Video of the week…Aaron Keylock – Against The Grain


Aaron Keylock
Against the Grain (7″ Vinyl)
Mascot Label

A bit noisy by normal standards; but I rather like this feisty debut single by Aaron Keylock.

You will be able to pick up the limited 7” vinyl single when Aaron is on tour from October to December with Wilko Johnson & Joanne Shaw Taylor and then for the Planet Rock Roadstars tour with SIMO and Federal Charm.

Released October 6th 2016

Joe Bonamassa – Live at the Greek Theatre DVD/CD


Joe Bonamassa
Live at the Greek Theatre
Provogue Records/Mascot Label

The Crown Prince of the Blues Pays Tribute to The Three Kings in Style.

Only a handful of years ago I too was a Bonamassa detractor; ‘not getting’ his style and why he had legions of fans who would sell a lung to purchase a ticket for one of his shows.
Yet I think I am being worn down by his continues onslaught of releases and I may just be becoming a ‘fan’.
Most artists only release live albums when they are going through some kind of ‘creative block;’ not Joe Bonamassa…..he just keeps getting great ideas for a themed tour and then releasing the obligatory tour documentary to his ever hungry; and ever growing fan base.
Knowing a little about his history I guess it was only a matter of time before Joe actually made an album of songs by Albert, Freddie and of course BB King; all three of whom he has waxed lyrical over the years and from whom his style of playing was originally based on.
While this concert is being released as a double CD and Triple LP, I’m actually reviewing the DVD, but the songs are al exactly the same.
The DVD opens with the famed TV footage of schoolboy Joe playing alongside the Master and BB saying what a talent the lad has; but fr me I loved the sequence of the slightly precocious kid in class…..thank the Lord there is no similar footage of me at that age. Bonamassa is a brave man showing this at the beginning of the DVD.
With no physical intro the concert opens with a scintillating version of Freddie King’s See See Baby which owes a lot to the original; but like everything else here JB puts his own inimitable stamp on every note.
The usual suspects make up Bonamassa’s amazing band, with the addition of an amazing trio of female backing singers who can harmonise like angels; but belt out a chorus like the Devil is behind them when necessary too.
To some degree the concert/album comes in two parts with the first half rolling along very nicely indeed; with Going Down and I Get Evil being stand out track; but once JB and band tear into Let the Good Times Roll the party really gets started, with JB and band proving that individually they are all expert musicians but collectively……there may not be anyone today who can match them! (Discuss)
One of the latter highlights is the lesser known BB King song Nobody Loves Me But My Mother; where JB really, really shows what a great guitarist he is and the girls behind him very, nearly steal the show with their soulful interactions.
But; surprise surprise, the best is kept for last with JB’s voice never sounding finer than on Born Under a Bad Sign which meticulously leads into a brave reworking of The Thrill Is Gone…..which takes nothing away from the masterpiece of the original; but pays homage to a man who taught many of us what the Blues is and where it came from.
I’m not sure if it’s the editing; I doubt it but there is next to no interaction between songs apart from when Bonamassa thanks everyone for attending the show and why he is so thrilled to finally play the iconic venue after only 13 albums and 30 years, despite living close by!

As expected there is a bonus DVD featuring an interview with his proud parents, a warts n all behind the scenes documentary and my favourite thing here (but I’m a photo geek!) a look at Christie Goodwin’s photos documenting the event.

Released September 23rd 2016


Red Sky July – Voyager


Red Sky July
Shadowbirds Records

Hauntingly Good Harmony Drenched British Americana.

I’ve never understood why some ‘major’ record labels choose keep music back from the public. Most artists I know are prolific songwriters and it’s only because of the shortage of money why they, themselves have to wait an inordinate time to go into the studio.
So now we are in the Internet age and worldwide ‘marketing budgets’ are out the window; it’s a joy that Red Sky July have recorded 5 brand new songs only a couple of months after the release of their last full album.
Opening track House of Cards is very much trademark Red Sky July with it’s rolling guitar; but the sparse arrangement and honeyed harmonies seem like a great leap forward to my ears. There’s more than a hint of ‘Folk’ to the arrangement rather than the Modern Country sound that we’ve come to expect; but that’s only an aside as the song is hauntingly beautiful
1972 Onwards is a lot more closer to The Truth and The Lie; as this semi-autobiographical of Shelly Poole’s teenage years takes us on a hypnotic sub-Fleetwood Mac journey, with the singer gliding in and out of her memories with the greatest of ease; and the line ‘I always wanted to be Amelia Earhart/without the never coming back part’ is a definite keeper.
Next up is Like My Man; a co-write with Kimmie Rhodes and Beth Nielsen Chapman backstage at Glastonbury….. fancy that? The song is worthy of all their combined talents and Ally McErlaine’s flimsy guitar playing in the background makes a very good song; outstanding.
Another song that made me think of Fleetwood Mac is the sublime title track Voyager; but think Stevie Nicks and Chrissie McVie singing over a Peter Green out-take. Yes; I know but it really is that good.
The short mini-album closes with the epic The Longest Time; which sadly; I can take or leave.
But…..even though I am new to Red Sky July What Are We Doing Here quite possibly could be the best song they’ve ever recorded. The crystal clear production brings out the very best in Shelly and Charity’s beautiful voices while McErlaine provides some subtly stinging guitar in the background.
What’s not to like?
Not the happiest songs you will ever hear; but when played late at night; preferably in a dark shadowy room these songs will fill all of your senses at once and force to to choose ‘auto-repeat’.

