The Rocking Magpie

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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 wide 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 all 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 173 countries have actually visited the site so far; 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).
I still love CD’s, work with and from downloads …….. as most listening is done in the car or office, I don’t ‘get’ the new fashion for vinyl; but that’s just me ……. and think artists putting brand new music on Spotify, Apple Streaming and the like is ‘turkeys voting for Christmas.’ #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.

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 song……. Rex Bob Lowenstein by Mark Germino

Matt McGinn ANNIE (Many Moons Ago)

Matt McGinn
Annie (Many Moons Ago)
Self-Released

This has all happened a bit quickly; so apart from saying this new single from Matt McGinn is absolutely lovely, I will leave it to him to tell you the background ……….

Matt; “In November 2019 I was asked by Anthony Toner to join himself, Ciara O’Neill & John McCullough for a lovely evening of music. The theme of the evening was the Moon. With some help from friends and family, I picked out some lovely songs, Moonlight in Vermont, Grapefruit Moon and Werewolves of London. I was annoyed, though, that no matter how much I searched through my back catalogue, I had nothing that I could sing that would relate in the slightest…even at a serious stretch. So I sat down on the morning of the concert to write one. I sat sweating for around four hours looking at a blank page until suddenly it came and flowed out onto the page in around fifteen minutes. How? I’m not sure, but I’m glad I waited for it. 

I started recording it in lock-down, building up the track with the intention of getting a rough demo that I could bring into a better equipped studio than mine, with better musicians than me. But as the track built, I started to get attached to everything I had built. But it did need something that I couldn’t provide. I contacted the incredibly talented and lovely couple, Niamh Dunne and Sean Og Graham who had I seen handle a very successful album release under lockdown with their band Beoga. (Brilliant album by the way). Sean and Niamh worked their magic in putting down wonderful accordion and fiddle parts. They weaved their way around my harmonies to create a world for the song that I could not have imagined. The last step was to send it to the Isle of Wight where my long time go-to double bass maestro, Jon Thorne glued the whole thing together. 

Today Bandcamp have wavered their commission and the song is on sale today for one day only before it heads to Spotify next month. As I write this, the support of you all is quite astounding. The sales would equal around 200,000 Spotify plays, or in layman’s terms, a day’s pay.
Now it will take a few days pay to cover costs and show profit, but even even more importantly, I’m feeling the love. Love for me, my music, this song and even a new larger appreciation for music and artists worldwide. It feels like a movement that has begun. A movement by a lot of people, each making a small change. It’s a very powerful thing. I feel it today and it gives me hope. And for that, most of all, I thank you.”

Buy Don’t Spotify!

