The Rocking Magpie

rm logo 1

Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a box-room on the Internet for one man and a couple of his friend’s thoughts and musings on a variety of music, be it CD’s, Gigs, books or the occasional DVD – usually; but not exclusively based around all things Americana and Roots; because I love R&B, Ska, Reggae, Soul and all things Mod too.

After many years writing reviews for numerous magazines 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 around the world….most noticeably  the UK, USA and Canada and our readership reflects this, with followers in over 100 countries across all 4 continents ; plus my data tell me that ‘occasional visitors’ from 148 countries have actually visited the site this year alone; which is mind-blowing when you think about it.

My priority, will of course be bringing you reviews of music that has actually been listened to and appreciated in one way or anothernot just the regurgitation of a Press Release like too many other websites.

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.

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

Press the like/follow button for irregular postings of reviews that you can be read in the comfort of your own home…or workplace, or the train or the loo (or wherever 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 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……. Rex Bob Lowenstein by Mark Germino

Josh Beddis ONE FOR SORROW (EP)

Josh Beddis
ONE FOR SORROW (EP)
Self-Release

Romantic Americana From The Heartlands of Wales.

As regular readers will know, we receive releases from all over the Western World that come in all formats known to man (but I still ignore everything on Spotify btw!); so some things can fall by the wayside; until my trusted I-Phone ‘shuffle’ finds things for me.
Singer-songwriter Josh Beddis sent this EP several weeks ago and has lain dormant on the computer ever since; then on Sunday we were on a road trip to Yorkshire when first song The Old House turned up on the car stereo; straight after a Slaid Cleaves song; and I made a mental note to follow it up.
So; on Tuesday I set aside an hour to find out more.
There isn’t much more, Josh hails from Wales and is married …… that’s about it! But what else do we need to know? His star sign and favourite colour?
Methinks not.
Never in a million years would I have thought The Old House was recorded by anyone other than a whiskery and windswept singer born and bred in the American Heartlands. Apparently not, as Josh Beddis is from Wales and has a delightfully warm and expressive voice, with the type of subtle rasp that makes him sound ‘world weary’ and perhaps ‘insightful’ at the same time; especially so on this song.
It’s possible that the song is a metaphor for the socio-political world we find ourselves in; or more than likely it’s a tale of a decayed family house that holds memories that shape a man.
You can decide.
Beddis has a very imaginative way with his storytelling; choosing subjects that everyone can relate to; then wrapping them in gold to make them timeless Folk songs in the Americana tradition, none more so than City Lights, which is a story of a young man ‘jumping on board a South Bound train’ in his quest to find fame and fortune. Listening to the lilt in his voice you immediatly picture the train hurtling towards Austin or Memphis; whereas a Southbound train for Beddis would end up in Swansea; which isn’t quite as romantic; is it? Josh’s song though chugs along like the train itself and the imagery he conjures up makes even the likes of me think running away may be a good idea.
The rather lovely If I’m Dreaming follows; with Beddis strumming some fascinating acoustic chords while a harmonica weeps and wails in the background. This is going to sound a bit brave; but there are more than a few hints of After the Goldrush era Neil here; and across the other songs on this fascinating EP too.
The EP closes with Josh and at least one unnamed young lady singing the opening verse of Amazing Grace, then gliding into another romantic missive that only comes to life courtesy of his dramatic use of imagery and a distinctive voice.
For my Favourite Song I’m throwing caution to the wind and choosing the folkiest song here; She Sleeps Among The Bluebells & Pines. Folk – yes. Country- probably? Romantic? Most definitely; so with albums like After The Goldrush and Sweet Baby James in mind, Beddis captures the spirit of Americana, rolls it around and adds some luscious harmonies to his razor-sharp observations and the result is a truly beautiful song.
Sometimes three page Press Releases can cloud my judgement; so in this case knowing nothing about the singer meant I could judge the songs on their own merits and I think I’ve discovered a gem here.

Released OUT NOW
https://www.facebook.com/josh.beddis.5


Nighthawk Records SEND I A LION (Compilation)

Various Artists
Send I A Lion
Nighthawk & Omnivore Records

Re-Mixed and Re-modelled Cool Front Line Reggae.

