The Herron Brothers Don’t Be Lonely This Christmas
“Ho, bloody Ho!” It’s Christmas…..or at least the Christmas Season here at RMHQ and our friends The Herron Brothers are releasing a cracker of a single that will not just break your heart but re-heal it too.
“Ignoring any trends or genre identification, and perhaps the first Christmas classic in waltz time, the song features both violin and accordion solos, all wrapped up in the most catchy Christmas chorus you’ll hear this year.”
“Christmas isn’t all fun and games for everyone as you know” says Paul, “it can be a tough time especially for those who feel isolated or haven’t had a great year”
“It’s a song about hope” chimes in Steven, “and more importantly about using the things that go wrong and building on them to make a better future”.
I don’t know what’s happening this week, but I’ve suddenly been inundated with Singles and Album ‘teasers’ that I can’t ignore. The quality is generally quite excellent but first and foremost there’s generally been an excitement and freshness to the music and each individual song, that reminds me yet again of my teenage years when I would hear a song on the radio and couldn’t wait to tell my friends about it. Such is the case with Philadelphia indie-folk group No Sailor who released their debut single and music video “21 Rules” a week ago, and comes ahead of their upcoming debut album Anchor Broken Free, due out in early 2019.
David Gray The Sapling (Video Single) IHT Records / AWAL Recordings
It seems a lifetime ago when I first saw a very young David Gray opening for Ian McNabb at Newcastle University (probably, I think), and that night there was absolutely no way anyone in the room would have forecast what the future would hold for the shy young man. While we still own a well played copy of WHITE LADDER and I’m sure there’s a copy of 2007’s Greatest Hits on one of the shelves upstairs, the rest of his albums have somehow passed me by……until now; or at least next March when GOLD IN A BRASS AGE will be released; and until then here’s the amazing Video/Single for The Sapling, which features some time staggering lapse footage & a giant zoetrope……..and the song ain’t half bad either. Prepare to be amazed!
Live Dates 2019: Fri, 15 Mar Cardiff St David’s Hall Sat, 16 Mar Cambridge Corn Exchange Sun, 17 Mar London Royal Festival Hall Tue, 19 Mar Brighton Dome Wed, 20 Mar Southend Cliffs Pavilion Fri, 22 Mar Manchester Bridgewater Hall Sat, 23 Mar Nottingham Royal Concert Hall Sun, 24 Mar Gateshead Gateshead Tues, 26 Mar Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Wed, 27 Mar Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre Fri, 29 Mar Birmingham Symphony Hall Sat, 30 Mar York Barbican Sun, 31 Mar Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Tues, 2 Apr Belfast Waterfront Thur, 4 April Castlebar Royal Theatre Fri, 5 April Dublin Bord Gais Theatre Sat, 6 April Dublin Bord Gais Theatre
Walter Trout Me, My Guitar And The Blues (Single) Mascot/Provogue Records
Those who know me and my humble website will already know of my love and admiration for Walter Trout and his music; so the idea of yet another album of shiny new material; albeit cover versions, called SURVIVOR BLUES due out on 25th January has sent me giddy with excitement; as has this taster/single Me, My Guitar & The Blues!
Here’s what the blurb; and Walter has to say about the album :-
“No ordinary artist. No ordinary covers album. From the day he conceived the project to the moment he counted off the first song in the studio, Walter Trout had a bolder plan for ‘Survivor Blues’. “I’m riding in my car sometimes,” says the US blues titan. “I’ve got a blues station on – and here’s another band doing ‘Got My Mojo Workin’. And there’s a little voice in me that says, ‘Does the world need another version of that song?’ So I came up with an idea. I didn’t want to do ‘Stormy Monday’ or ‘Messin’ With The Kid’. I didn’t want to do the blues greatest hits. I wanted to do old, obscure songs that have hardly been covered. And that’s how Survivor Blues started…”
Opener ‘Me, My Guitar And The Blues tips a hat to cult hero Jimmy Dawkins, whose records Trout devoured while cutting his teeth as a ’60s axe-slinger in New Jersey. ‘Nature’s Disappearing’ nods to his celebrated ’80s tenure in John Mayall’s near-mythical Bluesbreakers. In-between, you’ll find cherished favourites from a lifetime’s listening, with songs that caught Trout’s ear at key junctures in his journey, from backing up John Lee Hooker in the ’70s, to bringing the groove to Canned Heat in the ’80s or breaking through as a solo artist in the ’90s.
