The Rocking Magpie

rm logo 1

Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – an Internet home for my thoughts and musings on a variety of music, be it 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; and receive music from the UK, 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 the reviews of CD Reviews as soon after 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 albums and gigs that interest me; but primarily you will read EXCLUSIVE reviews of all things Country, Folk, Blues, Ska, Punk and indeed all things 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.

As of September 2016 we have ‘followers’ in 26 countries around the World who receive e-mail updates when reviews are posted; plus my data tell me readers from 106 countries have actually visited the site!

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

BLINK-182 SEVEN Album Vinyl Box Set


SEVEN Album Vinyl Box Set
All Six Studio Albums PLUS an EXCLUSIVE Live Record

Since their humble beginnings twenty-four years ago, when they started playing in a San Diego garage, Blink-182 has sold over fifty million albums worldwide and rocked audiences from Adelaide to Zurich having become one of the defining rock bands of their generation. The trio of bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus, guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker, emerged from the Southern California pop-punk scene of the early ‘90s and quickly gained a reputation for their raucous live shows, incredibly catchy songs and irreverent, tongue-in-cheek humor. Blink-182’s latest studio release, California, with new member Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio who replaced DeLonge, debuted at #1 in July, giving the band their second career #1 album and first in 15 years.
UMG will bring Blink-182’s entire Universal catalogue together for the first time as a limited edition vinyl box set on October 7. The 10-LP collection will include their six studio albums on heavyweight 180-gram vinyl complete with MP3 downloads and consist of 1995’s Cheshire Cat, 1997’s Dude Ranch, 1999’s Enema Of The State and 2001’s Take Off Your Pants And Jacket on single LPs and 2003’s blink-182, 2011’s Neighborhoods and their riotous live record, 2000’s The Mark, Tom & Travis Show: The Enema Strikes Back!, as double LPs.
A limited number of the vinyl boxes will come with exclusive stickers and a slipmat, only available at uDiscover: here. All titles will also be made available individually as “Back To Black” releases.

# Recorded over two nights at L.A.’s Universal Amphitheatre and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco in November 1999 by producer Jerry Finn, The Mark, Tom & Travis Show: The Enema Strikes Back!, released in 2000, captured the band in the midst of their meteoric rise as they enjoyed their first-ever arena tour. The high-energy set showcases songs from across their three studio albums with a focus on Enema Of The State which they were on tour supporting. A handful of songs – “Family Reunion,” “The Country Song,” “Blow Job,” – were songs made up on tour and only played at the shows. The album features one non-live track, “Man Overboard,” which was written during the Enema sessions and recorded after the tour. Released as the album’s lead single, it peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. The record debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 110,000 copies its first week. The fourth side of the vinyl release, titled “Words of Wisdom,” closes out the album with 29 “skits,” examples of some of the wild between-song patter by DeLonge and Hoppus that has distinguished the band for its fans.


1. Carousel
2. M+M’s
3. Fentoozler
4. Touchdown Boy
5. Strings
6. Peggy Sue
7. Sometimes
8. Does My Breath Smell?


2. TV
3. Toast and Bananas
4. Wasting Time
5. Romeo and Rebecca
6. Ben Wah Balls
7. Just About Done
8. Depends



1. Pathetic
2. Voyeur
3. Dammit
4. Boring
5. Dick Lips
6. Waggy
7. Enthused
8. Untitled


1. Apple Shampoo
2. Emo
3. Josie
4. A New Hope
5. Degenerate
6. Lemmings
7. I’m Sorry/Dog Lapping



1. Dumpweed
2. Don’t Leave Me
3. Aliens Exist
4. Going Away to College
5. What’s My Age Again?
6. Dysentery Gary


1. Adam’s Song
2. All the Small Things
3. The Party Song
4. Mutt
5. Wendy Clear
6. Anthem



1. Dumpweed
2. Don’t Leave Me
3. Aliens Exist
4. Family Reunion
5. Going Away to College
6. What’s My Age Again?
7. Dick Lips
8. Blow Job


1. Untitled
2. Voyeur
3. Pathetic
4. Adam’s Song
5. Peggy Sue


1. Wendy Clear
2. Carousel
3. All the Small Things
4. Mutt
5. The Country Song
6. Dammit
7. Man Overboard


“Words of Wisdom”: 29 hidden tracks documenting Mark and Tom’s on-stage banter



1. Anthem Part Two
2. Online Songs
3. First Date
4. Happy Holidays You Bastard\
5. Story of a Lonely Guy
6. The Rock Show
7. Stay Together for the Kids

