Velvet & Stone – The Storm

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Velvet & Stone
The Storm

Effortlessly Graceful Twist on Folk Music.

For all I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to this six track EP (?) I’m damned if I know what writing style to pigeon hole it in.
The almost epic opening track Fisherman’s Blues is definitely a modern Folk Song; taking it’s story from the trio’s Devonshire roots and the haunting violin, shimmering cymbals, high end guitar parts and a voice from the Heaven’s all add up to create a glorious sound that will stop many a person in their tracks.
Forget About The Rain, is in a similar vein with Lara Snowden and Holly Jo Gilbert-West’s voices combining as one while their acoustic guitars and Kathryn Tremlett’s shimmering violin take the song way out of what is normal territory for English Folk music…..and that’s a good thing.
The addition of a drummer (Andrew Tween) adds a new twist to Same Old Record; with Tremlett’s violin sliding effortlessly into Hot Club Jazz territory, without adversely effecting a gripping song.
In the blink of an eye the EP comes to a dramatic close with the title track, The Storm, which is a strange and enchanting work. Again Lara and Holly angelically harmonise as Jack Henderson delicately picks away at a piano while Kathryn turns her violin into a lead instrument; in the way Graeme Smith did with String Driven Thing and Van Der Graaf Generator, back in the early 1970’s.
I’m not sure if a trio can actually be branded as ‘singer-songwriter’ but perhaps they have invented Prog-Folk (I hope not!) or perhaps Velvet & Stone are just very good at what they do and the listeners will decide; which is how it should be.

Released April 15th 2016

Kent Finlay (and Various Artists) – A Dreamer Tells His Story

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A Dreamer Tells His Story
Kent Finlay (and Various Artists)
Book – Texas A&M University Press
CD – 30 Eight Records

An Unsung Hero Of The Emergent Americana Scene.

If like me, you have never visited Texas, or more specifically Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, you will never have heard of Kent Finlay; but if you are a regular reader of this website and like any or all of Americana, Alt. Country, Honky Tonk or what used to be called Nu-Country you will be thankful he ever existed.
Why? You ask; well for over 40 years he ran that club and was one of the very first people in the whole of the United States of America to book (and re-book) the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard,Todd Snider, James McMurtry, Slaid Cleaves and more important in the pantheon of American music….George Strait and a young Stevie Ray Vaughan!
To celebrate Kent Finlay’s life and work his daughter Jenni has lovingly curated a biography of her Dad’s life and a CD, featuring a host of acts who started their careers playing that humble club.

As a promoter and singer-songwriter himself I asked my friend Graeme Anderson aka Shipcote from the Jumping Hot Club in Newcastle to pen a few words about the book.

Kent Finlay
Dreamer – The Musical Legacy.

I’ve been a busy body in music all my life. Indeed, many years ago I even had a road trip all around the state of Texas, but sadly I’ve not been to San Marcos. I’ve been to quite a few of the legendary Texas music venue’s though, the Broken Spoke, Liberty Lunch, Guene Hall; but not the Cheatham Street Warehouse.
Over the intervening years I’ve booked many a Texan Songster for the Jumping Hot Club in Newcastle; but sadly, I’d never even heard of the music man Kent Finlay until now. That’s all changed with the new book “Kent Finlay, Dreamer” co – written by his daughter the excellent  Finlay & Brian T Atkinson (author of Townes Van Zandt book – I’II be here in morning).
Basically Kent was one of the real good guys (he passed away in 2015 aged 77) who worked as a small time music venue owner/songwriter/curator/ mentor, looking out for young Texas songwriters – a fatherly figure, for want of better words. The book’s an insight into his fascinating life through interviews Jenni Finlay did with her Father in the last few years and subsequently the musicians he knew & supported over 40 years or more. Actually, The Cheatham St Warehouse in San Marcos was his life, and the Wednesday night songwriters circle (which he took part in and officiated for 40 years) were legendary and are now part of Texas music history.
The book is split into two parts. The first part’s a little bogged down with Kent’s rambles regarding the co-writes & tunes he wrote, but that’s not unexpected as many went on to be recorded by some household names (well, in my household anyway). It has to be added that he launched the careers of some mighty big country artists, including George Strait who started off playing at Cheatham St and was driven to Nashville by Kent for his first ever recording session.
The second part is where the fun really is and the book really comes to life with a whole host of Cheatham St. (and Jumpin Hot Club!) regulars sharing anecdotes about the songwriting man and; of course the venue. I’ve known Slaid Cleaves, Jon Dee Graham & James McMurtry and many others who are featured here, for a lot of years and their stories are all lovingly told; often bringing a smile to my face and a tear to the eye and they all make me wish I’d met Kent; as he comes across as one of our industry’s ‘good guys’ and there are only a few of us left!
I’II not spoil it for you, but Todd Snider, whom Kent had a long association with, and who and he most valued as a songwriter, has left an interesting legacy for Kent  a great drinking tale to go with it…. Its all in the book; read it…..and you will wish you had met Kent too.
San Shipcote.

