Janiva Magness – LOVE IS AN ARMY


Janiva Magness
Fathead Records/Blue Elan

Music That Transcends Both the Blues and Even Soul

Although this is Janiva Magness’ 14th album I only discovered her 4 years ago and have been slowly working my way through her back catalogue ever since; so was pretty damn excited to receive two copies of her latest release……one from her American PR and the other the European one.
As usual I have to start by explaining that the Blues comes in a million shades and Janiva Magness plys her trade in the cooler more Soulful end of the spectrum.
The opening track Back To Blue is a perfect example of why Janiva was a Grammy nominee in 2016, her distinctive velvety voice soars on an absolute heartbreaker that is perfect for people of a certain age who remember the halcyon days of Dusty Springfield and Aretha in their glory years.
Things get a little more spikier on the next track Hammer; with a punchy drumbeat fighting with Charlie Musselwhite on a sparkling harmonica as Janiva ‘shakes her thang’ as the band get in a groove well worthy of the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
As is the way when you have a reputation like Ms Magness a couple of guest stars make appearances on a couple of tracks; with the legendary Rusty Young supplying some sublime pedal-steel during On And On which is a bit of a departure for the Blues Diva; but not too far left of centre that it doesn’t fit in.
Delbert McClinton makes an appearance on the lonely love song What I Could Do; taking this duet into ‘timeless territory’ and just perfect for late night radio somewhere in Lonelyville.
RMHQ favourite Cedric Burnside brings his urban Roots specialities to Home; which has a choir of Angels backing the pair on a song so atmospheric you can virtually smell the flowers on the hills as Janiva gives the powerful lyrics everything she has in her armoury.
When I played this album in the car I found myself reaching for the dial to turn the volume up a couple of notches on Tell Me, What’s That Say About You and the Gospel drenched Some Kind of Love which finds the singer alone at a piano; not because they are ‘Rockers’ but because they all deserved to give me a sensory overload; that being simple background music wasn’t fair on Dave Darling’s sparkling production.
Where to go for a favourite song? Love To a Gunfight has to be a contender with its clever lyrics and story coupled with some sublime guitar from Dave Darling, but I’m going for the classy title track Love Is An Army. As everyone knows I’m a sucker for a love song; and this one oozes lurve like an oil slick; with the words and music and most importantly the way Janiva and Bryan Stephens weave their voices around each other the song transcends both the Blues and even Soul in the way only Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson managed many years ago.
A couple of months ago I got into a heavy debate about Artistes ‘recording the same album over and over again’ versus ‘Artistes constantly changing direction and challenging themselves.’ I fall into the latter camp and find myself being proud of Janiva Magness for having the courage to make an album that is distinctively a Janiva Magness album (what else could it be with ‘that voice’?) but creating individual songs that may be out of her core fans comfort zone; although I certainly think all of their preconceptions should disappear the second time they play this album.
Here’s my forecast……..Grammy Nominee in 2016……Grammy WINNER in 2018!

Released 23rd February 2018



ROD PICOTT OutPastTheWires

Rod Picott
Welding Rod Records

A Double Album Packed With Quality Heart Breaking Blue Collar Stories.

