Martin Stephenson & Friends Washington Old Hall.

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Martin Stephenson & Friends
Washington Old Hall.
Tyne and Wear

Saturday 19th 2017

“Welcome to our very own little Woodstock.” Laughed Washington’s finest son; “listen…..and you can hear them flying in from Barmston……and Blackfell…..and even Oxclose!”
How the swelling crowd cheered to hear local villages being name-checked at a ‘Rock Concert.’
So started the first ever concert that I could walk to and from in under 30 minutes each way.
Washington Old Hall is the former home of George Washington and now owned by the National Trust who are trying to dust off their ‘fuddy duddy’ image with a series of multi-cultural events at their premises around the UK.
Tonight local lad Martin Stephenson; who went to junior school and church about 200 yards from the main gate; was making his first appearance in his home-town for many a long year; in the Nuttery……which is a beautiful orchard which had been lit with fairy lights and a bar at one end a stage at the other.
Martin introduced his cousin Jamie and friend John who are known as Violet Chimes to open proceedings. The one time Punk Rockers pleasantly surprised the sold-out crowd with a blend of Indie Rock and Alt. Country Twang.
Their songs had originally been written in the early 80’s but the duo have only got around to recording them recently.
Playing to a sympathetic audience two songs really stood out; Brand New Town…..about growing up in Washington (which was then deemed a New Town) and Heart of Town about their teenage love affairs….in that very same New Town.
Their set was all too brief; but only because the Star was about to do a 20 minute acoustic slot too and there was a strict 10pm curfew less than two hours away.
With a 35 year and 40+ album career to choose a set from; there were surprises around every corner; with Merle Travis’s Cannonball Rag opening the evening followed by the inspired Rain (chosen because the clouds were fair drawing in).
Aware he had to curtail his rambling stories he managed to abridge the intro to Greenhouse (My Grandfather and Me); but the delicate Sad Tale of Joe McCue which followed; involved a little interaction with a couple of old friends in the audience as he explained who Joe had been.
As he was about to start Home, he dedicated it to his dearly departed Mother and the story brought a tear to my own eyes as Saturday would have been my own Mam’s birthday. A rather beautiful and poignant song for both of us.
By the last notes of Slaughterman the cool breeze of earlier in the evening was now becoming a cold wind; but at least it was dry and the warmth Martin and his songs brought meant it was hardly noticeable at all.
There was a fifteen minute intermission, where the queue for the only two toilets on the site meant that some naughty men may have helped water some apple trees; but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Martin on the other hand was glad-handing so many people that he knew from his childhood that he had to be forcible reminded he was there to do a show!
Now with the Legendary Shipcote on Dbl. Bass and the quietest man in Rock n Roll, John ‘Bongo’ Miller on a single snare drum; the second half got off to a swinging start with Little Red Bottle; the first of many songs dedicated to friends in the crowd; one of whom who was late back from the toilet entered the garden and the two enjoyed a minute or so of banter before the pal walked on stage for a handshake and a man-hug, without a care……..you don’t get that at the Royal Albert Hall do you?
It was no real surprise that Martin totally ignored his latest album Bayswater Road in favour of age-old favourites like Sweet Misdemeanour and Salutation Road; plus I finally found out what Colleen was actually about……you live and learn.
No Martin Stephenson gig would be complete without the Anti-Thatcher Classic….. Left Us To Burn, complete with a chorus of Pantomime Boos during the introduction when her name was mentioned and a couple of choruses of Blank Generation on the middle.
For me the absolute highlight of the evening was when Martin started to introduce a song that reminded him of a night he was on a bus coming out of Sunderland which begat a story about various bus routes and their anomalies in his teenage years; then remembered a fight on a bus, which begat a story about the various ‘Fighting Families’ of Olde Washington; many of whom were represented tonight and cheered when their names were mentioned which led into Martin dedicating Blue Moon of Kentucky to a girl he hadn’t seen before tonight since they both left school nearly 40 years ago.
I go back to the beginning by mentioning all the albums and great songs Martin has written in 40 years; so the choice for a finale in such a short and compact set could be seen as bizarre, contrary or even brilliant……Doc Watson’s Southbound, which got to show what a canny guitar player the singer-songwriter is when he sets his mind to it.
What more can I say? I’ve been to hundreds of gigs over the years; but not one in the orchard of historical Manor House with one of my favourite ever artists telling jokes about people I know and the villages I’ve lived in.
I don’t care how many weeks Ed Sheeran sold out the 02 in London I know it didn’t and couldn’t compare to this wonderful hour and a half in the company of one of Britain’s finest songwriters and raconteurs. This is why I absolutely love live music….I was there……you weren’t …..I win.

