James Hunter Six – WHATEVER IT TAKES

JAMES HUNTER SIX

James Hunter Six
WHATEVER IT TAKES
Daptone Records

The Hottest Rhythm, Blues & Soul Album of The Year By FAR!

Oh dear Lord! It appears that I’ve been a fan of James Hunter for over thirty years!!!! THIRTY YEARS! And he still looks so handsome and so young; life’s just not fair, is it?
James; or Howlin’ Wilf as we knew him then was and still is a regular visitor to the Jumpin’ Hot Club on Tyneside and I’ve not missed many gigs in that time, plus I’ve seen him and the band in London Town twice; first at the Jazz Cafe and also on my birthday at Ronnie Scott’s club which was a dream come true for me and Mrs Magpie.
So here we have his his sixth album under his own moniker and second on the majestic Daptone label; and (spoiler alert) there’s not been a lot of messing about with that winning formula at all; the James Hunter Six are as smooth and double-cool as ever; as opening song I Don’t Wanna Be Without You proves…..the notes actually melted as they seeped out of the RMHQ office stereo.
Freshly married; James serenades his lady with a sublime love song that will make even the coldest of cold hearts skip a beat.
The title track Whatever It Takes follows; and the songwriter takes a step back as he woos the woman in his life by apologising for some unknown misdemeanour with a love song deluxe and a simply swinging groove from the boys on saxophones, as is to be expected.
Next out of the traps is I Got Eyes is a jumping jive of a track, with Hunter performing his trademark strangulated yodel on each and every chorus, in a way only he can make ‘cool.’
If I’m wrong I’m sure James will quickly be on my case, but I can’t remember an instrumental before but we get an absolute doozy here; Blisters allows the boys in the band to show case their sublime skills on a track that’s worthy of any of the Blue Note albums in my collection.
Without ever being saucy in the slightest but this is very much a record of ‘grown up’ love songs; ones that ‘actually mean something’ and make ‘you think’ about your own relationships; which is the power of the man’s timeless songwriting; as Show Her and How Long will prove to even the casual listener.
As is the case with all of the James Hunter/Howlin’ Wilf albums in my collection there’s not a single bad track here; with a couple lifting themselves above the others to the for the RMHQ Favourite Track accolade; MM…Hmm and Don’t Let Pride Take You For a Ride. The former is a lovely slipping and sliding smooth as silk late night smoocher and the latter is a rip-snorter of an R&B dance tune, and a mighty fine song that we can all take heed from.
To the uninitiated I’ve never been sure who to compare The James Hunter Six to (Van Morrison? Not really, BB or Freddy King? Again, no); or even pigeon hole their music…..it’s Rhythm & Blues for sure, and it has found a perfect home at Daptone Records; but our friend from the badlands of Essex has a voice so soulful you’d swear he was born and bred in Harlem; and the band are as tight as a badger’s bum; which is what you’d expect from guys who have toured the world together for as long as I can remember, bringing joy to audiences far and wide; which is just what this album will do too.

Released February 2nd 2018
http://www.jameshuntermusic.com/

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John Oates & The Good Road Band ARKANSAS

john oates

John Oates & The Good Road Band
ARKANSAS
Thirty Tigers

Music From an Abandoned Luncheonette Jukebox In Big Pink.

