The Rocking Magpie

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Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a home on the Internet for my thoughts and musings on a variety of music, be it CD’s, Gigs, books and the occasional DVD – usually; but not exclusively based around all things Americana and Roots; as I love Ska and Soul music too.

After years of writing reviews for numerous magazines and websites, in late 2014 I thought that the time was right to put everything under one roof on my own blog/website.

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Me? I live in the North East of England; but receive music from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and all corners of Europe (very little from my home region; which is sad); and our readership reflects this, with followers in 65 countries across 4 continents who receive e-mail updates whenever reviews are posted; plus my data tell me readers from 106 countries have actually visited the site!

My priority, will of course be bringing you reviews of soon to be released CD’s as soon as I get them. Plus there will be the occasional preview of albums, videos and gigs that interest me; but primarily you will read EXCLUSIVE reviews of Country, Americana, Folk, Blues, Ska, Punk and indeed all things Rock & Roll where the music has actually been listened to…not just the regurgitation of a Press Release.

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

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Keep in touch; let me know what you think and what you want to read more of – and feel free to keep in touch or on Twitter @RockingMagpie

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The Rocking Magpie



king king june 17
King King
Manhaton Records

Today is the day when King King premiere the official music video for their new single on the Rocking Magpie! We welcome you to spread the work about this fantastic music video and single.

The single is taken from the band’s forthcoming fourth studio album “Exile & Grace” (released ON Manhaton Records on Friday 6th October). mixed by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Feeder and Therapy)The new album promises to deliver even more of a punch from King King, with killer songs performed with true passion by a fist tight line-up.
“Exile & Grace definitely has a rockier feel and sound to it,” says King King’s Alan Nimmo. “We are following our influences from the Classic Rock genre, Bad Company, Whitesnake and Thunder. We really set out to challenge ourselves with this album. We’ve stepped up the quality of song writing and pushed ourselves physically in both performance and delivery!”

Buy/stream the single here

Chuck Berry – CHUCK

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Chuck Berry
Dualtone/Decca Records

Enough Reelin’ and a Rockin’ To Bring Out The Marty McFly In All of Us.

It’s always up for a drunken discussion as to who actually invented Rock & Roll; but even the pedants among you have to admit that Chuck Berry has to be a contender; and it’s a given that Johnny B Goode is the greatest actual Rock & Roll song of all time…..FACT! It’s even in a capsule on the moon and who can forget the bit in Back To The Future when Marty did a ‘duck walk’ playing a Gibson ES-345 and the guy made a phone call to ‘cousin Charles’?
So, any new album from Mr. Berry has to be worthy of our attention here at RMHQ, hasn’t it?
The opening song on Berry’s first album since 1979 (!), Wonderful Woman is a whole lot better than I dared to expect and a whole lot more Bluesier too. The vocals and guitar are trademark Chuck Berry, but the delightful ‘loved up’ lyrics, wailing harmonica, honky-tonk piano and the funky back-beat had my toes tapping and lips mouthing the words while I played air-guitar along with three generations of Berry men are pure Chicago Blues.
Track #2 is the single Big Boys that was coincidentally scheduled for release the week the week Berry died; and would have been a world wide hit regardless of the timing. Boom-Boom-Boom….. this is a saucy Chuck Berry song with a Twinkle in its eye, in the same way that My Ding-a-Ling is still my ‘guilty pleasure.’ A quality dance tune of the finest order and one that genuinely sits up there with his legendary hits.
I have to take a deep breath here, as not every track here is any where near that high quality threshold; the pop-Reggae of Jamaica Moon and live recording of 3/4 Time (Enchiladas) in particular could and should have been left in the studio. Sorry, but it’s true.
But; when Berry is good he is great…….Lady B Goode uses ‘that’ melody for a lively response song to Johnny B Goode and who would deny Chuck Berry the opportunity to regenerate his classic beat?
There are plenty of pleasant surprises here too, with Berry slowing things down on the lip smacking and hip grinding She Still Loves You; and on Dutchman he regales us by narrating a ‘talking Blues’ worthy of Robbie Robertson or David Olney.
I keep using the word ‘surprised’ here and I have been, many times as this is a whole lot better than it has any right to be after all these years and at Berry’s age while writing and recording; which brings us to the two songs which tie for the ‘Favourite Song’ title; first there is the soulful and melancholia of Darlin’ where Chuck writes and sings his own epitaph in a way I would never have expected in a hundred years; then there is Eyes of a Man which closes the 10 song album. A slow Gospel infused Blues that reduced me to tears the first, second and third times I heard it and while his Classic, bouncy Rock & Roll dance songs will be how he will be remembered; this song is a man coming to terms with his life and how I will now remember Charles Anderson Edward Berry 1026-2017 RIP.