After a musical career spanning 17 years and 7 albums, it’s difficult to know where to start with singer-songwriter Rod Picott, as he’s been prolific in that time and always gives great value when seen live; plus at least three of his songs are among my favourites of all time; but sung by his best friend Slaid Cleaves.
Hey ho; that’s all in the past and this is his shiny new double album of 22 songs that just may have the capacity to make him leap above his peers in my Singer-Songwriter Top 10.
It came as no real surprise that Disc #1 opens with a delightfully curmudgeonly and clever love song, Be My Bonnie, where Rod sounds uncannily like Kristofferson but with Dylan on harmonica. This is actually a great place to start for new fans as you hear amazing lyrical craft from the opening lines…..”You’ll be my Bonnie/I’ll be your Clyde/We’ll marry our future/and together we’ll ride” through to my personal favourite “Show me your scars Babe/no need to hide/I got a few scars of my own/deep down inside”.
Don’t we all?
The pace suddenly picks up on the Alt. Country Rocker Better Than I Did; which follows and finds Picott snarling the bittersweet lyrics out and punctuating them with some really angry harmonica playing.
Alongside Slaid Cleaves Picott is best known for his ‘Blue Collar’ songs; and no one I’m aware of (inc. B Springsteen & N Young) these days capture that spirit better than these two; the next two songs also feature on Slaid’s last album with Picott making the heart breaking Take Home Pay into a mid-pace Country Rocker that will be perfect for any bar bands out there to cover; and on his Father/Son co-write with Cleaves, Primer Gray the tale of a mutual love of cars becomes a delightful back porch ballad; with a haunting pedal-steel in the background.
I’m normally no lover of double-albums; but here it gives Rod Picott the opportunity to glide seamlessly from trademark acoustic ballads like Holding On and Date of Grace through Soft-Rockers like A Better Man and Coal with practised ease.
Disc #2 treads exactly the same path; with the haunting first song Dead Reckoning yet again proving what a Master Storyteller the man from New Hampshire is.
I don’t own all of Rod’s 7 albums; but it comes as no surprise that in recent years he has turned his hand to writing a screenplay and a book of poems; and there will be a book of short stories fleshing out some of the characters in these songs; and I for one can’t wait to read more about ‘the Mother and Son’ in Store Bought and also the sad and lonely man, Picott sings about in the tragically beautiful Diamonds In The Dirt but Hard Luck Baby very much tells its own tragic Alt. Rocking story of a young woman who “was thirteen when she gave herself her first tattoo” and “When she was sixteen/pulled her braces off/looked like a magazine/But every little hurt/They all add up/Till you’re hard like a diamond.”
See; I told you he is Master Craftsman in songwriting, didn’t I?
After 21 songs that take you on a ragged and rocky emotional roller coaster Picott brings proceedings to a close with a song of hope in a terrible world; or at least that’s how I hear Little Things; perhaps you will hear something different; because that’s what makes Rod Picott one of our generation’s finest songwriters.
So; how the Hell am I supposed to select a Favourite Song when the overall standard is so damn high? Well; I’ve gone a bit left-field with my choice…..Straight Job; is an acoustic Country song worthy of Cash, Bruce or more likely Waylon with Rod inhabiting a musician that knows he has to turn his life around and get a Straight Job as his wife is ill and pregnant, which means he’s finally got to sell his Telecaster and take the proceeds down to the hardware store.
I probably could have thrown a dart at the track list to find my favourite; but this song and the way he sings it probably sums up Rod Picott as much as anything else here or on his previous albums.
I doubt Rod Picott is a millionaire or ever will be; but his songs and in particular the ones on this album will bring more pleasure to people who hear them than all the wealth in the world ever will; but by buying this Double-album you will help put food on his table; and make your own life a little better every time you hear it.

Released February 16th 2018


Ill River  – TALE TO TELL

carr t brown

Ill River

Evocative and Romantic Americana From Europe’s Heartlands.

Choosing albums to review isn’t as easy as you’d imagine; as we genuinely get inundated with new music every week, so sometimes it’s a ‘big name’ that will get the site attention, others can be from acts I’ve reviewed before or perhaps it’s an album that has been recommended by a friend or another reviewer and occasionally it can just be ‘pot luck’ that something so minuscule it’s difficult to explain has caught my attention; such is the case with this album from Cary T Brown aka Ill River.
Cary got in touch following a review of Jeff Crosby’s last album and offered up his own latest release…..because a) The music was similar and b) there was a Magpie on the album artwork!
Well; lucky for him I’m a sucker for a Magpie…..and you too; because this album is well worth seeking out.
As always the opening track has to capture my attention; and the liquid guitar break that opens Smile For The Picture certainly did that; and when Cary’s warm and world weary voice entered the fray it quickly had me nodding my head and pursing my lips as a deep and poetic song unfolded before me.
‘Poetic’ as as good a way as any to describe Brown’s writing style; as his songs may not be as ‘literal’ as I normally prefer; but the way this song is constructed and others too (Janey and Little Strings too for that matter) are designed to make you think as you wallow in the language and tightly wrapped guitar fronted Alt./Indie Folk music before you.
American by birth but now based in France Brown’s ‘style’ probably owes more to a romantic vision of Americana than it would were he still to be dragging himself around the bars of his homeland; and this comes across delightfully well on On My Mind and Tie One On which are full of exquisite small town imagery and some mega-cool guitar licks too.
There’s not a bad song here; with every single one having something to capture the listener’s imagination but two are especially ‘magical’ and caught my attention every time I’ve played this record; with My Season which closes proceedings just being pipped by the spiky Alt. Country love song Lucky Guy for the title of ‘RMHQ Favourite Track’ by only the smallest of margins.
Presumably like me regular readers will never have heard of Cary T Brown or Ill River before this review; but fans of Jackson Browne, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, John Hiatt and the likes of Ray Wylie or Robert Earl Keen will love this album with all of their heart.