Photo-Set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Martin-Stephenson-Washington/

Ian Felice – IN THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS

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Ian Felice
KINGDOM OF DREAMS
Loose Records

“One of my best friends Steven K Driver, from Pop Beat Combo The Agency has spent the last four years or so trying to convert me into becoming a Felice Brothers fan…….so far without success; so it was only fair for me to ask him (nay….demand!) he listen to the debut album from singer Ian Felice and pass on his thoughts.”

Fans of the Felice Brothers have long marvelled at Ian Felice’s thin but soothing vocal delivery, pathos drenched, but rich in character. His first solo album ‘In the Kingdom of Dreams’ is the perfect vehicle for the front man to explore the softer elements of his song writing. The lyrics are as majestic and at times as obscure as Felice’s output with the band, but this feels more introspective rather than cinematic, if signs of the latter are evident.
The eponymous opening track sets the tone with its sparse balladry and apocalyptic imagery. It turns out that ‘The Kingdom of Dreams’ is part critique of the American Dream past and present and part escape for Felice himself. There is something more reminiscent of the tenderness and fragility of Simone Felice’s (on production duties, as well as drums and keys on the album) solo work than the raw energy of the Felice Brothers here.
‘21st Century’ is one of the stand out tracks on account of its wilful lyrical obfuscation ‘well, the aliens landed on election day and stole your Mother’s lingerie’. Sonically it is perhaps the track most reminiscent of the early Felice Brothers catalogue. As is so often the case it is clear that Felice’s tongue is firmly in his cheek; the instrumentation, including a saw, at odds with the postmodern hyperbole.
Much of the record seems personal; ‘In Memoriam’, ‘Signs of Spring’ and ‘Mt. Despair’ are heartfelt in their delivery and phrasing, but retain a sense of good humour. Ian Felice is a song writer in the Bob Dylan mould; enamoured with life’s contradictions and absurdities, provoking the listener to reconsider the world they take for granted. The most personal of all is ‘Water Street’, beautifully finger picked like ‘In the Kingdom of Dreams’ and ‘In Memoriam’, which deals with Felice’s fears as a husband and new father, starkly and poetically observed.
‘Road to America’ is a fun stomper but is not without its lyrical menace; in the breakdown section the ‘empire of Donald Duck’ finds itself juxtaposed against the ‘slaughterhouse of flies that fly in the skies’. But it is ok because everyone can sing-a-long with the catchy chorus ‘this must be the road that leads to America’.
Another stand out track is ‘Ten to One’, once again this is as superior lyrical work, but there is just a feeling that it might fly better with the full band in tow rather than as an acoustic number. Let’s hope the Felice Brothers get a shot at this one too. Nevertheless, it is easy to recognise that this is American folk song-writing at its cleverest.
‘In the Final Reckoning’ is a fitting end to the album with its minimalist instrumentation backing Felice’s poetic rambling. It is going to be fascinating to see how these songs translate live on Ian’s upcoming tour. As an album this stands up as a serious piece of work and important entry into the Felice canon. Felice Brothers fans will love this album, but will miss some of the band’s energy, even if the original line-up do feature throughout.

Those less familiar or taken with the band will discover a unique and talented folk singer-songwriter in Ian Felice.

Guest reviewer Steven K Driver.

Released 25th August 2017

Valparaiso – BROKEN HOMELAND

VALPARAISIO

Valparaiso
BROKEN HOMELAND
Zamora

A Soundtrack For a 1000 Broken Hearts.