Hmmmmmm; I’m always deeply suspicious when a Million Selling Megastar suddenly ‘finds’ a long lost love of Roots Music and gets to release a very ‘alright’ album in a blitz of publicity; much to the detriment of acts that tread the boards around the country every night of the week trying to make a living with very similar; but original material.
Now that bit’s out of the way; I hadn’t realised that this John Oates was actually THE John Oates of Hall & Oates fame, because the disc didn’t have a Press Release with it……you clever clogs Del Day!
So, it was with no preconceptions I slipped the disc into the car stereo on a cold and sunny January morning and let the music do its business.
I’m no real fan of Bluegrass but the gentle Anytime which opens the record was a very pleasant surprise indeed; with some sweet picking from the Good Road Band and a singer who sounds like he’s been around the block a time or two (if only I had known!).
This is followed by an Oates original, the title track Arkansas with it’s edgy mandolin as lead instrument. Hmm, hmm, hmm….. this is as cool a slice of Southern Roots as I’ve heard in quite a few years. Gorgeous harmonies and a band that must be steeped in the traditions of The Band, coupled to that ‘road-worn’ voice again; and the scene was set for a lovely day out in the Northern hills.
John Oates claims ‘this is the album that he has always wanted to make’ and that may be true; especially the way he has arranged hoary old Folk songs like My Creole Belle, Stack O Lee and Lord Send Me; breathing new life into each and possibly introducing them to a whole new generation or at least group of music lovers.
I actually had four new albums in the car that day; and this one stayed in the stereo as it just seemed the perfect soundtrack to my car journey; especially the ornery Dig Back Deep and the other John Hurt classic Spike Driver Blues; which features some really mean finger-picking geetar.
I’ve not had much time to play my old Blues albums lately so RMHQ ‘Favourite Track’ status falls on Blind Blake’s That’ll Never Happen No More, which is a song I’ve loved for many a year but, in fairness the original isn’t really ‘easy on the ear’ is it? So John Oates Ragtime version is the overall winner on an album that has surprised and delighted me in equal measures over the last week.
Perhaps this album will finally make me reassess my feeling towards Big Time Charlie’s muscling in our little world; but then again it will get Roots Music a little byline in our national newspapers and magazines, won’t it?

Released February 2nd 2018
http://johnoates.com/

Jeffrey Gaines – ALRIGHT

JEFFREY GAINES ALRIGHT

Jeffrey Gaines
ALRIGHT
Omnivore Recordings

A Scrumptious Blues and Soul Gumbo With a Side Order of Country Too.

Do you ever hear an artist or band’s name and can’t remember why you know it; but you just know you like their work? Well; it happens ever so often at RMHQ (possibly because I’m getting old!) and such is the case with Jeffrey Gaines. I don’t appear to own a single track of his and two phone calls later I’m 99% sure I’ve never seen him play live either so this is all new to me (or is it?).
Anyway; the lovely artwork on the CD cover instantly caught my attention; and as I’ve said before would have made me pick it out of the rack in a Record Shop; which is usually a good sign; and in this case Track #1 the mellow magic of Feel Alright bares my ‘gut feelings’ out again. Gaines has a pleasing crossover vocal manner, blending Sweet, Sweet Soul with a Bluesy rasp around the edges; and how cool is his guitar playing and the band behind him?
This is immediately followed by the rakishly romantic love song Firefly Hollow, which conjures up images of young love on a Saturday night somewhere warm and sultry in a small town somewhere in the Southern states of the USA.
With that mood in mind; let’s jump forward a couple of tracks to the uptempo and feisty Promise of Passion…..Oooohhheeee…..imagine what might have happened if Bruce had recorded a follow up to The River in a stifling Memphis studio and this could have been the lead track. Seriously; it is THAT GOOD!
Gaines takes us on a real switchback of emotions with gorgeous ballads like Bjorn Toulouse and the heart shredding No Longer which is perfect for late night radio play.
But the guy can Rock too; albeit in a tightly wrapped and usually intense manner (this is the Blues after all). Sparks must have come off his guitar during the recording of Frowned Upon and later on Thick and Thin that River period Bruce springs to mind again, as the song has a cool melody and a hook to die for; plus even more sparky and sparkling electric guitar interplay.
Selecting a ‘favourite track’ isn’t always easy; especially in these days when bands no longer need a single for radio play; but Children’s Games which closes the album is far too good a song to be left hidden on a record. A moody, slow and deeply personal love song all rolled into one; what’s not to like?
Oh for the days when I had my radio show; as this album would easily be the backbone to several shows in the next couple of months.
Only three plays in and I’m already in love with Jeffrey Gaines soulful strut; and can’t imagine why it’s taken him 15 years since his last release to come up with this delicious gumbo of Blues and Soul with a side order of Country too.

