The Rocking Magpie

rm logo 1

There’s been a whole lot of interest with the website for a while now, so I thought I should update the home page, to tell you a little bit about who we are.

Welcome to the Rocking Magpie – a box-room on the Internet for one man’s 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; because I love R&B, Ska, Reggae, Soul and all things Mod too.

After many years writing reviews for numerous magazines and websites, I had a major fall-out with two major magazine/websites over ‘payments’ (or lack of!) in late 2014 so I decided to break up the band and go solo; putting everything under one roof on my own website…….THE ROCKING MAGPIE.

yola 1beth-h-2shippy


Me? I live in the North East of England; but receive music from around the world….most noticeably  the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and all corners of Europe (very little from the vibrant scene in my home region ; which is sad); and our readership reflects this, with followers in 81 countries across 4 continents who receive e-mail updates whenever reviews are posted; plus my data tell me that ‘occasional visitors’ from 111 countries have actually visited the site over the years!

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 tonot just the regurgitation of a Press Release like most other websites.

I’ve accidentally evolved a ‘house style’ which means that, just like in the olden days when we visited a record shop, I check out the artwork on the sleeve first and if it appeals I (‘ask to’) play the first track which is always the key to the palace of delights that will follow, which is why I still place major emphasis on that first song; regardless of the artist being a household name or someone self-releasing something they have recorded in their bedroom. That single track has to pique my interest….just like it did as a teenager when we would sit around making lists of the Greatest Top 10 opening tracks of all time.

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.

whitney-rose-cdmatracal cohen 88



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

We do like feedback, so leave comments, re-post on Facebook or RT at will. This especially applies to PR’s and Record Companies who don’t appear to give a toss once the review is online!!

Press the like/follow button for irregular postings of reviews that you can read in the comfort of your own home…or workplace, or the train or the loo (or not as 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



GDPR Update


if you are receiving this you are on my mailing list. I know I review a lot of albums in batches so it may get overwhelming some days so…….if I bore you unsubscribe ASAP.

Love n kisses


Gretchen Peters & Kim Richey Sage Gateshead, 23rd May 2018

gretchen SAGE 1

Gretchen Peters & Kim Richey
Sage Gateshead
23rd May 2018

So far in 2018 I’ve listened to some amazing albums from artists across the globe, criss crossing all of the Roots genres. Two of the very best have come from long term RMHQ favourite Gretchen Peters and a new name to me, Kim Richey; so the opportunity to see both ladies at the magnificent Sage Concert Hall in Gateshead was too good to miss.
As I stood beside the stage, camera in hand I was surprised to see that people were taking their seats behind the stage on the third tier of Hall 2 meaning that this concert was very close to being a Sell Out…….which is a good thing.
A nervous looking, but smiling Kim Richey opened proceedings with a charming preamble to Chinese Boxes from her 2007 album of the same name, and the song itself was absolutely delightful; as were everything else she sang too.
I particularly liked her stories behind the songs; especially the self-depreciating one for Hello Old Friend/John’s Song which really made me and the crowd chuckle; then gasp at the power of the song itself.
With only 45 minutes to play with Kim slid in only a couple of albums from this years’ Edgeland and thankfully my two favourites, the brilliant Chuck Prophet co-write Pin a Rose and the darkly beautiful and autobiographical Wild Horses were among them; and the latter especially received long and loud applause from the knowledgeable crowd as it ended.

Although not something I normally do I’d intended saying ‘hello’ to Kim during the break; but the queue to buy her album and have a photo taken appeared never ending; so I slunk away back into the shadows like a Reviewer Ninja.
When I walked back into the hall, there was a palpable air of anticipation as the lights went down, and Gretchen Peters made her way across the stage.
I was very surprised that she chose the exquisitely dark and brooding Arguing With Ghosts and Wichita from her new album which only came out a few days ago to start the show; but the look on the audience’s faces as the latter ended proved what an excellent selection they were.
For the third song Barry Walsh left the Steinway piano to strap on a piano accordion and stalk the stage like a Parisian troubadour for the chillingly beautiful Matador.
The mood was set, for an evening of ‘sad songs to make everyone happy.’
With a back catalogue of songs that put all of her contempories in the shade; Gretchen chose to pretty much perform the vast majority of songs from the latest album Dancing With The Beast and, do you know what? They were all here on merit, trust me.
With Barry on piano and two young guys from Northern Ireland on bass and electric guitar; the arrangements of these new songs made Truckstop Angels and Say Grace even more haunting than on disc.
There was something that I’d tried to say in the album review that was even more evident tonight; Gretchen tells some harrowing stories on these songs and really and truly inhabits the characters she’s singing about; but giving these ‘feminist subjects’ a very feminine state of mind.

