Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a box-room on the Internet for one man and a bunch of his Roots Music loving friend’s thoughts and musings on a wide variety of music, be it CD’s, Gigs, books and the occasional DVD. Usually; but not exclusively based around all things ROOTS:- Americana, Folk, Blues, R&B, all variants of Country, a bit of Ska, Reggae and Soul too.
After many years writing reviews for a variety of magazines, newspapers and websites I decided to break up the band and go solo in 2014; putting everything under one roof on ……THE ROCKING MAGPIE.
Me? I live in the North East of England; but receive music from all around the world….mostly the UK, USA and Canada and our readership reflects this, but we have followers in over 130 countries across all 4 continents; plus my data tells me that ‘occasional visitors’ from 173 countries have actually visited the site so far; which is mind-blowing when you think about it.
Our priority is bringing you reviews of music that has actually been listened to and appreciated…not just the regurgitation of a Press Release (like too many other ‘household name’ websites!). We do this because we want you to get an Independent view from someone just like yourself; and in theory this will make you want to actually buy a copy not just scam a free listen on the likes of Spotify and Apple Streaming! #BuyDontSpotify As of May 2022 we have returned to the radio on NOVA RADIO NE in Newcastle on Sunday 6pm to 8, with each two hour broadcast available the day after ……
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 email@example.com or on Twitter @RockingMagpie
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Alan aka The Rocking Magpie
If there’s one song that sums up our attitude to what we do and why we do it, it’s this song……. Rex Bob Lowenstein by Mark Germino
RMHQ Radio Show Episode:43 Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Sunday 26th March 2023
Where does the time go? It only seems 5 minutes since last Sunday’s show. This week is another heady and eclectic mix of all things Roots Music; with an assortment of old and new Country Music mixed in with some wonderful and occasionally odd Blues Music with a couple of Folk songs in to keep your attention. I sometimes worry that the music I select is too eclectic; but these selections are all to my taste and reflect the reviews we do …. so there’s not a lot I can or want to do to change the format too much.
Emiliana Torrini and The Colorist Orchestra Fri-Son Fribourg Switzerland
Friday, March 24 2023
When I travel and wherever I land, I always keep an eye out for opportunities to sample the local live music scene. Case in point; I discovered that Emiliana Torrini and The Colorist Orchestra were on tour and playing one Swiss date in Fribourg and the venue (lucky for me) – Fri-Son is just a ten-minute walk from where I’m staying. Happy days. I’m familiar with Emiliana Torrini, my gateway into her music had been Me And Armini, her 2008 album and although it’s an interesting listen, it’s been one of those albums that over the years, through no fault of its own, has been pushed down the pecking order when it comes to choosing what to play next.
Pre-gig I learned that the Emiliana Torrini/Colorist Orchestra collaboration was originally envisaged to span a run of five concerts. A live recording of those dates was subsequently released in 2016 but clearly, The Colorists and Torrini were left with a feeling that they had something more to offer. Hence, they have returned with a new recording entitled Racing the Storm; released on March 17 to coincide with a 16-date European tour. I had half-anticipated tonight would be a gentle affair but the reality turned out to be something else entirely.
When the 8 piece band took to the stage and fired up, to describe the sound as ‘full’ would be to undersell it, it was not too loud though – every instrument, every note had a clarity that gave me the impression I was in the company of not only expert musicians but skilled sound technicians too. Tonight’s opener, ‘The Illusion Curse’ builds from a simple enough opening into a danceable rhythm and the depth of the sound the string section conjure up is impressive. It is visually stunning too, the stage bathed in red light with Emiliana up front and understandably the focal point. The Colorists backing provides her soulful vocal a platform of intensity that for me was totally unexpected and it works a treat.
