I’ve professed many times on here my love for The Blues and when it comes with a bid splosh of Rhythm too……. my heart just goes bippitty bop; and that’s how I’ve felt each time I’ve played this fabulous second album from New Yorker Will Vincitore! I have no idea why her 2016 debut album BETTER DAYS never got reviewed here; but it’s still on the office shelf and gets dusted off every couple of months; but ……. and here’s a ‘spoiler alert’ ….. her follow up is even better; in a grown up and ‘been around the block’ kinda way. Opening track Just Ain’t The Same bubbles, boils and simmers as Willa pours her heart out on a sizzling break-up song about an affair with a very controlling man……. yowza…… what a way to start an album! Not for the first time this year I’ve got an album that straddles the Blues and Soul divide with style and panache; Willa gets low down and sad on the late night Bluesy ballads Choices, It Is What It Is and the delightful These Days, which even features some sweet George Benson style guitar too. But, no one trick pony, Willa Vincitore can get her Funky Soul on when she wants too with the feisty I Love You Baby and Bite Me with both showing a woman who’s not to be messed with; but the type who draws you to her like a moth to a flame! There’s one cover here; Annie Lennox’s Money Can’t Buy It, which I don’t recognise but that doesn’t matter as it fits in seamlessly and could easily have come from Ms. Vincitore’s pen anyway. Choosing a Favourite Track isn’t as easy as I’d hoped; as the first few times I played the album the Power-Ballad Need a Little Help stood out; as it reminded me of Aretha circa Who’s Zoomin’ Who? with it’s punchy (and danceable) melody and super-cool liquid guitar from Karl Allweier but now I’m being drawn back to the rinky-dinky Everything Hurts on which Willa lists all the ailments that she’s going through now ‘she is middle-aged and caught the flu’ but, bizarrely she makes it all sound quite sexy! HA HA HA HA. But there’s also the touching These Days, with it’s neo-political thread weaving through a cool vibe; and shows Willa really has a great way with words and a melody; so I’m going for These Days with it’s wailing saxophone solos, as it’s a song that could and should be an anthem for people everywhere. So, in conclusion Willa Vincitore is a fantastic songwriter who uses melody’s like a switchblade and has a soulful voice that can go way, way down low and also hit notes that only dogs can hear…… what are you waiting for; go buy it!
The Delines almost passed me by a few years ago; but out of mild interest I went to see them at the Jumpin’ Hot Club……… and my head nearly exploded with excitement! For me, the legendary Wily Vlautin was just a constituent part as I couldn’t take my eyes off the mesmeric singer Amy Boone; who combined abject shyness with raw star quality; and when she sang…… ooohhheee Mama! So, when this album, which has been four years in the making following a horrific car accident which has necessitated God knows how many operations and skin grafts as well as having to learn to walk again for singer Amy Boone; arrived in the first week of December I immediatly cleared the boards for a whole day when I could immerse myself in ‘the magic’ and ‘magic’ it undoubtedly is! The fiercely atmospheric Lo-Fi opening track Cheer Up Charley really does set the mood for an hour or so of velvet tinged sad songs that will both cheer you up and make you cry; sometimes both at the same time. Vlautin’s songwriting and subject matter is a bit left of centre; but still Country to the core as he places Boone right in the middle of Lonelyville in the title track The Imperial and later; in That Old Haunted Place his tragic words make Amy Boone sound akin to Bobbie Gentry trying to sound like Dusty Springfield; and the result is electrifying. With that in mind; there is a certain Gothic – Lo Fi charm to Let’s Be Us Again and Holly The Hustle, both of which are so deep you soon find yourself wallowing chest deep in their misery and loneliness; but with a rye smile on your face. There’s a ‘wicked irony’ to this style of Country Music; as Vlautin allows you to listen on many levels; but when you start peeling away the layers that make up Eddie and Polly or He Don’t Burn For Me you know you are in the presence of greatness; and that includes the talent interpreting his words in a way that will make your spine tingle. We all know Vlautin to be an accomplished story teller and author; but as I read the lyrics to Where Are You Sonny and/or Waiting On The Blue it’s plain to see; and hear from Boone’s beautiful renditions that he has a Poets soul and way with words. The inclusion of the stark Roll Back My Life transcends any of Vlautin’s previous works by a late night Country mile. The song may or may not be specifically be about Amy’s last few years, but it could be about mine or possibly yours too. Almost Waitsian in context and delivery, it is so atmospheric and gentle you will get lost in it; which is why it is our Favourite Track here; even if it did make me cry. If I were writing for a different publication it would certainly be 5/5 as it is a rare piece of art masquerading as music, unfurling as it does at its own pace, showcasing not just a stellar imagination but a singer, in Amy Boone that conjures up the heartache of Janis alongside the majesty of Dusty and the world weariness of Bobbie; while very much sounding unlike anyone else in the world.
