Cassie Josephine ONLY HALF BLUE

Cassie Josephine
Only Half Blue

The Not Quite a Mid-Life Crisis Album

A couple of years ago a close friend got in touch asking if friends of hers in the Americas could send me their latest release for review; of course I agreed and Flower Country by Gabriel Minnikin and Cassie Josephine was a veritable joy to behold; and the review is still on the site somewhere. I urge you to check it out. 
Jump forward two years and Cassie recently got in touch again asking if I would listen to her own release……. being the gentleman I am I quickly said ‘yes’. 
Unlike the previous album; this hasn’t been as ‘instant’ for me, but I’ve slowly persevered and gradually her songs, written around her 40th Birthday and following a relationship break-up has unfurled like a beautiful rose in the late Spring. 
To begin with  Come What May, sounds a bit Old-Timey and even a bit ‘Kitty Wellsish’ at first, but it really does develop into a song that seeps into your subconscious and somehow fills you with hope; even though Cassie sounds on the verge of tears during each sad chorus. 
Other songs capture your imagination in a similar vein; leaving me picturing the story unwinding in a video kind of way; especially the ragged velvety tones of Jackpot with it’s maudlin violin and intricately picked guitar; and later Dear Cassie will just break your heart into a thousand pieces as the narrator attempts to change her life in mid-stream. I imagine a sepia tinge to this particular video btw.
Cassie Josephine has a sweetly distinctive vocal style, slightly reminiscent of a young Nanci Griffith, if I’m not mistaken and another couple of songs, One Beautiful Song and the deeply gorgeous and eloquent title track Only Half Blue may even be written and sung in a similar style to the Grande Dame of Alt. Country Music too.
As I say, it took a while for me to get my head around this album, but now I have one song in particular eventually took me not just by surprise, but also took my breath away……and I love it when that happens! 
Hot Pink Lipstick is a very feminine song at heart; but one even I as a man of advanced years can actually relate too. 
For a simple acoustic album; there’s a whole lot going on in Cassie’s narratives and exceptional story telling and her voice will melt even the coldest of hearts as she considers her first 40 years and looks forward to whatever life is going to throw at her in the next 40…….and she sounds like she might even be looking forward to those challenges too.

Released October 3rd 2018




Cam Penner
At War With Reason

Country-Folk With a Native American Hip-Hop Heart of Gold.

I’d already seen Cam Penner play live a couple of times when I reviewed  his 2013 album To Build a Fire; yet I wasn’t prepared for the way he delivered his songs in a recorded format…… left of centre and occasionally ‘experimental’ for someone who skirts around the Country-Folk idiom; but I soon got my head around it and subsequently played that album a lot.
A lot has happened in the intervening years; but Cam Penner still ploughs his very own and distinctive style; for want of a better description. 
The album opens with what sounds like a Pentecostal organ followed by some looped drum beats long before Penner makes a ghostly appearance over some very intricate acoustic guitar on Gather Round. The first time I played it was in the car on a sunny Autumnal morning and it wasn’t the right place or time. Subsequently I’ve listened to not just this song, but the whole album at night with just one small living room light on and the combination is nigh on perfect. 
As I say, Penner is very much ‘his own man’ here; utilising a an array of modern recording toys and basic acoustica to create a sound that tantalises and teases your senses. 
Tracks like Ain’t Nobody Round and It’s a Constant left me scratching my head for the right way to describe them; but why bother…..they just seep into your subconscious like fog and; in another universe would have been the sort of music you’d hear on the John Peel radio show late at night, then find your best friend at school the next day and whisper Penner’s name excitedly before fruitlessly attempting to buy the record at FW Woolworth on the Saturday! 
A lot here is best described as ‘lonely’ and ‘sad’ but that’s what Cam was hoping to achieve when he locked himself away in a log cabin up a mountain during the longest Winter in memory…… but nothing here sounds ‘cold’, not even Tell Me When They’re Gone or the splendidly dark hearted Right Here, Right There Like That.   
This is the type of album that will have you poring over every word and nuance trying to decipher his metaphors and messages; but at face value I’m selecting two songs as joint winners of the RMHQ Favourite Song accolade; No Angels, No Devils which brings the album to a startling close and brought back memories of the first time I ever heard John Martyn; who may actually be the only musician I can compare Cam Penner to. 
The other song, Lights Out (High School Musical) is, well…. nothing short of brilliant in it’s own fractured way! A keyboard drones and a cacophony of bottom end electric guitars penetrate your subconscious  while someone makes the kick-drum sound like gunfire; which isn’t accidental as Penner raps his thoughts about the recent spate of mass murders in American High Schools……. even his obscene chorus is absolutely necessary to get the message across. But sadly the people who need to hear this song and do something about the ‘problem’ won’t have the faintest clue as to who Cam Penner is.
Damn Them all to Hell! 
AT WAR WITH REASON is different, as is Cam Penner and the world is a whole lot better place for having both of them in it. 
Long live DIFFERENT! 