gretchen SAGE
As I said there weren’t a lot of ‘older songs’ but those that were included were breathtaking; especially the Grammy winning Blackbirds and my personal favourite On a Bus Stop to St. Cloud, which was introduced with a story about Jimmy LaFave which sadly went over the audience’s heads.
Oh……another was Guadalupe, which I think I first heard sung by Tom Russell and was probably the first time I’d heard Gretchen Peter’s name; such is the nature of the world she and I inhabit.
Highlights? Flipping heck!
The title track from the latest album Dancing With The Beast is about a horrible subject; but tonight was delivered with majestic aplomb, leaving everyone dumbfounded until they nearly lifted the roof with their collective applause.
Kim Richey was invited back out to provide backing vocals and harmonies on a couple of songs; one of which; Gretchen got the key wrong and had to be stopped mid verse; much to everyone’s delight!

gretchen and kim
I’m normally not a fan of encores, as they are generally contrived these days, but tonight they were well deserved with Gretchen eventually leaving the stage to go ‘off mic’ to serenade the front row with an incredibly simple and intimate Love That Makes a Cup of Tea; (which was only spoilt by someone dropping a pin), and was the perfect way to end a perfect concert.

Photos by HarrisonaPhotos.

Full set

Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis WILD, WILD, WILD (Single)


robbie fulks linda gail lewisRobbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis

Hey, hey, hey you crazy kids! Check this rascal out……a rip snorting collaboration between two of our favourites……. Mr Robbie Fulks and the delectable Linda Gail Lewis (the star of TWO SummerTyne Festivals) on Bloodshot Records; and a forerunner to a whole album on August 10th.

“The album Wild! Wild! Wild! was recorded in Chicago with Alex Hall (JD McPherson, Cactus Blossoms, Pokey LaFarge) and features musical contributions from Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard), Danny B. Harvey, Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough (NRBQ, The Flat Five), Kelly Hogan (Mavis Staples, Neko Case), Joan Collaso, Yvonne Gage, and others.”

I don’t know about you…….but I can’t wait!