Released January 26th 2018
http://www.jeffreygaines.com/

The Lake Poets – LIVE AT THE SAGE (Gateshead)

lake poets x

The Lake Poets
LIVE AT THE SAGE (Gateshead)
Self-Release/Bandcamp

An Emotional and Poetic Journey From The North East’s Finest Wordsmith.

Do you know the conundrum about having a favourite artist or band that no one knows about but you crave for them to become huge megastars; although that means you would no longer get to say “hello” when they play a tiny venue walking distance from your house?
Martin Longstaff aka The Lake Poets is my conundrum. He has a fan and friend in ex-Eurythmic and all round megastar Dave Stewart; but we first fell in love with his songwriting and pearlescent voice a good few years ago when his song 1996 was part of a locally released Christmas album showcasing local acts.
Hey ho; the past is another country and there is this delightful EP to drool over.
Recorded in December 2016 in a sold out Hall #1 at Sage Gateshead with the String section of the Sage’s Youth Music Programme as accompaniment, friends told me Marty held the audience transfixed for well over an hour; but we only get six of the songs here; which is a shame, but an aural pleasure none the less.
Longstaff’s love songs aren’t ‘moon in June’ nonsense as opening song Your Face exemplifies, he is very much a songwriter with a Poet’s soul; using words and expressions in a way that will gently squeeze your heart until you forget to breathe. Then as the song fades to a close you will gently let out a sigh and wipe a tea from the corner of your eye.
There has always been gentle echoes of Nick Drake and John Martyn at times in some of The Lake Poets songs; and To The Lighthouse is just such a perfect example in the way he brings such a delicate story to life and leaves the listener emotionally shattered.
One of Martin’s strengths as a songwriter is the way he can inhabit the character in a song about some very dark subjects unlike anyone else I can think of. Black and Blue is a tale of domestic violence seen through the eyes of a child, and the production, engineering and mixing are exemplary for a live recording as you can not only hear a pin drop but Longstaff occasionally taking a breath between lines.
There are never many laughs in The Lake Poets songs; but sometimes we all need to hear a song that will make us feel better about ourselves; such is the case with the luscious See You Tonight, as the strings swoop and soar over Marty’s intricate guitar playing while the words of a very clever song seep into the subconscious like the very oxygen we breathe every day.
Then, there is the final track and our ‘favourite song’ on this all too short recording; Vane Tempest. A staple of Lake Poets concerts for a few years now this love song to the singer’s Father who was a coal miner at the pit of the same name; and how the infamous Miners Strike of 1984-85 affected him; but allowed the sons of the miners to fly free from the shackles their fathers were bound by for generations.
Phew; this short EP is a roller-coaster of emotions, and a beautiful journey it is too. For a download the sound quality is outstanding and very much befitting The Lake Poets words and sounds in a way they deserve to be heard.

Released December 29th 2017
https://thelakepoets.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-the-sage
http://thelakepoets.com/

 

Gary Miller – THE MAD MARTINS

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Gary Miller
THE MAD MARTINS
Whippet Records

An Epic Tale of  Three Geordie Brothers Who Changed The World.