1. Roller Coaster
2. Reckless Abandon
3. Every Time I Look for You
4. Give Me One Good Reason
5. Shut Up
6. Please Take Me Home

BLINK-182 (2003)


1. Feeling This
2. Obvious
3. I Miss You
4. Violence
5. Stockholm Syndrome Interlude

1. Down
2. The Fallen Interlude
3. Go
4. Asthenia
5. Always


1. Easy Target
2. All of This
3. Here’s Your Letter
4. I’m Lost Without You



1. Ghost on the Dance Floor
2. Natives
3. Up All Night


1. After Midnight
2. Snake Charmer
3. Heart’s All Gone Interlude
4. Heart’s All Gone


1. Wishing Well
2. Kaleidoscope
3. This Is Home
4. MH.4.18.2011


1.Love Is Dangerous
2. Fighting the Gravity
3. Even If She Falls

Released October 7th 2016


The Mavericks – All Night LIVE (Vol 1)


The Mavericks
All Night LIVE Vol 1
Mono Mundo Recordings

Possibly The Best Party In The World!

I’ve seen Raul Malo play live several time including with a Symphony Orchestra and the Mavericks; in all their pomp and glory twice; so to some degree I’ve been waiting for this album for several years.
There’s no disguising that this is the Mavericks from the swinging trademark instrumental intro to All Night Long; and when Raul Malo’s distinctive voice sweeps from the stereo after about a minute I knew that all was well with the world and the next hour and a half was going to be as good as music gets…..and I was correct.
Perhaps because The Mavericks actually had worldwide hits on the Pop Charts they don’t appear to be given the laurels that their music; and indeed success deserves, but I defy anyone to listen to All Over Again or Fall Apart and not tap a toe or shake a hip….I am doing both sitting at my desk!
It’s all too easy to think that the band are just a back-up for Malo; but when you see them live, or listen on this disc you realise the sum of the parts are very much equal to the total….with guitarist Eddie Perez showing from start to finish what an accomplished and underrated guitarist he is, and always has been. He can do ‘flashy’ when required….his solo on Come To Me is staggering in its intensity and quality but throughout he just adds flourishes of colour that embellish the songs in a way very few, if any can achieve.
But, the true trademark sound that defines The Mavericks is the rhythmic powerhouse drumming of founder member Paul Deakin and the coolest accordion player in the world, Mr. Michael Guerra, who alongside the Tex-Mex bass section form a flexible and unbreakable spine for the songs that Malo sings to take on a life of their own.
Obviously some of the Hits are here in all their glory, with Dance in The Moonlight taking it back to the sweaty Miami Saturday night it was originally meant to represent and Back In Your Arms Again; a personal favourite certainly doesn’t disappoint as the brass section even adds a bit of Ska to their playing if I’m not mistaken. That Ska chunka-chunka beat make a fulsome appearance later when the band let rip on I Said I Love You. A song I wasn’t familiar with, but one Mrs. Magpie and I now love!
That’s the joy of this album, there is surprise after surprise with songs like Stories We Could Tell, reminding me of the Big Bands my mother loved years ago, and Every Little Thing You Do showcases Malo at his crooning best.
But, the biggest surprise of all is the inclusion of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. The opening bars piqued my interest but Guerra’s mournful accordion threw me off the scent; but this interpretation sounds like the song could actually have been written with the Mavericks in mind, not just an old hippy with an acoustic guitar.
The album, and party comes to an explosive end with the scintillating Come Unto Me, which showcases the talents of each musician then the gears are cranked up for We’re Waiting For The World To End, by which time band and audience must surely all have been exhausted but smiling like idiots.
After 25 years ‘in the business’ the Mavericks have had their collective ups and downs; but this Live album (Vol 1?) points to a bunch of guys who aren’t going to fade away gracefully….and nor should they.

Released October 14th 2016

Michael Hearne & Shake Russell- Only as Strong as Your Dreams


Michael Hearne & Shake Russell
Only as Strong as Your Dreams
Howlin’ Dog Records

Laid Back Troubadours Strumming on a Porch.