Released September 16th 2016

Clara Bond – Out Of Towners (EP)


Clara Bond
Out Of Towners (EP)

Heartbreaking and Heart-stopping British Country-Pop

Less than 5 years ago British Country Music was sneered at by the likes of me as it was generally a Pop Covers band singing songs only deemed fit for Line-Dancing; or else it was ex-pat Irish crooners crooning the life out of the songs you and I love.
Not now though; and the good news is that not only is the current wave of British born and bred Country singers and bands very talented; they are all very young indeed; which bodes well for the future.
Which brings us to the latest EP from Devon lass Clara Bond. As expected she has a long back story that includes the obligatory cover songs on YouTube; but that is the way people learn their skills these days and Clara has served her apprenticeship well.
This four track disc kicks off with the bitter-sweet title track; Out of Towners, a truish story based on events that occurred during her first visit to Nashville. It may not have ended as well as she’d hoped; but at least she got a cracking song out of it!
Although from her own pen; Love Can’t Stay is straight outta Music Row and just may be about the same fool in the previous song. Her whip sharp backing band somehow manage to stay restrained as Clara pours her little heart out in under 3 and a half minutes.
The disc closes with the gentle ballad Flashbacks which will probably be something of a tearjerker when sung live.
Then there is Tambourine. Wow! In a very competitive market this is a contender for Song of the Year; even if its in the British Country Category. This is an excellent slice of waltz time Country and when I first heard Clara purr, “You could play my heart like a tambourine” I let out a huge sigh and my knees when weak.
Radio friendly? Hell yes!
In theory this EP is at the Commercial end of what I like; but sometimes I need a bit of ‘nice music’ in my life; and Clara Bond supplies that by the Stetson full.

Released September 19th 2016

Grit – New Car (EXCLUSIVE)


New Car (single)
Bodan Kuma Recordings

Fire, Brimstone and more than a little bit of passion!

I know next to nothing about LA band Grit apart from them being fronted by the delectable Kat Meoz; but this new single “New Car,” arrived this morning and I can’t stop playing it!
New Car is taken their forthcoming self-titled debut EP this is full-throttle beer and adrenaline fueled punchy Punk Rock that has swept me back to those sweaty nights in the KU Club listening to the likes of X-Ray Specs, Adverts and of course the Sex Pistols!
B-Side LA Don’t Love Ya, has a similar punky edge to it; although Kat sounds a lot more like an angry Pat Benatar here, and I can easily visualize the guitarist(s)with their low-slung guitars and grimaces ala Sid Vicious banging out these machine gun like chords.
What’s not to like? Can’t wait for that EP to make it’s way across the Atlantic.

Released September 13th 2016

Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life & Music of Guy Clark (BOOK)


Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life & Music of Guy Clark
Author: Tamara Saviano
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Pub Date: October 18th, 2016

During a chance encounter with celebrated Scottish singer-songwriter Norrie McCulloch at SummerTyne 2016  the conversation somehow turned to Guy Clark. By sheer coincidence I had received this book the previous day and was wondering if (at all) I could fit in the time to read it. His face lit up at the prospect of not only reading it; but ‘guest reviewing it ‘ for the website.

Over to Norrie……. 

I was delighted and felt privileged to have been asked to guest review Without Getting Killed or Caught and thought it a suitable nod to the great Guy Clark that I read the book whilst traveling around in my VW camper-van during a few weeks this summer to play festivals. Guy and Suzanna drove from Austin to Nashville in their old VW and these stories of Guy Clark and his fellow band of desperados within the book were a great companion for me at the end of the day as I cozied up in my own VW with the ringing of a days festival music in my ears.