If it hadn’t been for the inclusion of Howe Gelb; I doubt I would actually have listened to this record. The accompanying press release gives us a history lesson on VALPARAISO (a seaport in Chile) and the ‘Musical Collective’ from Paris who adopted the name after seeing some photographs from an ‘iconic photographer’ (whom I’ve not heard of)….stylistic/mystic/symbolism/imagery……ho hum……GIVE ME MUSIC!
Oh dear Lord …the first song, Rising Tides is simply beautiful. Howe Gelb resurrects the laid back style of his ALEGRIAS collaboration in 2011; a breathy talking manner alongside Phoebe Killdeer from the enigmatic Nouvelle Vague; and I was ensnared like a big fat fish on a big shiny hook.
The singers/narrators come and go at will; with each adding their own ‘magic dust’ to a series of laid back Jazzy grooves that will set your heart racing and curdle your blood in equal measures at different times.
Each track stands alone; telling it’s very own story with Shannon Wright’s shimmering voice turning Bury My Body into a Parisian Gothic tale of epic proportions in under 3 minutes.
Blown By The Wind (feat. Marc Hughyens), Dear Darkness (feat. Marc Hughyens again with Frederic D Oberland), and Howe Gelb’s The Ghost of Della Rae are probably the most immediately accessibly songs with their Alt. Country/Lo-Fi vibe; but the cinematic The River and Constellations, which melt Jazz into light Classical music are brittle and beautiful and haunting and will make you hold your breath so as not to miss a single note or syllable.
While I ‘bought into the concept’ via Howe Gelb; and there are several delightful surprises along the way the star by far; is Phoebe Killdeer; as whenever her sultry voice pours from the speakers my mouth would automatically fall open in wonderment. The title track Broken Homeland is dreamy in the most delightful way; but I will have to go with Wild Birds as my ‘favourite song’.
Her rich expressive voice and a shimmering groove encapsulates everything I thought I would initially hate on this record…. it is stylistic, mystic, symbolic and full of Parisian imagery.
Even the songs sung in French add extra mystery and pathos to a starkly beautifully and dark album; that should be listened to in solitude and darkness to get the best from it.
BROKEN HOMELAND is different, very different from anything I’ve ever heard in a long time. It is very much ‘left of centre’ and I will file it alongside Gelb’s Alegrias and my Chet Baker albums…oh…and Robbie Robertson’s Somewhere Down The Crazy River.

http://www.valparaiso-music.com/

Released September 22 2017

Dave Arcari – LIVE AT MEMORIAL HALL

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Dave Arcari
LIVE AT MEMORIAL HALL
Buzz Records

At Last……The Best British Bluesman At His Rawest, Finest and Most Honest.

I’m not sure if Scots Blues Troubadour Dave Arcari isn’t the ‘Hardest Working Man in Showbiz’! If you are lucky enough to be on his mailing list hardly a week goes by without him ‘doing something – somewhere’ and rarely the same thing twice.
He is and was a member of several bands covering many Blues genres; but as this Live Album shows……on his own is where he certainly shines his brightest.
Arcari introduces himself to an adoring audience while strumming his beloved Resonator; before gleefully sliding into Dreamt I Was 100; which warms the crowd up nicely.
HA!
Track #2 Cotton On My Back with it’s ‘potty mouthed’ chorus is more the hirsute and tattooed Dave we know and love!
For one man and a guitar he sure can make a big old sound; filling every cubic inch of The Memorial Hall and the RMHQ office with his ‘theme tune’ Whisky In My Blood, Homesick & Blue and most notably an old favourite Hellbound Train which is every bit as scary as Robert Johnson must have sounded in those Juke-Joints of old.
Of course Dave Arcari is a ‘Bluesman’ but as his fans know; he ain’t no ‘one trick pony’……this is a guy who was brought up in the Punk Generation and that raw ethos comes across in everything he says and sings……try listening to See Me Laughing to see what I mean……this is Hill Country Blues on amphetamines!
Then again, earlier on his takes on the Scottish Folk Ballads Parcel of Rogues and MacPherson’s Lament are both strikingly beauteous and show not just what an intricate guitarist the Big Man is’ but an emotional balladeer too, when he chooses to be.
Scots by birth and deed; but Dave Arcari is truly an International Musician as the inclusions of Texicali, Good Friend Blues and his most powerful song Devil’s Left Hand; any of which could be born and bred in the USA, but weren’t.
I already love the song 1923; but Arcari tells us it’s actually about his father it takes on an even deeper meaning; and to the uninitiated showcases Dave’s more sensitive side; even if the gruff vocals may not make that always easy.
Fans will scoop this up like ice-cream on a Hot Day; but if they get the chance to hear songs like Cherry Wine, Hangman’s Blues or the swinging Giving & Taking Blues (and) Music fans of all persuasions will surely become converts over night.
I could stick a pin into the track list and find a ‘favourite song’ but I’m going for one that actually made me sit up and listen; as it seriously surprised me on this recording for all I did know it previously. Another Chance will never trouble the Hit Parade for sure; but Arcari’s song hit me in the chest like a punch from a heavyweight……and his guitar playing is beyond superb too.
I’m now listening for the fourth time in two days and I can’t think their are any overdubs or cynical studio additions here; as this sounds exactly like any solo Dave Arcari show I’ve seen….spit, polish and raw honest music…..this is the Real Deal kiddies.