PS #1. Great artwork on the cover and the booklet is worth the admission price alone.

PS #2 Thanks to Markus Rill for the Marty McFly reference 😉

Released June 16th 2017

Noah Guthrie – THE VALLEY

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Noah Guthrie

Gleefully Pushing The Boundaries of Americana.

Apart from the albums I receive to review, for many years now I’ve used a site called Noise Trade to discover new and exciting artists across a broad musical spectrum. One of these acts was a young lad called Noah Guthrie who (as far as I understood) did quirky cover versions, in particular I’m Sexy and I Know It. With so much going on in my life I never bothered doing any research, so didn’t know that he was an established singer-songwriter and a regular cast member on the TV show GLEE!!!!!
Thankfully I didn’t know that latter snippet of information before I received and listened to his latest and second album; or the ‘music snob’ in me may have taken over.
THE VALLEY gets a hefty kick-start with a the peppy opening track Razor Blade; a major surprise for me with an clever story set to a fiery Alt. Rock soundtrack; with Guthrie’s distinctive rasping vocals sounding perfect for AM Radio.
Guthrie manages to go Country Rock on Love You Now; which follows, with his voice managing to swoop and soar like an Americana Eagle circling over the Nappa Valley while the band plays on.
It’s not just Noah’s voice that has taken me pleasantly by surprise (I can’t think of anyone else to compare him too apart from Robert Pant!!!) but his storytelling and way with words is extraordinary; with Till It Thunders and Beautiful Crime not just showing his gentler more acoustic side; but also his poetical with words too.
Mary is the cornerstone that the album revolves around; gentle acoustica alternating with a full-on Band full of shoe-gazing intensity supporting Guthrie’s breathy and breathless bittersweet love song. What’s not to like?
Which brings me to the battle for ‘favourite song’…..will it be the introspective brittleness of Beautiful Crime or the smart as a whip, yet brooding melancholia of title track The Valley or perhaps Calling Your Name when Noah sounds like he could break into tears at any moment; but no I’m going for the co-write with RMHQ favourite Matthew Perryman Jones, Pardon Me. A breakup song so powerful yet fragile at its core, you genuinely feel his pain with him, and will instantly hate whoever has broken his heart; such is the power of music this good.
The overall ‘flavour’ of the Valley takes me back to those early days when Americana was known as Modern Country and albums by The Jayhawks, Grant Lee Buffalo, Giant Sand and the like were pushing the boundaries of what we knew as ‘Country Music’.

Released June 23rd 2017


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Steve Rodgers

A few months ago two friends from work went to see the legendary Bad Company at Newcastle Arena and the following day both sought me out to tell me that they thought I would like the support act, Steve Rodgers.
As is my won’t I did nothing about it.
Then this morning I was asked if I wanted to review the forthcoming album by that very same Steve Rodgers and as a taster could have Exclusive use of the video for the first single I WILL GROW.
Rodgers’ engaging voice instantly captures the attention but it’s classy melody and the deep story in his lyrics that make this song really quite extraordinary.
At 14 Singer-Songwriter Steve Rodgers began to write his own songs on guitar and piano. He started a band with his friends at 17, ‘Lost Sons of Davros’. From the ‘Lost Sons’ came ‘Boa’ who released two albums and their first single ‘Duvet’ was the title track to the Japanese multi award- winning animation series Manga ‘Lain – Serial Xperiments’. They toured the States, the UK but after much enjoyment, Steve has decided to follow his own singer-songwriter path.
Sadly, while I’m really impressed with I WILL GROW, for a single it doesn’t sound commercial enough for National Radio; but certainly serves as a delightful taster for the promised album when it comes.