When I were but a lad my love of Reggae and Ska came via spending a lot of pocket money buying ‘Reggae Chartbuster’ LP’s and then ‘Sampler Albums’ from Record Companies, most memorably the Trojan releases and then FRONT LINE from Virgin Records, which was a proverbial ‘Game Changer’. Introducing me to a type of music the likes of which I’d never heard before.
Which brings me to the latest release from Omnivore Records, SEND I A LION which showcases the Nighthawk Label whose recent re-releases have astounded me; and it appears you too!
The legendary Culture give us the perfect opener with Calling Rastafari; a typical ‘chant’ with a hypnotic melody that will not just have you swaying along but listening intently too.
Bongo Red from The Gladiators follows and I swear even sitting here on the sofa my hips and buttocks are dancing along with no help from my brain.
That, for me is the beauty of this style of Reggae (*other much harder rhythms are available elsewhere) white boys like me can dance along to The Mighty Diamonds’ 4000 Years (**) or Ronnie Davis & Idren’s Move On Oppressor; but plenty of Afro-Caribbean listeners will be listening intently to the messages contained therein ….. and the messages are very powerful indeed.
Hardcore Reggae fans will probably already own versions of many of these tracks; be it on the Nighthawk re-releases or the million versions these guys record as and when they need some cash over the years; but culled together in this format a whole new generation can savour the delights of Wailing Souls’ Harbor Shark or Justin Hinds’ timeless Travel With Love, and especially his Weeping Eyes too.
I could close my eyes and stick a pin into the track list to give you my Favourite Track; but I will try to be more professional (as if!).
Obviously Ethiopian and His Allstars’ Train to Skaville has to be a contender; but then again Junior Byles’ Thanks and Praise is a joy every time I hear it; but so too is Morwells’ Young Lover with it’s gorgeous Rocksteady undertones; which leaves me with Winston Jarrett and the Righteous Flames Bad Boy, which is as tough a Reggae song as we find here; and would surely have been a floor-filler in World HQ ‘back in the day’; so that is the official RMHQ Favourite Track on this fabulous album.
Seamlessly mixing the commercial end of the Reggae spectrum with the political and religious sides too; Nighthawk/Omnivore have compiled a really balanced album that will appeal to all kinds of music fans; but hopefully the younger generation.

** The album closes with the original demo of 4000 years, featuring Tabby from The Mighty Diamonds on a 4 string box-guitar and ‘Bunny Diamond providing rhythm played on the back of a phone book!’

Released 15th November 2019
http://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/send-i-a-lion/

Howlin’ Ric & The Rocketeers WAITIN’ BY THE DANCEFLOOR

Howlin’ Ric & The Rocketeers
WAITIN’ BY THE DANCEFLOOR
Self-Released

Rock & Roll is Here To Stay, Courtesy of Yorkshire’s Finest Purveyors!

‘Happenstance’ is a weird thing!
A month ago, my brother was asking about the different types of music I review and I casually mentioned that ‘I hardly ever got to hear Good Ole Rock & Roll’; and just before he left I checked my e-mails and there was this very album from Yorkshire’s finest purveyors of Rock & Roll, Rhythm & Blues and even Swing; waiting to download! #Spooky
Before I dive right in; I have to tell you that ‘this type of music’ receives more nit-picking complaints than everything else put together! The lovers of Rock & Roll and all it’s offshoots are very, very protective of their niches and when I get the minutiae wrong …….. Oh Boy are they quick to tell me.
Opening track; the red hot Our Lovin’ Days are Through gets the party started with nods and winks to classic singers Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent on a break-up song that will have both protagonists dancing the night away as soon as the tears dry.
This is followed by Ric showing his range by metaphorically dropping down onto one knee to actually croon I’m Coming Home; and there won’t be a dry in the house when you hear this for the first time.
I’ve seen and heard some stinkers over the years from singers and bands ‘attempting’ Rock and Roll; but just looking at their photos, shows you that Howlin’ Ric & The Rocketeers are indeed the Real Deal and as authentic as anyone can be in the 21st Century; and their rabble rousing anthems Hard To Please, Leg Shakin’ Mama and Shake It show that these cats know their history but can add their own distinctive swagger to a style of music that was first in vogue when their Grandparents were hoppin’ and Boppin’ on a Saturday night.
While the high energy songs are generally the most memorable here; not least because they have had me shaking my own tail-feather in the kitchen at one time or another; but it’s the bands slower smoochier songs that I’ve actually fallen head over heals in love.
Take My Hand will make even the coolest of be-quiffed cats swoon, as Ric goes all ‘Dion DiMucci’ as the band delve deep into the sweet end of the love song canon; and when Ben Powling slides in his sax solo you will find yourself holding your breath so as not to miss a heartbreaking note.
Songwriters never fail to astound me; as I’m constantly staggered that after all these years and millions of individual songs they can still come up with new ideas and twists on hoary old themes that make you think Rock Music must have been invented last Thursday.
Here Howlin’ Ric finds something special in the unrequited love song, Joan Glover that made me check out the label to see who wrote it; and it was he! It was similar with the two songs that are squabbling for the title of RMHQ Favourite Song; the fragile and beautiful ballad Whatever Happened To That Girl has been a contender since Day #1; but the good time Jive of Hard To Please, which may or may not be dedicated to Mrs. Magpie in the sleeve notes has slowly won me over; and it finally takes the title after a hard fought battle.
This cracking and crackling album also gives me the opportunity to moan and groan about one of my biggest gripes …….. Covers Bands! While I have no issue with people making a living in this lucrative market; it’s the fans who will tell you that “I love Rock & Roll/Rockabilly/Country/Blues” or whatever; when what they mean is “I own two Various Artist albums from K-Tel” and “I am prepared to travel up to two miles to see a Covers Band play for free in a pub on a Friday night.”
Bastards!
Show some gumption and discover the delights of exciting young bands like Howlin’ Ric & The Rocketeers who write their very own songs and are the ones who really are keeping the Rock & Roll Flame alive!!!