Released 28th February 2018

Gem Andrews – NORTH

north gem andrews

Gem Andrews
Market Square Music

Exquisite Inter-crossed Country-Folk From a Northern Industrial Town.

Don’t feel sorry for me but I have very few ‘friends’ in the music industry; not even casual ones; as I’ve made it a policy to keep away from the cliques that dominate the national and local scenes; leaving me free to review albums and gigs without the fear of upsetting someone who thinks I owe them a favour.
But; the musical stars have aligned on this latest release from adopted Geordie and recent resident of Berlin, Gem Andrews, who actually is a friend of mine and the cover artwork (a truly beautiful photo of Gem *plodging in front of St. Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay) by my mate David Wala and the crystal clear production and mixing is by local legend Ross Lewis……so can I be impartial?
The album opens with Letter a brooding love song that encompasses all that is I love about Gem’s music in under three and a half minutes. Just like everything which follows this song comes from a Folk Singer who has immersed herself in Country Music and turned herself into a good old fashioned and timeless Singer-Songwriter.
Sing Your Song follows and I soon found myself slouching in my chair desperately trying not to breathe too loudly in case I missed a word or phrase and would regret it for the rest of my life. It’s that type of breathtaking song.
I particularly like the way the fabled Tim Dalling has arranged Julia Darlings poem Two Lighthouses; keeping a Folk spirit to it that makes people like me fall in love with the words and sentiment, without realising it’s actually a Folk Song.
Hmmmm…..selecting a ‘favourite song’ is never easy; and here it’s nearly impossible with the tigerish Lungs being an early contender but Feather & Skin somehow stands out like poppy in a field of golden wheat. Ross Lewis’s simple production truly displays Gem’s pearlescent voice and the restrained way the musicians (aka The Mush Collective) come together in an almost Classical manner without ever threatening to overshadow the singers hushed tones is genuinely admirable.
One other song deserves a mention if for no other reason than the delightful Come a Long Way which closes the disc features some of the finest ‘cardboard box whacking’ from Dora & Macie Keddie-McLaren that you will ever hear.
When I hear albums like this, and especially songs like Bare which features some spellbinding violin from Bernard Wright and the Countrylicious Medicate I find myself despairing at the British music industry; because if Gem was from the Appalachians or indeed some tiny village in North Ontario the Press and indeed Mr Bob Harris himself would be falling over themselves to tell you about ‘the next big thing;’ but Gem is British and more importantly NORTHERN so has to plough her own furrow at her own expense and depend on sites like this to get her songs out into the wider world.
There’s not a bad song here; with Gem’s voice, writing and it has to be said her guitar playing have matured beyond all expectations…..perhaps marriage suits her.

*plodging = local dialect for paddling in the sea.
PS….The pedal-steel player? ‘The’ Chris Hillman?

Released February 16th 2018

Chris Hillman – The ASYLUM YEARS (Slippin’ & Clear Sailin’)

hillman asylum

Chris Hillman
The ASYLUM YEARS (Slippin’ & Clear Sailin’)
Omnivore Recordings

An Absolute Gem From The Country Music Vaults.

