-post on Facebook or RT at will.

Press the like/follow button for irregular postings of reviews that you can read or not as the case may be 🙂

FAO Bands, singers and PR’s…….like all other writers and bloggers I put an inordinate amount of time 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 proof!!!!

Alan aka The Rocking Magpie

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Disconcerting P – I LOVE YOU TO DEATH

DISCONCERTING P

Disconcerting P
I LOVE YOU TO DEATH
Self-Release/Bandcamp

Ireland’s Best Kept Secret, But Not For Much Longer.

Some days keeping the website up to date can be a bit of a chore; then occasionally a bit of sunshine comes into my life, like the charming e-mail Padraig McCauley aka Disconcerting P sent a few weeks ago, asking if I would have a listen to his latest album.
I had a courteous quick listen to the first couple of tracks as I updated the site and replied to a bunch of e-mails; and found myself quickly putting it back to track #1 Woman and a Man as I made a cup of coffee and sat back, listening even more intently.
That first song is absolutely delightful, and ticks every box I have for singer-songwriters; a fairly simple narrative that immediately captures your attention as the harmonies and gently strummed acoustic instruments wash over you.
Next, In The Clouds (With You) is a more complex arrangement, but the haunting and hypnotic song had me close my eyes and drift off into another unworldly place imagining Mrs Magpie and myself walking in the surf holding hands and looking longingly into each others eyes.
Coincidently the next song Your Lungs actually has a chorus ‘Jump Into The Sea’; as well as one of my favourite lines of the year “The heart in my chest/I love you to death/I love you to death/the heart in your chest/love me to death.” Powerful and emotive stuff; and something that touched me deeply.
Perhaps it was the mood I was in that morning; but here I am still playing the record two weeks later and feel the same way about Disconcerting P’s heartfelt and evocatively sad love songs, especially the song of our times This Is Your Life…..are pretty much all outstanding and will tug at your heartstrings, as they did mine.
This Is Love Speaking To You Directly, finds Padraig alone with his acoustic guitar and a broken heart, and it is exactly what you would expect from such a title; but more so.
I’m not really sure where to start picking a ‘favourite song’ as this is very much an Album in the old-fashioned sense; something you put on the stereo as you turn down the lights and just wallow in the beautiful misery that comes from the speakers. Yesterday I was going to choose (We Are) The Dreamers which closes the album and could easily be the theme tune for RMHQ and a song that will make you feel it was written about you too, then this morning I thought it might be the fragile My Heart Bursts which conjures up memories of John Martyn and Tim Buckley; but (and this will change tomorrow) I’m going for Love Is Like a Loaded Pistol, with its Jazz-Lite melody and left of centre; but strangely true sentiments.
If I have one complaint; and it’s a small one……the drums, or electro drum-beats are occasionally pushed too high in the mix distracting from Irish man, McCauley’s softly expressive voice; but in the grand scheme of things that isn’t worth worrying about as, strangely for a singer-songwriter in these corporate and selfish times, and for a man with such a magnificent way with words, McCauley does this for ‘fun’……remember that concept? He writes and records at home then releases his music for FREE on Bandcamp……strange but true; and if there is any justice a Record Label will discover him soon and you will be forced; albeit willingly to part with coins of the realm to buy his works.

Released October 16th 2017
https://disconcertingp.bandcamp.com/

Junior Johnson – COULDA DONE BETTER

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Junior Johnson
COULDA DONE BETTER
Self-Release

Radio-Friendly Rootsy Singer-Songwriter.

