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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Seneko – TRUE DIMENSION EP

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Seneko
TRUE DIMENSION EP
Self-Release

Bandwagonesque Alt. Country For a 5th Dimension Generation.

Quite a few times this year my trusty ‘shuffle button’ on the i-phone has discovered some truly excellent gems for me to review; and this EP from Connecticuttian (?) Stan ‘Seneko’ Olshefski is yet another.
It came to me from a trusted PR a few months ago; but family events meant it didn’t get played and stayed hidden on the computer database until last Friday night as I drove home from work after midnight and the super-lush harmonies and jingly-jangly guitars of track #2 Pierced Lip Smile lit up the bitter cold night air like a firework display. As I discretely peeked at the stereo display I half expected to see the name TEENAGE FANCLUB but saw SENEKO instead; and then pressed ‘play full album’…..and the journey home flew by.
The title track True Dimension actually opens the 6 track EP and is every inch the delight that the other (second) track is; with a breathy, multi-layered vocal and a backing band that is so cool you need Wayfarers on to listen.
You To Save Me immediately sounds deeper and darker than the previous two songs; but fits in alongside them perfectly and when you eventually bypass the spectacular Pettyesque flavoured geetars and river deep harmonies to actually listen to the lyrics you will fall in love with this singer-songwriter like I did; the guy can really, really write a song!
Slightly quirky and more than a bit left of centre the Mariachi style My Little Curioso made me smile like a Cheshire Cat every time I’ve played it. Think Jonathan Richman fronting The Jayhawks on the Letterman Show…..or something like that.
This is followed by another sweet Teenage Fanclub type Indie-Pop meets Alt. Country slice of musical perfection called Mind The Violets; and by this stage of the proceedings all of your worries will have drifted away and you will be imagining sitting in a field making daisy chains with the one you love sitting beside you.
Then of course we have track #6 Take Me Indigo; the final track and bizarrely my favourite song here. A touch like You Take Me, it’s slower and deeper than the rest but Seneko’s warm and velvety voice coupled to the multi-layered harmonies, a heart-stopping bass; voluptuous keyboards and guitar playing so sweet you will find tears running down your cheeks and a smile a mile wide across your mouth as you re-live the salad days of your youth.
This is only Olshefski’s second EP under the guise of Seneko, but is the sound of an immense talent waiting to burst forth unto the world; and if I have anything to do with it he/they will be my ‘one to watch’ in 2018…….you heard it here first.

Released 13th October 2017

https://www.facebook.com/senekomusic/

#Sample music to follow

 

Samantha Fish – BELLE OF THE WEST

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Samantha Fish
BELLE OF THE WEST
Ruf Records

The Whole Roots and Blues Range In One Glorious Album.

When you are spending your own hard earned money buying albums it’s always a ‘considered purchase’ isn’t it; even if it’s only because you fancy trying something after reading a review (you are welcome Ed.) but in this reviewers case 90% of the albums I slide into the office CD player are brand new entities for me; and that includes Samantha Fish; a name I have been aware of for several years but know absolutely nothing about.
As usual in such cases I depend on the opening track to pique my attention.
WOW!
American Dream absolutely floored me the first time I heard it and it’s difficult to explain why. There’s an almost raw Native American beat with some kind of penny whistle accompanying Ms. Fish and her pearlescent pleading voice on an angry but restrained song about the broken American Dream. ‘Powerful’ doesn’t even come close to describing how this song comes across.
I suppose I was expecting a full on Blues-Rock album; but nothing could be further from the truth as Samantha mines the darkest recesses of her Heart and Soul on the slow smouldering Cowtown and Don’t Say You Love Me.
There’s plenty of super-cool guitar licks here to satisfy Samantha’s core fans; but more restrained and generally wound as tight as a coil rather than fluid and loud.
Another thing of note is the way the singer mines the Countrier and Folkier end of the Blues on Blood on The Water and even more impressively the beautiful title track Belle of The West; with both featuring some sublime fiddle playing from Lillie May and mandolin from Luther Dickinson which combine to really enhance two starkly intimate stories.
It would be truly lazy of me to actually compare Samantha Fish to Lucinda Williams and/or Bonnie Raitt at this stage but fans of both will fall in love with this album for all the reasons they love those two Americana Goddesses.
While primarily a ‘Blues’ album Samantha throws a beautifully judged curve-ball with the Country enhanced Nearing Home which features Lillie Mae’s sublime violin playing as Ms. Fish purrs her way through a beautifully sad love long; that could easily be picked up by the likes of the Dixie Chicks to make a multi-million selling hit with.
This is strictly a personal thing; but two songs stand out like poppies in a wheat-field; the raw duet with Lightnin’ Malcolm on the toe-tappin’ Country Blues interpretation of RL Burnside’s Poor Black Mattie…….red hot vocals, harmonica and slide guitar? What’s not to like?
The other is probably my actual ‘favourite song’…….No Angels, which is also from the darker end of the spectrum and send chills down my spine each time I heard it; and will continue to do so over the next ten years.
Produced by Luther Dickinson and featuring a host of recognisable names this album is very much a ‘keeper’ and will be pulled out of the rack every time I need a shot of Bourbon flavoured Country Blues.