Normally traditional ‘finger in the ear’ Folk Music bores me to tears; but very occasionally something comes along that captures my attention and yet again it has come from the mind and pens of Folk singer-songwriter Gary Miller and acclaimed poet Keith Armstrong; two NE Legends..
The story of The Mad Martins meant nothing to me in late 2017 when this amazing package (including a triple album and an extra instrumental cd) arrived; but I’ve had my mind truly expanded over the last four weeks.
Who knew that three brothers from the South Tyne would and could have such an effect on British history in the 18th Century?
Starting with Three Mad Martins (Prophecy) Gary inhabits the spirit of the son’s mother over a traditional Geordie toe-tapper of a tune and the scene is set for a rip-roaring tale of men who would go on to become ‘ a “Philosophical Conqueror of all Nations” and a doggerel poet, pamphleteer, engraver and inventor (William aka ‘The Lion of Wallsend’); “the notorious incendiary” of York Minster in 1829, prone to frequent fits of rage against the clergy, including an attempt to assassinate the Bishop of Oxford leading to his committal to several lunatic asylums (Jonathan), and the youngest, John who devised sewage schemes for London, along with a number of other inventions but is most famous for
his epic New Romantic paintings of Biblical scenes. One of these, ‘Pandemonium’, based on Milton’s ‘End of the World’, sold in 2003 for a record £1.65 million!
Part entertainment and part history lesson, the word ‘epic’ only comes close to describing the way the story is told in song, word and verse with some stunning artistry in the background from an array of musicians.
The Mad Martins, in true Folk Fashion is told in three ‘Acts’ beginning with William’s story then Jonathan and finally the successful painter John.
Choosing individual songs to point you towards is bordering on the impossible; as this is a ‘musical story’ and is meant to be heard in one long session; and by jove it works…..I actually sat listening intently as the stories unfolded in a way that beggars the regional nature of the subject matter.
But select I will, because that’s what I do!
On disc #1 Poet Keith Armstrong’s speech ‘On Libraries’ is fascinating and who among us can resist a title like ‘Cure For Cholera’ but again Keith’s warm Geordie voice makes a weird subject very entertaining; trust me. But the winner on this first disc is the Folk Rocker William, You Were Really Something …..ok, the title nods towards the Smiths but Gary breaths new life into an exciting period in our nations history that owes everything to a Geordie Genius!
Disc #2 is Jonathan’s story and opens with a nautical theme; I have to say I was disappointed (not really) with In The Navy as it isn’t the Village People version; but a hornpipe; but Jonathan’s tale takes on a really exciting path with Blood, Fire and Smoke and the rollicking Madhouse Martin; but there’s a golden love story thread too, with Keith’s poem Jonathan’s Departure from Maria being followed by the beautiful ballad Maria’s Testimony, which actually does stand out as an individual song that could be played on the wireless.
It’s fascinating to note that two of the tales here are Keith Armstrong reading from Charles Dickens’ letters ‘On Visiting Jonathan in Bedlam Asylum.’ Again; why didn’t I know this story? I studied Dickens for O’Levels many years ago and knew he visited the North East; but this wasn’t part of any of the books I was forced to read.
As you might expect, the mood and tone picks up on Disc #3 John Martin’s story. There’s a jaunty, even ragtime feel to Picture of the Scriptures and In My Hands sounds like it could be from a Cameron McIntosh music theatre piece; but then again the whole story and the way Gary Miller (and friends) presents it has a feel of a Northumbrian Les Miserables about it; with the final three tracks starting with the larger-than-life Pandemonium looking back on the brothers story on the day of the painting’s sale then Keith pulls all of the strings together with a ghostly tale THREE MAD MARTINS (epitaph) before he closes the story with another gorgeous 21st Century poem At Anchor that has it’s soul in a story of a family over 200 years previously.
I’m nearly lost for words now; I knew nothing of this story and feel obliged to read more deeply into it but more importantly this magnificently packaged Triple Disc box-set deserves a much wider audience than Gary Miller and Keith Armstrong’s loyal fan base; the story and they way they tell it deserves a much bigger and indeed national stage; all it needs is a generous benefactor; because if Sting can get his tale of the Wallsend shipyards onto Broadway then there’s indeed hop for The Mad Martins; now where is my lottery ticket from last night?

Released January 26th 2018
http://www.mad-martins.co.uk/

The World of John Martin…..http://www.wojm.org.uk/

 

Laura Benitez & The Heartache WITH ALL IT’S THORNS

laura benitez x

Laura Benitez & The Heartache
WITH ALL IT’S THORNS
Copperhead Records

Articulate Backroads Southern Country Music That Will Break Your Heart.