Released 1st September 2017
https://davearcari.com/about/

Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real

LUKAS NELSON

Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real
SELF-TITLED
Fantasy Records

Enough Atmospheric and Cinematic Southern Rock To Crush Your Heart.

Let’s pretend that Lukas Nelson isn’t the son of Willie Nelson or alongside his band has been the driving force in Neil Young’s band for the last couple of years and treat him with the respect any singer-songwriter/musician deserves…OK?
The album opens with the gorgeously sprawling 7 minute opus Set Me Down On a Cloud; a song that hints at the Band and CSN&Y at times; but is very much 100% pure Lukas Nelson and an amazing band.
A couple of songs later Fool Me Once is absolutely spellbinding in it’s deceiving simplicity, as the story actually unfurls like a Tennessee Williams narrative.
On Just Outside Austin Lukas’s voice and phrasing do sound uncannily like his father; but the beauty and the imagery of the lyrics are all down to the son and heir.
The more I’ve listen to this album; the more I’ve become entranced with Nelson’s ability to ensnare with his emotional lyrics and musical constructions; with no two songs sounding the same; but the album coming across as a complete Long Player in the old sense of the term.
We get a few laid back Southern Rockin and Rolling songs, like Four Letter Word and High Times to name but two; but the all encompassing smell of morning coffee, Jasmine and the California surf on Find Yourself, Forget About Georgia and Runnin ‘Shine are what I love here.
Oddly enough this is also an album that will sound just as good while driving on the highway as it will when kicking back on the porch or in the garden; as all of those songs and the gorgeous Fool Me Once truly are the sound of Summer……past, present and future; or at least they are for us here at RMHQ.
Favourite song, you ask? Not easy….not easy at all, but as I type I’m going for Breath Of My Baby; as it’s the type of delightfully intimate love song most of us and most songwriters too; sort of think about in our more lucid moments but never talk about out loud……. but Lukas Nelson does and does it with ease and class.
The album closes with the simple If I Started Over; with Lukas sounding even more like his father than his father does these days; and the quality of his words, not just here but across all 12 songs; prove that the DNA is strong, but also Lukas is doing it for and by himself……and that’s something to be very proud of.

Released August 25th 2017

http://www.promiseofthereal.com/

 

 

 

Howlin’ Ric and the Rocketeers – TEARS BEFORE BEDTIME

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Howlin’ Ric and the Rocketeers
TEARS BEFORE BEDTIME
Gin House Records

21st Century Classic Rock n Roll…..And I LOVE IT!