Released November 17th 2017
http://www.samanthafish.com/

Rich Krueger – IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN.

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Rich Krueger
IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN.

We love left of centre music here at RMHQ and just fell in love with this Christmas song by New Yorker Rich Krueger, who is releasing a fabulous new album on January 26th (watch this space!)

Rich Krueger, who is now based in Chicago, IL, was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, NYC. He has been writing and performing with his band The Dysfunctionells since 1985. The Dysfunctionells, (who describe themselves as “THE Butt-Ugliest Band in Chicago”) have backed up the Holy Modal Rounders at their reunion at The Bottom Line in NYC, and Krueger has recorded with Peter Stampfel on his own and with the band.

“One of the earliest songs I wrote. It was inspired by a recollection of a memory of going to church for the midnight Christmas Eve service at our families church, and the snow coming down burying the parked cars. I have no idea why a seven year old would left outside on his own in a snow storm at 11 pm on Christmas, but hey it was simpler times.

Low Cut Connie & Curse of Lono at Jumping Hot Club, Newcastle

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Low Cut Connie & Curse of Lono
Jumping Hot Club
The Cluny II
Newcastle

Friday 8th December 2017.

For a variety of work and family reasons I’ve hardly been to any gigs this year so I thought all cherries had dropped at once on the one armed bandit of music, when Mrs. Magpie’s health picked up quite dramatically in readiness for my ‘long weekend’ from work and both coincided with this amazing triple header at the Jumping Hot Club.
The evening got off to a wonderful start with ‘One time Australian’ and now full-time Geordie Gypsy Dave Smith made his annual appearance a the club. The only problem with Dave is that we take him for granted in his adopted home town. Everywhere else he appears in the UK and indeed Europe his is feted like the star he is and tonight his skills on a beautiful new Dobro coupled with his gruff voice were as raw and authentic Delta Blues as you will hear anywhere on Planet Earth.
With his debut album to promote (after only 50 years on the road!) he opened proceeding with a footstompin’ Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan; and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end and during Jacklyn I swear I saw sparks coming from the strings; so fast were his fingers.

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The audience were still filtering in as he closed his 30 minute set by re-inventing Red Rooster; or at the very least took it right back to what it must have sounded like at its inception, leaving the a couple of people visibly stunned.
As Dave exited stage left, Curse of Lono appeared from stage right setting their gear up with well practised ease and after about 5 minutes were regaling us with the beautifully atmospheric Just My Head, which was received with rapturous applause as it weaved to an end.
Surprisingly (for me) this was followed by He Takes My Place which is by far my favourite song of theirs; and just like the rest of the set was a bit tighter and arguably even better than on record or when I saw them at SummerTyne.
As with Gypsy earlier Lono were still promoting their recent album; but still slid in a new song No Trouble (written 9 years ago about a young friend who died, but only recently recorded) and the twin guitars conjured up memories of the Flying Burrito Brothers; which bodes well for a possible new album.
Another song that has had a makeover since the Summer was I Need My Girl which now has swirling keyboards and Jaggeresque “Whoo-oohs” in the chorus.
Then, just when I was thinking things couldn’t get any better the finale, their (nearly) Hit Single Pick Up The Pieces was simply outstanding and what could sound finer than two Fender Jaguars sparking off each other?
It was nice to see a queue already forming at the merch desk as the band tidied their gear away too.

