Keeshea Pratt Band BELIEVE


Keeshea Pratt Band

This Is What Rhythm and Blues Should Really Sound Like.

When I was growing up there was a definite line between Blues and Soul but in recent years that line has become ever more blurred; and with divine albums like this one it’s a very good thing in deed that is the case.
I’m not sure that I’d pick up the album in a record shop if I’d only seen the cover; but if opening track Make It Good was on their stereo or more so the radio I would hunt Heaven and Earth to find where such slinky and sensual goods came from.
Then when it is followed by the red hot groove of Have a Good Time Y’all you know you are in the presence of a glorious talent indeed.
The kids today don’t know what; but the Keeshea Pratt Band certainly do with tracks like Easily Replaced and Monkey See, Monkey Do virtually breaking your heart as they filter from the speakers in a way only a woman who has lived a life can deliver; and deliver the goods Keeshea Pratt does in aces.
Keeshea and her 8 piece band take us on a helter-skelter ride with dance tunes like Out of My Mind rubbing shoulders with the Country Blues of Home to Mississippi while dropping in musical time bombs like Shake Off These Blues with ease and, it has to be said Class with a capital C.
Just like life itself this album isn’t just about Good Times, as the title track Believe is as sad as either the Blues or Soul gets; but with a thread of hope all the way through each of the 5 wonderful minutes it is with us; and that’s just what I want to hear late at night.
Where to go for a Favourite Song? A slice of sensuous delight like In The Mood? The sizzling live version of So Bad Blues which closes the disc? Nope; I’m going for Can’t Stop Now, a beautiful heart string tugger that has shades not only of Etta, Aretha and Sharron but even the Allman Brothers Whipping Post in it too, but showcases a voice that is the one and only Miss Keeshea Pratt.
Discovering the delights of singers like Keeshea Pratt is one of the main reasons I do this malarkey; plying her trade around the Southern States but primarily Mississippi it would be a huge mistake for a woman and band with their undoubted talents to go unheralded around the world……and today is the day we are shouting the name Keeshea PRATT BAND from the rooftops……you heard it here first; don’t miss out……BUY THIS RECORD.

Released May 29th 2018

Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK

dave and jimmie

Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Yep Roc Records.

A Gripping and Loving Look at Americana Music’s Roots and Beyond.

Oh Lordie LORD! How excited was I when this dropped through the RMHQ letter box two weeks ago?
(V.E.R.Y is the correct answer.)
Although best friends for well over thirty years their various touring and recording schedules have meant that they have never actually got to record together; until now. But my friends the long wait is well worth it.
One of only two new songs here, the title track Downey to Lubbock opens the record in a way Americana lovers have only dared dream about as the duo trade verses on an autobiographical tale of their long-standing friendship. If this had been the only song they ever recorded together, they could still be very proud men.
But no……more, and dare I say it; better is yet to come.
As you’d expect knowing both men’s history the mood seamlessly glides between the Country Rock of the opener to the more laid back Folkier end of the spectrum on Silverlake which follows with Gilmore purring the delicious lyrics.
Dave and Jimmie both have their own sparkling back catalogues to choose from for an album like this; but they have decided to delve into the last 100 years of Roots Music for this fascinating and often sensational collection of songs; with many being brand new to me, with KC Moon and Get Together managing to sound like they were written yesterday not decades ago.
I’m a big fan of Dave Alvin so the songs he takes lead vocals on stood out on the first few listens; with the jaunty take on July, You’re a Woman and the Tex-Mex waltz of The Gardens tugging at the old heart strings like he did on those early albums that I still cherish.
But the biggest pleasure I’ve had listening to Downey to Lubbock has been the rediscovery of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, especially on the rip-roaring Blues stomper Buddy Brown’s Blues and his dark re-imagining of Woody Guthrie’s Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) that have now stolen my heart and sent me back to his records after too many years at the back of the cupboard.
But it’s when the two come together that these songs really, really become memorable with Walk On Walk On becoming a real foot-stomping Honky-Tonker and who’d ever have thought a hoary Folk song like the Memphis Jug Band’s Stealin’ Stealin would get me tapping my toes and nonchalantly singing along to the chorus; but Dave and Jimmie’s marvelous duet managed to do that with ease and was an early contender for ‘Favourite Song’ status; as was the red hot re-invention of Lawdy Miss Clawdy; but that accolade goes to the second of their new songs; Billy The Kid and Geronimo. WOW! I guess Alvin had a big hand in the writing of this epic Cowboy tale; and the world is always a better place with new Dave Alvin songs in it; but as each singer takes the roles of Billy and Geronimo you just end up sitting back and wallowing in one of the finest Americana/Country/Roots/Folk songs you will ever hear……honestly, if you even vaguely like this genre listen to this song and tell me I’m wrong.
I dare you!
You really know how clever these two are when they can turn the Youngbloods Pop Classic Get Together into a sad Country sing-along which is just perfect for the crazy world we live in today; and that’s exactly what they do.
The Press Release describes this indomitable duo as ‘Seasoned Veterans’ and I guess I can’t think of anything better as both Dave and Jimmie have been on the Americana/Roots scene since before it even had a name; but what it doesn’t say is that they sound as good; if not better than ever in 2018 and their choice of songs here is absolutely sublime, with not a single one sounding out of place regardless of the decade that it was originally penned and recorded in.