I only discovered the delights of Michael Hearne’s music last week and now I can’t stop listening to this album with his long time friend and cohort Shake Russell.
By nature I prefer louder, punchier music but every so often I need to kick back and relax listening to good, old fashioned acoustic music; and it doesn’t get finer than this.
The Twangtastic I Got News For You opens the disc with Shake taking the lead and Michael and guitarist Don Richmond providing layer upon layer of harmonies. An up-tempo toe-tapping tune; by the standards of what follows and a wonderful way to start the record.
Michael Hearne follows with I Heart Texas, a soft and slightly ‘tongue in cheek’ ode to his home state, through the eyes and words of a weary musician who is down on his luck and returns home to sing Van Zandt and Guy Clark songs to ‘cowgirls who dance at old Gruene Hall, the Broken Spoke or at a Cowtown Ball,’ in a way too many musicians will feel is a familiar story.
During research for the previous album a song called The Girl Just Loves to Dance turned up on YouTube and instantly became a bit of a favourite; and it turns up here as a pleasing duet between Hearne and Russell, as an almost Hawaiian pedal-steel cuts through the waltz time tune like razor; making it a definite favourite at RMHQ.
Irish Prayer is a bit of an oddity as it is exactly that; with Hearne and Russell taking it in turns to lament over a maudlin Irish fiddle and some soft Celtic instruments in the background. It shouldn’t, but it fits in perfectly with the rest of the authentically Western acoustic songs.
By the time I got to You Make The Blues Feel Like a Sunny Day and This is What Happy Is; the penny dropped that, while neither singers are anything like him, but the tone and mood of this album takes me right back to the time I first discovered JJ Cale.
While the closing track Ballad of the Snow Leopard and the Tanqueray Cowboy may have a long and convoluted title; its a beautiful and deep song sung with grace and ease by Russell; with Hearne complimenting him with rich harmonies in the background.
And then there is the title track; a song that took me by surprise when I first heard it. Only As Strong As Your Dreams is exactly what the title suggests and the lyrics are both intelligent and beautiful in equal measures.
I’m sure Michael and Shake put an inordinate amount of time and effort into producing these songs; the end result sounds like a bunch of friends sitting around a front porch on a sunny Sunday afternoon just picking and singing for fun and beer.

Released USA March 2016
Released Europe August 2016

Michael Hearne – Red River Dreams


Michael Hearne
Red River Dreams
Howlin Dog Records

Delightfully Laid Back Country Infused Americana.

Michael Hearne? Me neither; but yet again my Swedish friends at Hemifran have come up trumps again with another album by someone destined to become my new favourite singer of the moment. I will start with the album cover; who reading this wouldn’t pic a CD out of the rack featuring a man in a big white cowboy hat and a well manicured greying beard? Not many I guess. The title track Red River Dreams opens the album like a warm summer breeze. Hearne’s light and charming voice reminded me straight away of John Denver and even Don Gibson; and the song itself is absolutely delightful. By track #3 Magic it felt like kicking off a tight pair of leather shoes and paddling in a mountain stream, as Hearne gently sings about the ‘magic of a Tennessee night’ conjuring up more romantic images than a tour guide could ever imagine. The pace eventually picks up to ‘stroll mode’ on The Highway Is a Friend of Mine; as Hearne really, really picks his guitar, showing why he has been singing and playing on stages since the age of 7 many years ago. With an album like this it is all too easy to just settle back and let it all drift over you; but that would be a mistake as you would miss the marvelous nuances in the lyrics of The Drunken Lady of the Morning and later Lesson to be Learned From Love; both of which brought a tear to the corner of my eye. The album closes with two disparate songs that will probably be in the collections of everyone; but define Michael Hearne’s style and taste. The Texan adds some sweet pedal-steel and tricky acoustic guitar to Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain and this followed by the album closer Return of the Grievous Angel. A song I have sadly heard being publicly murdered many time over the years; Michael Hearne doesn’t add or take away very much; but his voice manages to bring this classic up to date as a Country/Americana crossover, making me smile from start to finish. It took a couple of plays before the ‘penny dropped’ as to who the subject of June 25, 2009 was about….and, boy what a subject for a Country singer to write about….the effect the death of Michael Jackson had on him! A clever and very interesting song and subject that sits very comfortably with everything else here; which is the sign of a very good songwriter. My favourite song though; and one that probably defines Red River Dreams more than any other is Back in the Day. Okay; the subject is a staple of Country Music; but this song has stuck in my head days after last playing the disc. There’s nothing fancy about this album, and nor does it feature an array of famous guest stars (although RMHQ favourite Kelley Mickwee does provide harmonies on a couple of songs), but it’s an album you dream of finding in a record store in the middle of nowhere; and it will go on to never be far from the top of your pile of music to play on a sunny day.
Released July 2016


Monday Video Sean McConnell -Holy Days

Sean McConnell
Holy Days
Rounder Records

Nashville songwriter Sean McConnell releases the single and video ‘Holy Days’ ahead of the physical release of his new self-titled album on 30th September 2016. The album, his debut for Rounder Records, marks a personal and professional breakthrough – a career-defining record, with McConnell ready for prime time, yet still blessed with all the soulfulness and reflective storytelling for which he is already respected and admired.