Melodious and Introspective Songs From the Recesses of a Dark Soul.
Now I’ve played this album a couple of times I’ve now read the accompanying Press Release and it’s a good job I’ve done it in that order; as who wants to hear from a singer-songwriter with a Masters in English Lit. who has come out the other side from substance abuse to go on to earn a Master of Divinity degree with a PHd in Religious Studies and becoming an ordained Methodist Minister? Not many I would guess. But………. John Kilzer from Memphis TN, ain’t no ordinary Singer-Songwriter! Opening track Flat Bed Truck is a weird Beatles/Country hybrid…… no, seriously…… there is something distinctively Beatlesish in the melody and production; but the subject matter is very much Smalltown, Middle America and the combination works when it most obviously shouldn’t. In the nicest possible way this album of quite dark stories is actually very ‘easy on the ear;’ which comes down to Kilzer’s astute use of melodies and actual ‘catchy tunes’ to accentuate his very literate and clever story telling. Woods of Love and It, alongside a couple of others have a delightful ‘English Pop sensibility’ …. think The Beatles or Kinks; but just like Flat Bed Truck John Kilzer’s story is 100% Americana to the core. These songs were either written or culled from notes he made when he was in a ‘thin place’ a few years ago; but went back to in readiness for making this album; which probably explains his clever and intricate use of light and shade in Hello Heart, Rope The Moon and the rather splendid Twinkle of Love, which sounds like it could easily be converted into a Torch Song by any one of a number of young female singers looking for a Hit single. Kilzer’s Americana Roots comes to the fore on the Alt. Country Soft Rockers woods of Love, Dark Highway and The American Blues, which are both as tightly wrapped as a drum yet you will find yourself carelessly singing along with the chorus of both. For the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Track there are two songs that are so good you can’t slide a cigarette paper between them; so the title is a tie between the astute and very introspective title track Scars and the dark ode to his home Memphis Town, which is possibly the illegitimate younger brother to Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis and is exactly what Americana music was invented for. John Kilzer has been in and around the music scene for a very long time; recording albums and writing minor hits for others; and coupled to the his own ‘life, lived well’ he has combined absolutely everything (plus his love of a melody!) to create a rather fabulous album that will age like a fine wine; or more likely a fine bourbon!
Danny Lynn Wilson Peace of Mind SwingNation Records
The Roots Swamp Has Turned Up Another Classy Singer-Songwriter.
