WHEN WE WERE ANIMALS.
21st Century Schizoid Rock and Roll Poet Fills Your Head With Beautifully Dark Imagery.
Mishka Shubaly’s previous release the cathartic COWARDS PATH (2015) was pretty much as left of centre that I’m allowed to play out loud at RMHQ; but even then Mrs. Magpie is still prone to raising her eyebrows and finding something else to do in another room.
Thankfully; not a lot has changed on the follow up WHEN WE WERE ANIMALS as opening track Forget About Me reignites that dark humour and when Shubaly sings/growls “I like smooth shiny girls/hard boiled/and loaded with sin” you know he’s not targetting the Ed Sheeran market.
I will say up front that the world needs Mishka Shubaly; as he is the perfect antidote for all of that anaemic music that has taken over the airwaves.
He takes chances that others are afraid to try; who else would dare to re-invent Willin’…….no longer is he a simple truck driving man; here he sounds like the type of guy the FBI have on their Wanted Lists across 12 States!
On World’s Smallest Violin he Rocks the Hell out of your speakers as his self-depreciating hard luck love story unravels in ways that will send a shiver down your spine.
For a Rocker Shubaly certainly has a way with words and at times is almost poetic; with the Waitsian Last Of My Kind and Death in Greenpoint going into recesses that very few songwriters would dare venture, for fear of scaring their fans away.
Shubaly relishes such challenges; running full pelt past the centre ground on the funklicious Wooden Crosses and later with Leaving Feels Like Flying. Both of which I have to listen in headphones for fear of scaring Mrs. M!
I doubt anyone else out there will choose a ‘Favourite Track’; even Shubaly’s Mother would think that would be a test too far of her love; especially the title track Animals, which I love, but…… after several plays I’m going for Never Drinking Again; partly because it’s the nearest thing here to being ‘commercial’ but hey……it’s a cracker; and more than anything else; we’ve all been there haven’t we? In another parallel universe Lee Marvin would star in the video which would be directed by Shane Meadows.
Just a thought.
WHEN WE WERE ANIMALS isn’t for the feint hearted and will be a challenge for just about everyone who hears it; but like some of the world’s greatest novels the bumpy ride and false endings are well worth the journey; and those who do get to the final lines of Death In Greenpoint II, “I feel like I’m gonna die in Greenpoint/Yeh I know I’m gonna go/With a head full of Blow/in a Polish disco…… in Greenpoint.” they will be so deeply in love with the record; they will think they know the meaning to life.
They won’t of course; but they will know something you don’t. Mishka Shubaly is a rare talent indeed and one that we need to cherish.
Released June 1st 2018
Big Gun Show
SHAKEN NOT STIRRED (Deluxe Edition)
Ooh La La! Austin’s Coolest Bar Band Really Shakes Some Action.
Serendipity or what?
Only a couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any bands out there taking up the Faces/Stones mantle any more……then out of the blue; along comes the new EP from our favourite bar band in Austin….The Big Gun Show!
First of all I was shocked; nay *disgusted at the sexist CD Cover as it slithered out of the plain brown envelope; but hey this is bar band music after all and I forgive them.
With all five songs here vaguely and very loosely dedicated to two of the bands ‘heroes’ Keef Richards and James Bond; opening track ‘true story’ of loving and losing, Got What You Wanted is the solid, four to the floor, powerhouse Friday night rocker that I’ve been waiting months to blow my cobwebs away. Even after a cursory listen it was evident that singerist Gunter Woodson hasn’t been on a macro-biotic diet since the last record; this guy has moved on from ‘beer, cigarettes and French Kisses’ to whisky and wild, wild women judging by his amazing voice; and now a month later I think I was correct!
Although they named ‘Keef’ in the accompanying letter; track #2 Sick and Tired is Bona-fide Ronnie Wood all the way through on a song the Faces would have been proud to have recorded on Ooh La La; and dig that cool piano and violin too, baby!
Sadly Gunter had already pointed me to track #3 00 Stud in his letter; so the ode to our favourite Spy; now masquerading as a singer in a Rock n Roll band was less of a surprise than it will be for you……although I’m possibly spoiling that surprise too as I’m making it my Favourite Track.
What you will normally buy or stream will be those three songs; but there’s a Deluxe Version too (which is what I have in my grubby paws right now) featuring two more sleazy and professionally sloppy Rockers of the finest order.
Let It Shine starts with a cool acoustic under Gunter’s pleading to his lover; then the band who sound as tight as a copper coil; glide in and out like a Summer Breeze. Tres Cool, methinks and well worthy of a single release itself.