I See Hawks in L.A. – Live and Never Learn


i see hawks BB

I See Hawks in L.A.
Live and Never Learn

A Rare Treat for the Ears and the Soul

Live and Never Learn, the eighth album from these California Country rock ‘n’ rollers is a wonderful treat for both the ears and the soul. I’ve previously heard comparisons to that other west coast band, the Eagles, but I don’t hear it here. The Hawks are fearless where the Eagles take it easy, and their harmonies take more from doo-wop and bar-room country than, say CSN&Y. The Hawks could easily accomplish musically the Eagles sound, but they’re smarter than that, they take more chances, their sense of humor is near boundless. A case in point: The Eagles would never, could never, create such songs as “Ballad for the Trees,” “The Last Man in Tujunga,” or especially the wonderful, hilarious, and all-important “My Parka Saved Me,” which I’m going to go ahead and say is most likely the best song of 2018 so far. Seriously. We’ll come back to that in a moment, first, the rest of the album.
Novelty songs have long been a rock ‘n’ roll tradition. Remember “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll,” “Splish Splash,” or “Purple People Eater”? Yeah, novelty crap humor; but they rocked.
This is important. “Wooly Bully” rocked. “I Put a Spell on You” rocked. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to accomplish. One wrong turn at Albuquerque and suddenly you’re in “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” or “The Chipmunk Song” territory. Humor in rock ‘n’ roll is important and vital. Otherwise everything is Pink Floyd and the National—fine bands yet not what you go after when you want a rollicking and fun trip. And humor is something the Hawks seem to have no short supply of, from the way Robert Waller’s vocal on “Last Man in Tujunga” rapidly descends on the word “collapsing,” stretching it out further than any fully sane singer would ever attempt—but it works, the song needs it to be effective—to the utter lack of any sense of irony on many of these songs. They play it straight, knowing full well how to milk the laughs with a poker face. Smart, humorous lyrics and quick asides from the band such as they way the charge into a single bar of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” right in the middle of “Tujunga” and then continue on as if nothing happened, or the way the pedal steel supports the vocal in “Poour Me,” adding more layers to this wonderful tale of woe.
On several of these songs the Hawks, with Rob Waller’s river bottom vocals and the band’s inherent quirkiness, are reminiscent of the Handsome Family, yet the Handsome Family never rocked this hard, especially on “Stoned with Melissa” which is a fast-paced rocker that starts out making you laugh but takes a sudden turn down a dark alley. Life’s not all fun and games and the Hawks know this, even if it gives them pause to wonder why at times. “Spinning” is dreamy Alt-psychedelia, while “King of the Rosemead Boogie” is a barn spinner of an uptempo blues, and the title song, “Live and Never Learn,” is smooth, smooth Country. The Hawks are all over the map, yet fully in sync, the songs never sounding forced or contrived.
And now we get to “My Parka Saved Me.”
Every great album needs a song worthy of putting on repeat and this is the one. We start off with the band opening the door for the organ swells which bring us right in to a rather funny and also rather harrowing true story narrated by the band’s drummer, Victoria Jacobs, in a voice sublimely caught somewhere between the Mid-West and Valley Girl: She got high. She broke up with her boyfriend. She went for a drive down to the lake. The lake was frozen and there was lots of snow. Suddenly, a drunk driver hits her and she “spun like a donut! There was glass everywhere!” All this backed perfectly by the band in a sawdust floor bar-room band manner while a countrified doo-wop section plays the part of Greek chorus, repeating her story line by line in a perfect straight-man sort of way. No time for irony here, just the facts, ma’am. Jacobs’ story continues as she parries back and forth with the band as they break out and begin to embellish on her tale. “That’s not true!” she regales them, but they continue on unabated, facts and memories now distorting into one another as the song and story continues on with a catchy refrain and a wonderful keyboard backdrop, which works very much like Al Kooper’s organ on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” in that it percolates and bubbles throughout, creating even more interest, drawing the listener in.
This is an amazing song and indeed, album. All the disparate parts fit together wonderfully, telling a story that is tragic, comical, and all too true, in a way only a band as brilliant and as fearless as I See Hawks in L.A. can.

Review courtesy The American Magpie…..the Legendary Roy Peak.
Released June 29th 2018

Walter Wolfman Washington MY FUTURE IS MY PAST


Walter Wolfman Washington

Spine Tingling and Intricately Simple Songs that Defy Categorisation.

I’ve really had to rack my brains here, as I was sure a) I had at least one album by Walter Wolfman Washington (I haven’t) or b) I’ve seen him live (again, I haven’t as he’s never played the Jumping Hot Club) so why did I know his name and why was I excited at hearing this album?
AHA! One song………I have ONE song by him; but what a song! Ain’t No Love In The Heart of The City was the major surprise on a VA album on Point Blank Records way back in 1991……but I still remembered it; now to hunt it out of the loft.
But until then there’s this amazing record.
You first hear Walter pour a drink before strumming a semi-acoustic guitar on opening song Lost Mind; and when his velvet tones filter from the speakers your heart will melt. Is this the Blues? Is it Jazz? Is it Soul? Yep……all three.
Apparently this is a new direction for 74 year old Washington; but I can’t vouch for that (obviously) so I’m just going with what I hear; and I hear a man channelling not just Sam Cooke but Al Green, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole too on a bunch of intricately simple songs that defy categorisation.
She’s Everything To Me features some stunning piano and again on I Cried My Last Tear; but nothing deflects from Washington’s beautiful delivery of some beautifully timeless words.
This my friends; is the perfect late night album for both seduction purposes and also sitting alone crying into your beer; with Walter’s interpretations of Save Your Love For Me and I Just Dropped By To Say Hello being perfect for both situations.
Oh man, oh man……oh man how cool is What a Difference a Day Makes? Every other version of this song is full of sweeping and swooping strings; but here Producer Ben Ellman let’s the words breathe alongside some jaw dropping bass from James Singleton which sounds like it replicates Washington’s heart beats as he makes the song his own.
While there is plenty of Rhythm to go alongside the Blues here; Walter never really gets past a stroll of a pace; although he does pick things up to a sexy strut on Steal Away and Johnny Guitar Watson’s I Don’t Want To Be a Lone Ranger too.
MY FUTURE IS MY PAST is a good old-fashioned Long Player; without the need for a Radio Single; making choosing a Favourite Track more difficult than usual; as each individual song perfectly melts into whatever follows; but the spine-tingling duet with Irma Thomas Even Now does stand out like a blood red poppy in a golden wheat field; so that’s what I’m going for.
Everything about this album oozes ‘Class,’ not just the selection of songs but the world class musicians that have been assembled to support Walter Wolfman Washington’s amazing voice; but the Album Cover itself should be enough to make you want to buy it; as you really can ‘judge an album by the cover’ in this instance.
Trust me; even if you have a passing interest in Blues, Jazz or Soul and even if you don’t but appreciate great music; don’t miss this record you will thank me for the tip.

