Kate Campbell DAMN SURE BLUE

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Kate Campbell
DAMN SURE BLUE
Large River Music

Thoughtful and Inspirational Observations on the World Around Us.

To some degree Kate Campbell is a ‘child of the 60’s whose father was a Baptist Preacher and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi; and it’s fair to say that background has been the backbone of her career as a singer-songwriter for the last 40 years; but be assured she ain’t no hippy-trippy Flower-power Folkie; she uses everything in her musical armoury to get her message across to ears and minds of all persuasions.
There’s a heavenly blend of Southern Blues and Country Folk that comes across like a Savannah breeze in the articulated sadness of opening song Damn Sure Blue, when Ms Campbell tries to make sense of the crazy world we find ourselves in in 2018.
On the next song Change Should Have Come By Now she carefully uses a couple of classic couplets from People Get Ready and Sam Cooke’s Change alongside her own astute observations aligned to a Gospel backing to ally even more sadness and despair; but with a golden thread of hope weaving through the lyrics too.
DAMN SURE BLUE certainly isn’t a ‘Concept Album; but most if not every song here has a restrained anger about the way that while plenty of the world has got richer and richer, not a lot has changed apart from the names over the last half century for plenty at the bottom and even the middle of the pile.
If you listen carefully and two songs in particular draw your mind to Johnny Cash in the politics that Kate includes in her tales. One of the songs most associated with Cash, The Ballad of Ira Hayes gets a new lick of paint here; but baring in mind it was written in 1962 it still has a relevance in 2018; which is truly sad. Towards the end a song from the pen of Cash is also included; but one I’d not heard before. Forty Shades of Green is a winsome Celtic Folk song that fits in perfectly well as the storyteller dreams of better times back in Olde Ireland; but it’s not going to happen.
As well as that she also brings new life to the Louvin Brothers The Great Atomic Power too; making it a powerful force of nature again; with a punchy Memphis style backbeat as she herself takes on the role of a Baptist Preacher in the way she sings the words from the pits of her heart; and then she follows this with a brittle adaptation of the Eric Katz/Paul Simon song Christ, It’s Mighty Cold Outside which will stop you in your tracks.
Perhaps it’s the way Will Kimbrough has added his special flourishes to the production; I love the light and shade in the way songs like When You Come Back Home are juxtaposed with the gorgeous Sally Maxcy to hit the listener with poignancy of the finest order; but always keeping your full attention.
While this is a fully fledged ‘grown up’ album that demands that you sit and listen intently from start to finish with no distractions; two particular songs stand out, with the haunting Peace, Precious Peace being the perfect choice to close this record but I’m choosing the Delta Country of Long Slow Train as my Favourite Track; as it encapsulates everything that Kate Campbell is trying to get across on this album but happens to be a perfect example of what modern Country Music can achieve when it puts its mind to it. 10/10 Miss Campbell.
In my humble opinion Kate Campbell is always described as a ‘Folk Singer,’ but believe me she is much, much more than ‘just a Folk Singer’ as this, her 19th album (NINETEEN!) proves, she can melt all of her musical influences into something that transcends that rather tired and cumbersome writing style with ease and grace.

Released 21st September 2018
http://www.katecampbell.com/

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Hadden Sayers DOPAMINE MACHINE & ACOUSTIC DOPAMINE

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Hadden Sayers
DOPAMINE MACHINE & ACOUSTIC DOPAMINE
Blues Is Art

Two Contrasting Albums of the Same Great Songs.

