The Rocking Magpie

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Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a home for my thoughts and musings on a variety of CD’s, Gigs, books and DVD’s – usually; but not exclusively based around all things Americana.

After years of writing reviews for numerous magazines and websites, I thought that the time was right to put everything under one roof on my own blog/website.

I live in the North East of England; but receive music from the USA, Canada and all corners of Europe (very little from my home town; which is sad).

The priority here, will of course be bringing you CD Reviews as soon as I get them and usually before anyone else on the web – which is a source of some pride; plus there will be the occasional preview of and albums and gigs that interest me; but primarily you will read EXCLUSIVE reviews of all things Country, Folk, Blues, Ska and indeed Rock & Roll.

Dig deep into the site; as the bonus is my old reviews (400+) dating back to 2010 and they 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; let me know what you think and what you want to read more of – or on Twitter @RockingMagpie

Press the like/follow button for irregular postings of reviews that you can read or not as the case may be🙂

The Rocking Magpie

Bruce Springsteen Autobiography – The FOREWORD

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Bruce Springsteen has shared the complete foreword from his autobiography, Born To Run, available everywhere on 27th September.

‘Chapter and Verse,’ the audio companion to Bruce Springsteen’s extraordinary forthcoming autobiography, will be released on 23rd September through Columbia Records. The career-spanning compilation will be released four days before Simon & Schuster publishes ‘Born to Run.’ Five of the album’s 18 tracks have not been previously released.

Springsteen selected the songs on ‘Chapter and Verse’ to reflect the themes and sections of ‘Born to Run.’ The compilation begins with two tracks from The Castiles, featuring a teenage Springsteen on guitar and vocals, and ends with the title track from 2012’s ‘Wrecking Ball.’ The collected songs trace Springsteen’s musical history from its earliest days, telling a story that parallels the one in the book.

Recordings from Steel Mill and The Bruce Springsteen Band feature musicians who would go on to play in The E Street Band. Solo demos of “Henry Boy” and “Growin’ Up” were cut in 1972 shortly before Springsteen began recording his debut album, ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.’

‘Chapter and Verse’ will be available as a single CD and double LP, as well as via digital download and streaming. The package will include lyrics and rare photos. ‘Chapter & Verse’ will be available for preorder on Friday 29th July.

View filmmaker Thom Zimny’s trailer for ‘Chapter and Verse’ here:

‘Chapter and Verse’ song titles:

1. Baby I — The Castiles (recorded May 2, 1966, at Mr. Music, Bricktown, NJ; written by Bruce Springsteen and George Theiss; previously unreleased)

2. You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover — The Castiles (recorded Sept. 16, 1967, at The Left Foot, Freehold, NJ; written by Willie Dixon; previously unreleased)

3. He’s Guilty (The Judge Song) — Steel Mill (recorded Feb. 22, 1970, at Pacific Recording Studio, San Mateo, CA; previously unreleased)

4. Ballad of Jesse James — The Bruce Springsteen Band (recorded March 14, 1972, at Challenger Eastern Surfboards, Highland, NJ; previously unreleased)

5. Henry Boy (recorded June 1972, at Mediasound Studios, New York, NY; previously unreleased)

6. Growin’ Up (recorded May 3, 1972, at Columbia Records Recordings Studios, New York, NY; previously appeared on ‘Tracks’)

7. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) (1973, ‘The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle’)

8. Born to Run (1975, ‘Born to Run’)

9. Badlands (1977, ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’)

10. The River (1980, ‘The River’)

11. My Father’s House (1982, ‘Nebraska’)

12. Born in the U.S.A. (1984, ‘Born in the U.S.A.’)

13. Brilliant Disguise (1987, ‘Tunnel of Love’)

14. Living Proof (1992, ‘Lucky Town’)

15. The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995, ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’)

16. The Rising (2002, ‘The Rising’)

17. Long Time Comin’ (2005, ‘Devils & Dust’)

18. Wrecking Ball (2012, ‘Wrecking Ball’)

All songs written and performed by Bruce Springsteen except as noted.

