Tom Blackwell MEMPHIS Vol 1.

tom blackwell ac

Tom Blackwell

Simple, Sensational and Timeless Folk Songs From a Northern Poet-Singer

While Tom Blackwell is a friend of a friend of mine I’d not heard of him prior to last weekend’s SummerTyne Festival; and even then I managed to miss his groundbreaking set on Saturday afternoon!
When I met up with him later in the day after spotting him watching; and visibly enjoying several other acts during the afternoon (which is a rarity for musicians in my opinion) there was a delightful innocence in the way he handled a couple of newly adoring fans which appealed to me. When we chatted I also loved his approach to music and recording; although releasing this album as a cassette rather than one of those new fangled Compact Discs means his new found fans may not get the access to his work that he deserves. (*thankfully he is now releasing it as a download.)
Any-hoot; onto the music itself.
As I’d hoped and expected opening track The Blood Runs Cold On The Ground, finds Tom with just an acoustic guitar, harmonica and a crystal clear production to accompany his deeply thoughtful and mesmeric words; and I can now vouch for why that couple would make the effort to speak adoringly to the young singer-songwriter; after hearing only one single song.
Yet there’s actually another nine songs to get through and each is as striking in its own rite as that first one.
What I’ve come to love about this album is not just Blackwell’s warm and raspy voice, but the ‘easy on the ear’ intensity he provides on songs like Hark Back The Hounds, The Hollow Trophy and the staggering Fforde Capel Canticle, which in theory is something I should really dislike but found myself tipping an ear to the speakers so as not to miss a word or note.
Which brings me to Tom’s guitar playing. Okay he’s no Clapton or Hendrix but he falls into the John Martyn or Guy Clark category where his playing sounds so very simple as he accompanies himself in song but is actually acutely intricate when you listen carefully; and the inclusion of the instrumental God’s Own Land (prelude) is a true joy to behold.
There is something really special and personal in the way Tom writes and delivers his songs; with several (Only Now Can You Run? Sorrow 1?) using subjects that will make the listener think, “Aha; so it’s not just me!” Which is quite a special talent that very few can achieve with such ease.
Choosing a Favourite Song has proved plenty difficult, I can tell you, as this is an old fashioned Long Player that needs to be listened to in one sitting with no distractions; but I will select God’s Own Land which is a quintessential modern English Folk Song that defies time and borders; and deserves to be heard across the whole wide world.
To some degree singer-songwriters, or Folk Singers if you will, have never gone out of fashion in my 50 years as a music fan, starting with Bob Dylan in the 1960’s and ending up today with Ed Sheeran; yet the vast majority are ordinary to say the least; with only a handful sticking in the collective memory…….the Merseyside poet-singer Tom Blackwell will surely become one of the latter category sooner rather than later.

Released July 23rd 2018


ian mcnabb

Ian McNabb

Our Favourite Scouse Rocker Has His Most Arrogant Mojo Back!