This is not just an interesting, but a fascinating concept……. an album chock full of Blues Rockers, then the same songs by the same artist done acoustically.
Can it work? Will it work?
Without spoiling your fun; the answer is a resounding YES.
As is often the case I’d not heard of Hadden Sayers before receiving these two discs; but not only is DOPAMINE MACHINE his 9th album he plays guitar for Ruthie Foster whom we have a warm and soft spot for here at RMHQ.
The ‘electric’ album kicks off with a roar of ZZ Top proportions on Unsatisfied; and it’s no surprise that Maestro Billy Gibbons reckons Hadden is “pretty much my hero” as Sayers threatens the listeners sensibilities with his gruff singing voice and buzz-saw guitar licks; on a pretty cool song; it has to be said.
Now I’ve played the album 5 or 6 times; the sound of ZZ Top is certainly the ‘elephant in the room’ on a few songs but hey; that’s certainly no bad thing when they are of the quality of Hit The Road, Peppermint Patty and the raw muscle power of Backbreaker on which Sayers makes Ozzy Osbourne sound quite wimpy in comparison!
Not everything here actually trods that path though, no no no……Blood Red DeVille slows things down to a country stroll on a Sunday evening, and Sayers shows the versatility he’s acquired after so many years on the road by slinging in a cool slice of sexy Funk Rock with Good, Good Girl which, showcases his sizzling guitar skills better than just about anything else here.
On an album that is predominantly ‘Rock’ based I’m actually choosing two slower songs as my joint favourite tracks (it’s an age thing!); Gravity is one of those beautiful Acoustic-Rock ballads that builds and builds to a crescendo that used to litter the airwaves in the Eighties; and Hadden does the genre proud, with a very well written and constructed song.
The other was a much easier and probably more obvious choice for me, as Waiting Wanting is not just a gorgeous song in it’s own rite but actually features Ruthie Foster too which is never a bad thing.
DOPAMINE MACHINE is a really good collection of songs, which together showcase a talent that I’d not been aware of but will try my best to discover his back catalogue.

ACOUSTIC DOPAMINE

I wish I knew who once said “you know the strength of a great Rock song when it can be played just as well on an acoustic guitar” (or something like that) but Hadden Sayers certainly puts this adage to the test when he re-recorded all of the songs on DOPAMINE MACHINE In a way that sounds like they are from his bedroom with only his trusty Gibson ’54 acoustic and the (very) occasional assistance of Jim Ed Cobbs on percussion and the return of Ruthie Foster on Waiting Wanting.
For me, Sayers tale of addiction Dopamine Machine which opens the second disc is even more powerful in this raw state, as his voice virtually spits out the lyrics and you can hear every intimate breath in between lines too.
One fascinating aspect of the Acoustic album is the way the songs are re-ordered which appears to tell the same ‘story’ but in a much more coherent manner.
Learning to Disappear in this format becomes a breathtaking tale our modern times and the waste we create, told through a cracked voice and a man who has a compelling way with an acoustic guitar.
It’s a personal thing but I love the way Sayers counts himself in on Peppermint Patty and yet again a song I adored in its Rocky version, takes on a whole new life as the story unfolds in a much more personal manner; which is also true of Good Good Girl which now sounds like something Bruce might have written for The River but never got around to recording.
Obviously the whole point of these two collections is to ‘compare and contrast’ but it’s sometimes not fair; as both versions of Gravity and Backbreaker sound so completely different from each other I defy you to tell me they are the same songs; yet both are fabulous with Sayers really getting his Country-Blues on with both Acoustic versions.
Waitin Wanting (featuring Miss Ruthie Foster) is absolutely spellbinding and much more sensitive and sensual in this really basic formula, and when Ruthie supplies her background vocals I swear I went weak at the knees the first time I heard it.
Funnily enough I can’t slide a cigarette paper between two songs when choosing my obligatory ‘Favourite Track’ but two completely different songs from the ones on the ‘electric album’ which I think is quite odd.
Blood Red Deville isn’t a million miles away from the original; but without any other distractions Sayers sounds like he is drifting away into a whole other universe as he delivers his very private lyrics; and the other song, I Feel Love seems to delve into the Jose Feliciano arena, as Sayers delves deep into his soul to bring out the passion in absolutely every word and note he squeezes out of that classy wooden box.

DOPAMINE MACHINE is every inch a good Blues-Rock album full of ire, brimstone and majestic guitar playing and I’m sure it will appeal to his core fan base and even bring in new fans too but; and it’s just a personal thing but I very much prefer the ACOUSTIC DOPAMINE album; as it’s the style of music from the Americana/Blues spectrum that I listen to most these days; and Sayers is suddenly right up there with some of my favourite performers, with this album going on the shelf next to Jason Isbell, Chuck Prophet and Tom Russell.

