The Rocking Magpie

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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

Jenny Spear GALAXIES

Jenny Spear
Galaxies
Laughing Outlaw

A Shimmering Darkness a Bit Like Romantic Poetry Set to Music

Australia doesn’t normally rate very high in the worlds of Americana and Alt. Country; but over the years I’ve discovered some really rare treats; and Jenny Spear appears to be another name that I can add to that list.
There’s a shimmering darkness to opening song Always The River that caught my immediate attention a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure if it was the brittle instrumentation or Jenny’s gorgeous voice; which sounds as if tragedy is never more than a stanza away.
As we all know, not every song has to be literal from start to finish; and that’s the beauty of this short EP; most songs sound a bit like romantic poetry set to music.
Track #2 Perfect Shade of Red starts with some incredibly clever acoustic guitar playing, that may even border on being Classical; especially so when Jenny’s winsome voice glides in like a Summer breeze; gently caressing the listener’s psyche in a way I would normally associate with someone like Fleet Foxes or Cowboy Junkies at their very best.
Raven’s Cry, is a tad more upbeat as the singer taps into her inner strength and wisdom on a harrowing tale of tragic love that is never destined to have a happy ending.
I guess that there’s a set of circumstances when these songs will be used as ‘background music’ … but I can’t think when; as they demand to be listened to; probably best on headphones too.
The mood certainly picks up on Stay In The Rain; but that’s only relative; as the velvety smoothness of the vocals and bass get to juxtapose with some delightful slide guitar as Ms Spear gets to tap a toe while deciding where this relationship is actually heading.
The title track; Galaxies has a beautifully long intro that leads into some very smoky and vulnerable vocals that could be mistaken for a re-mixed Dusty Springfield song circa A Very Fine Love in 1995.
As you’d sometimes hope; the best is kept for last; with another song that tips its hat in the direction of Dusty …… Alpha Romeo; which subtly tells a story about an ‘Alpha Male’ set to some clever instrumentation that falls on the right side of being kitsch but is saved by some cool playing on a Gretsch guitar if I’m not mistaken; and therefore is by far; my Favourite Song here.
Looking at her website it appears that Jenny Spear has been quite prolific over the years ….. so maybe I (and you?) will only have to scratch the surface to discover some more gems.

Released April 26th Australia
Released May 20th The R.O.W

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https://jennyspear.bandcamp.com/


Curse of Lono at The Cluny, Newcastle

Curse of Lono
The Cluny II
Newcastle
May 17th 2022

For health reasons, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to leave the house on an evening to attend a gig; especially when the venue is a standing one; so the act has to be special to tempt me out these days.
Seeing the new version of Curse of Lono certainly ticks that box for me!
While I’d vaguely heard the name ‘Lucas & King’ I had no idea at all what to expect ….. so I was intrigued when two young women wandered onto the stage, which was packed with instruments.
Within seconds of their first song; Bo Lucas’s distinctive voice quietened the chatterers sitting behind me in the bleachers.
I say ‘distinctive’ and it is; but I could have also said ‘beautiful’ and/or ‘quirky’ but whichever; I and the Cluny crowd fell in love with it immediatly.
The other half of the duo; Hayleigh King plays a rather fabulous and Twangtastic style of guitar accompaniment too btw.
Obviously I didn’t know any of the song titles in advance; but one could have been called No Giving In; and was almost Avant Garde with Bo going full on Marianne Faithfull while Hayleigh added some really subtle Jazz influenced piano parts beside her …. and the reception from the sparse crowd was quite extraordinary.
Half way through the all too short set the couple dropped in a cover version…. and what a spectacular choice it was; Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang!
Six songs and every single one a winner and completely different from each other certainly putting Lucas & King on the RMHQ radar, that’s for sure.
After a short interval, as various members of the ‘new’ Curse of Lono’ band set up their various instruments Bo Lucas appeared too, sorting some leads that I presumed she’d left behind; only for her to plug one in as she was the backing vocalist!
I really should keep up to date with the news.
As the band started with a new and increasingly intense and hypnotic version Think I’m Alright Now, the room suddenly filled up with fans who had either been in the bar; or in the case of Clive ….. trying to get into Cluny I!
For the second song Steppin’ Out; Felix’s vocals somehow dropped an octave or two to create a fabulous air of musical mystery.
Without listing every song they played in their hour and a half on stage; but there was a fabulous mix of old and new songs; with the new members of the band expounding a new found energy in the older songs; none more so than Don’t Look Down and London Rain.
While I’ve loved Curse of Lono since the first play of their debut EP in 2016; yet I’ve never been able to ‘pigeon hole’ them.
Are they Americana? Possibly.
Are they Indie? Possibly
Are they Goths? Maybe (around the edges).
Are they Alt. Country? Maybe.
The only act I can really ever compare them too would be Nick Cave, which neatly brings me around to the duets, London Rain and So Damn Beautiful which weren’t a million miles away from Cave’s work with Kylie… yep they really were that good.
As you’d expect the new band members all got their moment in the sun; with Joe Harvey White mesmerising the audience with his intricate pedal steel playing; and when he played his Gretsch guitar, I swear I saw smoke coming off the strings on a few songs.
Highlights?
Dedicating 2018’s Way To Mars to his mentor, Chuck Prophet was as apt as it was a masterstroke as the cool harmonies and interplay between the rhythm section and the guitars was as extraordinary as anything the ex-Green on Red man has ever released.
Another would have to be the lustful and feisty Ursula Andress from the latest album; which took on a life of its own; which I didn’t expect.
After being off the road for over two pandemic laden years, this was quite an emotional night for both band and audience; which really showed by the reaction to both encores Man Down and the pumped up Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride.
As I tried to make a discrete exit it proved difficult as I had been standing next to the merch desk which was suddenly surrounded by fans trying to buy t-shirts, CD’s and (reasonably priced) LP’s.