I’ve said this more than once over the years, but even in this Digital Age, good or at least interesting Album artwork is still a key to the overall experience of buying new music; and here is another case of a cover that would make me pick it up if I was in a Record Store.
Then, if I was to ask the proprietor to play the first track (as we did in the olden days) track #1; the sublimely titled Something Better Than a Broken Heart would easily make me part with £10.
Sounding uncannily like a young Laura Cantrell fronting the coolest ever Texan Country bar band. The song is a doozy; bittersweet and beautiful in equal measures and boy oh boy; can that band swing.
This is followed by the spine tingling Easier Things to Do; which shows Laura Benitez ain’t no one trick pony. A perfect song for when you need to turn the lights down low and stare at the telephone; praying it will ring and that ‘certain someone’ will be on the other end.
Oddly enough only yesterday I read an interview with a singer who mentioned a reviewer complaining that his album had ‘too many different songs’ on it; and I agree with the singer; how is that a bad thing? Here Laura sings some gorgeously deep ballads (In Red and the sparse Ghostship about a fire in a artists collective that caused the death of 36 souls) and balances these with a a very danceable Twangfest on Whiskey Makes Me Love You and The Fool I Am Right Now, which is surely Patsy Cline inspired, and to round things off there’s even a lovely, but sad Bluegrass song Nora Went Down The Mountain to close the record.
Then of course there has to be an RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ and with so many delights to choose from I’m going for the one with the softest centre; and it’s another heartbreaker….. Our Remember Whens; which truly showcases her warmly translucent voice and The Heartache in all their majestic glory.
Often when I write about songs on albums by new artists to me, (this is her third album since 2010), I occasionally imagine them sung by major stars. That certainly isn’t the case here as Laura Benitez has a really special singing voice; which is perfectly matched for her own heart-shredding songs of love, loss and hope which must all come from the experiences of a life well lived.

Released January 26th 2018
http://laurabenitezandtheheartache.com/index.html

Gary Miller & The Ferryhill Colliery Band – Durham Light Infantry.

DLI Cover art

Gary Miller & The Ferryhill Colliery Band
Durham Light Infantry. (Single)
Whippit Records

There used to be a Friday night music show called The Tube on C4; which was a ‘must watch’ and in it’s latter days a local Folk Group called The Whisky Priests made an appearance and blew my socks off. Think the Pogues on fizzy Blue Pop and sherbet dabs!
A week later I saw them in a small club and a longstanding love affair was born.
This song isn’t by them, but founder member Gary Miller  who still carries their torch which is coupled with his own succesful solo career.
Last year Gary was asked to write and perform some music for the Official Launch Event for ‘When the Bugle Calls’, a new exhibition by the DLI Research and Study Centre about the music of The Durham Light Infantry’ at Bishop Auckland Town Hall in Co. Durham.
This single tells the story of a young soldier in the famed Durham Light Infantry during WW1; and has a beautiful instrumental version by the Ferryhill Colliery Band on the B-Side and is a bit of a trailer for a forthcoming album on the same subject.

Released December 8th 2018
https://garymiller.bandcamp.com/album/the-durham-light-infantry

Buffy Sainte-Marie – MEDICINE SONGS

BUFFY SM

Buffy Sainte-Marie
MEDICINE SONGS
True North Records

Potently Raw and Emotional Native Americana.

