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 or on Twitter @RockingMagpie

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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


SummerTyne Americana Festival 2017 Sage Gateshead

summertyne 2017

SummerTyne Americana Festival 2017
Sage Gateshead
21-23 July.

First of all, I had the discussion “What exactly is Americana Music?” five times on the run up to and then over the weekend. It is a fascinating question, as I ‘know’ what it is, but find it increasingly difficult to quantify; especially as over the weekend we witnessed a diverse mix of music from straight forward Country via Alt. Country, Pop-Country, with a bit of Western Swing too, lots of Bluegrass and Folk many singer-songwriters, a smidgen of Southern Rock, The Blues (Country Blues AND Blues Rock) and some sweet, sweet Soul Music too. Confused? You won’t be!

Summertyne Frifday 2
As usual the weekend started at noon on Friday outside the magnificent Sage Music Centre on the Jumping Hot Club stage with the quaintly named Home Fries acts, from the local region.
With the crowds already filling Shipcote Hill the delightful Rhona Dalling and her sweet Country Folk songs got the day started in the most delightful manner.
After a short break the more rumbustious Buffalo Skinners got the toes tapping in the sunshine, before legendary singer-songwriter and former Pop-star Paul Handyside alongside Rob Tickell performed a series of dark and articulate modern Folk songs, much to the crowd’s obvious delight.
Next up were The King Bees, who annoy me more and more every time I see them. I say ‘annoy’ but it’s only because their brand of Classic Chicago Blues is so incendiary it blows me away every time I see them; but they all have day jobs and can’t find the time (or finances) to go into a recording studio. It was no surprise to see the first of the fabled SummerTyne ‘dancers’ filling the sides of the stage.
The sun was shining and barely a blade of grass could be seen on Shipcote Hill as Archie Brown and the Prisoners of Fender made a welcome return to the picturesque stage overlooking the Newcastle Quayside. After seeing his many incarnations over the last 40 years I’m still not sure how to describe his ‘music’…..think Tom Waits singing Rock and Roll with the coolest Blues band in New Orleans; or something like that!
There was a relatively last minute change to the headline slot, with the Theresa Watson Band and her heady mix of Blues and Soul filing the night air as 6 or more people danced their hearts out in front of the stage.
As the ‘outside crowd’ began packing their bits n bobs away and thousands more were making their way into the Sage to see Sold Out shows by both the Shires in Hall 1 and Merle Haggard’s sons Ben and Noel in Hall 2, I got to see the kids from the Stax Music Academy on the concourse stage blowing the dust off a series of songs that changed my life…….WOW! But more of them later.
Catherine McGrath who launched the evening performances in Hall 1 is a new name to me; but her lovely Northern Irish voice brought some lovely Countryish songs to life; and her chirpy demeanour caught the attention of many people around me.
She was followed by Sarah Darling who is exciting a lot of people within the British Country Music scene and I can now see (and hear) why…..hopefully she will be back in the area soon.
But, the 1600 people who had bought tickets within 72 hours of them coming on sale had come to see the Stars of British Country Music; the Shires.
It was a similar mix of songs from their two hit albums, as their previous visit in December but no one minded with glazed eyed fans singing along from start to finish. I was really impressed with the way their stage presence has evolved in the last four years. To see them tonight you’d think they had been filling halls for ten years or more; as opposed to their debut on the Concourse Stage downstairs in front of 50 people and another 50 empty seats in 2014!
A few feet away in Hall 2 there was a pair of Country acts that intrigued me. Thankfully my AAA Photo-Pass meant I could see most of both concerts (with Mrs Magpie filling in the gaps at the Shires concert).
Ashley Campbell is the daughter of Glen Campbell and, while several ‘friends’ felt she leant on that relationship, I didn’t and was stunned by her dexterity on the banjo and has a fabulous voice… to watch methinks.
I’m going to be contentious now; I’ve never been a fan of Merle Haggard, and tonight seeing a hall full of Country Music fans ‘wallowing in the past’ and, with so much new and exiting music to see and hear it filled me with despair.
Merle’s youngest son Ben actually has a great voice and can play the guitar with flair; while eldest son Noel who looks and sounds a bit like his father relied more on humour and laughs. Me? I was left non-plussed by it all but the following day two friends were still starry eyed at the thought of the concert. You can’t please everyone, can you?