https://curseoflonoband.com/
https://www.joeharveywhyte.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lucasandking





Big Jack Johnson STRIPPED DOWN MEMPHIS (with Kim Wilson & Wild Child Butler)

Big Jack Johnson
Stripped Down Memphis
MC Records

Red Raw, Timelessly Emotional Acoustic Country-Blues

I seem to be subconsciously steeped in the Blues at the moment; and as you’d expect no two albums are even remotely the same ….. ‘cos that’s how the Blues is.
This is a new name to me; Big Jack Johnson; but his guests on the two sessions are very nearly ‘household names’ … Kim Wilson and Wild Child Butler, so I had to give it at least one play.
The Wild Child Butler 1998 session has never seen the light of day before; and the Kim Wilson tracks from 2000 are unreleased too; making this album all the more exciting for that snippet of news.
Forget the dates though; this type of red raw and emotional acoustic Blues could have been recorded at any time in over 100 years yet still sounds fresh and dangerously exciting today in 2022.
The ‘live from the floor’ recording starts with Baby What You Want Me To Do and the scene is undoubtedly set; with Johnson reaching into his hearts darkest abyss as he struggles to keep a relationship alive, while his ‘chunka-chunka’ guitar playing accompanies some staggering mouth-harp that wouldn’t be out of place at a funeral.
The mood lightens slightly with the riff-tastic Run Blues Run and Johnson’s gruff world weary vocals sound like he has just gone straight from the plantation and into a recording studio.
Aching All Over starts with Wild Child Butler actually chatting in the studio about ‘having his wings clipped’ then gliding seamlessly into a mournful guitar/harmonica heartbreaker; the likes of which I would normally associate with very early John Lee Hooker.
As you can tell; there aren’t many laughs here nor is this likely to even accidentally turn up inj the Easy Listening section of a record shop; but that’s not the point; is it?
Songs like See Me Coming with Wild Child on vocals and Part Time Love are ‘everyman’ songs, that will squeeze your heartstrings until you can’t hardly breathe; but you will turn to them several times in the future because Johnson just might be singing about you and your feelings.
There is a small amount of ‘light’ to balance the various shades ‘darkness’ here; with a stomping version of The Hucklebuck nearly outdoing The Hully Gully Twist in the way Johnson and friends can change the mood on a sixpence!
While I’m not totally sure of the origin of the story in Going To Norway; the chorus and melody actually had me tapping my toes right from the git go; which I wasn’t expecting; therefore I’m making this my Favourite Song on a rather special album.
Big Jack Johnson is a brand new name to me; and one that has made me research his back story and back catalogue; which shows the effect these songs have had on me.