Trout made it his mission to harness the power and spirit of the originals, while stamping his inimitable musical personality onto each new take. “My idea was to do these songs like me, to arrange them for my band and style,” he explains, “not to just copy the originals note-for-note.”
It takes a stellar lineup of musicians to reinterpret the greatest sunken treasures in the blues genre. But last September, as recording began at the Los Angeles studio of iconic Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, Trout and long-standing producer Eric Corne shared their vision with the only band who could measure up. The thunder and finesse of drummer Michael Leasure. The muscular groove of bassist Johnny Griparic. The spell-casting fingers of keyboards session god and regular Trout conspirator, Skip Edwards. “I’d play them the original,” remembers Trout, “and then I’d say, ‘Here’s how the song goes, what have you got?’ I’d give these guys a lot of freedom. The record was mostly done live, with us set up in a circle, just to get the feel of us going there together. And you can feel it, y’know?”
Sunnyland Slim’s ‘Be Careful How You Vote’ is a rollicking barn-burner that stresses the importance of choosing carefully at the ballot box, without taking sides. Universal themes are also explored on Otis Rush’s defiant ‘It Takes Time’ and the funk-flavoured groove of Luther Johnson’s ‘Woman Don’t Lie.’ In Trout’s hands, ‘God’s Word’ becomes a glowering twelve-bar stunner. There’s rarely been a Trout record without a tip of the hat to Mayall, and here the Brit-blues godfather is represented by ‘Nature’s Disappearing’: the environmental call to arms to that lit up 1970’s ‘U.S.A. Union’ album. On Hound Dog Taylor’s ‘Sadie’, Trout trades his trademark combustible Strat style for something more mind-expanding. “I was trying to steer clear of clichés,” he reflects. “Not just trying to play ten thousand notes, but phrase and play something interesting. The solo on ‘Sadie’, I wanted to do something where you’d hear it and say, ‘Wow, that’s different’.”
You don’t hear a track like ‘Goin’ Down To The River’ every day either, with Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ancient gem decorated with slide guitar from a very special guest. “Robby Krieger was coming in every day, listening and hanging out, so I said, ‘I’d love it if you played on this song’. So when I say ‘Play it, Robby’ – that’s Robby Krieger from The Doors. We just did that in the studio – boom, there you go.”
All they needed was a title. And as Trout surveyed his bloodied-but-unbowed cohorts – and reflected on a collection of blues songs whose raw power remained undimmed – he knew the suggestion of his wife and manager, Marie, couldn’t be topped. “We started thinking about these enduring songs and the guys playing on the album,” he reflects. “Mike is in recovery. Johnny almost didn’t make it. Skip has had a triple bypass. And I almost didn’t make it after my liver disease in 2014. So Marie said to me, ‘You’re a group of survivors. You’ve all been through hell and you’ve come back. These songs are survivors. This album needs to be called Survivor Blues’. I just looked at her and said: ‘You got it’.”