Summertyne 17 Friday

Things started early with a grey faced crowd queuing from 10 am on the Quayside for cruise up and down the Tyne to the music of Ashley Campbell and Massy Ferguson.
Me? I was at work until 4pm… I had to employ Magpie Spies to bring you Saturday’s day time adventures.
At noon jaws dropped all over Shipcote Hill as the first notes from the Stax Academy filtered out across Gateshead…..WOW……for the first, but not the last time this weekend these kids blew socks off music fans with their amazing voices and musical skills on four Stax Soul Classics……dancing? You betcha.
While the JHC stage was being changed around Laura Oakes was winning hearts and minds on the AMA UK Concourse stage with her punchy modern British Country songs, and RMHQ favourite Vera Van Heeringen was playing the first of two gigs in the SummerTyne Lounge.
With the sun fighting through the clouds the feisty Country Rock of Fargo Railroad Company went down really well with the swelling crowds on Shipcote Hill.
As they finished there was a mad rush inside for the sold-out show in Hall 2….Sold Out at 2pm? That musty be something really special; and it was (and I bloody missed it…grrrrr); a double header with Danni Nicholls and the new ‘darling of the Ameripolitan’ Angaleena Presley both making their NE debuts. I subsequently spoke to 8 diverse people who saw the show and each said it was the highlight of this particular weekend and a couple suggested it may be in the Top 10 of all time.
While that crowd were pretending they were in Nashville, those outside knew they were in Gateshead as it started raining just before Vera Van Heeringen came on stage; but the umbrellas came out and the ponchos unfurled as our favourite Dutch songstress wowed them with some terrific songs from her new album.
As happens at Festivals sometimes there are two or three things happening at once but thankfully the Magpie Spies caught the spellbinding smoky voice of Danni Nicholls on the AMA UK Concourse stage, while three others watched the place go wild outside for the exhilarating Rockabilly of Howlin’ Ric and the Rocketeers; who quite possibly ‘stole the show’ and negotiations were immediately struck for a follow up gig …..sometime soon.
I finally arrived as the incredibly handsome Paul Carella was on the AMA UK and sounded mighty impressive too, on the two songs I heard.
But I couldn’t hang around as one of our ‘finds’ at SummerTyne 16 was Amythyst Kiah who was on the Jumpin’ Hot Club Stage. Is she Blues? Folk? Country? Gospel? Who knows and who cares, as her intensely rich voice combines absolutely everything that is good in Americana Music.
As her final notes were filtering into the leaden sky I rushed straight back into the Sage to finally see Massy Ferguson…..yowza, yowza and YOWZA! Seattle’s finest sons were every inch as good (and loud) as I’d hoped and had the crowd standing shoulder to shoulder in the main area and three deep on the staircase. As SummerTyne is rapidly becoming famous for; Danni Nicholls was invited on stage to join the band for a rockingly ramshackle performance that had people queuing at the merch desk to buy both albums that RMHQ raved about.
A quick cup of coffee and three all too brief ‘hi, good to see you….we must get together’ conversations meant I missed the first 15 minutes of Earl Thomas on the JHC Stage; but the 45 minutes I did see were amazing; scorching and Soulful R&B …..with a charismatic singer, what’s not to like?
More strong coffee and a big dirty burger later and I was witnessing the kids from the Stax Music Academy for the second time; as they opened the show for Mr William Bell. Honestly…..they were/are truly amazing, and each of the six singers gets the opportunity to take lead, which showcases some amazing ‘strength in depth’……the future is bright; the future is STAX!
As they finished I met Mrs Magpie in the bar as she was here to see Sam Outlaw in Hall 2; as part of a double header with Jim Lauderdale (both have great new albums out).
Jim was a ‘vision’ in a brightly coloured shirt and matching Crimpolene trousers; and his many years on stage showed as he held the audience in the palm of his hand from start to finish with a series of songs from his back catalogue, each introduced by a story that made you smile.
As Mrs Magpie enjoyed a convivial tincture with some friends I rushed back to Hall 1 to see and photograph the very dapper William Bell. What a voice this fella still has and like Jim Lauderdale; what a showman!
With the clock ticking I had to run across the concourse and arrived in the Sold-Out Hall 2 just as Sam was being cheered onto the stage. It’s amazing how much he has changed since I saw him play to about 60 people at a JHC gig just over a year ago; and tonight he looked uber-confident and immaculately dressed alongside his regular band. With time not being on his side he crammed a ninety minute set into 6o; and didn’t leave the crowd with time to breathe between song after great song; leaving all 700 fans completely breathless at the end. A relatively new kid on the block for many (but not RMHQ readers) I forecast Sam Outlaw won’t play in front of 60 fans ever again in the North East.
The gig was cut short because an exciting Songwriter’s Circle featuring Jim Lauderdale, Chuck Prophet, Ashley Campbell and Amythyst Kiah was following and it was FREE ENTRY. I only got to see two songs before I had to leave; but a friend who was there said it was a stunning hour and something they would love to see again.