The Emiliana Torrini/Colorist Orchestra is a stylish combination, with Torrini dressed in a style reminiscent of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and maybe it’s not such a bad association to make, like the work of Kahlo, tonight’s performance is equally as vibrant. Each song is a complex veneer of instrumentation but they somehow manage to maintain a tuneful, interconnected sound, incorporating deviations into electronica, classical, flamenco and jazz all underpinned by a pulsating drum beat. On occasions, three members of the band were involved in drumming. Worth noting too that there is only one electric guitar on show tonight and that was a bass; and it didn’t even feature throughout – at times it was substituted for an upright double bass. There were also vibraphones involved which just goes to show there is more than one way to skin a musical cat.
In a fourteen-song set, there are nine songs lifted from Racing the Storm. The title track sees The Colorists strings, piano and percussive layers interweave to give it a dream-like quality. Lonesome Fears though is an altogether different beast – threatening and mournful, with the lines ‘believe not what you see, there is no reality… we’re destined for war’ sang over brooding orchestration accurately capturing the darker side of the times we are living through.
There are some interesting between-song revelations; for example, the new single Hilton, we learn is down to Torrini’s love of a good long soak in the bath and is related to a stay at The Hilton Hotel in Brighton where a dripping tap provided Emiliana with sonic inspiration which was in turn interpreted musically by her collaborators. We also learn the album is so named as during a recording session in Iceland a major storm began to brew, causing the musicians to make haste whilst driving across the country in an effort to fly out of Reykjavik. The rush seemingly motivated by a desire to continue work on the album in Belgium. Emiliana states ‘It’s the perfect metaphor: trying to outrun something that is out of your control, harnessing the power of the elements to push yourself forward.’
There are three songs from Me and Armini – the title track, Jungle Drum and Gun which I am on familiar terms with – just – as they are reworked to the extent they are given a whole new life.
A three-song encore ensues, beginning with a Colorist Orchestra instrumental called Dreamlands. Then Emiliana returns to perform Jungle Drum which tonight sounds almost like a hip-hop tune overlaid with a 1920’s Charleston beat. They close the night with the delicate Wedding Song and then they are gone, direction Paris. I have to say it’s a very impressive live music performance. Something different, unique almost. A bit Frida Kahlo! On the way out I wanted to buy the album but the que at the merch table told its own story so the following day I took the Bandcamp route and Racing the Storm has been on repeat since. I note the tour concludes at The Union Chapel in London on the 31st of March. All I can say is if you have the chance to go, take it, you will not be disappointed.
Big Harp George Cut My Spirit Loose Blues Mountain Records
Danceable Rhythm & Blues With a Sharply Observed Contemporary Edge Too.
I missed out on Big Harp George’s first two albums; but the last two ‘blew my mind’ as, naively I thought that the type of Rhythm and Blues that I cut my teeth on in the late 70’s and early 80’s was so out of fashion it could never come back. But courtesy of these Cool Cats and a number of their friends’ bands who came to my attention at the same time and who are still plying their classy trade across the United Stares of America; I was proved wrong… and the quality was sky high! For a number of complex reasons I received this album later than any of those involved would have liked; so while I’ve played it almost non-stop for two days …. I may have missed some nuances and fine detail that comes from coming back to a record after a gap of a few days …. but here goes … Boom! Opening track; It’s Tuesday is absolutely everything I’d hoped for …. it swings with a swagger you’d normally associate with Homeboys going on a first date! The band are totally on fire and Big Harp George plays some sweet harmonica in between letting us know that his weekend doesn’t stop on Sunday night! This is followed by a stripped back track; George and a barrelhouse Piano singing Pile Driving Sam; a salacious tale about a local lothario …. and we all actually know a ‘Sam’ in one way or another. While I really like the song; I’d actually have preferred it to be sequenced a bit later … but what do I know? Maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks on me; but there seems to be some slight changes of direction tucked away here; not least She’s a Woman, which has a Hammond and funksome bass linking with some truly gorgeous honking Harmonica that just may have created a sexy Mamba melody? Another left turn is Ranty Town; a song on the cusp of being political but with a beat that pulls back from going full on Bluebeat; even if that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they did. Speaking