McConnell has an impressive resume of writing credits over the past few years, writing songs for artists including Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Buddy Miller, Rascal Flatts, Wade Bowen, Brothers Osborne, Martina McBride, the Eli Young Band, David Nail and many others; with a few songs also being featured on the smash hit television show ‘Nashville’.

The album ‘Sean McConnell’ will be released in the UK & Europe on 30th September. Sean will be performing in London as part of the Texas Music Takeover, from Nov 28th – Dec 5th 2016.

Video of the week…Aaron Keylock – Against The Grain


Aaron Keylock
Against the Grain (7″ Vinyl)
Mascot Label

A bit noisy by normal standards; but I rather like this feisty debut single by Aaron Keylock.

You will be able to pick up the limited 7” vinyl single when Aaron is on tour from October to December with Wilko Johnson & Joanne Shaw Taylor and then for the Planet Rock Roadstars tour with SIMO and Federal Charm.

Released October 6th 2016

Joe Bonamassa – Live at the Greek Theatre DVD/CD


Joe Bonamassa
Live at the Greek Theatre
Provogue Records/Mascot Label

The Crown Prince of the Blues Pays Tribute to The Three Kings in Style.

Only a handful of years ago I too was a Bonamassa detractor; ‘not getting’ his style and why he had legions of fans who would sell a lung to purchase a ticket for one of his shows.
Yet I think I am being worn down by his continues onslaught of releases and I may just be becoming a ‘fan’.
Most artists only release live albums when they are going through some kind of ‘creative block;’ not Joe Bonamassa…..he just keeps getting great ideas for a themed tour and then releasing the obligatory tour documentary to his ever hungry; and ever growing fan base.
Knowing a little about his history I guess it was only a matter of time before Joe actually made an album of songs by Albert, Freddie and of course BB King; all three of whom he has waxed lyrical over the years and from whom his style of playing was originally based on.
While this concert is being released as a double CD and Triple LP, I’m actually reviewing the DVD, but the songs are al exactly the same.
The DVD opens with the famed TV footage of schoolboy Joe playing alongside the Master and BB saying what a talent the lad has; but fr me I loved the sequence of the slightly precocious kid in class…..thank the Lord there is no similar footage of me at that age. Bonamassa is a brave man showing this at the beginning of the DVD.
With no physical intro the concert opens with a scintillating version of Freddie King’s See See Baby which owes a lot to the original; but like everything else here JB puts his own inimitable stamp on every note.
The usual suspects make up Bonamassa’s amazing band, with the addition of an amazing trio of female backing singers who can harmonise like angels; but belt out a chorus like the Devil is behind them when necessary too.
To some degree the concert/album comes in two parts with the first half rolling along very nicely indeed; with Going Down and I Get Evil being stand out track; but once JB and band tear into Let the Good Times Roll the party really gets started, with JB and band proving that individually they are all expert musicians but collectively……there may not be anyone today who can match them! (Discuss)
One of the latter highlights is the lesser known BB King song Nobody Loves Me But My Mother; where JB really, really shows what a great guitarist he is and the girls behind him very, nearly steal the show with their soulful interactions.
But; surprise surprise, the best is kept for last with JB’s voice never sounding finer than on Born Under a Bad Sign which meticulously leads into a brave reworking of The Thrill Is Gone…..which takes nothing away from the masterpiece of the original; but pays homage to a man who taught many of us what the Blues is and where it came from.
I’m not sure if it’s the editing; I doubt it but there is next to no interaction between songs apart from when Bonamassa thanks everyone for attending the show and why he is so thrilled to finally play the iconic venue after only 13 albums and 30 years, despite living close by!

As expected there is a bonus DVD featuring an interview with his proud parents, a warts n all behind the scenes documentary and my favourite thing here (but I’m a photo geek!) a look at Christie Goodwin’s photos documenting the event.

Released September 23rd 2016


Red Sky July – Voyager


Red Sky July
Shadowbirds Records

Hauntingly Good Harmony Drenched British Americana.