1. Me, My Guitar And The Blues 2. Be Careful How You Vote 3. Woman Don’t Lie (feat. Sugaray Rayford) 4. Sadie 5. Please Love Me 6. Nature’s Disappearing 7. Red Sun 8. Something Inside Of Me 9. It Takes Time 10. Out Of Bad Luck 11. Goin’ Down To The River (feat. Robby Krieger) 12. God’s Word
I love Karen Craigie’s back-story, as a one time label manager in Australia, then a venue manager for a chain of UK Nightclubs and now a ‘Full-Time’ Charity worker (chairing boards and committees for children’s services) while also being both a Mum and Foster Mum; so where and when she finds the spare time to be a songwriter that has now recorded three albums is way beyond my comprehension! For an Australian Karen certainly knows her way around both Alt. Country and Americana by the sounds of the sensual Little Heartbreaker which opens the album like a breath of fresh air. There’s something quite refreshing in the way she effortlessly tells her tale of a poisonous teenage love affair. Bottom Line is another tale of a broken love affair, acutely observed and set to a punchy Country melody with Ms Craigie’s warm and breathy vocal delivery having the capacity to make a grown man go weak at the knees. I find it charming that Karen Craigie describes herself first and foremost as a songwriter who sings; while she is most certainly a clever and fascinating songwriter, it’s her gorgeous and distinctive voice that makes the classy title track Mountains of Gold and also the Country Gothic Happy Ending be so memorable. I can’t ‘put my finger on it’ but I somehow picture Karen singing Lonely Town and the haunting Game Face in theatres rather than rough-house bars or Honky-Tonks; perhaps because they demand to be listened to rather than just be the background music to a Saturday night somewhere/anywhere. While certainly being a’Country’ singer-songwriter in her heart, Karen Craigie sits a lot more comfortably alongside Gretchen Peters and Mary Chapin Carpenter than Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson if the deeply intense ‘Til It Gets Done, which closes the album is anything to by; and at times Karen sounds like a coiled spring on High; which could easily be the type of song featured on an album by those first two artistes. Then there’s the song that caught my attention the first night that I half-heartedly listened to Mountains Of Gold; Kill Me Now. OK it’s yet another break-up song of sorts; but there’s something really personal and touching about the way she pours her heart out and lets him know that’it is over; full stop’ even if she alludes to there still being a little flicker of hope, when he “comes around tormenting her/with his funny stories/wearing his old jeans/and singing his stories of love.’ Ha! A lot of ladies are going to associate with these and plenty of other sentiments across these heartbreaking four minutes. While just about every single song here is sad to the core; Karen Craigie’s writing AND singing have made this an absolute joy to listen to, over and over again.
As my Gretchen Peters T-Shirt says; “Sad Songs Make Me Happy.”
I doubt many of my readers will know who Alan Cackett is; but all you really need to know is that he is the man who gave me my first crack at writing reviews in the ‘original’ Maverick magazine many years ago; and following his selection as the 47th Member of the British Country Music Association Hall of Fame last night; I couldn’t be any happier to call him not just my mentor but my friend as well. Here’s what he has to say about his Award and his his life in Country Music.
“I would like to thank the BCMA for selecting me as the 47th member of the British Country Music Hall of Fame. This was most unexpected as I’ve never really been much of a vociferous supporter of the current BCMA set-up and I feel very humbled to have been accorded this accolade when there are so many others more deserving than I, who have been unfairly overlooked over the years. I never got involved in music for fame or fortune, it’s always been about the passion for good music that touches me emotionally. For me it’s all about introducing as many people as possible to good music they’d otherwise miss out on. That’s what continues to drive me. I have little or no time for radio that plays the same old hits; people of my age who harp on about music of today not being as good as the music they grew up with. I believe that the new should co-exist with the old; the young musicians and fans of today should be embraced and guided by us veterans who’ve hopefully got some good advice and encouragement to impart to them. Though I first got involved in music in a professional way in 1966 when I published Country Record Exchange magazine and over the years have contributed to a stack of newspapers and music publications including more than 20 years writing for Country Music People followed by Country Music International and then editing and publishing Maverick; promoted country music tours, festivals and shows, managed artists, run AFC Media & Publicity; and a ceaseless purveyor of CD sleeve notes. country music was still only a part-time interest until 1997 when I finally quit full time employment at the Kent Messenger to pursue my music interest on a 100% basis I had always hoped that I could