Summertyne Sunday


My one and only full day at SummerTyne 2017 started at noon, with the leader of the Royal Northern Synthonia Sir Bradley Cheswick leading the All-Star Hot Club of Geordie Town through a series of Country and Western Swing Classics. It took me a couple of minutes to realise that the handsome young singer fronting the band was none other than Brian Hume and the harmonies provided by his much younger wife Irene; from Folk legends Prelude! Hey…..that’s SummerTyne for you; a bag full of surprises around every corner.
I then scurried inside to see the Kentucky Cowtippers from the Chowdene Delta on the AMA UK Stage, and again these young ‘uns have really developed their Bluegrass/Country-Folk sound by spending the last couple of years constantly touring and serving their apprenticeship. Today their all too brief set revolved around a recent EP of self-written songs with only a couple of covers slipped in under the radar.
One of the less well known highlights of SummerTyne is always the films that are unearthed and shone in the Lounge to a handful of people. Before going outside I popped in and saw a wonderful 14 minute film called Buna and Bertha about two old ladies (in 1985) talking about keeping Appalachian Folk music alive. I just wish more people could see these delightful slices of musical history.
Alongside Massy Ferguson on Saturday the other act that I was desperate not to miss was Rob Vincent whose album will feature in many Top 10’s at the end of the year. The wait was most definitely worth it……this lad has it all; great songs and a stage presence that kept the audience entranced for over an hour.
Following a couple of quick howdy do’s with some old friends; and finally meeting David from the Three Chords and the Truth website; it was into Hall 2 for another Sold-Out show. This time the passionate solo Blues Rock from Lisa Mills…..(a big guitar and an even bigger voice) and the sultry late night soulful Blues from Jo Harman.
Outside on the JHC Stage Errol Linton was making a welcome return with his own take on Urban R&B this time adding some modern hippitty hoppitty (Grime?) splashes for the teenagers.
As I left Hall 2 I caught Chloe Chadwick’s final song and somehow ended up talking so long to some friends I totally missed the Country Twang of Jonathan Terrell on the JHC Stage playing to an ever diminishing crowd as the rain set in with a vengeance…..sorry mate; these things happen at festivals.
With the rain now belting down, the concourse was packed for Scouse Alt. Country band Rosenblume who took full advantage to showcase their exciting and raw songs.
It really impressed me to see how many hardy souls were prepared to sit in a Monsoon more fitting to February to watch RMHQ favourites Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay in the guise of High Plains Jamboree on the JHC Stage. Not for me I’m afraid; I ran around for ten minutes taking photos then decamped back inside the main building. In any other year this would have been the perfect music to watch on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Back to my opening question….’What is Americana Music?’ Well; one of the highlights of the weekend came next; and the pouring rain yet again a much bigger audience than expected got to witness the beautiful Gospel songs from the Voices of Virtue Choir and hearing them sing such a delightful mix of songs.
As they finished I looked out of the Sage’s huge windows and saw the rain coming down in sheets from four separate angles, so the jacket was zipped up to my throat and the trucker cap pulled on tight as I made a dash outside to see The Savoy Family Cajun Band close the weekend on the JHC Stage. I couldn’t believe my eyes as less than 100 people were there and over 50 were dancing! Dancing in multi-coloured ponchos and wellies! You gotta love Geordies.
Back inside steam was coming off my jacket while I watched local lass Hayley McKay in her sparkly dress on the AMA UK stage. Not to everyone’s taste; I loved her Dollyesque Country-Pop and look forward to the album that is meant to be coming out in the Autumn.
It was a similar sound with Callaghan who opened the evenings entertainment in Hall 1. She looks amazing and has a great voice with some ‘good songs’ and it won’t take much for her to have a hit and surf the Shires coat tails into British Country Stardom.
As she was still tinkling the ivories on the Sage’s Steinway I excitedly made my way to see a band I discovered last year with their debut EP and subsequently fell in love with the follow up LP…..Curse of Lono from London Town!
On the lead up I thought their blend of Southern Gothic music was an odd choice for a support to Chuck Prophet; but hey! It worked and worked incredibly well as a cautious audience fell under the spell as their magical songs won the hall over with ease.
By now I should have been flagging; but the adrenaline was pumping as I went back across the building to see the start of Beth Neilsen Chapman’s concert in Hall I. While I only watched for about 20 minutes, I saw enough to confirm my love of live music. The ever smiling Beth had a couple of ‘technical problems’ which she laughed and joked through before realising she hadn’t plugged the bloody thing in! Still laughing at her own expense she then went into the most beautiful love song.
But, there was Chuck Prophet to see! Even the look on his face as he walked on stage told me he was ‘ready to Rock’ and Rock us he did……two hours of songs played fast and loud with the occasional ballad and political tirade made for a glorious end to another SummerTyne Festival.
What more can I say? SummerTyne is ‘my festival’; it’s on my doorstep and means I can sleep in my own bed and not a tent; but it’s all about the music kids; and the balance of music here plus and the sound quality inside the Sage is as good if not better than anywhere else in the world.
Now……what was that rumour I heard in the car park about a potential headliner next year?