Released November 12th 2018


Beth Hart 
Live at the Royal Albert Hall 

A Roller-coaster of Rocking and Rolling Blues Infused Emotions From the Bottom of her Heart.

There’s not a lot left to say about Blues Chanteuse Beth Hart, is there after all these years?

Well, perhaps there is……did you know that she was a vocal AND cello major at school? No? Me neither.

Although she released her first album in 1993, it was her album DON’T EXPLAIN with Joe Bonamassa in 2011 that she came to my attention; and a one sided love affair started!

Which brings me to this glorious Double CD/Triple LP and DVD release; which kinda brings this first chapter, which began in 1993 to a bit of a conclusion.

If you’ve ever seen Beth Hart in concert you will know it’s quite a full on experience right from the acapella opening (As Long As I Have a Song) which she sings as she walks to the stage from the back of the hall; right through to the epic (in this case) closing song Caught Out in the Rain.

In between there’s a veritable roller-coaster of songs that run the full emotional gamut; and boy can Beth Hart give you highs and lows in song; which many are based on real life experiences.

Her ‘party’ starts as early as song #3 Lifts You Up, when she urges the normally reticent London crowd to “get up outta your seats!” and then lights up this phenomenal room with a real spitfire like performance; which never really stops for the next two hours.

Even her heartbreakers (Sister Heroine and Your Heart Is Black as Night) are done with such smoky panache, they must have made this 5,259 capacity room feel like it was an intimate night club for the length of each tightly wrapped and deeply personal song.

I’ve read a few lazy reviews of Ms Hart over the years when she’s been compared to Janis Joplin…..nay, nay and thrice NAY! Beth Hart is a ‘one off’ in her own delightful way…….while she’s lived a life that would scare the pants off Keith Richards she’s come out the other side with a voice; and a bunch of songs like As Good As It Gets, Love Is a Lie and of course her Rocking Gospel thrash, Saved that sound like a woman who has walked life’s tightrope in high heels……..and survived to tell the tale.

A couple of my favourite Beth Hart songs make an appearance here; and it’s fair to say that Bang Bang, Boom Boom, The Ugliest House on the Block and Baby Shot Me Down fairly fizz with excitement now that they’ve grown and matured in the intervening years since they originally came out.

Then, of course there are another couple of songs that I didn’t recognise; Spiders in My Bed from 1996 and the tragically beautiful Leave The Light On from 2003, which sound as sharp and insightful as anything she’s recorded in the last 10, more successful and commercial years.

Sooner or later I will get around to watching the accompanying DVD; but I kinda like reimagining her on stage as she purrs Mama, This One’s For You through a very sensitive and crackling voice, as her Mama was actually in the audience on the nigh this album was recorded.

I bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Phew; 23 songs and not a single one feels like it’s here under false pretences; so choosing a Favourite has been a bit difficult; do I go for one of Beth’s intimate and sensitive ballads, which I adore or, do I go with my heart? Yup…… I’m going for what I believe to be Beth Hart’s ‘signature tune’…….Baddest Blues; which is……well….it is Baddest Blues at it’s rawest and baddest best, which means it is Beth Hart at her baddest best.