be involved in the music full-time but there was no way it would pay me a living wage unless I sold my soul, like getting involved with Line Dancing or easy listening country music, or promoting acts and music that I didn’t believe in. The reason I started the magazines, promoted shows, organised tours and festivals was to introduce artists that I believed in. Anyone with a modicum of common sense can promote a Daniel O’Donnel, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton or Willie Nelson show and make money. Promoting lesser-known but equally talented people like Jim Lauderdale, Gretchen Peters, the Haley Sisters, Kim Richey, Alan West, Rod Picot and others is quite a different matter. It takes commitment and passion, and it’s that passion that drives me., The buzz of watching a great artist, and seeing an audience getting that same buzz, is pure magic. Over the years, I know that I’ve upset and offended some people with my somewhat outspoken, but always honest opinions. It grieves me that country music doesn’t have a larger and wider audience in the UK and that we still have to put up with outdated stereotypes, especially from the mass media. I make no secret that I am against music fans dressing up as cowboys. It detracts from the music and fuels the media’s emphasis on the music’s image rather than the quality of the songs and performance. It’s the same reason why I’ve never supported line-dancing. The lyrics of a country song are much more important than bpm. Country music should e aimed at the heart and not the feet! I’ve never followed the conventional way of doing things. I hate bureaucracy and time-wasting. If something needs to be done, make the decision, roll up your sleeves and get on with it. If you succeed all well and good, if it fails, dust yourself off and try again. But don’t spend precious time analysing what went wrong … learn from your mistakes and move on. I’ve always been something of a Maverick … one who thinks and acts in an independent way, never afraid to cross the line of conformity. But I believe that my somewhat unorthodox approach has generally been right … for me the Maverick way has worked! I’ve always endeavoured to support music that I believe in and share that music with as many people as possible to make it more popular and widely accepted. Though I’ve not achieved my aims and objectives in the way that I would have hoped for, I do believe that I’ve made a difference, and for the BCMA to recognise that is extremely gratifying.”
Austin Lucas IMMORTAL AMERICANS Cornelius Chapel Records
Suspenseful and Evocative Country-Folk From The Dark Heart of Americana.
Some albums aren’t as ‘instant’ as others; they have to be cherished, and allowed to grow on you at their own pace…… which is something I don’t have a lot of….’time’ that is; but there was definitely ‘something’ about this album that has made me keep coming back to it; and on Sunday afternoon ‘click’…I finally got it. Straddling the Country/Folk divide Austin Lucas has a warm, distinctive and almost Latino’ voice looks back on the tormented small town life of his own youth on the stark title track Immortal Americans which is the first track here; and sadly it will still resonate with outsider-teens today; which is sad indictment of the society we all find ourselves living in. I’m not aware of Lucas’s previous six albums; but it’s probably fair to say this is the one he has chosen to pour his heart out, in a style that combines the rawness of Jason Isbell, Tom Paxton and latter day Steve Earle at times. Nothing here is particularly ‘easy on the ear’ and nor are the songs meant to be; for instance My Mother and The Devil and especially Marie and The Shadow are soul-searching at the extreme; with the latter being about the time he found a growth oh his girlfriend’s back that turned out to be cancerous; and is so starkly fragile you will hold your breath while you listen, for fear of missing a word or note. Mercifully not everything is quite so dark; there is much ‘light’ too; albeit in a Folky way that may not be quite so literal; although Goat & Goose may be a true story; but I somehow doubt it. brings me back to Happy;which may not be quite what you expect from the title; but is certainly a Master Craftsman songwriter at the top of his game. Even when I was struggling to get my head around this album, there were two particular songs that kept drawing me back time and time again; hence both the cerebral Killing Time, with it’s jaunty beat coupled to a steel-guitar that sounds like it’s being played with a Bowie knife and the darkly brooding Monroe County Lines tie for the title of RMHQ Favourite Song; as both are quite incredible songs that will sadly miss most people by; but those who ‘get them’ will clutch this album to their bosom and never let go such is the power in Austin Lucas’s writing. I guess that is the real beauty of this album; the actual songs themselves; which may sound an odd thing to say, but each song unravels bit by bit everytime you hear them, slowly letting you into a dark world of shadows that you may not have been aware of; but eventually finding yourself entwining your soul around each deeply sensitive and occasionally sensual line and stanza from the pen of Austin Lucas.
