WHAT A WAY TO START THE WEEKEND! Check out the video for Aaron Watson’s new single ‘Run Wild Horses’, ahead of his forthcoming run of UK shows this September and a much-anticipated festival debut at The Long Road alongside Carrie Underwood, The Shires and more. The real life love story, featuring his wife of 15 years, Kimberly was filmed in the Watson’s hometown of Buffalo Gap, Texas (population 468) at one of their favourite spots, the Perini Ranch and inspired by the song’s lyrics:
“Run free as the wind my passion on your skin
Your lips on mine run wild horses
Run out of control deep down in your soul
We become one, run wild horses run.”
The tour in support of HIS new album ‘Vaquero’ continues ACROSS THE UK…. dates below:
5th September – Oran Mor, Glasgow
6th September – Band On The Wall, Manchester
7th September – The Dome, London
8th September – The Long Road Festival, Stanford Hall (Leicestershire)
A Cerebral Musical Journey From Virginia to Seattle Via The West Coast.
This is another band who seem to have passed me by; even though I have three disparate tracks in my collection which I must have downloaded for my old radio show.
So it was with a completely open mind that I pressed ‘play’ two weeks ago.
Opening song Sweeter, Sadder Farther Away wasn’t what I was expecting at all, as it’s something of a sensory overload… with an ethereal piano at it’s heart and a melancholic voice re-telling something of a modern Gothic love story.
Firebird ’85 which follows is nearer what I was expecting from Sons of Bill; with it’s harmonies and Lo-Fi sensibilities filling a claustrophobic Alt. Country love song.
It’s difficult, but fun trying to describe the Sons of Bill ‘sound’ as it flits around like a sparrow; one minute it’s the jangly guitars of Where We Stand; then it’s almost psychedelic Pop with Before We Fall; which is immediately followed by the transcendental Alt. Country of Green to Blue; which begets Old and Gray which could be the Jayhawks or Wilco at their finest.
Although none of the brothers sound in the slightest like Michael Stipe; it’s been REM that has sprung to mind when I found myself becoming ensconced with Easier and the album closer Signal Fade, alongside several others too; but in their defence Sons Of Bill appear to have taken a lot of musical influences and distilled them through their Virginia moonshine still and come out the other end with their very own and distinctive style of intricate Alt. Country.
It’s difficult to pin-point what I like most about the Wilson Brothers aka Sons of Bill; is it the magnificent guitar playing? The harmonies that only siblings can truly produce? Or is it the deeply thoughtful songs that they write and sing so beautifully? Or is it a combination of all three? Probably the latter as the RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ proves with Believer_Pretender. Played LOUD in the car it almost shook the wing mirrors off; yet it also proved the perfect soundtrack when oozing out of the speakers in the garden on a hot and sunny afternoon.
Oh God Ma’am is a harshly beautiful album that slip slides seamlessly from track to track, taking the listener on a cerebral journey unlike anything else I’ve heard this year.
Friend of RMHQ, musical troubadour, bon vivant and one of the finest slide guitarists to come out of Britain’s fair isles, Dave Arcari is celebrating WORLD MUSIC DAY with this fabulous new song and single featuring him playing the banjo.
“Whisky Trail” – showcases Arcari’s banjo playing and a mellower side to his songwriting and performance. It will be available to stream and download via his website https://davearcari.com/ as well as the obligatory Spotify, Apple Music and all other digital services.
The release precedes a short run of festival and club dates in the Netherlands and Germany then Arcari comes home to play some UK festival dates before embarking on his sixth USA tour through October into November.
On his return Arcari will play Scottish shows at King Tuts (Glasgow), Sneaky Pete’s (Edinburgh) and Clarks (Dundee).
“Actually, the banjo has featured in my live set for a while, but I only had a couple of songs on it,” says Arcari. “And while they (Still Friends and Good Moonshine) have become crowd favourites, I felt it was becoming too predictable that I’d play these songs when I picked up the banjo.