PS I’ve managed to come this far without mentioning Steve’s rather famous father Paul…..he of Free, Bad Company and more recently Queen. Yes THAT Paul Rodgers.
Steve may look a bit like his Dad (not the biggest problem in the world) but has his own distinctive and memorable voice.
Released May 31st May 2017

Will Hoge – ANCHORS

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Will Hoge
Thirty Tigers

Silver-tongued, Classy and Deeply Personal Country Heartbreakers.

After reviewing a slew of dark and intimate singer-songwriter albums recently, I woke up this morning needing to hear some happy upbeat music.
After pressing ‘random’ on the I-player a few times the Country Rocker This Isn’t An Original Sin by Will Hoge boomed out of the office speakers! That’ll do for me, I thought.
I found the album and immediately Track #1 The Reckoning made me sit back in my chair. Nothing at like ‘Original Sin’ Hoge’s cracked and pleading voice on a slow sad ballad wasn’t what I should be listening to; but hooked me like a big fat fish on a Sunday morning.
Whoa…..this guy can really write a song; and sing it too.
The delightful acoustic guitar that opens the next track This Grand Charade will lull the casual listener into a false sense of security; as this song about the slow and painful breakdown of a marriage, as told from the husband’s point of view is stunning, as Hoge fills the verses with the kind of detail that surely only someone who has experienced that charade first hand can write and sing about.
OK, you may already know that this is CMA, ACM and Grammy nominated Will Hoge’s seventh sol album and his list of hit songs for others is long as my arm; but I didn’t but when you hear the likes of Through Missing You, Baby’s Eyes and the strikingly beautiful Angels Wings it’s easy to imagine the ‘hat acts’ and their managers in Nashville Town asking for permission to record them; but none will be as intimate as the original by Hoge himself.
It’s a similar story with A Cold Night in Santa Fe; my stomach was in knots as Hoge manages to describe a passionate love affair from start to its slow and excruciating closure in four minutes; which is some special achievement.
The title song Anchors, about a young man who worries about ‘the sinners of the father/weighing like an anchor on a chain’ will make your jaw hit your chest and possibly even forget to breathe for the last minute or so; at least it did with me!
The accolade of RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ should by rights go to This Isn’t An Original Sin and could easily have been the best song Steve Earle never wrote, Little Bit of Rust (which features Sheryl Crow btw) but actually goes to another blaster of a Country Rocker……and a Summer ‘driving song’ par excellence, Young As We’ll Ever Be, which closes the album and opens the door for me to Will Hoge’s expansive back catalogue.
All in one album of 11 songs Will Hoge takes us on an emotional roller-coaster but by the end you know there is still ‘hope’ that the next ‘love story’ will be the love of your life; and surely that’s what the best of Country Music does better than any other genre?
Now ANCHORS has been on the office Hi-Fi all morning, I’ve decided this just may be the finest Country Record I will hear this year; and I will hear a lot.

Released 11th August 2017
UK Tour July 2017


Ani Di Franco – BINARY

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Ani Di Franco
Righteous Babe Records/Aveline Records

Very Thought Provoking and Challenging Songs.