I can’t go without telling you that her band; guitar-slinger extraordinaire Jon Nichols, bass pumper Bob Marinelli and keeper of the beat Bill Ransom are all at the very top of the game all through these songs; never showy but all integral to the sound Beth Hart wants to create and together they manage it with style, panache and Olympian quality class.

Released November 30th 2018


Shawn Mullins

SOUL’S CORE (Revival)

Soul Carnival Records

A Platinum Seller Gets Two Fabulous New Leases of Life.


The first time I ever encountered the music of Shawn Mullins was way back in 2011 when I reviewed his LIGHT ME UP album for Maverick magazine; which went on to make it’s way into my Top 10 that year. I vaguely remember being inundated with a couple of letters pointing me to his prestigious back catalogue and, in particular this, his fourth and subsequently platinum selling album from 1998; and here I am 20 years later listening to it in two shiny new formats.

To celebrate that Anniversary Mullins has taken his long standing touring band into the studio and re-recorded everything with a razor sharp, contemporary edge to each song and also stripping everything back to the bones and sinew with acoustic versions of each song too.

A brave move? Most certainly; but one worth taking after singing these songs most nights for those twenty years and each one subsequently growing and developing in their own individual direction.

Without knowing any of the original versions; I’m obviously coming to SOUL’S CORE with an open mind; and just as I found with Light Me Up, opening track here Anchored In You is the very essence of West Coast Country Rock at it’s finest yet with a contemporary and timeless feel to it, as is the delightful Lullaby which follows. A slow and slightly slurred ‘talking Blues’ as it were, with Mullins singing/talking about the sad-eyed girl from the Hollywood Hills that hung out with Dennis Hopper, Bob Segar and even Sonny & Cher; but who feels more at home in a dive bar on Fairfax.

This song, plus Soul Child, the beautiful and brittle You Mean Everything To Me and Ballad of Billy Jo McKay all prove to be ‘ahead of their time’ in the way they must have been billed as Country Rock in 1998 but today are what we know to be Americana at its rawest with Mullins acute observations set to some amazing melodies and chord structures are as fresh as a summer breeze.

While I’ve sat in awe each time I’ve played this album now; two songs in particular stand out; Mullin’s cool revisiting of Kristofferson’s old chestnut Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down somehow takes on a whole new believable resonance as an organ filters in and out of the mix; and then there’s a song called Shimmer which closes the disc, a haunting Southern Groove about an all-encompassing love that stopped me right in my tracks and even made me turn the dial up to 8 so I could hear the story in more detail; and it was well worth it.


With the benefit of hindsight; I’m pleased I played the other album first and for a few days, before picking up the Acoustic version; as here Shawn sits down with just his guitar, a microphone and the story behind each song which is a rather beautiful thing indeed.

Again, Anchored In You is still breathtaking and the story that follows, introducing Lullaby is almost tear inducing as he explains how it came from listening to Joni’s Blue album and Mullins trying to work out her tunings (a very muso thing, but fascinating none the less). There’s also a moment or two when he strains his rather distinctive voice to hit some high notes that he sounds like someone else; and I’m damned if I can think who!

It’s a personal thing, but both Mrs Magpie love it when songwriters introduce their songs with the stories behind them; and Shawn Mullins proves to be quite the raconteur even though he doesn’t appear to have an audience bar the production crew.

On this album a couple of different songs shine in the stripped back format, most notably Twin Rocks, Oregon and Patrick’s Song which both must have been groundbreaking back in ’98.

One track I couldn’t get my head around, Tannin’ Bed Song now makes absolute sense as a Folk Song; but nothing like anything Dylan was doing back in those heady days.

Then of course the songs I like in the Electric stylee, are still beautiful done acoustically with both the story and song Ballad of Billy Jo McKay bringing tears to my eyes.

Without spoiling anything; the story behind The Gulf of Mexico really showcases the imagination that a great songwriter has; and in my humble opinion the acoustic format makes this song staggeringly beautiful, as he lives every word through his warm and raspy voice.

I doubt I’ve ever heard a bad version of Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down; and this version is as good as most, but hearing Mullins chuckle as he remembers his Dad’s eclectic record collection and this song especially, warmed my heart more than the song did.