Author Tamara Saviano’s writing style smoothly journeys you through these pages, thoroughly covering all stages of the artists’ life including great insights into Clark’s recorded output with much information gathered from Guy himself, family and friends and many of the Nashville musicians with whom Clark was associated.

Even if you do not know who Guy Clark is (and you should!) this book is going to have you wishing you’d known about him a long time ago. From the opening chapters defining his early family life as a clean cut all American boy, through learning to play guitar and catching Lightning Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb live in concert hooking the young Clark on a life long love of guitars, songwriting and the Blues.

WGKOC acts as a very fine document of the time. Offering a detailed account of the early Texas life and the later Nashville scene that Guy Clark moved within, it’s a must read for any fans of Clark, Van Zandt, Crowell and anyone who wishes to hear the stories from Clark and many of the Nashville elite on their intertwined lives, song craft and love for music.

Along the way you are introduced to characters such as his grandfather Jack who’s relationship with the young Guy would be the inspiration for one of Clark’s most well known songs ‘Desperados Waiting For a Train’. You hear of Guys father and the full Randall Knife story, and of course there is Suzanna (Clark’s wife and muse) and, of course….his best friend Townes Van Zandt who’s relationship with both Clark and his wife Suzanna is contained (or restrained may be a better word) within part 2 of the book which covers Nashville, 1972-1997… the prime part of this artist’s story that many readers will no doubt be eager to get to.

One observer within the book describing the scene around the Clark’s Nashville house in the mid 70’s reveals that many looked on Guy Clark like the sun and Suzanna was the moon and everyone else were all the planets spinning around them… friends such as Mickey Newbury who when he came to town was like a visit from royalty and Townes whom everyone saw as a wandering troubadour character, each character that enters the musician’s life in the book seems to be drawn to him like he was the burning source and people just needed to follow him around.

The lifeline running through the book from as soon as they meet is the relationship between Guy and Susanna. It reads like a beautifully perfect storm of a relationship with all manner of individuals blowing in from every direction, with the Clarks centered as the sun and the moon blasting around in an artistic country musical cosmos filled with enough dope and booze to fuel a rocket ship through the stars.

The author having gained access to all areas to the Clark family archives has selected some great images also for inclusion in the book with this reviewers favorite being a still from a pro photo-shoot of Guy, Suzanna and an overjoyed Townes holding 2 huge stuffed dogs he’d won at the Tennessee state fair; but there are many nice photographic additions here throughout the book that help document certain periods of Clarks life very well.

WGKOC was written when Guy Clark was very much alive and his life shines off the pages. It was however easy to forget while you get lost in Guy’s Nashville that he is now gone and ultimately it hits hard when you come to the final part of the book detailing Clarks later years, the authors close relationship with the Clarks and eventually the absoluteness of illness and we are finally left with the very touching obituary the author wrote shortly after guys passing.

If you listen to Guy Clark albums, you’ll know the intimate stories and accounts of the artists life that jump right out of the grooves and into the room you’re sitting in. You may have watched Heartworn Highways- James Szalapski’s documentary on the Outlaw Country movement in Texas and Tennessee which captures Clark, Van Zandt and many other musicians of the time in their prime during 1975-76. However, until now there has not been a book from an author allowed such close access to the Clarks and their friends that even touches what Saviano was granted with WGKOC and thus the book fills that vacant space perfectly.

It’s a book that shines light into all corners of this much loved musicians life…a life that was full of stuff that was real, stuff you feel…the kind of stuff you reach for when you fall.

Highly recommended – Go buy it.

Norrie McCulloch ( )


Atlantic Sons – Loneliness Comes Creepin’


Atlantic Sons
Loneliness Comes Creepin’
AtSons 001

Cool Atmospheric Americana From the Clyde Delta via Harlem NYC.

This is another album that has sadly been lying gathering dust due to the deluge of CDs over the last few months. It was only when I received an e-mail from Scott Donaldson aka Atlantic Sons that I actually played it for the first time; and perhaps it was because the weather was unseasonably warm and sunny it was the perfect soundtrack for an afternoon drinking cold beer in the back garden.
The opening song Into The Arms of Mary initially baffled me; as I was expecting a cover of a similarly titled track…..but this is actually so, so much better.
Donaldson’s dreamy voice is perfectly complimented by David Mansfield on pedal-steel and Chris Palmaro on piano, as he takes us back to the heady days of Laurel Canyon in the early 1970’s.
That ‘feel’ continues throughout with well crafted songs like Illuminated and End of the Street evoking teenage memories of discovering Jackson Browne, Buffalo Springfield and the harmonies of CS&N. That said; this isn’t an actual homage to those years; it’s just how it makes me feel.