Rock & Roll has evolved into many different shapes and sizes since it first frightened our Grandparents in the 1950’s and 60’s; and we here at RMHQ love 99% of it; but nothing sounds finer coming out of the office Hi-Fi than the likes of our mates Howlin’ Ric and the Rocketeers paying homage to those original pioneers; but tearing up the rule book and making that ‘sound’ appear as fresh and exciting as it must have done before I was even born.
This record of unquestionable delights comes racing out of the blocks with the feisty Secrets & Lies; a tub-thumping and toe-tapping quifftastic slice of Rhythm AND Blues that instantly had my pulse racing alongside the razzle-dazzle guitar; and a rootin’ and tootin’ sax made me want to dance on a Tuesday morning!
It’s no real surprise that the pace slackens for Danger In The Woods which follows; with Ric crooning ‘to his baby’ on a song that bizarrely reminded me of Buddy Holly, James Hunter……and Bruce Springsteen all wrapped up together.
Who doesn’t like a lovely Rock & Roll love song? Well; if you do you are going to love Kiss Me Sometime; as it’s the type of delightful ballad that will appeal to love lorn teenagers and frisky pensioners with equal measure; and that takes some doing.
The tempo and temperature rises again for track #4 Ain’t Gonna Leave; a tightly wrapped bittersweet ‘will she/won’t she leave him’ tale full of BIFF-BAFF-BOP drumming, a heart-attack inducing bass and some sizzling guitar playing that would make Link Wray proud; and that’s without Ric’s purring and pleading vocal performance.
Now I’m going to jump to One Last Drink which closes this exciting little EP; WOW…WOW…WOW…..imagine Little Richard, fronting the Shadows with the Haggis Horns blasting away in the background…..yep; really.
Now; drop back a track to find our favourite song here; and one that I had to play first as it’s the RMHQ Family Motto……Can’t Do Right, For Doing Wrong! Wahay….this 100mph, adrenaline fuelled Rhythm & Blues infused Rock & Roller is every inch as good as I’d hoped and was a show stopper when the band ‘ripped a new one into SummerTyne Festival’ when they played it there last month.
It’s nice to say that the band have actually moved on quite a bit since the release of Cannonball their last EP’ and are prepared to take risks with their music; and not just play the same old same old for the Rockabilly circuit.
Bloody Love it from start to finish.

Released 9th August 2017

John Murry – A Short History of Decay

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John Murry
A Short History of Decay
TV RECORDS

John Murry got a lot of mileage out of his last album by playing the ex-junkie card, doing his damnedest to ruin his life, with that hint of a hope for redemption thrown in for good measure. It’s the same thing this time around, but at least he’s sincere about it. For me what makes him significant is more his unwillingness to compromise, his fearless drive, his talent for writing the kind of songs that make you think and feel at the same time. He delivers emotional performances that are rooted in realness, not fake histrionics masquerading as “emotive performance.” He takes chances. He doesn’t do anything unless he’s 100% into it. John Murry is a bit of a throwback and I mean that in a good way. His latest album, A Short History of Decay, isn’t as majestic, nor as noisy as Murry’s previous album, The Graceless Age, but is consistent throughout with a deep, dark throb and has a more pronounced dark country-western bent to the music. Murry is still writing with his heart—and often his gut—on his sleeve.

“Silver or Lead” starts out the album with understated guitar and a disjointed rhythm. Murry’s voice is all low growl and hopelessness. “Under a Darker Moon” is the closest we get to pop on this album, albeit Murry’s version of shattered pop with over-squeezed guitar and actually humorous lyrics as if Murry is openly mocking his own back story. The beautiful piano line on “Miss Magdalene” contrasted with the sizzling organ is a gorgeous counterpoint that needs no words to get its point across. The strongest tracks are where Murry’s sound and fury can barely be contained. Timidness, nor understatement aren’t his strong suits, but he does his best with them. “Defacing Sunday Bulletins” is a glorious, rolling noise-fest. Shattered cymbals and relentless, knife slice guitars. “Wrong Man” sounds like a lost Springsteen song from the Nebraska era, but with more contempt and acid. Murry’s previous, The Graceless Age, ended with a cover of “Thorn Tree in the Garden” by Bobby Whitlock and Murry keeps things consistent this time around by ending with a cover of the Afghan Whigs “What Jail is Like.” Murry has an ear for picking covers that work well with his other material, this one would even work on The Graceless Age, as it matches the sentiments on that album very nicely. And for a cover, this one song seems more personal and affords a deeper intimacy to the listener than the rest of the album, such is Murry’s power as a performer to bring out the smallest detail of a song and wring it full of personal meaning.

