The Rocking Magpie

rm logo 1

Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a box-room on the Internet for one man and a bunch of his Roots Music loving friend’s thoughts and musings on a wide variety of music, be it CD’s, Gigs, books and the occasional DVD. Usually; but not exclusively based around all things ROOTS:- Americana, Folk, Blues, R&B, all variants of Country, a bit of Ska, Reggae and Soul too.

After many years writing reviews for a variety of magazines, newspapers and websites I decided to break up the band and go solo in 2014; putting everything under one roof on ……THE ROCKING MAGPIE.

Me? I live in the North East of England; but receive music from all around the world….mostly  the UK, USA and Canada and our readership reflects this, but we have followers in over 130 countries across all 4 continents; plus my data tells me that ‘occasional visitors’ from 173 countries have actually visited the site so far; which is mind-blowing when you think about it.

Our priority is bringing you reviews of music that has actually been listened to and appreciatednot just the regurgitation of a Press Release  (like too many other ‘household name’ websites!).
We do this because we want you to get an Independent view from someone just like yourself; and in theory this will make you want to actually buy a copy not just scam a free listen on the likes of Spotify and Apple Streaming!
#BuyDontSpotify

Dig deep into the site; as the bonus is a myriad of my old reviews (400+), some dating back to 2010 which really are a snapshot in time – some I got bang on, others I raved about yet the album and artist still drifted into musical obscurity.
In January 2021 I’ve brought the RMHQ Music Hour Podcast back to life; it’s broadcast every Friday then available on Mixcloud alongside all of our back catalogue and every week will feature a musician talking about their ‘Gateway Album’ which helped get them to where they are now.


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

To ‘Follow’ us ,press the like/follow button for irregular postings of reviews that you can be read in the comfort of your own home…workplace, train or the loo (or wherever the case may be).
FAO Bands, singers and PR’s…….like all other writers and bloggers we put an inordinate amount of time and effort into these reviews; so please, please, please promote them on your websites, social media and the telephone ……they do actually lead to SALES….I have written proof!!!!

Alan aka The Rocking Magpie

If there’s one song that sums up our attitude to what we do and why we do it, it’s this song……. Rex Bob Lowenstein by Mark Germino

Matt Hill RETURN OF THE IDLE DRONES (Greedy Magicians II)

Matt Hill
RETURN OF THE IDLE DRONES (Greedy Magicians II)
Quiet Loner Records / BANDCAMP

Righteous Anger and Heartbreaking Historical Political Tales told Via Melodic Sucker Punches.

The Artist formally known as Quiet Loner; Matt Hill had been a jobbing Folk Singer with a proper day job before he released his Greedy Magicians cd IN 2012; and the success; both quantitatively and metaphorically allowed him the confidence to ‘go it alone’ and become a full-time musician.
For me it was certainly a case of ‘right place/right time’ as Matt’s razor sharp political observations both historically and of the moment were just what I and the UK needed; although 99.9% of the nation still remain ignorant.
Although I’ve regularly prodded him for a follow up; Matt thankfully didn’t want to be defined by just one record …… and presumed our proud nation would also see through the smoke and mirrors of our despicable politicians in the meantime ….. sadly, he was wrong on the latter point.
So; here we finally have the follow up (of sorts); was the wait worth it?
Of bloody course it was!
I love Matt’s intro to track #1 King of Liars …… and the song itself sets the tone immediately; although Hill never resorts to hitting you over the head with his affiliations; the righteous anger that comes across in an ambiguous song that could be about our Illustrious Leader or just a plain old love cheat (one and the same surely?) shows what a clever and intricate songwrite young Mr Hill is.
This is followed by a relatively swoonsome Making Sense of The War; which is beautifully timeless; although edging towards a soldier returning from WW1 or maybe WW2; as the hero tries to get back to some sort of allotment drinking tea and working in his allotment; but always with those black clouds still in his peripheral vision. Something a lot of young and not so young ex-soldiers will surely associate with; should they hear it.
In the intervening years since Greedy Musicians first hit our turntables; Matt has had the time and resources to develop his writing skills, partly via his time as Songwriter in Residence at a museum in Manchester; to add sparkling detail to historical tales and songs like Strike; about the Matchgirls strike of 1888, Mob of Righteous Fury and Same Old Story; making them accessible for school parties and militant pensioner groups as well as people like you and I who grew up listening to Billy Bragg and Woody Guthrie LP’s.
It doesn’t go unnoticed that Matt Hill and James Youngjohn’s ‘live production’ brings out the very best in Matt’s distinctive singing style; which as I’ve said before makes these powerful and political songs ‘easy on the ear;’ lulling the casual listener (if such a thing exists) into a false sense of security until the ‘message’ in the likes of Scraps and the staggering Times Are Getting Tough hits them square on the jaw after the sucker punches that the Ragtime enhanced, Talking It Out delivers like a fleet footed middleweight.
Obviously you are never going to hear any of these songs on BBC Radio or any of those sunshiny ‘Gold’ stations; (although BB 4 and/or Sky Arts could do a lot worse than create a documentary about both releases )but there will be plenty of intelligent presenters on the Internet who will have the wit to slip Scraps or The End of the World into their playlists for the musical cognoscenti like you and I.
With an album like this, with no obvious singles yet every song could easily be a single; selecting an actual Favourite is nigh on impossible; but I tried an old trick; which was to leave the review for an hour then try to remember a song or two that was still lingering …… which brings me to the starkly beautiful Build Us Something More and the awesome Born To Rule; undoubtedly about our illustrious Leader, Prime Minister and Man of the People ……. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. There’s obviously a sneer in Matt’s vocals all the way through; but the anger comes via James Youngjohn’s searing guitar licks, which sound like Fender laserbeams cutting through the defences surrounding your heart.
Whereas the original was very much from Matt’s Folk Singing background; RETURN OF THE IDLE DRONES has a lot more of an Americana ‘feel’ to it, with slide-guitar and a bit of Western Swing here and there; which is no bad thing; as while much of the subject matter is distinctly British in origin; the themes are very much Universal in 2021 and should be heard across the Western World each and every day.