If you don’t already know Chris Hillman’s back-story and place in the Rock Pantheon then perhaps you should stop reading here; but then again not, because if you think Americana Music started with Mumford & Sons or their like then this album is definitely for you.
I actually remember the Slippin’ album being in my big brother Brian’s record collection in the late 70’s which with hindsight is no surprise as he’d been a Byrds and later a Burritos fan; so there’s a logic to it; but I can’t ever remember playing it. (Too many other musical delights for me to discover between 1976 and 1980!).
So when my favourite contact in the US of A asked if I’d like a copy of this re-release of that album coupled with the follow up Clear Sailin’ it was a hearty “YES” from RMHQ.
It was spectacularly weird finally hearing opening track Step On It after 40 years; as it sounds like it has been packaged in a time capsule just waiting for the right time to be released into the wild; and that time is now…2018.
This is followed by the sublimely mellow Slippin’ Away which really is a perfect snapshot of what I remember the ‘Laurel Canyon Sound’ being like; which shouldn’t be a surprise as it features Al Perkins on pedal-steel, Steve Cropper on lead, vocals by Hillman, Tim Schmit, Herb Pedersen and “Ooooh’s” by Flo & Eddie!
With the benefit of hindsight I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to think this album could have been a template for the first two Eagles albums; especially Witching Hour (by Steve Stills) and Midnight Again which have most certainly stood the test of time.
Obviously this was the time when releasing singles wasn’t deemed ‘cool’ so ace songs like Blue Morning and the forerunner of what us kids think of as ‘Roots Music’ (Take Me In Your) Lifeboat have remained hidden treasures to me until this last 7 days; and I guess a lot of people reading this and buying the album will feel the same way as I do.
While Hillman’s words regarding the follow up Clear Sailin’ describe him ‘turning back the dial to a more traditional style of music;’ I can’t determine a clear difference; apart from the judicious use of a saxaphone on several songs.
Although the Superstar friends had been dispensed with it is still chock full of delicious harmonies from Chris Hillman and Richard Marx (yes….THAT Richard Marx) and some glorious playing from ‘the band’ (John Brennan, Merel Bregante, Skip Edwards and Larry Sims) so the differences are quite marginal; making for a lovely album.
The first song on Clear Sailin’ comes in at #11 on this disc and opens with a roaring Sax solo; Nothing Gets Through sees Hillman and Marx’s voices providing the perfect soundtrack to glorious sunny afternoon.
Quits and Hot Dusty Roads are another two songs that made me think of those early Eagles albums; but also reminded me of a lot of Rootsy albums from the last twenty years; proving the staying power of a classy song.
A big part of me expected these two albums to sound ‘dated’ and that’s patently not the case; with Hillman taking the best of his Burritos back catalogue and tweaking it with 70’s technology on Playing The Fool and Ain’t That Peculiar with both sounding perfect for FM Radio in the 70’s and 80’s but not out of place on the cool Internet shows in 2018.
With 20 songs to choose from picking a favourite is never going to be easy; but one song above all else caught my attention straight away and subsequently my I-Phone has played it 3 or 4 times on random so I’m going for Heartbreaker.
How I’ve never heard this song before defies the laws of music…..it is brittle, beautiful and as the title suggests…a heart breaker. I can think of a dozen contemporary and feted singers that would give their left arm to have a song like this on one of their records; yet it’s remained tucked away in a box for 40 years……which just shows what a canon of work Chris Hillman has produced over the last half century, when a song; and indeed couple of albums like this have been confined to the history books until now.
Yet again the good people at Omnivore must be congratulated publicly for unearthing another gem from the vaults.
Treat yourself; or better still treat a loved one to this glorious album.

Released February 2018

Andy Lucas – BURYING BONES (2017)


Andy Lucas
Crimp Records

Grown-Up Late Night Songs For Heart of Saturday Night.