Caving In, is a little bit Left of Centre, a bit Springsteenian and a bit Socio-political, with Scott telling us about Jimmy who has no hope, so takes to stealing cars for joy-rides with a haunting chorus of “This is England Broke/This is England caving in” made even more listenable by some really stinging pedal-steel in the background.
Scott Donaldson can not only write exceptionally well, his production skills alongside Sammy Merendino are second to none; creating a ‘mood’ that brings out a true ‘team spirit’ from Donaldson’s high-falutin musical friends who never attempt to over shadow his voice and story telling.
While this is an album, in the old style, which just begs to be played on a good stereo system from start to finish; a couple of tracks really do stand out.
Track #2 She’s Leaving is a rare thing of timeless musical beauty, showcasing all of Donaldson’s skills and a backing troupe that are second to none in this day and age.
My actual favourite; and a song I’ve added to a couple of iPhone playlists is Just Like Jolene which closes the disc.
A tale of heartbreak made even more sublime by comparing the lady involved with Dolly’s Jolene…..and the result is truly excellent.
Scott Donaldson has been a travelling professional musician for 20 years, touring and recording with a pretty diverse bunch of musicians and bands across the globe; but judging by the quality exuded throughout this, his ‘debut album’ a successful career under his own guise, or as Atlantic Sons surely beckons.

Released July 11th 2016

Shantell Ogden – The Road That Drives Me


Shantell Ogden
The Road That Drives Me
Hip Farm Chic Records

Superior Red-Brick Country Songs From The Very Heart of Nashville.

The album cover is pleasant enough, but wasn’t quite interesting enough to catch my attention until last weekend when we were going on a car trip that necessitated several albums as a soundtrack.
Mrs Magpie was allowed to choose the first album and selected this one. Four hours later it was still in the car stereo and we were both cheerfully singing along to Shantell Ogden’s delightful self-penned songs and it was only after a wrestling match that I was allowed to access it today as a reference for the review as it is now in her car!
A couple of months ago I mentioned that there aren’t enough ‘train songs’ in Country Music these days; and this album actually opens with The Truth About Trains; where Shantell compares the “cold heart steel” of a train to her current beaux. A classy and top quality song to open the album and I was already feeling foolish at letting it lie on the desk for so long.
Shantell certainly has ‘a way’ with words as she proves on the dark and moody Devil Comes Knockin’ and the atmospheric melody suits the punchy lyrics like a hand in a velvet glove.
Country Music has always come in a variety of formats and Shantell seamlessly glides between several of the commercial veins with consummate ease; with Different Sides of Mississippi conjuring up images of Bobbie Gentry and even early Dolly in the way she describes the slow erosion of a love affair. This is the type of heartbreaker that originally drew me to Country Music, and like the Train Song, we just don’t hear enough of these days.
In the best tradition Ms. Ogden pulls and prods ‘love’ and ‘relationships’ in each of the eight songs here; with Love Knew Better and Love Again both sounding like she could break down in tears at any moment; but being the ‘strong woman’ she is, she doesn’t.
It’s no surprise to find Mrs Magpie and I disagree on the ‘best song here’…..she went for Love Again; but as I know better in these matters the title goes to…….Feels Good To Get It Right which closes the album; and combines Back-porch Country with a a hefty slice of Rootsy Americana in the way she sings, bashes the guitar and nor forgetting the wailing harmonica that glues it all together.
Shantell has won several songwriting awards and also had songs featured on the Hart of Dixie TV series; and with this her fifth (?) album the future is certainly shining bright for at least more of the very same.

#PS Please, please, please let me discover that Shantell Ogden is Stan and Hilda’s Granddaughter!

Released September 13th 2016

Seth Lakeman – Ballads of the Broken Few


Seth Lakeman
Ballads of the Broken Few
Cooking Vinyl

Epic Folk Songs of a Different Hue Altogether.

