The Rocking Magpie

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Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a box-room on the Internet for one man and a couple of his friend’s thoughts and musings on a variety of music, be it CD’s, Gigs, books or the occasional DVD – usually; but not exclusively based around all things Americana and Roots; because I love R&B, Ska, Reggae, Soul and all things Mod too.

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

Me? I live in the North East of England; but receive music from around the world….most noticeably  the UK, USA and Canada and our readership reflects this, with followers in over 100 countries across all 4 continents ; plus my data tell me that ‘occasional visitors’ from 148 countries have actually visited the site this year alone; which is mind-blowing when you think about it.

My priority, will of course be bringing you reviews of music that has actually been listened to and appreciated in one way or anothernot just the regurgitation of a Press Release like too many other websites.

Dig deep into the site; as the bonus is a myriad of my old reviews (400+), some dating back to 2010 which really are a snapshot in time – some I got bang on, others I raved about yet the album and artist still drifted into musical obscurity.

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

Press the like/follow button for irregular postings of reviews that you can be read in the comfort of your own home…or workplace, or the train or the loo (or wherever the case may be).

FAO Bands, singers and PR’s…….like all other writers and bloggers I put an inordinate amount of time into these reviews; so please, please, please promote them on your websites, social media and the telephone ……they do actually lead to SALES….I have written proof!!!!

Alan aka The Rocking Magpie

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

Tami Neilson CHICKABOOM!

Tami Nielsen
Chickaboom!
Outside Music

Dynamic Next Step in an Exciting and Colourful Career.

A colourful and dynamic live performer, the challenge for Tami Neilson is to encapsulate that vivacity in the recorded medium.
Opener “Call your mama” is a song that wouldn’t sound amiss performed by the Cramps, although here the production is much more mainstream and shows off Tami’s Wanda Jackson-esque pipes nicely.
“Hey Bus Driver!” and “Ten Truck” are united in their transport fetishism – again the production focuses on highlighting the vocals, which leaves the backing lacking in a scuzzy or extravagant edge that the songs might have benefited from.
“You were mine” delights in a twangy and spacey sound and this is complemented by a howling vocal that really lifts it. This convergence of instrumental and vocal aggression in the production shines again in “16 Miles of Chain” and “Tell me that you love me”.
“Any fool with a heart” is a lovely tune, but the production doesn’t seem to know whether to focus on the harmonies or the rhythm guitar. (personally, I’d have gone for the harmonies.)
“Sister Mavis” is a name-check song that has the kind of call and response suited for the live arena, but sounds a bit repetitive in recorded form.
The album closes with “Sleep”, where the vocal/instrumental balance really works to best effect.
Overall, an album best played loud to get the best of it.

Guest Review by Nick Barber
Released 14th February 2020
http://www.tamineilson.com/

Ajay Srivastav KARMIC BLUES

Ajay Srivastav
KARMIC BLUES
Self-Release

Creative Delta Blues/Indian Music Hybrid That is Amazingly Commercial.