BTW The CD has two extra ‘bonus’ tracks on it; and one is a heartstopper deluxe; Pound Shop Albion which sums up 21st Century Great Britain (especially England) better than anything Van or Eric could dream of creating these days!

Released October 1st 2021
https://matthillsongwriter.com/

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



Joanne Shaw Taylor THE BLUES ALBUM

Joanne Shaw Taylor
The Blues Album
KTBA Records

She’s Not Just Got The Blues But a Heart Full of Soul Too.

I’ve always believed Joanne Shaw Taylor to be a very underrated singer and songwriter; so what generally makes my blood boil is when reviewers concentrate on her long blonde hair and ‘surprising’ ability to really, really play an electric guitar very well (for a girl!) ….. it’s 2021 for God’s sake …… why should that still surprise someone?
But it does.
Hopefully this album will surely make people take her at face value; under the tutelage of Joe Bonamassa and his new label KTBA; Joanne gets to show off all of her skills in a way; perhaps she’s never been allowed to do before.
While opening track Stop Messin’ Around comes from Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac; Joanne’s reinvention gives it a whole lot more fire and brimstone than the original; and the production is crystal clear allowing every instrument and especially Joanne’s distinctively husky vocal room to breathe and be heard by even the oldest of ears.
While initially disappointed to find none of these songs are Taylor originals; enough of these covers were unknown to me; so still sound as fresh as a daisy.
I’m presuming the choice of songs is Joanne’s and Joanne’s alone (as she is very much a single minded artist!) so when you hear her deliver stunning heartbreakers Lay Me Down Easy and the heartfelt Three Time Loser you know Joanne has great taste and the skill set to select songs that she knows she can turn into her own, without damaging the memories of the originals.
While it should be no surprise after six previous albums; Joanne still has the ability to surprise us with the way she adds her own twists and turns to her big band version of If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody and again on the jaunty Two Time Lovin’; which swings right on into and out of Bonnie Raitt territory without as much as a by your leave; as Joanne makes the song her very own.
Thankfully there are no boringly ‘obvious’ selections in the songs choice here; with Little Milton’s If That Ain’t a Reason and Magic Sam’s Keep On Loving Me sitting side by side and both getting a fresh lick of paint and a rebore to make them sound as if they had been written two weeks ago instead of half a century ago.
This is very much an album for ‘listening to’ from start to finish; revelling and generally easing on down to; so selecting a stand out Favourite is never going to be easy; but a couple do somehow manage to stand out from the exquisite pack; starting with Don’t Go Away Mad; featuring Joe Bonamassa alongside Joanne on guitar and vocals too; originally from 1991 by the supergroup Little Village comprising Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, Jim Keltner and John Hiatt; I don’t believe I’d ever heard it before ….. but love it now.
Perhaps it’s the mood I’m in at the moment; but Joanne’s ballades have really sent a shiver down my spine; and with a voice like hers again; it shouldn’t come as a surprise but ….. phew …… she takes the Don Covay/Little Richard ballad, I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (now featuring Mike Farris) into a whole other league that I genuinely never expected to hear from her … so hats off to Bonamassa and crew for bringing this out of her.
Maybe I’m wrong; but I thought Joanne Shaw Taylor’s career had stalled in recent years …… but here; the rest enforced on her during the last couple of years has been a Godsend and allowed her to kick start her career with this simply stunning and totally fresh approach to her first love; The Blues.