https://mattmcginn.bandcamp.com/track/annie-many-moons-ago

Kate Rusby HAND ME DOWN

Kate Rusby
Hand Me Down
Pure Records

Imaginative and Thoughtful Reworkings of A Very Eclectic Collection

Cover albums can be somewhat of a Marmite proposition – some folks see them as contract filling exercises, others as an interesting exercise in influence and reinvention.
I’m firmly in the latter camp and this latest release from Kate Rusby (plus family and friends as it transpires) more than ticks the boxes I’d hoped for. Opener “Manic Monday” has been given the seal of approval on Twitter from “The Bangle Girl” (© Robbie Fulks)  Susannah Hoffs herself  – it’s given a folky-jangly treatment that places it closer to Laurel Canyon  than the Bangles’ version and has “H.I.T” written all over it.
Glimpses of the future Rusby dynasty are in evidence too with the young Rusby clan on confidently harmonious backing vocals throughout.
Next up is a gentle take on Coldplay’s “Everglow” with guitar replacing the piano of the original and Kate’s ethereal voice takes it into Gaelic ballad territory that gets to the emotional core of the song.
Ray Davies’ (The Kinks) “Days” which then follows contains a very un-folky electronic bass/drum rhythm accompaniment. With such a familiar tune, Rusby chooses to almost sing a lower harmony line as the main melody, which in turn reinvigorates the tune and successfully takes the edge off its perhaps over-familiarity. 
Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” the next track, suits Rusby’s delivery and style perfectly; instrumentally and production-wise this take has the feel of what Daniel Lanois did on Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking ball” – lots of space, reverb and delay bringing the voice to the fore.
One of my favourite features of a good covers album is the choice of obscurities and on “Hand Me Down” we get a couple of these – “Maybe Tomorrow (Littlest Hobo Theme song)” starts with a heartbeat electronic drum sound before being punctuated with stand-up bass, banjo and twangy guitar which gives the song a more reflective feel than the countrypolitan tweeness of the Terry Bush original (NB although the original is one of Mrs Magpie’s favourite songs).
Even more obscure is the next take on the theme from the TV programme Connie – originally performed by Rebecca Storm in the mid-’80s – the song was written by Rusby family friend and playwright Willy Russell. The original was very much of its time – an emotionally declarative show tune amended for the telly, here Rusby keeps the lyrical determination but in a delicately underplayed arrangement which gives the song a quiet, yet melancholy strength…and from the obscure, the album shifts to the incredibly famous with a fun take on Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.
Whereas the original is an adrenaline rush of rhythm, in Rusby’s version the vocal pushes the song along, with banjo and silky dub bass sitting just behind to create a reggae-like insistence and feel.
It works!
When we eventually get festivals back, this is going to be such a feel-good audience pleasing tune….I look forward to Ms Swift’s guest appearance at Cherry Hinton 2021… (One can but hope…).
“True Colours” is another familiar choice that often lends itself to vocal pyrotechnics when covered, but Kate Rusby just ‘Yorkshires’ the heck out of it, flattening vowels everywhere (“that’s why I love ya”) and giving the song a new-found sincerity and a grounding through its dialectal delivery.
James Taylor’s “Carolina On My Mind” is delivered with a crystal clear and pure vocal with a tasteful hypnotic chilled backing made for a warm summer evening.
The ubiquitous “Love of the Common People” lifts the tempo and rhythm – subtle shifts in the melody from the original take the edge off (In a good way) the memory of all the earlier versions.
Rhythmically, again there are  elements of reggae in the bass line, which takes the cover out of the realm of formulaic interpretation and into the kingdom of groove – you don’t often get a folk-reggae cross-over, but maybe this is the start?
“Friday I’m in Love” was one of the early teaser tracks for the album and its minor chord melancholy is a perfect for the Rusby sound. A gentle backing punctuated by double-tracked harmony lines add to the build up before guitar and reverb  swell and subside.
The album closes with Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” – again Rusby has the knack of altering and moving the melody and phrasing around to make it familiar, yet unfamiliar and fresh.
As on the opening track, Kate is joined by the Rusby and O’Kane choir to end on a note of collective, growing optimism and things are brought full circle.
In talking about the album Ms Rusby remarked, that as a Folk Singer she’d already been doing ‘cover versions’ for a long time – from centuries, rather than decades ago though – and by recording this album she was simply following that tradition.
It’s another tradition that Kate Rusby consistently puts out very good albums and “Hand Me Down” is firmly part of that tradition in its imaginative and thoughtful reworkings.
Another notch on the legend status bed-post for Ms Rusby!

Released August 14th 2020
https://katerusby.com/
Buy Don’t Spotify https://purerecords.net/products/hand-me-down

Review by Nick Barber

The Loft Club DREAMING THE IMPOSSIBLE.

THE LOFT CLUB
Dreaming The Impossible
So Let’s Talk

60’s Influenced Indie Band Aiming for Loftier Heights!

Whenever I am asked to listen to or review a band that are ‘new to me’ I try to get as much info about them as possible from a variety of reliable sources first.
Any band with ‘club’ in the title always worries me in case an internet search throws up some very dodgy ‘internet club’ with a clientele that wouldn’t be bothered about a music review!