It still amuses me how people stumble on our little website and it humbles me when they say nice things about us.
Such was the case with this new three track single from a friend of a friend in Northern Ireland who got in touch just ‘asking for our opinion’ on the music rather than ‘demanding a review’ then doing bugger all about promoting it; as several large PR Companies and Labels have done recently! Grrrrrr don’t get me started…..
Back to Junior Johnson…….
For a self-confessed ‘jobbing musician,’ although one who counts Shane McGowan and Henry McCullough as friends after supporting them on stage, the disc is exceptionally well packaged and; as is still important to me, would have caught my eye in a record shop.
The first song Kiss The Ones You Love may not be as ‘edgy’ as a lot of music I receive; but as it played through my headphones I looked across the room at Mrs. Magpie and thought “we don’t kiss as much as we should!” Junior’s song is quite complex at times; but also very easy on the ear, with some delightful guitar breaks and backing vocals that you could easily drown in.
Taking Too Long To Leave, which follows has the opening line “I haven’t got a pot to piss in/or a window to throw it out of/I’m just bumping my gums while twiddling my thumbs” now that’s an attention grabber; isn’t it? The song about a broken relationship had me holding my breath so as not to miss a word, as shimmering drums, a steel-guitar and some haunting backing vocals shadow Johnson’s sorrowful voice and sadly strummed guitar (if you can do such a thing.) Perhaps it’s just me; which I doubt; but this really does sound like ‘break-out’ song that is destined for National radio , North and South of the Irish Border and even across the Irish Sea.
The final song Born In The Wrong Time sounds like there’s a fascinating back story; but even without that knowledge Johnson cranks the volume up a little and adds some cracking electric piano from John McCullough alongside some stinging electric guitar on a nicely punchy soft-Rocker.
To some degree these three disparate songs are a fabulous showcase for a talented young man who is making a name for himself in his home market; and with only a little bit of luck hopefully someone influential will hear about him and a massive leap forward will be justified.

Released October 16th 2017
About

JW Jones HIGH TEMPERATURE.

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JW Jones
HIGH TEMPERATURE.
Solid Blue Records/Proper Distribution

A Voice Like Worn Velvet And An Extraordinary Guitar Player Too.

I received this a few weeks ago and fell in love with it immediately; from the classy artwork on the cover right the way through all 13 of Canadian JW Jones’ timeless Rhythm AND Blues songs!!
A sizzling guitar solo akin to the one in Honky-Tonk Woman is always going to capture my attention; and what follows does NOT disappoint. There’s a sultry feel to the melody; and JW’s voice sounds like his larynx is covered in worn velvet and his guitar playing is…..absolutely glorious? Somewhere between Clapton, Beck and…..Robert Cray?
Generally this is a Soul laden late night Blues style of album, full of bittersweet love songs like the tightly wound Leave Me Out and Already Know; but when JW Jones and band want to kick it; the dust really flies on the title track High Temperature, the marvelous Where Do You Think I Was and the surf-noir instrumental WHAM which closes the record.
Apart from his distinctive singing voice and dextrousness on the Gibson what really makes Jones stand out in a very competitive market is that ability to tell a story in a song; and he doesn’t go for straightforward stories either; as Murder in my Heart For The Judge and Out In The Woods both testify.
It’s always easy to play compare and contrast with guitarists; I myself did earlier but JW Jones has his very own playing style and one that weaves in and out of each and every song here, nothing too fancy or too long…..but short, sharp and usually breathtaking and for that he must be applauded.
Yet for me, it’s the songs that I keep coming back to…..and songs I actually still remember days after hearing them, with the autobiographical Who I Am and the Uber-Classy Midnight Blues being prime examples.
Then of course there has to be an RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ which was quite easy to pick; as it knocked me sideways the first time I played it; and if I still had my radio show it would be the first and last song I would play next week.
How Many Hearts really is that good; a duet with Jaida Dreyer (who co-wrote it with Colin Linden) which is just perfect for old-school FM Radio if such a thing still exists.
With hindsight all of the songs here would sound great on the radio….real head-turners; and I can’t wait to see and hear them played live, alongside his back catalogue on the forthcoming UK Tour!