Released UK May 25th 2018
Released USA April 20th 2018


Buck Owens The Complete Capitol Singles 1967-70

buck owens 70

Buck Owens
The Complete Capitol Singles 1967-70
Omnivore Records.

A Contemporary and Influential Set of Songs From a Country Music Giant.

I have to hold my hands up and declare that apart from another Compilation of his later work; I know nought about Buck Owens apart from the occasional visiting act who sing one of his songs as an encore to ecstatic cries from two or three people in the audience.
When I was growing up in NE England in the late 60’s and 70’s his type of Country Music was way past its sell by date and Country Rock hadn’t yet been invented; so the Bakersfield Sound made famous by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos completely past me by.
But; because plenty of acts I like adore him; it was always going to worthwhile checking out this Double Album of 36 A and B-sides from the years that followed his ‘Golden Age’ in the 1960’s.
The collection starts with some mighty neat guitar from Red Simpson on the jumpin’ Sam’s Place. Taken in context it must have been a joy to hear on the radio or more importantly a Jukebox when it first hit the streets in 1967 but today it sounds a bit twee; which is a word I associate with another couple of songs on the first Album here.
Without knowing his actual #1 Hits; I love the tender ballads here like Don’t Ever Tell Me Goodbye and I’ve Got You On My Mind Again, with That’s Alright With Me (If It’s Alright With You) certainly being a template for quite a few songs in my own collection that were recorded nearly 50 years after its release.
On the second album there are some rather special collaborations with Susan Raye, that didn’t just make my toes tap but my heart actually skip a beat with We’re Gonna Get Together, Fallin’ For You and the delightful Your Tender Loving Care all sounding exactly like the type of songs that at least 5 of my favourite duos sound like now; half a century later (funny that; isn’t it? No names – no pack drill).
That’s the thing here; judicial editing would leave us with a very contemporary set of songs; but too many of the songs haven’t actually aged very well…….especially Happy Times Are Here Again, The Kansas City Song and the glitzy Live version of Johnny B Goode; but when Buck Owens is good; he’s beyond excellent…..Maybe If I Close My Eyes (It Will Go Away and I’ll Love You Forever and Ever?) both fall into that category but there are others too.
Speaking of ‘contemporary’ I think it’s fair to say with hindsight that Big In Vegas, White Satin Bed and Tall Dark Stranger have influenced at least three generations of singer-songwriters from Glen Campbell through Gram Parsons to the likes of Sturgill Simpson and even Brad Paisley today.
Where to go for a Favourite Song? Any of those last few songs would easily fit the bill; but I’m plumping for a song that has aged better than it possibly should have; and ticks a lot of boxes for me over the years….and is a song I really should have heard over the years, but haven’t. I Wouldn’t Live In New York City (If They Gave Me The Whole Dang Town) probably didn’t appeal to his core fans ‘back in the day’ but it’s a helluva song that deserves another lease of life……..please, please, please someone record it ASAP!
I only discovered the definition of word ‘seminal’ last week; and it perfectly sums up the best of these 36 songs; as many of them were ‘before their time’ and as I point out; must have been heard by plenty of aspiring songwriters as they grew up; because I hear their ‘heart, soul and style’ in plenty of modern songs and albums in 2018.
Now to delve further back into Buck Owen’s career.

Released May 11th 2018


Jeb Barry & The Pawn Shop Saints TEXAS Etc.

jeb barry f

Jeb Barry & The Pawn Shop Saints
Dolly Rocker Recordings.

Slightly Dark Yet Starkly Beautiful Alt. Country Deluxe.