I needn’t have worried as the only club thrown up seemed to be quite respectable; but in addition, I discovered a link that gave me the info that they are based in Exeter, but I did get a sound more akin to a North West/Merseyside vibe the more I listened to their 12 track offering.

Having supported the likes of High Flying Birds and The Charlatans before Covid-19 stopped Live Music , their first album certainly reveals why they were linked to such exalted company; as this 5 piece outfit fronted by Amy O’Loughlin and Daniel Schamroth cover an array of genres all of the way from the 60’s through to Indie Rock; all under the direction of producer James Bragg at their Devon studio. It is certainly the retro feel that I felt suited them most.

The opener is the title track; Dreaming The Impossible, lasting over five minutes giving the listener a chance to enjoy the distinctive vocals of Daniel & Amy and owing a ‘certain something’ to Brit Pop’ as does ‘Heard Her Say’ – the sort of tracks you would have listened to at a gig by The Coral?

‘I’m Just A Man’ is a classic sixties number (The Hollies?) and to me, is the highlight track as it it immediately gets the audience swaying and singing along – I would certainly have liked a few more similar tracks but maybe this will be the way ahead for the band. I’ve listened to this a few times and each time I like it more.

Daniel has a voice that really suits ‘True Love’, another classic Indie track with excellent harmonies and ‘Keep Me Coming Home’ adds a very melodic middle section after the more upbeat openers.
With the country feel to track #6 ‘Baby You’ll Be Fine’, they have covered several options in only the first half of the album.

‘Let It Slide’ and ‘You Are The Sun’ are both nice and slow and easy on the ear, with Amy and Daniel harmonising superbly and making both very listenable as the Sixties theme (to me) still comes through. I am sure the band are keen to slot into a market that matches their retro sound and their musical leanings to that area would definitely be a good match.

‘Flat Broke’ has a Gram Parsons feel to it and; as I have seen comparisons to The Byrds on some articles it tends to confirm the view that their influences are; should we say, primarily from that age!
For me, the closer featuring Lisa Loeb’s ‘Flicker’ is a tremendous finale to a very enjoyable album that I feel is a very acceptable ‘debut’ – not a goal scorer but certainly a one with an assist or two.

If they play in the North East I would certainly go along to see them and their mid-West Sound; although it’s anybody’s guess when that will happen.

I am sure we will be hearing more from The Loft Club; as their sound evolves and they move on from support to fronting gigs at more intimate venues as soon as ‘lockdown’ is over and done with.

Aiming for loftier heights!

Released 7th August 2020
Review By Bill Redhead Esq.

https://www.facebook.com/theloftclubband/


Lindsay Ell HEART THEORY

Lindsay Ell
Heart Theory
Stoney Creek Records

“A Big Sugar-Rush of Country Pop Goodness.”

Back when CMT used to play music videos, they could always be relied upon to provide a selection of Classic Country-Pop female artists – if the channel hadn’t morphed into a lifestyle and reality channel, then Lindsay Ell would surely find her place in whatever the modern equivalent is. HEART THEORY, which is described as a concept album around the seven stages of grief; places uncomfortable emotions into an accessible format.
Opener “Hits me” is pure Swiftian glossy pop (Taylor, not Jonathan btw) which addresses the shock of grief – she’s “happy ‘til it hits me.”
“How Good” embraces stop-start-loud-soft dynamics and begs for someone to take a chance on her, before the musical mood shifts on “I Don’t Love You,” which develops a wider lyrical observational field about not loving someone any more but missing them all the same – even in a quieter track, the epic production magnifies and forces everything into a mainstream form.
“Want Me Back” takes the classic theme of the singer being the best option for the former partner and slams it right back them, anthemically speaking, whereas “Get Over You” takes a more cynical approach towards a former relationship where the other is again the one who needs to get themselves sorted.
“Wrong Girl” which follows is in the same vein, with the singer rebuking the role of a servile victim over 2 minutes and thirty-six seconds of running bass and power chords.
There is a narrative shift on “Body Language of a Breakup” from first to third person which is used to universalise the experience under review, with didactic pre-choruses reinforcing the affirmative observations in the hook.
“Good on You” takes things down musically and tries to adopt a more philosophical approach to break-up. The semi-ironic title again wrestles with the difficulty of a break-up before a Carlos Santana-esque guitar break flutters in and out of the part-rapped vocal.
“The Other Side” takes a more reflective and positive approach – AAAA rhymes, fluid guitar and strings put this firmly in the pop corner, which is wholly appropriate for such cathartic expressions of emotional recovery. “Go To” takes the loud-soft brick-wall limited approach beloved of the Nashville Broadway party bus crowd and rocks out on hedonism, before things slow down on the reflective life diary of “Make You” which holds back on the big rush choruses for a gentler pop-ballad feel.
“Ready to Love” completes the emotional journey of the album with its double-tracked vocal lines and euphoric mission statement tag-lines.
The whole album is one big sugar-rush of Country AND Pop goodness, perfect for commercial radio, with every track pulling out all the hooky lyrical, production and musical stops to grab the listener’s attention and even, heartstrings.