Released UK October 20th 2017

Released  US & Canada October 28th 2016
http://www.jw-jones.com/

NRBQ -Happy Talk (EP)

NRBQ

NRBQ
Happy Talk
Omnivore Records

Left of Centre Musical Fun, Fun, Fun!

Don’t hate me…but for all NRBQ have apparently been a Band for 50 years now and recently released a 5 x CD Box Set to prove it; but……this is the very first time I’ve ever heard them!
I know…..I know…..plenty of North American friends and loads of musicians I like talk about them and cite them as being very influential; but….I guess they just never crossed the Atlantic.
So; I have to treat this 5 song EP as a brand new offering as I have no reference points to compare it with.
A brand new song, Head On a Post opens proceedings by rattling the speakers with it’s 1980’s Post-Punk swagger. A relatively simple if slightly surreal story is perfectly matched by a catchy melody and a vocal performance that is best described as….different. Great fun though.
Just to confuse me, track #2 has a lovely Honky-Tonk Twang to it; but yet again the song is to the left of unconventional! Now I’ve heard it a few times I think that given a couple of cold beers on a warm night I would both dance to this song and probably sing – along to the chorus too!
Now, any band regardless of reputation has to be careful with any rendition of The Big O’s Only The Lonely! It is a genuine classic and should NOT be tampered with. Thankfully NRBQ treat it with due respect and actually give it a bit of an Elvis in his crooning period feel; and I am making it my ‘favourite track here;….which is quite some honour.
Still with Rock n Roll pouring through their veins, track #4 Blues, Blues, Blues is a sad old Rocker that will tug at your heartstrings every time you hear it.
Then; there is the final track and the reason NRBQ found themselves in a studio recording the other 4.
Terry Adams claims Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Happy Talk is his favourite song of all time and wanted to put his own stamp on it; and he has.
A somewhat quirky arrangement masks a loving rendition of this fabulous song, and I guess NRBQs fan base will love it with all of their heart, and it will probably become a real crowd pleaser at concerts.
For a band with their history NRBQ certainly aren’t like Coldplay or U2; as to me they sound like the best Bar Band I never saw, and now I have to delve into their back catalogue……. but where to start?

Released October 20th 2017
http://www.nrbq.com/

Single of the Day : Bad Touch featuring Mollie Marriott – Baby Get It ON

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Bad Touch Feat: Mollie Marriott
Baby Get It On

To dovetail their headline November UK Tour, today Bad Touch have released the official music video for their new single “Baby Get It On” featuring guest vocals from Mollie Marriott. The single is a cover of Tina Turner’s 1975 classic.

BAD TOUCH – NOVEMBER 2017 UK TOUR WITH SPECIAL GUEST MOLLIE MARRIOTT
TICKETS: http://www.thegigcartel.com, 24 HR Box Office: 0844 478 0898

Sheffield, Corporation Thursday 9 November
Leek, Foxlowe Arts Centre Friday 10 November
Bristol, Tunnels Thursday 16 November
Manchester, Ruby Lounge Friday 17 November
Newcastle, Cluny Saturday 18 November
Nottingham, Bodega Sunday 19 November
Glasgow, Stereo Thursday 23 November
Leeds, Brudenell Friday 24 November
Coventry, Empire Saturday 25 November
London, Islington Academy Sunday 26 November
Norwich, Waterfront Studio Friday 1 December
Southampton, Talking Heads Saturday 2 December
Planet Rockstock Sunday 3 December

Ags Connolly and Jeremy Pinnell, Gateshead

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Ags Connolly and Jeremy Pinnell
Prohibition Bar
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
16/10/17