“So I was keen to come up with a new banjo song that was a little different. This one is based on the story of Glengoyne single malt whisky….our local distillery. There’s a few more in the pipeline for both slide guitar and banjo.”
Ben de la Cour
HIGH COST OF LIVING STRANGE
Flour Sack Cape
An Americana Road Trip Where The Memories Will Remain Forever.
Here’s an odd thing; a PR sent this to me even though he’s not even working on promoting this album simply because he thought that me and you, my readers would like it.
How nice is that in this cynical world we live in?
It was all a very long time ago but I actually reviewed Ben de la Cour’s album GHOST LIKE in 2011 for a once important magazine; and if memory serves me well; I liked it a lot and forecast a career of money, awards and baubles on the horizon for the young Londoner out of Brooklyn.
As soon as I heard opening track Dixie Crystals I knew why Adam thought I’d like this; De la Cour has a warm and interesting voice; unlike most others and his song-writing is eloquent and detailed plus his band skirt Southern Gothic and modern Hill Country music……what’s not to like?
Baring in mind Ben’s background (born in London and raised in Brooklyn NY) there’s a distinct whiff of Magnolia, Jim Beam and the Everglades that are all pervading through these songs; not least the gorgeous tale Uncle Boudreaux Went To Texas; which is about a man who the narrator sits at his feet listening to and wallowing in his tall tales; but as his own father tells him; “The closest he ever got to Texas/was listening to Willie’s Greatest Hits.”
We’ve all got an Uncle Boudreaux haven’t we?
Tupelo is a darkly atmospheric tale from the Nick Cave book of songwriting; if the Australian had been born in the Southern States; with a shimmering fiddle scaring the bejasus out of me every time it comes into the light from behind some deeply unsettling drums, bass and guitar.
It’s probably best that the more feint hearted don’t listen to this song on their own.
Funnily enough a fiddle comes to the fore again on the next song; Guy Clark’s Fiddle which, partly because I love Guy Clark but mostly because it’s a clever and sensitive song about ‘hope in a broken world’ that I probably needed to hear that first day; and again today if truth be told.
I can’t remember very much about that 2011 album; but I was obviously correct in highlighting Ben’s songwriting skills because he sure can write a doozy. Face Down Penny is certainly the type of song that Johnny Cash would have wanted to sing on his American Series; and if I use my imagination it’s the type of song I associate and love by RMHQ Favourites Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picot; which is praise indeed.
Trying to select an actual Favourite Track isn’t as easy as it should be, as the final track here The High Cost of Living Strange under normal circumstances ticks every box we have for said honour; rumbling and very dirty guitars; an understated bass that still rattles your spine and De La Cour sounding almost demonic on a helluva Country-Gothic song; but then again any album that has a song like Company Town on it has to be very special indeed.
The first time I played the album I nearly missed Company Town, but after three minutes in I had to go back to the beginning and listen intently; as Ben’s tale of dark deeds in a dying Blue Collar rural town; or is he actually comparing America itself to that dying town is disorienting and brooding from start to finish; and rightfully takes the Favourite Track Award.
To some degree Ben de la Cour has instilled everything I love about Americana Music into his 8 songs; taking us on a road trip from the Rust Belt to the Delta and back again and the time goes by in the blink of an eye; but the memories remain with you forever.
Milk Carton Kids
All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do
An Exciting Turning Point in A Thoroughly Modern Musical Journey.
This is definitely The Milk Carton Kid’s edgiest album, while also being their most accessible. How does someone even attempt to pull that sort of thing off?
After first listening to this newest one, I went back and gave a re-listen to their previous albums in order to remind myself just how different this new one really is. Those earlier albums by the duo of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale all featured well-written, thoughtful songs, impeccably picked acoustic guitars, on the point, tight harmonies, clear production, and straight-forward arrangements. So what’s their latest album—the long and wonderfully titled, All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do—like?
Well let’s see: We get plenty of well-written, thoughtful songs, impeccably picked acoustic guitars, on the point, tight harmonies, clear production, and straight-forward arrangements of course; but there’s something else too.
