Take Your Time
Tons of Sobs From the New West (of England).
Only a couple of years ago my heart sank when I received a disc from a British singer-songwriter; but there’s something going on in the British; or particularly the English music scene at the moment that’s a very good thing and always very interesting.
This EP opens with the edgy Move On; something of a ‘talking Blues’ at first then seamlessly moving into territory more associated with John Martyn or the acoustic songs of Rory Gallagher.
Sweet’s picking on his Gibson Hummingbird somehow manages to be both intricate and ‘choppy’ at the same time; really capturing my attention.
This is neatly followed by the intriguing Albertine. A dark poisonous love song, that should be from the Mississippi Delta; not the English Riviera! At times on the chorus Sweet’s voice is anything but what his name suggests.
That ‘mood’ continues on track #3 New Friend; but the addition of a Hofner Resonator in the background really makes the song shimmer in the evening light.
Four of the five songs here are co-writes with Steve Black; leaving space for one cover song; and what a song he has chosen…..Jackson Browne’s These Days! I genuinely didn’t recognise it at first; such is Adam Sweet’s expressive voice and his artful guitar playing alongside his own simple production; I presumed it was from his very own pen; well….he does make it his own.
Adam’s debut was actually a full length Rockier album in 2014; but his writing and playing have evolved into the acoustic direction that this EP represents over the ensuing years; which brings us to the final track…..and my personal favourite here, Take Your Time.
Phew….what a compelling four minutes this song is; harking back to the Acoustic-Rock days of the early 70’s; this song conjures up memories of Free and even a couple of Bad Company songs the way Sweet delivers the words and music.
In the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed and reviewed albums by stalwarts of the British Country scene Alan West and Steve Black; and both albums featured co-writes by A Sweet. A Sweet is Adam Sweet, a much younger, better looking and longer haired singer-songwriter who has learnt his craft alongside Alan and Steve.
Take Your Time is his debut CD and fits in perfectly not just alongside their music; but the ever burgeoning British Blues scene and the singer-songwriter market currently dominated by the likes of Ed Sheeran and James Arthur too.
Released 6th January 2017
The Blues Just Makes Me Feel Good
Smokin’ Sleddog Records
Sizzling Soul Infused Rhythm and Blues.
God Bless the Internet!
This is John Latini’s debut album and while he appears to have hardly ever left Detroit; this album turned up on my doorstep in North East England because it deserves a worldwide audience.
First of all; if I was in a record shop (remember them?) the album cover would make me pick it up; and then scrutinising the song titles would probably make me part with ten English pounds just to see if the contents lived up to the packaging (they do).
Oooohhheeee…..opening track Black-eyed Blues is straight from the Freddie and Albert King play-books; and had me immediately sitting back in my chair contently sipping a strong cup of coffee.
Latini seamlessly slides up a gear for the sublime Lord Made Me a Weak Man, which follows and I was already hooked by his way with a melody; warm and leathery voice, sweet geetar playing and a sublime backing band.
Take it from me, it’s a given that Latini is an excellent guitarist so I won’t dwell on that; but surprise after surprise comes from his eloquent songs……the Southern Soul of Pull Me Up sits comfortably alongside the funky Rutabago Cheesecake which rubs shoulders with cool Chicago Nightclub vibe of My Town Got a River And a Train.
The way Latini weaves and blends his tunes is astonishing at times; Too Good To Be True could easily be a Robert Cray song but there are elements of George Benson too and the way the backing singers harmonise over a wailing electric piano made me think of both Stax AND Blue Note records from the late 60’s.
Perhaps it’s the mood I’m in at the moment; but I just love the bittersweet I Will Be Haunting You which closes the album; and Broken Man which is as Soulful a dose of the Blues as you will hear this year. Both of these made me think of the albums that Chris Rea released on a whim about 10 years ago; the ones the fans love but the radio didn’t know what to do with!
The title track The Blues Just Makes Me Feel Good; really is what ‘it says on the label’ with Latini, band (including a red hot brass section) and backing singers make his heartfelt words swing like a big ole tush on the dancefloor.
Accolade of ‘favourite song’ hasn’t been easy with the swinging groove of Hard Walkin’ Woman being something I’d love to hear Eric Burden have a go at; but I will go for Too Good To Be True; because the way John Latini sings about his lady, is exactly the way I feel about Mrs. Magpie….and his guitar playing really does sizzle at time!
With the power of the Internet you too can now discover the talent and delights of John Latini too from the comfort of your armchair.
Released December 28th 2016
New Yorker Trumps the Rest With Her Finest Album To Date.