The choice of producer here, Michael Timmins, of the Cowboy Junkies, may seem at odds to Murry’s revved up dark soul searchings and primal therapy performances and, yeah, they kind of are. Murry’s darknesses are a fuzzy lot and require shadows from which to reveal themselves. A number of critics are praising the darkness and turmoil on this album, yet in my opinion, it pales considerably in comparison to Murry’s earlier output. He’s somewhat sleepwalking through this one, as if he’s too numb to do anything but feel his way down the hall with eyes shut, afraid to fall, where on The Graceless Age the entire album was like a headlong leap off a cliff and who cares or knows what’s at the bottom, but let’s find out. And if you want dark, it doesn’t get any darker than 2006’s World Without End, an entire album of true life murder ballads which Murry recorded with songwriter Bob Frank. THAT album can induce nightmares aplenty. And listen, if you’re brave enough, to “The Murder of Dylan Hartsfeld” from Murry’s earlier EP, Califorlornia, which is eight gruelling minutes of a terrible story made all the more sadder and darker when you find out it’s a TRUE story. Murry knows how to dance with demons, often giving them their due and keeping them on the run. He’s on the trail of hellhounds, and shows no fear. Or at least he can when he wants to. So yeah, I’m a little torn on this one. A lot of good, a lot of “could have been better.” This is still a good album, Murry is still a talented songwriter and riveting performer, but I’m still holding out for the next one.

Review Courtesy Guest Reviewer Roy Peak esq.

Released July 24th 2017
http://www.johnmurry.com

Roni Perry – PLACE YOUR BETS

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Roni Perry
PLACE YOUR BETS
Self-Release

Soulful, Feisty and Fired-Up Southern Indie-Country.

We loved Roni Perry’s 2016 EP Nothing Less Than This so got pretty damn hot under the collar when she told us she had recorded a whole LP of new songs…..but…..woah…..we weren’t expecting anything quite is ‘full on’ as this.
The album opens up with rockier song than anything on the EP and Neverland certainly gets the party started in Debbie Harry post-punk kinda way; and chock full of extra-spicy guitar too.
Five songs later Roni cranks up the Voltmeter again on her own penned Stormy Weather and her voice sounds just perfect as it battles Simon Beard’s electric guitar for prominence…..and wins.
While the young Devonian can certainly ‘Rock’ it’s the slower ballads that we like best here; with Dontcha Worry and the bittersweet Shooting Range both showing that not only can Roni Perry really, really sing a song….but write a great one too.
Harking back to the lo-fi of her EP Square Glass Bottle is a beautiful and deceptively simple song that will make your heart flutter the first time you hear it.
It’s actually quite difficult to pigeon-hole Perry’s music; as it’s predominantly ‘Indie’ with more than a shred of the Blues filtering through a few songs; but So So Wrong more than hints at a Country heritage too……something for everyone? I think so.
The title track Place Your Bets confirms that heritage with a Twangtastic foot-stomper that will have audiences bouncing along to it all over the country.
Although not an easy choice on an album full of interesting songs; I’m going with the brittle and acoustic Smokin’ and Drinking which closes the record as my ‘favourite track’ as it truly showcases not just a clever and articulate songwriter; but a young singer on the cusp of the next step in her career.

Released May 1st 2017

 

Lew Jetton & 61 South PALESTINE BLUES

lew jetton 4

Lew Jetton & 61 South
PALESTINE BLUES
Coffee Street Blues

It’s The Real Deal When The Blues Gets Angry!