Shimmer (plus it’s heart breaking and life affirming back story), is yet again a contender for the title of RMHQ Favourite Track but I’m going for You Mean Everything To Me, which while ‘good’ on the other album; but now coupled to its very short story is truly stunning as Mullins intricately combines Folk, Country and even Poetry on a very intense four and a half minutes, that he claims to be inspired by listening to Townes Van Zandt…….. which very few did 20 years ago.

I neither know nor care what Mullin’s huge fan base will make of this release; I guess a few will be upset as he’s ‘messing with perfection’ but for me recording these 13 powerful songs in two very different, yet complimentary styles isn’t just brave but has the mark of genius too!

Released November 16th 2018


john paul white

John Paul White

GOSH! I couldn’t believe my little ears when I first heard this earlier today……with a UK Tour in January being announced today; and tickets going on sale this Friday morning, 16th November @ 9am, he is releasing this beautiful song from a prospective new album soon after.

January 2019

Sun 27th – Gateshead, Sage

Mon 28th – Manchester, Night & Day

Tues 29th – London, Omeara

Weds 30th – Bristol, The Louisiana

Popa Chubby PRIME CUTS

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Popa Chubby

All Hail This Blues Beast From The East!

Wahay! Star of the NYC Blues scene, singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Popa Chubby is celebrating his 30th anniversary with this 15 track retrospective that covers songs that are old, new and even unreleased (but are concerts favourites).
Although I knew his name, I only discovered his music last year via his TOW DOGS album; which I jolly well liked a helluva lot.
Without giving anything away too early; I think it’s fair to say Chubby isn’t afraid to experiment with his music and certainly can’t be pinned down to just one page in the How To Play The Blues Guide Book!
The collection opens with a startling Bluesy/Hip-Hop hybrid with Chubby’s distinctive gruff vocals barely stopping to take a breath as he gives his opinion on struggling through life in the rough part of town.
He follows this with the smouldering Angel On My Shoulder; which sent a tingle down my spine as well as making me ‘wink’ as I acknowledged ‘where he is coming from’…….in another parallel universe Johnny Winter would have taken this song and tried to better it; but failed.
This is followed by what my Generation would probably now refer to as a Blues Standard; as Popa puts his own indelible stamp on Hey Joe; and as a guitarist knows he can’t better the original so concentrates on actually telling the story……with, of course, some molten gold guitar licks too though.
If, like me you are new to the world of Popa Chubby this album feels like a great starting point, with our man showcasing his eclectic talents on the sultry Stop Down Baby and the astonishing and semi-Classical San Catri which comes in at over 8 minutes long; but not a single second is wasted. But, with the greatest of ease he also slides in a red raw Somebody Let The Devil Out and some top quality Blues Rock Deluxe with Dirty Lie, that also showcases his songwriting skills too.
As a man of a delicate disposition; I couldn’t possibly choose Go Fuck Yourself as my Favourite Track here; but it’s a close run thing for sure. Sometimes though the F word just has to be used to get your point across without actually punching someone; and that righteous angers comes across as Popa playing guitar, bass and drums, with the aid of daughter Theodora on violin hisses at The Man in a needle-like manner that needs to be heard by every politician in the world; but I doubt will ever get played on the radio.
Then, rather cleverly he follows this with the other cover version here; and one of my and probably the world’s favourite ever songs, so to some degree a brave choice for a man with Popa Chubby’s reputation as a Rocker; but his heartfelt rendition of St. Leonard’s Hallelujah, with luscious backing vocals and some deceptively subtle keys and guitar make for a gut wrenching and heartbreaking 7 minutes of absolute joy.
Especially because this is a retrospective of a 30 year career it’s proving incredibly difficult to actually pick out a Favourite Track; should I go for another Hip-Hop inspired modern Bluesy; the very perceptive Daddy Played The Guitar (and Mama Was a Disco Queen) which features some of the finest Slide Guitar I’ve heard in decades, or will it be a song I felt sure must be about me; but isn’t…… Grown Man Crying Blues? Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy…….. is this THE Blues or what?
But with so many great, and I don’t use that word lightly, songs here I’m going for one referred to as a Popa Chubby ‘classic’ but something brand new to me…… a scorching live version of Caffeine and Nicotine which just happens to be the type of rocking and rolling Rhythm and Blues I first fell in love with 40 years ago and still sounds fresh and exciting in the magic fingers of Popa Chubby in 2018.
Before I finish I’m contractually obliged to mention the final song; even though it’s still November……but There On Christmas, currently UNRELEASED will be a sure fire hit around the RMHQ dinner table on 25th December. OK, it’s as twee, cheesy and schmaltzy as you’d expect, but hey…’s a Christmas song and when you hear our man pleading his love and promising ‘to be there on Christmas’ as the guys in the band virtually Doo-Wop the chorus, there ain’t gonna be a dry eye in the house when he ends his concerts during the Festive Season.
That’s all folks; fifteen ‘Prime Cut’ tracks from a guy who can not just ‘play a mean guitar’ but write a song that stands head and shoulders above a very crowded Blues market these days.
All Hail Popa Chubby!

