Left Coast Country – Pines Fly By

left coast

Left Coast Country
Pines Fly By

Heartfelt and Classy Contemporary Bluegrass Tunes.

If it wasn’t for the joy of discovering gems like this album, I would have given up this reviewing lark years ago.
As the first track here is pretty much Bluegrass ‘by numbers’; I wasn’t initially fussed on this hi-energy song; but on the back of some exceptional songs that follow; I’ve grown to love it as I kept the album on heavy rotation yesterday.
Track #2 on the other hand ‘had me’ from the end of the first verse. Burning Old Pictures of You; as Country Music just as I love it. Who wouldn’t like a heartbreaking tearjerker with a chorus that goes “I sit here drinking and a smoking/burning old pictures of you.”? I haven’t felt that way for a long time; but I have felt that way and this song puts those feeling to a toe tapping tune.
This song is followed by Mason Dixon Waltz and on the second play I was gone. With a beautiful, but maudlin tune and a sorrowful fiddle; it only took a few minutes for my eyes to well up; and a lump gather in my throat. Again; what’s not to like about Country songs this sad and this well constructed?
The title track Pines Fly By; is yet another sad and tender song; full of scrumptious harmonies put to some gorgeous picking; and had me thinking back to that Poco LP I once picked up in a sale for 50p and played until it wore out.
I like the way Left Coast Country throw in a couple of left turns here; Two Girls strays just far enough from the track to pique your interest and the almost Allman Brothersesque instrumental Sweetgrass actually doesn’t need a single word to keep your attention and that’s high praise from me.
Best of bunch? It has to be Bus Driver. That fiddle and acoustic guitar are as sad as ever, as the singer pour his heart out over his love who has left him for a Bus Driver Man. Will their relationship last? While we all know that the ladies like a ‘man in uniform’; but a Bus Driver? Well that’s the case here; possibly because she gets ‘free rides forever;’ and I love it in all its heart breaking glory.
You ain’t ever going to see Left Coast Country on the CMA or AMA Awards Shows; but I urge you to seek this album out or see them live ASAP.


Released February 27th 2016

Paul Burch – Meridian Rising

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Paul Burch
Meridian Rising
Plowboy Records

The Soundtrack To An Imaginary Soundtrack of Jimmie Rodger’s Life.

You can listen to this album on several different levels; and thoroughly enjoy it every which way, as it is the fabled Paul Burch’s latest album sung in a semi-traditional; but always reverential Country-Swing style and; most interestingly it’s an ‘imagined autobiography of The Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers life.’
As I know very little about Jimmie Rodgers; I will review it as the former; if you don’t mind.
The first song, Meridian; about the town in Mississippi where Rodgers was born, opens with some charming clarinet, before Burch saunters in with an even more charming, piano led song setting the scene for the story that will follow.
As you would expect every song charts a period or event in Jimmie’s life; and I particularly like the Honky-Tonk foot-stomper US Route 49 and the bewitching Hillbilly twang of Black Lady Blues; in the first half. The fiddle playing on that latter tune is worth the entrance fee alone.
That same fiddle nearly sets on fire during To Paris (With Regrets); a barnstorming piece of Gypsy-Jazz that also has some crazy guitar and a red hot accordion too; the song is well worthy of the music in the background too btw.
With Gunther Hotel Blues, which immediately follows, it’s back to Western Swing as Burch tells a raunchy and dark tale that shines a new light on Mr. Rodgers, for me.
It’s not all laughs and toe-tappin’ tunes here; there’s even a bit of a socio-political statement tucked away in the middle, with The Poor Don’t Vote. Although written by Burch in 2015/16 it truly capture the feeling of the times Rodgers lived and worked in.
As I understand it from the bio and also a friend who is a fan of Jimmie Rodgers; Rodgers fused Western Swing with the Blues and Folk giving rise to the argument that he was a forerunner for what would become known as Rock & Roll; and again Burch captures that spirit on Fast Fuse Blues and Back to the Honky Tonks; which is an absolute delight from start to finish; no matter how many times I hear it.
While there’s an awful lot here to enjoy; my two favourite tracks are the sad New Orleans infused, love song, The Girl I Sawed in Half and a similarly Jazz infused If I Could Only Catch My Breath which features Billy Bragg and the legendary Jon Langford, the latter of which is as good a song as I may have ever heard.
When the final track, the short and sweet, but still rambunctious Oh Didn’t He Ramble filters in you know that you are listening to; and have been listening to something really special indeed.