Released September 14th 2018
http://www.haddensayers.com

 

Tony Joe White BAD MOUTHIN’

tony joe white

Tony Joe White
BAD MOUTHIN’
Yep Roc

Haunting and Magical Songs of the South.

Thankfully I’ve had this album on and off the office stereo and car radio for the last 6 weeks or so; because I’m in a rush to write the review today and……..Tony Joe White music isn’t for ‘rushing’ to? Is it?
Even the dark tale of a stormy relationship which opens the record. Bad Mouthin’ is done at a country stroll pace; with White pouring his heart out; but not having the energy or will to leave the woman who keeps Bad Mouthin’ him (or her if Lucinda ever records this). Sheer, absolute quality!
Only the words ‘raw and basic’ can describe the sound and indeed atmosphere that White creates across Bad Mouthin’ as he predominantly just records with his voice, Fender Telecaster and a wheezy harmonica; making the richly observational Cool Town Woman, Rich Woman Blues and Stockholm Blues all sound like a ghost is singing them in a haunted house somewhere in the Everglades.
For a legendary songwriter in his own rite; Tony Joe White has some amazing songs to cover too; with his rendition of Baby Please Don’t Go being so sparse I swear you can hear him take a breath before wheezing into his harmonica and on Boom Boom he makes a sexy song sound incredibly seedy and even sleazier than I’d ever imagine it could sound.
There’s a silver thread of loss and sorrow in just about every track; with the Lightnin’ Hopkins Awful Dreams and White’s own Cool Town Woman being absolutely spine tingling as well as raising the hair on the back of my neck.
Even the most uptempo song here, Charley Patton’s deeply personal Dirt Road Blues barely gets beyond Country Shuffle mode, with the drummer tapping away like a heart fit to burst on a song that captures the magic of White’s Southern swampland home.
Selecting a ‘Favourite Track’ has fallen between two fantastic tracks; I’m an Elvis fan at heart, but the dry and dusty manner White delivers Heartbreak Hotel takes the song onto a level I could never have dreamed of, but I’m probably erring on the side of Bad Dreams, which is something I’ve personally suffered from for years and the almost spooky arrangement coupled to White’s mumbled singing style and razor sharp guitar playing capture the horrors that these things can create quite perfectly.
I’ve been aware of Tony Joe White since I was a kid but only came to his albums about 10 years ago via a compilation; and after buying and loving the last four I think I can safely say this is the album that Tony Joe White has wanted to make for a mighty long time…….and you can share it too.

Released September 28th 2018
http://www.tonyjoewhite.com/

A Different Thread ON A WHIM

A DIFFERENT THREAD

A Different Thread
ON A WHIM
Self-Release

A Spellbinding Blend Of British Folk and Carolina Hill Music.

We rather liked the last EP from Robert Jackson and Alicia Best and have been looking forward to the couple’s debut album since that release 12 months ago.
The album opens with Roberts pouring his heart out on the dark tinged Folk Song On a Whim; with Alicia supplying delicious harmonies that bely the couple’s background from different continents.
The mood picks up with the snappy Hold Me Down which follows; which has a bit of a sea-shanty melody if I’m not too mistaken, and the fiddle sounds a lot more British West Country than American West.
Which is actually one of the things I like most about A Different Thread; they aren’t afraid to mix n match their respective musical backgrounds; with one coming from the Litchfield middle of England and the other Durham, North Carolina.
Both singers; when they take the lad have their very own virtues; complimenting each other like leather and lace; with Alicia’s breathy and pearlescent voice being able to melt the hardest of hearts on Potter’s Field, Carolina Song and most notably the haunting Not Good With Words which closes the disc.
Jackson; on the other hand likes a good ole foot-stomper; with The Farmers Mistress and Hold Me Down proving I can like Traditional Folk music; if I really put my mind to it; but in these cases there’s definitely an Old School Americana feel to the tunes as well.
Choosing a favourite song hasn’t been easy as, when Jackson slows things down on High Time and Alicia provides shimmering harmonies the couple transcend normal musical boundaries; but I’m going to point you towards the pretty Rosa Rosa which has Alicia on lead vocals which somehow remind me of the young Rita Coolidge or maybe even Bobbie Gentry; I guess it’s the Southern genes that does it.
Sometimes I can get bogged down in comparing acts that you’ve not heard of, so you can get an idea of what they sound like; and now I’ve re-read my words it may confuse you if I mention singers and songwriters like Tom Paxton, Richard Thompson, Rita and even Sandy Denny; but there are hints of all these and more in the distinctive way A Different Thread perform their well written and thoughtful songs; but they don’t sound like any other duo/band I can actually think of, and that’s no bad thing at all.
Give them a try; I doubt you will be disappointed.