Robert Ian McNabb would be the first to tell you that he’s never recorded an album that was anything less than brilliant; although some have been more brilliant than others.
In my humble opinion (as a mega-fan) he did have a bit of a lull a few years ago but; and I don’t think it’s a coincidence; following his truly excellent ‘covers album’ RESPECTFULLY YOURS he most certainly now has his most arrogant mojo back!
With several recent UK tours in the guise of his alter-ego The Icicle Works under his belt, that distinctive ‘sound’ is all pervading on the first couple of songs here; especially the sonic assault of opening track I Can See Tomorrow; with it’s crashing guitars and industrial strength back beat from the bass and drums; while the catchy melody has you unceremoniously tapping your toes and nodding your head along to Mac’s insightful and poetic lyrics.
Phew; you can’t even get your breath back before the trademark ‘jangly guitars’ of Supermoon set fire to your speakers and McNabb treats us to another ‘modern classic’ that is destined to be ignored by the world at large but adored by his ever growing fan base.
Hopefully all of those fans who can’t let the Icicle Works songs go; will finally fall in love with a McNabb solo album as more than a few songs here (Reeperbahn? The Day I Learned To Say No? The glorious Vodka Rivers and Cigarette Trees?) are natural successors to those heady days of our collective youth; but overall this is 100% an Ian McNabb album with no quarter given to commercial success.
He’s always been an exceptional songwriter; as his solo acoustic tour always prove and yet again he finds beauty in some of the ugliest parts of our lives; with Toxic and Throw The Rest Away being bittersweet love songs that in my opinion only RI McNabb could write and drop into your consciousness like a time-bomb.
Hahaha…..I’d heard My Accuser a couple of times before the penny dropped! For such an opinionated person Ian can be a bit thin skinned; and this glorious sub-Pet Sounds opus is his response to all of his critics on Social Media; and what a doozy it is too.
Long time fans; such as I will probably go straight to the glorious final song Girls From Across The Water before even track #1 as it looks like it could be and actually is a sort of coda to my favourite Ian McNabb song of all time Liverpool Girls; and the world is a much better place now those girls have grown up.
In another world there would be several contenders for the title of ‘RMHQ Favourite Song’; the nod to the mystical Folk-Rock of Traffic, Aquamarine, A Secret Everyone Knows and Makin’ Silver Sing are all as good as anything Boots has ever recorded #FACT; but in typical Ian McNabb fashion there is one song here that could and should win every award going come Christmas; not for the first time in recent years our favourite Scouse Lothario writes about a Spring/Autumn type relationship in a way that no other songwriter possibly can….. because Our Future In Space; I’m sure is pretty damn autobiographical!
An almost perfect three minutes of bittersweet, tongue in cheek with a huge production song about a man dating a much younger girl with ‘aspirations’ starts with her wanting an Audi A8 and culminates with Ian groaning “She wants me to wear skinny jeans…….I’m 57, for fucks sake please!”
As he himself once admitted in song, “I’m a Genius.” And he is; albeit an unheralded one.
Only time will tell where this album finally fits into Ian McNabb’s canon of work; but today I feel it sits comfortably alongside his finest master-works Merseybeast and Head Like a Rock; which is high praise indeed from a man with far too many Ian McNabb and Icicle Works bootlegs in his collection.

Released July 10th 2018




clare bowen RAIN A

Clare Bowen
Let It Rain (single)

It couldn’t have been timed better, could it? The new single from singer-songwriter Clare Bowen (Scarlett in Nashville TV Series btw) LET IT RAIN arrived today; just as the Heavens open all over the UK!
Her song is actually a bittersweet love song, of the break up variety, but I’m sure Radio 2 will go with the weather theme.
For what it’s worth Clare was our favourite in the TV show and has a simply wonderful and expressive voice; and this single really bodes well for the album and UK Tour which are due in September.



SummerTyne Americana Festival 2018

SummerTyne 2018

SummerTyne Americana Festival 2018
Sage Gateshead
July 20-22.

What’s not to like about a music Festival in and around one of the world’s finest auditoriums featuring the music you love during a hot and sunny weekend only twenty minutes from your doorstep? Oh; and 50% of it is FREE!
Well, for some of my hipster-cool friends who appear to live in a) the past and b) Nashville… quite a lot actually; but to those doom laden miserabilists all I can say is “Shaddupa Your Face!”
While a tad smaller and more condensed than in previous years; there was still so very much to enjoy and write home about.
As I say every year SummerTyne is a festival of two halves, with two stages inside and outside the hall curated by the Jumping Hot Club and AMA UK which are FREE to the public and introduce acts of all hues and stages of their careers to the local music fans and cognoscenti alike.
During the afternoons and of course the evenings the three Sage concert halls buzz with proper World Famous acts singing on our door step; yet the entry prices don’t necessarily reflect that as Sage tends to subsidise the prices with a look towards bringing this music to the masses.
Sadly for me the ‘real world’ in the form of my day job took it’s toll early on meaning I missed all of Friday afternoon’s Home Fries performances, which took place inside Sage on the concourse stage as it was actually raining outside!
Later in the evening I cornered a couple of friends and even artistes who had been there and apparently Sam Gibson who opened the afternoon with half an hour or so of his own intense yet commercial take on Country songs went down very well with the freshly arriving fans; and local Country-Folk duo Jinski got the party started with their relatively high energy act.
Later RMHQ friend Gem Andrews made lots of new fans with songs from across both her albums and last minute substitute Sour Mash Trio turned this ultra-modern building into a Geordie Honky-Tonk with their blistering Rockabilly songs (or so singer Jimmi told me!).