After successfully self-producing their earlier albums, TMCK decided to do the unexpected and bring in singer-songwriter Joe Henry to refocus their thinking. A very wise move in my opinion.
The vocals now have a bit more separation in them, the guitars actually jump out of the speakers much more than they did previously, with more detail and focus. No subtle simplicities here. And yes, there’s drums, there’s keyboards, there’s bass guitar, pedal steel, and much more for the first time on a TMCK album.
Another thing that I noticed right away is how much Rock ‘n’ Roll there is in these songs too. And I’m not just referring to the excellent production but rather the songs themselves. I could pull out that oft-overused term “edgy” to describe these songs and I wouldn’t be wrong, but we need instead a term which imparts to us a deeper and more relevant meaning towards our understanding of this collection of songs.
These songs ‘move’, they ‘jump’, there’s even an intensity here that’s not just hyper-bluegrass or even upbeat country-folk. I know that TMCK think of themselves as folkies (or even anti-folkies) but deep down, this is Rock ‘n’ Roll, people. It definitely ain’t jazz. And those harmonies? Now they’re much closer to the Rock ‘n’ Roll of the Everly Brothers than the folk side of Simon and Garfunkel.
It’s nice and somewhat thrilling to hear the guys hoot and holler in “Big Time,” to hear those guitar runs on the solo section of the ten-minute “One More for the Road,” which goes to unexpected places without losing its thread, the fearless octave-shifting vocal on “You Break My Heart,” the nimble and stirring piano on “Nothing is Real,” the dark, mournful, and dizzying “Blindness.”
We get more of Ryan and Pattengale stretching out on these tunes, taking chances, paving new roads for themselves. This is what rock ‘n’ roll did in the early days, what it is supposed to do even now, but disappoints too often.
There’s layers of meaning in these songs, especially on the album’s centerpiece, “One More for the Road,” with its hypnotic stanzas and intertwining chromatic guitar solo which builds to a furious stomp before the tempo changes like a driver downshifting as he pulls off the interstate, perhaps to hit just one more bar before getting home.
Or—is he really trying to make it home?
Or is he attempting to delay the inevitable?
The lyrics leave it ambiguous but the darkness in those harmonies make me think the driver knows he’ll never making it home, he’ll be driving forever, trapped in a David Lynch film, a life of nighttime turnpikes and bars with greasy wooden walls and red neon and half-heard whispers. When that mesmerizing solo starts up you know you’re in for a ride, strapped tight, holding on, the trees like ghosts as they fly on past, speeding up and driving blind, white line fever is real and you’re okay with it. There are few signs on this road, just drizzling rain and darkened street lamps.
The song “Mourning in America,” with those dreamy harmonies and call and response guitar lines would have been my choice for the first single off this album, yet I’m glad they decided to release “One More for the Road” instead. Sometimes bands make an album that’s a turning point in their musical journey, and with TMCK’s All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do, it’s a journey I’m enjoying, and a roller-coaster ride I’m ready for.
Big Apple Blues
Stone Tone Records
Cool Sounds Straight Out of a Sleazy Club on the Wrong Side of 110th Street.
My dealer of all things Blue and with lots of Rhythm in the USA got in touch last week telling me that he had the perfect soundtrack to my upcoming holiday in Noo Yawk. Intrigued I checked the post every day and today ‘it’ arrived……..MANHATTAN ALLEY by a New York quintet Big Apple Blues!
The cover artwork certainly lives up to my fantasies about this fair city; but would the music live up to the hype?
Even from track #1 I loved the bands’ sense of humour as this feisty instrumental is called …… You Gotta Start Somewhere; and what a way to start indeed. Mesmerising guitar licks; a hypnotic drum and bass with some swirling organ and sax in the background…….this is the essence of what I want from NYC in under 3 minutes.
This is followed by a silky smooth and almost Staxtastic tune called Happy; which is exactly what it made me feel.