Ani Di Franco is one of those artists whose name I recognise but know absolutely nothing about; which meant this album has been moved around the RMHQ desk several times recently, from ‘urgent’ to ‘to-do’ to ‘maybe’ and back again several times.
Then on Friday Chastity Brown talked about Ani Di Franco in glowing terms; so it’s now on the office stereo for the second time this morning.
The title track BINARY opens the record and; sadly had me curling my lip the first time I heard it, primarily because of the Electro-Pop back beat that accompanies several vocal overdubs; but by the second outing Di Franco’s expressive poetic hip-hop lite lyrics are starting to win me over.
Straight away the following song Pacifist’s Lament was more ‘up my street’. It’s easy to let this lovely musical interlude wash over you; but as I was told in no uncertain terms on Friday…..listen to her words…..they may be shrouded inside a clever production; but when I took the time to listen carefully Ani Di Franco is a very insightful and powerful songwriter. Who knew?
Written prior to the latest American Elections Di Franco was very involved in getting young people to vote; and that ‘political activism’ comes across in Play God and Terrifying Sight; but the insightful way she unfurls the story in Almighty; set to a mystical almost Eastern tune.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a ‘man of a certain age’ but BINARY and many songs therein has been a challenge for me; with the rocky Spider and the more easy on the ear piece of Beat-Poetry Sasquatch sounding like the type of intellectual songs that people will argue of the meaning of for years to come; rather than the transient music I normally listen to.
With all of that in mind it hasn’t been easy to choose a ‘favourite’ song. At first I thought it would be Zizzing; as it’s a great word and surely beckons a frothy tune…..oh dear Lord no! The first minute is a dark piece of epic cinematic proportions, then Ani slides into the mix with an even darker tale of imminent death and destruction for mankind (I think).
What I will go for is the final track, Deferred Gratification. Another very articulate and intelligent song probably aimed at brighter people than me; but probably the most ‘traditional’ of singer-songwriter type songs that I recognise on this disc.

Released June 9th 2017


banditos vionland

Bloodshot Records

Our Favourite Gang Band Get a Punk Infused Psychedelic Groove On.

For the fifth time in as many weeks I’m reviewing an album that has made me go “Well; I wasn’t expecting THAT!”
The Banditos self-titled debut album came along at just the right time for me in 2015, blowing the cobwebs from my mind with their ‘Biker Chic and Bar-room Boogie’ so I was expecting more of the same here; but it appears they have been listening to their old record collection and torn up that play book.
Opening track Fine, Fine Day opens with some Prog feedback then sweeps into a Gabba, Gabba Hey style 90mph American Punk Rock that had me (mentally) headbanging and fist-pumping……I love it!
But it’s followed by a groovy piece of 60’s Psychedelic Rock, with Mary Beth going all Grace Slick while taking the lead vocals on Strange Heart. On it’s own it’s actually a wonderful song but my head was already spinning by the end. Later the title track Visionland turns everything on it’s head too, with the band going all harmonious and Pop-Rocky on a song that sounds like it could have been an early Jefferson Airplane album track.
Here you get to appreciate their collective songwriting on the likes of Thick n Thin, When It Rains and the Alt. Country Deluxe of Lonely Boy.
What I especially wasn’t prepared for from The Banditos was the judicious use of a banjo on many of the tracks here and on Fun All Night we are even treated to a kazoo solo…..yep, you read it right…a kazoo solo!
While every single track stands out in one way or another; I’ve fallen in love with two in particular.
On the beautiful torch song Healin’ Slow Mary Beth takes us on a sad old journey that builds to a heart-shredding finale worthy of Dusty Springfield if she’d ever fronted REM.
The other is a classy Country Rocker, DDT which closes the album and shows the whole band in their bar-room glory with it’s tight rhythm section, scorching guitars (a rocking banjo too) plus Mary Beth and Corey Parson trading lines like Kris Kristofferson and Rita back in the day.
Now I’ve played the album a few days I’m sort of ‘getting it’……VISIONLAND is a bit ‘all over the place’ but actually showcases the bands many and varied talents in a way that the debut album probably didn’t.

Released 23rd June 2017

Hannah Aldridge – GOLD RUSH

Hannah Aldridge

Hannah Aldridge
Rootsy Music.

Gutsy, Passionate and Honest Contemporary Southern Rock.