PS Even the cover passes the RMHQ test of being eye catching enough to stop the casual music buyer in his tracks and want to hear the contents if they stumbled on it in a Record Store!

Released September 24th 2021
https://www.joanneshawtaylor.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://shop.jbonamassa.com/collections/joanne-shaw-taylor

Brad Vickers THE MUSIC GETS US THRU

BRAD VICKERS & HIS VESTAPOLITANS
The Music Gets Us Thru
Sel-Released

Roots & Roll to the Max; Encapsulating the Entire Stars & Stripes with Taste, Touch and Passion

He may have been round the block a time tor two, but the experiences banked playing with all sorts of legendary R&B musicians provides a brilliant platform for Brad Vickers and his band the mighty Vestapolitans on his latest album.
Where did that name come from I hear you ask, well it intrigued me too?
I investigated and discovered that it is precisely spot on with the music that Brad and his band deliver on this album.
It emanates from a music piece originating in the 19th. century entitled The Siege of Sevastopol, vitally played in open tuning. Over the years the name has been bastardised and re-invented many times. Even Bo Diddley stated that he first learned guitar in Vistabol tuning (preferring open E whilst using a capo to vary the key).

Brad’s Vestapolitans have a regular core, consisting of Margey Peters – bass & vocals, Jim Davis – sax and Billy Rankin – drums, although they can be expanded with some top musical friends, from their base in New York, as is the case on this new release. Brad and Margey co-produced the album along with multi instrumentalist and multi talented VD King

This is not Blues for the sad, the lonely or the downhearted, no Sir ……give it one play and you’ll be stunned as to just how up-beat and enjoyable Brad and his band present their perspective on life.
Almost every point on the musical compass is covered, even adding fiddles and clarinets where appropriate, so not just Blues but some Western Swing, Cajun and Dixieland are all comfortably fused together to create an eminently joyous Saturday Night (even if it is really Tuesday) .

Two thirds of the 12 songs were written by either Brad or Margey with the remainder being covers of the well established past masters.
The catchy foot-stomping “Dumb Like A Fox” gets the party swinging; followed by a marvellous tribute to Jimmy Reed with a fine rendition of his “Take It Slow” which includes solos from the additional guitar of Dean Shots; plus a real bonus of harmonica from renowned Mikey Junior.

Whilst “The Music gets Us Thru” and “What in the World” are written by Margey and Brad respectively, both songs take a decorous nod to Chuck Berry with a superb set of horns coming courtesy of Jim Davis on the latter number.
There are slower ballad types too, with the classic Crescent City sounding “Please Don’t Say”, Margey’s “Now It’s The Time For Me To Sing The Blues” (which has some terrific piano from Dave Keys), not forgetting her “Grab My Car Keys” that includes restrained but beautiful slide guitar from Brad himself. Written and sung by Margey “Big Wind” introduces a hybrid ragtime style that encompasses a touching and congenial violin solo from guest Charles Burnham.

Standout tracks for me were the lively cover of Larry Darnells’ “I’ll Be Sitting, I’ll Be Rockin’” presented in a Bob Wills fashion with brass and splendid accordion; then Margey’s “Bird In My Tree” another where Brad’s sweet guitar break compliments Jims sax solo.
However, it’s the two tracks where Brad and Margey duet on the vocals that really captured my full attention, and as I write I think that their cover of Tampa Red’s “I Will Never Let You Go” with the clarinet and VD Kings accordion just about pipping the Honky Tonky cover of JB Lenoir’s “When I’m Drinking” for the accolade of Favourite Song.