summertyne 1
Me? I arrived at 6pm just as Wandering Hearts from that there London Town were opening their own set on the AMA UK Concourse Stage and it was instantly evident why they are on the cusp of success with their easy on the ear harmony drenched Country-Folk songs. (I now need to re-address their debut album).
This year’s Friday night shows probably highlighted the strength and diversity that SummerTyne brings better than many other years; with Shawn Colvin who would normally headline Hall 2 actually opening for the legend Graham Nash in Hall 1.
Shawn was a powerhouse of intensity during her half hour; and while I only got to see and hear about 30 minutes of Nash’s performance (I was running around photographing elsewhere all night) his on stage charisma and understated songs set the audience to ‘stun’ and ‘smile’ as they left the venue later in the evening.
Personally I hung around Hall 2 as a new name to me, Texan Country singer-songwriter Charley Crockett totally blew me away with his simple and timeless songs that spanned the last 50 years of the genre; and any guy in a cowboy hat with a Texas state flag draped over the piano who includes a T-Bone Walker song has to be a good and indeed cool guy in my book.

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The headline act in that hall was English Rockabilly star Darrell Higham and the Enforcers who had the immaculately dressed crowd dancing from the get go.
My long day and another impending 5am alarm call meant that I only stayed for half an hour; but regretted missing the rest of his set.
As I made my way out I spotted a few friends arriving for the closing act of the night and another one that in previous years would have been on my ‘gig of the year’ list; a double header of RMHQ favourites Rob Vincent and Yola Carter which had those friends still salivating the next day.
If there was one single act that I wanted to see it was Arkansas Dave who played twice; with the first being a 4pm set on the JHC stage; which I missed; arriving as I did at 4.45! But I did get to see the left of centre William the Conqueror at 5, who were a strange choice to close the afternoon as it sounded the type of music more suited to late at night. But what do I know?
Earlier a singer-songwriter from Liverpool called Tom Blackwell opened proceedings and as the day progressed six different people told me I had to check him out; and as happens at SummerTyne a mate actually introduced me to Tom later in the night and as we chatted a couple of advancing years tentatively approached him to tell him how brilliant he was! (I now have a copy of his latest cassette/album….. so watch this space).
Saturday night at SummerTyne was every inch as good if not better than previous years; starting with RMHQ favourites Curse of Lono opening for Steve Earle and mesmerising the rock crowd so much so there was a queue later at the merch table for their CD. They were followed by The Mastersons who I personally love to bits and again; on another night would have headlined Hall 2 on their own.
In between sets I ran across the concourse to photograph Natalie Merchant; she of 10,000 Maniacs fame. It’s fair to say she’s never been my ‘cup of tea’ but looking at the adoring faces of the sold-out crowd, told me that I was in the minority; but such is SummerTyne……it brings all of the disparate and loose ends together under one magnificent roof.
Before I went back into Hall 1 I nipped into the Barbour Room to see a few minutes of another recommendation; Jade Bird. It was difficult t pass judgement on the diminutive young lady in a red jump suit and battered converse playing a jumbo acoustic guitar nearly as big as she was; because her stories were nearly as long as both songs I heard. But; I did hear enough to know I need to investigate further.
Then of course there was Steve Earle and the Dukes!
I’ve been a fan for over twenty years and previously seen him live 6 times; being a bit underwhelmed the last twice……but tonight PHWOAR! He was back on form with that ‘fire in his belly’!
He opened the set with a song about and dedicated to the firefighters who were still busy putting out forest fires in his Home State then interspersed the ‘Greatest Hits?’ with fiery songs from his latest album and you could barely see the joins. Tonight Steve let the music speak for itself without too much literary interaction introducing them; and the world was a better place for it.

