The Raving Beauties
RAVING FOR BAP (KENNEDY)
A Special Way To Celebrate a Wonderful Life at Christmas.
Phew…..I don’t really know where to begin here; where does the time go? It’s now over a year since Belfast Boy Bap Kennedy died and his passing still feels as raw to me as it must his family.
Here, Bap’s friends and family have combined to record 5 of his finest songs that span his career way back to the Energy Orchard days with all proceeds (coupled with the £2,000 his lovely sister Marian has raised by a 12 month long sponsored abstinence from the demon alcohol!) going to the Marie Curie (NI) who looked after ‘yer man’ in those horrible last few months.
Normally at this stage I should actually review all 5 songs on this delightful record; but apart from telling you they are all delightful and come oozing with love for Bap; what’s the point? You are going to buy this anyways; aren’t you?
1) Walk In Love
2) Moriarty’s Blues
3) The Way I Love Her
4) Hard Street
5) Lonesome Lullaby
Oh…..I’m not even giving you a free sampler as this cause is so important I want you to give hard cash to hear this beautiful tribute. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The release comes via a digital download or a collectors edition 10″ vinyl (which I DO NOT WANT TO SEE ON E-BAY!).
This will surprise and possibly amuse some readers but as a teenager I dabbled in the murky waters of Prog Rock! It didn’t last long; and while I haven’t listened to their music in aeons I still have a soft spot for Camel…..and they are touring the UK again in September 2018……perhaps I will see you there; I won’t be the one with a grey ponytail btw.
Here’s the Press Release.
Legendary prog-rockers CAMEL announce UK tour dates for September 2018 Performing the whole of their 1976 classic album Moonmadness plus other classic tracks.
Tickets on sale Friday 1st Dec at 10am.
Following the recent announcement that legendary prog-rock band Camel will bring their acclaimed live show to London’s Royal Albert Hall in Sept 2018, the band are happy to reveal that this will be preceded by an extensive run of UK tour dates. During what will be a very special run of shows – performed by Andrew Latimer (guitar, flute, vocals), Colin Bass (bass guitar, vocals), Denis Clement (drums), Peter Jones (keyboards, vocals) – the band will be playing the entirety of their 1976 album “Moonmadness” plus plenty of other classic tracks.
Upon release “Moonmadness” left its mark on the UK Top 20 albums chart, going on to become certified silver. In the Q & Mojo Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album was included in its list of the best “40 Cosmic Rock Albums” and voted no. 58 in the Top 100 Prog Albums of All Time by readers of ‘Prog’ magazine in 2014.
The full run of UK dates is as follows.
Tickets go on sale Friday 1st Dec at 10am.
Fri 07 Sep 2018 Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK [buy tickets]
Sat 08 Sep 2018 Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle, UK [buy tickets]
Sun 09 Sep 2018 The Assembly, Leamington, UK [buy tickets]
Mon 10 Sep 2018 Friars Aylesbury at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, UK [buy tickets]
Wed 12 Sep 2018 O2 Guildhall, Southampton, UK [buy tickets]
Thu 13 Sep 2018 Corn Exchange, Cambridge, UK [buy tickets]
Fri 14 Sep 2018 Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham, UK [buy tickets]
Mon 17 Sep 2018 Royal Albert Hall, London, UK [buy tickets]
FORGET EVERYTHING (and ROCK)
Red Lounge Records.
Classic Alt. Country That Rocks With Germanic Precision.
My heart sinks when someone offers something “I think you will like” because you reviewed Band X or Singer Y; it’s really not that simple.
Such was my gut feeling when a nice lady from this German record company got in touch a couple of moths ago; which is why I dismissed the original e-mail; but she persevered and even when the promised CD didn’t arrive (€6 wasted apparently) she had one last attempt to get me to have a listen.
I can only apologise…….as it’s a corker!
The title track Forget Everything opens proceedings and…..WOW…..it’s pretty damn much everything I like in Alt. Country…..a world weary singer, Twangtastic guitars, a pedal-steel that will break a concrete heart and a song that takes your breath away.
Mess cranks down the gears to make the band’s engine roar for the next song Get Away and I was sucked in for a roller-coaster ride of epic proportions.
As en ex-Punk and lonely singer-songwriter Tom Mess knows how to rock a tune (Stranded & Broke) but also how to tug on your heartstrings too (Ache Can Be an Engine) with equal measure; and that combined to an obvious love of Classic Country Rock makes this album come at you from all directions until you submit to it’s all too obvious pleasures.
In simple terms this is Trucker Cap Country Music, as opposed to the Stetson type; and songs like Oh, Honey and Hobo Sound are well suited to a Friday night anywhere beer is consumed and the lonely congregate.