All in all, The Music Gets Us Thru is a thoroughly enjoyable album that delivers a diverse mix of great American music.
What did tickle me though, there are no deep throated growls or screams, no “y’all’s” or “baby done left me’s,” with everything under perfectly lovely control with crystal clear annunciation too.
Brad Vickers & His Vestapolitans sure can play ‘Roots & Roll’ to the Max; encapsulating the entire Stars & Stripes with taste, touch, passion and enthusiasm. I’m now going back in search of their back catalogue of 6 previous releases and I strongly suggest you ought to consider the same.

Review Courtesy Jack Kidd
https://bradvickers.com/welcome-news

Released on 7th. September 2021

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.amazon.com/Music-Gets-Us-Thru/dp/B09B337B9J




Zac Harmon LONG AS I GOT MY GUITAR

ZAC HARMON
Long As I Got My Guitar
Catfood Records

Effortlessly Rich Variety of The Blues.

Born in Jackson, Mississippi but now based in Texas, award winning Blues singer & guitarist Zac Harmon has been ’round the block a time or two and has an iridescent CV stretching way back to playing guitar as a 16 year old, with his Dad’s friend, Sam Meyers.
For more than 25 years he has followed his dream, playing and recording with an impressive list of A1 musicians, ending up in 2021 with a new album which he believes is the most memorable of his illustrious career.

This is his second album released on Catfood Records, following on from 2019’s Mississippi Bar BQ and again Zac has Grammy winning Jim Gaines as the Producer with the label owner Bob Trenchard on Bass. Trenchard also co-wrote 7 of the 10 songs with Zac making him one highly involved and hugely influential participant.
The recording was all captured at Sonic Ranch, Tornillo, Texas with the mixing and mastering completed in Tennessee.

Deal With The Devil” is the lead track and gets the album off on the good foot, with Zac’s precise, stinging guitar licks interspersed between his strong vocal delivery. In fact this is one of 3 tracks that reminded me of the vocals and guitar of Robert Cray and that includes the albums title track “Long As I Got My Guitar” too.
But wait, there is so much more to this fine album with a couple of very smooth soul efforts where the guitar sounds much more like Ernie Isley than Bobby Cray to me on “New Years Day;” and then again on the more upbeat “Imagine A Prayer”.
Coming across more like a glossy Philly sound than either Memphis or Muscle Shoals is the polished, smoochy version of “Soul Land”, again including an albeit short but stand-out 6 string solo from Harmon.

Zac’s own band members supplement the studio boys on “Love For You Baby” with keyboardist Corey Lacey (who co-wrote the song with Zac) also used to good effect on three other tracks.
Lasting 5 minutes, the closing track, written by Zac and Bob, “Ashes To The Wind” is the longest song on the album but is well worth waiting for, featuring a churchy organ, giving the track an almost gospely feel with SueAnn Carwell and Corey Lacey earning their corn on the backing vocals.

However, the one track that highlights the diversity of music on offer here is also my favourite, “Crying Shame;” an imposing, Swampy, Cajun ballad that could easily have come from the pen of Bobby Charles, with Dan Ferguson’s authentic accordion the prominent ingredient in this delectable gumbo of a song. Once again Zac provides great tone with his guitar playing and adjusts the vocals slightly closer to swamp-pop icon Tony Joe White.

Long As I Got My Guitar is one of those albums that gets better the more you play it and the more you listen too;, the more you hear the subtleties of the musicianship and the imposing lyrics.
All in all, Zac Harmon and his team have delivered a splendid album, rich in variety that effortlessly mixes and melds several sub-genres providing a most enjoyable listening experience.

Jack Kidd aka “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released on 1st. October 2021
https://zacharmon.com/home

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://zacharmon.com/merchandise




Ana Egge BETWEEN US

Ana Egge
Between Us
Storysound Records

Beautiful and Boldly Crafted Songs and Stories.