Released June 1st 2018


jb british blues boom

Joe Bonamassa
Provogue/Mascot Records

The Crown Prince Pays an Honourable Homage To The British Blues Boom.

I have an odd relationship with Joe Bonamassa’s music reviewing, often grudgingly for several years now and more or less only liking it for the last four or five when his songwriting came to the fore; which is why this latest album has sat around for a couple of months getting occasional plays then going back into the sleeve.
While this is meant to be Joe Bonamassa going back to his ‘Roots’ albeit the music that stirred his Soul as a kid (me too) but it’s basically a chance for him to Whig out and let his guitars do the talking for him for the first time in years.
Recorded on July 7th 2017 at Greenwich, London this is an intriguing mix of songs, some famous, some iconic, some left-field and all revolving around Joe Bonamassa’s amazing dexterity on the electric guitar.
As usual I started playing the album without referring to the album cover or Press Release in a version of ‘name that tune’ and immediately failed miserably, as opening track Beck’s Bolero/Rice Pudding was vaguely familiar, as Joe really raises the roof on something only a handful of musical trainspotters would have recognised; and I’m thrilled he chose two Jeff Beck tracks to open proceedings; as it will hopefully draw attention to the forgotten man of British Blues.
Next up is a left-field choice; a virtually unrecognisable version of Mainline Florida from Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard LP, which finds Joe and Reese Wynans on keyboards taking us on much faster and perhaps more dangerous trip through the Keys than I remembered. Motherless Children from the same album turns up later and JB manages to give it a bit of an Allman’s groove which is quite cool.
Track #3 Album #1 is another song that only Trainspotters will know and one I own but probably haven’t played in forty years. With one of the greatest back catalogues of anyone to choose from; Joe has selected Led Zeppelin’s led Boogie With Stu for inclusion here; and good luck to him…….as it sounds nothing like the original and therefore one of the highlights.
Another Zep song turns up on Side #2, or two actually and thankfully not obvious choices a delightful 9 minute ramble through Tea For One/I Can’t Quit You Baby which shows the vastly overrated J Page esq. that less can be more when squeezing out the notes. (BTW is JB the only guitarist on Planet Earth NOT to play Stairway to Heaven?)
My copy doesn’t explain where the originals come from so a couple of tracks were totally unknown to me, Black Winter/Django and Pretending but both give JB and band the opportunity to meander down Guitar Avenue with style and a swagger few others can match these days.
Another two Clapton songs turn up on the second album, a wonderfully reverential version of the Cream’s SWALBR and a quite raunchy rendition of Little Girl from the much maligned Journeyman album.
Oh; on an album dedicated to the 60’s British Blues Boom I’m especially pleased to announce that there’s a John Mayall song here too; Double Crossing Time from the legendary Beano album, which is a song that helped me understand and ultimately fall in love with this style of music in my mid-teens; and boy does Joe Bonamassa do it justice.
Hmmmm, choosing a ‘Favourite Song’ has been a lot easier than you’d imagine from my previous comments, as while JB has missed lots of opportunities here (no Peter Green? No Rory Gallagher? No Paul Kossoff? No Mick Taylor era Stones?) Plynth (Water Down The Drain) is an inspired choice and was instantly recognisable as it made my mind race back to a cold dark night in 1973 or thereabouts when I borrowed a copy of Beck-Ola LP and heard Rod Stewart’s singing in a completely different way to anything I’d heard before and Jeff Beck’s guitar playing (faithfully reconstructed here) blew my mind; and if you stretch your imagination here as with the original; you will hear the first rumblings of what was to become Heavy Metal #FACT.
Personally I’ve enjoyed the shorter ‘songs’ here and found the long (very long!) guitar meanderings hard work; but hey…….this album is purely for Joe’s fans and I can only imagine that they will be slavishly salivating over every single minute that he’s bending the strings of his exotic and rare collection of electric guitars; something that he does better than anyone else in the 21st Century.