If my maths is right MEDICINE SONGS is Buffy’s 17th album; and baring in mind the state of the world in 2018 any new music from the woman who refused to go on Sesame Street unless they let her tell the world about the history of Native Americans has to be worth investigating hasn’t it? Well; it has!
The album opens with the feisty You Got To Run (Spirit of the Wind) a full on commercial ‘wall of sound’ based around a Native American chant and backbeat; which when pealed away reveals a very angry song indeed. Boy; would I like to hear this on the radio! Do you think it’s worth holding my breath?
It’s no real surprise to find that this ‘golden ager’ and renowned Feminist and activist is righteously angry at what she sees around her; and as songwriter of some renown manages to get her feelings across in such a way on My Country Of Thy People You’re Dying and The War Racket that will not just educate you but make you want to march down a street too.
After all these years it’s more than a surprise to tell you that Ms Sainte-Marie’s voice is absolutely wonderful and has hardly changed since I first heard her in or about 72 or 73.
Not everything here is brand new; with the inclusion of new versions of the magnificent Soldier Blue, Universal Soldier, Starwalker and of course Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee which a new generation of North American schoolchildren should be forced to listen to on headphones every morning.
One of the older songs that I wasn’t aware manages to Buffy’s righteous anger gets to spill over again on an almost Hip-Hop poetic adaptation of The Priests of the Golden Bull, which is so powerful it will spin you around 359 degrees.
Baring in mind Buffy’s ‘age’…….the lady can still ROCK; as is proven on my favourite track here Carry It On. It’s definitely another ‘protest song’ but it’s also a real fists in the air and scream-along the chorus rocker that puts women (and men) a quarter of her age to shame.
I’ve been playing this album on and off  for two months now, and I’m stumped as to where to place it on my shelf…..Folk? Roots? Rock? Any of which would work; but I’m going for Americana or more pertinently NATIVE AMERICANA!
God Bless Buffy Sainte-Marie; the world still needs her and her fiery passion.

PS. The digital version of this record includes a further six songs that appear to be in a similar ilk; and should be well worth investigating.

Released 26th January 2017
http://buffysainte-marie.com/

 

Markus Rill – GETTING INTO TROUBLE

markus rill 9

Markus Rill
GETTING INTO TROUBLE
Blue Rose

Our Favourite German Shows Nashville How Country Ought To Sound.

Until Markus Rill crossed my path 5 years ago the only German music I was aware of were the Krautrock proggers of my youth like Can and Faust; then Kraftwerk some years later; none of which tickled my musical taste-buds.
Markus Rill on the other hand is now in my Top 10 artists of all time; producing some great Americana/Alt. Country/Country hybrid albums that sit on the ‘go to’ shelf for when the newer discs I receive don’t inspire me.
This Double album (Double album? Yikes?) is sub-titled 20 Years of Gunslinging and combines a whole album of new songs with a few re-workings of his older songs with some delicious cover versions and a few co-writes that didn’t make it previously; and the clever part is; you can’t tell what is old and what is new.
The album of brand new songs kicks off with the rye and even tongue in cheek, kick-ass In Theory; a songwriters song about ‘why do I bother’ until he remembers the excitement of playing his own songs in front of an appreciative audience……plenty of my friends know exactly where he’s coming from.
First and foremost Rill is a clever songwriter, sometimes writing from his own experiences and at other times inhabiting characters; both male and female to tell a story; and very few in 2018 do it half as well as he does.
One great example on Disc #1 is On The Sly; a raggedly beautiful acoustic song about a young girl who gets pregnant just before going to College and weighing up her options while being unable to tell a single soul about her dilemma.
Who else do you know can write a contemporary song about Henry VIII? Well Markus Rill did with For The Love of Anne Boleyn which kind of sounds like a Folk-Rocking history lesson; but also Country with its story. Well worth a listen.
For straight up ‘Country’ look no further than Vassar Played the Fiddle; about hearing Phil Vassar for the first time and ‘needing’ to do the same.
On any other record the brittle Not Like I Don’t Try would easily have been my ‘Favourite Song’ but here it barely makes the Top 3 on Side #1!
#2 is Jenny; an a-typical Markus Rill song about a woman in his life, perhaps real perhaps not; but a wonderful tale of a ‘green eyed stripper’ in New Orleans. Country Music don’t get no rawer than this kiddo.
The #1 title goes to Trouble With The Law; a dark and almost Gothic slice of Americana that could almost be a modern day Cowboy song and is probably as good a song as our German friend has ever written and sung.