Released November 14th 2019
https://www.facebook.com/howlinricandtherocketeers/
https://howlinricandtherocketeers.bandcamp.com/?fbclid=IwAR3dAWi4ZWDs6413xtOw15ONj-qRRN1LIrbkgLSn_xLkUL7lzmT9FUXNqGk


Andy White TIME IS A BUFFALO IN THE ART OF WAR

Andy White
TIME IS A BUFFALO IN THE ART OF WAR
Floating World

Quality Contemporary Post Punk Angst For Middle Aged Rockers in 2019.

Andy White has been on my radar for a few years now, but I don’t think I’ve ever got around to actually penning words about his albums …….. his last release, The Guilty & The Innocent sat around for a few weeks before getting relegated to the Big Box Of Earthly Delights at the back of the RMHQ Office; probably never to see the light of day again. I remember there being nothing to dislike about it; so I guess there were other albums that piqued my interest around that time.
Apologies Mr. White.
On the other hand, the stars have actually aligned in his favour this week as a combination of health issues, a couple of political arguments and the 3rd anniversary of fellow Belfast Boy, Bap Kennedy’s passing have meant that I was sorely in need of some Contemporary Post Punk angst …… and the rest!
Last Train comes out of the station in one Hell of a rush; with White’s rye observational lyrics catching the attention and sticking in the brain long after the song has finished.
For the second time in as many days I’m liking a song with a sweary word key to the heart of the song. When The Shit Hits The Fan is certainly a ‘song for our times’; almost Musical Theatre in construction and delivery; White challenges the current socio-political and even right of centre religious divides many of us find ourselves embroiled in on a day to day basis, not least his native Northern Ireland. Not just an intelligent song but very accessible too courtesy of some sublime guitar playing and an almost Presbyterian keyboard backing.
It didn’t take me long to realise that this was a very ‘grown up’ album indeed; the individual subject matter may be ‘normal’; but the way White writes you discover things you never thought about love, life and the world we find ourselves in.
Even on Friday Night it’s no normal drink, dance, fight/f*ck lineage; this is a fascinating and interesting song that reminded me of the claustrophobic Indie Rock Sound Bap Kennedy’s band Energy Orchard trademarked many years ago; only Andy White has dusted it off and added extra piss and vinegar, as he revisits the Town of his youth.
With hindsight, and after 20 previous albums in various guises and numerous co-writes with many of our favourite RMHQ artistes; Andy White is a clever and articulate storyteller. Fire Engines, Blue Trains and Trucks finds White at the piano and begins in a cute way drawing the listener in, until the story takes a dark turn when the child who once played with the toys in the title finds himself fascinated with watching smart bombs exploding on the TV News and suddenly all innocence is lost forever.
Ain’t that the truth!
Be under no illusion Armageddon #4 isn’t the happy clappy, sing-along tune you might think it will be (?????), nope …….. this is a 21st Century Folk Song that owes much to the ancestry of Woody, Bob, Joni and more recently Billy; and my world is a lot better for knowing Andy White and I are on the same wavelength here.
Even White’s token love song, Everyone’s Gone to France ends with:
“Why would you come here
Why would you come here, if not for romance
Everyone dies
Everyone cries
Everyone looks for love.”