I’ve predominantly listened to this album in the car; and in that setting it’s good old-fashioned driving music with the larger-than-life final song Your Part is To Prove Me Wrong easily being my favourite track here; but I guess there’s something here for everyone to give a similar accolade too.
Yet again I’ve discovered someone from the other side of the Atlantic who can write and play Country Music better than a whole load of household name Americans; Tom Mess…..remember the name and where you heard it.
Americana Labelled With Love From England and San Francisco.
The story begins the day after 43 year old Ex-Patriot Yorkshireman Steve saw Chuck Prophet in concert and began ruminating on some songs he had written and on a whim he forwarded them to Mr Prophet for his consideration. Much to the songwriter’s surprise Chuck responded by inviting him over to San Francisco to record said songs alongside the Mission Express…..yep; really.
Six of these songs were recorded over those few days with the intention of releasing them as an EP; but Chuck and the band liked them so much Steve was invited back in early 2016 to write and record a further 4 songs that would ultimately make up this album.
Intrigued? Well; read on……
At this point I desperately tried to forget the Chuck Prophet connection as opening song Rosalie bears no resemblance to anything I’ve heard from him……but why would I? This is Steve Gardner’s album and Prophet et al are just helping out in the background. This opening track conjures up memories of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook’s post Squeeze solo outings; a quaint English Folk Rock/Americana hybrid that just oozes quality from every groove.
As everyone knows I’m a sucker for a good love song and quite a few are included here; the dark relationship breakdown of a torrid affair that is described in I Can’t Walk Away is truly heartbreaking and delicately told from the male protagonists point of view; and the dark Murder Ballad Take Me Down is worthy of Nick Cave.
What Would I Do is a bit ‘wordy’ at times, but on the other hand is a gorgeous love song shrouded in a velvet fog of longing for the woman he’s in danger of taking for granted…….a scenario many of us live out each day, and Steve Gardner puts the sentiment I feel so eloquently into words and music.
Who among us could resist a song called Peter The Astrophysicist? Hmm; so it’s just me is it? Well it’s certainly a bit quirky as Peter dances around the world looking ‘for a wife’ but hey…..we all need a little bit of quirkiness in our lives don’t we?
Back to Mr Prophet; it’s easy to see why this self-confessed lover of British music would fall in love with the 2 1/2 songs that tie for the title of RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’…….The Fall of Lance Gardino is a tale of a one time Rock Star now selling vinyl on a market stall and ‘Raising Hell on a Thursday at the karaoke/singing a selection of his own hits.’ Amazingly well constructed and the Mission Express do what they do better than most other musicians behind Gardner’s droll flat Northern vocals.
Two and a half ‘songs’ you ask…..well the other song appears twice; first as a traditional Pop-Rock toe-tapper and then at Chuck’s insistence in a Country guise…….The Day The The Aliens Saved The World is a wonderful tongue in cheek A-Political song that may or may not have a semi-religious sub-plot; or not as the case may be……but I bloody love both versions.
What more can I say; this has been joy from start to finish and owes a whole lot more to the likes of English Pop Royalty Squeeze, Prefab Sprout and especially Nick Lowe than it does our favourite San Franciscan and given a good tail wind I can imagine several of these songs being played on Radio 2 or any of the cooler TV 30 Something shows.
Quintessential English Folk But With an Appalachian Heartbeat.
Yet again this is a release that has been sitting in the to-do queue for a few weeks and was brought to my attention via the ‘random button’ on my i-phone.
Thankfully that track wasn’t the actual first one on the CD, Banjo Tune because; and not for the first time……I’m currently suffering from ‘Banjo Fatigue’! With Americana music currently ‘on trend’ I receive a few albums that appear to be either Folk or even Rock; with a banjo welded onto the recording to give it ‘authenticity’ which doesn’t do my ears any favours.
While the banjo does feature strongly on the song of the same name; mercifully singer Robert Jackson’s richly distinctive voice carries a rather sweet song along a path normally trodden by one of my heroes Tom Paxton.
Very much on the Appalachian Folk end of the Americana Spectrum A Different Thread deliver a series of lovely and warm songs like Cherry Tree and Long In The Tooth which belies the trio’s distinctly Middle England roots.
With only 5 songs on this EP those previous three are each delightful in their own ways; but the other two songs stand out like poppies in a field of corn.
The first, High Time made me smile as soon as I saw the title because it’s the same as a favourite song in my teens by Detroit proto-punks The MC5; but this song is 359 degrees away from tat madness.
A gorgeously crafted and written song features some darkly melancholic cello by Isaac Collier and intricate guitar playing by Jackson himself while Alicia Best’s subtle fiddle playing will break the hardest of hearts.