Then there is Anyway; a slightly left of centre Jonathan Richman Poptastic three minutes that just goes to show that these crazy kids aren’t just one trick ponies; they can shake some action with the best of them.
*This only applies if any of my more militant feminist friends are reading this review. Otherwise I bloody love it!
Released June 1st 2018
Part Rockabilly Queen and Soul Sister Extreme and More Than a Little Bit West End Soundtrack Too.
I suppose with hindsight I should have expected to hear what I first heard a couple of weeks ago just by the amazing cover to this Album from New Zealand’s Tami Neilson; but in 2018 who among us could expect a blistering ‘Show Tune’ like Stay Outta My Business? It’s part Rocking Blues, part Soul Sister Extreme and part West End on a hot Saturday night.
Then of course some time later the actual storyline knocked me sideways.
What a combination!
That ‘Show Tune’ meets Rockabilly feeling continues on the next couple of tunes, starting with the crazy Bananas which has had me doing a Carmen Miranda style dance in the kitchen twice (that I’m admitting to) then Tami becomes a sex-kitten in the manner of Eartha Kitt on Diamond Ring.
This is only the first three songs and I’m so hot, I find myself fanning my face with the album sleeve to cool down.
I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing; but Tami then moves across into a Country Siren on the Bobbie Gentryesque A Woman’s Pain, at #4; a Gothic tale of a woman done wrong and left to live with the consequences; and oddly enough is a true story about Tami’s own Grandmother.
The first time I played SASSAFRASS this left turn really confused me; but when you listen to the whole album it really is akin to a soundtrack to a Romeo and Juliet style Southern Love Story, with the songs all generally linking into each other even if they do cover a number of different styles.
There’s even a red hot Blues tribute to and in the style of the late lamented Sharon Jones; Miss Jones is destined to get even the most leaden of male feet onto the dancefloor; even mine; and Devil in a Dress will keep you there but clinging on tightly for a slow smooch.
With so much to choose from it’s been really, really difficult to select a genuine Favourite.
The sleazy and sultry Smoking Gun certainly has it’s merits; as does the lovely and gentle on the mind Manitoba Sunrise at Motel 6 (the homage to Glen Campbell) but I’m going for the rip-roaring Kitty Cat which is the type of rocking and rolling Rockabilly song that the album cover and title SASSAFRASS! put me in mind of even before I’d heard a note.
Don’t worry, there are love songs here too; with One Thought Of You being the sort of classy song that Elvis or Connie Francis would have recorded back in the day; and would still make you swoon if it came on the radio tomorrow. The album closer, a heartfelt Good Man, is in a similar vein but a lot more contemporary and a perfect way to close the ‘show.’
There’s a whole lot going on here; not least Tami Neilson’s amazing voice; boy oh boy can she sing a song! But her songwriting can’t be underestimated either; as each individual song has a strong tale to tell and deserves very close inspection; but overall this is just a damn fine record.
Released June 1st 2018
Tony Wright & Ryan Hamilton
Oh Lonesome Me (single)
This might sound silly but Brit-Rockers Terrorvision were a bit of a ‘guilty pleasure’ here at RMHQ, so hearing singer Tony Wright had got together with a Texas rocker called Ryan Hamilton who grew up on country greats really tickled our taste buds.
Together they are releasing a cool album called ‘Grand Ole Otley’, as it’s an album of country songs re-worked in their unique style,and comes out June 8th.
Here’s the #1 single ‘Oh Lonesome Me’
Susan Cattaneo & The Bottle Rockets
WORK HARD, LOVE HARDER (single)
Wow, last August I introduced you to Susan Cattaneo with her fabulous double album The Hammer and The Heart https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/susan-cattaneo-the-hammer-the-heart/ and now a year or so later she has re-recorded one of the key tracks and produced a video with RMHQ favourites The Bottle Rockets.
Turn on, tune in…..enjoy.
A Grown Up Funky Alt. Jazz Hybrid to Sit Back and Savour.
You know us here at RMHQ, we have very eclectic musical tastes that defy most people’s imaginations, so when a CD arrived with a note attached describing the Duo/Band as ‘A funky Blues Groove from a Power-Folk duo with World Music, Hip-Hip, Blues and Rock influences’ how could we not give it a listen?
What’s the worst that could happen?
Opening track Chosen One certainly digs deep into every one of those influences; with more than a smattering of Funk and Blues too behind Jonah Tolchin’s sizzling guitar and Kevin Clifford’s spectacular tub-thumping as the band play on as if their lives depended on it. It’s not clear if it;s Jonah or Kevin singing; but here and on Bless Your Children which immediately follows there’s a distinct whiff of cool Blue Eyed Soul in that larynx.