Released September 14th 2018
http://www.adifferentthread.com/

The Skatalites SKA AUTHENTIC

Skatalites

The Skatalites
SKA AUTHENTIC
Yep Roc/Studio One

Skank Yourself Dizzy

As is my won’t sadly; when Madness and The Specials were Top of the Pops I not only hoovered up everything I could that was even marginally 2 Tone; but immediately delved back into the Ska back catalogue and history books; and that is where I discovered The Skatalites and my life changed over night.
Hopefully if you are reading this you already know who these cats are and why they are so important; so I won’t bore you with a history lesson apart from saying this was first released in 1964 and because The Original Skatalites were an ever moving ensemble; vocal performances came from a vast array of young singers who went on to international success in their own rite. BTW original copies now change hands for inordinate amounts of money ….. but, onto the music!
The powerful and cinematic Freedom Sounds featuring Tommy McCook will blow your mind, as it did mine when I first heard it. You have to remember that when these tracks were first recorded the band were being influenced by American music; particularly Jazz and that’s the thread behind this luscious stomp with a wonderful saxophone leading proceedings.
That ‘Jazzy’ vibe pervades throughout; but we don’t have to wait very long for the Skatalites trademark ‘bounce’ to appear; with Roland Alphonso on Full Dread still sounding so very exciting over half a century later.
I only know two tracks from this collection, and when you hear You’re Wondering Now you know why it has subsequently become a staple of every Ska band over the last thirty odd years and the other being the red hot and skanking Lee Harvey Oswald who was obviously in the headlines when they were in the studio; hence the title.
Part history lesson and part groundbreaking benchmark; there are some amazing songs and tunes here with The Maytals and Heaven Declare showing us how Ska evolved out of Bluebeat and Jazz; and Ska Ba sounds just like it could be from half a dozen current American Ska bands I can think of……funny, that!
Listening 54 years after these songs were first recorded it’s fascinating to listen to the words in Brown Skin Gal and realise who so little has changed in this department across the world, and the way Delroy Wilson executes Sammy Dead is a forerunner for a whole host of songs in my collection.
In choosing a Favourite Song I could have been uber-cool and gone for Lee Perry singing Mother in Law; but no, I’m choosing Turn Your Lamp Down Low by Jackie Opel simply because when I played this album for the first time last week……I danced to it. I couldn’t help myself, first the hips then the feet and before I knew it I was Skanking in the kitchen, much to Mrs. Magpie’s amusement but when I pressed ‘repeat’ she joined in…..and that is what Ska Music was, is and always be about……dancing!

Released North America September 14th 2018
http://studioonerecords.com/

Nobody’s Girl WATERLINE

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Nobody’s Girl
WATERLINE
Lucky Hound Music

Take Three Girls and a Handful of Melodies, Hooks and Some Great Songs.