Released August 14th 2020
https://www.lindsayell.com/
Buy – Don’t Spotify https://lindsayell.tmstor.es/?lf=53a15b0882483f9d311b5f220961d267

Reviewed by Nick Barber

Various Artists BACK TO Paradise (A Tulsa Tribute To Okie Music)

Various Artists
Back to Paradise (A Tulsa Tribute(To Okie Music)
Horton Records.

A Heartfelt Labor of Love To The Great Music of Oklahoma.

Back To Paradise:  A Tulsa Tribute to Okie Music? That means 17 Songs Written by Leon Russell, JJ Cale, The Gap Band, Jesse Ed Davis & a host of Others you may not have heard of, but will love discovering.
Even though tribute albums are always a labor of love, they can sometimes be hit or miss.
Just because you love a song, doesn’t mean you’re able to pull off a convincing version of it. Doing justice to the songs of Leon Russell, J.J. Cale, the Gap Band, Dwight Twilley, and Hoyt Axton, amongst others, is no easy feat. So when twenty notable Tulsa, Oklahoma musicians decided to record this album of classic Okie Country and Rock’n’ Roll tunes, they went the next logical step and traveled to Leon Russell’s famed Paradise Studio, and for four days, made a mostly live ‘in the studio’ performance recording of their efforts.
Produced by Jason Weinheimer & Them Tulsa Boys—with a fun party vibe throughout, you can tell these cats were having fun, fun, fun! Because of that, these songs certainly bring the Tulsa Sound to the masses.
They don’t reinvent the wheel on any of these songs, but thankfully don’t go the paint by numbers route, either; giving a nice reverence to the material, and an understanding that what made this music special wasn’t just the location, but the sum of its parts.
Gospel back-beat drums, funky bass, and relaxed grooves all frequent the tunes here alongside some great and soulful vocalizing by Paul Benjamin who bookends the album with the J.J. Cale song “I’ll Make Love to You Anytime,” and a version of “Mona Sweet Mona” originally done by Teegarden and Van Winkle.
John Fullbright, gets to go full gospel on “Crossing Over,” a Steve Ripley tune, then showcase his vocals on both a Leon Russell song, and a Hoyt Axton classic too, namely “If the Shoe Fits” and “Jealous Man.”
Soul singer Branjae gleefully pulls off “Tramp,” most notably a duet between Carla Thomas and Otis Redding, while Sarah Frick blows the doors off with a rocking good version of the Dwight Twilley song “I’m on Fire.”
There are surprises of the pleasant variety around every corner; none more so than Tulsa musician Jesse Aycock shining on “Tulsa County” and “Black Cherry;” but my favorite on this compilation has to be his exceedingly soulful version of the Gypsy Trips’ “Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsies.”
Another fantastic track is when Charlie Redd and Briana Wright get together to hoot and holler their way through a rousing redo of the Gap Band’s “I Yike It,” with a “so cool it’s hot” instrumental opening by the studio band, who likewise did a bang up job on J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High,” too; giving everybody a moment to cut loose.
A labor of love, lovingly and convincingly pulled off by twenty great Oklahoma musicians.
Review by the Legendary Roy Peak

Released August 28th 2020
http://www.hortonrecords.org/about/
#BuyDontSpotify here https://hortonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/back-to-paradise-a-tulsa-tribute-to-okie-music

Victor Camozzi BLACK DOG

Victor Camozzi
BLACK DOG
Volcano Records

The Painful and Beautiful End Of Country Heartbreak and Heartache.