Springsteen’s gripping 500-page autobiography, ‘Born to Run,’ will be released internationally on 27th September, published in hardcover, e-book, and audio editions by Simon & Schuster in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and India, as well as other publishers around the world. Springsteen has been privately writing the autobiography over the past seven years. He began work in 2009, after performing with the E Street Band at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. ‘Born To Run’ is available for pre-order here:

The following is the complete foreword from Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born To Run, available everywhere September 27.

I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I. By twenty, no race-car-driving rebel, I was a guitar player on the streets of Asbury Park and already a member in good standing amongst those who “lie” in service of the truth . . . artists, with a small “a.” But I held four clean aces. I had youth, almost a decade of hard-core bar band experience, a good group of homegrown musicians who were attuned to my performance style and a story to tell.

This book is both a continuation of that story and a search into its origins. I’ve taken as my parameters the events in my life I believe shaped that story and my performance work. One of the questions I’m asked over and over again by fans on the street is “How do you do it?” In the following pages I will try to shed a little light on how and, more important, why.

Rock ’n’ Roll Survival Kit

DNA, natural ability, study of craft, development of and devotion to an aesthetic philosophy, naked desire for . . . fame? . . . love? . . . admiration? . . . attention? . . . women? . . . sex? . . . and oh, yeah . . . a buck. Then . . . if you want to take it all the way out to the end of the night, a furious fire in the hole that just . . . don’t . . . quit . . . burning.
These are some of the elements that will come in handy should you come face-to-face with eighty thousand (or eighty) screaming rock ’n’ roll fans who are waiting for you to do your magic trick. Waiting for you to pull something out of your hat, out of thin air, out of this world, something that before the faithful were gathered here today was just a song-fueled rumor.

I am here to provide proof of life to that ever elusive, never completely believable “us.” That is my magic trick. And like all good magic tricks, it begins with a setup. So . . .

Elouise – Deep Water

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Deep Water


So Very Dark and Gothic You Shouldn’t Listen Alone.

I often get asked why I make such a big deal about opening songs in my reviews; and I respond by saying most people haven’t heard of most of the acts on these paces so that song can be a deal breaker as to whether you will like the album.
If , like me you you ‘get’ I’ll Fly Away you are in for a rare treat; but if, like Mother Magpie you raise your eyebrows and walk out of the room muttering you may as well turn to another page right now!
Elouise are a loose collaboration of LA musicians who have come together because of their love of ‘Blackgrass’ and a better name I couldn’t have invented myself.
The atmospheric intro to I’ll Fly Away could come from a Peckinpah Western and when Elouise Walker’s world weary voice crawls from the speakers I was instantly hooked. The melody somehow blends Delta Blues with a Scottish Presbyterian Dirge and is quite wonderful!
If you are still with us by track #3 Saturn Bar, you are in for another rare treat. It opens with the sound of beer being poured then a funereal New Orleans style Jazz band slowly caress Elouise’s sultry voice on a gorgeously brooding tale of a seedy bar in the 9th Ward.
It’s a similar ‘feeling’ on Oh Lord! with Rich Dembowski joining her on lead vocals as the band pump it up like a church organ on a hot Sunday morning.
Oh my, oh my oh my……the track Evil is just a cello and double bass so low on the register your teeth will shake and a more fitting title there isn’t.
There are two cover versions here and Elouise’s dirty reconstruction of Amazing Grace will stay with you for a long, long time….I know it has me; and who the Hell would ever expect a low down Delta interpretation of Silent Night that will make this Christmas Carol never sound the same for you…ever? I absolutely love both songs btw.
This isn’t really the type of album that will transfer to the radio or the mainstream but Rich Dembowski’s crooning on the misogynistic love story I’ll Be Good To You could scrape into one of those cool late at night shows that only the cool kids know about.
I genuinely love this album; especially the dark Blues of Black Horses; with Elouise recounting her father’s terminal illness over another funereal tune that harks back to the days when Bessie Smith was the Queen of the Blues.
This album certainly isn’t for everyone, as Mother Magpie will testify; but if you spotted the monochrome cover in a record store and picked it up; you certainly wouldn’t be disappointed by the contents.