Historically I’m no lover of instrumental albums; but as I’m imagining it as an actual soundtrack to my week touring the hotspots and fleshpots of a city that I’ve dreamed of visiting for half a century; it works perfectly well in that setting.
Obviously with a few tunes featuring Jim Alfredson on a mighty Hammond B3 it’s all too easy to compare Deep Talkin’ and the slip-slidin’ and slinky Take Two to Booker T; but I hear a lot of Jimmy Smith and Dave Brubeck in there too, but neither sounds like anything I own by any of those maestros.
Then there is the sweet guitar of Zach Zunis on Hudson Breeze which sounds just like something you’d want to hear just as the sun was setting over the yardarm somewhere; anywhere in the world, not just the banks of the Hudson.
Steamroller, on the other hand is masterful slice of funk straight out of a sleazy club on the wrong side of 110th Street; boy oh boy can these fellas make a beautiful noise.
Not on everything; but at this stage in the album Big Apple Blues made me hark back to not just those three Jazz-Soul legends; but more along the lines of the Average White Band who could mould Jazz, Blues, Soul and indeed Rock together and create beautiful music…..just like these cats can.
There is quality oozing out of every single groove on this disc; none more so than the slow and sensuous SDW; written in honour of a dearly departed friend of the band who went by that moniker.
Even without seeing their photos; hearing the way they play their instruments with style, blending guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and harmonica with intelligence and imagination, you know they aren’t in the first flush of youth. It takes years and years of hard work to make sounding this good so simple and slick.
As I regularly point out, there’s no need these days for a commercial hit; but there are certainly a couple of tracks here that wouldn’t be out of place as theme tunes for a Cop Show on TV or even big old gangster movie on the big screen; I’m especially thinking of Subway Rumble and Rock On which would fit that bill as would the RMHQ Favourite Track, Love Will Find A Way; which has a right royal smoky film-noir feel to it.
It’s been very short notice; but I can now see why my friend Frank would think I would like MANHATTAN ALLEY, and tenuously use it as a soundtrack to 5 fun filled days in the Big Apple; and I keep my fingers crossed that I will stumble on these 5 guys getting their groove on in a seedy bar when I’m in town.
When I was first told about this album I was not just baffled but dismayed that someone would think I might like a Jazz singer from Yorkshire re-inventing a bunch of 1970’s and 80’s Pop Songs. Don’t they know me at all?
Well; with hindsight….they did; and better than I know myself!
Out of courtesy I first played the disc while I was researching some stuff for work on the laptop; and only 30 seconds into opening track Come On Feel The Noize! I found a smile breaking out on my lips as I recognised one of the best songs of my early teenage years……Slade, God Bless em never sounded like this, even in their wildest dreams; but what a great anthem for the Feminist Age!
As usual I hadn’t actually looked at the Press Release or even the back cover at this stage, so played ‘Spot That Tune’ that first afternoon; and what a hoot I had.
The second song was instantly recognisable; but again who thought Adam Ant’s Prince Charming could become a late night Jazz standard with a sexy undertone? Me neither; but that’s what Beverley turns it into.
Only a couple of songs sound as if they could and should have been used in this conception; with ABC’s When Smokey Sings sounding just perfect as Beverley goes all sultry Diva as a piano gently tinkles and a saxophone drifts in and out of proceedings like a Summer breeze and the simple conversion of Bette Davis’ Eyes and Pop Musik by M intoto Jazz Music would have both made sense in the planning stages too; but The Specials Ghost Town? Surely not; but just like Bananarama’s Cruel Summer takes on a whole new dark edged life in 2018 and both become just as relevant to today’s lost generation as they did mine way back when.
Now I’ve taken JJWTHF to my heart only a couple of songs don’t really work; and even then it’s probably because I was never a fan of Waiting on a Girl Like You and Hot In The City so that could have clouded my judgement here; but Kajagoogoo’s Too Shy and even Cyndi Lauper’s Girl’s Just Want To Have Fun both sound as if they had always been intended to be Jazz songs and were only ever loaned to the Pop world.