Alan and his Magpie Spies.

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Photo-Set Saturday

Photo-Set Sunday



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Greg Sover
Grounded Soul Records

Glorious Blues, Soul and a Funky Rock Hybrid that Really Blossoms.

I don’t get to say this often enough but if I was flicking through the racks of a record store the striking cover of this album would capture my attention, and at the very least make me ask to hear a couple of tracks.
If one of them was the opening track My Moment, a slow and glowering anthem, where Greg throws down his marker with sublime guitar playing that not just reminds me of Robert Cray and Peter Green but Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour too; and his voice….phew he’s a Soul Man at heart that’s for damn sure.
This is followed by some mean guitar from the dirty end of the fret board and cleverly written song too in Heroes.
It’s no real surprise that a proud son of Philadelphia would be able to mix it up like this; and on Make Me Say Yeah and Deja Vu, Sover certainly isn’t afraid to visit his sensitive side and share his intimate feelings in a very articulate manner.
I quickly recognised that Greg Sover can play his electric guitar like the best in the business; but I wasn’t prepared for the mean way he makes his Resonator sing on After Me……mmmm….mmmm.
Such was the way he reinterprets the classic Bill Withers song Ain’t No Sunshine as a bittersweet Blues love song I didn’t recognise it for nearly two minutes; and I can only presume he’d been listening to Hendrix the night before the recording session as he takes his Strat into a hemisphere I normally associate with the Great Man himself.
So; if I liked that so much my ‘favourite song’ on the album must be quite special; and it is.
Quicksand which comes in at track #3 pulls all of the strands together and wraps them as tight as a coiled spring on a song which is perfect for Radio…..if Radio had any taste.
Greg Sover is/was a new name to me and probably will be to you as he seems to just tour the NE Quarter of the USA, but this album should get him attention from Blues (and Rock) aficionados around the Globe.
Released Aug 2016


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Ivor S.K.

Real Hot n Sweaty Southern Fried Blues.

I’ve had so much to do lately I’ve missed the released date for this album by Australian Ivor Simpson-Kennedy by a couple of months; but it’s already a fixture in the car stereo and I feel the need to scream about it from the internet rooftops!
Yes, you read that correctly this young man, who slips and slides through Delta, Country and occasionally Urban Blues with class and grace is from the deepest of deep South……Australia!
The title track, a cool ode to the Caribbean island of Montserrat kicks off this album with so much toe-tapping ease I nearly wore a hole in the office carpet the first day I played it.
Kennedy is the kind of act I dream of stumbling across on a sultry night in a strange town. Take Me Back To New Orleans and the soft and sweet instrumental Indianola are both perfect for sitting watching the sun go down and kicking back with a beer in your hand as the worries of the world just drift away.
Don’t Say Goodbye is interesting as it sounds like a souped up and strung out Dr John song; with some really, really red hot guitar in the middle. Yet he can also get down and dirty on Take The Good With The Bad, when he growls like a Devil and plays his acoustic like an Angel.
While this definitely 100% a Blues album; it’s International Blues with bits n pieces of all styles tucked away here and there and Ivor even goes off left of centre with I Been Had, with it’s infectious Reggae lilt; but it still fits in perfectly well.
When I sat down to type this two songs immediately sprung to mind; the old school story of Good Mornin’ Judge and the Blues Noir of Murder Tonight which manages to mix a bit of Nick Cave with the foot stompin’ of Howlin’ Wolf and the sizzling guitar playing of Kennedy himself; so it gets the title of RMHQ Favourite Song.
Hey; Aussies can really play the Blues if this album is anything to go by.