Released July 15th 2016


Billy Bragg and Joe Henry – Shine a Light

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Billy Bragg and Joe Henry
Shine a Light
Cooking Vinyl

Unprocessed and Authentic Interpretations of the Other Great American Songbook.

Hmmm…..where do I start here? I like to think of myself as a Billy Bragg fan; or at least I certainly used to be ‘back in the day’ but in recent years his fascination with all things ‘Woody Guthrie’ coupled with age appears to have mellowed him; just when the world needs an angry Billy Bragg!
Which brings us to Shine On (Field recordings from the Great American Railroad) recorded with friend Joe Henry during a trip between Chicago and LA; where they would set up their minimalist recording gear in waiting rooms and occasionally in actual sidings; eventually recording their last song at dawn  in Union Station.
The album opens with the lonesome sound of a train before the duo reactivate Rock Island Line and the mood is set for a trip back in time; with a series of classic and less well known American Railroad songs from across the ages.
Some songs work better than others in this format; with the background noises in Railroad Bill adding a certain ‘something’ Billy Bragg’s rudimentary reading of this normally jaunty Folk song; but on Waiting For a Train he sounds like he is actually in a studio and the song is all the better for that; although I’m not sure he has a career as a professional yodeller any time soon.
Possibly because my expectation wasn’t quite so high for Joe Henry I much prefer the songs he takes the lead on, with Hobo’s Lullaby probably being the finest song here, with Bragg a perfect foil on harmonies.
Obviously musical experts will harrumph; but I’ve never associated Gentle on my Mind as a ‘railroad song’ but it most certainly is and fits in perfectly here with Joe Henry making it a world weary Folk Song and not the pop hit we all remember.
For me; the song that encapsulates the whole album is another contemporary song Early Morning Rain, which closes the album and has Henry on lead vocals and Bragg, picking the guitar and providing those ragged harmonies again, as the sounds of a lonely railway station buzz in the background.
I guess that this was a great idea by the two musicians and it works in the way they intended; but I doubt it will be in any Top 10’s at the end of the year nor get played much by fans of either or even railway fanatics a month after purchase.

Released September 26th 2016

Ruth Theodore – Cactacus

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Ruth Theodore
Aveline Records

Left of Centre Songwriter May Have Invented Alt. Jazz

Because ‘time is of the essence’ for me at the moment; this album has sat on the shelf as it is best described as ‘challenging;’ that was until I was driving to work very early one morning and it was the soundtrack to a spectacular sunrise and….I ‘got it’.
The opening track Buffalo is a real brain twister combining her quintessentially British Folkish singing style with a Country-Jazz hybrid backing…..confused? You will be!
The following song, You Can’t Help Who You Love is a little bit easier to understand; with Ruth’s quirky and very individual voice finally winning the battle with the band who throw a little bit of everything into the mix.
Not everything here is quite so frenetic thankfully; as for me the finest moments are when Ruth plays at the piano and producer Todd Sickafoose allows her voice to flow like a mountain stream, with The Carcass and the Pride being a beautiful example of a singer-songwriter pouring their heart out in words and music.
My favourite song by far; is Wishbone and again is basically Ruth singing as she tinkles the piano. The song is absolutely stunning and had me wishing the whole album had been in the same vein as those two songs.
The album closes with another haunting beauty; Everything is Temporary; possibly the most conventional song here and yet again an intelligently written and constructed piece that will appeal to readers of the broadsheet newspapers.
As a man of a certain age; Ruth is the type of artist that would turn up in the middle of the Old Grey Whistle Test sitting at the grand piano with a hirsute guitarist beside her and would either be the time you took to make a cup of tea or the five minutes that turned her into your favourite singer of all time.
With hindsight it has been Ruth Theodore’s amazing voice that kept me hanging in here; while some of the poetic lyrics reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s earlier work (seriously) and the album itself sort of hints at Tori Amos and the Ben Folds Five at times; I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone quite like her before.
While this is British singer-songwriter Ruth Theodore’s fourth album, she has somehow passed me by until now; and as I said earlier, it took several ‘listens’ to finally come somewhere near to enjoying this album; but the effort was well worth it.