DAMN……mostly because this is a Double album it’s sat unloved in the ‘to do’ box for several weeks, until yesterday when my trusty I-Phone played opening track Trouble Down in Tennessee and I had to take a sharp intake of breath, waiting to see who the artist was on the car stereo. Jeb Barry? Who he?
Currently residing in the hills of New England, the one time ‘nearly Pop Star’ Jeb Barry is a singer-songwriter in the proud traditions of Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell and more importantly, RMHQ Favourite Slaid Cleaves; but sounds nothing like any of them.
This release is a Double Album primarily because not only is Barry a prolific songwriter but can comfortably deliver them as raw intimate solo efforts (the second disc) or better still as atmospheric and carefully constructed Alt. Country minor epics alongside his bandmates.
Let’s scoot back to that first song Trouble Down in Tennessee; and it’s opening line “Had a little trouble down in Tennessee/Load a whisky and a girl who didn’t love me.” Coupled to a rip-cord tight band and a sloppy Dobro…….; and the song only gets deeper and better the longer it goes on. That is the Alternative to Country I adore.
As you’d expect most of the songs here are heartbreakers, tearjerkers and bar-room ballads; and boy oh boy can Jeb Barry tell a story…….Galveston ’92 and Southern Oak are pretty much as good as this genre gets.
Miss Mississippi is the type of fascinating song that you thought only Steve Earle could write twenty odd years ago; but Jeb picks up that uber-detailed mantle and runs off into the distance with it; taking the listener on a journey through the dive bars and Honky-Tonks trying to re-live that magical night.
Chainsmoker is a fascinating choice of metaphor for the loser in a break up; but again Barry effortlessly tugs at the heartstrings until you choke back the tears; and that deadpan jangly guitar won’t help your cause either.
While the album title is Texas Etc. it could and should be Gravel Roads and Whiskey Bars, which follows and is very much the musical cornerstone to Album #1 and probably the whole kit and caboodle; as it is the essence of Jeb Barry’s songwriting all rolled into three short minutes and giving Sturgill Simpson a good run for his money.
Album #2 is a slightly darker affair, opening with the starkly beautiful A Little Mercy; which possibly finds Barry at his poetic best; and Michael O’Neill’s delicate mandolin playing alongside Barry’s soft guitar is quite spellbinding, by the way.
At times like this I find it weird to say that there’s not a bad song here; honestly there’s no filler here at all as every single song is here on merit.
In I Can’t Live In Houston Anymore, somehow Jeb manages to make this major metropolis sound like a Hick town in the back of beyond; but I guess unrequited love can get you like that can’t it?
That theme reappears on El Paso Sucks which took me back 45 years to a similar end to a relationship I experienced in my teens and had more or less forgot about; but that’s the beauty of classy songwriting isn’t it?
Where do I go for a favourite track? I’m damn sure I need to play this album a lot more to get the very best from it; but today I’m going for the majestic If This Heart Had Walls from Album #1 and either….no……I must be brave…….choose one for God’s Sake! OK……the stunning duet with Heather Austin, It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time is ‘that song’ that will haunt everyone who ever hears it, as the intimate detail in every single line while remind you of something in your own life; albeit the past but hopefully not the present……but it really is a Country Heartbreaker Deluxe.
There is one more song deserving of a mention; but one that stands apart from the crowd; Refugees is normally sung at the end of the night as a group effort;  most regularly alongside a group of friends that includes Sarah Lee Guthrie but here Jeb Barry resurrects that Greenwich Village 1960’s spirit on a tragically beautiful song that suggests every single American citizen is actually a refugee in one form or another and should be a lot more tolerant to those seeking refuge in ‘the Land of the Free’ in the 21st Century.