Then; there is my favourite song here……and that’s by quite a big margin, and a song I instantly recognised but one that completely stopped me in my tracks.
Take a deep breath; but one of the shittest songs of the last 50 years, under the tutelage of Beverley Beirne really does become a Jazz ballad of the finest hue……Deeply Dippy, originally by Right Said Fred now shines like a diamond in this setting, with Ms Beirne living the words as a super-cool band take it oh so seriously in the background. Honestly.
There’s not a lot else to say; the album title says it all really JJWTHF (Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun) but be under no illusion; no one is poking their tongue out here; these songs are all recorded with love and took me back to my childhood when Superstars of the Jazz world would record Pop covers with style and grace; and Beverley Beirne is just following in those hallowed footsteps.
Swaggeringly Cool Blues Coupled To Some Scorching Guitar Playing.
Some days I suffer from a sensory overload; such is the amount of new music I listen to and when that happens I usually reach for some Classic Blues from one of the greats; but occasionally along comes an album like this beauty to fill the gap without me having to decide if it’s going to be Rory, Wolf, BB or if I’m really needing to clear my head, some Johnny Winter.
OK; it’s a stretch to compare Italian singer-guitarist to any of those cats; but this album has been a real musical palette cleanser recently and ticked every box in the RMHQ play book; and I think it will yours too.
Opening track Back To The River belies not just Franchi’s tender age but his country of origin too; as it’s big, bold sound should only come from someone with decades under his belt and thousands of miles under his feet ……but no; this song and everything that follows is brand new and shiny, written and recorded in the last 18 months.
There’s not even a hint of his Italian accent in a single note that comes from his velvety rasp which delivers songs like Big Kind Hearted Man and Wanna Know as if this was what this singer was born to do.
As you’d hope from the album cover, which features the handsome young fella standing in an alleyway cradling his favourite Stratocaster; this young cat can play it like breathing itself.
Thankfully for me; there’s no meandering solos here but when he strokes those strings on Sensation and Everything Gonna Be Alright; which are both poles apart in style……the Angels will actually sing HALLELUJAH!
The Blues and especially Blues-Rock, were I guess this album sits is littered with ‘Me Too’ acts; and most have their merits but here Dany Franchi proves to a triple threat; not only is he suavely handsome (according to Mrs Magpie), he sure can play that geetar but he also has an amazing voice which is not just suited to the dirtier end of the scale (Run Around) but the sweet side too when he shows more than a hint of Sam Cooke tas he croons the Soul out of Real Love and My Only One; both of which made my skin tingle the first time I heard them.
While I’ve been thoroughly impressed by Franchi’s songwriting; as nearly ever song here bares repeated listening; he really makes that Strat sizzle too; most noticeably on the guitar-organ based instrumental Sensation; which never ever sounds even the slightest bit self-indulgent.
Favourite Track? Well; that’s been a lot easier than you’d imagine from my previous words; but Big Town Playboy is very nearly the perfect cool and swaggering Blues song I’ve loved for half a century and boy oh boy what a searing harmonica solo that is in the middle!
I say this every now and again; but I genuinely love discovering talents like Dany Franchi and singing their praises to my little; but very knowledgable world outside this office.
This is Dany Franchi’s third album and he’s played numerous festivals across the US and mainland Europe but there’s a whole world out there who don’t know his work; don’t you make that mistake too……buy this album ASAP.
Grown Up Well Crafted and Sensitive Songs That Don’t Really Fit Any Specific Category.
This is another one of those albums that could have got away had it not been for my trusty I-Phone!
When it arrived last month I’d already missed the release date so it went straight into the ‘maybe’ pile without even a cursory play. Then two morning ago I was driving to work at dawn and the weather was grey and damp; but a song called At The Rainbow’s End really warmed the cockles of my heart. I don’t really understand technology but the title came up as Track #3 alongside the band name Love On Drugs; so a mental reminder was put in place for later that afternoon.