The consummate members of Nobody’s Girl have all been on our radar for a few years; be it as solo artistes or harmony singers or just as damn good songwriters, so putting them together is almost a stroke of genius on somebody’s part.
If you need to know who Rebecca Loebe, Grace Pettis and Betty Soo are I guess you are on this website by mistake, but hey…you are here, so read on.
I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t quite expecting the punchy Power-Pop of opening track What’ll I Do? But; Hell…… Grace Pettis turns out to be a bit of a a firecracker on a song full of luscious harmonies, hooks and a melody that you can’t help swaying to and……in my case……singing along to!
There are similar surprises left, right and centre among these seven songs; with Betty Soo’s Waterline sounding a bit like Belinda Carlisle singing a Tom Petty song; and Rebecca makes the swaggering Blondie song Call Me into a Saturday night anthem that groups of feisty and flirty young women will drink beer to, screech out the chorus while scaring the bejasus out of any young men who dare enter their lair; but then she makes Queen City into a sleazy and sexy song that will make those same women then cry their hearts out to its heartbreaking chorus and story…. if you know what I mean.
With hindsight I was probably expecting more songs like Bluebonnets, as it has its roots on the Folk-Rock Arena;but sits perfectly well among this more contemporary and dare I say it…..more commercial company.
Then we go to the glorious Power-Ballad Riding Out The Storm which takes the title of Favourite Track by the merest whisker; simply because all of the ingredients come together in four fabulous minutes that make me despair at the state of modern radio; as songs this good will never come out of the FM speakers any more.
WATERLINE comes to an all too brief ending with a ‘live’ recording of What’ll I Do; and it leaves the listener; or at least this one, salivating at the opportunity of seeing Nobody’s Girl play live.

Released September 28th September 2018
https://www.nobodysgirlmusic.com/

 

Paul Cowley JUST WHAT I KNOW

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Paul Cowley
JUST WHAT I KNOW
Lou B Music

Authentic Acoustic Blues From The Burgundy Delta, Out Of Birmingham UK.

Several weeks ago a Twitter ‘friend’ sent a message asking if we would we mind a friend of his getting in touch as they were about to release a new album; and he thought it could be of interest to us here at RMHQ.
Out of courtesy I said ‘yes’ and a couple of e-mails later, a copy was sent from the Blues Quarter of downtown Burgundy in that France!
Paul Cowley? Born and bred in the original Birmingham and a founder member of the prestigious Sutton Coalfield Blues Collective; but now residing in said Blues Quarter of Burgundy and very little of that bio prepared me for the world weary rendition of Memphis Minnie’s New Bumble Bee #2 which opens this disc. I was actually driving the car as a most glorious sunrise lit up the sky when I first heard this song last week; and I swear I went weak at the knees as Cowley pours the words out over some sublime slide guitar.
Seamlessly blending Country and Delta Blues together; the way Paul Cowley delivers Red Fence and Memphis Jug Blues belies which Birmingham he hails from as he sounds like he’s sitting on an Alabama stoop, singing and playing without a care in the world.
It’s pretty much a 50/50 split between Cowley’s own penned songs and an eclectic mix of covers that, apart from the Memphis Minnie song; I’d not heard before, even the Willie McTell song I Got To Cross That River of Jordan, which features some glorious guitar picking and sizzling slide work that defies his relative obscurity.
Speaking of his guitar playing; I’d place it in the Stefan Grossman school of Blues; but I have no idea what he’s doing with that wooden box on Roll & Tumble, which closes the album; as it’s quite scary at times; even sounding like it’s in danger of going out of tune, but never does.
Even though I was driving through an urban landscape on my way to work that first morning; Cowley’s songs Dollar & a Lie and Summer Breeze made me pretend I was in the Delta or Everglades as the sun rose over the ‘metaphorical’ hills and forests.
Honestly, there’s one song better than another here, making selecting a Favourite Song as difficult as ever; but I’m going to grasp the musical nettle and go for the intense love song Penny For Mine, Penny For Yours, which is the song that Eric Clapton has been trying to write and record for the last 40 years!
I have quite a collection of acoustic Blues albums; with a lot being ‘not so easy on the ear,’ but that’s not the case here; as not just is this authentic Blues to the core, there is something really special about Cowley’s guitar playing and ability to turn dour subjects into something quite beautiful, while still being a contemporary collection of songs.

Released July 2018
http://www.paulcowleymusic.com/index.html

Kerry Fearon HONKY TONK GIRL

kerry fearon honky tonk

Kerry Fearon
HONKY TONK GIRL
Self-Release

Cool, Easy Listening Country Music With Added ZING!