I genuinely have every sympathy for the myriad of artists that not only have to find time to make glorious music; but then for fiscal reasons find themselves having to promote it themselves. If I think I’m inundated with new music; imagine what the likes of Uncut, Maverick etc receive on a daily basis, so how do they get heard?
But; sometime the stars align and instead of falling through the cracks an e-mail or CD captures my attention for no apparent reason apart from ‘fate’.
This is one such album.
Normally I would automatically dismiss something released over six months ago …….. but there was something in Ajay’s e-mail that made me want to give his music a listen ……… and you too.
Before I go any further; don’t roll your eyes when I tell you Ajay blends Delta Blues with his native Indian Folk Music on these songs …… trust me here; imagine George Harrison’s solo work filtered through Paul McCartney’s melodies and Ry Cooder’s last few albums.
There’s a distinct ‘Mystical quality’ to the beautiful opening track Namaste, which blends traditional Indian instrumentation with some Delta Blues sensibilities in the charming lyrics on a delightful love song.
As soon as I heard it; I knew that I would be in for the long haul.
Yer actual Blues really does shine through on My Illusion; so much so I can’t tell if that’s a Resonator guitar or sitar …… or both; and the song is rather lovely too.
That’s the joy of this album; there’s so much going on but mostly because of Srivastav’s delightfully ‘commercial’ voice even Mrs. Magpie was spotted nodding along when she was reading the Sunday Papers.
I love it when a song can make me go “OH!” and then press repeat; and that’s Six Armed Goddess. Now I don’t know how this love song; using the Hindu Goddess Kali as a metaphor will play out in the sub-Continent; but it’s a contender for Favourite Song status at RMHQ.
Now I’ve been playing this album for a week, I’m standing firmly on my Harrison/McCartney imagery; because apart from Ravi Shankar and the Indie band Cornershop I have no other reference for Indian music; although there’s nothing here really that could be defined as World Music; although Indian instrumentation and allusions are at the heart of the title track Karmik Blues and songs like Home and then Third Eye too; but to the untrained ear, you could easily guess that you were hearing orchestral stringed instruments anyways.
From start to finish this is a very ‘easy on the ear’ album; ideal for a Sunday morning or perhaps even a hipster cafe as you eat your Tofu and chips; but Ajay’s songs deserve much better than that; especially Calling Out and Charioteer which wouldn’t have been out of place on The White Album (easily moving Maxwell’s Silver Hammer into the extras bin!).
As I’ve mentioned two or three songs really do stand out and deserve a wider audience via the medium of Radio or television; none more so than Accept Yourself which is my Favourite Song here; and given a support act for someone like Ed Sheeran or Gerry Cinnamon will easily make Ajay Srivastav a darling of the Radio 6 studenty crowd.
Don’t let my ‘flowery descriptions’ of Delta Blues mashing up with Indian Music; or the Beatles comparisons either put you off or over excite you; this young man is a talent all of his very own, with a spectacular imagination that comes out in his songwriting and musicality.
Trust me …… hunt this album down on whatever platform you can find, listen to it ……. then buy it. You won’t regret it.

Released May 2019
https://www.ajayhq.com/

Sam Lee LAY THIS BODY DOWN (Single)

Sam Lee
Lay This body Down

Singles come and go on a daily basis at RMHQ, with our emphasis being on Albums; but as you know some manage to hit us between the eyes and we simply need to pass them on to the world at large.
This arrived an hour ago and alongside the fantastic video has meant an album I’d intended listening to is still in it’s jewel case.

Sam Lee’s new single ‘Lay This Body Down’ is a re-working of an African American spiritual, with heavy echoes of Greek mythology’s River Styx path to the afterlife. It arrives alongside a striking new video created with choreography featuring dancers from London’s Ballet Rambert.
Taken from his upcoming album, ‘Old Wow’ is due for release on January 31, and produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler and also featuring a rare appearance from Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser.”

The Jimmys GOTTA HAVE IT

The Jimmys
Gotta Have It
Brown Cow Productions

A Classic and Classy Dose of Rock & Roll Fuelled Rhythm & Blues.