A Cool Soundtrack For a Ride Along The Coast in a 77 Mustang.
Even though this is his 8th album, ‘Guitarist to the Stars’ Randy Casey hadn’t planned on recording a new record until he managed to buy the 1969 Gibson Les Paul he’d learnt to play on back as a teen. As soon as he started playing it, the songs that make up I Got Lucky just kept flowing until he had more than enough to go into the studio! That distinctive Les Paul ‘ggggrrowl’ opens first track Bed Bug Blues just like someone had turned the key in a ’77 Mustang! But the song that follows actually swaggers and smoulders from start to finish; with Casey sliding in some uber-cool solos from the dirty end of the fret-board. The jaunty title track I Got Lucky follows and it’s not easy to decide whether this ‘love song’ is aimed at a young lady of his acquaintance…… or the 69 Les Paul! While this album will no doubt be filed in the ‘Blues Rock’ section; it’s not that simple to pigeon-hole the singer-guitarist as he can settle back on the porch and drop in some down home Delta Country Rock with Little Weed, The Chaperone and the atmospheric Six Feet of Rain; which could easily be some weird Tom Petty/CCR hybrid if I didn’t know any better. On Broken Arm Blues there’s only Casey playing guitar; but I sense more than a hint of The Allman’s or more importantly Duane in the way Randy makes his guitar go from a whisper to a scream with the greatest of ease. Any album revolving around songs written on a Gibson Les Paul has to have a Rocker on it; now doesn’t it? In this case Casey nods to both the Stones and Little Feet at the same time with the simply sizzling One Step Ahead! It’s not clear from the album cover or even the Press Release where Randy Casey comes from; but it’s fair to say his heart is ‘in the South’ when you hear Racing Stripes, That Train and the swinging, rocking AND rolling Soo Line which features some truly scary harmonica from “Pinetree” Paynich. When it comes to selecting a Favourite Track there could only be one song for me; and it’s a slow as molasses Chicago Blues tune that had me stomping my foot in time with, not just Aaron Bergstrom’s heavy-heavy bass; but my head too as I couldn’t, and still can’t resist nodding my head along to the beat on the sublime New Old Landlord Blues. It’s pointless listing all the albums Randy Casey has played on or the bands he’s toured with; but suffice to say I guess he’s learnt a ‘little bit’ from everyone concerned; and that long apprenticeship pays off in bundles right the way through this fabulous album. # BTW it’s quickly apparent that not every song here features that 69 Gibson Les Paul; but it’s always there in spirit.
Moody, Sensual and Smoky Alt. Jazz-Noir Or Something Like That!