Released May 26th 2017


(Martin Stephenson and) The Daintees – BAYSWATER ROAD


(Martin Stephenson and) The Daintees
Lilac Tree Records.

The Bard of Brady Square Blows The Boat to Bolivia Out of the Water!

I’m sure Martin G Stephenson, of this parish has some weird form of Musical Tourrettes; as the ideas just spring forth from his over active imagination and he can’t stop himself recording them. Over the past few years he has hardly finished recording one album when his is back in a studio recording something completely different, but just as relevant and of an equally high quality as when he was a young poppet singing on Top of the Pops.
Don’t let the next few paragraphs put you off buying this wonderful disc; as what I’m going to say doesn’t necessarily make sense when written down; but fans of Martin already know that in advance, don’t you?
BAYSWATER ROAD is a quintessential Martin Stephenson record, with a toe-tapping old school Rock n Roller called The Whisky opening proceedings; and Martin’s clever way with words not only extols the virtues of the amber nectar but as he so eloquently puts it;

“The Whisky, will surely beat you
Take away your heart and steal your home
Make you raise your voice to women and children

Turn you a Hydish creature left to roam
For the Whisky is a whore she’s a deep dark medicine”

Ain’t that the truth brothers and sisters?
The title track Bayswater Road; a love song to that once Bohemian centre of London Town follows in quirky pub sing-along style with John Trier providing some lovely barrel-house piano in the background.
As I alluded to earlier, music of all varieties must spin around in that head of his; how else could you explain the groovy Bossa Nova beat to High Sierra Snow? But Bossa Nova it undoubtedly is and somehow this head mix of Bert Kampfaert, The Surfaris and Cliff Richard couldn’t sound any-more up to date and Classic Daintees if it tried!!
Just as your head is coming to terms with that lovely song it leads into…….a Gospel Song; honestly and it’s wonderful. If I’m not mistaken Martin Stephenson has slipped in a sneaky subversive ‘political’ song of ‘hope’ in a way that will have us singing along and raising our arms to Heaven without realising what Lord Lead Us is actually about….or I could be wrong and it is just a glorious Sunday Morning song after all.
This in turn bleeds into Every Kind of Heaven which is pure 60’s Folk innocence and alongside the jingle-jangle guitars of Shoot are the only songs that sound like the original Daintees did way back when.
There have been a lot of strong women in Martin’s life and many are heralded in song; and in this case Elaine, the sadly departed wife of bass player Chris Mordey is beautifully celebrated in song and will not only stop you in your tracks but quite possibly stop you breathing for a moment or two when you hear it the first time. The story and intimate detail provided is pure dead brilliant; if I may say so.
Just like every other Martin Stephenson and/or The Daintees album I own there are surprises around every corner and each one is a delight; especially the poetic She Rides Horses which closes the record; but my ears keep being drawn back to two special ones over and over again.
So the title of ‘favourite’ is a tie between two lovely love songs; Secret Crush sweeps us back in time to the early to mid sixties with the band sounding uncommonly like the Shadows (take a bow Mr. Steel) and tonight………Martin is …..Billy Fury!
The other just might…..and I don’t say this lightly just might be one of the finest songs Martin has ever recorded. Thorn For a Rose is a beautiful, raw tearjerker of the highest quality; with harmonies and Neil Morrison’s bittersweet fiddle playing would bring a tear to a glass eye; even without the poignancy of the lyrics. 10/10 young man.
That gloriously perky and lived in voice of Martin Stephenson is more than complimented throughout by the rock solid bass playing of Christopher Mordey, sizzling guitar from John Steel esq. and tip-top drumming from the delightful Ms Kate Stephenson.

Released 28th July 2017

Will Hoge at Jumping Hot Club, Newcastle.

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Will Hoge
Jumping Hot Club at Live Theatre.