As the accompanying Press Release is pretty basic, I know very little about Lew Jetton & 61 South; but that’s probably a good thing as it allows the music to speak for itself and in this case it actually growls, snarls and shouts!
PALESTINE BLUES opens with the cool 4/4 foot to the floor Will I Go To Hell. Lew’s world weary croon slurs from the speakers in time honoured fashion on a song about a man with more worries than is good for him, and asks questions of his Preacher that the good man can’t quite answer honestly. Razor sharp guitar; pounding bass n drums and Blues wailin’ mouth-harp from JD Wilkes……that’ll do for me kiddo.
The buzz saw guitar licks on Oh My My sound equally angry and sad, as Jetton’s lyrics about a man stick in a dead end job which he hates but can’t change or give up punch you in the gut and trample on your heart.
The Blues covers many subjects; and Lew Jetton takes it on a very dark journey indeed; especially stark tales of battles with addictions in For The Pain, Don’t Need No Devil and Drinking Again but his clever way with words make them accessible to all.
I guess I have to use the term ‘favourite song’ for two absolutely stunning left of centre songs that both caught my attention the first time I played the album; and pressed repeat over and over again; so I could be 100% sure that what I was hearing was right.
Sold Us Out is a righteously angry Blue Collar song about the businessmen who squeeze every last drop from the workforce then leave town without a ‘Bye Your Leave. This is actually preceded by an even angrier song and one I ‘hated’ until I really listened to Jetton’s astute lyrics. When I first heard it I thought Mexico was one of those tired Red-neck songs playing out to all too simple stereotypes; but when actually listened to it’s narrated by a man who now lives on Government Handouts in small-town Palestine in Kentucky and hates himself and everyone around him because of it, as his pride ekes away day by day “Since my job went to Mexico.” Sadly it’s an all too common tale across the Western World and to some extent applies to me too……only my job ‘went to the internet.’
It wouldn’t be a Blues album without a ‘Love gone wrong’ song and we get a couple of doozies here. Drama is a slow and sultry musical melodrama and ‘Bout Time which closes the record is another classic 4/4 mid-tempo shuffle that ties up everything nicely with a raggedy ribbon; but still threatens to unravel at any moment.
That’s life in a nutshell, though, isn’t it?

Released 7th August 2017

http://www.61South.com

AJ Croce – JUST LIKE MEDICINE

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AJ Croce
JUST LIKE MEDICINE
Compass Records

Singer-Songwriter Bares His Tattered Soul To The World.

OK let’s get it out in the open now; AJ Croce is the son of the legendary Jim Croce. Does that make a difference to what you are about to read? In theory no; but in practice yes; as you; like I, will sadly compare and contrast this singer-songwriter’s NINTH album with the work of his father whom he barely knew; as he died when the child was but 2 years old.
Hey…let’s get into the music and leave the rest for the historians and pedants.
I do love a strong album opener and Gotta Get Outta My Head ticks every box. A slow burning Bluesy N’Orleans Voodoo pot-boiler straight from the dark pits of the singers heart. A very naughty rhythm and a punchy piano combine with Croce’s raspy voice to draw you in like a moth to a flame.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise; but it was to see track #2 The Heart That Makes Me Whole is a co-write with family friend Leon Russell; as it sounds like Joe Cocker should have sounded on the Mad Dogs album; which makes it a winner at RMHQ.
When you check out the sleeve notes you find an array of household names make up AJ’s house-band (too many to name); and alongside the imperious production skills of the legendary Dan Penn their separate and combined qualities really shine on the tip o’ the hat to Randy Newman Full Up and the sultry Southern Soulful Hold You when Croce’s voice purrs and slurs like a Tom Cat on heat.
The track The Other Side of Love, with it’s rinky-dink almost Classical piano intro doesn’t just sound darkly beautiful but when you actually listen to the lyrics you know you are in the presence of a Master Craftsman.
To some degree Name of the Game is a song that this album hinges on; as it is the last complete song that Jim Croce completed, but never released. In my humble opinion it’s a brave decision for AJ Croce to include it here, as it casts a shadow over his own musings.
Without knowing the heritage the song fits in very well; but it’s actually Vince Gill’s sweet, sweet guitar playing that makes it stand out.
Our favourite song here though, is the beautiful title track Cures Just Like Medicine; touches spots I never expected to touch and showcases not just Croce’s writing skills but the full gamut of his vocal ministrations and a band so hot they actually sizzle in the background.
All in all this is the type of album I dream of buying; and just perfect for those warm Summer and Autumn nights when you just want the world to drift by on a haze of Mint Juleps and pine on the breeze.

Released August 11th 2017

https://www.ajcrocemusic.com/