As this album was released on New Years Eve 2019; and I stopped reviewing just before Christmas this album nearly got given to Oxfam; but thankfully I still remember how dazzlingly good it is; so here goes.
Like so many Rhythm & Blues albums I receive from the States, The Jimmys are ‘Old School’ in a way the UK hasn’t produced in at least quarter of a century if not longer. Two exquisite singers, plus the obligatory guitar/bass/drums combo; only these cats can turn a tune on a sixpence but most notably the Brass Section is worthy of a Symphony orchestra; and is nearly as big.
Opening track Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet is a real adrenaline fuelled stomper, with Perry Weber giving a basso-prof-undo performance worthy of Barry White while the band throw in a crackling 50’s Rock n Roll beat to get the party started.
Jimmy Voegeli steps to the mic on the next song Grim Reaper and he hits notes that I’ve not heard since the heady days when Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson were in their pomp; and the melody will you have you clinging to your loved one as you shuffle around the dancefloor …… and possibly even the kitchen too.
It’s not even lazy of me to say that this was the music I grew up watching as a teenager turning into an adult; as bands of this ilk played bars and clubs all over the North East; but alas no more.
The Jimmys certainly keep that R&B flame alive and burning rightly with sizzlers Started Up Again, Always a Woman and She Gotta Have It showing that this kind of music is not just timeless; but can be gussied up when the mood changes.
Back in the day; had they been on my local circuit I can easily imagine The Jimmys easily performing on Friday night upstairs in the hot and sweaty Cooperage pub; then taking the same set to the Mayfair Ballroom on Saturday then rocking the roof off the Tyne Bar and Lounge on Sunday afternoon; such is the accessibility of songs like Weber’s laid back Drinkin’ and the smoochy Words and Actions or most especially the racy instrumental Jose with it’s shout-along chorus “Jose!”
There is even a Gust Star appearance here; and for once it really is a ‘Star’ as Miss Marcia Ball is not just an Award Winner but an R&B singer that can still fill houses in the UK. Here she co-wrote and added vocals to the tongue in cheek ‘break up’ song, Write a Hit where she takes everything including the dog and his Cadillac ‘from’ Jimmy Voegeli and now he just needs to ‘Write a Hit’ to get his life back on track.
Bless her, she also adds backing vocals to When You Got Love as Voegeli strains every beautiful vocal chord of his on this gorgeous ballad of luuuurve.
Any of those songs could and perhaps would have been my Favourite Song on this album were it not for the inclusion of Hotel Stebbins, which takes a Chuck Berry beat, adds in a splash of Fats Domino and the band rock and roll like they are fired up on Nitro; and don’t get me started on Voegeli’s sweet, sweet vocals!
If only we could get bands like The Jimmys to cross the Atlantic for the Summer Festival Season I’m pretty damn sure they would kick start the R&B scene over here; or at the very least give it a good kick up the ass, which it’s desperately in need of!

Released December 31st 2019
https://www.thejimmys.net/

Drive-By Truckers THE UNRAVELLING

Drive-By Truckers
THE UNRAVELLING
ATO Records

The Most Powerful and Important Rock & Roll Record of the Decade.

Who knew the nascent Drive-By Truckers were originally formed in 1996? 1996? Seriously? 24 years ago?
I guess they first crossed my path with A Blessing and a Curse; then I suppose I became a ‘fan’ with GO-GO BOOTS ……. which is still a ‘go to’ album every now and again.
I’ve never seen the band play live; but did once see Patterson Hood on a rare solo foray to the North East of England.
With such a rarified and even exalted history; Hood, Cooley & Co could be forgiven for coasting at this stage of their career; but HELL NO they still have fire in their belly’s!
With so much going on in the US of A these days the songs on this album must have almost written themselves!
You are almost lulled into a false sense of security with opening track Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun; if it weren’t for the title itself. A brooding orchestral back-fill behind a haunting piano builds and builds as Patterson takes us on a dark road trip that will eventually send a shiver down your spine with the pay off.
Maybe I’m wrong but I can’t remember a Truckers song anything quite like it.
That sentiment isn’t true of the next song; Armageddon’s Back In Town which is fire and brimstone fuelled Southern Rock Deluxe; and needs to be played as loud as possible with the car windows wound down and the pedal pushed right down to the floor.
Deep metaphors, a melody worthy of Bernstein and choruses that will have audiences braying along with gusto combine to really get your adrenaline flowing like nobody’s business.
That same high tempo and spirited Rock sound follows with Slow Ride Argument; only with Mike Cooley now at the mic; and on most albums would be My Favourite Track; but trails way, way behind the leaders here …….. as Drive-By Truckers deliver one of the most important albums of not just the year; but the whole decade.
I must now jump to the final two tracks, Grievance Merchants and Awaiting Resurrection as they are imminently just as good as Slow Ride; and again on most other albums would be genuine highlights; but with such powerful songs like what I’m about to describe that come in between them; many will miss those three out …… but I urge you to listen intently and cherish them just as much.
Now; sit back and get comfortable.
I’m the King of Hyperbole when it comes to describing songs and albums; but the four songs that make up the middle of this album just ‘speak for themselves’ and prove that Patterson Hood is one of the Greatest songwriters of his generation.
*Thoughts and Prayers is absolutely stunning and captures the current zeitgeist perfectly as he taunts our politicians and Social Commentators unmercifully ……. esp the line:
“Stick it up your ass
With your useless Thoughts and Prayers.”
…….. and so say all of us!
There’s an almost jaunty beat to 21st Century (USA) which comes up next and is a sparkling insight into Smalltown America or indeed anywhere in the UK pre and most likely post-Brexit.
Okay; it’s the type of song Bruce has written over the years; but this is razor sharp and a damn sight more believable and fits in perfectly on this album.
Next up, Heroin Again is probably the sort of feisty Alt-Rocker ‘with a message’ that I may have expected in advance; but when you really listen to the lyrics (beneath those searing guitars) it’s a very personal story about someone close to the writer and will bring a tear to a glass eye.
Then there is just one more song to mention ……. Babies in Cages.
Is it right to make such a horrible song my Favourite? Although ‘Favourite’ is probably the wrong description; but it is such an important song that I need to push it clear of everything else and let it breathe on its own.
The title says it all; but the imagery and articulate way the singer describes the horrific scenes that befall our World in the 21st Century are absolutely mind boggling.
I bang my head against it
Smash guitars and scream and shout
Standing on the beach watching the tide go out
Babies in cages