Then it behoves me to say that they have kept the best until last; with the bittersweet love song Sweet Elizabeth. Like a fine red wine, it conjures up the heady flavours of Led Zeppelin and even the Allman Brothers (without the electric guitars or drums) as well as the rich aroma of Richard Thomson and my personal favourite Bert Jansch; while very much creating their own distinctive sound.
Whether in a club, pub or even your own home this is the type of music best heard with the lights down low and your hopes set high.
Bloodshot – 13 Days of Xmas (2017)
A Fairytale of Chicago With Extra Special Presents.
Discovering Bloodshot’s compilation albums 20 years or more ago was my gateway to what is now known as Americana Music; but back then was called Insurgent Country; and I still kinda like that name.
Never shy at celebrating Public Holidays with the release of a new record; this year they have pulled an oddball collection of Bloodshot acts and assorted friends together to celebrate Christmas and it’s as cool and crazy as you’d hope and expect.
I hadn’t checked the track list the first time I played this (a sunny November morning btw!) and I would have sworn opening track O Holy Night was the Pride of Sheffield Richard Hawley; such is the dry and droll way the vocalist delivers the words; but no…..it’s actually Murder by Death; and rather beautiful in a dark manner.
Track #2 was a giveaway as soon as I heard that sexy baritone declare “I’m Papa Barrence!” Who else could it be but the one and only Barrence Whitfield and the Savages; and it’s an absolute doozy.
Brand new Bloodshot signing Ruby Boots makes her label debut with a very sexy I Slept Through Christmas; and I now can’t wait for the release of her new album in the new year.
Old Bloodshot hands Jon Langford, Ha Ha Tonka, Dex Romweber and Devil in a Woodpile all make Seasonal appearances with a variety of attitudes towards the Festivities; but it’s the newcomers that have caught my attention.
James Elkington’s Christmas Is Now Drawing Near sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of John Martyn and Nick Drake; whereas Zach Schmidt goes for Country 1:01 with I’m Drunk Again This Christmas but the biggest surprise of all is Ron Gallo doing a straight version of White Christmas albeit with a pedal-steel in the background.
There are three serious contenders for the title of Favourite Song; could it be RMHQ darlings The Yawpers with Christmas in Oblivion; an almost Lo-Fi observation on the times we live in; or is it the prison melodrama How To Make Gravy from All Our Exes Live In Texas (who I REALLY need to hear more of) or will it be the woman I’ve had a crush on for 17 years? Yup…it’s Miss Kelly Hogan and the delicate Christmas love song, Blue Snowfall.
As you’d expect with a Compilation some songs work better than others; but sometimes it’s a matter of personal taste but the best of these tracks are among the very best Christmas songs you will hear this; or any other year.
PCP (Popa Chubby Productions).
Cool 21st Century Schizoid Blues From the Bronx.
Popa Chubby is one of those names that has skirted around my radar for several years now; but I don’t think I actually own a note of music by him; until now.
While intrigued, because I’ve read some very positive reviews of his previous albums by people I really respect; I was a bit nervous about what I would hear; as I held the Gangsta style cover in my hands.
Thankfully I needn’t have worried one iota as some very fluid Blues guitar poured from the speakers before Popa’s deep and Soulful voice soared behind it on the attention grabbing opening song It’s Alright.
Popa Chubby is certainly steeped in ‘The Blues’ but his references are a lot more modern with elements of Jimmy Vaughan coming through on Pre-Existing Condition and Chubby’s Boogie could easily be a great lost Freddie King tune; but what excites me most is the way Chubby channels the Funky ghosts of Hendrix and Prince without ever sounding like either on Me Won’t Back Down and the sultry instrumental Clayophus Dupree as well as the silky guitar licks on a couple of other tracks too.
But, first and foremost Popa Chubby is a 21st Century Bluesman with his own distinctive styling that can best be heard on Shakedown, Sam Lay’s Pistol and the title track Two Dogs which is as low down and dirty as the Blues gets without the Police being called.
Before I get to ‘my favourite track’ my copy of the album contains two fascinating Bonus Tracks; both recorded live and both covers and both show Popa Chubby’s great taste and love of good music rather than just retreading tired old staples; Sympathy For The Devil is so intense you fear it may snap in half; and the inclusion of a near 10 minute re-interpretation of Hallelujah is simply stunning from start to finish.
But we jump back to the beginning for my ‘Favourite Track,’ Rescue Me is a fairly simple and timeless ‘four to the floor’ Boogie-Stomp; but there is also something really special and magical about the dirty guitar and the way Chubby sings will really tear at your heartstrings.
So after all these years and numerous albums I’ve finally discovered the Musical Box of Delights that is Popa Chubby; and I’m now going to spend a fortune buying up his back catalogue!