Released May 18th 2018

Gretchen Peters & Kim Richey Sage Gateshead, 23rd May 2018

gretchen SAGE 1

Gretchen Peters & Kim Richey
Sage Gateshead
23rd May 2018

So far in 2018 I’ve listened to some amazing albums from artists across the globe, criss crossing all of the Roots genres. Two of the very best have come from long term RMHQ favourite Gretchen Peters and a new name to me, Kim Richey; so the opportunity to see both ladies at the magnificent Sage Concert Hall in Gateshead was too good to miss.
As I stood beside the stage, camera in hand I was surprised to see that people were taking their seats behind the stage on the third tier of Hall 2 meaning that this concert was very close to being a Sell Out…….which is a good thing.
A nervous looking, but smiling Kim Richey opened proceedings with a charming preamble to Chinese Boxes from her 2007 album of the same name, and the song itself was absolutely delightful; as were everything else she sang too.
I particularly liked her stories behind the songs; especially the self-depreciating one for Hello Old Friend/John’s Song which really made me and the crowd chuckle; then gasp at the power of the song itself.
With only 45 minutes to play with Kim slid in only a couple of albums from this years’ Edgeland and thankfully my two favourites, the brilliant Chuck Prophet co-write Pin a Rose and the darkly beautiful and autobiographical Wild Horses were among them; and the latter especially received long and loud applause from the knowledgeable crowd as it ended.

Although not something I normally do I’d intended saying ‘hello’ to Kim during the break; but the queue to buy her album and have a photo taken appeared never ending; so I slunk away back into the shadows like a Reviewer Ninja.
When I walked back into the hall, there was a palpable air of anticipation as the lights went down, and Gretchen Peters made her way across the stage.
I was very surprised that she chose the exquisitely dark and brooding Arguing With Ghosts and Wichita from her new album which only came out a few days ago to start the show; but the look on the audience’s faces as the latter ended proved what an excellent selection they were.
For the third song Barry Walsh left the Steinway piano to strap on a piano accordion and stalk the stage like a Parisian troubadour for the chillingly beautiful Matador.
The mood was set, for an evening of ‘sad songs to make everyone happy.’
With a back catalogue of songs that put all of her contempories in the shade; Gretchen chose to pretty much perform the vast majority of songs from the latest album Dancing With The Beast and, do you know what? They were all here on merit, trust me.
With Barry on piano and two young guys from Northern Ireland on bass and electric guitar; the arrangements of these new songs made Truckstop Angels and Say Grace even more haunting than on disc.
There was something that I’d tried to say in the album review that was even more evident tonight; Gretchen tells some harrowing stories on these songs and really and truly inhabits the characters she’s singing about; but giving these ‘feminist subjects’ a very feminine state of mind.