Standing in the darkness
to answer for our sins
Children changing each others diapers in a pen
Babies in cages
.

It’s the song that you hoped Bob, Bruce or Neil would write for us; but their day has gone …… all Hail Drive-By Truckers for keeping these stories in the public eye.
“It’s Only Rock & Roll” the Rolling Stones once sang; but that’s the medium that has always spoke to and for my generation; and on this album Drive-By Truckers have used the power of song to not just touch our hearts and make us actually think about the world around us in many different forms; but somehow managed to do it without ever sounding worthy or patronising while entertaining us too ……. which is a helluva clever thing to do.

*For the geeks out there
Thoughts and Prayers. – Patterson Hood – Baxendale Acoustic (Capo’d to G)
Awaiting Resurrection – Brad Morgan – Drums and Grunts, Patterson Hood – Gibson SG, Lead Vocal and Heavy Breathing (2nd Solo), Mike Cooley – Electric Slide Guitar (1st and 3rd solos.)

Released January 31st 2020
https://www.drivebytruckers.com/



Mike Farris at Jumpin' Hot Club, Newcastle

Mike Farris
Jumpin’ Hot Club
Live Theatre
Newcastle
Thursday 16th January 2020

For a variety of reasons; (both work and health) my Gig Going Mojo left me in late 2017; meaning I’ve only been to a handful in those last two years.
This made tonight a ‘big deal’; as even though I implicitly trust promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club, I’d never heard a note from Mike Farris until Thursday morning when I checked him out on You Tube.
Plus; the gig; in the larger theatre room at Live Theatre had completely Sold Out two weeks previously and there was a waiting list for ‘returns’ …… so an expedition was in order.
The support act was being introduced as I chatted to some friends and my ears immediatly pricked up; did they just say ‘Martin Fletcher’? Oh yes Shipcote did!
FYI many years ago Martin was the harmonica player in a local band called the Blues Burglars who were as good a live band as I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen some megastars!
Tonight Martin was accompanied by singer-songwriter Chris James and the duo regaled us with 40 minutes of ‘Bastardised Blues Classics’ plus a couple of Chris’s own compositions.
The first of these own compositions, was the duo’s ‘Internet Hit’ (147,000 views and counting on FB) Simple Man, which was from the Folkier side of the Blues and I easily realised why so many people would like it; even though Chris forgot the words halfway through!
The set flew by; with Fletcher sounding every bit as brilliant as I’d remembered, with his assortment of harmonicas plus he even got to sing a rather racy Charlie Musselwhite song; but the night really belonged to the languid Chris James and his intricate guitar picking and super-smooth vocals.