A Tribute to Kent Finlay
Various Artists

Running alongside the book of the same name; Terri Finlay has collated a veritable Who’s Who of Americana artists to celebrate her father’s fabulous life.
Everyone here played the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas many times and all are mentioned in the book; and even without that thread to pull them and their songs together, this would be an album I would buy if I saw it in a Record Shop.
All of the songs here were written by, with or about Finlay; and go to show what a great and sadly; unheralded songwriter he was.
The warm voice of Terri Hendrix opens the album with the delightful I’ll Sing You a Story, and the mood is set for an hour or so of stories (and a poem) set to music that will occasionally sent a shiver down your back; and more likely make your eyes sparkle and your lips smile.
While I knew most of the acts here; there are still a few surprises with Sunny Sweeney duetting with her old College friend Randy Rogers on Between You and Me; and a couple of singers who are new to me, HalleyAnna (I’ve Written Some Life) and especially the world weary voice of William Clark Green (Still Think About You) making me delve a little deeper into their back catalogues.
But it’s the ‘Stars’ of the Americana scene that will bring most people to this album; and of those Slaid Cleaves’ Lost is a gem of a song that I’ve never heard him sing before; and Brennan Leigh & Noel McKay have never sounded better than when singing Yesterday’s Oatmeal; proving great Country Music really is timeless.
On an album chock full of surprises; James McMurty’s live recording of Comfort’s Just a Rifle Shot Away; brought back memories of the only time I ever saw him live many years ago and the song is an absolute doozy.
The album closes (sort of) with Jamie Wilson and (Finlay’s famous?) Hill Country Choir performing the powerful Hill Country, which will surely bring a tear to a glass eye; and a finer tribute I can’t think of.
My copy of the album appears to have a ‘secret track,’ Saturday Night by Brennan Leigh and Noel McKay (again) and if this ‘Border Song’ is also from the pen of Kent Finlay I really must check out his actual recorded work; and you should too.

Kent Finlay; a life well lived and fondly remembered.

Book – Issued March 2nd 2016
CD – Released April 1st 2016

Andy Frasco & The U.N. – Happy Bastards

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Andy Frasco & The U.N.
Happy Bastards
Ruf Records

The Most Fun I’ve Had This Year (With My Clothes On!).