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Low Cut Connie were actually new to me before this week; as I was attending to see Curse of Lono….but….Whahay……what a discovery!
Another very short intermission ended as the unfeasibly young looking band took to the stage when hardly anyone was watching and….BOOM….let rip like the Ramones on steroids, which certainly caught our attention then after a minute or so songwriter, singer and piano player extraordinaire Adam Weiner made his ‘entrance’ into the hall; glad-handing everyone in his path and whipping the crowd up into something of a frenzy.
As I said earlier I know nothing of the band so can’t tell you what they actually sung; although they ran through the whole Rock & Roll compass – fast and furious plus low down and dirty with a nice ballad here and there too; but for once that’s not really the point at this stage of their career winning hearts and minds across Europe……because this was a show…..an event….a night of memories.

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The band were individually technically excellent and combined RED HOT; watching Weiner like hawks for key changes and the like; and Weiner? An amazing pianist, but primarily a showman…. looking and even sounding uncannily like a young Jerry Lee Lewis channelled via Fonzie. He couldn’t sit still; sliding beneath his chair, standing on it (and the piano top!) jumping into the crowd and dancing like a crazy person while never, ever missing a note!
On a night when Hall I next door was filled to capacity to see a Dr. Feelgood tribute band (or Dr. Feelgood as the cheekily call themselves) the smaller venue was sadly half full/half empty; but every single person there was blown away tonight and will bring three friends each, who will bring another four friends the next time Low Cut Connie come to town.

http://lowcutconnie.com/

http://www.curseoflonoband.com/

Photo sets –
http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Low-Cut-Connie/

http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Curse-of-Lono/

http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Gypsy-Dave-Smith/

RMHQ Readers Top 20 Reviews of 2017

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Ho Ho Ho; ’tis the season to be Merry and all that stuff; but it’s also the Season to produce Annual Top 10’s on websites like RMHQ, so being the awkward so & so’s we are we are producing two Top 10’s; with one being my own personal Top 10 Albums of 2017 and because we have reviewed 312 Albums, singles, books and concerts this year…….the Annual RMHQ Readers Top 10 as judged by actual hits/reads will be a Top 20!!

So……tada (drum roll)…in reverse order…..here is the Rocking Magpie Readers Top 20 Albums of 2017 as read by you lovely people.

20) Grainne Duffy – WHERE I BELONG.
19) Stephen Fearing – EVERY SOUL’S A SAILOR
18) Mark Eitzel – HEY MR. FERRYMAN
17) Trevor Sewell – CALLING NASHVILLE
16) Orphan Brigade – HEART OF THE CAVE
15) The Flaming Groovies – FANTASTIC PLANET
14) The Haley Sisters – ALWAYS BY MY SIDE
13) Project Mama Earth – MAMA EARTH
12) The Raspberries – POP ART (LIVE)
11) Sam Baker – LAND OF DOUBT
10) Rob Vincent – I’LL MAKE THE MOST OF MY SINS
09) Rodney Crowell – CLOSE TIES
08) Will Hoge – ANCHORS
07) Colin James – BLUE HIGHWAYS
06) Danny & The Champions of the World – BRILLIANT LIGHT
05) Chuck Prophet – BOBBY FULLER DIED FOR OUR SINS
04) Prosecco Socialist – THIS DOG’S FOR LIFE
03) Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – SELF TITLED
02) Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – BAYSWATER ROAD
01) Ian McNabb – STAR SMILE STRONG

Honourable mentions also go to…….
*Bruce Foxton – SMASH THE CLOCK. (2016 winner but still pulled enough votes to come in at #12!!)
*Blackberry Smoke – Rock & Roll Again (Video) just kept getting watched 2 years after being posted.
* Heather Lynne Horton – DON’T MESS WITH MRS. MURPHY (4 x great days)
* Pickxen – PICKS & VITTLES (Unknown outside their own backyard but the hits kept coming all year)
* Mick Wynne – WORLD OF MICK (Another unknown ‘local musician’ who had an amazing month on the RMHQ Charts)
* Bap Kennedy – RECKLESS HEART (The legend lives on)

As always the Top 20 (plus 6) highlight how eclectic The Rocking Magpie is. I/We just love music regardless of genre……which is why we listen to as much as possible hopefully bringing you your new most favourite album of all time, or at least piquing your interest.

Seasons Greetings.