As regular readers will know I have a soft spot for singer-songwriters from Northern Ireland and welcome their releases like long lost relatives; but I don’t think I’ve ever been sent anything from Ireland’s home grown Country Music arena; and bearing in mind Irish Country Music is incredibly popular across the water; it historically doesn’t ‘travel well’; I probably wouldn’t have given this album the time of day if it hadn’t come from from my mentor Alan Cackett; so to the top of the pile it went.
WOW!
All my preconceptions were blown away as soon as I heard opening track, Jessi Colter’s Storms Never Last, which features some sublime pedal-steel and Twangtastic guitar and of course Ms Fearon’s dreamy voice…..and the song itself ain’t too shabby too!
As I’d expected everything here is in the Classic Country vein and the world is a better place because of it; with Kerry breathing new life into Cotton Jenny and Loretta’s Honky Tonk Girl; which is obviously the title track too (Doh!).
Even ‘Classic’ Country comes in many different shades; and Kerry Fearon shows her good taste by including rip-roaring versions of Gram’s Luxury Liner and Miss Maybelle Carter’s Jukebox Blues alongside Red River Valley and even a couple of winsome Ashley Monroe tunes too; I’m Good at Leaving and If The Devil Don’t Want Me (which I didn’t know before this glorious album closer).
We need to bounce back to the start for my choice of ‘Favourite Song’; the obvious choice the feisty and poignant That’s What I Like About You; which was originally a 1991 single for Trisha Yearwood and this version deserves to be heard on daytime radio across the whole wide world; even though the American Country stations will likely sneer at the warble in Kerry’s voice; rat-a-tat drumming, shimmering pedal-steel and some damn sweet Chet Atkins influenced guitar breaks too….. are you getting the picture?
For the second time in as many weeks I’ve found an album that I’ve used as something of a ‘pallet cleanser’ as it is so very ‘easy on the ear’ from start to finish, with Kerry’s voice being ‘universal’ in a good way; and the pin-sharp production making this locally released album something that will and should be a hit all around the world; or at the very least of interest to Country Music fans of all persuasions.

#Kerry Fearon also presents a weekly Country Music TV show, Kerry’s Country Gold and a daily Country Music radio show too!

Released August 23rd 2018
http://www.kerryfearonmusic.com/

Dawn Landes MEET ME AT THE RIVER

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Dawn Landes
MEET ME AT THE RIVER
Yep Roc Records

Luxurious and Classy Country With a Very Modern Twist.

Dawn Landes is another of those names that I’ve been aware of for years, with friends travelling far and wide to see her; while I’ve been oblivious to her charms.
It was obvious as the delightful Meet Me At The River; which opens proceedings fades to a close why my (knowledgeable) friends would hold her in such high esteem; first and foremost Dawn has a charmingly crystal clear singing voice; and the song itself is unashamedly a modern take on classy, Country Music…. you know, the type that fuddy duddies say isn’t made any more!
Every time I’ve played this album; be it the office, living room or car I’ve always ended up mouthing the lyrics while I tap my toes along to the melodies.
While traditional in format; Dawn Landes actual songs are anything other than ‘old fashioned’; Why They Name Whisky After Men shows acutely sharp perception; while never making it an ‘anti-man’ song; which is a clever tightrope to walk; and later her Gospel flavoured What Is The Colour of Soul of Man; again Ms Landes cleverly avoids being preachy; as she makes you think deeply along with every line.
In a style originally made famous by Kitty Wells and more recently rediscovered by Laura Cantrell; Dawn Landes throws a couple of curve ball with My Church and the ‘call and response’ duet with Bobby Bare, I Don’t Dance; which are both  highlights on a wonderful release.
I regularly listen to albums that try to rediscover the magic of Classic Country Music; and very few manage to reach the heights that we hear on the feisty Southern Girl, Travelling and/or Wind and Rain; which both sound like they have their roots in the recordings of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn; but are also songs that are perfect for younger more lyrically astute audiences in 2018.
Because of my current mind set; the accolade of Favourite Track is always going to come from one of the winsome bittersweet love songs tucked away in between the more uptempo tracks; with What Will I Do; being an early contestant and then I lent towards the timeless How To Say “I Love You” but I’m actually sticking my neck out with Old Memories, which is the type of song you’d associate with Nanci Griffith or maybe Reba McIntyre as she looks back on life through ‘rose coloured’ glasses; which is something I’m guilty of doing a lot myself these days; and Ms Landes sounds like she does too.
It’s all a bit embarrassing to say That I have ‘discovered Dawn Landes’ with this album; but I have and I only wish I had done it years ago.