Wow! By sheer coincidence I was bored and trolling through local venue What’s On guides when I saw the legendary Eric Burdon is playing our Hometown City Hall, Newcastle in June 2018 and within two clicks of my computer mouse I stumbled on this wonderful version of the Buffalo Springfield ‘classic’ For What It’s Worth……
Over to Eric……..
“The whole idea of recording this song came as a result of a conversation I had with a young fan backstage, when she asked me, “Where are the protest songs today?” Right then and there, I wanted to write something about the brutality that’s going on in the world today but I couldn’t find any better way to say it than Buffalo Springfield did in “For What It’s Worth”.
“The music I love was created by the sons and daughters of slaves. My life’s work has always been about honouring those people who suffered and thus, created a language of peace and salvation through music.”
“Everything we believed in during the ’60s, everything people fought and died for, is being jeopardised today”.
Just like buying a house, the adage of “Location, location, location” can be used when discovering new music.
Last week Mrs. Magpie was seriously ill in hospital for over two weeks (out and recovering now btw) and on the third night it was cold, damp and very dark as I fired up the car for the journey home; and probably because the mono cover art was very dank and depressing I slid this disc into the car stereo.
As an almost Native American howl filtered out of the speakers I clipped the seat belt into place, and thirty minutes later I was still sitting in the car park almost breathless and with tears streaming down my face.
Obviously my circumstances that night dictated my mood; but the beautiful bleakness of the Winterlings latest album certainly played its part that night; and subsequent nights over the next week.
The duo of Wolff Bowden and Amanda Birdsall share vocal duties; and occasionally harmonise in a way I’ve not heard as good since I first discovered Handsome Family; but without the quirkiness.
Songs like Gold, Owl Mountain and Puget Sound have a distinctive cool and razor-sharp Canadian feel to them; which is where many of the songs here were written, but the couple are 100% USA with Bowden hailing from Florida, not that you would know it from the brittle way these songs are sung.
I guess the Winterlings are at the Folk end of the Americana spectrum; but it’s the end inhabited by the acoustic Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell in the way they too inhabit their songs with sincerity and emotionality; World To Change and Birthplace are prime examples of songwriters with a poets soul.
When it comes to choosing a favourite track for you, I have to jump back to the first two songs; the title track American Son which is simply stunning in the way its constructed, the subject matter and the mostly the way the couple weave their incredible voices together over an intense acoustic back beat.
But; and it’s actually an easy selection the accolade goes to that opening track which totally caught me unawares; The Ghost of Leonard; a tale of Bowden being visited by the Ghost of Leonard Cohen while deep in meditation…….. and I’m not sure I’m going to hear a more compelling opening line than “Lit my body like a cigarette/when I was young/and dreamed of death/your poems fell like ash.”
Much like the duos name, The Winterlings and AMERICAN SON is very much an album for the long, dark and dank nights of Winter and if like me you like the deeper and more ethereal end of Folk Music you will love this album.
IF ALL I WAS WAS BLACK
A 21st Century Soul Classic.
In the week my home city of Newcastle in NE England is celebrating a full year commemorating the Rev’d King being awarded the Freedom of our City 50 years ago in 1967; and a speech he made condemning the racism that blighted his home country, one of the most famous names in Soul Music Mavis Staples is releasing an album of powerfully political songs on the same heinous subject that still plagues America.
Is it wrong to use the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the opening song Little Bit? Possibly but it most certainly is beautiful, in a tragic way that Ms. Staples tells her tale of a young black person’s woes in travelling at night.
To some degree it’s difficult for me, as near 60 year old white man in the North of England to truly understand where the writer is coming from with songs like Peaceful Dream and the amazing title track If All I Was Was Black; but as a working class man with a Social and Socialist conscience I can sympathise and even empathise with every ounce of passion and indeed L-O-V-E that Mavis Staples oozes across every second.
There’s a restrained anger on more than a couple of songs, which is no surprise to anyone who has watched the TV News over the last couple of years; yet on Try Harder, No Time For Crying and especially Build a Bridge Mavis shows great compassion and hope for the future in a way that pulls at the heartstrings but makes you really, really think too.
It’s possibly because I’d been listening to this album on the day I visited 3 photography exhibitions as part of the Freedom City Celebrations; but one song here captured my attention above all others; Peaceful Dream is a Gospel infused acoustic Folk Song which paraphrases Dr. Kings most famous speech but is so damn infectious it had me shuffling my feet and desperately wanting to punch the air with a clenched fist!
I’ve no idea what’s happening in the Hip-Hop culture but this album and Otis Taylor’s Fantasizing About Being Black from earlier in 2017 both show there is a valid place in contemporary music for a Black Protest Album; especially when they are of the quality of these two.
Jeff Tweedy’s production is both flawless and sensitive throughout; turning a potentially ‘angry’ set of songs into a glorious rallying call for not just Social Change but Peace, Love and Understanding too.