You should know us here at RMHQ by now; we love music in all shapes and sizes; but best of all it’s discovering the ‘rusty gold’ that normally lies in the shadows, but deserves its time in the spotlight as much as a Million Selling Star from Tinsel Town.
Such an act is Victor Camozzi; who sounds like he’s had one Helluva Life and with even a shred of common sense should have given this malarkey up by now and got a proper job.
But, as he says when he paraphrases Townes Van Zandt:
I do this, not for the sake of shaking my ass or trying to be a Star…it’s the song, man. It’s just the song.
And, #Spoiler Alert …….. if I’m any judge of an album, the world is a better place because of the songs on this album being in circulation.
Even the album title appealed to me, Black Dog was the expression Winston Churchill used to describe his depression; then a cursory flick through the song titles gave the impression that this wasn’t going to rubbing shoulders with The Chicks or Taylor Swift in Walmart!
Opening track Broken Hearts Roll sets the scene quite perfectly; a fabulous backing melody with occasional stinging electric guitar licks support a voice that sounds like it’s been through the emotional ringer more than once; on a tightly wrapped song that sounds like he romantically believes there still will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Phew ……. track #2 Jar Full of Tears is the type of droll tearjerker that I’ve been waiting for both Steve Earle and even Mary Gauthier to write for years; but even they can’t conjure up the sad imagery that Victor manages with consummate ease.
Personally I hope these songs have been written over a few years; because the pain that virtually bleeds out of See You In My Dreams and The Wrong Thing At The Right Time or more especially the saddest song Hank never wrote; Even The Whiskey would surely be too much for one man to take from one woman, wouldn’t it?
You should understand that these songs aren’t for blasting out of the car hi-fi; these are so personal they need the comfort of a big armchair in a room with the light fading into darkness to get the best out of them; and if you haven’t already got a broken heart of your own; you will when you hear Camozzi fighting back the tears himself when he sings See You In My Dreams and more pertinently The Good Times.
The title track Black Dog as as dark and miserable as you’d expect ….. or in my case, hope for. The brave way Camozzi describes these most innermost feelings is as brave as it is beautiful ……. just don’t expect to hear this song on the radio; even Leonard Cohen fans will think it a bit too sad for public consumption …….. but I know it’s a song I will come back to time and time again.
Bring your own tissues and wine.
Camozzi’s songwriting is ‘up there’ with the best of his generation IMHO, which brings me to the two songs I’m debating between for my accolade of Favourite Song ………. the razor sharp Ride at Dawn which sounds a bit like Kris Kristofferson singing Tom Russell after a night out with Willie and Cash; and the other; which is the type of song any songwriter can sit back and re-read and be extremely proud of; Horses I Won’t Ride.
I’ve listened to it on the office stereo several times; but actually cried the first time I played it through headphones ……. man; can Victor Camozzi write a sad song and make it as beautiful as a dusty desert rose.
This is Victor’s fourth album; but his first in six years; and if there is any justice at all in the crazy world of American Music will be the one that turns the corner for him; but I don’t know the effect that these songs will have on him singing them 5 nights a week on a World Tour.

Released 4th July 2020
https://victorcamozzimusic.com/home

Jeff Fetterman Band SOUTHERN SON

Jeff Fetterman Band
Southern Son
Self-Release

Sizzling, Soulful and Southern Blues Straight Outta Pennsylvania.