Released September 23rd 2016

The Americans – EXCLUSIVE Interview with Cara Gibney

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The Americans
Today’s Rock & Roll from Yesterday’s Best

Ryan Bingham told me last year, “There’s a group of guys out here that call themselves The Americans. Some of the best song writing I’ve heard in years.”

It’s strong praise indeed, however Bingham (with whom they have toured at least twice), is not alone in endorsing The Americans. They’ve worked with Lucinda Williams, Nick Cave, and Courtney Love. And after taking part in the PBS documentary American Epic (produced by T Bone Burnett, Jack White, and Robert Redford), T Bone Burnett is quoted as saying “The Americans are part of this group, these genius twenty-first century musicians that are reinventing American heritage music for this century. And it sounds even better this century.”

Describing themselves as “original rock & roll with deep roots in traditional American music,” they started out as a jug band; all of them experienced players of the relevant instruments. Over the years however they have shape-shifted into roots based rock and roll, with a taste of rockabilly. Transforming back into devotees of deep American roots when so inclined.

“We always have a banjo, mandolin, and fiddles with us on tour” frontman Patrick Ferris told me. “Everyone in the band can play the banjo. And we still get a chance to do it every now and then, as we did in American Epic … Those influences are sometimes overt, like when we put a banjo or a pump organ in a song, or the way Zac, Jake, and I fingerpick on electric guitar and bass.”

For the band however, there’s more to it than the style of playing, or the choice of instrument. We’re more influenced by the emotional quality of old records, those moments in old songs that we all love deeply, than by the aesthetics or the instrumentation, Ferris continued.”

Indeed, you don’t need to listen too meticulously to hear how the essence of the traditional music from those old records holds sway on the contemporary sound that the band is creating. “Zac and I spend a lot of our free time learning old fiddle tunes, whose melodies can work their way into our own when we’re writing” Ferris explained. We drive everyone crazy with it, especially on tour. We have two songs – “Bronze Star” and “Foreign Land” – whose melodies Zac actually wrote on the violin, in the style of old fiddle tunes. Those took a lot of work to even figure out where I was supposed to sing. Writing our new song “The Right Stuff”, we wanted the choruses to chug along like an accordion on an old Cajun record.”

“The Right Stuff” is the first single from their forthcoming album I’ll Be Yours. It will be their second album after 2013’s Home Recordings, and their self-titled EP released in 2010. “It’s the first proper studio album we’ve released” Ferris told me of the up-coming record. “We recorded the EP and Home Recordings ourselves, the first in a barn to 1/4″ tape, and the second with three microphones in Tim’s basement in LA. This was the first chance we had to really get things sounding the way we wanted.”

However, don’t let that put you off any of their previous releases. “We’ve always been highly particular about the way we record music” he was keen to point out. “The sounds we like are elusive, and we’re always trying new things to get there, whether it’s rewiring guitar amps or recording in unusual rooms. We love the organic sound you hear on some records – not necessarily achieved organically, but that give the impression of a loud band all playing in a room together. The new album is a step closer to whatever it was we had in mind back when we first started the band.”

That love for those elusive, organic sounds all started with old records and their passion for music grew. “We’d been friends a long time, discovering old-time and early rock and roll records together” recalled Ferris. They went on tour with their friend Cody, “who didn’t have a drum kit, but beat a small suitcase with a soup spoon. I think it went pretty well.” They toured all over the country, playing small town bars and rural honky tonks. “We’d worked up hours of material from obscure rockabilly/early rock & roll records,” Ferris continued. “We mixed them in with the few original songs we had.”