Now, here’s a funny thing! Last Tuesday I was planning to listen to an album by someone else called ‘Lucas’ and absent-mindedly tapped ‘play’ on this one; and as I was expecting some ‘Good Ole Boy’ Country, my head nearly spun off it’s hinges when Bo Lucas’s sensual and smoky vocals oozed out of the office speakers on the spooky Brunswick Place which opens this debut album. Ye Gads! Who is this young lady?? As the next song, Maybe I Do, followed in a similar sensual, late night conversational path I had to hunt out the accompanying Press Release; and when I did I couldn’t believe that this young couple come from Southampton……not that there’s anything wrong with Southampton; but what kind of seedy nightlife begets music like this? Surely Lucas & King must inhabit the darker echelons of Soho (London and NYC!) to create such dark jazzy, Soulful or is it possibly Bluesy witchcraft….but musical witchcraft it most certainly is? Even on a Tuesday afternoon songs like Crazy Heart and Moonshades made my pulse race and heart skip a beat; so goodness only knows what I would be like in a darkened nightclub as Bo prowls the stage caressing her microphone in a most phallic manner (or so I assume!) and Hayleigh strums her guitar as if the strings are made from Angels hair! It’s now over a week later and I’m still bemused by the wonderfully simple and almost hypnotic sound this duo create. Is it Jazz? Is it the Blues? It may even be a type of Country I’m yet to discover if the amazing I Only See Stars (When I Stand Up Too Fast) is anything to go by; as Hayleigh King effortlessly puts more Twang into her guitar than most of today’s Nashville Cats can ever hope to achieve in a lifetime! The songwriting is rather intense too; albeit dealing with the hum-drum aspects of life that are ever so important to the individual they are writing and singing about; especially so on Dancing to No Music and the punch to the heart that is Shop Girl! On an album that puts the ‘Noir’ into whatever category you finally settle on putting Lucas & King into, I’m torn between two bittersweet love songs as my Favourite Track here. Bo Lucas gives free reign to her lovely voice on The Heart is a Lonely Wanderer making it the type of song you turn to in the wee small hours of the morning; and you patently know you shouldn’t! The other, Crazy Heart finds Kayleigh making her guitar smoulder and shimmer as Bo takes us on a journey to the centre of her soul; and back again; so I’m probably going for that one……… but you will probably find something different that captures your own heart, and that’s fine too. As I listen again this morning I find words like ‘enigmatic’, ‘whispering’, ‘love lorn’ and ‘luxurious’ springing to mind; as well as Chris Isaak, Maria McKee (circa Show Me Heaven) but mostly Noosha Fox whom I was smitten with as a spotty teenager in the 1970’s! Already winners of the prestigious Fender Undiscovered Act Of The Year, it’s hardly going to take anything for this remarkable and classy duo of young women becoming megastars around the world!
Just when I thought I couldn’t love The Rising any more, they go and release this single and it’s not just because it’s a beautiful love song; but the ‘message’ is very brave for a young bunch of musicians from Northern Ireland; which is kinda crazy in 2018! It’s probably best if I let the band tell you what it’s about and why they are releasing it……….
“As they approached the filming of the video for the sensational Even The Stars Fall For You, the band realised that there was topic close to their heart that they wished to speak out about. “As a band we are firmly behind the equal rights for all citizens and quite frankly we are appalled by the notion that in these modern times that two people cant show their love for each other and get married. For us, it doesn’t matter what part of the LGBT spectrum you fall on, we believe that love is a very powerful thing and most people don’t find true love in their lifetime. So if two people find true love they should be able to express that love and get married if they wish.” With their album, Moving On, having been praised for its raw honesty, they wanted to maintain a real truth when showcasing Even The Stars Fall For You. “When coming up with concept ideas for this music video we knew that we wanted to have a literal story following the lyric. We also knew that we wanted to show a couple and put their love story on the screen. Whilst discussing this idea we came with the idea that it would be so much more believable and natural if we had a real couple in the video instead of just actors playing a part. Once we had this idea we immediately started thinking about who would be best to play this. There was only one real answer. One of the best couples we know; Rebecca McIntyre and Sarah J Gallagher.” With Rebecca having turned to Chris during a tough period in her life, the very early ideas that would become Even The Stars Fall For You can still be found on his filing system as Rebecca’s Song. Featuring her so prominently in the video was a natural decision for the trio. “When we were making this video Rebecca and Sarah J were very proud to show their love on camera and also stated that it is something that doesn’t get shown very often in music videos or in the media in general. This resonated with us as a band because we want to use our music to bring about change and make people think about world issues. It is also a very current topic in our home town of Belfast, Northern Ireland. As of today Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and Ireland where marriage equality is not accepted… This is wrong. So we would like to use this video as a small token of support for that cause because marriage equality and indeed equal rights should exist for all citizens to be who they are and live their lives however they wish.”