Released November 13th 2018

Lisa Kowalski I DO

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Lisa Kowalski

As I’ve taken to regularly saying; we receive a lot of new music every week at RMHQ so choosing what to listen to; never mind review can be a headache some days; but when we do discover a new talent the world just seems a better place to live in.
Not that I advocate anyone changing their name just for a review on RMHQ; but Lisa’s surname KOWALSKI was what initially caught my attention, and then I saw the attached message was from her Mum, who is acting as her PR/Manager (driver and Chief Cook and bottle washer too I imagine) before I dug a little deeper and received a lovely surprise, in as much as Lisa has a wonderful smoky and very expressive voice on this heart crushing break up song (never upset a songwriter!)which is also a forerunner for a second EP which is due out in early 2019.
And another thing…….
For a young woman (she’s still only 18) Lisa Kowalski is a grafter; she started out busking on the mean streets of Paisley aged only 14, and then entering every competition a young singer-songwriter can (but mercifully NOT X-Factor) winning some, while gaining lots of valuable experience playing everything from pubs to Celtic Connections, King Tuts Wah Wah Club and even being invited to open a Scottish Music showcase in NYC…..which is the way to do it.

So; back to the song… is rather lovely and fingers crossed, bodes well for a career in the wacky world of music.

Released November 14th 2018

Benjamin Folke Thomas MODERN MAN

ben folke thomas ab

Benjamin Folke Thomas
Aveline Records

The Missing Articulate Link Between Cohen and Cobain.

A few days ago I got involved in a futile discussion a friend who was really excited at the prospect of a new Mumford & Sons album because in his opinion, ‘the state of music these days is rubbish’ and ‘there being nothing interesting out there these days’.
I got in my car and played this album…… and contritely grinned my way home thinking “you don’t know what you’re missing matey!”
He’s been around for a while now; but Ben Folke Thomas only came to my attention (and most other people”s) with his Copenhagen album last year; and I still chuckle at the thought of his ‘Live’ album earlier this year too.
I won’t go into his back story again; but for a young man born on a remote island off the coast of Sweden he sure can make Folk music that defies musical boundaries and natural boundaries.
First and foremost he’s a story teller masquerading as a singer-songwriter that ploughs his own furrow; regardless of what everyone else is doing around him. And for that; you have to admire him.
Using his full band and blasting through this recording in only two days; you can sense the excitement and even freshness right from the first song, the acutely observant Tasteless & Complacent which has some cool backing singers doing ‘woo hoos’ and a lush melody disguising some very sharp lyrics; which won’t surprise existing fans in the slightest.
Thomas chose to write these songs around a piano, rather than his guitar; and the delicate and spellbinding second track One Day still revolves around that beautiful instrument and will make any other songwriter hearing it sit up and listen; then let out a big sigh as Thomas recalls his early life and dreams playing for free, in a smoky bar.
I rad a lot of bios that list an artistes ‘inspirations’ and usually just shake my head as they try to appear ‘cool’ for the sake of being ‘cool’; but in this instance you can definitely hear the intensiveness of Nirvana coupled to the wordplay of Leonard Cohen weaving their way through Dead Horizon and the punchy poetry of Some People; but it’s that modern twist on Punky-Folk Rock that makes this album special.
Ben’s subject matter is left of centre; yet somehow he reels you into songs like Modern Man with ease; even if you can’t decide if it’s a tale of unrequited love or stalking; but sometimes the difference can be quite blurred, as the narrator finds out.
Then, of course there has to be a Favourite RMHQ song; and finding a genuine ‘winner’ is very nearly impossible; as you too will find when you hear Lily Is a Gunslinger the first time and the subject matter and the ethereal way Thomas deals with it makes your jaw fall open in awe; then there is the ultimate ‘break up song’ One More Chance with the clever and observational Cohenesque chorus:
“I said Hey Baby
Excuse my inability to dance
That I make you cry more than I make you laugh
That the next beer I drink won’t be my last
Oh come on now
Baby give me one more chance.”