of ‘politics’ I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard the Howlin’ Wolf inspired Take a Knee which closes the album; WOW! George must really trust and know his audiences to include a clever and powerful song like this. “All those Fat Cats They Got some gall We can love our soldiers But hate their wars TAKE A KNEE, TAKE A KNEE.” While most of us will associate Big Harp George and his brand of R&B with being ‘party music’ but across the board here; the songs deserve to be listened to in their own intelligent rite; not least the croonsome Give Me The Dark (which features a spellbinding chromatic solo half way through) and the haunting Behind The 8 Ball too which still has plenty of slow and slinky Rhythm but is first and foremost a Blues song that will set your hair standing on end. The album closer; Captain Jack is another song that had me turning my head towards the speakers for some kind of explanation. It sort of defies description; a tragic Folk song about a Native American leader wrapped in a late night Jazzy/Blues vibe and the more I’ve played it; the more I likes it! Which all brings me to the difficult choice of selecting a single Favourite; or even ‘stand out’ track. Initially it was going to be the sassy instrumental Bustin’ Out simply because it had me shimmying my hips and shoulders quite by accident and quite unnecessary too for a man my age and girth! But Prince of Downward Mobility is a rare and special song of our times; that George (and Band) can be rightly proud of; combining a timeless Jive style rhythm to a very contemporary story; and George’s sizzling harp solos do it no harm at all, either! At this stage in his Award winning career this is something of a brave release for Big Harp George; as at while many parts sound like they are distinctively from his catalogue; but the left turns will surely baffle some of his longstanding fans; but music and musicians are legally obliged to move on and try new arenas; and when he does that here it works …. and works very, very well indeed.
A Beautifully Distinctive Voice Singing Heartfelt Contemporary Americana.
I really ‘like’ the cover artwork; and that’s what initially drew me to the album; as I didn’t recognise the singers’ name. Twenty minute and/or four songs later I was scrambling for the Press Release; as Lauren Morrow’s voice had me totally smitten. Who knew; but she was only the singer in The Whiskey Gentry before flying the nest in 2018 to record a solo EP. Now I’ve played PEOPLE TALK 5 or 6 times I’m really impressed with everything here; especially the songwriting; but the arrangements and sensitive production are well worth mentioning in despatches too. Opening track I’m Sorry sounds suspiciously like a ‘Power Ballad’ the first time you hear it; but the way it builds and builds in an intense manner as Lauren’s voice swoops and soars like an Eagle makes this a song surely destined for mainstream radio. I will have to be careful with my descriptions herewith; as we normally like our Americana and Alt. Country a bit more ragged around the edges than the majority of what follows; but the way Lauren (alongside husband Jason) doesn’t shy away from being Commercial and/or Contemporary on these DIY songs; not least Looking For Trouble and the fabulous Family Tree which certainly won’t sound out of place on a DAB radio in the Tesla. It’s fair to say that Lauren Morrow has a distinctive voice; a genuine soprano with a vulnerable vibrato too, makes her sound like no one else I can instantly think of; but of course a ‘voice’ is only half the story …. it’s the songs that will bring people to the music time and time again; which is exactly what will happen when you hear the brittle Birthday and the rockier Only Nice When I’m High; which deals with her lifelong feelings of vulnerability …. and, alongside the anthemic Nobody But Me will become a soundtrack to the lives of many other young women too. The title track, People Talk is a bit of a curve ball; using what sounds like a drum machine ‘tshing and clicking’ in the background (I could be wrong of course) aligned to some ‘radio chatter’ half way through and even a saxophone sliding in and out; but bizarrely … it works and doesn’t ‘jar’ in a way that it should. Choosing a Favourite Song has become a little bit easier than I’d first feared. Like most everyone else, I was drawn to the razor-sharp, slick and toe-tapping Hustle; which turns out to be the true story of how Lauren and Jason have got through the last few years; going from job to job getting enough money to pay the bills and keep something to one side to make this album. But; the all out Country love song It’s You keeps coming back to haunt me. While it sounds like a tearjerker; the powerful words therein swathe you in the feelings of love Lauren sings about; and was just what I needed to hear this week. Personally I’d still file this under ‘Americana’ in a record shop; but it wouldn’t be out of place in the ‘Modern Country’ or ‘Pop Country’ sections either; and I think that latter arena is where it probably belongs and that demographic will hoover these songs up like there’s no tomorrow.