For my Favourite Track I’m going for One In a Million; OK – not many laughs; but that’s the mood I’m in today, and this darkly beautiful song about loneliness in the heart of the city, ticks every box I have; and the edgy melody and groove sort of reminds me of The Walker Brothers and current RMHQ fave’s Curse of Lono too.
I had a lot of albums to choose from to write about today; but Andy White’s songs have strangely cheered me up; if only because he has felt like a kindred spirit in a world where they are hard to find.

Released 8th November 2019.
https://www.andywhite.com/
BUY IT HERE http://www.andywhite.com/shop/5-albums


Stephen Fearing THE UNCONQUERABLE PAST

Stephen Fearing
THE UNCONQUERABLE PAST
Factor

The King of Canadiacana Surpasses Himself.

As many of you will already know; I’m a huge fan of Stephen Fearing, but baring in mind he’s a Multi Juno winner and a major part of one of the world’s greatest Rock & Roll bands Blackie and the Rodeo Kings he still manages to fly under the radar.
Why would that be, when you hear opening track on this, his 13th solo album; Break Your Mother’s Heart? In theory it’s simple ‘Rock n Roll’ song about leaving home to pursue a musical career; but this particular song is oh so much more deep and indeed meaningful. The relatively simple construction belies a stunning story that will touch most of our hearts as Fearing’s voice occasionally wobbles in a way that sounds like he’s fighting back the tears.
Phew …….. what a start!
It would be oh so easy for a songwriter of Stephen Fearing’s ‘age’ to follow a succesful formula and keep churning ’em out; plenty others do it; but our Canadian friend constantly seeks to learn from others and challenge his own excellent talents.
I’m pleased to hear a few Rockers in among the intimate musings; with Stay With Me sounding like a wonderful marriage between The Band and Tom Petty, while Christine is pure Sun era Rockabilly that will even have Peg-Leg Pete on the dancefloor!
I’m not sure what I like best; a songwriter using their own experiences to tell a story or when they delve deep into the pits of their imaginations; and sometimes as I suspect with the majestic Sunny the two merge with grace. Stephen virtually whispers this story of a Transgender boy/girl leaving home, only to find love with a heterosexual man. Heartbreaking and powerful in equal measures.
Both Someone Else’s Shoes and the exquisite title track The Unconquerable Past are another two fragile songs that ask more questions than they can ever dare to answer; and more often than not it takes a poet or songwriter to ask these questions; and Stephen Fearing is both.
Perhaps it’s an age thing though; but for me Fearing’s most memorable works are his intimate musings; the ones that go straight to your heart like a stiletto knife ………. Emigrant Song is a co-write with Andy White and muses on Fearing’s young life moving from Canada to Ireland and back again; but this brooding Celtic tune will cause many of us to reflect on our own heritage; and that of the thousands that are making terrifying trips to make better lives for their families.
This is immediatly followed by Fearing alone with his acoustic guitar on the heartbreaking No Country, which deals more directly with the state of the world many people find themselves in as 2019 bleeds into 2020.
For my Favourite Song I’m going to contradict my life long stance against swearing, as Marie is such a ‘song of our times’ perhaps only words such as these can spell out the anger many of us on the Liberal Left feel.
If the opening verse doesn’t reel you in like a big fat fish, then you are listening to the wrong singer and reading the wrong website:
“She said, brave yourself for the shit show coming down tomorrow
Cos I feel it’s going to look a whole lot different to today.”
Is this about Brexit? Trump in the White House? Trudeau’s student ‘high jinx’?
Who knows? But this a song that audiences will sit through in sheer silence then take the roof off at the end.
The Press Release suggests that Stephen is now dabbling in ‘Americana’. PISH!
This, just like his previous albums is …….. pure Canadiacana! These songs and the imagery they conjure up could only be Canadian …… they are all cool, intelligent, descriptive and indeed, articulate …… which is what I expect from my Canadian artists and in particular Stephen Fearing, and yet again he delivers on every single aspect.

Released 15th November 2019 (Downloads and streaming)
Released 15th December (CD’s & Vinyl ……… just in time for Santa to deliver!)

http://stephenfearing.ca/

The Tillers THE TILLERS

The Tillers
The Tillers
Sofaburn Records

Sparky and Powerful 21st Century Schizoid Bluegrass.