Well; I said the ‘night belonged to Chris James’ ……. that was before I saw Mike Farris!
There was a genuine air of excitement in the hall as the band filtered on stage and ‘got a groove going’ and I ain’t heard a roar like it at a gig for years; when Farris made his appearance!
Looking every inch the Rock Star with his jet-black quiff; shades, split knee jeans, biker boots and a sporty leather jacket, he immediatly strapped on a big ole black *Gibson with an obligatory Bigsby and blasted into **When Mavis Sings, which his adoring fans instantly recognised.
On the next song he dispensed with the geetar and stalked the stage dragging the mic stand behind him, like many of the Great Soul singers that have obviously influenced him over the years.
The influences didn’t stop there; as while Mike Farris can write a cracking song, certainly has a fabulously distinctive voice and singing style; his choice of covers at the end of the gig were outstanding; a Tom Petty song then Jimmie Rodgers T for Texas and Mary Gauthier’s A Little Mercy Now bringing the house down; and the encore of Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain being not just a surprise but a highlight too.
In between Farris and band rocked the joint like it was their birth-rite; using the ubiquitous ‘call and response’ several times, much to the delight of the hordes of people who had made their way South from the quaint ***fishing village of Ashington in Northumberland; who had seen him play locally the year before and seemed very excited and excitable all evening; especially when Mike mentioned the difference in local dialects. (Cos they talk right funny up there!)
I was won over very early on; but during his acoustic set in the middle realised I was watching a very clever and professional act that could adapt at will.
One of the joys of Live Music is seeing something no one else will ever see, as every gig is different. Tonight; one of the highlights was when Mike told a story of playing a Charity Gig in Guildford, Southern England earlier in the week and seeing and meeting one of his childhood heroes, Rod Argent and discovering the delights of Andy Fairweather-Low ……… I love the fact that Farris can still get excited about discovering new music at this stage of his own career.
If there was one of his songs that stood out for me, it was Tennessee Girl, a genuine love song written for and about hid delightful wife who was standing at the back watching her husband perform; with a smile on her face all night long.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, for a boy from Tennessee; but this was a clever and very impressive mix of Blues, Gospel, Soul, Country and a hefty dose of Southern Rock that combined to create Mike Farris’s very own, and very enjoyable ‘style’.
Now to find a couple of his albums.

*According to one sharp eyed fan …. it was a Silvertone
**When Mavis Sings? As I didn’t actually know any of the songs I just picked up on the main lines of the choruses!
***An ‘obvious joke’ I thought; but has illicited strange responses ……. Ashington is not actually a ‘fishing village’ but once a mining village and famously home to footballers Jackie Milburn and the Charlton Brothers.

**** Some days I wonder why I bother

Val Starr & The Blues Rockets LIGHTER SIDE OF THE BLUES

Val Starr & The Blues Rockets
LIGHTER SIDE OF THE BLUES
Sandwich Factory Records

Genre-Straddling Rocking Blues with a Heart Full O’ Soul

This little gem very nearly got missed because it arrived very late; because of the ‘Christmas Post’ and; cough …….. the actual cover artwork isn’t too inspiring, so it kept getting passed over.
But; and again it’s only thanks to my trusty I-Phone ‘shuffle’ that it came to light last week on a cold and windswept midnight drive home from work.
I will come to the song that caught my attention later, as it’s now a contender for Favourite Song status; which is quite something on this quite eclectic bunch of self-penned songs from California’s Valerie Starr Ellis and Company.
As we all know, ‘The Blues’ comes in many hues and now I’ve played this album half a dozen times, Val Starr doesn’t just blur the Blues lines but injects more than a smidgen of Soulful Jazz too in several of the arrangements; starting with opening track Say Goodbye to The Blues (Like You Mean It); which sweeps, swoops and swings like Dinah Washington or perhaps Koko Taylor fronting the Stax House Band on a steamy Friday night!
The guitar intro to the next song, Sactown Heat is so cool I got a shiver down my back the first time I heard it; and when Val smoothly joins the ‘beat’ you know you are not just listening to a ‘special song’ but a Special singer and band too.
I don’t get to hear as many albums as you’d expect where the band can crank up the tempo at will and never sound like they are trying to outshine the vocalist’ and The Blues Rocket manage that with great aplomb; most memorably on the sultry Can’t Get Sad Tonight and the track that initially caught my attention; 24 Hour Blues; which adds a nice touch of Spector-lite pop to the melody as Val drops a few musical time-bombs in her lyrics.
There are plenty of songs here that deserve a big video to run alongside them; with All or Nuthin’ Man being set in a sleazy nightclub at closing time; and for the crunchy and contemporary Shame on You it should be a parody of Some Like it Hot, with Val playing Marilyn of course.
While The Blues Rocket seamlessly play about with genre-defying melodies The Blues in every shape and form are never far away; as the titles make clear; Lighter Side Of The Blues and The Blues Don’t Pick or Choose with it’s soul piercing sax solo are both as timeless as their titles suggest; but don’t particularly sound like any songs I can think of.
As well as 24 Hour Blues; two other songs really stand out from a fascinating bunch of songs; Big Boss Man (#MeToo) find’s Val Starr bringing this Classic song right up to date with a very clever; and literal 21st Century twist to it; but my actual Favourite Song (by a whisker) is If She Can Get a Man (Anyone Can); which is a good ole stomper but with added spice and sass in the style of both Denise LaSalle or Barbara Carr; whom I adore.
So; there we have it ……… another little musical gem that I’ve found for you ….. enjoy and buy …. don’t Spotify!