We loved Hannah Aldridge’s debut album Razor Wire way back in 2014 so got ‘super-excited’ to receive her follow up earlier this week (a bit too close to the release date for comfort; but…hey ho!).
WOAH! My ears were immediately pinned back with the intensity of opening track Aftermath, as Hannah channels her inner Joni and Bonnie on a steamy Rocker of the Southern variety.
That ‘feeling’ carries on through the darkly sensual Dark Haired Woman which follows and probably most songs here; but most noticeably on Lace and I Know Too Much.
I’ve deliberately not listened to Razor Wire while reviewing this beauty, as I want this fresh and feisty album to stand on its own merits; and it most certainly does with Alt. Country rockers like Shouldn’t Hurt So Bad and No Heart Left Behind being the type of punchy songs we associate with Lucinda and Chrissie Hinde; but Hannah Aldridge’s lavishly textured voice and full-blooded way with words takes her into a league very much of her own; with comparisons being futile.
A couple of other songs stand out for very different reasons; the almost Gothic ballad Living On Lonely, featuring Ryan Beaver on harmonies and Sadler Vaden’s spooky guitar parts sent a tingle down my spine the first time I heard it; and then when I discovered that it was a co-write with RMHQ favourite Andrew Combs it took on a whole new importance, and had me poring over the poetic lyrics.
But the title of RMHQ ‘favourite song’ goes to……..The Irony of Love, a song that had me thinking “where the Hell did that come from?” An almost lo-fi story that had; and still has me marvelling at it’s haunting construction and the actual phrase ‘The Irony of Love’ is just perfect and had me wondering why no one has actually used it before…..because, as Hannah points out, Love is made up of many and various ironies. 10/10.
Then we have the title track Gold Rush; a fascinating acoustic Alt. Country ballad which closes the disc and uses Hannah’s luscious voice against a moving pedal-steel, shimmering cymbals and some gorgeous bottle neck guitar playing from Vaden.
I’m not sure what more I can say to draw your attention to this album; but if it was by one of Hannah Aldridge’s more well known contemporary’s the national magazines and newspapers would be wetting their pants with excitement; so get in first and see what the fuss will be about.

Released 16th June 2017

Chastity Brown at Jumping Hot Club, Newcastle.

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Chastity Brown
Jumping Hot Club
The Cluny

Friday 15th June 2017.

For a man who only three years ago went to at least two gigs a week ( 7 in 10 days once!) tonight was only my fourth gig of the year, so quite a big deal.
As is my won’t these days I quietly made my way into the Cluny basement as the applause was dying down for the first song from ‘The Geordie Dusty’…..’Little Mo’ Scott.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Mo over the years and tonight she was making her annual visit to the JHC; and with hindsight was the perfect foil for headline act Chastity Brown.
Mo regaled us with her inimitable versions of Ry Cooder’s Borderline, Norah Jones’ Lonestar and a gorgeously sleazy rendition of Love Me Like a Man; a hit for Bonnie Raitt but written by JHC favourite Chris Smither.
These songs (and others) were interspersed with self-depreciating jokes about age, eyesight and memory; much to the ‘mature’ audience’s obvious delight.
As the set came to an end, there were cries for “more” from the crowd and after a very quick con-flab between Shippy the Promoter and Geoff the MC Mo was told she had time for one more song. Surprised, she had a chat with her guitarist and multi-instrumentalist drummer they decided on the beautiful I Cry Myself To Sleep; and this crazy world seemed a slightly better place.

After a very short break I nearly missed Chastity Brown’s sultry opening song After You from the magnificent Back-road Highways.
The singer, looking a vision in white (inc. a white bow-tie) was on fine form from the start, greeting friends in the audience as she introduced the second song Colorado, explaining why it had taken her four years to follow up the previous album….”I’m from Tennessee; we do thing real slow there.” She smiled and shrugged her shoulders.
The next hour and a half was packed with a mix of songs from both albums, including a really passionate delivery of If You Let Me and the sweeping landscapes of Drive Slow on album now sounding tightly wrapped and almost claustrophobic.

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I can’t go any further without mentioning guitarist Luke Enyeart who provided heartbreaking accompaniment on his Bigsby enhanced emerald green Gretsch guitar.
Highlights are nearly too many to mention; but a song dedicated to her Mother back home in Tennessee featured the Cluny Evangelical Choir on harmonies and a new song, played solo called I Ask For Nothing really, really showcased her extraordinary voice.
The show came to an all too brief closure with her beautiful interpretation of the Nina Simone song Baltimore which tugged at the combined heartstrings of the audience.
One more thing; Chastity took the time half way through to thank Promoter Graeme Anderson for “taking a chance on her four years ago, when she randomly sent him an e-mail alongside 20 others in the UK asking for a gig.” Only Shippy and a guy in London responded (I was at that gig and suitably star-struck immediately) and ……the rest is history.