I sometimes, if not regularly struggle with Country-Folk, ‘Hill Music’ or especially Bluegrass; but a s a favour for a friend who is promoting The Tiller’s 2019 UK Tour I’ve persevered; and …….. do you know what? I’m now rather smitten with this feisty collection of fabulous songs.
The Hoedown starts straight away with The Weald and the Wild; each band member puts so much energy into this song you feel the vinyl stretching at the edges as Sean Geil powers through a right royal vocal performance.
Sometimes this type of music can be either ‘worthy’ or ‘wishy washy’; but not The Tillers; their’s a defiant Punk spirit throughout just about every song here; most especially Migrant’s Lament; which is as contemporary a theme and song as the 21st Century needs and deserves; and while not quite as sparky, Revolution Row is probably the Bluegrass song Steve Earle should have written; but couldn’t …… thankfully The Tillers have; and the world is a much better place.
While taking a very Traditional template these guys make The Old General Store is Burning Down and Riverboat Dishwashing Song into cool Country tunes for everyone to enjoy, without ever straying too far the Bluegrass Reservation.
As this is ‘Traditional Country Music from start to finish, there is obviously more than enough banjo and fiddle to satisfy even the oldest and most wizened Hillbilly; but the way Mike Oberst and Joe Macherat use these much maligned instruments; they ROCK!
Mona is a prime example; with both instruments on fire as Sean and Aaron Geil’s acoustic guitar and bass provide a steady spine for the other two to bounce off as Sean belt’s out an amazing slice of Folk Rock!
Before I get onto my Favourite Song; I have to mention the exquisite and delicate storytelling these guys put into their own songs; with album closer Another Postcard being beautiful and brittle in equal measures and if Woody Guthrie’s All You Fascists Bound To Lose hadn’t been included would easily have taken the title; but ‘that song’ is here …….. so all bets are off.
Back in the late 1970’s when London was Burning and Punk was in the ascendancy, no Red Wedge or AFL Gig wasn’t complete until the artists assembled for the encore and hundreds of hormonal teenagers would scream out Woody Guthrie’s rallying cry.
Who’d have thought that 40 years later this Anthem would still be as apt and even ….. necessary today in 2019!
HEY….. all you need to know is that The Tillers do Woody justice; and even though Mike Oberst has had the temerity to add a couple of his own verses about ‘The Big Machine’ and ‘Race Hatred’ on to the end; they work perfectly well and add a very contemporary edge to an already cutting song.
Now; I can’t wait to see The Tillers power through these songs and more!

Released USA – OUT NOW
Released UK and Europe – TOUR MERCH
https://www.the-tillers.com/

Jerry Leger TIME OUT FOR TOMORROW

Jerry Leger
Time Out For Tomorrow
Latent Recordings

Classy 60’s and Indie Inspired Contemporary Canadiacana

We only stumbled upon the genius of Jerry Leger in 2018; but are now the proud owners of 5 of his albums and playing any of them couldn’t make us any happier.
Although appearing on the Cowboy Junkies label Latent Recordings and being produced by fellow Canadian, Michael Timmins, TIME OUT FOR TOMORROW couldn’t sound any more different from his previous offerings or those of the Cowboy Junkies by a country mile.
While Jerry says it was Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby, and Nick Lowe’s The Impossible Bird that inspired him to record these songs in this particular style; it appears to me that Messr’s Leger and Timmins immersed themselves in 60’s Classics before going into the studio, as the shimmering 3 mins and 20 seconds of opening track Canvas of Gold has elements of the Burrito’s, Byrds and even the Beatles circa Revolver in the harmonies and jangling guitars that surround Leger’s dreamy words.
The single Justine follows in a similar vein with an acoustic intro that leads into ever more sweet electrical guitar and Jerry pouring his heart out in a timeless and beautiful love song.
Okay, I’ve repeated myself too much about the 60’s ‘feel’ to these songs; and there’s no denying it; but don’t think this album and the songs therein are ‘retro’ or even a pastiche …….. no sirree Bob; the punchy Read Between The Lines and Corner Light are as contemporary as songwriting gets; it’s just that the delivery of the melodies that will have you tapping your toes as Jerry Leger’s words break your heart.
As he sings in Corner Light,
“She treats me like a person/She don’t treat me like a clown.” Good stuff? Huh?
The enigmatic Survived Like a Stone actually has a Cowboy Junkies back-beat to it; but Leger’s distinctively expressive voice sweeps and soars in a way that makes this song a stone cold killer!
I can’t really express how exciting these songs are to me; Leger’s storytelling just goes from strength to strength, especially with Tell a Lie and Tomorrow in My Mind which are both stunningly outstanding IMHO.
For my Favourite Song I’m erring towards the lovely I Would; but have probably gone for Burchell Lake, mostly because of the fearless melody that has me tapping both feet and fingers in tandem; and Leger’s words, while not actually having a noticeable chorus still had me singing along with carefree glee each time I’ve played it.
I haven’t got all of Jerry Leger;s back catalogue, but have enough to know this is a really classy step up for my Canadian friend and there’s nothing here for radio or national magazines across the globe to dislike; so reviews everywhere should be as glowing as this one and that should surely beget radio plays, which in turn will beget sales.
Fingers crossed.