Ferris plays guitar and is the main man behind the microphone. He, like each of the band, has a fascinating pedigree to bring to the music they craft. It was his father who showed him his first chords. “Once I got interested in the old records I learned the harmonica, banjo, autoharp, and later the fiddle. I never had any lessons.” Believe it or not his first album was West Coast hip hop artist Warren G’s Regulate, and his interest in more traditional music developed later on. “I didn’t start listening to folk or blues until I picked up the guitar … I started playing guitar when I was fifteen or sixteen.”

Zac Sokolow plays guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin. His father is a musician and Sokolow has been playing music with him as long as he can remember. Indeed, nestling in YouTube is a video of Mr Sokolow senior, and a young Zac, performing together (“Let Me Fall”) from around 2000. “When I was about 11 years old I started getting more serious about playing the banjo and guitar,” Zac told me, “and pretty much stopped caring about doing anything else.” From playing bluegrass gigs as a youngster, to the Cajun and Zydeco dances he went to with his mother, then the high school rock bands, Sokolow’s musical path has led him directly to where he is today.

Drummer Tim Carr is another multi-instrumentalist, playing “piano and pump organ in the band (guitar and banjo when we perform traditional country blues and folk music).” The musically curious Carr “began studying jazz and performing in various ensembles at school. This led to my interest in older jazz and traditional folk music” he explained. “I continued my music education at California Institute of the Arts studying jazz and West African drumming. This is where I met Jake and he introduced me to the rest of the band.”

Jake Faulkner is the band’s upright bass player, as well as guitarist, mandolinist, jug player, “and can fake it on a banjo.” He studied at California Institute of the Arts, and his first band was called the Black Jack Gypsies. “I ran around with long hair, no shirt, a sarong, and Doc Martins yelling about restraining orders, the pullout method not working, and other unfunny notions that delighted me when I was 15.” Nowadays he tends to spend more time writing poetry and publishing it on his own publishing company, Saint Parade Publishing.

Song writing is a group effort. “We write a lot of music together, and I tend to write the words” Patrick Ferris explained. “Jake and I each wrote lyrics to one for the new album. I’d say we tend to focus on getting the most we can out of something we really like, letting that dictate the song, rather than settling on a form. Sometimes I’ll bring in something I’ve worked out on my own. Other times we arrange everything together and build songs around abstract pieces of music we’ve been working on.”

Nowadays, when they’re not performing in their own right, touring involves supporting artists like Ryan Bingham, who initially asked the band to join him on tour after hearing them perform at a party. Seems it was a tour with a steep learning curve for the young band. “The first time we stayed out all night with Ryan’s band, we watched in dismay as his tour bus pulled away in the morning, realizing they could sleep the whole way to Alabama, and we still had to make the drive.” Their own form of transport being “a hillbillied out ’99 Suburban with the upright bass on the roof and steer horns mounted to the front.”

To be fair though, the lessons from that tour weren’t all so hard. “We played for big crowds for the first time, and that changed our perspective across the board. We were impressed with the way his band’s rhythm section filled up a room. You learn a lot watching the same band play night after night.”

However, Ryan Bingham isn’t the band’s only fan, and their involvement in the documentary American Epic added a bevy of names to their list of admirers. American Epic quite literally reconstructs the story of the first music recordings in 1920s USA: a groundswell in which record companies travelled throughout the country, capturing the evolving musical cultures that founded so much of what we listen to today.

To make this possible, the documentary re-assembled the recording apparatus that was used at the time, and with microphones, amplifiers, and other equipment from the era, they recorded current artists straight onto wax, including Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Blind Boy Paxton, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, and many more. “Jack White and T Bone (Burnett) produced the sessions. We were there every day, backing up musicians and contributing to arrangements” Ferris told me. And in being so instrumental to the making of the documentary, he was in prime position to explain how it all functioned.