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A long awaited day off meant that I could arrive at a sunny SummerTyne in time to see the immaculately attired CD Wallum Trio and their lovely tunes.
Next up were The Strange Blue Dreams, whose album we loved earlier in the year. The crowd seemed initially confused by the strange Gypsy infused Country-Folk, but quickly got into it and I spotted the first of the days dancers on Shipcote Hill.
As they finished I moved inside to see another recommendation on the AMA UK stage; Foreign Affairs. Hmmm; for me this sibling duo were a bit more Folk than Americana but they still went down very well with the packed to the gills audience.
Unlike previous years there wasn’t any ‘paid for’ gigs on the afternoon which left me at a loose end a couple of times; but that allowed me time for a 99 from the ice cream van and later a delicious burger and fries from one of the myriad of pop-up food stalls.
Back on the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage regular visitors Hymn For Her really ripped it up with their very own Hillbilly Country sound; much to the delight of the knowledgable and appreciative crowd.
Normally the closing act outside is something loud and rip-roaring; Blues Rock or Cajun acts being a speciality; but tonight it was the job of Southern Gothic specialists Curse of Lono to bring events to an end.
I had my reservations, and don’t know why but ……it worked. At last I could hear why I once heard them described as an Americana Doors; but that was only because the assorted keyboards came to the fore alongside Felix’s smoky vocals on a hot and steamy Gateshead afternoon.
As I’m prone to do I spent a lot of time looking at the crowd; and I’m pleased to announce that the 1,000 or so people present all looked very happy at the closure; and again there was a steady stream of people buying that CD.
Yet again I have to applaud the diversity that Sage Gateshead brings to an Americana Festival with Sunday night showcasing the very best in new, young Country Music in Hall 1 with Nashville TV star Sam Palladio headlining over the wonderful Sarah Darling who just gets better and better; and darling of the new movement Striking Matches who were so loud they would have been more suited to a Rock Festival (NOT FOR ME I’M AFRAID!).
Palladio? Interesting; as he is still looking for a specific style. He seemed more comfortable rocking out on electric guitar; but sounded more at home on the ballads from the TV series. Only time will tell which direction he ends up in.
Hall 2, just like the previous evening was completely sold out with people begging for ‘spares’ all afternoon.

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I know very little of Iris Dement; but just like the Natalie Merchant audience the 1,000 or so in residence sat in stunned silence all night; but interspersing the songs with loud and long applause; and at the very end several had tears in their eyes during a long standing ovation.
My night ended with another twenty minutes in the concourse with Orphan Colours regaling the departing crowds with some delicious Country – Rock of the finest hue.
As I drove home I got to thinking again, “What exactly is Americana Music?” I couldn’t think of a definitive answer, and I doubt you have either; but Sage Gateshead have to be applauded yet again for trying and succeeding in providing some clues; and rather exciting ones too.


London Plane New York Howl

london plane

London Plane
New York Howl

Thrilling, Dark Electro-Pop Gems

“It started with a suitcase left on a sidewalk…” goes the tagline for the debut album by the six-piece, New York based band London Plane. Inside the suitcase was the diary of a woman named Francis, left by the curb to be discarded with the trash. The first entry reads “So I made it to New York,” dated June 12, 1975, and David Mosey, London Plane’s primary songwriter, uses that as the launching pad which inspires this collection of fine, dark, synth-pop gems. Voiced by Cici James, who becomes the vocal embodiment of Francis’ written dreams, thoughts, regrets, and desires, these songs have a thrilling urgency and sonic impact so rarely felt these days. Gothic pop hasn’t been this airy and free and dark and dreamy in ages. If you ever listened to the Cure, Human League, Echo and the Bunnymen, or Siouxsie and the Banshees on a late night drive or alone in your room with the headphones on, this music will make you feel right at home. But mostly London Plane reminds me of that other female-fronted New York band, Blondie, with their fearlessness and the way they bring the singular energy of New York to their music in creative ways. The bass is relentless, the drums full of pounding toms and glass-like snare hits, the guitars suitably soaked in reverb, the synths smart and dreamy. This is updated ’80s pop, vitally new, and seething for a fresh century—saturated, atmospheric, breathing with life, a syncopated heartbeat for our times.

“I never believed in you before, but I’m never leaving you now,” Cici—as Francis—sings on the title track which, along with its subway guitars and pounding drums, feel just like going to New York for the first time, getting caught up in the city’s energy and the vital spirit that embodies it. A perfect love song for the urban jungle that is New York. (The first time I visited New York I didn’t sleep for nine days, just wandered around checking out EVERYTHING I could. It can have that kind of effect on people.)