Conceived during songwriting sessions via FaceTime with Irish singer-songwriter Mick Flannery, and with the assistance of a dream journal that Egge had begun keeping, Between Us; the twelfth album by the Canadian/American songwriter—may be her most ambitious yet, and one of her most memorable. Helped along with a smart, taut production by Lorenzo Wolff who treats these songs as the gems they are, mostly utilizing musicians new to Egge.
(I don’t know if she is planning any live shows with these musicians, but if there are any, they will assuredly rock. These cats have it down.)
The first cut, “Wait a Minute,” kicks off with some perfect horns extolling a melody pure and simple before Egge sings about a relationship in need of compromise yet full of hope.
One thing I love about Egge is the way she uses horns on several of her albums in fun and distinctly inventive ways. The horns here weave and bob throughout the song, one picks up where another drops out, wrapping around the vocals.
Great stuff, always reaching, never missing.
Egge’s voice on these songs is always full of subtleties.
Often she will go softer where others will go loud, sometimes repeating a line only to twist the melody slightly for emphasis. You can tell she loves to sing and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Walk out back,
I’ll always find you,
head inside an engine,
with a wrench pushed in your back pocket,” she sings on “The Machine.”
A portrait of a man obsessed with working on cars to the point of being left behind by the ever-changing world around him, and the person who loves him in spite of it all.
“Heartbroken Kind” pairs an upbeat melody with a dark story some of us know all too well. Leave it to Egge to find a way to make a song about self destruction so free and fun to sing along with. “We Let the Devil” is a tale of modern trials.
We let the Devil come between us,
now he doesn’t want to go,
he wants us to keep fighting,
cuz he knows what devils know.” she sings beautifully.
People divided, no hope in sight, no true winners.
“We Lay Roses” is a tribute to a fallen soul—thoughtful and full of warmth.
Am I crazy or does “Want Your Attention” throw off some fun Family Stone vibes?
With guest vocals by J.Hoard, and some quirky sound effects, this funky tune is exhilarating and grooves like a MOFO.
My favorite song on this album for sure, the way it kicks, the dual vocal interplay, the way the bridge sneaks in after the stop. This song is pure infectious fun.
More like this, please!
Ana Egge keeps getting better and bolder with the crafting of each album. If this keeps up, who are we to argue?
Released 24th September 2021
Review by Roy Peak
https://www.anaegge.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.propermusic.com/161043-between-us.html

Johannes Wamberg TABLOID

Johannes Wamberg
Tabloid
April Records

Boundary Expanding Melodic Jazz Fusion.

Although it genuinely intrigued me; the publicist’s hyperbole “Danish Jazz meets Disco & Donald Fagen” isn’t actually too far from my own description of what this amazing young guitarist has put together here.
The opening track I Love U genuinely sits somewhere between George Benson’s ‘hit period’ in the 80’s and the sort of things Kenny Burrell was famous for, if you were to ask me.
As I’ve said many times in the last few years; Jazz means a lot of different things to many different people and I’m slowly growing into it; after several decades of trying and the contemporary and melodious style Johannes Wamberg brings to the party seems to be right up my street.
The last few weeks have been hard for me and I’ve found great solace playing this album; with Altid, Hey B and especially Salme hitting the right notes not just figuratively; but literally too.
It’s fair to say that a couple of uptempo tracks could easily become theme tunes for American TV shows if the wind blows in the right direction; which certainly isn’t meant to be a criticism ….. hell, they are as complex as anything that many Legends have produced; just a lot easier on the ear with K being a prime example. I can easily picture a dark cityscape backdrop as an enigmatic PI shuffles down the street and gets into a beat up Corvette ….. but I do have a special type of imagination.
It’s the same with other tracks; putting pictures to the music …… but sometimes it’s best just to let the music do the talking and with Île Flottante and Ånder du stille, Wamberg’s orchestration alongside Oilly Wallace’s sublime sax playing; doesn’t just talk it actually sexilly purrs.
We all have different needs and likes with instrumentals of all persuasions; but one here has really captivated me; so much so Kong Louis has gone onto two very disparate playlist on my Itunes. This tune certainly sounds like Walter Becker sitting in with George Benson at Ronnie Scott’s Club one very ‘cordial’ Friday night ….. and it has a mellow beat that could even tempt me onto the edges of the dancefloor!
I know very little about Johannes Wamberg; but he seems to have been around the European Jazz scene for a few years and isn’t afraid to push boundaries and experiment; which makes this damn album is so hot it’s cooooool.

JOHANNES WAMBERG guitar
JONATHAN BREMER bass
FELIX EWERT drums
OILLY WALLACE alto saxophone
MALTHE ROSTRUP piano

Released September 17th 2021
https://www.facebook.com/tabloidtabloidtabloid

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://tabloidcopenhagen.bandcamp.com/album/tabloid

Air Cool Jenny FIRST FLIGHT E.P

Air Cool Jenny
First Flight
Self Release

A Charming Bluegrass/Folk Hybrid With a Side Order of Classic Pop Harmonies Thrown in For Good Measure.