This is another of the albums that has been lying around the office hinterland for a couple of months; and is still worthy of a few loving words.
Much like a lot of people who read my reviews Andy Lucas has spent a career in the shadows of the music industry predominantly playing piano for other people; but has previously released another solo album (a hit in Beirut apparently!).
Our paths have crossed a few times over the years and more recently with him being a key member of both Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire and Blue Rose Code; so a cursory listen to his latest release was always going to happen.
I’m pleased I did; even though the content is absolutely nothing like either of those bands.
Opening track House of Cards finds Andy on something of a Jazzy singer-songwriter vibe; with his stark piano playing being the perfect accompaniment for his deep and meaningful words about his part in the break-up of a loving relationship. The classy brass section and powerhouse bass in the background keep everything from sounding too schmaltzy or tearful.
It took me a few plays to totally get my head around where Lucas was coming from; but when the penny dropped I got the feeling that he desperately wants to avoid comparisons with Jamie Cullum and Jools Holland; which he has done with the raffish Wednesday and to some extent Money being slightly tongue in cheek and owe a lot more to Randy Newman and maybe even Harry Nillson than the other two.
Oh; with February 14th just around the corner the song Valentine is being released as a single. In keeping with the rest of the songs here it’s not a ‘moon in June’ happy-clappy love song; no it’s a fully fledged song aimed at Grown-Ups who still believe in ‘the sparkle in your smile/and staying in/making love/ and drinking gin.’ A clever set of words and a deeply intense musical interlude combine exceptionally well; in my humble opinion.
There is also a darker; albeit dour Scottish grey tone about some of his lyrics too; Pills For Thrills and False Prophets exploring subject matter that will scare the more sensitive among us; but tired old cynics like me will love them to bits and recognise some of the characters Lucas sings about.
Possibly Andy Lucas’s finest song here is the heart pumping Rain; which comes across as a tricky mix of Travis, Damien Rice and Georgie Fame. An obviously talented pianist Lucas races along at a breakneck pace on a bittersweet love song that will certainly stand the test of time; and wouldn’t be out of place on one of those Sunday Radio 2 shows.
But; that’s not my ‘favourite song’; no that accolade goes to All That I Am which closes the record; and finds the singer-songwriter at his late night loneliest and saddest; on a song that can only be played in the dark and when Tom Waits said “the piano has been crying” he could have been talking about this actual song.
To some degree it’s a waste of a talent for Andy Lucas to make a living as a professional side-man; but music like this isn’t fashionable at the moment; but that day will surely come and you will remember where you first read about Andy Lucas when you see him on the Graham Norton Show singing his latest million seller.

Released May 2017


mama spanx c

Mama SpanX

A Red Hot and Timeless Blend of Feisty Female Rhythm, Blues, Funk and S.O.U.L

This album has very nearly gone into the Oxfam box twice in recent weeks; not because it’s no good but simply because it arrived in October 2017 when Mrs Magpie was rushed into hospital and I didn’t do any reviews for a couple of months and the 2018 pile of CD’s is growing like Topsy every day.
But……this is far too good a record to give away and in my humble opinion deserves a much wider audience than the hirsute hipsters of Jesmondia near Newcastle.
First of all I’m not too sure I like the striking artwork on the album cover; but in it’s defence it does ‘sum up the contents’ extremely well! What you see is what you get……a red, hot and timeless mix of feisty female Rhythm, Blues, Funk and S.O.U.L
With no preconceptions at all, apart from trusting the PR who sent the disc……..my stomach spun like a turbo fan the first time I heard opening track ROCKET!
Oh Lordy Lord….everything I love about R&B and Soul Music is here…..and MORE! Nikki Armstrong aka Mama SpanX has a warm, velvety and expressive vocal style and her band The Spankers (ooh, err Missus!) Rock, Roll and Swing like a cross between The Swampers and Count Basie’s Big Band……and that’s only a slight exaggeration.
Seeing me making a cup of coffee earlier Mrs. Magpie giggled “What are you doing?” As I was shuffling my feet and actually ‘shaking my thang’ as Wild Emotion filtered out of the office speakers on the other side of the house. Caught in the act; I kept on dancing regardless of how silly I looked; it’s that good a song and too good an opportunity to miss, regardless of the location.
When she wasn’t watching I secretly danced again to the Funkylicious Being Beautiful and Alligator Boogaloo and then again on the title track State Of Groove; because that’s what this music is for……DANCING and you will too.
Mama SpanX can get low down and dirty too by the way; with Crawl and Thinkin’ being the sort of late night Bluesy/Soul crossover that is perfect for both seduction purposes and also crying your heart out into your beer when it all goes horribly wrong!
Before I get onto my ‘favourite track’ I have to heap copious praise on the Spankers; without whom this album wouldn’t be half as good….Harlan Spector’s keyboard playing is exceptional and holds the whole sound together and the horn section ….Steve Sadd and Julie Sax make a big, big sound worthy of the best in Memphis; and Ross Mullen on a six string fretless bass (?) alongside drummer David Abercrombie combine to create controlled thunder in the background while Steve Johnson provides virtual lightning on guitars throughout.
As I say I love the dance tunes here; but the two songs that tie for ‘favourite track status are the Power Ballad Wrong Side of the Garden; which is a thrill a minute and promises to be a guaranteed showstopper when sung live; yet the other finds Nikki Armstrong singing the lyrics to the heart breaking Anywhere You Are over a very gently played piano. Simple, yet emotionally destructive……just like Soul music should be.
Where do I start and stop comparing the Mama SpanX ‘sound’? Classic acts as diverse as Tina Turner, Nina Simone, Tower of Power and even Sly and the Family Stone sprung to mind at various times playing this record; but so did RMHQ Favourites the James Hunter Six and of course the late lamented Miss Sharon Jones of Daptone Records fame……and Mama SpanX and the Spankers could easily sit comfortably in any of that company.