Released September 14th 2018
http://www.dawnlandes.com/bio/

 

Nathan Bell LOVE, BONES & STARS

nathan bell love bones

Nathan Bell
LOVE, BONES & STARS
Angry Stick Recordings

The Last of The American Troubadours Sings of Love and More.

Nathan Bell pretty much strikes me as the ‘bloke along the street’ who nods and says ‘Hello’ whenever you see him; but you know nothing about him; but presume he works in a factory; or at least something manual.
He may even loan you one of his treasured Power Tools; but would  more than likely to come along and do the job himself; refusing payment save for a cup of coffee.
Then another neighbour would tell you he is a singer-songwriter; and you wouldn’t believe them; but that’s what he is……something of The Lone Ranger of the Americana scene.
He is the latest in a long line of blue collar troubadours; singing for and about the common man; who comes in all ages and hues, and his last two albums have been among the angriest I’ve ever heard from a Folk Singer; and just what the world needed; and indeed still needs today. .
Although I was told what to expect; I was still very pleasantly surprised by the intricate sensitivity in Would Be a Blackbird (for Leslie Irene) which opens this album; yet I shouldn’t be as Nathan has proved many times what a clever songwriter he is; so writing and dedicating a song to his wife of 30 years was always destined to be full of rich and dark beauty; wasn’t it?
As with the rest of the songs here; where he neatly blends Folk into Country and Country into Folk; the arrangement is delicately simple (guitar/concertina/harmony vocals) yet the end result is very powerful indeed.
Nathan tells us that there are both old and new songs here; but it’s impossible to tell which have been residing on a shelf gathering dust and which are as fresh as a daisy.
We don’t find out the real story behind the songs; with A Day Like This, Molly Had a Baby and the fascinating My Kid all being too literate not to based in real life happenings; and coincidentally each is dedicated to a named recipient too; so I guess they are, but such is thw way Bell delivers a song you will know someone who fits each sentiment too.
Then there are a couple which come from a heart that truly knows the meaning of love; which is more of a rarity than you’d expect…….Gold Wedding Ring and Whiskey You Win both spring immediately to mind; but Fragile will leave you wondering whether it’s about a break up or possibly even a death; but it’s fair to say it’s one of the finest songs I’ve heard in a long long time.
It’s not always fair to compare one songwriter with another; but as most of the acts I cover remain unknown to the populace at large I feel obliged to do so; with Nathan Bell’s ‘lived in’ and ‘world weary’ singing style being not unlike Kris Kristofferson or Rodney Crowell; and his songwriting isn’t too far away from them either; but I hear a feminine sensitivity too, with Nanci Griffith and Gretchen Peters too in Metal as well as Faulkner and Four Roses; which is quite some feat.
I don’t know why but historically I tend to steer away from title tracks as my ‘Favourite’ in my reviews; but here LOVE, BONES & STARS, LOVE’S BONES & STARS, of which there are two versions included, is the only contender in a really strong heavyweight division, as the story and complex detail Bell winds and weaves in every line makes this one of those rarities that will make you hold your breath so as not to miss a note; and then press repeat just to confirm the songs is as good as you thought; then you will think it was even better the second time!
LOVE, BONES & STARS is the fourth and last in what he calls his Family Man series; and if it is it’s a beautiful way to close this chapter in his life, before opening a whole other even more exhilarating one too.

#Tucked away at the back of the sleeve notes is a delightful note; that most people will miss; but I think it’s quite appropriate here “No autotune was used in the making of these recordings.”

#There is another new release on his website; the Live Bootleg Er Gwaetha Pawb A Phopeth which was recorded in November 2017 in Newport, Wales and will make an ideal Christmas Present for anyone you know who loves ‘our type’ of music.

Released September 24th 2018
https://www.nathanbellmusic.com/