I can chose the Press Release perspective and pretend you and I already know who the constituent parts of Air Cool Jenny are; Helen Rose and Kramer Sanguinetti ….. but I won’t because I don’t.
Not that that really matters here at RMHQ; it’s just a niggling annoyance I have; because at the end of the day “it’s all about the music” isn’t it?
The answer should be a resounding YES.
Any hoot; Helen Rose and Kramer Sanguinetti are ‘multi-instrumentalists’ and songwriters who criss-crossed America before winding up in New York City where their stars finally aligned.
This, their debut as a duo is a lot of things as they combine their obvious writing and singing talents on what ends up being a charming Bluegrass/Folk hybrid with a side order of Classic Pop harmonies thrown in for good measure.
It’s taken a while; but opening track Pelican has really ‘grown on me’ over the last few weeks. To some degree Rose and Sanguinetti challenge the listener right from the get go; with the song about a ‘special spot on the Mississippi that the couple know” starting out as a whimsical and slightly nonsensical Folk tale that grows and builds until (and you have to believe me here!) the couple end up going full on Led Zeppelin by the end of the 4 and a half minutes are up!
The next track When I Rise is stunningly beautiful; with Helen taking the lead on a tender and heart-crushing love song; which has had me delving into her solo back catalogue btw.
Track III, Pissin’ on the Moon is a 100mph Bluegrass Twangfest that will even have Peg Leg Jake jigging around the room ……. I’ve not really got a clue what it’s actually about ….. but it’s a belter-deluxe.
In many ways this 4 track EP seems to be a Sampler of what the duo are capable of; as the finale; an ode to New Orleans; The River’s Gone has Kramer on lead and Helen supplying totally dreamy harmonies on a bittersweet song that has echoes of Laurel Canyon in every note and beat.
Yep; I think Air Cool Jenny are finding their feet here; and that’s no bad thing at all with each track being individually very listenable and eminently classy in it’s own way; but listening as a collective has been jarring on occasion; but in their defence I’ve been very busy lately and I’ve still kept coming back here for solace; so they must be doing something right.

Released September 10th 2021
https://www.aircooljenny.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Air-Cool-Jenny-312118442765429/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
Download https://aircooljenny.bandcamp.com/album/first-flight

Felice Brothers FROM DREAMS TO DUST

Felice Brothers
From Dreams to Dust
Yep Roc

As Ever; Equal Parts Humorous, Deadly Serious and Always Thought-Provoking.


Whenever there is a new Felice Brothers album on the horizon, I get a little bit excited, and I’ve never been let down. Their latest album, From Dust to Dreams has managed to supersede even my normally high expectations.
It unravels like a rumination on the existential absurdity of twenty first century being.
In the past it’s proven all too easy for reviewers to offer sloppy comparisons between the Felices and Bob Dylan; however, in this case, the lyrical tapestry woven through album owes a debt to the literary surrealism of mid-sixties Dylan, if the songs on From Dust to Dreams are more clearly grounded, finding the surreal caught up in a wicked tango with contemporary pop culture.
In truth, I was sold from the moment I heard lead track Inferno with its choruses invoking the waning “Jean Claude Van Damme” of the late 90s.
This may be Americana, rich with traditional instrumentation, but there’s also room for piano ballads and even a little trumpet.
After all, the Felice Brothers and their leader Ian Felice have consistently demonstrated through their eight-album catalogue that they’re not afraid of pushing the boundaries and freshening up the genre.
Money Talks is a case in point.
The song’s introduction comprises a hazy piano laden dreamscape interrupted by the nightmarish sounds of a probing job interview, which gives way to a bouncy, bass-led, apocalyptic meditation on capitalist society.
The title of From Dust to Dreams is well chosen, highlighting themes that resonate throughout the album. It is actually the final lyric of the track Be at Rest: a tongue in cheek number, which masquerades as the reading of the eulogy come will of a recently deceased ‘Mr Felice’.
Death, dreams, religion and the follies of social construction haunt the album.
Perhaps, it is unsurprising that such subject matter drives the narrative, given it was recorded in a restored eighteenth century church.
Closing number, We Shall Live Again brings the album full circle.
At nearly nine lilting minutes long, it is also the track that channels Dylan most clearly, think Desolation Row style obfuscation,
I’ve been in most of these hotels on the edge of reality,
I even rode my donkey over the mountains of Argentina”.
Hegel and Proust are named dropped, as well as
St Francis of Assisi to the fans of AC/DC”,
as if offering the citations to mark the various moments of philosophical enquiry on the album.
This is not a one-paced record by any means.
Opener Jazz on the Autobahn has swing, a sing-a-long chorus and whooping, yet manages to maintain the album’s obscurantism.
Gentler moments lean more heavily on James Felice to lull us despite the dangerous nature of the world we’re being invited to explore.
Such is the case on All the Way Down
if you can die it’ll be all right
or the musical hall-esque Silverfish which is every bit as opaque as anything sung by Ian
my Honda Fit’s got mice in it, the biggest investment of my life’s infested with mice”.
Celebrity X is a track that will resonate with anyone despairing of the cult of celebrity and reality TV culture. Its criticisms are straight forward: anyone can be a celebrity these days, we pay too much attention to other people’s lives and fame can be a burden.
But it’s delivered in deliciously tongue in cheek fashion. Given the self-deprecating nature of the humour elsewhere, the Felice Brothers get away with a little bit of well-aimed, but still fun, vitriol here. Listen to find out what Celebrity U is doing with W’s wife.
From Dust to Dreams is an album that is in equal parts humorous and deadly serious but is always thought-provoking. It is another triumph for the Felice Brothers and will certainly be in the running for the best album of 2021.