Released October 31st 2017

Single of the Day JOHN PRINE – Summer’s End


Summer’s End

It’s been a while; 13 years to be exact since John Prine released a fully fledged new album; but in April 2018 he will do such a thing and as a forerunner here’s the first single SUMMER’S END and what a taster it is!

Here’s the gist of the PRESS RELEASE –

Recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, the album includes ten new songs written by Prine along with co-writers Pat McLaughlin, Roger Cook, Dan Auerbach, Keith Sykes and Phil Spector. In addition to Prine (lead vocals and acoustic guitar) and Cobb (acoustic guitar, mellotron, claps, kazoo), the album features special guests Brandi Carlile (harmony vocals on tracks 2, 4, 8, 10), Jason Isbell (electric guitar on track 7, slide guitar and background vocals on track 9, 10) and Amanda Shires (fiddle and background vocals on track 9, background vocals on track 10).

In celebration of the album, Prine will embark on an extensive worldwide tour that will span throughout 2018, including a very special co-headline concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall with Sturgill Simpson (solo) on album release day as well as newly announced shows at L.A.’s Ace Theatre, Boston’s Wang Theatre, Austin’s Bass Hall,Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium (two nights) and UK dates including an appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival in August.

The landmark album and tour follow a noteworthy 2017, which included an “Artist of the Year” award at the Americana Music Honors & Awards and a Chicago/Midwest Regional Emmy Award for his “Chicago Voices” performance with Renée Fleming. Last year also saw the release of Prine’s debut book, John Prine Beyond Words, which includes a selection of favorites songs, photographs and stories from Prine’s beloved catalogue. More info is available here.

A two-time Grammy-winner, Prine is among the English language’s premier phrase-turners. Almost 50 years years into a remarkable career that has drawn effusive praise from Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Roger Waters, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and others who would know, Prine is a smiling, shuffling force for good. He is a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member and a PEN New England Lyrics Award recipient whose classic debut album, simply titled John Prine, is recognized as part of the Recording Academy’s Grammy Hall of Fame and whose songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Carly Simon, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band and many others.

Following the 2015 death of his dear friend and business partner Al Bunetta, Prine is now President and sole owner of Oh Boy Records. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Fiona, and enjoys spending time with their three sons, a daughter-in-law and his grandchildren.

The Tree Of Forgiveness Track List
1. “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” (by John Prine and Pat McLaughlin)
2. “I Have Met My Love Today” ft. Brandi Carlile (by John Prine and Roger Cook)
3. “Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967 (Crazy Bone)” (by John Prine and Pat McLaughlin)
4. “Summer’s End” (written by John Prine and Pat McLaughlin)
5. “Caravan of Fools” (by John Prine, Dan Auerbach, and Pat McLaughlin)
6. “The Lonesome Friends of Science” (by John Prine)
7. “No Ordinary Blue” (by John Prine and Keith Sykes)
8. “Boundless Love” (by John Prine, Dan Auerbach, and Pat McLaughlin)
9. “God Only Knows” (by John Prine and Phil Spector)
10. “When I Get to Heaven” (by John Prine)

John Prine plays the following UK Dates:
Thurs 2nd GLASGOW, Kelvingrove Bandstand (with John Moreland)
Fri 3rd BIRMINGHAM, Town Hall (with John Moreland)
Sun 5th CAMBRIDGE, Cambridge Folk Festival


dean owens z

Dean Owens
At The Helm Records

Americana Meets The Big Country Sound of Nova Scotia On Game-Changing Release.