Top Quality and Relaxing Soulful Americana Straight Outta the Welsh Hill Country.
I have taken on too much recently, so when this album dropped from RMHQ it was touch and go whether time would be on my side to give it my fair attention. Then I gave it a quick spin; and never before has an album so spectacularly hit the mark at the MOST perfect moment in my life! A couple of listens in, it has now become the soundtrack to my day: 12 intimate, timelessly soothing growers by a duo who seem to hold your hand throughout the entire album.
I’m not surprised to learn that this collaboration is born out of a friendship, one between Wales based American roots singer songwriter Jeb Loy Nichols and Clovis Phillips, who accompanies with an array of instruments including guitar and mandolin. Their unity is evident, the instruments effortlessly compliment the vocals and vice versa. What’s more the pair recorded, produced and mixed the album together in deepest Wales at Clovis’s Add a Band studios. Both being new artists to me, I am struck by the charming juxtaposition of a vintage country/bluegrass/folk blend teamed with irresistibly soulfully smooth, tender-rich vocals that are on a par with the likes of George Benson, Seal and even dare I say Bruno Mars, staking this album firmly in the here and now.
‘Rain Falling on The Roof At Night’ lusciously opens the album with a pitter patter tempo ‘drip dropping’ us through the song. It’s powerfully simplistic, a collection of memories sparked by the sound of the rain, the one thing that remains unchanged. We are staring into puddles of reflections, from the perspective of a distant lover, a homeless man recollecting childhood memories and through to an aging lady in the back of a limo recollecting her youth.
A commanding start, but this is just the beginning….. Jeb Loy Nichols demonstrates he is the mature, accomplished songwriter (that his CV of 15 or so releases since 1997 would suggest!) with a bunch of clever love songs told from hugely original angles, forming the back bone of this new release.
‘Let Me Love You In My Own Way’ is a jauntily acoustic, confessional strum through the ups and downs of being in a relationship and houses one of the sunniest vocal performances on the album for me. My eyes tight shut, I’m imagining picnicking in the Countryside with that special person:
‘I’ll bring you blackberries and pumpkin seeds, I’ll make you soup from nettles leaves A whole life long I’ll do my best but get it wrong On that I think that we both agree Let me love you in my own way.”
There’s more than a hint of bluegrass blowin’ in the Welsh hills, circling around the happy break up song ‘That’s What It Sounds Like’. We witness a couple discussing their non- existent relationship against the backdrop of retro Wurlitzer keys filling in with a catchy chorus complete with ‘Sha La La’s’, giving an old-time singalong feel. Discovering that this singer songwriter spent most of his childhood listening to classic soul songs on the radio from greats such as Al Green and Curtis Mayfield, now makes sense of all the musical influences seeping through. This album is as nostalgic as it is new: a winning combo for the likes of me.
In a similar vein, ‘It’s Terrible To Be In Love’ gently spills bitter sweet nuances, with a backdrop of soft harmonies that hint it’s all worth the pain in the end.
Talking of which, ‘Start Hurtin’ Again’ ventures into laid back Country territory, musing on the necessity for taking that first step to find love again, despite the risk of another broken heart. Phillips’s playing is exquisite throughout the album and buried at the half way point here is a solo shimmering with a waterfall of acoustic notes. More country tales with the single and title track ‘Three Fools’ which breezily describes a man’s life journey, a tale of yearning for a lost love, coupled with honest observations about humankind.