Released November 8th 2019
https://jerryleger.com/
Buy it here https://jerryleger.com/merch/

Dave Rosewood LONG DISTANCE LOVE (Single)

Dave Rosewood
Long Distance Love
Orchard Enterprises

We’ve been fans of Dave Rosewood for a couple of years and love the way he keeps the Honky-Tonk Flame alive, virtually single-handed in Sweden and the Northern part of Europe.
His latest single, Long Distance Love is not just a tear inducing heartbreaker, but a real humdinger too!
Obviously there is a new album on the horizon, “No Rodeo In Rome”  due for release March 2020and Dave Rosewood will be embarking on a ‘Honky Tonk Troubadour Tour’ with November stops in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany…..  infinity and beyond!
Listen for yourself and don’t forget to buy a copy or download too …… you know it makes sense.


Released November 1st 2019
http://daverosewood.com/


Bloodshot Records TOO LATE TO PRAY: (Defiant Chicago Roots)

Various Artists
Too Late to Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots  (BSHQ 25th Anniversary Compilation)
Bloodshot Records

Here’s to Another 25 Years of Insurgent Country and Defiant Roots! Ching-Ching Chaps and Chapesses!

I’m an unadulterated fan of Bloodshot Records and starting with the LP ‘Straight Outta Boone County’ which I bought in a Public Library Sale for 50p, their compilations have been a constant source of discovering great new acts over the years !
Staggeringly, this offering is celebrating 25 years of Bloodshot Records and their ‘Insurgent Country Music’ roster, both old and new.
The ‘new’ comes right at ya, without any warning ……… when Wyatt Earp and The Free For Alls prove Honky-Tonk music can be as contemporary as any other category, while still retaining the magic that filled the airwaves back in the 50’s and 60’s with the gloriously feisty The Last Honky Tonk in Chicago.
Bloodshot have always had very obtuse and diverse musical tastes (much like us here) and their compilations always reflect that; daring to give us Folk and Lo-fi from acts like Half Gringa with their delicately constructed Wearing White, Joybird’s Sweetness and Bethany Thomas & Tawny Newsome whose Dinosaur is a left of centre Lo-Fi minor masterpiece that only Bloodshot would have the nerve to release.
Then they juxtapose these with Straight Up Country in every format known to the world; from The Hoyle Brother’s celebration of Twang on A Little Bit of Buck; and in another universe The Western Elston’s Everly Brothers sounding Toast That Lie would be played 24 hours a day on Country Hits Radio, and Brendan Kelly & the Wandering Birds manage to scare the neighbours with their grizzly Alt. nay …… ‘Insurgent’ Country ballad Lay Me Down.
This being Bloodshot there is also a host of new songs from old acts associated with this great label; Jon Langford’s Hillbilly Lovechild go as left of centre as Country Music gets with the rollicking I Am a Big Town, and when I first heard Brett Sparks from The Handsome Family turning Leonard’s Tower of Song into a Western Swing Trip-Hop Gothic missive my heard spun 360 degrees; but do you know what? I’ve come back several times and it just gets cooler and cooler each time.
Two acts I saw on the back cover really excited me as I hadn’t heard anything from either in yonks; with Sway, Freakwater still have the ability to make two voices and a banjo hit you right between the eyes like virtually no other act in existence; the other is Kelly Hogan (who is the only woman in the world I would leave Mrs Magpie for) does what she does best; using her beautiful voice in a way we normally associate with Patsy Cline to not just break your heart; but mend it too with the shimmering Gotta Have My Baby Back. #swoon
With so many delights to choose from, it’s like being a kid on Christmas morning being asked “What is your favourite?” Do I pick the Honky-Tonking delights of Tammi Savoy & the Chris Casello Combo and If It’s News To You? or perhaps the mournful Alt. of Big Sadie? But then again Robbie Fulks’ Lonely Ain’t Hardly Alive is rather amazing too.
Okay …… I’ve picked one; but this more than likely will change tomorrow ……… ta da! The RMHQ Favourite Song on this outstanding compilation is ……… the best grungy Cowboy Movie theme tune never to make it onto the big screen ……. Los Galos and Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! RMHQ says play this song loud and be proud to support Insurgent glories!
Bloodshot Records  have gone and done it again; capturing the glory of everything I and I hope you love about Insurgent Country and Defiant Roots music in 22 fabulous songs; and long may they continue.