Like many reviewers I’ve been sitting on this disc since before Christmas; giving it occasional outings in the car and on the RMHQ office stereo; getting my head around the nuances of the new songs and to some extent the ‘big production’ which isn’t what I expected at all.
With a box full of other CD’s to review I’d always planned to write my prose in the week before release; only to find the world and it’s dog have been uploading and it has to be said; national magazines have even been printing glowing reviews.
So; does the world need my thoughts? Probably not; but as a long term fan and supporter of young Mr Owens I may as well chuck in my twopenn’orth before he disappears off into the Ed Sheeran stratosphere.
Let’s start with album cover……YOWZA…..how cool is that artwork? If you were in a record shop and saw that in a rack you would just have to pick it up, wouldn’t you? The correct answer is YES.
Then when turning it over the song titles all look ‘interesting’ and in keeping with that iconic imagery on the other side.
So; does the music live up to the packaging?
It’s a personal quirk but I love songs that start with 1…2…3.4!; and Last Song which is actually the first song starts in such a manner; and it’s a big ole passionate Alt. Country Rocker with a Celtic heartbeat. Even the first time I played this CD I thought that Dean has finally ‘grown into his voice’ and I still feel that way about this particular song; he sounds like he trusts himself to ‘let go’ and that’s just what he does; and there’s some mighty fine guitar and piano too btw.
With a powerful song like that as an opener there’s always the danger that the artist has peaked too soon.
Oh no…..oh no, no, no.
The title track Southern Wind follows and can only be described as EPIC…..as it slowly builds from humble beginnings through an atmospheric chorus through to the thunderous ending; conjuring up memories of Bob Seger and even the Allman Brothers; but hey Dean Owen sounds like neither…..this is very much HIS SONG and one that is surely destined for legendary status on some soundtrack or other; or at the very least Top Gear’s next Father’s Day CD!
Even if Dean Owens only ever recorded those two songs he could die a proud man; but there’s even better to come….trust me…..there is.
The Scotsman’s Folk roots show through the Country facade on When The Whisky’s Not Enough; and on No Way Around It he gives us a crashing Swamp Rocker Deluxe with added Gospel singers in the background, plus  there’s even a jaunty calypso nod with the bittersweet Mother and immediately afterwards Dean manages to make the delightful ballad Famous Last Words take a swerve down a Jazzy street, but it fits in perfectly well as it prepares us for the maudlin and very Scottish Madeira Street with it’s dark edges and rainswept imagery.
Many times over the last few years I’ve said in public that much of the best Americana Music I hear comes from way outside the USA and I believe this album is just such a case; as my two favourite songs here are love songs to and about two of America’s finest sons; but written and sung with a passion that only thousands of miles can bring; as both characters are probably taken for granted in their homeland.
Whereas in Europe the memory of both Elvis and Muhammad Ali are still revered to this day.
Over a virtual Twangfest on Elvis Was My Brother Dean sings about a friend that “had no Father from the age of 10” so he used The King as a surrogate “brother” listening to and learning every single word on Forty Greatest Hits and using the songs as a template for life itself. A very clever song indeed.
Most reviewers will go for SOUTHERN WIND as the ‘best song’ on this album; but listen deeply to Owen’s words on Elvis Was My Brother and then follow it with the heart-shredding Louisville Lip, featuring some truly mournful trumpet (cornet?) in the background and you will hear a songwriter on the verge of greatness.
Dean Owens has been around the scene for a very long time; and with the Whisky Hearts trooped backwards and forwards the UK and Europe plying their trade to anyone that would listen; but that hard apprenticeship is about to finally pay off as SOUTHERN WIND has all the hallmarks of being a Game-changer for this proud son of Leith; and it’s fair to say he deserves every bit of success coming his way.

Released February 16th 2018


sarah shook m

Sarah Shook

It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since Sarah Shook released her fabulous album SIDELONG in 2017; but she hasn’t sat around wallowing in the glory of her reviews; no sirree Bub; Sarah is releasing the follow up YEARS on 6th April; and has let us have an early copy of the video for her lead single GOOD AS GOLD.
We love it and we are pretty sure you will too.