Released 20th May 2022
https://msbluestrail.org/blues-trail-markers/big-jack-johnson

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Mike Stevens BREATHE IN THE WORLD, BREATHE OUT MUSIC

Mike Stevens
BREATHE IN THE WORLD, BREATHE OUT MUSIC
Stony Plain Records

Groundbreaking, Genre-Bending and Mind Blowing Harmonica Led Roots Music

It’s not unknown for me to receive albums to review from two different sources; but three???
That’s what happened here; and although I’d never heard of ‘legendary Canadian harmonica player’ Mike Stevens; the thought of three trusted PR companies seeking my opinion certainly piqued my attention a month or so ago.
Opening track Like a Bird is a deceptively sweet soft shoe shuffle; featuring a wonderful vocal performance from Polly Harris (and eventually a ‘choir of Angels’ on the fade). There’s a whole lot going on behind her singing; not least my introduction to Stevens’ fascinating harmonica playing ….. which is as complicated as it is listenable btw.
The temperature is raised when that is followed by Watermelon Pie; a Country-Blues instrumental where Stevens and his harmonica battle it out with Kevin Breid on electric guitar (and slide too!), and the result is nearly epic!
I have a harmonica playing friend; Martin Fletcher who trod the boards for many years with a variety of succesful Blues Bands until he felt restricted by the genre and began making ever more ‘progressive’ music with this under-regarded instrument ….. to ever shrinking audiences.
Mike Stevens is of a similar ilk it appears; using his harmonica in a huge variety of styles that many wouldn’t think suited to it; but in these capable hands (and lips!) works perfectly well.
Our man takes Orange Blossom Special and turns it into something very nearly Avant Garde! To paraphrase Eric Morecambe; ‘All of the notes are ….. just not necessarily in the right order!’ and again, the result is fabulous …… as it is with the mournful The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald which immediatly follows too.
I’ve been a fan of the harmonica since I was a teen and have been drawn to albums simply because that instrument was featured (plus I own 3 VA Harmonica albums that are virtually unlistenable!) but I’ve never heard anyone like Mike Stevens; who takes this tiny musical instrument to new and even dangerous heights on the innovative Put The Phone Down, Devil’s Bride and the sultry Blues Rock ballad, Livin’ in Sarnia which also features Cory James Mitchell on vocals.
Does the world need another version of Amazing Grace?
If you’d asked me four weeks ago I’d have said NO ….. but the way Mike Stevens disembowels the melody then puts it back together again is truly staggering and extraordinary in every way.
In some ways I could have stuck a pin into the track listing to select a Favourite; but putting some thought into the process I’ve narrowed it down to two songs; both of which feature Mike on vocals as well as said harmonica.
Bad In a Good Way is almost Jazz Like in construction; with Kevin Breit providing some organ licks that would have done Blue Note Records proud back in ‘the day’.
The other which just might tip the balance to be the Winner is Devil’s Pride; where Stevens takes us on a darkly intimidating walk down a path that even Tom Waits would think twice about entering ….. and the result; not for the first time here is quite extraordinary.
For a man who, over 35 years in the business has released and featured on too many albums to count; played the Opry over 300 times, won numerous Awards (Canadian and American) and even set up the ArtsCan Charity ….. surely this album is really groundbreaking and will now introduce him to a new audience around the world.

Released May 20th 2022
https://mikestevensmusic.com/mike
https://mikestevensmusic.com/artscan-circle

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Nicki Bluhm AVONDALE DRIVE

Nicki Bluhm
Avondale Drive
Compass Records

A Gorgeous Slice of 21st Century Hook-Ridden Soulful Catharsis

Once in a while, in this reviewing game, you get handed something that you know very little about, but ending up absolutely loving – this is one of those moments.
I’ve seen Nicki a few times over in Nashville, but have only ever seen her guesting with others – her solo stuff was well off my radar – until now.
There are a mix of influences on this release, but the biggest one to these ears is that of Dusty Springfield – there’s Soulfulness and classic 60’s Pop with a 21st Century edge throughout.
Nowhere is this clearer than on the opener “Learn to Love Myself” which, in its production, sounds like a near cousin of Raul Malo’s work on Whitney Rose’s countrypolitan “Heartbreaker of the Year”.
Tinkling piano and Spector-esque drums overlaid with Nicki’s heartworn vocals assault the eardrums in the nicest possible way.