By the time I arrived home the sun had come out and I played the album as I ate a sandwich and checked my e-mails.
It turns out the ‘band’ Love On Drugs is actually the nom de plume for Swedish singer-songwriter Thomas Ponten and this is his 7th album in this guise, with more to come very soon.
Busy is the first song you’d normally hear and there’s a very ‘grown up’ feel to the way the song evolves; building and building layers yet still sounding quite simple; which is quite an achievement.
‘Grown Up’ is probably the best way to describe the way Ponten writes; and more especially the way the songs are constructed with dashes of Rock and Roll thrown in from Every Now and Then and Your Kind of Man juxtaposed against the more intimate Scar and Solitude which both seem to shimmer as they seep from the speakers.
Mrs. Magpie’s favourite Night Ride Home is both claustrophobic and intimate and one of those songs that needs to be played on the radio as the midnight hour approaches.
I don’t know why but using a piano as the lead instrument; in this case exquisitely played by Anders Gorasson gives music a more intellectual feel; or is that just me?
Choosing the Favourite Song certainly hasn’t been easy; as everything has its merits in that regard and there are no obvious commercial radio singles here at all; but I’ve come back to two songs a couple of times the darkly personal Insomnia touches spot for me I’d rather not go into and that bass heavy Your Kind of Man has a certain ‘funk’ to it that I really like; so I’m going for the latter song.
Music like this has drifted in and out of my life for nigh on half a century; Elton John, Billy Joel and even Chris de Burgh back in the day; all wrote well crafted and sensitive songs that don’t really fit any specific category but won them legions of fans who don’t just follow the crowd for the sake of it.
Liz Frame & The Kickers
SPARROW IN A SHOEBOX
File Under Country, Folk and Americana.
If I’m being perfectly honest I struggled to get my head around this album when I first received it; not that there was anything wrong with it, just that I needed a fix of louder music…..Bluesy stuff to make my feet move and my heart skip a beat.
That said; I always knew I’d come back as there was something in the way Liz Frame sings plus the songs themselves sounded like I needed to listen deeper than I was capable of at that time.
Now I’m ready to kick back and let Liz Frame and the Kickers win my heart and soul without much of a fight.
The title track Sparrow in a Shoebox is the first thing you’ll hear and if you’re not careful it will make you go weak at the knees. A delightful mix of Rootsy Country and classy Folk music; I was instantly reminded of those early Mary Chapin Carpenter records I still cherish and perhaps even Nanci Griffith in the way Liz both writes and sings.
In a good way there’s a little bit of everything here; from the gutsy Folk and Roll of Lookin’ For a Lonely Man which really showcases Patrick Chamberlin’s guitar skills; through the the heartbreaking Tex-Mex ballad Ungrateful Girl and coming out the other end with a gentle Rocker for people of a certain age, Grown Children; which will have fans tapping their toes to the melody while nodding along in agreement to Frame’s very perceptive lyrics.
In between the band slip and slide seamlessly between Grown Up Country song What You Gonna Do When I’m Gone? and the intense Little Brown House; which again will tug at the heartstrings until you fall under the Boston songwriter’s spell.
Now I’m sitting in the sunshine wallowing in this delightful discovery; two songs really, really stand out and therefore tie for the Favourite Song Award; the deceptively simple She’s Made of Light and Love is one of those songs that will spin your brain as it unravels each and every time you hear it.
The other is I Used To Be Your Slave; and again Liz and the band mask a harrowing tale with a jaunty tune; but the message hear is much clearer as she takes the role of a woman leaving an abusive relationship.
SPARROW IN A SHOEBOX just like those early albums by Nanci, Lucinda, Mary and Emmylou could easily be filed under both Country and Folk but more likely these days under Americana; with fans of all stylea finding plenty to like and indeed love here.
Let’s just hope it’s not another 7 years wait for the third album from Liz Frame and the Kickers; as that’s how long her fans have waited since her debut in 2011.