“Start with an explosion; and work up from there,” is a great way to describe opening track Tie You Up; even though it is probably the quietest and even subtlest song here; but it’s more than Rock n Roll enough to get this party started. A well crafted song about a fractious relationship with a heart-stopping ‘drum click’ and guitars that actually sizzle their way out of the speakers; has made HAPPY BASTARDS my ‘go to’ album for car journeys in the last few weeks.
Then when Andy Frasco belts out ‘Temper Your remember/she lives with voices in her head/she’s got everything a man would need/in the palm of her hand’ over a thunderous drum beat from Andee Avila, on You’re The Kinda Crazy ( I Like) has had me headbanging and grinning like a ninny; more than once in the car.
Not everything is foot down, no nonsense boogie; Frasco shows his musical skills on the slightly risqué Hawaiian Blues of Let’s Get Down to Business and the ‘Blue eyed’ Reggae of Here’s to Letting You Down; which is very radio friendly; and a sound that did the Police no harm 30 odd years ago.
I try not to cloud my judgement by reading other reviews before listening to albums; but I did accidentally read one for HAPPY BASTARDS last week; and a more arrogant, snobbish 150 words I have yet to read. OK this album isn’t going to receive any Grammys; but songs like Good Ride and Oh My My (Can’t Get You Off My Mind) are as good as Bar-room Boogie gets; and both have choruses more famous bands would sell their Granny’s for. I’m not even sure the critic had really listened to the ‘tongue in cheek’ Blame It on The Pussy and, my personal favourite…..the anthemic Mature As Fuck!
Seriously how can you take songs like that too seriously? Well he did; and I don’t but with even stronger Shout-along choruses and a toe tapping beat that will get even the drunkest among us on the dance-floor….what’s not to like?
Andy Frasco & The U.N. bring back great memories of the Quireboys, Ugly Kid Joe and even the Bon Scott era AC/DC, managing to tick all of my boxes for a great Friday night out, with the lads and a pocket full of money that won’t find it’s way back home.

RELEASED March 24th 2016

Brett Harris – Up In The Air

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Brett Harris
Up In The Air
Redeye/Hit The Deck Recordings

Bandwagonesque Songs From Northern Carolina.

Oooooh! What a glorious treat this album has been.
Growing up in a music mad house in the 60’s, it was no surprise that I was listening to the Beatles from a very early age. In fact the very first record I owned was the She Loves You 45 which I received for my 6th birthday.
While I don’t really listen to them now; half a century on; to some greater or lesser degree they’ve always been a benchmark for a lot of bands I’ve liked (and disliked) over the years; which brings me to Up In The Air by Brett Harris.
If Brett is too young to remember the Beatles; I’m pretty sure he’s listened to a lot of second and third generation exponents of their Mersey-Sound. Certainly on hearing opening track End of the Rope The Beatles circa Rubber Soul sprung to mind; then after a week or so my antenna became more fine tuned; and I’ve detected a lot more Teenage Fanclub, Crowded House and even a little bit of Oasis there too.
Just keep that in the back of your mind; because the luscious harmonies and twangy (Rickenbacker?) guitars are a joy to behold; and signify a real talent in Brett Harris.
The jaunty beat slows a touch for track #2 the bittersweet Don’t Look Back, which really shows what a good singer Harris is; and again the guitars come straight from the George Harrison play-book.
By the time you get to the halfway mark with the dreamy Out Of The Blue and High Times; you will realise there’s nothing else for it but to kick back and let the music take over. The later song is a bit deep and mysterious, but a perfect antidote to the up-tempo tracks that precede it.
Don’t think for one minute any of this is airy-fairy nonsense; Brett Harris has a remarkable way with words and story telling; and coupled with the delicate way that songs like Rumor and Shade Tree are constructed; it can only be a matter of time before the young singer-songwriter becomes a household name, outside the Rocking Magpie household.
The guitar playing on the title track Up In The Air is as sweet as a nut; and the way Harris delivers the song will force a smile on even the most miserable of my readers. It was a tough choice between that delightful song and Spanish Moss; which closes the record for the title of ‘favourite,’ but I think I’ll go for the atmospheric latter song. Perhaps it’s the brittle instrumentation; or the way the voices harmonise; or perhaps the way the pedal-steel is used so sparsely; or perhaps it’s just a bloody good song….who knows why we like things; but I like this song and this album a whole lot.

Released March 4th 2016

Janiva Magness – Love Wins Again

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Janiva Magness
Love Wins Again
Fathead/Blue Elan Records

File Under Red Hot and Smoking Jazzy, Soulful Blues.