Released February 26th 2016

Shields – Sage Gateshead


Sage Gateshead
26th February 2016

Not normally my type of music, I was really impressed and smitten with the debut album by North East band Shields ‘How Can We Fix This? When I received it a few weeks ago; https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/shields-how-can-we-fix-this/
so was really looking forward to the actual launch at Sage Gateshead on Friday.
After arriving early (for once), I sat ‘people watching’ in the foyer and was surprised at the eclectic mix of people filing in. A predominantly ‘young’ crowd, there were the obligatory hipsters with big bushy beards and bobble hats; students in their Vans t-shirts, raggedy jeans and Converse; but just as many ‘normal’ music fans of all ages and more importantly about 3 dozen assorted children. Yes; real children aged between about 8 and 15; probably seeing their first ever live music concert; and I eventually came to the conclusion that I was easily as old if not older than the band’s Grandparents!

sage gateshead
The evening started with a band called The Great Curve; an impressive 5 piece made up from ex-members of local bands; some of which I’d actually heard of.
With a twinkle in their eyes, a throbbing bass and some seriously choppy guitars the band got the party started with a very intense song called Carried Away. Their half hour flew by; as the Hall filled up and several of the kids excitedly danced in front of the stage to the broodily Electro-Indie on offer; most memorably their latest single Vape Your Last Vape.
A really impressive start from a band just starting out; and appeared to tick all the boxes for a lot of the fans in the bar at the intermission.

joy atlas
Next up was Joy Atlas; a four piece with no bass, but a guitar, drums and a really impressive set of keyboards; all revolving around a young female singer that I instantly recognised but couldn’t name. Much like The Great Curve they too were promoting an EP; but theirs would best be described as Electronica-Melancholia.
It wasn’t until today that I found the name of the singer – Beccy Owen! Of course it was; but the last time I saw her she was a Folkie singer-songwriter; but tonight it sounded like she’d grown into her voice (a smooth mix between Debbie Harry and Enja) and she’d surrounded herself with some musicians really sympathetic to her sensational sound.
With songs like Stop This Vanity and Attitude, which closed their set I’m sure you will here a lot more from this band.
By the time Shields took to the stage the House Full sign had gone up; and there was a tangible sense of excitement in the room. As I understand it Shields have been on the circuit for a couple of years now; and while all the members hold down day jobs; still play two or three gigs a week; honing their skills in the old fashioned way.
That hard work has really paid off; as the five piece are as tight as a badgers bum; with a drummer keeping time like a Swiss watch as the three of the other members switched between bass, guitars, electric piano and Moog Synthesizer with the greatest of ease; and in Luke and Tom they have two singers that compliment each other like sausage and mash.
At times they had three guitars squealing like the finest Rock bands and others they had more whoops, whizzes and wackiness than someone like Sparks or Eels….I liked it a lot!
The new album was played in its entirety and enhanced by a few older songs for the ‘fans who’ve been with us from the start.’ and judging by the cheers that greeted those songs; that was a lot of people.
Just when I thought I had my finger on their pulse they threw a curve ball by sliding in a couple songs with a light Reggae beat; a bit like Police in their early (cool) days. One of these songs; Where’s The Evidence was one of my highlights of the evening; but their first single Face to Face nearly took the roof off the building.
From the album the title track Howcanwefixthis and Come Unstuck were both excellent and had a bigger sound than on record.
The set came to a close with the latest single, Alive which absolutely rocked my socks off!
Of course we had the obligatory encores and the mood got racked up beyond belief with Eyes on the Road and ended with a song I didn’t recognise but loved anyway (possibly a new song).
I can’t finish without mentioning the phenomenal light show. I’ve seen a lot of Rock gigs over the years and many have had huge light shows; but tonight they threw nearly everything bar the kitchen sink into it and every song had their own theme; one better than another. I guess this won’t be the case at every future gig; but because tonight was such a big deal in front of friends and family they really pushed the boat out; and it was worth every penny.
What a great way to close a very difficult week.

# Postscript

As I said at the beginning there were a lot of children at the concert tonight; presumably extended members of Shields’ families; but also plenty aged between 10ish and 15 there under their own steam alongside parent/chaperons. While all behaved impeccably well during the concert; one in particular caught my attention.