Alan XXX

PROSECCO SOCIALIST (David Rotheray, Eleanor McEvoy & Mike Greaves) – ‘THIS DOG’S JUST FOR CHRISTMAS (NOT FOR LIFE)’

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PROSECCO SOCIALIST (David Rotheray, Eleanor McEvoy & Mike Greaves)
‘THIS DOG’S JUST FOR CHRISTMAS (NOT FOR LIFE)’
Gypsy Chicken Box Records

‘This Dog’s Just For Christmas (Not For Life)’ is an attempt to truthfully answer the old John Lennon rhetorical question ‘and so this is Christmas, and what have we done?’

The track reflects what David describes as ‘real Christmas’. It’s an existential Christmas song about living in the moment, where ‘the moment’ is an endless stream of pubs and short-term assignations. Not that pubs or short-term assignations are a bad thing, (of course) they just don’t feature heavily enough in the Christmas repertoire for David Rotheray’s taste.

It’s also the first single from Prosecco Socialist, the new project from ex-Beautiful South’s David Rotheray. Out today, December 8th, it precedes the upcoming album ‘Songs From Behind Bars’, due for release early 2018 on Gypsy Chicken Box Records.

Retiring from music four years ago, David didn’t see himself ever picking up a guitar again. However, idleness was not a comfortable state and, in 2016, he opened a pub in Hull (The People’s Republic). The stories and tales shared by the locals proved too rich a mine for such a narrative, observational songwriter to ignore, and so ‘Songs Behind Bars’ was born.

 David has brought together two of his favourite musicians for this project. Irish singer and songwriter Eleanor McEvoy, a long-term friend and collaborator of David’s, shares vocal duties with a Hull living legend, Mike Greaves. Mike is described by David as “a wonderful singer and writer in the country idiom, loved across Hull for decades but mostly unknown anywhere else. I hope this project might serve, in a small way, to help his voice – both literal and metaphorical – to be more widely heard.”

Released December 8th 2017

 

Various Artists – International Blues Challenge #33 (2017)

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Various Artists
International Blues Challenge #33 (2017)
Self-Release

A Glorious Sample of What the Blues Has To Offer in 2017 (and beyond!)

As I said on a similar VA Release a week or so ago; albums like this were my gateway to ‘Grown Up Music’ when I was a teen and later when I first discovered what we now know as Alt. Country; so I have a soft spot for anything that will broaden my horizons.
Founded in 1980 The Blues Foundation is a Memphis based organisation for the sole purpose of promoting Blues Music around the globe and every year they they hold a conference where the Finals of their International Blues challenge perform; and this is the album of this years contenders.
‘The Blues’ comes in many shapes and sizes but I was still surprised to hear a glorious Gospel based belter kick start this box of delights. Shine On by Dawn Tyler Watson is fizzing belter and already I found myself writing her name down for future research.
This is followed by 13 glorious songs; all with their own merits and each will have music fans saying “that should be the winner” and with time being of the essence I can’t mention each and everyone; but I will point you towards a few stand outs.
Brody Buster’s One Man Band kick up a glorious racket on 2029, and Catfish Boogie by the Sobo Blues Band is the type of raw and authentic Country Blues I love seeing live but doesn’t normally transfer to vinyl; as does Dangerous by King Bee but all of these three songs certainly do.
Who among us can resist a song title like Good Lovin’ (hot & fresh from the oven)? Boy does it live up to the sassy billing and boy oh boy can these cats swing……I bet their live show rips the roof off.
Another Big Band ‘swinger’ that caught my attention is Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers song Elbow Grease which struts across the Blues and Soul divide with aplomb; a bit like Sharron Jones and the Dap-Kings did/do.
There’s not a bad song here; and I’m so pleased I’m not a judge having to pick a prize winner (Dawn Tyler Watson btw); as each certainly has its very own merits but the bottle neck guitar playing and Felix Slim’s ancient growl on I Hate You Cause I Love You is a near perfect example of acoustic Country Blues that dates back to Charly Patton and Robert Johnson and still sounds as fresh and exciting as ever in 2017.
This album works on many levels; being an interesting gateway to what the Blues has to offer for youngsters out there’ but old traditionalists like me can still find their new favourite band of all time hidden in among all of the other gems that this record has to offer.