“The filmmakers reconstructed from original parts the 1920s Western Electric amplifier and Scully lathe, which revolutionized the recording industry at that time. No one had used the equipment since the 1930s, and our job was to make the first recording on it since then, preparing ourselves for the film. Later Elton John, Jack White, Nas, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Beck, and Alabama Shakes would try their hands at it, but we got to go first.”

“Once the sessions were underway, we functioned as the house band, backing up various artists and suggesting songs for them to the filmmakers” he continued. “We did a song with the country singer Ashley Monroe (a descendent of the Carter Family and Bill Monroe), and the Detroit soul singer Bettye LaVette. Zac (Sokolow) played with Ana Gabriel, and Jake(Faulkner) must be the only human to ever play the jug behind Nas, for his version of a Memphis Jug Band song that we recommended.”

The Americans new album, I’ll Be Yours, is due for release later this year. The album returns them to 2016. They’ve shape-shifted back into the modern-day rock and roll band, writing contemporary music of their time, incorporating the kernel of their traditional roots, enhancing their rock and roll credentials with the “emotional quality” of music made generations earlier.

Their tour continues through August and September. Keep an eye on for info.


Jay Ward & Dogbrain Music:
The Great Wide
Blue Dog EP
 Jay Ward sawed, soldered and screwed together his Dogbrain Music studio from scratch a few decades back, a stone’s throw away from Edgar Allen Poe rock near the Hudson River in NYC. Some exceptional talent (including Roberta Flack, Richard Julian, Scout, Everett Bradley) came through the studio and furthered his education, but it was a session with Dave Tronzo that stoked his passion for the slide guitar and cemented the dogbrain sound. Since then it’s been an integral part of his musical landscape.
When not in the studio or fiddling about locally Jay might be found rebuilding his catboat accompanied by his faithful companion Miss Beans. Did I mention he love for dogs has given birth to 2 CDs of dog music for dogs (alright, for us, too?). He is also prone to chasing his own imaginary tail.
Blue Dog for purchase on CD baby and on iTunes, amazon, etc:

Terra Lightfoot – Every Time My Mind Runs Wild

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Terra Lightfoot
Every Time My Mind Runs Wild
Sonic Unyon SUN CD 1542

A Dazzling and Impressive Slice of Rocking Canadiacana.

Well indeed!
Never pre-judge an album by the cover; to paraphrase Grandma Magpie.
As I’d not previously heard of Ms. Lightfoot; but trusted the source that sent this album this disc was in the A-List pile to review; but was still picked it at random from that ever growing box.
I was fully expecting to hear a lithesome voice singing well crafted and intelligent acoustic style songs……how wrong was I?
The cool Bluesy guitar intro to first song All along made my ears prick up; and then when Terra Lightfoot’s deeply rich voice punched it’s way from the office speakers I was forced to sit back in my seat and listen…intently.
I have to tell you that first hour was time well spent; even if I didn’t get the spreadsheet written on time.
Oh Lordy….track 3, Never Will is an absolute joy to behold; jangly and tight guitars licks over a punchy rhythm section as Terra out rocks the big boys as she sings her heart out; stretching those golden vocal chords in the nicest possible way.
Terra’s songwriting is quite exceptional at times; try listening to the sweet acoustic ballad Emerald Eyes or the tightly wrapped Home To You; and hear a songwriter discovering her own talent and gently passing it on to the world at large.
While most of the album is up-tempo and loud; showcasing Terra’s exceptional guitar playing alongside her ‘band’ Matthew Fleming on bass, Joel Haynes on drums and keyboardist Liam O’Neil, Terra sounds just as comfortable on the slow and moody Splinter that closes the disc; where all you hear are her voice and some simple, but impressive piano, allowing the words to seep deep into your heart.
Even now, a week after first hearing the album I’m struggling for a ‘Best in Show,’ but if I must; I will point you towards the head down, feet apart Rocker….No Hurry; which sounds like a Melissa Etheridge/Runaways/Lucinda Williams hybrid of the very highest order and is currently sitting between Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire and Wild Horses by the Stones on my ‘Summer Driving’ playlist for the car.
Every Time My Mind Runs Wild is one of those rare albums that can be listened to in the car or in the back garden or more importantly in a room full of people that you want to impress with your musical taste.
While I’m using the word ‘rock’ a bit too much; Terra’s style transcends normal musical boundaries; or at least those I was expecting; as there are huge dollops of Blues washing over a Country Rock Ethic, while her voice could easily be that over a Memphis Soul Singer covering the best songs that Americana has to offer.