“Love to Spare” moves sideways into evermore Soulful territory with its Philly-style call and response and terrific lead vocal.
”Feel” initially steps up the pace with a bluesy-gospel feel and a distorted/saturated vocal – stop-start rhythms and instrumental dropouts frame another superb vocal performance too – this girl has got S.O.U.L. !!

“Sweet Surrender” is most certainly not the Wet Wet Wet song – this is a minor key late night sultry and soulful reflection where “you gotta earn every scar”.
“Juniper Woodsmoke” keeps things in a similar reflective pace and lyrical mood, shifting between 6/8 and waltz time, albeit in a folkier, rather than soulful musical setting this time.
Though we may never ever settle the score
It don’t matter
‘Cause it won’t be what it was before.
it’s one of those songs which juxtaposes a mainly melancholy message against a sprightly tune and it’s all the more affecting for it.

“Friends” mixes Chuck Prophet style guitar Funk and 60’s Soul revue preaching on which Bluhm duets with Oliver Wood (of the Wood Brothers) regarding various musings on modern day relationship forming and (shudder) the dating scene…
”Mother’s Daughter” moves into a more serious area, dealing as it does with issues of sexual abuse – its mantra of
She is a woman
however, acts as defiant call for survival and survivors to stand strong.
Once again, Bluhm shows herself to be gifted at putting together a dynamic arrangement, with the quieter/louder sections acting beautifully together to frame things lyrically and vocally.

“Fools Gold” has an undercurrent of spaghetti western musical style, where Bluhm savages the false promises of predatory industry Svengalis and other ne’er do-wells.
Things don’t get any easier lyrically on the gorgeous ballad “Leaving Me (Is the Loving Thing to Do)” where
my ring no longer fits your finger
my smile no longer lights up your eyes
it’s a cathartic outburst and acceptance of sad emotional inevitability.
A melancholy fiddle break caps the sentiments perfectly too.
Things end on a more upbeat musical note with the West coast driving open-top anthemic “Wheels Rolling” -there’s doubt in life still, but there are ways to survive and
That’s how you keep the wheels rolling”.

There’s a lot that’s been laid bare, both musically and personally on this gorgeous slice of 21st century hook-ridden soulful catharsis – this is a very strong release indeed and if you’ll excuse me, I’m off down a Nicki Bluhm rabbit hole to see what I’ve missed!

Review by Nick Barber
Released 3rd June 2022

https://www.nickibluhm.com/

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Margo Price THAT’S HOW RUMOURS GET STARTED (Deluxe Version)

Margo Price
That’s How Rumours Get Started (Deluxe Version)
Loma Vista recordings

An Intriguing Pot-Pourri of Extra Musical Bits and Bobs Added to Original Release

Having reviewed the original release a couple of years back, this review of the re-release is focusing mainly on the bonus tracks – all eight of them, which increases the track count by 80%, so purely in numerical terms for completist fans of Margo it’s worth getting.

Of the eight extra tracks, five are co-writes with husband Jeremy Ivey and three are covers.
“Goin’ to the Country” the first of the co-writes is somewhat more Countrified than the body of the original release, featuring fiddle and banjo – it’s not too difficult to see why it didn’t fit into the original release in that way, which had more of a Fleetwood Mac vibe.

Next up, “Long Live the King” is a soulful homage to both Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King that had a single release recently.
Lyrically it’s a bit unsophisticated and despite a lovely Memphis horn backing, it’s fairly clear why it didn’t make the cut as part of the album – it’s very much a one-off, not quite, but almost a ‘novelty song’.

First cover is Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” – Whitney Rose has been covering this in her set for a few years – and Price’s version is a bit more emotionally controlled than Whitney’s; both vocally and in terms of the backing.
Back to the Price/Ivey co-writes; “Hitman” is a gentle Latin flavoured tune that bizarrely reminds me of something off Altered Images’ “Bite” album – that was almost certainly not what Margo had in mind when she wrote it I presume.