I’ve never understood why some ‘major’ record labels choose keep music back from the public. Most artists I know are prolific songwriters and it’s only because of the shortage of money why they, themselves have to wait an inordinate time to go into the studio.
So now we are in the Internet age and worldwide ‘marketing budgets’ are out the window; it’s a joy that Red Sky July have recorded 5 brand new songs only a couple of months after the release of their last full album.
Opening track House of Cards is very much trademark Red Sky July with it’s rolling guitar; but the sparse arrangement and honeyed harmonies seem like a great leap forward to my ears. There’s more than a hint of ‘Folk’ to the arrangement rather than the Modern Country sound that we’ve come to expect; but that’s only an aside as the song is hauntingly beautiful
1972 Onwards is a lot more closer to The Truth and The Lie; as this semi-autobiographical of Shelly Poole’s teenage years takes us on a hypnotic sub-Fleetwood Mac journey, with the singer gliding in and out of her memories with the greatest of ease; and the line ‘I always wanted to be Amelia Earhart/without the never coming back part’ is a definite keeper.
Next up is Like My Man; a co-write with Kimmie Rhodes and Beth Nielsen Chapman backstage at Glastonbury….. fancy that? The song is worthy of all their combined talents and Ally McErlaine’s flimsy guitar playing in the background makes a very good song; outstanding.
Another song that made me think of Fleetwood Mac is the sublime title track Voyager; but think Stevie Nicks and Chrissie McVie singing over a Peter Green out-take. Yes; I know but it really is that good.
The short mini-album closes with the epic The Longest Time; which sadly; I can take or leave.
But…..even though I am new to Red Sky July What Are We Doing Here quite possibly could be the best song they’ve ever recorded. The crystal clear production brings out the very best in Shelly and Charity’s beautiful voices while McErlaine provides some subtly stinging guitar in the background.
What’s not to like?
Not the happiest songs you will ever hear; but when played late at night; preferably in a dark shadowy room these songs will fill all of your senses at once and force to to choose ‘auto-repeat’.

Released September 16th 2016

Clara Bond – Out Of Towners (EP)


Clara Bond
Out Of Towners (EP)

Heartbreaking and Heart-stopping British Country-Pop

Less than 5 years ago British Country Music was sneered at by the likes of me as it was generally a Pop Covers band singing songs only deemed fit for Line-Dancing; or else it was ex-pat Irish crooners crooning the life out of the songs you and I love.
Not now though; and the good news is that not only is the current wave of British born and bred Country singers and bands very talented; they are all very young indeed; which bodes well for the future.
Which brings us to the latest EP from Devon lass Clara Bond. As expected she has a long back story that includes the obligatory cover songs on YouTube; but that is the way people learn their skills these days and Clara has served her apprenticeship well.
This four track disc kicks off with the bitter-sweet title track; Out of Towners, a truish story based on events that occurred during her first visit to Nashville. It may not have ended as well as she’d hoped; but at least she got a cracking song out of it!
Although from her own pen; Love Can’t Stay is straight outta Music Row and just may be about the same fool in the previous song. Her whip sharp backing band somehow manage to stay restrained as Clara pours her little heart out in under 3 and a half minutes.
The disc closes with the gentle ballad Flashbacks which will probably be something of a tearjerker when sung live.
Then there is Tambourine. Wow! In a very competitive market this is a contender for Song of the Year; even if its in the British Country Category. This is an excellent slice of waltz time Country and when I first heard Clara purr, “You could play my heart like a tambourine” I let out a huge sigh and my knees when weak.
Radio friendly? Hell yes!
In theory this EP is at the Commercial end of what I like; but sometimes I need a bit of ‘nice music’ in my life; and Clara Bond supplies that by the Stetson full.

Released September 19th 2016

Grit – New Car (EXCLUSIVE)


New Car (single)
Bodan Kuma Recordings

Fire, Brimstone and more than a little bit of passion!

I know next to nothing about LA band Grit apart from them being fronted by the delectable Kat Meoz; but this new single “New Car,” arrived this morning and I can’t stop playing it!
New Car is taken their forthcoming self-titled debut EP this is full-throttle beer and adrenaline fueled punchy Punk Rock that has swept me back to those sweaty nights in the KU Club listening to the likes of X-Ray Specs, Adverts and of course the Sex Pistols!
B-Side LA Don’t Love Ya, has a similar punky edge to it; although Kat sounds a lot more like an angry Pat Benatar here, and I can easily visualize the guitarist(s)with their low-slung guitars and grimaces ala Sid Vicious banging out these machine gun like chords.
What’s not to like? Can’t wait for that EP to make it’s way across the Atlantic.

Released September 13th 2016