gretchen SAGE
As I said there weren’t a lot of ‘older songs’ but those that were included were breathtaking; especially the Grammy winning Blackbirds and my personal favourite On a Bus Stop to St. Cloud, which was introduced with a story about Jimmy LaFave which sadly went over the audience’s heads.
Oh……another was Guadalupe, which I think I first heard sung by Tom Russell and was probably the first time I’d heard Gretchen Peter’s name; such is the nature of the world she and I inhabit.
Highlights? Flipping heck!
The title track from the latest album Dancing With The Beast is about a horrible subject; but tonight was delivered with majestic aplomb, leaving everyone dumbfounded until they nearly lifted the roof with their collective applause.
Kim Richey was invited back out to provide backing vocals and harmonies on a couple of songs; one of which; Gretchen got the key wrong and had to be stopped mid verse; much to everyone’s delight!

gretchen and kim
I’m normally not a fan of encores, as they are generally contrived these days, but tonight they were well deserved with Gretchen eventually leaving the stage to go ‘off mic’ to serenade the front row with an incredibly simple and intimate Love That Makes a Cup of Tea; (which was only spoilt by someone dropping a pin), and was the perfect way to end a perfect concert.

Photos by HarrisonaPhotos.

Full set

Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis WILD, WILD, WILD (Single)


robbie fulks linda gail lewisRobbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis

Hey, hey, hey you crazy kids! Check this rascal out……a rip snorting collaboration between two of our favourites……. Mr Robbie Fulks and the delectable Linda Gail Lewis (the star of TWO SummerTyne Festivals) on Bloodshot Records; and a forerunner to a whole album on August 10th.

“The album Wild! Wild! Wild! was recorded in Chicago with Alex Hall (JD McPherson, Cactus Blossoms, Pokey LaFarge) and features musical contributions from Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard), Danny B. Harvey, Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough (NRBQ, The Flat Five), Kelly Hogan (Mavis Staples, Neko Case), Joan Collaso, Yvonne Gage, and others.”

I don’t know about you…….but I can’t wait!