Price has sometimes been compared to Bobbie Gentry in the past; and it’s an interesting listen to hear Price’s take on Gentry’s “He Made a Woman Out of Me”.
Country-soul organ and a scorching vocal make this one of the highlights of these bonus takes to my ears. T
he Ivey/Price song “Later On” features The Band of Heathens and Nicki Bluhm, yet sounds less full than its list of participants suggests, being an uncluttered drum/piano/bass and backing vocal, laid-back affair that sounds more West Coast than the other tracks it finds itself amongst – and more than any of the bonus tracks, might have squeezed into the original release.

Back to the covers and “You’re No Good” is the song that most will probably know from the Dee Dee Warwick and Linda Ronstadt versions.
Price’s take is a competent, gritty Country-Soul run-through, before the final bonus track, “Better Than Nothin’” a catchy brisk waltz.

Taken individually and as a whole, it’s quite clear to see and hear the reasons why these extra tracks weren’t suited to the original release – stylistically and musically they all have merit though; and provide a pot-pourri of extras to fans of Margo Price and add great value for anyone who didn’t buy the album first time around.

PLUS …..
Margo Price’s first book, Maybe We’ll Make It: A Memoir, will be released on October 4th, 2022, by the University of Texas Press. “It’s a love story about loyalty, loss, grief and forgiveness,” says Price. “It’s about finding freedom from substance abuse and addiction and fighting for the freedom to be myself in the music business.” 

Released May 8th 2022
Review by Nick Barber
https://margoprice.net/

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David Olney EVERMORE (Live in Holland)

David Olney
EVERMORE (Live in Holland)
Strictly Country Records

While We Await a Long Overdue Retrospective This Live Recording will More Than Suffice.

Oh man! It genuinely broke my heart when I heard the news that David Olney had died on stage in early 2020.
I came late to the party; only discovering his immense talent with the WHEN THE DEAL GOES DOWN in 2014; and only ever got to see him play live (alongside Sergio Webb) at a cruelly under attended venue the following year …. but he’s right up there in my Top 10 of singer-songwriters; and ahead of many household names!
One of the key things I love about Olney’s work is that it’s eclectic; which is the best way to introduce this 7th album in a series of 8 live albums recorded in Holland in 2016, by Pieter Groenveld, Founder of Strictly Country Records.
The opening track the captivation Big Top is less a song and more a Talking Blues or even a poem set to music, with delicate bass from Daniel Seymour and a harsh harmonica accompaniment from David as he tells a dark tale that may or may not be a metaphor for the political leanings of the USA around that time ….. or just a plain and simple exotic story of a Circus on tour!
You decide.
As the track fades to a close you hear a few seconds of applause before the first of the ‘real’ songs; Train Wreck kicks in; featuring David pretending to be a train and his relationship being a ‘train wreck’ but he loves her anyway.
The quality of Groeneveld’s production is so sharp you’d be forgiven for not realising that this is actually a ‘Live Recording’ and the lack of applause makes this even more of a ‘keeper’ as usually with live albums the stories between tracks can quickly become boring; although Olney’s stories are/were actually fabulous … but you get my point?
Personally I only recognised a couple of Olney’s songs here; with quite a few being dusted off from his earlier releases; Always a Stranger/I Miss Someone, Thing Of Beauty and a personal favourite of mine; A Dangerous Man, which does start with David eloquently explaining that the song is about T.E Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia; which I don’t think I previously knew.
So it’s been a beautiful few days of discovery with the staggeringly beautiful Take Me With You (When You’re Gone); the prescient Always a Stranger a Refugee and the stunning co-write with RMHQ favourite Kim Richey; Love Is being new to my ears, but now carefully put away for a day when I simply need to hear them again.
As always; David casually drops in some covers to his set; some more obvious than others of course; with no surprises that the set closes with his version of Townes Van Zandt’s For The Sake of The Song; but who among us would expect to hear The Zombie’s 1960’s Hit She’s Not There being seamlessly included inside Stand Tall?
Not many; but it works a whole lot better than it should.
With so many great songs to choose from; I’ve settled on three to find one winner.
I doubt I’ve ever heard a bad rendition of John Prine’s Speed of The Sound of Loneliness; but here David Olney digs deep into the crevices of the heart of the song and squeezes your heartstrings until you can hardly draw breath.
David unleashes his inner Folk Troubadour with Situation/Don’t Try to Fight It and with the cracks in his voice at the fore; this isn’t in any way ‘easy listening’ in any way ….. but I love it anyway.
A lot easier on the ear is Two Bit Hood; a modernish tale not too far away from the Bonnie and Clyde story as if written by Tom Waits; and here David brings it up to date with two unnamed characters living outside the law; a low-rent girl and the Two Bit Hood himself ….. and in my humble opinion one of the finest works he’s ever produced; making it my Favourite Song on a rather exceptional album.