How on earth have I never heard of Janiva Magness before now? Everything about her extensive CV; dating back 11 albums to 1991 (presumably when she was still at school #wink) sounds like the type of husky voiced Blues singer that I love; plus she has recorded 3 albums on the fabulous Alligator Records.
Hey ho; enough about the past; onto the present and indeed…the future.
First of all; the album cover is outstanding; the picture of a beautiful woman with a pair of boxing gloves slung over her shoulder immediately caught my attention; and a week later that juxtaposition really does sum up the fabulous songs contained within.
The title track Love Wins Again; which has been rightfully selected as a single, kick starts the album like a musical defibrillator; with the singers smoky voice masking a deep and meaningful story of a woman hanging on to a fractious relationship by the skin of her teeth and her belief that ‘Love Will Win Through.’
Reading Janiva’s back story; she has suffered some really dark periods in her life; but chinks of light are finally showing through the cracks; and that comes out in the delicious ‘Torch Song’ When You Hold Me; which features some really cool guitar licks and a vocal performance somewhere between Dusty Springfield and Beth Hart.
That darkness shrouds Doorway like the quilt Magness mentions in the first verse; and the uncomfortable song beautifully straddles Midnight Soul and Chicago Blues as well as anyone did in the heyday of Stax or Atlantic Records.
Played late at night; with the lights down low the likes of Long As I Can See The Light, with its Gospel undertones and the smouldering Rain Down will reduce many a strong woman (or man) to a quivering wreck; but will also make them press ‘repeat’ as they listen intently to the eloquent lyrics and super smooth production; which makes Magnuss’ voice swoop and soar like a swallow on the wing.
While most of the songs can be described as ballads; in one form or another tucked away in the middle is a real foot stompin’ shouter of a Blues tune in Your House is Burnin’ Down; which allows full blast to the normally subdued horn section; plus Magness gets to show she can ‘belt them out’ with the best.
Yet again I’m torn between two songs for the title of ‘favourite;’ Long As I Can See The Light features some intricate piano and guitar interplay, while showcasing the singers ‘life well lived’ velvety voice; but I keep getting drawn back to Moth To a Flame; which has a timeless quality to it and is begging to have a video made in a late night Jazz Club; with harsh lighting and a teary eyed couple on the dance-floor; hanging onto each other as if the world will end if they let loose their grip.
What else can I say? This has been a real heartbreaking joy; from start to finish and if there is even just one ounce of justice in this musical world; it won’t just be her producer Dave Darling who has ‘Grammy Nominated’ next to their name.

Released April 8th 2016

Los Pacaminos (Featuring Paul Young) – The Early Years

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Los Pacaminos (Featuring Paul Young)
The Early Years
Recado Records

Authentic and Lovingly Crafted Tex-Mex from the Heart of London Town.

I’ve been a fan of Paul Young (Wherever I Lay My Hat etc.) from his days in the Q Tips; one of the finest Soul/R&B Revues I’ve ever seen; and their version of SYLJFM is still in my Top 10 of all time; so it pains me to say a) I’ve never seen his latest incarnation – Los Pacaminos play live; and b) I actually had no idea they had released three albums and a couple of EP’s!
Thankfully with this sparkly new disc (there’s a second waiting for review soon, too) I’m finally putting b) right; but sadly; like cheap French wine; the band don’t travel very well, so I guess I won’t see them play live any time soon 😦
So; to the music……
The opening track My, My, My starts with a glorious accordion break from Matty Irving; and it’s not too far away from the Pogues ‘Fiesta;’ and the song itself sets the tone for a frivolous but exceptionally well executed hour or so of ‘Border Music;’ taking in styles as diverse as Ry Cooder through to Buddy Holly, Doug Sahm and even Hollywood Elvis.
Second track Manana; slows things down with a delightful Rumba beat; as Paul Young does his finest ‘Aloha’ Elvis impression; or at least so it sounds to me….and I love it.
As I understand it, all of the songs on the original album are self-penned; but any or all could easily come from the back catalogue of the Sir Douglas Quintet, The Mavericks or even the lighter/fun side of Tom Russell. Early on Perdita is guaranteed to get even me, with my two left feet on the dance-floor; as will the glorious Raised on Margaritas and I would love to direct a video for the waltz-time ballad, Poor Boys.
The Ry Cooder influence oozes out of every note on the instrumental Terra D’Ensuenos and fans of the Mavericks would crawl over flaming coal to hear that band sing No Seas Tonto Mujer; which is sung in a very authentic sounding Spanish by the All English Band.
There’s not a bad song among the 15 tracks on offer; and me and Mrs. Magpie ended up having harsh words over which is the best song here; both songs come from the Rare EP’s; with me loving their reconstruction of You’d Better Move On; which sounds nothing at all like the Rolling Stones version that I grew up listening too; and is all the better for it; and Mrs. Magpie has plumped for Hey Baby Que Paso; which I have a copy by the legendary Texas Tornados; who were probably another huge influence on the fledgling Los Pacaminos.
I first played this album on one of the first sunny days of Spring; and now two weeks later I’ve decided it would be like a little ray of South x South Western sunshine on the wettest of British Summer days.