We’ve liked Ags Connolly for a few years now at RMHQ but Jeremy Pinnell has been a brand new discovery this year and his album Blood and Affection is a key contender for the title of Album of the Year; so when I heard that they would be playing the newish Prohibition Bar in the shadow of Sage Gateshead all of the stops were pulled out so I could attend.
After 3 weeks of trying and with only 48 hours to go I managed to swap shifts with a colleague, and with hardly enough time to grow a beard and get the Grand-kids to draw pictures on my arms that I would pretend were tattoos I entered the latest hipster bar to be greeted by the gregarious Mr Connolly who was standing at the bar.
Twenty minutes later a nervous looking Jeremy Pinnell made his way onto the corner stage and framed by some fabulous velvet curtains, closed his eyes and immediately punched the adoring crowd straight in the heart with a stark and beautiful rendition of Ballad of 1892, and as the final words left his mouth you could genuinely hear a pin drop until the applause nearly took the roof off (which would have been difficult as the Aberdeen to London railway line ran above!).
Without the fabulous band that accompanied him on the record Pinnell proved that a great song doesn’t need a big production, as he proved by pretty much singing the whole album tonight with just a simple acoustic guitar and a fascinating voice; all of which kept us enthralled for just under an hour.
Highlights? Phew…..everything? If pushed Different Kind of Love became even more delicate than I could have ever imagined and Country don’t get any Countrier than hearing Jeremy Pinnell singing Take The Wheel only six feet away from where you are sitting and the Honky Tonky I don’t Believe; suddenly became sad and full of poignancy when stripped right back to the bone, like tonight.
Pinnell even managed to throw in a brand new song, Blue Ribbon Blues (?) and a wonderful Gary Stewart song too.
After a very short break Ags Connolly took to the stage and halfway through his first song, a couple tried to sneak past the stage telling him “Sorry, but we’ve got a train to catch!”
Connolly was the perfect foil for Jeremy, as the English ‘Ameripolitan’ singer-songwriter has a punchier style with the guitar and a rich baritone voice; which both came to fore on his trademark bittersweet ballads Slow Burner and Nothin’ Unexpected; but it was the inclusion of an old Cowboy Song Diamond Joe that really caught my attention…..probably as I’ve not heard the album it comes from; and the world needs more Cowboy Songs in my opinion.
Ags too included a shiny new song; written after a break-up in Austin Texas, and I swear every woman in the room had a tear in her eyes as he sang Lonely Nights in Austin; then wanted to give him a cuddle at the end.
Two particular songs really showed his class in this world, and still have me shaking my head as to why he’s still playing in front of a handful of people on a Monday night instead of headlining much bigger venues. Just like Pinnnell’s stripped back songs tonight I Hope You’re Unhappy and The Night I Saw James Hand were quite spectacular when sung like this.
The evening was rounded off with Pinnell joining Connolly on stage for three songs; and it really was a magical experience hearing them them stroll through Jeremy’s Ain’t Nothing Wrong, Ags’ Good Memory For pain and a delightful rendition of Hank’s When God Gathers His Jewels.
What a fabulous way to spend a Monday night; with the only downside being the size of the audience; but then again that just added to the ‘magic of the evening’ by making it more intimate and memorable for everyone who did attend, and there wasn’t a Cowboy hat in sight.

http://agsconnolly.com/
http://www.jeremypinnell.com/

Full photo-set courtesy Harrisonaphotos

http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Ags-Connolly-and-Jeremy-Pinnell/

Randy Newman plays NPR Tiny Desk

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One of my joys these days is the NPR Music Tiny Desk series on the You Tube. I get to discover new artists and occasionally see RMHQ Favourites play in an intimate setting…..then this morning I got an e-mail saying Randy Newman had recorded a session for them…..yes…..THE RANDY NEWMAN!

Here it is…….there’s nothing more I can add.

Margo Price – ALL AMERICAN MADE

margo price

Margo Price
ALL AMERICAN MADE
Third Man Records

A Classic Country Cocktail With a Bittersweet Twist.

