A Silverado Family Christmas
Cool Yule Album From Even Cooler Record Label.
This has sat waiting unopened for nearly two weeks; but in all conscience I couldn’t listen to Christmas songs until December 1st at the very earliest 🙂
Silverado Records was only launched earlier this year but their roster of artists is as astonishing as it is cool, and as is becoming of Country Record labels they have corralled those artists into the studio to record an obligatory Christmas album.
We start with one of three brand new songs, Snow Day by Zack Dyer and just when I thought I’d never hear another ‘new Christmas song’ worth listening too, Zack made my ears tingle with his flirtatious almost seduction song based around the weather being so bad he can’t get to work and has to stay at home with his young lady. ‘Radio friendly’ is an understatement as Zack carefully avoids the saccharine world songs like this normally ooze.
Track #2 is the legendary Joe Diffie, doing what Joe Diffie does best on the classic I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Okay, it’s not a whole lot different from most other Country versions, but hey this is Joe Diffie so it’s got to be worth a whirl.
It’s no surprise that staples Let It Snow, The Christmas Song and Blue Christmas are here too and there’s nothing wrong with any of them, especially Tony Winkler’s voice on the latter, which has me researching the singer. But Gabe Burdulis’ I’m Looking For Christmas is Americana/Alt. Country at its finest, with the young Wisconian producing a delightful, interesting and memorable song that proves you don’t have to be full of false bonhomie to enjoy the holiday season, just being with your family and the one you love to make it special. This well crafted song has made an instant fan out of me.
The other new Christmas song, to me here is Christmas Time For Me and You by Crystal Yates who is a new name to me; but judging by her smoky voice on this sensual love song sung from a wife to her husband she will be a household name by Christmas 2017!
The song is stunningly lovely, all wrapped up in love and the addition of crackles and pops of vintage vinyl do it no harm at all.
Does the world need another Christmas record? Of course not; but if if you are going to release one you may as well make one fans will play for decades to come and that’s what Silverado Records have done here.
Released December 2nd 2016
Yee Ha With the Ree-Vahs!
Love in a North Eastern Town Brought To Life In Song.
As I said last time, I’m not normally a lover of Folk Music; but when a band comes from my home town I’m prepared to give it more than a cursory listen, and I’m glad I did because The Ree-Vahs previous release Geordieland was a rare treat and came close to being in my 2014 Top 10.
Thankfully (for me) Andy Lee and band have carried on from where they left off; telling tales of a small once prosperous town in their local NW Durham flat dialect.
Sunshine which opens the album could be straight from the Bellowhead songbook; with a timeless ‘love through adversity’ story set to a classic Folky mix of acoustic guitars, fiddle, drums and possibly an accordion in the background.
A delightful piece of piano playing introduces the delightfully dark story behind Hundreds and Thousands. The third time I heard this song it genuinely stopped me in my tracks; as it was/is scarily close to my early relationship with the girl whom I was to marry; and like the narrator I’ve never understood why ‘with hundreds of souls in the village/you chose me.’ But also ‘Do I push you away/When I need you to stay/I never know what you’re thinking.’
If I could write songs I wish I could have written that.
While most of the songs here are about relationships, The Bouncer takes that theme to something of an extreme. A jealous man driven by ‘rage and jealousy/that’s not me’ knows she is going to leave him; and knows she should……but he tries to cling on. Lee’s voice sounds amazing as it comes near to breaking point more than once.
One song I love, but don’t fully understand is Spiderman. Using comic book superheroes as metaphors for ll of the characters inside his head, the singer knows his lifestyle will end in tears; but he can’t help himself……perhaps there’s a little bit of all of us here.
My favourite track; and it will surprise no one who knows me; is The Story of Us. To some extent a companion piece to Hundreds and Thousands; it’s a haunting love story of a couple told through the husband looking back on their life. The addition of cello, piano and guitars in the background make an ordinary Folk Tale quite extraordinary.
Another contender could easily have been Grandma’s Song. An epic narrative going from the couple meeting in 1933 and taking in being told he was killed in WW11 but arriving home ‘after 4 months dead’ and ‘hitting the heights in 75/a Triumph Herald in the drive’ then ‘recession took their house away/the wind blew hard as knives that day/the coldest winter of their lives/nineteen eighty five’.
Maudlin and beautiful hardly do justice to a song as well crafted and lovely as this.
Sadly domestic violence rears it’s ugly head in Black Eyed Susan; but Lee’s way with words and a melody couple to create a fabulous microcosm of a Small rural town that could be anywhere in the civilised world.
The Ree-Vahs and Andy Lee in particular have created a wonderful little album here and it would be a damn shame if it didn’t receive a world wide audience; so don’t let the Pitmatic dialect put you off, it’s not that different to listening to Texas drawl or a wonderfully rich Irish brogue.