The only cover song on the album is the folky ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend’ which is a little-known track by the American songwriter Donnie Fritts who passed away in 2019. It’s a touching tribute and sits well to wrap up the album.
Choosing a favourite was always between two tracks that both highlight the need to take a chill out from the demands of everyday life….. oh yes please! Runner up ‘Number Four’ swings in with a melodic, hypnotic Latin groove, describing a blissful day filled with gentle activities designed to bring joy:
‘There’s an apple blossom tree that I wanna see There are gravel roads I want to explore I’ve got three things on my list to do today And no working, working, working is number four’
The top slot goes to a song which takes this chillin’ mood one step further, describing a day of doing absolutely nothing at all. The ballad lullaby ‘All I Want To do Is Sleep’, complete with Jeb Loy’s deeper, entrancing vocals, spells out the ultimate pyjama day:
‘Don’t come around here with any big plans Making plans is what got me in this mess Plans lead to doing and too much doing leads to ruin So go away, go away I need a rest.’
This heavenly album has got ‘Do not disturb whilst playing’ stamped all over it. It initially releases with a limited vinyl edition which would sound just perfect on my old ‘70s stereogram; and if I can ever muster up enough energy to go out again, then catching this duo live will make it to the top of my revised to do list.
Soft Musical Waves That Wash Over You And Intelligent Stories To Absorb Into Your Consciousness.
Anton Fermhede? Me neither. All I know; and probably all I needed to know is that he is from Gothenburg in Sweden and this; his second album was recorded both there and LA in America. When you ‘know’ that the soundscape he creates on his songs quickly makes sense. There’s a ‘Laurel Canyon feel’ to opening track Paper Lyfe; but there’s an effortless sense of ‘cool’ in there too courtesy his Northern European upbringing; which is something that can’t be faked … trust me. This followed by the quaintly beautiful Wind Song, and I defy anyone playing this album not to stop whatever else they are doing and just kick back and listen to the soft musical waves that wash over you while his intelligent stories absorb into your consciousness. I don’t normally review albums that are already released; but I was compelled to do so on first playing this album. Fermhede’s songwriting is excellent as are the stories he tells; often using poetic metaphors will draw you in like a siren to the rocks; but it’s the musical construction that will grab your attention first. The ‘Laurel Canyon’ musicality and even hints of Cowboy Junkies come at you in a timeless Folk Rock stylee in Lincoln, What If and Flying High too; which remind me of the early Elliott Smith and Bros. Landreth albums …. being outwardly sensitive, but with a tightness to the fashioning of the instruments in the background. The finale here; Post Flight takes us on a most unexpected journey; with some exquisite; possibly even Classical Guitar and Fermhede’s fascinating and simpering voice singing a tragic love song; what a way to end an album! Not for the first time; and certainly not for the last this year; Anton Fermhede makes no attempt at writing and recording a Hit commercial single; his songs are from the heart and aimed squarely at the listener’s heart too; which brings me to my hard earned choice of Favourite Song. For a few days it was going to be; nay … ‘had to be’ The Garden with it’s trembling vocals and intelligent violin/bass/drums in the background; but then again the more I heard Eavesdropper, which simply aches with longing, the more the story appealed to me on a cerebral level …. which doesn’t happen very often. Yet …. cue gentle drum roll ….. the third song on the album; Easy Part simply ticked every box I have for a love song. Anton sings like I still feel after 45 years of marriage …. and I hope love struck teens do too …. “For me you are just what I want For me I knew right from the start You’re like a fallen star You’re the half of my heart ….My heart It doesn’t matter where we are It’s never far … same ceiling, different stars.” It’s not a happy-clappy Spector production; more Ennio Morricone as it builds and builds …. never ever skipping a heart filling beat. I know that may sound soppy to some; but others will smile riley and think like I did; “that could be about us.“ BIG NORTH and Anton Fermhede are unlikely to win Grammy’s or any type of Award, which is a huge shame; but what they will do is make a lot of people happy and treat this album like a close friend, to invite around we need comforting and a musical cuddle.