As regular readers know we desperately try to be as up to date as possible with our reviews at RMHQ; but a new supplier of amazing Blues Music in America keeps sending us albums from his 2020 back pages; and some are just too hot to ignore ……. so let’s welcome Jeff Fetterman into our crazy little world.
The accompanying bio is limited; so apart from this probably being the Bands 4th album and they hail from the Rock and Roll capital of Pennsylvania ….. Bradford!
It’s all about the music.
The opening drums/keyboard intro to I Don’t Want To was already more than enough to capture my attention; but when a tight and funky horn section kicked in to introduce Fetterman’s husky and ‘lived in’ voice; my SPIDEY-SENSES already deduced that this was going to be a rather special song ……. and it is.
A crippling story of heartbreak after capturing his lover in another man’s bed ……… but the the cruel twist in the tail is that he still loves her; all told over a red hot rocking Blues melody full of Fetterman’s signature liquid guitar playing.
What’s not to like kids?
Who said start with an explosion and then build the tension? Well; that’s what we get here.
There’s a whole lotta Soul in Fetterman’s songs but the band and he are Rhythm and Blues Rock personified on Ain’t Got You and extra spicy 49/61 which has a sting in the tail that has to be heard to be believed.
The horn section sit out a few songs; and bizarrely aren’t even missed on Tell Me Baby and the sublime and sultry Living With the Blues which are exemplary examples of why The Blues can be as sad can be, yet still sound truly beautiful too.
Blues instrumentals can often be a bit ‘light’ but here; Blues For Charlie comes over like a velvety mix of Booker T with Buddy Guy or Robert Cray on soul affirming geetar.
There’s a cover version here that took me three plays to recognise; as I thought it was some kind of nod to Curtis Mayfield; but who would ever have expected a Funk rendition of All Along The Watchtower to be this damn good? Not me, that’s for sure; but it is.
On my copy there are two bonus tracks; Voodoo Funk, which is exactly what it says on the tin and will be a floor-filler at the Hoockie Coochie Club in Newcastle if Warren ever hears it and the other couldn’t be more apposite – Southside Blues, which features some phenomenal electric keyboard playing.
Which brings me back to choosing a Favourite Song; which is sort of easy; but also highlights the incredible diversity that Jeff Fetterman shows in not just his playing but the way he chooses his songs to suit the music.
Going Down to Nashville just stands out from the crop; full stop. Twang guitar that’s worthy of Chet Atkins but a melody and a dynamic taken straight from the Chuck Berry play-book makes this sizzle, shake and shimmy like the girl Fetterman is singing about and it works for me.
Jeff Fetterman has been around a long time; playing every club withing a 300 mile radius of his home town and sharing stages with just about every household name Rock or Blues guitarist to venture into that part of America; but this album is far too good to stay in Pennsylvania …… it deserves a much wider audience; and Europe is gonna love it!

http://www.jefffetterman.com/
Released May 2020



Bobbie Gentry THE DELTA SUITE

Bobbie Gentry
The Delta Suite
UMC

A Great Lost Album Re-Visited and Brought Right Up To Date.