When I was photographing The Great Curve he was positioned right at the front with his Dad and had a look of excitement on his cherubic face; the like of which I hadn’t seen in a long time. As the evening progressed he didn’t give an inch; maintaining his position at the front; even when some stood in front of him; causing his Dad to tap one on the shoulder. Embarrassed they instantly moved to the side; allowing the lad an unhindered view and enough room to dance; which he did with vigor.

At the end of the evening I followed the pair to the car park; watching the boy virtually skipping with delight as he re-lived the previous couple of hours to his Dad; but the highlight came when the Dad phoned home and put the boy on to speak to his Mam. “It was brilliant!” He panted; “Honestly….it was the best night of my life….ever!”

I’m a cynical old fart; but I have to confess to having a tear in my eye on the car journey home; as I recalled how much music can genuinely touch people.


Photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Shields/

Rocking Magpie Feb/March Podcast

We are back and rocking our collective socks off –

Willie Nile Grandpa Rocks!
Blazing Zoos Own time you’re wasting
Treetop Flyers Dance through the night
Underhill Rose Love looks good on you
Nathan Bell King of the North
Ben Abraham To love someone
Red Sky July (Get out of) Dodge
Arrogance To see her smile
Mistress Mary And I didn’t want you
Josh Harty English Rain
Left Coast Country Bus Driver
Malcolm Holcombe To get by
Lucinda Williams If my love could kill


Wayfaring Strangers (VA)- Cosmic American Music

wayfaring strangers

Wayfaring Strangers
Cosmic American Music

The Spirit of Gram Burns on Brightly and Forever.

Apart from absolutely loving the album cover I didn’t know what to make of this album; especially as I didn’t recognise a single name from the 19 artists and bands featured on the disc of songs recorded between 1968 and 1980; so it lay gathering dust for a couple of weeks. Then one dark and lonely Saturday evening, when Mrs. Magpie was out gallivanting I decided to give the disc a whirl.
YIPPEE KAY AYE music lovers! What a gem it is; reminding me of all those sampler LP’s that record labels released in the 1970’s for 50 or 99p; to bolster my fledgling collection.
The twangfest that gets opening track Travellin’ by Jimmy Carter and Dallas Country Green is a joy to behold, plus it had me tapping my toes within 30 seconds.
I may have to come back to track #2, And I Didn’t Want You, by Mistress Mary because it’s a contender for ‘favourite song;’ and why wouldn’t it be? A tsch-tsch drum beat; gently strummed guitar and wailing pedal-steel as a very sultry Mary tempts her man to ‘jump out of the frying pan/back into my fire again.’ Come on; that is Country music at it’s finest; don’t you think?
There’s not a bad song here; and some of the artists ‘back stories’ are worthy of a song themselves; try The Black Canyon Gang who were genuine working ranch hands who love making music; try listening to their soulful Lonesome City and not wipe away a fleck of dust from your eye.
As I sat listening with the album cover in my hand and reading the accompanying booklet, I was desperate to hear a song called To See Her Smile; because the band is called Arrogance! Now there’s a brave bunch; and they actually pull it off with a respectful nod to bands like The Flying Burritos with their slightly psychedelic sound; but not so much it sounds dated.
Favourite tracks? Mistress Mary is a definite contender, as is the pretty Gentle One by Ethel-Ann Powell (very Joan Baez!) and the epic Buffalo Skinners by Bill Madison. For once I will have to call a tie. All three songs are entirely different; as are the other sixteen which is why I’ve kept coming back to this album; and why I’ve contacted the record company for albums by five of the artists here. Watch this space.
As you would expect and hope; there’s no single style of our favourite Music here; Country music – yes, Hill Music – possibly, Country-Rock – probably plus every song has the spirit of Gram’s Cosmic Americana in every heartfelt note.


Released March 18th 2016

Nathan Bell – I Don’t Do This For Love, I Do This For Love (working & hanging on in America).

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Nathan Bell
I Don’t Do This For Love, I Do This For Love (working & hanging on in America).
Stone Barn Records.

A Sad Look at America From the Inside.