Released April 22nd 2016

An EXCLUSIVE interview with David Corley

David Corley

‘Lights Out’ for David Corley

An interview with Cara Gibney.
March 2016

“With everyone’s help, I’ve been trying to quit drinkin’ myself to death and smokin’ like a fiend,” David Corley told me via the transatlantic email conversation we were having. I was asking about his health after the heart attack that had nearly killed him last year.

Indiana native David Corley is a late comer to the game. Releasing his first album ‘Available Light’ last year at the age of 53, his deep, smoke-filled half-talk, half-sung voice spans years’ worth of stories and panoramas. He’s roamed his homeland over the decades, soaking in the minutiae of his day to day experience, quietly building a library of songs that he performs, or saves, or steals from. He’s a strange concoction of otherworldly and down to earth. He is the voice of everyman and at the same time he is intrinsically, weirdly himself and nobody else.

In September 2015 as part of the European tour for his debut album ‘Available Light’ he was on stage at the TakeRoot Festival in the Netherlands when he hit the deck. We nearly lost him. After intensive care at the hospital, and long, patient convalescence when he finally returned home, we gradually got him back.

Fast forward eight months. “I’ve been walking and running (almost up to a coupla miles a day) a bit, just so I don’t drop dead on tour again” he continued. Obviously his near death hasn’t dampened his irreverence. During this time he has also been working on his next release, an EP entitled ‘Lights Out’ that will be set free in mid-April, followed by another European tour of Ireland, Holland, and the UK.

“I wanted to put out a new record this spring, and tour with that, but my heart problems set us back just long enough that an EP was pretty much all we can manage.” Corley told me. The record’s producer Chris Brown is also in the midst of making a new record, so time and resources have been stretched. “We’ve both been burning the midnight oil to pull this all together for the tour in May,” he confessed.

If the EP is called ‘Lights Out’, does that mean all the available light has gone? “Most certainly the Available Light hasn’t gone out,” he got back to me. “It’s actually a misnomer that we ended up calling the EP ‘Lights Out” he continued. Apparently Corley, his partner Kari Auerbach, and Chris Brown, schemed the name up together. “It’s called an EP” Aurbach told me, “but David writes songs that are of such a length (even when edited) that the actual playing time is more like a full length LP.”

“We were originally calling it ‘Down With The Universe’, which will be a song on the record, but thought twice about it,” Corley continued. “On a lark we decided on ‘Lights Out’ because there’s a song on the EP called “Lighting Downtown”.  It’s a fun and kind of funny rock and roll tune and “Lights Out” is a line from it. Of course, (the fact) that I flat-lined last fall for a few minutes figures in …”

In the lead-up to the April launch he has released two tracks from the EP on Bandcamp, for sale and free streaming – “Blind Man” and ““Pullin’ Off The Wool”. What was the thinking behind releasing a couple of tracks before the EP is launched? “We, I, personally, want to get music out to people, and our fans,” he told me. “We aren’t trying to make money, just make a living.  So it was kind of like, here’s a couple.  We have nineteen songs in the works for the new record, and the EP and what’s coming up are just a few.”

So how did they select which tracks to release? “Well, we were going to do “Pullin’ Off The Wool” and “Watchin’ The Sun Go”, (which’ll be on the EP), to have a soul song, and a rock-steady number. But “Blind Man” just happened to come together faster, and it was a deadline kind of decision. Chris and I both thought “Blind Man” was just more put-together at that point.”