I See Hawks in L.A. – Live and Never Learn


i see hawks BB

I See Hawks in L.A.
Live and Never Learn

A Rare Treat for the Ears and the Soul

Live and Never Learn, the eighth album from these California Country rock ‘n’ rollers is a wonderful treat for both the ears and the soul. I’ve previously heard comparisons to that other west coast band, the Eagles, but I don’t hear it here. The Hawks are fearless where the Eagles take it easy, and their harmonies take more from doo-wop and bar-room country than, say CSN&Y. The Hawks could easily accomplish musically the Eagles sound, but they’re smarter than that, they take more chances, their sense of humor is near boundless. A case in point: The Eagles would never, could never, create such songs as “Ballad for the Trees,” “The Last Man in Tujunga,” or especially the wonderful, hilarious, and all-important “My Parka Saved Me,” which I’m going to go ahead and say is most likely the best song of 2018 so far. Seriously. We’ll come back to that in a moment, first, the rest of the album.
Novelty songs have long been a rock ‘n’ roll tradition. Remember “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll,” “Splish Splash,” or “Purple People Eater”? Yeah, novelty crap humor; but they rocked.
This is important. “Wooly Bully” rocked. “I Put a Spell on You” rocked. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to accomplish. One wrong turn at Albuquerque and suddenly you’re in “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” or “The Chipmunk Song” territory. Humor in rock ‘n’ roll is important and vital. Otherwise everything is Pink Floyd and the National—fine bands yet not what you go after when you want a rollicking and fun trip. And humor is something the Hawks seem to have no short supply of, from the way Robert Waller’s vocal on “Last Man in Tujunga” rapidly descends on the word “collapsing,” stretching it out further than any fully sane singer would ever attempt—but it works, the song needs it to be effective—to the utter lack of any sense of irony on many of these songs. They play it straight, knowing full well how to milk the laughs with a poker face. Smart, humorous lyrics and quick asides from the band such as they way the charge into a single bar of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” right in the middle of “Tujunga” and then continue on as if nothing happened, or the way the pedal steel supports the vocal in “Poour Me,” adding more layers to this wonderful tale of woe.
On several of these songs the Hawks, with Rob Waller’s river bottom vocals and the band’s inherent quirkiness, are reminiscent of the Handsome Family, yet the Handsome Family never rocked this hard, especially on “Stoned with Melissa” which is a fast-paced rocker that starts out making you laugh but takes a sudden turn down a dark alley. Life’s not all fun and games and the Hawks know this, even if it gives them pause to wonder why at times. “Spinning” is dreamy Alt-psychedelia, while “King of the Rosemead Boogie” is a barn spinner of an uptempo blues, and the title song, “Live and Never Learn,” is smooth, smooth Country. The Hawks are all over the map, yet fully in sync, the songs never sounding forced or contrived.
And now we get to “My Parka Saved Me.”
Every great album needs a song worthy of putting on repeat and this is the one. We start off with the band opening the door for the organ swells which bring us right in to a rather funny and also rather harrowing true story narrated by the band’s drummer, Victoria Jacobs, in a voice sublimely caught somewhere between the Mid-West and Valley Girl: She got high. She broke up with her boyfriend. She went for a drive down to the lake. The lake was frozen and there was lots of snow. Suddenly, a drunk driver hits her and she “spun like a donut! There was glass everywhere!” All this backed perfectly by the band in a sawdust floor bar-room band manner while a countrified doo-wop section plays the part of Greek chorus, repeating her story line by line in a perfect straight-man sort of way. No time for irony here, just the facts, ma’am. Jacobs’ story continues as she parries back and forth with the band as they break out and begin to embellish on her tale. “That’s not true!” she regales them, but they continue on unabated, facts and memories now distorting into one another as the song and story continues on with a catchy refrain and a wonderful keyboard backdrop, which works very much like Al Kooper’s organ on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” in that it percolates and bubbles throughout, creating even more interest, drawing the listener in.
This is an amazing song and indeed, album. All the disparate parts fit together wonderfully, telling a story that is tragic, comical, and all too true, in a way only a band as brilliant and as fearless as I See Hawks in L.A. can.

Review courtesy The American Magpie…..the Legendary Roy Peak.
Released June 29th 2018

Walter Wolfman Washington MY FUTURE IS MY PAST


Walter Wolfman Washington

Spine Tingling and Intricately Simple Songs that Defy Categorisation.

I’ve really had to rack my brains here, as I was sure a) I had at least one album by Walter Wolfman Washington (I haven’t) or b) I’ve seen him live (again, I haven’t as he’s never played the Jumping Hot Club) so why did I know his name and why was I excited at hearing this album?
AHA! One song………I have ONE song by him; but what a song! Ain’t No Love In The Heart of The City was the major surprise on a VA album on Point Blank Records way back in 1991……but I still remembered it; now to hunt it out of the loft.
But until then there’s this amazing record.
You first hear Walter pour a drink before strumming a semi-acoustic guitar on opening song Lost Mind; and when his velvet tones filter from the speakers your heart will melt. Is this the Blues? Is it Jazz? Is it Soul? Yep……all three.
Apparently this is a new direction for 74 year old Washington; but I can’t vouch for that (obviously) so I’m just going with what I hear; and I hear a man channelling not just Sam Cooke but Al Green, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole too on a bunch of intricately simple songs that defy categorisation.
She’s Everything To Me features some stunning piano and again on I Cried My Last Tear; but nothing deflects from Washington’s beautiful delivery of some beautifully timeless words.
This my friends; is the perfect late night album for both seduction purposes and also sitting alone crying into your beer; with Walter’s interpretations of Save Your Love For Me and I Just Dropped By To Say Hello being perfect for both situations.
Oh man, oh man……oh man how cool is What a Difference a Day Makes? Every other version of this song is full of sweeping and swooping strings; but here Producer Ben Ellman let’s the words breathe alongside some jaw dropping bass from James Singleton which sounds like it replicates Washington’s heart beats as he makes the song his own.
While there is plenty of Rhythm to go alongside the Blues here; Walter never really gets past a stroll of a pace; although he does pick things up to a sexy strut on Steal Away and Johnny Guitar Watson’s I Don’t Want To Be a Lone Ranger too.
MY FUTURE IS MY PAST is a good old-fashioned Long Player; without the need for a Radio Single; making choosing a Favourite Track more difficult than usual; as each individual song perfectly melts into whatever follows; but the spine-tingling duet with Irma Thomas Even Now does stand out like a blood red poppy in a golden wheat field; so that’s what I’m going for.
Everything about this album oozes ‘Class,’ not just the selection of songs but the world class musicians that have been assembled to support Walter Wolfman Washington’s amazing voice; but the Album Cover itself should be enough to make you want to buy it; as you really can ‘judge an album by the cover’ in this instance.
Trust me; even if you have a passing interest in Blues, Jazz or Soul and even if you don’t but appreciate great music; don’t miss this record you will thank me for the tip.