11th July 2017

I’m still struggling to get to as many gigs as I should; and what with me being head over heels in love with Will Hoge’s new album ANCHORS (released August), it meant I was still a tad weary as I made my way along Newcastle Quayside following a 5.30 am start that morning.
The gig was originally meant to be in the upstairs 60 seat room as it Sold Out in 72 hours; so was transferred downstairs to the very much larger main theatre which was only a few ‘bums on seats’ short of capacity.
The dapperly dressed Hans Chew opened the show with Power of a Barren Fantasy (?); a powerfully intense and articulate song coupled with lots of jagged guitar.
As the loud applause died down Chew took a deep breath and then forced each word of You Have The Answer out through gritted teeth and the occasional howl!!
I’d not heard of Hans Chew prior to tonight; but when he took his place in the spotlight at the piano for a couple of songs I had visions of a young Randy Newman in New York City 40 years ago.
In my notes for the 30 minute set I have ‘challenging’ and ‘interesting’ written three times each; which probably sums up Hans’ very well received set; and I look forward to his album that is due out in the Autumn.
Oh dear…..when the lights went up the people to my left decided on a drinks/toilet run, and it was very apparent that drink had already been taken earlier in the evening from their giggling and stumbling as the men made their way past. A minute later the poshest women I’ve ever spoke to tapped my camera and asked ‘was I with a newspaper?’ I lied and said ‘yes’ as it was evident the truth would go right over her head; especially when she went to great lengths to explain that tonight was part of a week of ‘culture’ which basically meant they’d been to see Elbow and Billy Ocean at a local Festival as VIP guests the previous weekend but probably preferred Classical music…..cue me running to the safety of the toilets.
When I returned they were discussing the poor quality of the wine and didn’t notice me.
In the rest of the room there was a palpable frisson of excitement in the room as Will Hoge walked on stage in the darkness and with no intro and with the lights still off launched into a passionate story of teenage angst, Tail Light Town which was greeted with a huge roar when it ended.
As he retuned the guitar Hoge introduced himself and explained his wife and kids were accompanying him on this tour; but were already bored with his shows so were back in the hotel.
He then told the first of a series of very funny self-depreciating stories to introduce Daddy Was a Gambler……. “She counts her blessings/He counts his cards,” is 100% pure damn Country in my book.
During the third song, the blood-and-guts On The Outside Looking In with soul stirring harmonica interludes you could actually hear a pin drop as everyone hung on every single word.
It was apparent that the first six or seven songs were already well known to the majority of the Jumping Hot Club audience (but not me nor my posh neighbours) but such was the quality of Will Hoge’s writing; they still sounded like I’d known them all my life.
As a consummate professional Hoge didn’t introduce songs from ANCHORS until 7 in; when we were informed that the ruggedly beautiful Missing You was brought about via his wife seeing something on You Tube that had been posted and subsequently misinterpreting. It’s a very funny story that I won’t spoil by repeating here.
After an hour or so I found myself smiling as in the half light, the singer in ‘double denim’ crouched over the microphone and looked a lot like Deacon from the Nashville TV series! Another note; which I can’t quantify was that there a magic to this performance that had hints of Asbury Park era Bruce.
Highlights were many from start to finish; with the story leading up to and the actual tongue-in-cheek Jesus Came to Tennessee which had the posh woman next to me snorting like a stuck pig; so much so the turn even mentioned her at the end.
One of my favourite songs on ANCHORS; 17 was a stand out tonight too; with the back story of his kids starting a Garage Band kick starting his own career a year or so ago. Check it out; especially if there’s a You Tube clip with the ‘story’.
I wasn’t aware of it; but the rest of the audience were but Will Hoge wrote a hit song for the Lady Antebellums! Who knew? Kept to the back end of the concert Better When You’re Gone really, really is quite the doozy.
The showman in Will Hoge really came to the fore when he explained why he wouldn’t be doing an ‘encore’ but the next song would be the ‘encore’ without him actually going through the charade oif leaving the stage….top man!