Review courtesy Steven K Driver esq.

Released September 17th 2021
http://www.thefelicebrothers.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://thefelicebrothers-tl.bandcamp.com/album/from-dreams-to-dust


Sean Rowe DARKNESS DRESSED IN COLORED LIGHTS

Sean Rowe
Darkness Dressed in Colored Lights
Fluff & Gravy Records

Foraging In the Space Between Regret and Hope.

Sean Rowe; Singer, songwriter, forager. Yes, you read that right ……. forager.
An avowed naturalist Sean runs foraging courses as well as recording music, touring, and generally living his best life.
The Darkness Dressed In Colored lights is his sixth lp under his own name, the ambiguity of the title giving a clue as to the place this collection of songs addresses.
Hope in despair, Good from the bad.
This collection of breakup songs are not the usual ‘I can’t get over her;’ instead they see opportunity in the demise of the relationship, even if it’s the opportunity to make the same mistakes all over again.
Kicking off with ‘What Are We Now’, a song that reminds me of Richard Thompson both in its lyrical flow and vocals. ‘To Make It Real’ follows with Sean’s deep baritone crying and echoing the emotion from start to finish.
Nothing seems as real as heartbreak.
Things get slightly jaunty in comparison with ‘Little Death’ a more upbeat look at being newly single. “I’m Gonna Write a Song, I’m Gonna Call my Friends, I’m Gonna Fall in Love with The Road Again……Fix the Sorry Shape I’m In”
This is the mood of the LP, things are bad now but the healing will happen.
‘I Won’t Run’ is a more Classic Country number and shows how good he is as a songwriter, his voice kinda distracting from this side of his music.
One of the curses of being ‘born with the gift of a golden voice‘ speaking of Cohen, the next 3 tracks are Leonard adjacent, ‘Honey In the Morning,’ ‘Married To the Lord’ and ‘Gabriel’ all capturing that blend of the sacred and profane that Cohen did so well. 
Oh angel Gabriel, you slip in like a sliver, I got only one heart and an underrated liver, Now go back to your boss, I’m glad I lost, I can’t wait to get back to the blues.”
‘Tornado Head’, a swirling soundscape surrounds the melody as it builds and falls.
This is one for headphones. 
‘Rabbit Hole’ bounces along as a good pop song should and the LP finishes with ‘Toast’ a closing song so on the head it raises a smile.
I could be wrong here; but I’m thinking Rowe’s using the end of a relationship as a metaphor for sex here? Ambiguity and duality abound in his writing.
Production is done by Sean’s long time friend Troy Pohl, who wrangles the guitar, bass, pedal steel backing vocals and brass section provided into a coherent whole. 
Sean has been foraging around in the space between regret and hope, he’s found enough sustenance to keep him going and to share; ‘The Darkness Dressed In Coloured Lights’ to a ravenous world.