Now here’s a thing. Some of my American and Canadian friends have been raving about Margo Price for a few years now; and recently my British friends and fellow writers have been on the case since she released her debut album in 2016 (which I never received) and then embarked on several UK Tours that didn’t include my stomping ground in the NE.
So as someone who prides himself with being ‘first on the case’, it was with mixed emotions that I slid the shiny silver disc into the office stereo.
Thirty seconds into opening track Don’t Say It I had already raised an eyebrow and a further thirty seconds later listening to Margo’s delicious warble on the classy Country heartbreaker I was smitten and saw what all the fuss has been about.
Oh Lordy Lord! The Saturday night Hoe-down really kicks in on the next song Weakness; a real two-steppin’ belter worthy of Loretta or Tammy in their prime.
Even though Margo would have fit in perfectly, this in no homage to the Golden Era of Country; this is Contemporary Country of the finest order as the young woman from Illinois shows her true heritage by not just name checking ‘Levon Helm’ as she sings her heart out on A Little Pain; a song so personal and intimate it’s difficult to listen to at times; but that organist could be Garth Hudson if I’m not mistaken. Obviously it’s not, but there’s a hint of the Band as Margo and the Price Tags let rip with all of their might. That ‘contemporary’ touch continues as she injects some gorgeous Country-Soul into Do Right By Me; which has a hook that will real you in like a big fat Catfish.
I used the term ‘Contemporary’ earlier and that’s exactly what songs like Pay Gap, Cocaine Cowboys and Heart of American are…..Blue Collar politics at it’s finest; and as usual it takes a woman to show the men how it should be done!
Now, it’s a lovely song and pretty much as good as anything else included here but I very nearly didn’t mention Learning To Lose; but only because this duet with the legendary Willie Nelson will be the single song that the Nationals will hear and not get past; just because it’s Willie and that’s not fair at all. If they give the whole album the time it deserves they will find that Learning To Lose is only one piece in a fantastic musical jigsaw.
On the one hand there’s nothing new here, as Elizabeth Cook delivered a couple of similar albums that twisted Classic C&W in knots a few of years ago; but Margo has taken those songs as starting points and ran like Hell with the ball for ‘touchdowns’ with the sorrowful Nowhere Fast and deceptively simple Loner; which will punch you in the heart the first time you hear it.
There are two versions of a B-Side called Drunk Driving included too; with one, which includes a swear word coming very close to being our favourite track; and while it has a ‘funny punch-line’ to it, it’s still a subject close to our hearts here at RMHQ and still a taboo subject; but kills more young people in the UK than anything else.
But I’m going for the the stinging title track All American Made for the honour of Favourite Track, as it manages to convey the feelings that many/most/all of my American friends seem to feel but can’t articulate these days; but Margo does and shows what a marvelous way with words she has; and couple that to the Mash-up of radio broadcasts and the finale when a choir streams in…….it’s different; but brilliant in it’s own way.
So, everyone was right and my stubbornness in not looking deeper into the Margo Price story shows what a fool I can be; but at least that mistake has been rectified at last; and now I can’t wait to see and hear play these beauties live some time soon.

Released October 20th 2017

http://margoprice.net/news

Angus Crowne & The Family Jewels – SHAG RUG

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Angus Crowne & The Family Jewels
SHAG RUG
Self-Release

Hey Kids! It Ain’t Stiff But It’s Just As Much Fun.