Released January 2nd 2020
https://www.valstarrandthebluesrocket.com/



Waylon Thibodeaux HERE WE GO AGAIN

Waylon Thibodeaux
HERE WE GO AGAIN
Rabadash Records

South Louisiana Swamp Rock With Some Bodacious Fiddle Playing.

I don’t know if this is going to be ‘thing’ in 2020 but this album is the second one of the year claiming to be ‘the sound of South Louisiana’ and while both are as disparate as is possible; both have the same ‘Musical Gumbo’ at their hearts,
The title track Here We Go Again opens proceedings, and the hirsute Louisiana fiddle player extraordinaire and singer throws down a marker that shows he means business. For the uninitiated (like me) this song; and the rest that follow is a veritable musical hybrid that sounds a bit Charlie Daniels Band, a bit ZZ Top and a big bit Bob Wills all with a sprinkling of Dr John and eventually filtered through the Meters!
While the lyrics can be a bit edgy and topical; Thibodeaux certainly knows how to show us a good time on Fail, Fail, Fail and Way Down South; both of which will have you swiggin’ your beer down so you can get on the dancefloor.
While I can sense that there is a Bluesy core to I’m Stuck With The Blues Again and Our Life’s another Blues Song; it would have to be the type of Blues you hear; or ‘dream of hearing’ on Beale Street or Bourbon Street when the covers bands have gone home.
It appears that Waylon Thibodeaux has been around for a good few years now; and that comes across in not just the professionalism that oozes out of every groove and line; but in the way he is making music that appeals to him and not the guys in grey suits that determine what gets played on the radio; not that these songs don’t deserve airplay ….. they do; and that’s the problem.
Even this early in the year I can get a bit jaded by playing albums that are formulaic; but this album is the antidote!
How can anyone not tap their toes to Riverboat song and smile when the fiddle emulates the steamboat whistle? And it’s not too shabby a love song either.
Speaking of which When Love Comes Back is an absolute sizzler of a Southern Rock love song; and will have crowds of all sizes dancing and waving their arms in the air whenever they play it live.
Even though I adore Smoke Signals; I’m going a bit left of centre with my selection for Favourite Track, Don’t You Make Me Put My Fiddle Down; as it’s a sad ole love ballad and features some of the most haunting vocals and fiddle playing I’ve heard in many a year; and I’m not particularly a fiddle lover.
I hope Waylon Thibodeaux is the Sound of South Louisiana; because that means there are more down there just like him……. and the world will be a better place for that..

Released January 17th 2019
https://www.waylont.com/


Margo Price STONE ME (Single)

Margo Price
Stone Me (Single)
Lorna Vista Recordings

Just like you, I guess …… I had no idea a new single or album was even in the offing, so this was a pretty damn exciting find earlier today in my ‘in box’.

Margo performed the song on Wednesday night on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, capping a special episode of the show with the bold proclamation:

Love me, hate me
Desecrate me
Call me a bitch
then call me baby
You don’t know me
You don’t own me
Yeah that’s no way
To stone me

Margo says, “After what feels like an eternity, I’m releasing a new song into the wild today. It’s been hard to keep everything I’ve been working on for the last year to myself and I’m so excited to share it.”