But I’m probably going for a song about Ben meeting Paul Newman in a dream. Nope; I’m not telling you any more about it; as it wouldn’t make sense….. it is a dream after all, but it’s a genuine thing of rare beauty and so articulate it should be used in educational programmes!
Ben Folke Thomas certainly won’t be for everyone that’s for sure; but if you like eloquent, often poetic observational songs about the human condition; but from the left of centre (think Cohen, Dylan, Cobain, Olney, Lucinda and probably even Ryan Adams) that  make you ‘think’; then you will eventually learn to love this album every bit as much as I have done.

Released November 9th 2018

Paul Oscher COOL CAT

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Paul Oscher
Blues Fidelity

The Title Says It All!

In a week when I’ve nearly caught up with my backlog of albums to review I happened upon this one in the box of tricks. Although from my ‘secret source’ in the US of A, who has never let me down in the last 12 months it was actually the Blue Note style album cover that first caught my eye, and when I flipped it over and saw the song titles I thought it might be worth a spin.
Ooh, ooh and thrice OOH!
The first song, Money Makin’ Woman simply sizzles like breakfast bacon, the way it attacks all of your senses at once; and of course makes you salivate at the prospect of what else is to come. A tasty treat it is too with Oscher’s leathery voice sounding like it’s coming from a man with a twinkle in his eye, and his red hot guitar licks plus a couple of swinging sax’s in the background take us back to some late night dive, two alleys back from Bourbon Street, where only the ne’er do wells dare drink.
Next up Oscher slows things down to a late night stroll with Blues and Trouble, and not for the last time on this album he does things with his electric guitar that are still illegal in four states!
Now you  are hooked; I can let you into a secret…….Paul Oscher played in Muddy Water’s band from 67 through 76; and even lived in his basement! That’s how good he is.
For a native of LA who has been settled in Austin for a long while; there’s a cool Chicago vibe going on here, with Work That Stuff and Dirty Dealin’ Mama being the type of Blues I’ve dreamt about re-discovering for years now; Oscher blowing a mean ole mouth-harp on the former and on the latter I can only imagine that Miss Lavelle White sings it with one hand on her hip and the other waving in the air as she hisses and purrs the sassy lyrics like a woman who has been wronged; very wronged more than once in her life and gets her mean revenge on Oscher who plays guitar and piano with as much guilt as he can muster.
When I tell you that there’s a poem here; Mississippi Poem don’t despair as it’s a precursor to the Talking Blues, Ain’t That a Man (Dedicated to James Cotton) and the pairing is quite exquisite!
Then; there’s also a Jazz instrumental, On The Edge, and, in this setting it proves that there’s only a sliver of difference between the Blues and Jazz.
Oscher pays homage to Muddy Waters with a cool mid-tempo arrangement of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and if I’m honest, it was an early contender for the Favourite Track title; but that has gone to, not just one song but two, or is it three….or sort of?
The title track Cool Cat makes it’s first appearance with Paul giving a heartfelt and amusing monologue explaining who (or what) Cool Cat was; and it not just made me smile each time I’ve heard it…… but giggle a couple of times too. This is followed by a delightful 4 minute instrumental with Oscher at the piano and nodding in the direction of Booker T and the MG’s. It’s so good that if I still had my radio show I would certainly incorporate it into an intro tune.
Then Cool Cat makes another, but this time epic appearance at the end with 9 and a half minute full on Rhythm and Blues whig out, with Miss Lisa Leuschner sexily purring the words; a la Eartha Kitt in her Catwoman guise “Cool Cat…..Cool Cat” over the end credits; and I can’t think of a better way to close such a cool, classy and occasionally sexy album like this.