Review by the Irish Magpie; Tom Gleeson

Released October 8th 2021
https://www.seanrowe.net/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://fluffandgravy.com/store/sean-rowe-the-darkness-dressed-in-colored-lights/

JD Wilkes & The Legendary Shack Shakers COCKADOODLEDEAUX

JD Wilkes & The Legendary Shack Shakers
Cockadoodledeux
Alternative Tentacles

Taking On Both Modern and Classic Country Music – and Winning!

Around 25 years ago, I found myself in the depths of the Borderline in London, staring in disbelief at a sweaty bequiffed skinny chap hanging upside down from the ventilation system pipes, playing fuzztone harmonica and tearing out lumps of his chest hair, while the rest of the band tore the place up with loud Psychobilly Blues.
Fast forward 25 years and the owner of that chest hair – and harmonica – one JD Wilkes – is still the frontman of The Legendary Shack Shakers, although the personnel of the band has shifted and changed many times over the years in-between then and now.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the album that they were promoting at that Borderline show; “Cockadoodledont”, Colonel JD Wilkes has brought together most of the folks who were in the band at some point over the years, as well as the current line-up – and label boss Jello Biafra – to record “Cockadoodledeux” in the spirit of that original release, but focusing one (broad) genre instead of veering across several fronts – that genre is Country and Western.

Opener “Rawhide” is indeed that classic that many current listeners might know from reruns of “The Blues Brothers” and features yelps and howls from Mr Biafra himself – bizarrely, Wilkes wasn’t aware that Biafra – his label boss – had performed it many times with the Dead Kennedys.
It’s a fun take and is clearly set up for live situation daftness.
Plucked from “Hunkerdown with the The Legendary Shack Shakers” is a countrier than thou take on “Tickle Your Innards” with added fiddle and twangy guitar and it’s clear that this song was always a Country Boy at heart.

“They Won’t Let Me Forget” is a Bakersfield singalong of heartache and presumably, drunkenness set to a pretty tune, whereas “God Forsaken Town” takes a Latin swinging groove and moves into Mavericks/Los Lobos territory.
It’s got “H-I-T” written all over it, if mainstream radio would only bother to pay attention… “U Can B A Star” is a stomping boogie in the style of the great BR549 and would have found favour with an early 60’s Jerry Lee Lewis too.

Western Swing slides into view on “Port Arthur Boys” a historical homage to the East Texas musical scene from which many of the early swing players sprung. It stomps along and is a joyous, unusually reverent tribute to those times. “Secret Mountain”, a track nixed from an earlier release, “The Southern Surreal” (for being too Country!!) features long-time former Shack Shakers bass player Mark Robertson and splendid barrelhouse piano from Micah Hulscher who’s tickled his ivories for the likes of Wanda Jackson and Margo Price over the years too.

“I Told You So” swings back towards Western Swing/Classic 50’s Country boogie territory and is a toe-tapping delight, before “I Don’t Remember You” reads from the Johnny Cash dollar-bill tucked between the guitar strings rhythm and Luther Perkins lead style of playing.
On this, Wilkes sees in the inspiration of Cash, the humour that so many miss.
The man in black would have approved.

The first band who I remember voicing the theory about punk rockers moving to play Country when they got older (the same chords, many of the same themes – but less sweaty) was the aforementioned BR549 -and they touched upon this in “Little Ramona’s (Gone Hillbilly Nuts)” but it’s The Shack Shakers who spell out the theory most clearly on “Punk Rock Retirement Plan” and the switch to “Johnny Horton from Johnny Ramone” that many a knackered , balding and out of breath punk rocker has chosen to take.
Things accelerate towards a conclusion with the 59 second knees-up stomper “Triple Timer” before “Farewell Ye Rovin’ Eyed Girls” ends things with a dose of catchy Irish-flavoured swing.

The Legendary Shack Shakers are often a band that you have to experience in the flesh to fully appreciate, but on their journey, they’re finally managing to master the art of ‘capturing lightning in a bottle’ on record – this release signifies the passing of one chapter and heralds the start of another fascinating stage – it’s clear that the creatively hyperactive JD Wilkes has so much to share; and “Cockadoodledeux” marks so many more new avenues to open and develop than it does in waving goodbye to what has gone before.

Review by Nick Barber

Released October 8th 2021
http://www.legendaryshackshakers.com/
http://www.jdwilkes.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://alternativetentacles.com/shop/?product_cat=whats-new%2Clegendaryshackshakers&swoof=1