Released October 1st 2017
http://www.blues.org

 

 

Barenaked Ladies FAKE NUDES

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Barenaked Ladies
FAKE NUDES
UMC

Intellectual Ironicana From Canada’s Finest Ever Pop Group.

Barenaked Ladies are another of those bands who have been around forever but managed to pass me by until their 2016 album BNL Rocks Red Rocks.
In my defence their uber-clever lyrics wouldn’t have tickled my taste buds as recently as 5 years ago; but I’ve mellowed in recent years and grown to appreciate their ilk more and more.
The quirky and catchy opening song Canada Dry is very easy on the ear; and the world weary tale of a band on an everlasting tour and missing home will make a lot of musicians ruefully smile.
Obviously for a band on their 15th studio album the musicianship throughout is stunning throughout with enough glorious guitar solos to make Joe Bonamassa cry into his cocoa; but it’s the songwriting and storytelling that has sold them over 15 million records.
Much like the cute album title FAKE NUDES I think a couple of songs take their lead from current affairs; but with a sideways swipe. Invisible Fence is an ideal example which is mostly about someone who puts up such a barrier to keep their feelings from getting hurt; but if you squint your eyes and listen carefully there just might be a political undercurrent too.
On the other hand, Sunshine and 20/20 Hindsight (both nods towards 80’s synth-pop) are both glorious slice of ironicana if such a genre exists; if it doesn’t BNL have just invented it.
What amazes me after 14 previous albums is how ‘fresh’ this album feels; Flying Dreams and the glorious Dusty Rooms sound like a collision between The Byrds and James Taylor but with a smidgen of Randy Newman in the ever so clever nuances of the lyrics.
There’s even a cinematic soundtrack spirit to a couple of songs, with Bag Of Bones sounding like they may have been listening to Zappa in the lead up to recording it and Looking Up could easily be from a Miami Vice remake.
I have no idea where Barenaked Ladies sit in the modern pantheon of bands; as I can’t find a real comparison to make. Steely Dan? Not really. Coldplay? Probably not; but I can imagine their fans liking this record. Simon & Garfunkel? Hmmmm…it’s not as daft as you’d think.
While a lot of this is on the Avant-Garde end of Rock Music I’m going for a pretty straight forward Soft-Rock song as my favourite; We Took The Night is as quintessential American Pop Music as I’m going to hear these days; layers and layers of harmonies coupled with a punchy melody and a song to wallow in. What’s not to like?
In the days when we used to carry LP’s around under our arms in the school-yard as badges of honour, the kids with Barenaked Ladies albums would have been in the A-Stream; studying English, Science and Modern Languages whereas I was creating works of Art in the woodwork room and metal work classes, listening to 4 minute Rockers that frightened the neighbours.

Released November 17th 2017
http://www.banakedladies.com

Single of the Day……Louise Goffin – Let Me In Again

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Louise Goffin
Let Me In Again
Majority of One Records.

“Let Me In Again,” which is coupled with “A Fine Surprise” is the latest offering in Louise Goffin’s ongoing digital singles project, might seem like a plea to an old lover, but it is really a plea to our tech-centric world.
The song’s opening line “No one has time” is actually what Goffin first said when she met with Marvin Etzioni (Counting Crows/Peter Case producer) to try to write together. The phrase instantly sparked with them. Goffin recalls “knowing it was great” just listening to an early version and now feels the song reveals even more poignancy in its finished version, which she co-produced with Dave Way and, as Goffin describes them, a “to-die-for band.”
“A Fine Surprise” resulted from Goffin’s initial song-writing meet-up with singer/songwriter Billy Harvey (Patty Griffin, Bob Schneider, Slaid Cleaves). The two realised that all their songs were about break-ups, so they resolved to write a love song together. The song’s lyrics, Goffin shares, deal with coming out of grief and experiencing the “fine surprise” of discovering that there can be hope and a new life on the other side.
She plans on releasing a new single around every six weeks. This project represents the highly creative period Goffin is currently experiencing.
These digital singles also exemplify Goffin’s desire to get her music out quickly and be heard. Her determination to “make music and share it” stems greatly from her frustrating experiences in the major label world.
With the release of the “Let Me In Again”/“A Fine Surprise” digital single, Goffin is launching into 2018 with the music and momentum to make it an exciting year for her. For more details on her digital singles series, visit http://www.louisegoffin.com for updates.