On “The Farther Down We Go” and several other songs, we learn of Francis’ hopes and dreams, her fears and wants, her daily struggles, her need to feel safe and wanted and loved in a city that can be tough even in the best of times.

For a band to undertake a concept album as their debut is undeniably brave. For them to do such a grand job of bringing this piece of found art to life is undeniably incredible. This is an impressive debut album from a band worth spending some time with.

Review by Roy Peak.

Released August 25th 2018

Ben Bostick HELLFIRE

ben bostick ac

Ben Bostick

Red Hot Blue Collar Honky Tonkin’ Rock & Roll.

Every now and again I use my I-Phone as a radio in the car; hitting ‘random’ and letting the fates choose my soundtrack for the journey to or from work. It’s been a fascinating aid over the last few years; helping me sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to selecting albums to review; and finding me a few absolute diamonds that otherwise may have been missed.
Such is the case with the latest release by Ben Bostick from South Carolina; even though I have an unreviewed copy of his self-titled debut album hauntingly sitting above my desk at this very moment.
HELLFIRE starts with a growl; as No Show Blues takes us on a late night walk into the dark side of town where only the very brave stay. Dirty guitars, a raggedy honky-tonk piano and bass/drum combo that sound like they spent the day stripping down stolen Harleys combine with Bostick’s world weary and greasy voice to create a glorious noise that instantly ensnared me last Thursday night.
The title track Hellfire follows and is a whole lot more toe-tappin’ as it’s Bakersfield in origin and and sounds like it was written after a night drinking Sour Mash and listening to Waylon and Jerry Lee records right through to sun up.
Ben Bostick and Band crank up the tension that comes from the type of love very few of us have ever experienced on a couple of belters that will stay in the memory for a long, long time…….Blow Off Some Steam features some truly sizzling Twang guitar in the style of Redd Volkaert or Luther Perkins and on The Other Side of Wrong they make Jerry Lee Lewis sound like a choirboy!
There’s a fizzing excitement on this album right from the very beginning to the gloriously brooding final track The Outsider which is as scary a Rock & Roll song as I’ve heard this side of the first time I heard Psycho Killer!
Everything here sounds like it was recorded in one take, with no soft overdubs or last minute additions to appease the men in suits; It Ain’t Cheap Being Poor and How Much Lower Can I Go are deceptively simple Country drenched Rock & Roll songs that must sound exactly the same when played live after a night on the beer with whisky chasers, with sweat not just running down Bostick’s forehead but the walls of the club too.
Where to go for a ‘Favourite Track’? The Feeling Mean with it’s Gene Vincent undertones was an early contender, as was the Blue Collar Country Twang of No Good Fool but I’m closing my eyes and picking the glorious Work, Sleep, Repeat as it was the first song I heard that night in the car after an 11 hour shift at work in the hot cab of a bus; and it fit my mood perfectly.
Ben Bostick has created an album here that comfortably sits in several camps; Alt. Country, Rock & Roll, Countrypolitan and best of all Classic Country and will appeal to fans of all those genres.

Released June 27th 2018

No Coward Soul THE ALMANAC

no coward soul cd

No Coward Soul

Broodily Intriguing Americana From the Backwoods of South London.