Released April 27th 2018

Whitney Rose Band at Jumpin’ Hot Club 07/05/18


Whitney Rose Band
Jumpin’ Hot Club
The Cluny
Monday 7th May 2018

For a variety of reasons I fell out of love with ‘live music’ last year; partly because of the odd hours my day job leave me constantly tired and also I’d sort of ‘seen everyone’ with no one exciting me the way they used to do.
Then a couple of weeks ago I went to see Canadian singer-songwriter Jerry Leger who played an exciting and intimate concert in Durham, which reignited the flame in readiness for taking Mrs Magpie to see one of our favourite acts from the last few years; Whitney Rose tonight.
The evening started in the newly designed Cluny II with friend of the Rocking Magpie, the recently repatriated Mrs Gem Andrews who has been domiciled in Germany for a couple of years, with her friend Sue McLaren supplying harmonies.
Hearing Gem’s warm ‘burr’ on opening song Letter from the newest album North after so long was a delight in itself; but the stripped back interpretation gave it an almost earthy resonance, which set the tone for the short and (bitter) sweet set.
While introducing the next song, Sing Your Song which is about domestic violence Gem unceremoniously hitched her jeans up and told us they were elasticated maternity ones……because she was pregnant!
I wasn’t expecting that …….but felt quite paternal at the news, as I’ve known the young singer-songwriter for quite a few years now.
The 30 minutes flew by in the twinkle of an eye, with the two Julia Darling poem/songs from North both sounding even lovelier in this setting but the actual highlight was the coal mining song Lungs; which came as no surprise as it’s the finest song Gem has ever written, never mind sung.

Then following a short break the small hall filled to just short of capacity; which was quite an achievement on a red hot Bank Holiday Monday to welcome Whitney’s band who regaled us with a cool instrumental Ode to BJ, before the Princess of Modern Country Music made her eye-popping appearance! The big Cowboy hat and boots were no surprise, but the leather Daisy Dukes and the Gold ‘Elvis’ Cape which covered very little was a huge surprise!
Not that her clothing was ever going to distract from the music…..God Forbid.
With two albums and an ace EP at her disposal Whitney chose the sassy Country Classic Harper Valley PTA to open the show; and Live Music hardly gets better than that three minutes.
This was immediately followed by one of my favourite songs of hers, My Boots then the sweet and sultry Three Minute Love Affair which had everyone around me tapping out the beat on their thighs.
With time being of the essence on a School Night; there was very little time for chat or indeed intros; but we were here for the music anyway……and music of the highest order we got, from a singer and band who must surely be on the cusp of the Major Leagues sometime soon?
Pretty much all of Rule 62 and the EP South Texas Suite got a run out tonight with Analog, You’re a Mess and You Don’t Scare Me getting noisy applause as they faded to a close; but it was evident from the cheers that greeted The Devil Borrowed my Boots that this was a knowledgable group of fans who have been with her for the long haul.
Baring in mind Whitney and band had just arrived after a twelve hour journey from Kilkenny in Southern Ireland where they had played two gigs the previous day; their energy level was sky high throughout the 90 minute set that couldn’t have been more Country if John Wayne and Johnny Cash had walked in.
My own personal highlight of a red hot set? Trucker’s Funeral of course. If any one song can define this songwriter’s skill it has to be this one; taking a spectacularly odd subject and making it a smile inducing weepy of the highest order; what’s not to like y’all.
But Mrs. Magpie has just reminded me that there were another two spectacular cover versions worthy of mention; Tom T Hall’s How I Got From Memphis and the song that received a gasp, Suspicious Minds……and the applause nearly shook the walls when it ended.
I’m not normally a fan of encores; but tonight it was fully deserved with the band regaling us with another intricate instrumental, Sleepwalk before Whitney brought the show to a close with an exquisite version of Two More Bottles, before spending nearly half an hour signing CD’s and getting her picture taken with adoring fans.
Normal service has now resumed and my faith in Live Music is certainly restored after a short hiatus.