She won’t remember, but Nell Bryden once provided me with 5 of the finest minutes of my life. Several years ago I had a radio show and interviewed Nell in her dressing room at Sage Gateshead and, as agreed sang a song to be played ‘exclusively’ alongside the 15 minutes of conversation.
I’ve heard a lot of music in my time, but sitting barely three feet away from her as she sang Sirens for and too me was genuinely spine-tingling and will stay with me forever.
Which brings us to the New York singer-songwriter’s fifth album Bloom, which finds Nell at the piano on the delightfully dark and edgy 1 In The Morning. As the song finally faded away I couldn’t help thinking that now married and a mother, the singer has at last grown into her amazing voice and is using it in all its glory.
Like all good songwriters Nell has a wonderful and expressive imagination which comes across in songs like Gunshot Grey and Holes In My Shoes which both shine like raindrops I the morning sunshine.
Others; and I’m thinking Feels So Good To Cry appear to be from her own life; but rounded out for popular consumption and will really tug at your heartstrings.
Perhaps it’s the production here; which really brings out the best in Nell’s performance and storytelling but there is an ‘Epic’ sound to the powerful and slightly unsettling What Is It You Want? But nonetheless a song that will resonate with most people who hear it; especially as it is the first single from the album and already play-listed on daytime Radio 2.
Although Thought I Was Meant For You was a strong contender, my favourite track though is City Rose. Another song primarily featuring the piano is the type of introspective song every parent will wish they could write; but will seek solace from the fact Nell Bryden has.
As we haven’t played her previous albums for a while I did a ‘blind tasting’ for Mrs. Magpie on a car journey; and the result, while positive (she tapped her fingers from track #1) but her eventual comment not just surprised me; but showed how my wife’s mind works.
Just after tapping her toes along to the frenetic beat of Dared The World and Won her eyes furrowed during the deep melancholic Never Too Late, which immediately follows, “Is this Annie Lennox?” she asked.
Slightly bemused; I had a ‘light-bulb moment,’ “No; but it could be.” I replied.
While very much her own woman in every way; for the uninitiated there is a definite ‘feel’ of the legendary Eurythmic running throughout BLOOM and that is certainly meant as a huge compliment at RMHQ.
Released 27th January 2017
David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards
Live at The G-Spot (September 2010)
Omnivore Records/Pro Sho Bidness
A True Blues Legend Still Ripping It Up Aged 95!
Although I never saw him, ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards gigs at Newcastle’s Jumping Hot Club, in Newcastle, especially one from 1990 are still talked about in reverential turns nearly 27 years later.
This album and DVD is the last ever recorded show of a the man who was a contemporary of Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and even Robert Johnson; playing alongside Jeff Dale and the South Woodlawners.
Even at the ripe old age of 95 (in 2010) Edwards genuinely ‘rips it up’ right from the get go! His guitar picking and warm, leathery voice on opening track Ride With Me Tonight right through to the finale Sweet Home Chicago are staggering for a man his age and prove that age doesn’t diminish talent.
The 9 songs here are pretty much Blues Classics/Standards but all done in Honeyboy’s inimitable way; slow, steady and right from the tail end of his Soul.
Even though he must have played and sung That’s Alright, Goin’ Down Slow and the spine tingling Catfish Blues thousands of times over the years, each is delivered as if it was fresh out of the box.
Personally I prefer the CD to the DVD; but on the latter you get too a genuine Legend at work (and play) alongside some seriously good musicians who compliment him on every note and the reverential looks they keep giving the singer are worth the entrance fee alone!
If you twist my arm I will plump for the final track, Sweet Home Chicago as my ‘favourite’ track here; but it really is a futile effort as it could easily be any single song as these versions are all snapshots of a time that history has tried to forget; but the likes of me (and you) won’t let that happen? Will we?
While you get both the CD and DVD as a package; each closes a little differently, with the CD including a bonus version of That’s Alright and the DVD a wonderful 20 minute portion of Dave ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards giving some tongue in cheek ‘advice’ to aspiring Blues musicians and some fascinating tales of Charley Patton, Big Walter Horton and most important of all….the nigh Robert Johnson died.
Both discs are beautifully packaged with a neat accompanying booklet telling a little of Edward’s background and history.
Released 20th January 2017
I’ll Make The Most of My Sins
At The Helm/Last Chance Records
Compelling and Introspective Lo-Fi Alt. Country Meets Folk.
For the third time in as many weeks I have to write ‘this wasn’t what I was expecting’.