I’ve often heard the argument that Americana (and indeed Country Music itself) can and should only be written and recorded in America, by Americans; which is exactly the same ridiculous point of view from heretics who claim ‘White men can’t sing the Blues!’
For what it’s worth much of the finest Americana music that I love comes from a romantic vision that many of us have of America from either across the USA’s Northern border or from across the Atlantic primarily in the UK.
Which brings us to No Coward Soul, a 5 piece band based in the backwoods of South London and revolving around singer Brad Schmauss who hails from Alaska.
Apparently stalwarts of the burgeoning Americana ‘scene’ in London and the South I wasn’t aware of this band until the CD arrived; but opening track the gentle hazy Lighthouse which finds Schmauss at the piano and sounding not unlike Harry Chapin fronting Granddaddy as a harmonica wails over a bittersweet ballad.
The mood then lightens and the tempo certainly picks up to a Country trot on Fireflies, with Schmauss’s voice sounding very emotional as a young lady provides very sensual harmonies in the background.
When I first played this a fortnight ago I remember, pursing my lips and nodding along to that last song and then performing air-piano on the next; Bullet, which is something I haven’t done for a long time.
That ‘far flung romanticism’ comes to the fore on several songs, especially Nighthawks which is a delightful left turn with a clever lyrical twist and L’il Mikey Mountain which takes us on a quite dark journey that I wasn’t expecting.
Because I know No Coward Soul are British or at least based here; the sound they have is not like anyone else on the scene I’m aware of; as instead of going for a West Coast Soft-Rock trip or the more fashionable Byrdsian twin guitar sound; No Coward Soul are treading their very own path in a quite arcane fashion.
This is certainly ‘Americana’ but of a more curious persuasion with sings like Orpheus and Belly of the Whale harking back to the more literate works that prevailed among 1960’s and 70’s singer-songwriters and left us scratching our heads in our teenage bedrooms.
But there is also more than a smattering of straightforward American influenced Pop-Rock with 654, Holy Toledo and probably more than everything else Death n Texas reminding me of bands like Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants, as Schmauss and friends use melodies and bouncy tunes to ease you into a false sense of security but make you need to decipher the words too.

Just to be contrary I’d have preferred the short title track The Almanac to have started or closed proceedings as it’s a Film-Noir style poetic talk-over, rather than a song and would work perfectly well as an intro or exit, rather than being tucked away in the middle.
For an album that was initially difficult to ‘get into’ It’s been a joy on some recent late night drives home in the sultry midnight heat; with one song in particular capturing my attention; so the curious and Gospel tinged Gotta Believe becomes my Favourite Song.
This album won’t be for everyone as it’s a ‘grower’ and there aren’t any ‘radio hits’ to catch your attention. This is a good old fashioned Long Player that demands your full attention from start to finish; but, that said; don’t be surprised if by some quirk of fate that No Coward Soul go on to take the mantle from the likes of Coldplay or Snow Patrol; stranger things have happened!

Released 14th 2018



thea x

Thea Hopkins

Distinguished, Articulate and Most of All, ‘Grown Up’ Folk Music.

Sadly I knew next to nothing about Thea Hopkins, save she was a ‘Folk Singer’ of some sort, as that’s where I think I’ve seen her name on festival guides of the years; but one listen to the title track Love Comes Down and all of my expectations were turned upside down!
Yes; this could be filed under ‘Folk’ in a record shop, but only if Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading were there too.
Here I am, over a month later sitting all alone in the July sunshine listening to this captivating 6 track EP/LP and I’m lost for words as to how to describe Thea Hopkins’ voice and singing style; which is very much how and why she stands apart from her peers.
All of the above; and her storytelling on this love song is glorious too; and slide in a steely trumpet voluntary that would do Chet Baker pride and you find yourself helplessly falling in love with the power of music all over again.
This is followed by The Ghost of Emmett Till; which is in a similar haunting manner and re-tells that horrible story in a majestic manner that still fits the mood in certain parts of America to this very day.
Next up, Mississippi River, Mississippi Town takes you not just by surprise as it’s a deep, dark Americana ‘sound’ with some intricate banjo picking and something called an ‘electric ebow’ which really creates a dusky atmosphere on a story about a storm and imminent flood that could devastate the area.
Tom Halter’s trumpet makes another appearance on Almost Upon a Time and this time is joined by some delightful piano from Tim Ray; on a song that needs to be heard with the lights turned down low or your eyes tightly closed at the very least to get the best from it.
Everything comes neatly to a close with the sixth and final song on this all too short album; Until Then is a rather beautiful grown up lullaby, which could easily be sung to small children; but more importantly an over worked and under appreciated lover too perhaps?
Which only leaves us Tamson Weeks; which takes the accolade of ‘Favourite Track’; not least because it fits in perfectly amongst the other five songs; but mostly because it’s a fabulous story of Thea’s Great, Great Aunt who was a medicine woman in the Aquinnah Wampanoag Indian tribe of Martha’s Vineyard; and this starkly atmospheric tale is a glorious way to remember what sounds like a fascinating woman.
As I eluded to at the beginning, this is eloquent ‘grown up’ music in the manner of those three songwriters I mentioned and as I type Tim Buckley and Nanci Griffith spring to mind too.
Now all I need to do is find the time to explore Ms. Hopkins back catalogue as my musical appetite has most certainly been whetted by these six songs.