I was rather intrigued by the board-game cover of this album; which made me put it in the player before a few more recognisable ‘names’ the day this album arrived; and Thank the Lord I did!
The lovely guitar intro the cumbersomely titled, I Don’t Do This For Love, I Do This For Love (Family Man) instantly caught my attention then Bell’s deep and weather beaten voice; like a cross between Willie, Kris and Townes croons a beautiful love song; well worthy of any of that trio. I was and still am hooked.
By the time I’d got to track #4 All That You Carry I was already googling the songwriter to see where he’d been all of my life.
All 13 songs on this album are loosely based on ‘working’ or ‘not working’ in the USA (or anywhere it appears) in the 21st Century.
Very delicately straddling the line between Folk and Country; nearly all of these songs are timeless to the point; that very little appears to have changed since Woody Guthrie sang about the Dust Bowl.
Bell’s way with the English language is extraordinary; describing Detroit as being ‘where love rusts’ on Good Morning Detroit and on the following Stamping Metal (Strike); he drains the colour out of Springsteen’s Blue Collar style of writing as he tells us ‘The line’s a relentless son of a bitch/breaks 1,000 men/to make one man rich.’ Powerful imagery or what?
While Bell’s words and tunes are Americana to the core, the sentiments in North Georgia Blues, Unforgiven and Stan; about a Vietnam Vet are all songs that can transfer to anyone living and working in any industrial city across Europe too. Times are hard, dear reader and Nathan Bell eloquently gets inside the heart of the men (and women) working their fingers to the bone; for little if any reward.
Most of the people who inhabit Bell’s songs don’t really expect any more than a fair days pay for a fair days work; but occasionally someone in these towns has a talent and a dream that can break them from the shackles of their fathers; and that’s the story behind King of the North.
In this case it’s a young man who was a talented skater in Calgary and goes to Detroit to play for the Red Wings; but eventually returns home ‘without a penny to my name’ and opens ‘a diner with a Red Wings neon sign’ and counts his blessings that he ‘Never had to strip the ground for metal/or build a metal cage.’ Sometimes it’s only our dreams that get us through the day.
There aren’t any laughs here; but I think I’ve fallen in love with Nathan Bell’s songs and his sorrowful voice.


Released UK & Europe March 1st 2016

Released USA January 2016

Hunter Hutchinson – Texas Country

hunter hutchinson

Hunter Hutchinson
Texas Country

Another Lone Star Rises Out of Texas.

For some reason I don’t receive very many ‘Country’ Country albums to review; you know; the type that should be on the CMA Awards; but never does, in favour of the same six acts from the last twenty years plus three Rock bands who have included a banjo/pedal-steel to gain ‘crossover’ fans.
So; it was like a breath of fresh Texas air when I first listened to this album by Hunter Hutchinson.
Hunter throws his Stetson into the ring with the opening track Dance The Night Away; which is exactly what you would expect; and life is all the better because of it.
In my books anyone who two-steps with their sweetheart to an ‘old Keith Whitley’ tune, is alright by me; and that’s without the scorching guitar-fiddle duel in the middle.
Most of the album is in that same up-tempo dance style; and that’s something I haven’t heard for a long time, and What Do You Say? and the sloppily cool Wine About It are both lyrically clever; but also destined to leave you with a smile on your face.
Young Mr. Hutchinson isn’t afraid to bare his soul on a ballad too; with the delightful Waiting on a Love Song, sending shivers down my back; in a way I’ve not heard Vince Gill do for many a year.
With a voice that is a match for anyone in the Country Big-Time these days; Hutchison has surrounded himself with a mighty fine band in lead guitarist Kelly Tindall, bass player CJ Nixon, drummer Miller Davis and the glorious talents of fiddle player Tyler Rakowitz and the sublime Dillon Horton on pedal-steel. All of whom play with talent way beyond their tender looking years.
While I love another touching ballad; The Man Who Believes in Me; my favourite song and one that got put onto my Summer playlist for the car; is She’s Gone. Humorous in parts and heartbreaking in others Hutchinson really shows his Songwriting skills on a song that could easily come from the pen of Toby Keith, Tim McGraw or Keith Urban; but doesn’t. It’s from a young man born and bred in Abilene, Texas and still studying at Texas Tech.
Without ever, really resorting to ‘Country cliches’ to get his message across; Hunter Hutchinson really is a talent to look out for and when he brings his debut album to a close with (Me and You and) Texas Too, it had me checking out holidays in the Lone Star State in the hope of catching him playing a club; before he gets drawn into the Big Leagues; as he undoubtedly will.


Released USA March 2015
Released UK & Europe March 23rd 2016