RMHQ Radio Show Episode:42 The BLUES SPECIAL Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Tuesday 21st March 2023
Now the Nova Radio Producer Dean has found out I have time on my hands, I’m worried that he has my number on ‘fast dial’ to replace poorly presenters at Nova! Not that I really mind; because it gives me the opportunity to put together themed ‘Specials’ and this week it’s a Blues Special. With only two hours to fill it was a dilemma fitting in as many sub-genres as possible; but I gave it a damn good try! I very nearly made a major faux pas ….. as The Rev’d BLIND Gary Davis was playing I’d already lined up a Rory Block song to follow; then with seconds to spare I spotted that the song was going to be ….. I’d Rather Go BLIND!!! Whoops.
Steve Dawson Eyes Closed, Dreaming Black Hen Music
Top Quality Canadian Folk and More via Nashville and Beyond
Steve Dawson is a name that regularly crops up here at RMHQ, either as a singer-songwriter in his own rite, as a key band member or more recently as a producer …. and it’s fair to say he never gets involved in anything that could be described as average or ordinary. Even with this release being his third in twelve months; you instantly realise bore opening track Ian Tyson’s Long Time To Get Old, that the quality on offer is going to be sky high; and it is. The melody hints at being ‘old timey’ but the story is a razor sharp contemporary observation of life in a small town; somewhere – anywhere. Plus there’s a majestic female voice supplying harmonies that I felt sure I recognised and sure enough, there in the small print …. Allison Russell! Most of the songs here are collaborations with another RMHQ favourite; Matt Patershuk; and again … the word ‘quality’ springs to mind; not least during A Gift and Hemingway; which follow and grab your attention and heartstrings at the same time; conjuring up imagery worthy of much more famous singer-songwriters. Another from the dynamic duo; The Owl shouldn’t in theory be the type of song that I’d normally like; but could be the finest ‘Folk Song’ I’ve heard in many a year. The song Small Town Talk is something of a cornerstone here; as when you listen to it you more or less here Dawson’s voice over everything else; yet the CD cover tells us 7 people are involved and the instrumentation involves slide, acoustic and electric guitars, drums and percussion, bass, organ, piano, baritone sax, tenor sax and trumpet, yet it all sounds so effortless and simple. Tucked away in the background are two ‘Traditional’ songs re-arranged for modern ears. The first; House Carpenter I’ve not heard before; and is another bespoke Folk Song, using phrasing and intricate guitar play that are absolutely fabulous and deserve our full attention. The other, is a particularly odd choice; an instrumental version of Singing The Blues has an arrangement that I can’t decide is Hawaiian or Ragtime …. or both; and it’s quite delightful. A couple of tracks earlier, Dawson drops in the quirky Waikiki Stonewall Rag; so perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise after all. By this stage I get to thinking about ‘Favourite Songs’ and there are so many to choose from; a very easy on the ear Jack Clement song, Guess Things Happen That Way was an early contender, as was Small Town Talk, a Bobby Charles song, but sounds as if it was written with Dawson in mind …. or at least that’s what I hear. The finale, Let Him Go Mama has Dawson all alone singing and playing his ‘Weissenborn’ guitar …. quite exceptionally, it has to be said; and the result is three minutes of outstanding and beautiful music. Yet there is still one other; and simply because of the title drew me to it before I’d played the whole album and that’s Polaroid. These cameras have held a fascination for me since my teenage years half a century ago; as my remodelling of album covers in my reviews will testify; and it appears Steve Dawson has a similar affection as he describes a single photograph taken of a lover using this medium. Therefore; Polaroid is my Favourite Song here. While there are numerous ‘famous names’ from the Alt. and Americana circuit involved in one way or another; and the Press Release pays great attention to ‘artists contributing their parts from various corners of Nashville, Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver, during the pandemic‘ … that matters not a jot, as this is simply a Steve Dawson album from start to finish and is another ‘keeper’ in our humble opinion.