Lynne Hanson
Uneven Ground

Simultaneously more jazzier than Lucinda Williams, and more dirt floor country than Jason Isbell, Lynne Hanson is a fine songwriter with a good ear for rhymes and she most definitely knows how to pen a heartwarming song. Her velvety voice is smooth and assured but at times it would be nice to hear her stretch her vocal cords a bit, especially on songs like “Dead Weight” and “Devil Said Do” which could use a bit more fire and hysteria. Canadian Hanson plays it nice a bit too much, which is a common complaint from me with many blues and Americana influenced musicians nowadays. This is something that bands like the Rolling Stones got right when crafting this sort of material decades ago. This is dirty, rough, messy music and sometimes needs to be treated as such. Hooting and hollering is fine, when you get it right, you just have to step out and take that chance.
He voice serves her better on the title cut, “Uneven Ground,” which is jazzier, with New Orleans influenced piano and drums, and it’s smartly followed by “Every Honest Misstep” which comes on strong, quite possibly the best “pop” song on the album.
The production comes off a bit too simple for my tastes, sounding more like demos or unfinished tracks than a completed album, but I do appreciate that they didn’t follow nearly every other artist working in this genre and shoot for the typical generic Nashville production with syrupy fiddles, cornpone twangy Teles, and stereotypical pedal steels. Instead we have some accomplished piano playing throughout which helps to cement several of the tracks together, and the acoustic guitars on these tunes are exceptional.
So, yeah, I’m a bit on the fence on this one. I like the songs, I like Hanson’s voice, I feel as if this is the album she wanted to release, but—since this isn’t her first album but rather her fifth—I would have hoped for something a little more fearless. I’ve seen several live videos where Hanson opens up
wonderfully, it would be nice to hear some of that on her next album.
Released 7th April 2017

Courtesy The legendary Roy Peak


Arthur Alexander – SELF-TITLED (Re-Release)

arthur Alex

Arthur Alexander

Country-Soul Songwriter Writes From The Heart For the Broken Hearted.

Arthur Alexander made a good living during the late 50’s and early 60’s writing and recording songs that became huge hits across the Atlantic for British acts from the Rolling Stones to Dusty Springfield and even the Beatles; but as history tells us they then went on to write their own songs leaving the likes of Alexander standing in the shadows.
Eventually as Soul music finally began to evolve from just being about 45RPM singles and moving into LP’s Alexander recorded and released the original version of this album in 1972. Sadly due to a Record Label not knowing how to market such a product it pretty much flopped; with only one song being picked up by an artist as a single, and he didn’t even write it…….Burning Love and the singer……only Elvis Presley!
Alexander soon retired from the Industry until he was getting songs together for another album in 93 when he sadly had a heart attack and died.
So; has this record stood the test of time?
Yes…..and no.
There are some really, really good songs here and a couple of clunkers too….but while the likes of Call Me In Tahiti, Simple Song of Love and Rainbow Road sound twee in 2017, but they were pretty much solid fayre in 72.
I’m Comin’ Home starts affairs in a glitzy manner; and I can just picture Alexander in his suit with huge lapels and even huger flares shuffling and doing big hand movements on some Saturday morning TV show like so many others at that time.
But things get interesting with the next song It Hurts To Want It So Bad; where the big ‘over production’ gets dispensed with and Alexander dips his toe into the soulful singer-songwriter world I associate with Bill Withers, and….damn….this is one cool song.
With the addition of a piano Love’s Where Life Begins follows a similar tract and alongside Down The Backroads which follows shows a talent and a ‘voice’ that was very much in the right place at the wrong time; as this was just about the time when singer-songwriter’s were coming into vogue.
All three of these songs, plus They’ll Do It Every Time and I Don’t Want Nobody from the ‘extras’ could easily still be hits today; for someone like Rod Stewart, Ronan Keating or some X Factor type teen sensation.
Which also brings me to my two favourite songs here; Arthur’s rip-snorting version of Burning Love is obviously a ‘given’; but another favourite from my teenage years makes a mysterious appearance among the Extras.
I have a long and convoluted story of buying Billy Swan’s I Can Help LP, and discovering a gateway to a whole new world and here Arthur Alexander straddles both Country and Soul with a sweeping and swooping version of Lover Please, which may not be to everyone’s taste; but I bloody love it.
This is a fascinating piece of history and with some judicial editing (which you can do yourself on your I Player) makes for a marvelous legacy for a man forgotten by the music industry.

Released July 28th 2017

Meghann Clancy – CHAPTER 1: LOST

meghan clancy

Meghann Clancy

Beautiful Songs From The Heart’s Darkest Recesses.