Released UK May 25th 2018
Released USA April 20th 2018


Buck Owens The Complete Capitol Singles 1967-70

buck owens 70

Buck Owens
The Complete Capitol Singles 1967-70
Omnivore Records.

A Contemporary and Influential Set of Songs From a Country Music Giant.

I have to hold my hands up and declare that apart from another Compilation of his later work; I know nought about Buck Owens apart from the occasional visiting act who sing one of his songs as an encore to ecstatic cries from two or three people in the audience.
When I was growing up in NE England in the late 60’s and 70’s his type of Country Music was way past its sell by date and Country Rock hadn’t yet been invented; so the Bakersfield Sound made famous by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos completely past me by.
But; because plenty of acts I like adore him; it was always going to worthwhile checking out this Double Album of 36 A and B-sides from the years that followed his ‘Golden Age’ in the 1960’s.
The collection starts with some mighty neat guitar from Red Simpson on the jumpin’ Sam’s Place. Taken in context it must have been a joy to hear on the radio or more importantly a Jukebox when it first hit the streets in 1967 but today it sounds a bit twee; which is a word I associate with another couple of songs on the first Album here.
Without knowing his actual #1 Hits; I love the tender ballads here like Don’t Ever Tell Me Goodbye and I’ve Got You On My Mind Again, with That’s Alright With Me (If It’s Alright With You) certainly being a template for quite a few songs in my own collection that were recorded nearly 50 years after its release.
On the second album there are some rather special collaborations with Susan Raye, that didn’t just make my toes tap but my heart actually skip a beat with We’re Gonna Get Together, Fallin’ For You and the delightful Your Tender Loving Care all sounding exactly like the type of songs that at least 5 of my favourite duos sound like now; half a century later (funny that; isn’t it? No names – no pack drill).
That’s the thing here; judicial editing would leave us with a very contemporary set of songs; but too many of the songs haven’t actually aged very well…….especially Happy Times Are Here Again, The Kansas City Song and the glitzy Live version of Johnny B Goode; but when Buck Owens is good; he’s beyond excellent…..Maybe If I Close My Eyes (It Will Go Away and I’ll Love You Forever and Ever?) both fall into that category but there are others too.
Speaking of ‘contemporary’ I think it’s fair to say with hindsight that Big In Vegas, White Satin Bed and Tall Dark Stranger have influenced at least three generations of singer-songwriters from Glen Campbell through Gram Parsons to the likes of Sturgill Simpson and even Brad Paisley today.
Where to go for a Favourite Song? Any of those last few songs would easily fit the bill; but I’m plumping for a song that has aged better than it possibly should have; and ticks a lot of boxes for me over the years….and is a song I really should have heard over the years, but haven’t. I Wouldn’t Live In New York City (If They Gave Me The Whole Dang Town) probably didn’t appeal to his core fans ‘back in the day’ but it’s a helluva song that deserves another lease of life……..please, please, please someone record it ASAP!
I only discovered the definition of word ‘seminal’ last week; and it perfectly sums up the best of these 36 songs; as many of them were ‘before their time’ and as I point out; must have been heard by plenty of aspiring songwriters as they grew up; because I hear their ‘heart, soul and style’ in plenty of modern songs and albums in 2018.
Now to delve further back into Buck Owen’s career.