Occasionally I accidentally get to watch talent shows like X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent for ten minutes or so before I get the urge to throw something aerodynamic (like a shoe) at my TV. OK some of the acts are rubbish; but it’s the better ones that really annoy me; because of just enjoying singing or playing their instruments to the best of their ability they all want to be ‘Stars’ and have sick inducing backstories about their Granny being such an inspiration or their dog doing harmonies in the bathroom and don’t get me started on “How very much winning means to them!” Grr Grrr Grrrrr.
I only mention this because 99.9% of all music is meant to be an entertainment and actually be fun….remember that? Fun?
Well, this album from Angus Crowne is just that……entertaining and Fun, Fun, Fun! That’s not meant to decry from the work that has obviously gone into the recording process; but the outcome is a deliberately quirky set of songs that will make every single purchaser smile and even chuckle at some time as they try to sing along with at least one song.
The breathtaking opening song Little Green Man sounds like a Surf-Noir homage to Quentin Tarantino that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Stiff Records label in 1979.
Title track Shag Rug follows and your head will spin as it’s a Ukulele fronted Hawaiian Folk Rocker! Don’t believe me? Well you listen and tell me what it is.
That’s the joy of this album; it’s a blast of fresh air with Crowne’s cool and raspy voice jumping from genre to genre at will with the soft shoe shuffle of Hello, Goodbye, a Ukeabilly toe-tapper with Beyond The See and there aren’t any surprises with Punk Rock Aftershock……especially if you like Wreckless Eric or the Dickies!
Where do I star choosing a favourite track? Middle Age Crawl was an early contender, then the cutesy but dark Opened Book nearly took the title but how can I resist Get Me a Beer , as it say so much about my own life in the last twenty years!!!
Obviously an album as eclectic as this won’t appeal to everyone (ask my wife!) but if you have an open mind and like Jonathan Richman or just about anyone on Stiff Records you will absolutely adore this disc.

Released April 2017
https://www.anguscrowne.com/

 

Andrea Marr – NATURAL

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Andrea Marr
NATURAL
Only Blues Music (Australia)

Soul Sister and Heartbreaker Extraordinaire.

As an old Soul Boy; finding good high quality Soul Music these days is becoming increasingly difficult, as the majority of what is being called R&B ain’t really got Rhythm and certainly isn’t what I call The Blues!
My appetite was sated a recently when I accidentally discovered a label called Ecko Records which released some really saucy and sassy albums by acts like Miss Jody, Sheba Potts-Wright and (my favourite) Barbara Carr, but it appears to have sunk without trace; leaving me with my old record collection for solace.
So it was with great delight when my favourite Blues PR man, Frank Roszack sent me this terrific album by Sri-Lankan born and Australian brought up, musical powerhouse Andrea Marr.
Even the cover artwork will get Soul aficionados blood pumping and when opening track Force of Nature comes blasting out of the speakers feet all over the world will twitch and tap as hips shake like leaves in a storm.
Andrea Marr and The Funky Hitmen sure know how to get a party started as they use every trick in the book with their swinging horn section and a firecracker guitarist coupled to a steam powered organ, drummer and bassist giving Andrea’s amazing voice a backing it well deserves.
Track #2 will give you a real idea about where Ms Marr is coming from as she tears away all of the Pop trappings from Aretha’s Rock Steady and turns it into the sassy Rhythm AND Blues song of seduction it was always meant to be!
As with all the great Soul that came out of Stax and Atlantic in that halcyon bygone age and what Daptone Records currently do better than anyone else, Miss Andrea Marr combines passion, energy and S-O-U-L with melodies and hooks to die for on What Do I Have To Do and Mama Gets It Wrong Sometimes Too, but it’s when she writes and sings from and about the heart this album surpasses any similar releases in the last 20 years.
That’s Where Love Ends and Sticks and Stones are both the type of slow song I wanted to hear when the lights went down low at the end of the night in a Club or at a party.
While not as ribald as those Ecko albums I love, Andrea includes a couple of earthy songs of seduction in Good Man and the quaintly titled Let’s Take It To The Bedroom, when she shows she’s a lady that knows what she wants and…..trust me; she’s going get what SHE wants!
That last song was very nearly (and probably should be) my favourite track here; but I’m actually going for something a bit left of centre with Grateful; a rather beautiful bittersweet love song that evokes memories of discovering the delights of Aretha, Phyllis Nelson and, of course more recently Sharon Jones; and now Andrea Marr appears to have the same ability to touch my heart with her magical words and phrasing too.

Released October 31st 2017
http://www.andreamarrmusic.com/