Well….I thought I knew what to expect; but I wasn’t expecting that for an opening song!
An almost Appalachian fiddle and wailing train effect open Willow Tree, the first track here. Lakeman’s voice too sounds deeper and richer than I’d remembered from a casual listen to some of his music a few years ago.
On the second song; Silence Reigns Lakeman and that fiddle mine an even deeper Folk Music shaft coming up with an almost Southern Gothic effect, that is both haunting (especially so when the Wildwood Kin sisters sweep in with their angelic harmonies) and imaginative.
It would be a huge exaggeration to say that the mood picks up over the next few songs; but at least by the time we get to Fading Sound there is something of a melody involved; but the lyrics to the song are as sad as the album gets.
The first time I listened to this album was in the car on a bright and sunny day; so I missed the nuances that abound in the broody Innocent Child and the brittlely beauteous Silver Threads; which is one of the few songs to actually sound English in origin.
I think even hardened Seth Lakeman fans will find this album difficult to listen too; but the hard work is worth it when your own mood is right to listen to his heartfelt and sorrowful rendition of Anna Lee; a song I first heard and fell in love with when I heard Levon Helm sing it. Lakeman alongside Emillie and Beth Kay (aka Wildwood Kin) find a whole new significance to the song; which is a rarity indeed.
Seth Lakeman first came to prominence a few years ago when his album Kitty Jay was nominated for a Mercury Prize and the follow up; Freedom Fields actually ‘went Gold’ making him the darling of the ‘big papers’ and BBC Radio 2. This is a completely new direction for the Devonian; and while there is nothing here that Simon Mayo could play on his afternoon radio show; this album, with Lakeman’s amazing voice and it’s Southern Gothic/Appalachian sound and feel could very well cross over the Atlantic in a ‘Coals to Newcastle’ way and breathe new life into his already successful career in the Americas.


Released September 16th 2016

Ian Hunter – Fingers Crossed


Ian Hunter
Fingers Crossed
Proper Records

An Album For All The Old Dudes Out There.

While I loved the Mott The Hoople (or Moot The Hopple as some infamous graffiti once called them) I was never a big fan of their albums; or indeed what I’ve heard of Ian Hunter’s vast and varied solo career.
That said I was still a little bit excited when this album dropped on the hall carpet.
It’s always been difficult to quantify where Hunter fits into Rock’s Great Pantheon, as he found fame as a Glam Rocker, but was always a hairy and hoary old Rocker at heart with a singer-songwriter’s Soul; and that all combines at last on Fingers Crossed.
Opening track That’s When The Trouble Starts finds Hunter offering sage advice to (possibly) his younger self or more likely the hoards of bands that look to him for advice; and I guess when sung on stage there will be more than a few ‘raised eyebrows’ and ‘knowing winks’ as he sings “It looks so easy/aint nothing to it/fast forward/anyone can do it” and “You think you’re cool/you think you’re wicked/but….you’re 50 shades of stupid!”
So very, very true; isn’t it?
I was pleasantly surprised with the inclusion of the acoustic-Rock ballad Ghosts; written after a recording session in Sun Studios, it’s deeply passionate and even reverent as Hunter recounts the greats, whose footsteps he is following in.
Just when you think you are in for a Rocking good time, Hunter throws a couple of curve balls to confuse but still entertain the listeners.
Bow Street Runners has a mighty fine melody and beat but is a story of the the very first police force in London in the 1700’s. When I read what it was about I’d presumed, wrongly that this could be a ‘finger in the ear’ Folk Ballad; but Hell No! Hunter sings along to an almost Mott The Hoople punchy/Glam melodic line.
The title track, Fingers Crossed is a similar hybrid; being another story based in the 18th Century; but this articulate seafaring tale certainly isn’t a sea-shanty but as solid a slice of Americana as you will hear.
While he’s lived in the US of A for nearly half a century now, Ian Hunter has never lost his West Midlands annunciation; even if the voice is more than a little bit cracked and ragged around the edges; but that just serves to make songs like Stranded in Reality and Long Time; which closes the disc a solid air of authenticity and authority in equal measures. Without knowing Ian Hunter’s back story; his voice would let you know this guy has lived a life, well lived.
As I implied at the beginning this has been an album of surprises that has constantly pleasantly surprised me; especially the song that has received a lot of media coverage….Dandy.
The opening stanza comes straight from Mott’s glory days, as does the feel of the song itself; and Hunter’s slightly tongue in cheek love song to and for his long time friend David Bowie is absolutely beautiful; slipping in loads of less than subtle references to the Thin White Duke’s songs and ‘style’.
But…’s not actually my favouritist song here!
No; that title goes to You Can’t Live in the Past; with it’s pseudo-reggae lilt. It’s an unbelievably clever ‘simple song’ that can be deciphered in many ways; with everyone from aspiring Rock Stars to heartbroken lovers will interpret it to suit their own needs.
He’s knocking on a bit; but Ian Hunter can still write a damn fine and literate song. There may not be a fire burning in his belly; but this album proves that the embers are still smoking hot.

Released September 16th 2016