I first saw Yorkshire Lass Meghann Clancy a few years ago; on a friend’s recommendation at the Evo Emerging Festival in downtown Newcastle Upon Tyne. He was correct, as her crystal clear voice and sensitive songs shone through a swirl of hormones, guitars and synthesisers like a sunbeam on a thundery day.
It’s taken a while; but she has been learning her craft the hard way……by almost constant gigging; and only now is releasing an album later in 2017.
As a ‘taster’ Meghan is releasing these three tracks as an EP/Single and my appetite is certainly whetted.
The opening song In Time is an absolute joy to listen too, with her gorgeous voice revealing a the twists and turns involved in a complicated story of young love in a way reminiscent of Beth Orton or Beverley Craven; all set against a softly brooding and atmospheric backdrop.
Meghann is quite brave in her choice of subject matter for the second track Life Jacket; a haunting tribute to the 1,000s of African refugees trying to make their way to Europe for a better life; and told from the point of view of said Life Jacket.
Gulp……the intricate piano opening to the third and final song Hunt My Heart is simply beauteous, and gently leads us into another slow and moody anti-love song, about a young woman wondering if she has done the right thing in ending a relationship in a way that will touch the heart of everyone who hears it.
‘LOST’ is a fascinating way to launch the trilogy of singles that will go onto to make a complete album; and certainly showcases not just Meghann Clancy’s emerging talent as a songwriter but brings her awe-inspiring voice to the world at large.

Released July 17th 2017

Holy Moly and the Crackers – SALEM

hmatc SALEM

Holy Moly and the Crackers
Pink Lane Records

Frighteningly Exciting Gothic Folk Rock!

It was on a sunny Saturday afternoon at SummerTyne Festival in 2011, when I first fell in love with Holy Moly and the Crackers as they stole the show with a performance akin to bands like the Pogues or The Men They Couldn’t Hang that I grew up with.
Over the next couple of years they released a cool EP (Lilly) and a blazing album and I lost count of the number of times I saw the perky quartet play; occasionally augmented by mates on a variety of instruments to beef up the songs and; just because they felt like it some nights. One thing is for sure; they never stood still and always pushed their boundaries….in a good way.
But……absolutely nothing before has prepared me for THIS.
Amazingly, the title track Salem, which opens the record features (stars?) Ruth Patterson singing a very dark tale based on the Salem Witch Trials set to what can only be described as a punchy chamber orchestra and ……wow….and….. DOUBLE WOW!
This is followed by Cold Comfort Lane, a really punchy ’60s influenced hard edged piece of demonic psychedelia; again with Ruth Lyon at the forefront.
Who knew Ruth had such a powerful voice? I did. Honestly, I always thought she was cruelly underused on that front, as her voice was almost velvety smooth and a great counterpoint for Conrad Bird, the band’s traditional #1 singer. But even I didn’t think she was ‘this good’.
Conrad only makes his first appearance on the vocal front on track #3 Hallelujah, Amen and his rich baritone takes us into Alex Harvey and Wily Bo territory on this and the rocktastic Hippitty-Hop of Mary which follows. Play both as loud as possible for the best effect btw.
I’m not going to describe each individual song for you; as that will spoil the joyous surprise that faces you when you buy SALEM; and you will… must.
By no stretch of the imagination is this album just about the singers Ruth and Conrad; as to make music of this outstanding quality it takes a collective and an honourable mention must go to the shyest woman in Rock and Roll, Rosie Bristow for her judicial use of accordion throughout and drummer Tommy Evans whose ‘Ringo Starr on steroids’ style provides a spine for everyone else to play off and around.
There are a couple of other songs I must point you in the direction of too; Conrad exuding the delights and dangers of Sugar on the song of the same title; the sexy gypsy jazz-folk of Easy as the Sunrise and the atmospherically sweeping ballad Yours to Keep which closes the album, spring to mind; but by far and away my ‘favourite’ track is Woman From Spain which sounded great the first time I heard it; then on the second play I had to do a double take and go back to the beginning as I couldn’t believe my ears. But yes sirree Bob, Ruth Lyon, the saucy minx really is singing about a torrid sapphic holiday love affair and the band let rip in suitable style behind her too.
In theory none of this should work, but the band threw caution to the wind by raising funds to record SALEM in London Town under the guidance of producer Matt Terry, engineer Gethin Pearson and then getting everything mastered by Nigel Watson who combined have a track record as long as your arm; and collectively have managed to get the sounds that have been bouncing around the bands heads actually down on disc in a way these crazy kids could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.
In this day and age I’m staggered that a band can still be prepared to take risks with their music; as that is what Holy Moly and the Crackers have done here, and they just may have tapped into a whole new magical formula that will win them legions of fans across Europe in a way that their previous ‘good time’ show couldn’t.
Released 14th July 2017