I asked if he’d tell me about his muse in the first track “Blind Man”. “Well, that’s a real funny tale,” he wrote back. “Years ago I actually decided to move to California from Indiana in the middle of winter, and left in a blinding snowstorm.   I decided to get as far south as I could, for better weather. I ended up crossing through Texas, and the southern route, rather than Colorado or Wyoming, which is a prettier drive.  Anyway, after an all-night drive in marginal, white-out conditions, I stopped in Austin, Texas, because it’s a great music town. And well, it was sunny and warm.  Unbelievable twist of fate.  I hung at some bar there, and talked to this beauteous 🙂 southern Texas bartendress, and we kinda hit it off, and she wanted out of Texas, and I was headed west.  The song tells the story of what coulda been, but I wasn’t willing to take it on, and I got back in my ride, and made it to the coast without a beautiful girl in tow.  Life is funny that way.  Who knows, she might have been the love of my life, but our timing was bad, or I was blind to it.”

The female vocalists on the EP are the same singers who appeared on last year’s album ‘Available Light’. That is Sarah McDermott – “she’s kind of the rock and roll side of things, and I can’t wait for you to hear those songs,” and the “illustrious Kate Fenner,” Corley went on to explain.

On the second released track “Pullin’ Off The Wool”, Kate Fenner “sings with Sherman Holmes, of The Holmes Brothers who she and Chris (Brown) know from back in the days with the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir,” he continued.  Producer Chris Brown is a renowned musician in his own right, noted back home in Canada for his role in the 80s/90s R&B-tinged rock band Bourbon Tabernacle Choir.

The Holmes Brothers were an American musical trio originally from Virginia who mixed blues, soul, gospel, country, and rhythm & blues. Kari Auerbach takes up the story. “The Holmes Brothers, famous and respected in their own right, helped out and influenced many a musician.  Joan Osborne heavily credits them.  They became good friends with Hugh Christopher (Chris Brown) in the mid-nineties and helped him out too.  Sherman is a wonder!”

“Sherman is like 70 years old and a soul man” Corley went on to explain. “Such a cool dude, and it was real special to get him over to sing a tune.  He and Kate just add-libbed in the backing vocals.  Lots of fun.

The EP’s sepia-tinged heart monitor cover art was designed by Kari Auerbach, who has been key to Corley’s recovery since events unfolded in the Netherlands last year. “I felt it would be very powerful at this particular place and time in David’s trajectory to refer to hearts, broken, distress, bandages, the thin line between life and death and good things … gone sideways,” she explained. “That’s how I came up with a distressed sideways heart, broken by an EKG pulse.”

She went on to explain the design in finer detail. “I also felt quite strongly that absence can be more powerful than presence at times … think how Basquat would cross out words to emphasize them or the use of negative space in art.  Sometimes a photo can’t convey that.  David and I refined those ideas together and I brought them out in the cover, which I called “Bandaged Heart”.  The colour and subtle light-leaks came from adding a sepia overlay. (More reference to peering through muslin bandages or sticky plaster band-aids, fading light and greeny- yellow EKG lights).”

The European tour starts in May. As well as the bard himself fronting the band, ‘Lights Out’ producer Chris Brown will accompany on keys, with Gregor Beresford on drums, Joey Wright on guitar and Cait O’Riordan on bass. Yes, that’s the same Cait O’Riordan of the Pogues – they met during the Irish leg of that European tour last year. There are also unconfirmed reports that backing vocalist Sarah McDermott is at this juncture planning on joining them, so we need to watch this space.

“Chris, Gregor Beresford and I are shedding on the tunes and playing a few shows here on the island and thereabouts, to make sure we have our proverbial shit together for the tour,” Corley enlightened me. “The island” he mentions is Wolfe Island, where producer Chris Brown runs his Post Office recording studio.

“I want to get after it,” Corley continued. “We were originally just going to tour with Chris, Joey and I as an acoustic trio … it’s incredible Cait and Gregor will be with us.” (Indeed, I have it on good authority that way back in the day David and Kari would drunkenly caterwaul to the Pogues).