Rob Vincent has sort of been on my radar for a couple of years now, with several friends raving about him and telling me ‘you will love his music.’ Yet I somehow totally missed his debut album, Life In Easy Steps and his high profile support slots for James Blunt, Squeeze and Paul Carrack among others.
It doesn’t matter what I was actually expecting; because opening song Mobius knocked me sideways right from the moody almost classical opening few bars and right through a gut wrenching love story which is both articulate and intelligently written. Plus the inclusion of some sweetly ragged harmonica is always going to catch my attention.
A beautiful and well written song, So In Love captures the very essence of the sort of nail-biting dark and broody Alt. Country I’ve loved since I first discovered the likes of Cowboy Junkies many years ago.
A week after playing this album 2 or 3 times a day I can now see why my friends would think I would like Rob Vincent.
The Liverpudlian writes from the very bottom of his heart, Time Won’t Wait and Denial are the type of songs you would normally associate with Master Craftsman singer-songwriters from the Americas, not a young man from Liverpool still beginning his career.
I absolutely love it when a songwriter I’ve never met somehow manages to put my own idiosyncratic feelings into words. All Of You; about a man willing to change his ways for the love of another is just such a song; and will touch most of the people who ever hear it.
The title track is quite staggering in its complexity, yet still manages to be accessible for the average listener like me . Almost poetic in the way Dylan and Townes Van Zandt could mould the two idioms into one I’ll Make The Most of My Sins finds Vincent singing in an almost Gospel manner as the band swoop and soar behind him in minor keys. Lo-Fi at its absolute finest!
Which brings us to the ‘RM Favourite Track’ accolade…..Dancing With Devils. Another song that will make you think it’s about you, and you alone. Vincent obviously has his own demons; which he writes about here, but they are a lot more common than most of us are prepared to admit and the young man captures them in intimate detail and sings them over a gloriously uptight tune that showcases a superb band.
Easily sliding between lonely singer-songwriter mode to a full band profile, Robert Vincent has managed to create a bunch of songs that will be listened to late at night when all alone and lonely; but will just as easily be transferred to the stage and create a great evenings entertainment. Quite some feat.
Released January 27th 2017
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Jumping Hot Club at the Cluny, Newcastle.
19th January 2017
My New Year Resolution was to see more live music again; and already events have dictated that it’s been nearly three weeks before gig #1.
For those who’ve never visited The Cluny in Newcastle it’s an old Bonded Whisky Warehouse in the East of the city overlooking the tiny River Ouseburn, and split into two venues. Cluny 1 is the larger Hall and holds about 360-370 and Cluny 2, where my gig was holds 150-160. When I arrived 20 minutes early, for a change there wasn’t a parking space for half a mile or so; which is virtually unknown.
It turned out that not only was the Hurray For The Riff Raff gig Sold-Out but so was Martin Barre from the Jethro Tulls in Hall 1!
Hurray for live music!
The queue for HFTRR was actually up the stairs and outside the venue long before the doors opened, which was another first at this popular venue.
Hey ho; let’s talk about the actual gig should we?
Opening act local singer-songwriter Rhona Dalling, daughter of JHC regular Tim Dalling, at first appeared to be a strange choice; as she was more to the Folk end of the Roots spectrum; but songs like I Don’t Mind and the dark and melancholic How Do We Get Down; were all very well received by the already packed crowd.
By the time Alynda Lee Segarra and the other four members assembled by the side of the stage the atmosphere was genuinely ‘electric.’
Opening song Life Is Safe, was something of a slow burner, with Alynda looking as if she was as tight as a spring, making her distinctive voice sound both warm and fragile too.
The intense mood continued with the second song Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl; from the forthcoming Navigator release. The ‘free-jazz’ vibe; a theme that came and went throughout the night took me a bit by surprise, but certainly wasn’t unpleasant.
As the applause shook the rafters Alynda took her huge semi-acoustic guitar off and proceeded to prowl the stage like a Hip-Hop tigress during a a wonderful re-interpretation of Daniella.
The blonde bass player; who was wearing a ‘Not My President’ t-shirt provided a very funky groove for another new song, the socio-political Rican Beach which was a lot punchier live than the sampler that the record company sent me.
From my vantage point in the VIP Section (ha, ha, ha) on the tiny balcony I could already see that the audience had split into two, with regular attendees who had seen the band several times before looking slightly baffled at the ‘new direction’ but the bulk of the crowd were already ‘into it’….and I was starting to err towards the latter too.