Lost for words, all I can come up with for Taste So Sweet and Addiction is that they are the epitome of Cool; think some kind of weird hybrid between Lowell George, Jimmy Smith, Charlie Watts and a guitar duel between T Bone Walker and Jeff Beck!
Dharmasoul are both from New Jersey; but I can’t help but think this album was, or at least could have been recorded in New Orleans, Memphis or Muscle Shoals as there is a wonderful warm groove throughout that I normally associate with those fine musical cities; especially Open Your Heart and the gloriously meandering Love Again, which made me want to grab Mrs Magpie and slowly shuffle around the living room. (Thankfully I didn’t)
For a duo they certainly kick up a storm with the title track Lightning Kid, building up a dark and brooding sensory state that often threatens to boil over; but being the consummate professionals they are they tease the listener several times before a volcanic ending.
Favourite Track? Phew, that hasn’t been easy, mostly because every time I play the album something new grabs my attention and I want to choose that one for you; but tonight I’m plumping for Love Again because ….no no no……it’s got to be Armoured Hearts, one of two songs that subtly deal with Socio-Politics in such a clever and articulate manner you’d think someone like Randy Newman or James Taylor had a hand in the writing; but the didn’t.
I’ve not just thoroughly enjoyed this Grown Up album in the vein of Steely Dan or Barenaked Ladies; but been really impressed by it too, as just like discovering a New World wine there’s been a huge amount of fun thinking, “Aha…that bit….. comes from…..and ooh that guitar sounds like, or this bass lick is a probably from…..” but just like that glass of wine; you really should just sit back and flavour all of the constituent parts in all of their delicious glory.
Released 1st June 2018
Betty Beetroot Records
Gloriously Inspired Folk/Lo-Fi Crossover For All Ages.
I had no intention of reviewing this album this morning; in fact four hours ago I didn’t even know it existed and even when I opened the envelope Lucy Ward’s name only vaguely registered and when I read she was a Folk Award winner I was left a bit non-plussed, as British Folk records aren’t the first thing I reach for.
But……and I will never know what made me do it; I pressed ‘play’ as the CD downloaded onto the RMHQ Laptop.
As my dear departed father used to say, “God moves in mysterious ways.”
Perhaps it was the beautifully simple piano intro to Silver Morning; or more likely Lauren Ward’s amazing pearlescent voice that made me reluctantly smile, as I sipped my coffee and skimmed through my e-mails.
The next song; an almost Technicolour epic called Cold Caller filled the room with an ethereal charm that first time; and subsequently the multi-layered and almost Gothic tale has seeped into my soul; and now I can’t wait to listen to it on headphones as I just know there is still a lot more to unravel.
Music effects people in many different ways; and today the songs on Pretty Warnings are just perfect for my mood on a grey and cold Tuesday morning that followed a warm and sunny Bank Holiday weekend that I had to work all four days.
Obviously there is a spine made of traditional ‘Folk Music’ here; most perceptible in Lucy’s Northern phrasing on Fair & Tender Ladies and the delightfully dark and gloomy Murder Ballad Bill Norrie; but both and more noticeably the traditional Welsh ballad Mari Fach; but all have a crossover charm that is almost Lo-Fi and to another, older generation would just have been found on a Singer-Songwriter album.
So, on a dark and brooding Folk record what would I possibly choose as a ‘Favourite Song’? Well, it’s been a touch easier than you’d imagine. Perhaps it was the mood I was in earlier; perhaps it made me think of my Grandchildren or perhaps I’m just a silly old sod, but track #3 the ethereal Sunshine Child totally caught me by surprise and before I knew what was happening found tears slowly running down my cheeks.
There’s not a lot more I can say; Lucy Ward has created a record she can be very proud of and music fans of all ages will appreciate the hard work that has been put in to make these songs sound oh so simple.
*I’ve just checked and while I can’t find the actual original document; but it appears I reviewed Lucy’s album SINGLE FLAME many years ago in 2013 when I was a writer for a once important Roots music magazine.
Released 15th June
YESTERDAY & ME
Red Raw and Authentic Blue Collar Country From a Texas Rose.
It’s funny how reviews of one artist or a style of music can spawn a score of others in the same vein; which explains whey I currently have a slew of edgy female Country singers beating a path to my door (not literally I hasten to add).
I’ve had a cursory listen to a few that could do with more gigs under their belt and a much tighter production; but neither are true of Texan Rose Miss Kayla Ray.
The album cover was pleasant enough and the accompanying letter (NOT a Press Release) only hinted at the box of delights I was about to discover.