While I consider myself a Bobbie Gentry fan, in line with 99% of other like minded people; that means I own a couple of copies of her Greatest Hits.
Which makes listening to a whole album of ‘none singles’ a bit of a challenge …….. but one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
The Delta Suite is a bit of an oddity in many ways; first of all it was recorded and released less than a year after Bobbie’s debut album ‘broke the charts’; it’s a ‘concept album’ and ain’t nothing like what came before it; and bare little resemblance to much anything I own from her peers around that same period.
The songs are all still; definitively Bobbie Gentry; but here played in the correct order tell a ‘story’ about the people that surround young Ms. Gentry; but instead of ‘Good Ole Boy’ Country melodies; the arrangements here are more orchestral and often full of ‘sweeping strings’ instead of a pedal-steel or fiddle.
Prepared?
I hope so.
The first of the two albums are the new Stereo re-mixes; and starts with Okolona River Bottom Band; and once you get past the ‘new sound’ and the demonic cackle from Shorty Rogers that comes and goes like Summer lightning; Bobbie’s sultry voice carries you into strange new paths; albeit in well charted territory; and it sets the cinematic mood for what is to follow.
Because you are expected to sit back and listen to Bobbie’s ‘story’ it’s not that easy to select individual songs; as very few, if any actually sound like prospective singles ………. but they invariably sound wonderful in this context; moving said story along.
Now I’ve got my head around this album; this version of THE DELTA SWEETE and DUSTY IN MEMPHIS; to my befuddled mind sound like peas from the same pod.
None more so than Morning Glory, Refractio and the Seventh Son; which have all remarkably stood the test of time, while at the time must have left the Label ‘suits’ tearing their hair out!
On the re-mixed Album #1 a couple of songs do stand out; none more so than Louisiana Man which is the most ‘traditional’ song here; and the harmonica laced Big Boss Man, too, which I may actually have heard before ……. but that may be my mind playing tricks on me.
While the Classic Tobacco Road makes an appearance of course (the original mono version is exceptional) my Favourite Track though; and this comes back to the strength of the songwriting as much as it does Bobbie Gentry’s silky smooth and emotion drenched voice; is Mississippi Delta (Alternate version) which rocks like shrimp boat in a storm and leaves you thinking about all of the current crop of Alt. Country poppettes who try their darnedest to sound like this; but miss the target that Bobbie Gentry keeps hitting with consummate ease.

I’m not sure why the original MONO (DEMO) versions are included as a second album; as it’s the new versions that you are intended to buy; but the originals are so very different, yet ever more beautiful and intricate in their simple ragged and slightly tarnished glory it’s more than likely that this will be what you are listening to in 10 years time.

Released July 31st 2020
http://bobbiegentry.org.uk/
#BuyDontSpotify




Chuck Prophet THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT

Chuck Prophet
The Land That Time Forgot
Yep Roc Records

Equal Parts Nostalgia, Romance, Politics and a Large Dose of Absurdity.

“The Land that Time Forgot” is Chuck Prophet’s best album since “Temple Beautiful”, which is no mean feat, as “Night Surfer” and “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” were both masterly works.
However, on this latest album Prophet returns to the Bay area for inspiration, conjuring a long player that is equal parts nostalgia, romance and politics, all of which is served with a large dose of absurdity.

Fans of Chuck Prophet will undoubtedly have fallen in love with his vibrant live performances and there are plenty of tracks here that allow the listener to image Chuck in his pomp bouncing around the stage.
Opener “Best Shirt On” is a case in point, as is the rock’n’roll riffing of “Marathon”, where we first really get to hear co-conspirator par-excellence Stephanie Finch get involved.
While “Get off the Stage” carries a political message for our times it also has the kind of hook, which means it could well be the show closer when Prophet can finally tour the album.

This is ultimately a little more chilled affair than some of Prophet’s recent outings.
In a perfect world, “Willie and Nili” could even be record of the week on BBC Radio 2. with the chorus “love me like I want to be loved” offering a great country hook.
Recent single “Love Doesn’t Come from the Barrel of a Gun” is similarly accessible to mainstream audiences, even if the song’s message remains opaque.

At times this is a beautifully menacing record. I am a sucker for songs about Richard Nixon; and “Nixonland” does not disappoint.
Beginning with the reminiscence of a fourth grade field trip, we’re taken up to the fall of Richard Nixon; this is an absolute album highlight. Prophet even finds time to poke fun at the illeism of the former President.
The track becomes a meditation on dishonesty made all the more sinister by the minor chords, tremolo guitar and choral backing vocals.
“Paying My Respects to the Train” is similarly inspired by America’s political past. The train is taking Abraham Lincoln to his final resting place.