Even The Body Electric, from 2014 had a makeover and now had an almost Southern Gothic feel to it; mostly from the shimmering cymbals and powerful brushed drumming from the back of the stage.
Then; HFTRR dropped in the title track from The Navigator and bizarrely it was a return to the sweet Alt. Country Twang that we normally associate with this group, as was their ‘outlaw song’ Young Blood Blues; which feature some sublime bottle neck geetar from Jordan Hyde.
It would be wrong to say that it was a night of ‘ups and downs’ but there were definite mood-swings;
with oldie Blue Ridge Mountain actually bleeding into a fast and furious fan favourite Look Out Mama, during which pockets of shuffling/dancing broke out around the room.
Then; as if to confuse/challenge me even further Alyssa went ‘all Lucinda’ on closing songs Living in the City and the magnificent Pa’Lante ; again from the new album.
With nowhere really to go, the band had to push passed fans on the stairs beside the stage and disappear behind the curtain for 30 seconds before mysteriously re-appearing for their encore numbers!
The first of which St. Rock Blues found Alynda wrapped up as tight as a coiled spring again; but the band got their groove back and played their ‘Trump Card’ the night before the presidential inauguration, with a stomping cover of the Creedence song anti-Vietnam song Fortunate son with Alyssa actually snarling the lyrics.
What an interesting evening. Older fans of the rootsy HFTRR seemed more than a little confused on the way out; but the younger newer fans were beaming like beacons.
Me? I need to hear more of the new album and bigger, rockier sound before I commit.
Our friends, London based alt-country duo Two Ways Home Isabella Mariee – and Lewis Fowler have revealed an Oak Sessions video for their brand new song ‘Take My Hand’ and announced that it will be released as a single to stream and download on 27th January 2017.
In their own words: “’Take My Hand’ is about the fact that we’ve all been lonely at times, woken up in the morning and struggled to get out of bed. This song encourages us to hang in there because for every lonely lover there is another out there who is feeling the same.”
The pair recently returned to Music City for an extended trip to write with fellow artists and friends, and are currently in the studio recording their third EP for release in April 2017.
The Grahams & Friends
Live in the Studio
Three Sirens Music Group.
Classy Album Gets an Exciting Makeover.
I loved their Glory Bound album in 2014, and the Deluxe Version which followed but this is now the album’s third incarnation; albeit the first official release in the UK so I’m a little bit baffled as to where to start. Do I do a ‘compare and contrast’ of these ‘one-take’ live in the studio versions of songs from both previous albums or treat it as a brand new record?
I will presume it’s all new to you, so I will opt for the latter option; but occasionally ‘compare and contrast’….confused? You will be.
Title track Glory Bound is one of the most powerful opening tracks I’ve possibly ever heard; with Alyssa Graham not only trading lines like “I wish hadn’t done the things I did when I was young/all the little tablets I melted on my tongue.” with Sarah Watkins but harmonising with the rest of the Watkins Family too!
The updated versions of songs like Gambling Girl and especially the foot-stomping City of New Orleans are well worth the admission price alone, but it’s the collaborations that intrigue and excite me.
Here, The Lonely Ones becomes a brittle and beautifully doleful ballad with Alyssa joined by starlets The Milk Carton Kids; and the end result left me quite breathless and teary eyed.
I’m not au fait with David Garza but Suzanna Choffel was a favourite on my old radio show; so I couldn’t wait to hear her sing alongside Alyssa Graham; and the trio really create a glorious sound on Mama, with Garza actually stealing the show!!
The inclusion of Alejandro Escovedo’s Broken Bottle is a rare treat for anyone who missed it on the Deluxe release but it is Tender Annabelle that wins the title of ‘RM Favourite Track.’
Completely deconstructed and a choir of Angels added on the chorus, should have been enough; but having Alyssa’s trembling voice more than matched by the dulcet tones of John Fullbright; leaves me salivating at the prospect of these two recording a whole album together.
If you don’t have either Glory Bound or its follow up Deluxe Edition I heartily recommend this disc; and personally can’t wait to see them perform on the upcoming UK Tour for which it is being released.
Released January 27th 2017
The Most Ugly Child
Copper & Lace
Timeless Country-Folk Heartbreakers From the Bagthorpe Delta.
Even though it was 2014 it seems a lifetime ago since I received a mysterious parcel containing the debut EP from the quaintly named The Most Ugly Child. They had got my details from our friend Al Rate the young singer and exponent of the banjolele in DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show in Nottinghamshire County.
Not that they have been quiet in the intervening years; they just don’t appear to have had time to go into a recording studio until just before Christmas 2016; and the intervening years has certainly refined, re-defined and filled out their collective ‘sound.’