I smiled at the title of opening song Rockport; but mercifully it’s not an ode to the footwear of choice for football hooligans in the 1980’s but a rather dark and sad tale, in the style of Bobbie Gentry about a woman whose husband dies and leaves her with debts, kids and a habit; eventually ‘asking the neighbours to watch the house/as she nailed the last board on.”
The kids get to watch her decline into a haze of drugs and booze, eventually ‘finding comfort in the needle/and Daddy’s snub nose .45’.
I did say it was dark; but wow; what a way to start a Modern Country album……and the accompanying guitars are nothing short of breath taking.
Bless her but Kayla Ray isn’t courting mainstream radio at all here; as her songs are all from the heart and the part of town your Mother warned you against.
Where to start? Once a Week Cheaters is the type of song that will stop you dead in your tracks; and many listening won;t be able to look their partner in the eye as Kayla and Colton Whitley sing verses to each other in a way George and Tammy patented 50 years ago.
Magnolias in the Springtime and Things Only Years Can Teach a Woman too, are Classic Country of the finest vintage, the type people think doesn’t exist any more; but it does with Kayla’s delightful warble sounding like it’s threatening to break into a full set of tears.
Kayla and band can rattle the roof when they want to too; with the raucous Hell Of a Day To Drink All Night being a rip-roaring raucous song about exactly what it says on the tin…..YEE-HAW!
I guess this is Honky-Tonk Music; but the likes of the dangerously sharp lyrics of I’m Still a Woman and Camel Blues are a hell of lot more authentic than a lot I hear most weeks which purports to be what is known today as Ameripolitan……or ‘the Future of Country Music’. These songs are red raw from a life well lived.
Then of course there is the ‘RMHQ Favourite Song’………..Pills. Whoa there; what a sizzling story! A jaunty melody and a singer with her tongue set firmly in her cheek that masks a very modern tale of women hooked on under the counter anti-depressants (and more); but it’s also a story that could have been written any time in the last 60 years!
Produced by Jason Eady, whom Kayla Ray used to Tour Manage this album certainly owes a lot to the likes of Bobbie Gentry, George and Tammy, even Loretta but I also hear Commander Cody and maybe even some Dixie Chicks in there too; but with such a distinctive voice and a marvelous way with writing and delivering a song; all of that is superfluous; as Kayla Ray’s second album has all of the hallmarks of a hit and launching her into the Big Leagues.
Released May 4th 2018
John Wesley Harding
GREATEST OTHER PEOPLE’S HITS
Imaginative and Intriguing Set of Covers From Roots-Rock’s Renaissance Man.
Here we go again; I was sure I had at least one album by John Wesley Harding aka Wesley Stace; but it appears not as all I could find was a dusty copy of the *album Bob Dylan made in his honour in 1967.
So it’s been something of a musical joyride in a stolen car, that I’ve been playing this album of cover versions and collaborations by Root’s Musics favourite Renaissance Man, recorded over the last thirty or so years.
With not a lot to go on the first few seconds of opening track, Roky Erickson’s If You Have Ghosts scared me; as the feedbacky sound effects made me think I was entering some kind of Pink Floyd Meddle territory; but hey…..NO…..we actually get a really cool, almost Indie inspired Alt. Something, few minutes that made my chest tighten with delight.
As there are 29 years between the first and last song recorded here; coupled to Harding’s abstract collaborations mean the mood, tempo and even style jump around like a cat on a hot tin roof; but it also shows what an inspired and inspirational artiste this guy is.
I don’t know all of the bands and singers JWH joins up with but Star (with Fastball) is another tightly wrapped Indie doozy; and his version of Phil Ochs’ Another Age is almost Beatlesesque circa Revolver, but it’s his heart shredding ‘folk’ songs that initially captured my attention with Covered Up In Ages (with and by Elizabeth Barraclough) making me raise my eyebrows in amazement and the previously unreleased Old Bourbon with Rick Moody (?) was an early contender for ‘Favourite Track’ status as the vocals remind me a bit of Liverpool legend Ian McNabb, of whom I’m a fanboy.
The clever way Harding has constructed the album means that just as you think you are getting a handle on him; he throws a curve ball of **Sandy Koufax proportions. The Hip-Hop version of Serge Gainsbourg’s Je Suis Ventu Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais anyone? In this context alongside George Harrison’s Wah Wah kind of works; but I can comfortably go the rest of my life without hearing either again.