Released May 13th 2022
https://davidolney.com/

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The Bros. Landreth COME MORNING

The Bros. Landreth
Come Morning
Birthday Cake Records

Deeply Personal and Mellow Lo-Fi Influenced Canadiacana

Aha!
The Bros. Landreth?
Not the most prolific of recording artists, are they?
Three albums in nearly ten years? ….. but; what albums they are!
Their debut; *LET IT LIE possibly changed my life; as it was a ‘gateway’ album to the mystical world of Canadian Roots music; which has subsequently become a cornerstone of our little website.

Opening track After The Rain took my breath away; just like the first time I heard the Brothers way back in *2013 ….. a new and rather beautiful change of direction beckons; taking their Rootsy/Alt. Country into unchartered mellower territories that lead back to Laurel Canyon, methinks?
Back To Thee, which follows is almost Lo-Fi in construction, but the crystal clear and sparse production gives Joey’s ode to his wife a cutting edge that you don’t expect from something so relatively simple.
After the album ended the first afternoon I was left scratching my head as to why Bros. Landreth aren’t a major act; headlining Concert Halls the world over …… listen to Don’t Feel Like Crying or What In The World and especially Drive All Night (plus the edited version too) and tell me you aren’t listening to Master Musical Craftsmen at work; and in Joey and Dave two singers who can use their individual voices to not just squeeze every last drop of emotion out of their songs; but leaving you enthralled at the way they tug at not just your heart but your brain too!
With no discernable radio-friendly single here (apart from, maybe the radio edit of Drive All Night?) selecting a Favourite Song has become ever so personal; which is a good thing as each and every song is personal to the writer himself; but will be to everyone who hears them …. such is the cleverness in the writing and construction.
You Don’t Know Me digs deep and brings proceedings down to a dark note, as it appears to be a break-up song of the highest order; with  Joe Pisapia’s pedal-steel tuned to heartbreak mode; and the bass replicating a heart slowly beating in time with the pathos of the singer.
Corduroy is a strange title for a love song; but the fabric is one of the things the storyteller likes about his loved one …. or could it be a metaphor for the brothers’ previously strained relationship now being mended?
I nearly chose the ‘musicians’ song; Stay ….. a regular theme of course; but some writers can capture the tattered emotions of delicately balancing ‘life on the road’ making money to pay the rent; and staying home as long as possible with their family and/or lover ….. the Bros. Landreth land this big ole fish with style and grace here.
There’s another song that entered the running too; Don’t Feel Like Crying featuring a delicate and mournful guest vocal from Leith Ross, and along with Joe’s baritone acoustic guitar and a sparse arrangement that’s bound to leave you open mouthed … and open-minded.
All that withstanding; I’m choosing the mellow and razor-sharp Shame, where the Bros. Landreth take us on a trip down a Country road with more twists and turns than you’d ever expect. Again, it’s possibly about the brothers themselves; but it’s certainly a song that will get under the skin of many who hear it and then get to thinking about some special relationship of their very own …. such is the intelligently smart writing and story herein.
As my wife uttered, “There aren’t many laughs here” and nor are there meant to be; some music is purely cerebral and this is one of them ….. best played late at night in a darkened room, alongside a glass of something strong ….. and your memories.

Released May 13th 2022
https://www.thebroslandreth.com/

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*LET IT LIE
Back in 2013; this is what happened ….
” One Thursday evening in July I was drying the dishes and listening to Bob Harris Country on BBC Radio 2 when I very nearly dropped a plate. He played a track by a band he’d only just discovered; and to say it took my breath away would be an understatement.
I even had the audacity to ask Mrs. H to sssh; so I could hear the song through to the end (brave? Foolish?). The band was Bros. Landreth from Winnipeg, Manitoba and the song was called Runaway Train.