But it is Prophet’s signature dalliance with absurdity that really binds the album. “High as Johnny Thunders” treats us to a Dylanesque pseudo-history starring a rogues’ gallery of American greats and literary figures, albeit sung to a lilting melody, later complemented by a swooning sax solo. The chorus gives the album its name.
“Meet me at the Roundabout” also drips with sweet surrealism “meet me at the roundabout, honey don’t be late, I’ve been here since Christmas Eve and it’s almost New Year’s Day”.

“The Land that Time Forgot” is another Chuck Prophet masterpiece offering the listener all kinds of musical shades shot through with the with the kind of absurdity we’ve come to know and love.
It is this which lightens even the most intense moments on the record and marks out Chuck Prophet as one of the most brilliant, but undervalued songwriters we are currently blessed with.

Review courtesy Steven K Driver (from The Agency beat combo).
http://www.chuckprophet.com/
Released August 21st 2020

Peter Himmelman PRESS ON

Peter Himmelman
Press On
Himmasongs/Six Degrees Records

Articulate, Grown Up Songs With a Bluesy Vibe.

Obviously a name like Peter Himmelman will stick in the mind; but with so much new music passing under the RMHQ bridge since his last release in 2017 I had to check out the review to find out why and BINGO!
Yep; I remember now ……. “Declan McManus channelling an amped up Randy Newman, and his band sounds like a pub-funk E Street Band with a touch of Mink DeVille“.
Hmmmmm ……. in my new notes I agree with the first half of that statement; there’s a definite Elvis Costello/Randy Newman vibe here; but on this outing Himmelman has stripped everything back to more Bluesier basics; not quite raw; as there is plenty of sweet fat on the bones; but the Blues this most certainly is.
While the production is deceptively simple and stark; the song title Suite For Tambourine and Hand Claps is not just articulate; but shows what a sharp sense of humour Peter Himmelman has on this Honky-Tonky, Jazzy Blues song.
When I say ‘humour’ it’s never ‘laugh out loud funny’ ……. but the type of funny you would associate with early Randy Newman and latter day Elvis Costello and ……. dare I say it …….. mid-period Dylan too (among other songwriters that grown up music fans adore).
While his observations are sharp and shrewd, his writing his generally from the poetic school – which makes the prescient The Wail of Trumpets and The Clatter of Hoofs; which is very much a ‘song of our times’ or Flying Across the Blacktop essential listening for fans of any of those more famous artists.
While the album flows like country stream, no two songs ever sound the same, which obviously is a good thing and he cleverly uses tempos and even musical styles to great effect, too.
A Place in Your Heart and This is My Offering are both love songs; but of the ilk that you have to sit still and listen intently; poring over not just the words themselves, but the way Himmelman delivers them, letting them unravel like a Mystery Play until you finally sigh, and think “That could be me.”
Who’s to say if Straw and Kerosene or Press On are to be taken quite literally or are just the products of a very fertile imagination; but both are as staggering in their eloquence and imagery …… plus their backing music is so intense you may even find yourself in a cold sweat the first time you hear them.
It would be far too easy, but time consuming to describe every song here …… as they are all worthy of your attention; so I’m going to leave you to find them yourself, as I’m now jumping to my Favourite Song Challenge.
It’s a ‘Challenge’ as over the next year or so most songs here will ‘speak to me’ at one time or another; but this week two in particular have stopped me in my tracks.
The quirky and jaunty Truth Spoke in a Hard Time; a beautiful love song hidden inside a dark tale of a man ‘surveying a Dystopian landscape’ ……… which many of us have had to do in way or another in 2020!
The other; and I think my actual Favourite Song, as it somehow encapsulates my own feelings (on a regular basis, sadly) and when you too, first hear Outside Looking In you will presume it was written by one of the industry’s more illustrious and Award laden songwriters; but no …… it is from the pen and mouth of Peter Himmelman himself.
I’m ‘late to the party’ as I only discovered Peter Himmelman via his THERE IS NO CALAMITY in 2017; yet PRESS ON is his 15th album.
Get on board now.

Released 31st July 2020
http://www.peterhimmelman.com/home.php