Ana Egge White Tiger

ana egge

Ana Egge
White Tiger
StorySound Records

A Charming Foray into Americana

White Tiger, the tenth album from nomad turned Brooklyn resident, Ana Egge, is a charming foray into pop, Americana, and folk. When she was younger, Egge built her own acoustic guitar and still uses it to this day. That shows dedication and resolve to her craft, like a magician building their own tools to cultivate their spells. Egge has been at this for long enough to know best how to hone her songs to simple perfection. And these songs are sneaky good, taking unexpected lyrical turns with simple, yet diverse instrumentation. Retro throwback horns, woodwinds, and bouncy synths abound, but so does bashing drums, sweet fiddle, and the clear chime of acoustic guitars, all living with one another comfortably, taking us on a fun journey. In “Last Ride” Egge says “You were waiting and jumped on behind / I couldn’t wait to make you hold on tight,” and that applies to this album, too. She’s ready for you to be invested in these songs, to take this journey with her, and she doesn’t plan on letting you down in the least.
The album’s opener is the wistful “Girls, Girls, Girls,” in which Egge proclaims to know “what makes the world go ’round,” and when she offers up this knowledge she coos softly as if she’s not quite ready to give up the secret: A whisper can sometimes be more powerful than an exclamation. In the first verse, when she states “New York City was the place to be / Waiting on my man / Waiting for Sweet Jane” you know that she’s aware of her musical history, and when the song continues: “Walking down Chelsea Street / Seeing who we could be,” we see she’s gleefully coy as well as smart. The title song, “White Tiger,” could be a mantra for surviving rough times, putting the past behind you and moving on. “Be With You” is that rare find—a love song without the schmaltz, just honest yearning.
I generally don’t like comparing musicians to other musicians but I do want to say that this batch of tunes along with the excellent production
reminds me of the mid-nineties band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, with it’s simple but quirky arrangements and clear presentation. I’m thinking of the whistle solo on “Girls, Girls, Girls,” the delightfully understated horns and woodwinds on several songs, and the winning arrangement of the John Hartford song, “In Tall Buildings,” a duet with guitarist Billy Strings, featuring wonderful violin accompaniment by Alex Hargreaves. Egge’s and Strings’ vocals playfully intertwine while the violin weaves around them both, creating a rare and wonderful treat for the ears. If there’s one tune on this album ready to be put on loop to listen to over and over it’s definitely this one.
The album ends with the “Let the Light In,” a hymn for the aftermath of a breakup, when it’s finally okay to let go and feel good about the decisions you’ve made. We’ve made this journey from start to finish with Egge, but are we truly ready to move on? Myself, I played it over and over again for the better part of a week, revelling in each and every song. These tunes don’t grow on you as much as they are fully realized deep inside you already, waiting for the chance to spring forth. It’s nice to see artists still releasing albums full of great material, not just a single here and there, and I’m looking forward to Egge’s next one as well as delving into her back catalogue, which will— —if this album is any indication—be well worth it.

Courtesy Guest Reviewer ….the Legendary Roy Peak

Released 8th June 2018

Jill Jackson ARE WE THERE YET?


Jill Jackson

Grown Up Rootsy British Country Music For All Ages.

While this is actually Jill Jackson’s fifth full length record; it pains me to say I’d never heard her before opening track 1954 a chunka-chunka Old-School Country song; the likes of which I’d expect from Nanci Griffith or Laura Cantrell; not someone from the Glaswegian Delta. This story of Jill’s Grandparents who first met in 1954 could easily have come from the pen of either of those two songwriters; but it hasn’t which makes for a great start.
After playing this record over the period of a week or so I now love the way Jill moves back and forth through the musical periods that have influenced her with My Baby and Finally being luscious love songs in the style of those wonderful singers that turned up on Saturday evening TV in our younger days; yet on Needle and Thread she goes all Rockabilly Princess at the soda shop; yet none sound in the least bit aged in the slightest.
Jill Jackson admits to being swept up in a dose of nostalgia while writing these songs but that doesn’t stop the the heart-wrenching Worries and Hope and Gasoline both being as fresh as a daisy but Dynamite; about the time the songwriter found herself in an abusive relationship as a teenager will certainly resonate with many young girls of the same age now; or even older and fits in perfectly well with what we now know as Modern British Country; but with a razor sharp edge.
Where do I go for a Favourite Song? Goodbye, a lovely song written while her Gran was sick and eventually died which closes the record is tragically beautiful but I’m going for the title track Are We There Yet? Another eloquent look back to the past; in this case going on the annual Summer holiday and a similar one many of us remember too, although now through the haze of rose coloured glasses but those lovely memories are now tinged with sadness as we all grow older and those loved ones leave us.
Yet again my theory of not reading the Press Release prior to listening to the music has paid off; as I’d never in a million years have thought Jill Jackson was from Glasgow (not that that is a bad thing) but must be from one of the Southern States from hearing her slightly worn around the edges yet delightfully expressive voice and well constructed and fascinating Country-Folk songs.
The other big surprise here is that the legendary Boo Hewerdine; more normally associated with Folk Music produced this album; and he’s made it sound like even though there is intrinsic sadness in many of the songs; everyone concerned was having a good time; which takes ARE WE THERE YET? Into a very radio friendly album indeed.

Released May 18th 2018