Opening track What Might Have Been is a rip-snorting, jolly tongue in cheek, Honky-Tonky belter with Daniel Wright and Stevie Leigh-Goodison sounding like a cross between George and Tammy and Bing Crosby duetting with one of the Andrews Sisters!
There are serious moments too; like The Bottle and The Fall which again echoes George Jones more than a little bit; and the tight and feisty Long Gone Woman Blues; which features some smokin’ harmonica tooting too.
The band’s Classic Country record collection oozes out in every track, with Daniel and the delectable Stevie writing being razor sharp and heartfelt on Today You Said Goodbye as they come across as both star crossed and criss crossed lovers in a way not too dissimilar from My Darling Clementine’s last outing.
Yet on Just Another Lesson in Pain, they dip their toe into the Alt. Country pond and it works in a more brittle and touching manner than most other songs here.
Then, just to confuse us Paper, Linen, Copper and Lace, from which the title is taken is a delightful trip into Country-Folk, coupling delicious harmonies with some searing diddle and pedal-steel on a deep, dark tale befitting DH Lawrence country.
By the way this is not just the Daniel and Stevie story; The Most Ugly Child are very much a six piece band with members being drawn from all four quarters of the Bagthorpe Delta and each member more than contributes an equal measure.
Even though I’ve had this album for over a month now and have had it on ‘repeat’ for three days in the car; choosing my favourite track has proved something of a headache but after much deliberation……cue drum roll……I will go for the sad and beauteous Queen of the Honky Tonk as it is pretty much the whole album rolled up into three glorious Countryfied minutes, and a story that nearly had me in tears.
As I keep pointing out British Country Music, in all its formats is in the spotlight at the moment; but most of what you read about is London based/biased….but look a bit deeper and you will find some amazing music coming out of areas like Nottinghamshire that also deserves a National, if not an International stage and The Most Ugly Child could be the first torch bearers for the Bagthorpe Sound.
Released February 24th 2017
At The Helm Records/Proper Distribution
Spiky Traditional Country Music From The Mean Streets of Rural Oxfordshire.
While the mainstream press have finally discovered the ever burgeoning ‘British Country Music’ scene; albeit the ‘poppier’ end, some of us have been championing singer-songwriters like Ags Connolly for several years now.
An exponent of what is now called Ameripolitan Music; this is Ags’s second album and the intervening three years have seen his writing not just mature but move forward leaps and bounds away from any ‘pigeon hole’. # As I write this review the legendary Tom Russell has just Tweeted that he has ‘just discovered’ Ags Connolly!
I defy anyone listening to the superb opening track I Hope You’re Unhappy to not presume it was from some high falutin’ Country Star from Nashville or more likely Bakersfield. Connolly’s way with words and the way he surprises you with the ‘twist’ in the chorus, coupled with the slight burr in his voice which is very reminiscent of his hero James Hand; make this one of the finest album openers I’ve heard in years.
While some of the songs like Neon Jail and Fifteen Years are best described as bitter-sweet (it is a Country Album after all!) there is a warmth radiating throughout which wasn’t apparent on the debut album; and also missing from a lot of other Country records these days.
Even as a fan of Ags Connolly, I have been left stunned at the lyrics and world weary delivery on the title track Nothin’ Unexpected and the slow, sultry Tex-Mex of Slow Burner.
Surprise don’t stop there as we even get a couple of waltz time dance tunes too; Haunts Like This is the type of song you dream of hearing when on holiday in the Southern States (but rarely do) and Do You Realise That Now; on which Ags fears he won’t find fame until 100 years from now.
Yet again I’ve come across an album, which is just that – a whole album of cracking songs, with one better than another but the tile of ‘Rocking Magpie Favourite’ is a simple choice…..When The Loner Gets Lonely.
Phew! What a beautifully sad song this is. The ‘world weary burr’ in the singer’s voice is especially evident on this tale as Connolly’s perceptive and razor sharp lyrics describe ‘someone’ we all have in our circle of friends.
While I’d love Ags to have a ‘hit’ with this, don’t be at all surprised if this song doesn’t turn up, sooner or later on a Superstar ‘Hat Act’ album.
Twangtastic guitar, sweet accordion, barrel-house piano, pure prairie fiddle, clever lyrics and luscious choruses come at you left, right and centre making this the type Country Music people say “Isn’t made any-more” but it bloody well is; you just have to search a little bit deeper than the discount shelves at Tesco and Asda!
Released February 3rd 2017