As soon as it finished I found their management on the internet and made contact. A month later the disc arrived….but it was intended for a January release!” 


MARGO CILKER at The Cluny, Newcastle

Margo Cilker
The Cluny
Newcastle Upon Tyne
8th May 2022

After having the pleasure of reviewing Margo Cilker’s ‘Pohorylle’ several months ago, I was delighted to be invited to do a review of her Cluny gig this week.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as the album had the benefit of a superb backing group – a veritable ‘who’s who’ in the American Americana field – whereas her UK tour was as a plain and simple solo act.

After a very well delivered opening set from a young girl who was knew to me, Mauis Mollis, (give her a listen) Margo arrived to announce this would be ‘Pohorylle and a few bits and bobs’ so that was me already happy.

Opening with ‘That River’ any concerns I had about her going solo just disappeared as this was just like the album and delivered with her very soothing vocal. Each track was followed by a very amusing and entertaining footnote about the track or the circumstances around the writing of it.

The vagaries of the USA Health System
‘an ambulance call costs about $20,000
was the background to the true story of ‘Broken Arm in Oregon’ with Margo having been the injured party who then had to ride her horse back home to be treated!

Intimate venues like The Cluny can often disappoint when the act doesn’t get the audience on side early in the set, but there was no chance of that here as Margo just drifted from track to story to track like a seasoned performer.

She delivered what she referred to as ‘the breakfast trio’ which dealt with songs about food in general in various States and breakfast in particular – it doesn’t sound very amusing but here, it drew several laughs from an attentive audience as Margo had them ‘eating out of her hands’.

Highlights to me were ‘Tehachapi’ and ‘Brother, Taxman, Preacher’ as much for the linked stories as for the actual album tracks.

60 plus minutes that seemed to fly over before several joined the queue for merchandise with everyone getting the opportunity to chat to her for a few minutes.

After spells in the UK and The Basque Country (not to be confused with Spain!!) she was clearly enjoying her UK Tour and I would guess she might be back soon once her next album is released.

What we would refer to in North East parlance as a ‘proper canny night’.

Review by the Legendary Bill Redhead
https://www.margocilkermusic.com/
https://thecluny.com/

Benjamin Adair Murphy OLD CHORDS

Benjamin Adair Murphy
Old Chords
Self Release

Straight Up Sparse Lo-Fi Americana/Folk-Rock That’s Full of Smart Melodies and a Desperado Guitar.

Not as dangerous as his earlier release, Let’s Make a King, yet recorded during the same sessions, the six songs that make up the EP Old Chords are straight up Americana/Folk-Rock full of smart melodies and tight, sparse arrangements.
Recorded in studios as varied as Tel Aviv, Brooklyn, and New Mexico, the production by Israeli-American musician Roy Gurel, serves the songs well with lap steel, guitar, organ, and a deep dark bass guitar.
Murphy himself is in fine voice throughout these tunes, and he sounds as if he’s having fun letting loose from the seriousness of Let’s Make a King.
The title track, “Old Chords,” one of the two songs voiced by Allison Langerak, who played with Murphy in the band Blue Eighty-Eights, is a Country ballad where the narrator seems to be looking for peace in the familiar, even though it’s repeating the past that keeps one’s heart broken.
Spacious layers of lap steel, add to the unsettled-ness of the song.
“That Ain’t Nothin'” brings together a desperado guitar and some sparse percussion to tell the story of someone just glad to have gotten by this far, despite the hardships they’ve faced.
Some days we focus on the things we want,
more than the things we have,
while the lap steel and the organ give a sense of triumph.
“The One I’m Waiting On” is a bit swampier and mournful, the busy bass adding to the restlessness of the narrator.
“Get Out of Here” Is the album closer, but would also have made a great opener with it’s story of woe and hopefulness, the combination of guitar and bass conveying the feel of a man walking away from everything bad that ever happened to him, and not sure what’s next.
This EP by Murphy and friends is a sweet Country sidestep from his last album.
Maybe he can mix it up on the next one?
A bit of danger, mixed with a dab of honey could be a good thing.

Review by the Legendary Roy Peak
https://www.benjaminadairmurphy.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://benjaminadairmurphy.bandcamp.com/