On the Netherlands leg of the tour, Corley and Brown will be joined by BJ and the Wild Verband who toured with them last year. “Fucking (excuse me) really looking forward to all this” an unrestrained David Corley signed off. “I think we have the songs, and the band, to have some fun and get with it, so to speak.  Can’t wait.”

Cara Gibney

Tour Dates
MAY 2016 David Corley Trio or Band 
4-30 (NL) R&B Night Groningen 
5-1 (IE) Kilkenny Roots, Ryans 
5-2 (IE) Kilkenny Roots, Cleere’s 
5-5 (IE) Carlow, Visual Center for Performing Art 
5-6 (IE) Cork, Coughlans 
5-7 (IE) Waterford, Grimes 
5-8 (IE) Ballina co. Tipperary – Washer Woman 
5-9 (IE) Headford co. Galway – Campells Tavern 
5-14 Open 
5-15 Venlo – Down By The River 
5-16 Eindhoven – Meneer Frits 
5-17 Bergen op Zoom – Crossroads BRTO 
5-18 Open 
5-19 Leiden – Qbus 
5-20 Boxmeer – Special guest Hidden Agenda 
5-21 Open 
5-22 Oss – Oude Theater (Railroad Roots) 
5-25 UK Brudenell Social Club, Leeds West, Yorkshire 

Miles Davis – The Complete Prestige 10 inch LP Set


Miles Davis
The Complete Prestige 10 inch LP Set
Prestige Records

11 LP Retrospective

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — In advance of what would have been Miles Davis’ 90th birthday, Prestige Records, a division of Concord Bicycle Music, will celebrate this milestone with The Complete Prestige 10-Inch LP Collection — a lavish, 11-LP box set that commemorates the legendary trumpeter’s appearances as a young leader for Prestige Records during the 10-inch LP era, from 1951 to 1954. Street date is May 13, 2016.

The Complete Prestige 10-Inch LP Collection presents all ten 10-inch LPs on which Miles Davis appeared as a leader for Prestige Records, plus a bonus record featuring Davis as a guest artist with Lee Konitz, all remastered from the original analog master tapes and faithfully reproduced on 10-inch vinyl, including the original cover artwork and liner notes. Also in the box is a 16-page booklet featuring rare photographs and insightful new notes by GRAMMY® Award-winning author Ashley Kahn, as well as a collectible print of a painting by Davis. The complete list of albums includes: Modern Jazz Trumpets (featuring Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham and Fats Navarro); The New Sounds; Blue Period; Miles Davis Plays the Compositions of Al Cohn; Miles Davis Quartet; Miles Davis All Star Sextet; Miles Davis Quintet; Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins; Miles Davis All Stars, Vol. 1; Miles Davis All Stars, Vol. 2 and, as a bonus, Lee Konitz’s The New Sounds, featuring Davis as a guest artist. These records offer an incredible lineup of talent, including performances by Art Blakey, Al Cohn, Roy Haynes, Percy Heath, Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver and Zoot Sims, among many other legends of the genre.

Nick Phillips, the producer of the box set, remarks, “This collection presents an exciting and important period in Miles Davis’ development as an artist; one in which he is clearly distinguishing himself from the other bop stylists of the era and is rapidly developing the uniquely lyrical and powerful voice that remains so instantly recognizable and influential to this day.”

In addition to the vinyl box set, Concord is in the process of making Davis’ entire Prestige catalog of 12-inch albums available as 24-bit digital editions. Each title has been meticulously restored from the original analog tapes by GRAMMY® Award-winning mastering engineer Paul Blakemore. The campaign, which has been ongoing since February 2016, includes such albums as Dig, Walkin’, Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’, and Steamin’, among others. The rollout is expected to be completed by May, 2016.

Released May 13th

Super Chikan – Organic Chikan

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Super Chikan
Organic Chikan
CD Baby/self-release

Supercool and Red Hot Delta Blues.