Released August 26th 2016

Martha Fields – Southern White Lies

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Martha Fields
Southern White Lies

Our Favourite Franco-Texan Goes Back To Her Roots With Style And Passion.

Thankfully Martha Fields has been in regular contact with the Rocking Magpie since the release of her previous album Long Way From Home; under a completely different guise Texas Martha and the House of Twang; or else I would never have guessed this was by the same artist.
While that album was a veritable Twangfest; straight from the Jukebox in the coolest Honky Tonk in Countryville; Martha or Marty to her friends; has de-Twanged her sound and dug deep into her Texas Roots; and not through rose coloured glasses…that’s for sure.
A delightful acoustic guitar and fiddle open the first track Soul on the Move before Martha’s world weary and lived in voice oozes out of the speaker like maple syrup laced with moonshine.
The song itself is very deep works on many levels; be you a musician, a teenager on a gap year or someone just getting older and missing their youth.
Songs like this are the reason I always choose the opening track to begin my reviews; it pretty much tells you what to expect; but in this instance Marty has set the benchmark very high for herself….can she keep up the quality?
Of course she can!
Next out of the blocks is Dead End and it’s as dark as Southern Gothic writing gets; and at times had me gripping the arm rest on my seat; all you need to know that the chorus goes along the lines of “I should hate you but I don’t/I should hate you but I won’t!”
I won’t do a ‘song by song’ appraisal fore all that’s tempting; but I will give you the absolute highlights; Hard Times is one of the few up-tempo songs here and one of the finest, with Marty singing about a battered wife; and with a title like that it’s not a fun sing-song even if it is to a danceable tune. It’s just occurred to me that it’s a song that Loretta Lynn would be proud of.
The thread of Lonesome Road Blues goes back to that opening track; but this time Marty virtually spits out the lyrics with a red hot banjo picking away in the background alongside a tub thumping rhythm section in the shadows.
On many other albums this would be my favourite track; but it barely makes the Top 5 here!
Not for the first time the title of ‘Favourite Song’ is a tie; but this time between THREE SONGS!
The saddest song on a very sad album is What Good Can Drinking Do? While most of us like a drink; this is a tale of a woman whose weekend begins on Thursday and doesn’t stop until there’s no money or drink left. Martha’s descriptive way with words is quite remarkable at times; and you too will be able to picture this ‘good time girl having a good time.’ #SadFace
Yet again you can listen to Do As You Are Told on many levels; as this story of a feisty woman trying to live an independent life; but struggles her whole life.
“Do as you are told girl/Thinking’s men’s business/Do as you are told/If you want to live a long life/Don’t be so bold;’ is timeless and all too lamentably still running true today in 2016.
The joint winner is the title track Southern White Lies and; well it’s stunning look at her Texas homeland through the eyes of someone who no longer lives there and can see through the cracks. It’s a song so powerful in it’s observations many people will actually hate it; but they will either be tourists or the people born with a ‘silver spoon;’ but I’m pretty sure that the people at the bottom or even middle of the pile will recognise many things here; and will thank Marty for opening the wound.
For what it’s worth I think the song will resonate with people all over the USA in the run up to the Election; and also people in a similar position around the globe.
I listen to a lot of music; too much at times and it’s becoming increasingly rare for me to keep coming back to an album, to listen to for pleasure….if that’s what I can call it; but that’s one of the reasons I missed the original release date; I was too busy listening to the music.