RMHQ Radio Show EPISODE :41 Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Sunday 19th March 2023
Tonight’s show was one where I only had about ten songs/artists on my spreadsheet prior to 6pm ….. then depending on how the mood took me for what I eventually played. There is the usual mix of new songs, old songs and Classic songs from singers and bands from right across the Roots Music spectrum and as eclectic as our reviews ever are.
Entertaining and Educational Blues From a Legendary Songwriter
Where do I start with this review? I’m guessing and presuming most people reading this already know him and his previous releases; if not it’s safe to say that Eric Bibb is and has been one of America’s most important singer-songwriters over the last 50 years. To all intents and purposes he’s a Folk singing troubadour, in the style of Woody Guthrie and all of the black bluesmen going back to time immemorial; writing and singing about the world around not him but those around him and in this case; the downtrodden too. I somehow missed the preceding album Dear America, which apparantly RIDIN’ is the intrinsically linked follow up; but in my experience over the last few weeks it’s not necessary to have heard that album to enjoy this one … as it certainly stands on its own. I’m a white working class man from the North East of England; but my love of Blues and Soul music has led me to several books and documentaries on the history of that music and the horrible trials and tribulations the black community have faced over the last 200 years in America; and are still facing in 2023; so I can truly appreciate Bibb’s songs here; many of which are based on historical stories handed down through the generations. The scene is set from opening song Family; with a melody that could be 100+ years old; and Bibb’s pained vocals and the choral backing come at you like a Louisiana fog; and the way Bibb intertwines the history of the black community with their state of affairs in the 21st Century is staggering. The title track, RIDIN’ follows and sounds timeless, not least because of Bibb’s Acoustic Resonator Guitar and Ola Gustafsson’s Slide which create a strained atmosphere to compliment Bibb’s song that begins with of the Freedom Train, name checks Dr King and Emmett Till too. Blues Funky Like Dat featuring Taj Mahal and Jontavious Willis; is a sizzling modern take on the Classic Juke Joint style, and it’s a toe-tapper of the finest hue. If you are still with us after those three songs; you are in for a rare treat with what follows. Don’t get me wrong; I love Blues songs that are about drinkin’, dancin’ and lovin’ but sometimes we all need something more serious in our lives; dark to follow the light? Eric Bibb supplies that dark like Picasso’s Blue Period …. it’s not always easy on the senses; but when you take the time to study it; your life will be all the better for having it in your heart. There’s a delicate balance between the modern and the old here; and Bibb pulls it off like a Vegas magician on Hold The Line, Free and the striking 500 Miles earlier on. While Eric Bibb has a delightful singing style; you can still hear the pain he feels in every note of the live version of Sinner Man and later People You Love which sounds absolutely phenomenal in and out of this context. First and foremost; Eric Bibb is a storyteller (in song) and that brings me to the songs that are competing to be my Favourite Song on this really special album. Tulsa Town is a great song, even when just playing in the background; but listen more intently and you find a story that you’ve probably never heard of before about the ‘Black Wall Street.‘ Then; there is Free featuring Habib Koite on guitar and vocals; alongside a host of other musicians who come together to sound like a deceptively simple sounding backdrop for a tear inducing and deep song. Last but not least is the Ballad of John Howard Griffin. WOW! Perhaps I’m the last to know; but I doubt it …. but as an experiment, in 1959 Griffin ‘changed his colour‘ for a series of magazine articles and a book. My eyes nearly popped out of my head the first time I heard Bibb’s staggering tale …. and I think yours will too. Like many Folk and Blues songs over the years; they can educate as well as entertain and Eric Bibb manages to do just that with style and class; on all 15 songs in this collection.