James Johnson aka Super Chikan was born into a Mississippi Blues family in 1951 and has been singing and playing the guitar for as long as anyone can remember.
In recent years he has based himself back home in Clarksdale; primarily at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Club; yet, as is the way of the world this album was recorded in Tel Aviv, Israel where his something of a superstar!
Right from the off, Chikan’s sizzling guitar licks and wailing harmonica had me by the throat; so when his authentically road-worn voice crashes in I was already a fan. This opening track; Rooster Juice could have been recorded at any time since the electric guitar was invented and like most of the rest of Organic Chikan is timeless and classic, Delta Blues; owing as much to Chuck Berry as it does to Muddy Waters.
Like many before him; and one of the reasons the Delta Blues is my favourite Chikan has his tongue placed firmly in his cheek on several risqué songs; Take Me In Your Kitchen with its frightening and fuzzy guitar is a great example; but don’t for minute think this is a comedy album; it will make you smile, but in the way only great songwriting and even better delivery can produce.
It’s a similar feeling with the Blood, Fight and Wooze, when Chikan describes his time in the Army to a chunka-chunka beat, but could also be about any Saturday night in the Juke Joints of Memphis, Hamburg or Sunderland.
Arguably my favourite song here, is the delightfully sleazy Twerk It when Chikan brings things right up to date; and when he chuckles every couple of verses you just know that there is still lots of life in the old dog yet.
Another favourite is African Style; which combines a traditional African beat with some very saucy double-entendres and a punchy drum beat and sort of hip-hop vocal style. You will have to hear it to know what I mean.
The Israeli connection is given its own song in Tel Aviv where our man tells the tale of turning up in that country for the very first time; going on to Raise Hell in the Holy Land. Somewhere in the mix is really funky B3 Organ that just about loses a fight with Chikan’s sizzling guitar.
This is the Blues at its rawest and in my opinion, its very best. It certainly won’t appeal to Coldplay or Radiohead fans; but if you like Muddy, John Lee or even Joe Bonamassa I think you will like this just as much as I do.

Released October 2015

Josh Harty – Holding On

josh harty 7

Josh Harty
Holding On

The True Country Spirit of Americana Finds a New Voice.

If I’ve done my Maths correctly Holding On is Josh Harty’s fifth solo album in 8 years or so; not counting the two albums he’s made with best-friend and often co-writer Blake Thomas; and coupled with all those years touring the USA and the God forsaken parts of Europe he has now made his very best record to date.
The title track, which opens the album is a very pleasant surprise indeed, as it sounds a lot more ‘Country’ than I’d remembered Josh Harty for. Sung from the point of view of a man whose dreams keep getting broken and his hard work unrewarded; he still keeps ploughing on; and indeed Holding On waiting for the break that may or may not come.
Half way through track #3 the emotionally ‘tight’ Round and Round; I was undecided whether Harty was reminding me of an edgy Gordon Lightfoot or a smooth Sturgill Simpson; or indeed a little bit of both.
There’s no doubting Harty has a truly expressive voice and his way with words is as good as anyone on the circuit these days; but what has really taken me by surprise is his guitar playing. Okay; we aren’t talking Eric Clapton solos here; but the way he bends those notes to fit the mood of his songs (Ballad for a friend is a great example) is quite extraordinary at times.
Certainly the way the band sound (the drummer is an exponent of the ‘less is more’ tsch-tsch school) and the road weary/heart broken stories in the songs make this feel a lot more Country than before; but Harty has developed a bit of a Southern ‘slur’ and a honeyed tone to his voice; which makes songs like You and the Road and the dreamy and windswept The Kind sound perfect for today’s Country Radio; but will please older fans of the likes of Poco or the Flying Burrito Brothers.
While I love the album as a whole; it’s accompanied me on a couple of longish car journeys recently; I’ve pulled out two songs for my Summer Holiday playlist; the dark and gloomy tale of homesickness, English Rain and the gentle but nervy Learn to Fight; which is one of the finest Americana songs you will hear all year.
What’s not to like? Josh Harty has a great and expressive voice, which he uses to interpret his own songs in a way very few of his peers can do; plus he has the backing of a host of excellent musicians who are empathetic to his every musical whim.

Released April 8th 2016