Released October 19th 2018


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Pistol Annies

Small Town, Kitchen Sink Dramas Never Sounded So Good.

I actually remember the day that I ‘discovered’ The Pistol Annies. It was in early 2012 and someone had requested Hell On Heels for my then radio show, so I checked them out on YouTube and within a minute I was so excited I did a little jig! Ten minutes later I had bought a download of the album and I think I played every track over the next few months.
Subsequently I’ve reviewed solo albums by Angaleena and Ashley; but had to actually part with hard cash for Miranda’s so it didn’t get featured on RMHQ!
Of the two of us here, I think it’s fair to say that Mrs. Magpie plays their albums more than I do; and Ashley Monroe’s SPARROW CD was on her car stereo only last week……serendipity, huh?
These days a new Pistol Annies album is a big deal not just here at RMHQ but across the whole Country Music world it appears, so I guess my thoughts won’t really make a huge difference to their bank balance; but here goes……….
Some rather neat Country guitar picking opens Interstate Prelude before the trio burst forth with some luscious harmonies on a short and sweet tune with just a hint of Gospel to it.
With so much of Country Music these days either being saccharine or Heavy Metal with a pedal-steel, it’s nice to find the Pistol Annies are still slightly edgy small town Country Girls at heart, starting with the kitchen sink dramas of Stop Drop and Roll One and the heart breaking When I Was His Wife showing that there’s still fire in their belly’s after all these years; and the opening lines to Got My Name Changed Back will surely touch the hearts of many in their fan-base;
“It takes a judge to get married
It takes a judge to get divorced
Spent the couple years in court
I got my name changed back!”

It’s an absolute firecracker and will have the ladies high-fiving each other as they dance like crazy at a concert; but when they hear Cheyenne, they will hug each and cry real tears as they slowly waltz around the edges of the dancefloor .
Obviously all three songwriters are skilled beyond belief and somehow they manage to collude quite spectacularly on all of the co-writes; with each drawing on their past or possibly present to write and deliver songs like Leavers Lullaby and Best Years Of My Life making them ‘believable’ for the listener at home.
As I alluded to earlier Country Music has moved on leaps and bounds since the days when Dolly and Loretta topped the charts; but Pistol Annies somehow still hark back to the ‘good old days’ in 5 Acres of Turnips and Milkman; but still make them contemporary enough to have some woman somewhere thinking “That could be about me!!”
The title track, INTERSTATE GOSPEL when it finally comes in all its glory is a real toe-tapper, clap-along tune that could easily be from Dolly’s Glory Years, as it’s got a fabulous beat and some death defying finger picking guitar too, and is surely destined for the radio.
There are already two singles here, Got My Name Changed Back and Sugar Daddy and I like them both a lot; but I’m going a bit left of centre for my own Favourite Song This Too Shall Pass which is from the darker end of the Love Song book and not really indicative of the rest of the songs here; but can only come from the heart of someone who is in a long and stable relationship that has sailed way past the lovey-dovey, hand holding phase but still love each other deeply.
Hmmmmm…..why would I like that best?
Now I’m on my second day with INTERSTATE GOSPEL I think Angaleena, Miranda and Ashley have found a delicate balance between the overall sound and choice of songs here; without compromising any of their individual ‘styles’; baring in mind all three singer-songwriters have now sparked off into reasonably different solo directions.
I’m also pleased to say the album is far from ‘over produced’; keeping it the right side of slick which allows the songs and stories to live and breathe without being swamped in copious string sections…..which was a bit of a fear in advance.

Released November 2nd 2018