Released May 11th 2018


Jeb Barry & The Pawn Shop Saints TEXAS Etc.

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Jeb Barry & The Pawn Shop Saints
Dolly Rocker Recordings.

Slightly Dark Yet Starkly Beautiful Alt. Country Deluxe.

DAMN……mostly because this is a Double album it’s sat unloved in the ‘to do’ box for several weeks, until yesterday when my trusty I-Phone played opening track Trouble Down in Tennessee and I had to take a sharp intake of breath, waiting to see who the artist was on the car stereo. Jeb Barry? Who he?
Currently residing in the hills of New England, the one time ‘nearly Pop Star’ Jeb Barry is a singer-songwriter in the proud traditions of Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell and more importantly, RMHQ Favourite Slaid Cleaves; but sounds nothing like any of them.
This release is a Double Album primarily because not only is Barry a prolific songwriter but can comfortably deliver them as raw intimate solo efforts (the second disc) or better still as atmospheric and carefully constructed Alt. Country minor epics alongside his bandmates.
Let’s scoot back to that first song Trouble Down in Tennessee; and it’s opening line “Had a little trouble down in Tennessee/Load a whisky and a girl who didn’t love me.” Coupled to a rip-cord tight band and a sloppy Dobro…….; and the song only gets deeper and better the longer it goes on. That is the Alternative to Country I adore.
As you’d expect most of the songs here are heartbreakers, tearjerkers and bar-room ballads; and boy oh boy can Jeb Barry tell a story…….Galveston ’92 and Southern Oak are pretty much as good as this genre gets.
Miss Mississippi is the type of fascinating song that you thought only Steve Earle could write twenty odd years ago; but Jeb picks up that uber-detailed mantle and runs off into the distance with it; taking the listener on a journey through the dive bars and Honky-Tonks trying to re-live that magical night.
Chainsmoker is a fascinating choice of metaphor for the loser in a break up; but again Barry effortlessly tugs at the heartstrings until you choke back the tears; and that deadpan jangly guitar won’t help your cause either.
While the album title is Texas Etc. it could and should be Gravel Roads and Whiskey Bars, which follows and is very much the musical cornerstone to Album #1 and probably the whole kit and caboodle; as it is the essence of Jeb Barry’s songwriting all rolled into three short minutes and giving Sturgill Simpson a good run for his money.
Album #2 is a slightly darker affair, opening with the starkly beautiful A Little Mercy; which possibly finds Barry at his poetic best; and Michael O’Neill’s delicate mandolin playing alongside Barry’s soft guitar is quite spellbinding, by the way.
At times like this I find it weird to say that there’s not a bad song here; honestly there’s no filler here at all as every single song is here on merit.
In I Can’t Live In Houston Anymore, somehow Jeb manages to make this major metropolis sound like a Hick town in the back of beyond; but I guess unrequited love can get you like that can’t it?
That theme reappears on El Paso Sucks which took me back 45 years to a similar end to a relationship I experienced in my teens and had more or less forgot about; but that’s the beauty of classy songwriting isn’t it?
Where do I go for a favourite track? I’m damn sure I need to play this album a lot more to get the very best from it; but today I’m going for the majestic If This Heart Had Walls from Album #1 and either….no……I must be brave…….choose one for God’s Sake! OK……the stunning duet with Heather Austin, It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time is ‘that song’ that will haunt everyone who ever hears it, as the intimate detail in every single line while remind you of something in your own life; albeit the past but hopefully not the present……but it really is a Country Heartbreaker Deluxe.
There is one more song deserving of a mention; but one that stands apart from the crowd; Refugees is normally sung at the end of the night as a group effort;  most regularly alongside a group of friends that includes Sarah Lee Guthrie but here Jeb Barry resurrects that Greenwich Village 1960’s spirit on a tragically beautiful song that suggests every single American citizen is actually a refugee in one form or another and should be a lot more tolerant to those seeking refuge in ‘the Land of the Free’ in the 21st Century.

Released April 27th 2018