Released UK 13th July 2018

Released USA 7th September 2018

Big Harp George UPTOWN COOL


Big Harp George

Classic R&B With a Razor Sharp Modern Edge.

If I saw the name Big Harp George outside a venue I’d be very disappointed if I found that he was playing a stringed instrument normally associated with the Angels! Yes; this George; the very dapper George Bisharat from San Francisco plays the chromatic harmonica and boy can he play it!
That said; on this his third album George predominantly sings and boy, can he sing too.
Alongside an ever growing band, on the opening track Down to the Rite Aid, George swings the life out of a rye observation on the tough life people and in particular musicians have these days.
This is followed by the funky Internet Honey; where our narrator’s friend who is ‘built for love and not for speed’ finds love; and lots of it on the internet.
Already you realise that Big George and band have one foot in the past with their classic R&B ‘sound’ but the other is very much in the present with the topics he writes and sings about.
George’s sweet, sweet harp playing obviously drifts in and out of many songs and when it does, it makes the mournful Nobody’s Listening and the tongue in cheek Lord Make Me Chaste (but not yet) quite extraordinary in a world where I thought ‘I had heard it all before.’
I don’t know where or when but there’s one song here that I instantly recognised; yet it appears to be brand new for this album.
Cold Snap By The Bay is a deep and insightful tale about three homeless men who died one cold night in San Jose; and the story never made the newspaper never mind the front page.
This song, dear reader is exactly what the Blues has always done better than any other musical genre; prepare to have your heartbroken in six soulful minutes.
But the Blues comes in many formats and Big Harp George’s band can play them all with vigour and class. Sizzling guitar; a trombone that sounds like a full Memphis big old brass section, industrial strength drumming and a bass player from the Gods surround George and his harmonicas in a way we thought I could only dream about until now.
Just Calm Yourself is a cool and danceable call and response duet; while the two instrumentals In The First Place and especially the title track Uptown Cool prove that a good tune doesn’t necessarily need words to get the message across.
Then there is the RMHQ Favourite track award; and I’m going for another fun and slightly tongue in cheek song this time; Alternative Facts uses a couple of the President’s ‘favourite phrases’ to describe the way a singer decides to re-write his career so he can make it famous. Yet again George uses a classic Blues tradition (think BB King) but makes his lyrics very, very contemporary for a much younger generation.
What more can I say? Watching bands like this are where I cut my teeth around Newcastle in the 1970’s but sadly technology, Punk and babies came onto the scene and the bands and fans had all moved on by 1980; but thankfully there is still a vibrant Rhythm & Blues scene in the USA with bands prepared to go out on a limb paying homage to the past but bravely writing and singing their own razor sharp material.

Released July 16th 2018

Uncle Brent & The Nostone Salt & Lime/Sarah (single)

uncle brent

Uncle Brent & The Nostone
Salt & Lime/Sarah (single)

The crazy cats first got in touch with RMHQ last year with a single release BEST OF ME just as Mrs. Magpie had been rushed to hospital and we went into ‘lock down’; but thankfully they kept in touch; and here we have their latest Double A-Side single… Salt & Lime and Sarah.
The first thing that struck me was the amazing energy these guys produce on SALT & LIME while also managing to combine melody with a catchy chorus; something I haven’t heard for a long time.
It’s kinda cool too that they compare the lovely young lady Margarita to the alcoholic tincture of the same name.
Unrequited love is always a great subject for a song; and the guys don’t disappoint one iota; with a song that has one foot in Country and the other in Rock and would be perfect for daytime AM radio all Summer long.
The flip side Sarah’s Creek is more of a modern Americana Gothic Ballad; with a very dark message when the story slowly unfolds under an ever evolving and epic and cinematic backdrop, that will make your jaw gape.
I guess even in Texas it’s all too easy for bands to fall into the ‘covers trap’ but thankfully the likes of Uncle Brent & Nostone are sticking to their principals writing, performing and occasionally releasing their very own master-works and the world is a little bit better today because of it and more importantly these two wonderful songs.
Now; if only I still had a radio show!

Released July 14th 2018