WH has some very famous mates; starting with Lou Reed; yep you heard me right…..there are two of his songs here Think It Over is another previously unreleased track; and quite beautiful in the way he sings it over primarily a 12 string guitar and organ; and that didn’t prepare me for the collaboration with Laughing Lou which follows; a live and raw version of Satellite of Love that may even have been what Lou had in mind when he first recorded it all of those years ago.
His other ‘famous mate’ is the one that will probably get this album coverage in all the National papers and website.
Early on Harding strips back and adds a violin to Jackson Cage making it almost Alt. Country and even a bit of a romantic tear jerker; but later I was taken aback when Bruce’s own distinctive voice joined John on an intimate version of Wreck on the Highway. Intriguingly it’s mixed from a soundboard and an audience member’s tape at a McCabe’s Guitar Shop show in 2000.
The song that first brought JWH to the public’s attention is here too and, yes I can certainly enjoy hearing him strip Madonna’s Like a Prayer back to the bone and sinews over and over again. It’s absolutely stunning.
So, after all of that hyperbole what could possibly top rare Bruce and Lou collaborations or the Madonna and Elizabeth Barraclough songs?
Well; it’s a song I already possess and one of my favourite ever Bloodshot recordings; Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe which finds JWH trying to keep up with the only woman I would leave Mrs Magpie for; Miss Kelly Hogan.
John Wesley Harding sounds quite excellent here; but hearing Kelly’s beautiful tones swoop and soar as a gentle guitar, mandolin and accordion drift along in the background will bring a tear to a glass eye.
While the songs here are varied and even contrary at times; there’s certainly been enough for me to want to dip into John Wesley Harding’s 20+ back catalogue to hear his own work; and I presume his legion of fans will love this release ‘just because.’
PS 10 of these tracks were originally released as Record Day ‘only’ on April 21st 2018; but such was demand a further 7 have been added for this more commercial release.
*That’s a joke btw!
** I Googled him to make my metaphor fit.
Released 18th May 2018
CARTER STANLEY’S EYES
A Loving and Delightful Bluegrass History Lesson From a Master-Craftsman.
This is another of those albums that sit around RMHQ waiting to be reviewed but, while obviously worthy there’s always something that puts me off; in this case the words ‘Appalachian’ and ‘banjo’.
But, with something of a heavy heart I put it into the kitchen CD player yesterday as I prepared a meal; and……do you know what?
I rather liked it.
While Peter Rowan has been making music for the best part of my life; and possibly even longer I’ve not previously heard anything by him as I’m no lover of Appalachian or Old-Timey music; of which he is a purveyor of legendary proportions.
The key to me playing the whole album; and liking it, was opening track Drumbeats on the Watchtower which finds Rowan in fine fettle, alongside a myriad of other Master Musicians of the Folk variety on a stunning American Folk song that many will know from Ralph Stanley’s version, re-titled Wild Geese Cry Again. It not only had my toes tapping, but my heart racing too!
Then when the gloriously multi-harmonious A Tiny Broken Heart followed it, I knew I was going to have to give the whole album a serious listen; and I’m really glad I have.
While listening I’ve had to refer back to the accompanying notes as the songs here are generally a homage to Rowan’s early days as one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and then his relationship with Ralph and Carter Stanley; and the tunes he played at that time in the early 1960’s.
Obviously every song included is here on merit; but for me a few certainly stand out and just may be my entry into this genre of music.
The gentle lilt of Carter Stanley’s Too Late To Cry, especially the intricate mandolin solo is a delight all of its own and the fast and furious Ridin’ On That Midnight Train is the sort of song I’d expect half a dozen of my favourite Country acts to throw in as an encore number; but I guess they wouldn’t include the subtlety that Rowan does in his singing.
As you’d expect with Appalachian/Bluegrass music there are several nods to the church here too, with A Crown He Wore and more especially Will You Miss making my mind drift back to my own Wesleyan upbringing; and the latter, darkly beautiful Carter Family song now being added to songs I want played at my funeral.
The second of Rowan’s new songs here is the title track The Light in Carter Stanley’s Eyes and it’s fair to say this autobiographical story is the cornerstone to not just this wonderful record, but Rowan’s own life too and will be a distinct showstopper when he plays it on stage.
For the accolade of ‘Favourite Song’ I’m going for a tie; between the delightful and jaunty Let Me Love You One More Time and Rowan’s upbeat adaptation of Leadbelly’s Alabama Bound; which don’t sound nothing like the version I have by the great man himself.
Will I play this album again? I don’t know; but a few songs have already gone onto two playlists for Sunny Days and that’s something I wouldn’t have guessed would happen 48 hours ago; and of course I’ve added Will You Miss Me? to my funeral list; which Peter Rowan should take as a compliment.
Released April 20th 2018