Release August 19th 2016

Todd Rundgren – “An Evening With Todd Rundgren – Live At The Ridgefield”

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“An Evening With Todd Rundgren – Live At The Ridgefield”

Todd Rundgren
Cleopatra Records

Rock Legend Releases Live Album Featuring A Lifetimes Work.

A Wizard, A True Star, the title of his 1973 solo album, aptly sums up the contributions of this multi-faceted artist to state-of-the-art music. As a songwriter, video pioneer, producer, recording artist, computer software developer, conceptualist, and interactive artist, Rundgren has made a lasting impact on both the form and content of popular music. He had produced more than fifty records for other artists, including Hall & Oates, Cheap Trick, Patti Smith, XTC, Grand Funk Railroad, The Band, and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell.

Recorded live at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, Connecticut on December 15, 2015, Rundgren’s new release includes some of his best known songs including “Hello It’s Me”, “I Saw The Light” and “Bang The Drum”. Plus, hear/watch fan favourites that haven’t been performed live in decades, including songs from TR’s unforgettable Utopia and Nazz anthems.

The set list consists of milestone Rundgren classics taken from his rich back catalogue, including songs from the albums “Something/Anything” (1972), “A Wizard, a True Star” (1973), “Faithful” (1976), “Hermit of Mink Hollow” (1978), “The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect”(1982), “A Cappella”(1985), “2nd Wind” (1991), “One Long Year” (2000), “Liars” (2004), “Global” (2015), plus key cuts from the Utopia albums “Oops! Wrong Planet” (1977), “Swing To The Right” (1982) and “POV” (1985), as well as from the first two albums by Todd’s seminal 60’s band The Nazz (1968 and 1969).

Released August 26th 2016

The Young Fables – TWO

young fables

The Young Fables
Hope Tree Records

Contemporary Country Songs Dripping With Cool Guitar and Raw Emotion.

Whenever I try to watch the CMA or AMA Award Shows I have no idea what Country Music is any more. OK the guys may wear huge Stetsons, Levis and Cowboy Boots; but the music owes more to AC/DC than Hank Williams and the Ladies of Country all sound the same; and that’s not in a good way!
Thank the Lord for the next generation!
Hardly a week goes by without a disc falling on the mat featuring youngsters (well, under 30’s) quoting Hank, Dolly and Gram as influences; and by Golly Gosh there’s hardly a bad record among them.
The Young Fables, Laurel Wright and Wes Lunsford have appeared into my world from nowhere; but they have put the miles and hours in homing their combined talents before releasing this, their debut album….and it shows.
The opening track Better Hand is a real attention grabber; with some funky banjo leading into Laurel’s delightful Tennessean tones on a will he/won’t he love me song; which sets the bar very high for what follows.
Taking the Traditional Country template that I (and hopefully you) love; Laurel pours her pretty little heart out on Completely and the cleverly worded Bed of Roses and when she sings I Love Him Too; there won’t be a dry eye in the house.
Unlike those Country Rockers that I mentioned in the opening paragraph; Wes Lunsford compliments the singer with some amazing yet restrained guitar playing that’s reminiscent of those early Vince Gill albums.
Mostly ballads; and that’s a good thing, The Young Fables slide in a couple of Rockers like Worse and September; but both only come in at 6.5 on the Rocking Richter Scale.
Mrs. Magpie are both smitten with this album; so the title of Best/Favourite song will have to a tie with Mrs. M going for the swinging Two, which is about the duo getting together but my wife says it could be about us too (Bless her!).
Me? It has to be the album closer A Lifetime; another love song where Laurel sounds as if her life depends on getting her message across.
Country Music is very much alive and well with acts like The Young Fables breathing fresh life into it on a daily basis.

Released USA February 2016
Released UK July 2016