#The only draw back is the town featured on the album cover is Stanley’s arch rival, Consett! Although I did take several tinctures in the Turf when I worked in Laws Stores in my younger days.
Released November 2016
Classy Modern-day Country From the Badlands of Scotia.
Yet again I’ve received a Country single that has blown me sideways.
Born and bred in Glasgow Kevin McGuire has written and recorded a song that sounds like it couldn’t have come from anywhere other than Nashville (or Austin at a stretch) but no; it is 100% British in origin.
The title track 3AM comes in two versions; the radio friendly one comes first with McGuire receiving ‘the 3AM call’ from the girl who he split up with one drunken evening. Razor sharp lyrics and a voice that will make young women go weak at the knees combine on a song that crosses over many musical boundaries and deserves to be a ‘hit’ (whatever that means these days).
Although not a lot different; I actually prefer the Acoustic version that follows. Sounding slightly edgier and frayed around the edges; you could easily imagine Gunnar or Will singing this in the TV show Nashville.
The third track Everything, is every bit as good and interesting as the title track; even sounding a little bit more developed in outlook, possibly.
With British Country Music on the crest of a wave at the moment; the future certainly looks bright for Kevin McGuire.
Released November 11th 2016
Battle For The Ballot
Self-Release/Manchester Peoples History Museum/Bandcamp.
The Most Exciting History Lesson You Will Ever Hear.
Although long deleted The Quiet Loner aka Matt Hill’s previous album, Greedy Magicians is still the most dangerous album I’ve ever heard; dealing as does with the political state of Britain was in in 2012 and sadly is even more relevant today in 2016.
He has finally followed that up with a very interesting project; and one I have followed keenly, albeit from afar. After becoming ‘Songwriter in Residence’ at the wonderful Peoples History Museum in Manchester Matt was tasked with ‘exploring the story of Universal Suffrage’ and take it around the schools of the area.
The subjects here are very dear to my own heart as in the early 1970’s I was a pupil in a newly fangled Comprehensive School and quickly dropped into the CSE stream which was meant to give us some qualifications at the end of 5 years; regardless of how meaningless they would be. The upside was History. While the Top 2 streams studied the Tudors and Stuart Kings etc. we learned about the Industrial Revolution and the seed was sown for a lifetime of Liberal Socialism……or something like that.
A better choice for this venture can’t be found; as Hill is a canny story teller and although he is a Folk Singer at heart, he has a nice soft expressive voice and has a very contemporary style making these tales very listenable indeed.
The album opens with the mildly anthemic duet with Tracey Browne, Nothing Less Than Revolution Will Do. Not exactly a ‘call to arms’ but, when you know it was written following Matt encountering the desk that Thomas Paine wrote the ‘Rights of Man’ in 1792, it becomes a wonderful preface for what is to follow.
Lulling you into a false sense of security the sweet sounding Manchester Rain follows; but dig deeper into Hill’s words and you will hear a dark story of a Manchester that Marx and Engels once inhabited.
Those songs neatly sum up The Quiet Loner’s ‘style’……contemporary and subtle, taking what could easily be a dull, dry story from history and making them sound fresh and still thinking about the content hours afterwards. Tear These Railings Down is a song about the workers never giving up their fight; and sung to an almost Country beat; there’s certainly a Twang to the guitar and it fairly rattles along, and I can only imagine the effect it will have on impressionable teenagers (who needs NWA?).
Hill even throws in a the jaunty Banners Held High in his quest to get his message across and somehow he makes the dry tale of the Chartist Movement into a toe-tapper; which is skill indeed!
The remarkable Tracey Browne gets the opportunity to shine when she inhabits the central character on the beautiful Hannah (about Suffragette Hannah Mitchell) and again on Paint This Prison (a contender for ‘favourite track btw).
That ‘Favourite Track’ title goes to the epic The Dust of St. Peters Fields. Wow! This shameful story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre has virtually been airbrushed from our history; even in NW England, but The Quiet Loner describes the events in a modern Folk Rock style that would be worthy of Elvis Costello at his politico best. If Matt Hill never writes or sings another song ever again he can die a happy man for creating this masterpiece.
When Hill began writing these songs in early 2016 he would have no idea how important ‘The Vote’ would be in our lives; as the UK would go on to hold a Referendum to ‘leave the EU’ and the USA would have the most historical Election for many generations, with every single vote counting in each one.
Regardless of your feelings at those two outcomes; these ten songs help describe the fight that people had to get every single person the right to vote, regardless of race, creed, sex or colour.
Buy a copy and learn something; but most importantly if you have or know a teenager who loves music but is either apathetic or interested in politics…….give them a copy.
#NEWSFLASH This will be released as a full CD in April 2017!
Released November 27th 2016 (Download)