Released 8th November 2019
https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/
Buy it here https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/album/too-late-to-pray

among the 22 runners and riders

Robbie Fulks 16

Robbie Fulks
16
Self Release/Bloodshot Records

Surprisingly Emotional Re-Imagining of Bob Dylan’s Street Legal.

Well, indeedy!
Mr Robbie Fulks was one of my earliest ‘gateway acts’ into what we now lovingly call Alt. Country; and while loving most, if not everything he’s released since The Very Best of in 2000 or thereabouts; he’s never released an album that wasn’t as imminently listenable as they are interesting; and that’s a fair summation of his latest album; 16 – a brave re-imagining of Bob Dylan’s Street Legal.
Before I start; I bet good money that I’m the only reviewer NEVER to have heard the original album!
Seriously …… not a single note or word; His Bobness just leaves me cold …… but I do know he can write a damn fine song.
16 opens with the delicately beautiful Changing of The Guard; and the biggest surprise is that Fulks plays it absolutely straight as a dye. No tongue cheek. No sly wink to the side of the stage …… it’s obvious this early that he loves these songs; and while putting his own unmistakable stamp on them; he’s also paying homage to his musical hero.
In my humble opinion; like Roger McGuinn before him; Robbie Fulks has a voice that’s a perfect match for Dylan’s intricate musings.
Is Your Love In Vain is a big ole production, with Fulks dragging as much pathos as possible out of every single couplet; and on True Love Tends To Forget we find girly backing singers and a cool horn section, which somehow makes this sound like Van Morrison, if our Northern Irish friend could actually enunciate his vowels.
Yet with We Better Talk This Through, Fulks and band attempt to rock the bloody doors off!
Even the first time I heard these songs I knew that they were all very special indeed; especially the dark and brooding slice of contemporary Alt. Country New Pony; and Fulks delves really deep to do these lyrics justice and manages with ease and grace.
As we all know Bob Dylan is a poet at heart; and that comes across all to well in the bedazzling Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Dark Heat) which has more than a nod to the 60’s Beat Poets and even Sir Leonard Cohen too, in the way Fulks taps out a hypnotic beat with his vocals.
My copy doesn’t include a list of the players behind Robbie Fulks; but it’s constantly obvious that they are all A Lister’s and the production is pin sharp from start to finish.
As per usual it’s never easy to choose a Favourite Track as there are no ‘obvious singles’ as we used to say; this is as ‘Grown Up’ an album as I or you will hear this or any other year.
But; there are two songs that captured my attention that first night and again today; Baby Stop Crying is everything my Bob Dylan loving friends tell me I should like about his work; but it’s taken the delicate touch of Robbie Fulks to now, possibly get me on board in the way he makes it sound Alt. Country and Jazz Lite at exactly the same time!
The other; which I have decided is the actual RMHQ Favourite Song is ……… Senor (Tales of Yankee Power); again we go back to the poetry of Dylan’s lyrics to get at the heart of this almost Gothic tale; and when you unravel the story (I think I have, but I could be wrong) this could possibly be one of Bob Dylan’s Masterworks; but only because Robbie Fulks allows us in with his almost Edith Piaf style handling.
This is quite unlike anything I’ve heard from Robbie Fulks before, but possibly because of that I’ve sat enthralled all afternoon just ‘listening’ to it; which is a rarity in this office.

Released November 1st 2019
http://www.robbiefulks.com/

Buy 16 here http://www.robbiefulks.com/new-products/16