Disc #2 is full of the re-workings and starts with the punchy Young Again; which has echoes of the Blasters and perhaps even the Waco Brothers at times; but Rills trademark grizzled and lived in voice makes it his and his alone.
As I said earlier; and possibly because they have been re-recorded nothing on this disc sounds dated by a day; even the covers Can’t Help Falling in Love and Gillian Welch’s One More Dollar; recorded as a fragile duet with RMHQ favourite Rachel Harrington are both delivered as if they had been written on the morning of the recording.
One of the biggest surprises here is the rip-roaring Rocker Killer on the Radio, an ode to hearing Jerry Lee Lewis while driving; but we all have similar feelings when hearing other singers at different times in our younger life.
As with Disc#1 there are three songs that all could make ‘favourite track’ status; with the beautiful Drifting In and Out of Sleep touching a very raw nerve with me these days; and the Blued-Soul of Girl On The A-Train being a gorgeous love song with a swinging brass section; and quite unlike anything I’ve heard from Rill before. Imagine Bruce Springsteen covering Southside Johnny, if you will.
My favourite track this time is a song that in my opinion only Markus Rill could write and deliver without sounding twee; and that’s the final song Angel on the Stairs. Straight from the heart and brittle at it’s core but swathed in strings; and very easy on the ear.
But there’s an outright winner; and a song that plenty of people on Music Row would give their left arm to write. Eye For an Eye is a contemporary Country song about having a bit of luck in your life that allows you to grow up and leave town and live a good life; but for a quirk of fate you could be your childhood best friend who turns up on National TV News as a murderer.
Not Quite Simple Twist of Fate; but a simple story that is so complicated most of us can thank our lucky stars we are the singer of the song and not the subject.
I’ve said many times over the years that there’s no such thing as a ‘Great Double Album’ and thankfully for me, the way Markus Rill has set this fantastic set of songs out I can still pretend I’m right; but here I can’t think of a single song that shouldn’t have made the cut.
Markus Rill? Europe’s best kept musical secret.

Released 26 January 2018

http://markusrill.blogspot.co.uk/

The Ree-Vahs – MAN OVERBOARD

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The Ree-Vahs
MAN OVERBOARD
Folk Me Records

The Broken Heart of Northern Folk

When Andy Lee from the Ree-Vahs got in touch to say a new mini-album was in the offing I got quite excited; as I love their previous two albums; and because they come from my home town of Stanley, Co. Durham and sound a bit like me; it’s a pleasure to give whatever help I can……but…..and it’s a very big ‘but’…..when he told me the background to the songs, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it at all.
The Ree-Vahs are, or should be brothers Andy and Paul Lee; but Paul sadly took his own life as the band were in the final stages of putting this record together.
So; knowing that, the title track MAN OVERBOARD comes in two versions with the first being an eerily prophetic snippet from a home recording by Paul several years ago in his bedroom and the finale is a full band version recorded after his death.
Mercifully this is followed by a more upbeat and slightly anthemic song Pack Your Bags, featuring some classy fiddle and cello from local lasses Catherine Geldard and Katie Hall. It’s not altogether clear what or whom the singer is moving on from; but the sentiment will touch even the coldest of hearts.
The  spirit of Paul Lee flits in and out of several songs; especially so on the biographical Jigsaw and Sing Our Songs in the Dark with it’s sub-calypso beat; and a story about the magical feeling of playing records in your bedroom as a teenager.
Andy even includes a love song to his brother with Under The Wheels; a Northern Soap Opera told through the memories of a brother with depression and weaknesses. This is what Folk Music does best; and this song will reduce grown men and women to tears.
Baring in mind the tone and background to this album, I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do to choose a ‘favourite song’ but when the songwriting and presentation as as good as this it’s hard not to; so I will make it a tie between the finished article MAN OVERBOARD, which has echoes of Mark Knopfler around the edges and if you were to hear this song by accident it will truly take your breath away.
The other is Stronger Than Me (non-binary) another beautifully bleak tale; and this one is about teenage bullying and the helplessness it forces on all of the adults around the child.
There’s not many laughs here; but what there is is bundle of songs that are written from the heart and destined to tear at your heartstrings.
Don’t let this record drift into obscurity…….try it, buy it…….cherish it.

Released January 19th 2018
http://www.theree-vahs.co.uk