Santa has only just been and there are still chocolates and mince pies to be eaten, yet here I am typing out my first review of 2019; because the reviewing world never stops revolving, does it? Choosing the first RMHQ Album of 2019 wasn’t ever going to be easy; but the name Danny Lynn Wilson caught my attention weeks ago; primarily because the cover art is eye-catching and one of our favourite British singer-songwriters is called Danny Wilson; he of Danny & The Champions, Grand Drive and latterly Bennett, Wilson, Poole; plus the stable this arrived from has given us some cracking Blues albums over the last couple of years. Then I played first track When Will The Loving Start, with its opening lines delivered by a droll and world weary voice; “The world is no place for a man with a heart Drag you down, tear you apart Turn you ’round, turn you out” I knew immediatly I was in the presence of a very special talent indeed. This ain’t what I was expecting at all; it sure ain’t the Blues as I recognise it, but what it is is excellently crafted Roots Music with a nod of the head in the Folk with a side-turn at the Blues corner. The accompanying bio is quite vague, but it appears that this is Wilson’s fourth album in a long and lofty career playing every juke joint from Beale St. to Brooklyn via Banff, Bakersfield and Baton Rouge. All of that experience on the road comes across in every line of every song; especially the well crafted High Water and Peace of Mind; which can only have been written after a lifetime of ‘experiences’ on the road and indeed in life itself. Like the best of songwriter’s Wilson finds subject matter and metaphors in the unlikeliest of places; but when he does, as with the well crafted rockers Arkansas Trotter and Too Many Hounds he is as sharp as a razor; making me scribble down notes as I was stopped at traffic lights so as not to forget my initial feelings. Our man’s long and varied background comes to the fore on the Olde Time Swing of the cutesy love song Fuss ‘n Fight and the charming Galway Bay which closes the album in the most delightful of manners. In these days of political turbulence all over the world Danny Lynn slips in two very subtle but politically astute songs that deserve some intense listening; Sympathy For Your Man and Middle Class Blues will both touch the hearts of the working men and women like me and you that don’t know what this or next year will bring us. In some or indeed many ways this is a ‘crossover’ album as Danny Lynn Wilson seamlessly flits between several Roots styles; but never letting them jar which is why selecting my first Favourite Song of 2019 has been difficult; as both the introspective song about a dwindling love affair Shine Is Off and the heartfelt and touching Love Only You are both worthy of the title; but I will go for the former as it is somewhat of a cornerstone for the whole album; and captures the magic of Danny Lynn Wilson’s songwriting a little bit better and cleverer than the latter. Surprise, surprise…….. Roots Music in 2019 is shaping up to be every bit as good and exciting as the last three years of RMHQ have been and I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year than introduce you to Danny Lynn Wilson and his songs.
Fascinating, Intriguing and Mostly Beautiful Modern Folk Ballads.
I don’t know why but I seem to be being kept drawn towards what we now know as ‘Modern Folk Music’……. thankfully not the ‘finger in the ear’ bilge that haunted many a Folk Club of my teenage years; but more a new take on the Singer-Songwriter ilk that I actually listened to in my darkened bedroom as I tried to get my head around ‘the meaning of life’. There’s a couple of reasons I was initially drawn to this particular release; the quirky cover photo; with Rauchwerk looking like a renegade Geography teacher holding an odd looking instrument; coupled to the ‘typewriter font’ (I do get excited by a good font!) but when you look at the cover more intently, you will see it’s a Double-Exposure’ which becomes something of a metaphor for the songs contained therein. Thankfully my trusty IPhone had already let me hear a few of the latter songs; otherwise the opening Traditional Folk ballad Mrs McLaughlin may well have put me off before I got under Starters Orders; but a week later I now rather like this intense tale of a proud young man signing up to join the army to fight in some unknown war; only for his mother to take it upon herself to take umbrage and knock the ‘Sergeant to the floor’ and stop the boy going. While it at first sounds like a WW1 song; it could actually be very contemporary too…… such is the cleverness off Rauchwerk’s writing. Obviously it’s a ‘Folk Thang’ but founding member of The Lords of Liechtenstein flits between centuries and genres to tell his well written tales with consummate ease; one minute he is singing about running away to Memphis, then it’s a glorious tale of Queen Victoria then slides seamlessly into a sonnet about Carthage then with Skywalker he regales us with a loving tale of his Grandfather, who was indeed a Skywalker building those legendary buildings that fill the NYC skyline in between the wars. In many ways this is a very simple sounding album; but I know the hard work and talent it takes from all concerned to create the loveliness of Alene and the starkly haunting Tears Shaped Like Islands (featuring the delightful voice of Caitlin Mahoney) and it’s hidden stories in each verse. Then there are two very, very clever but eminently listenable and thought-provoking songs which are currently scrapping it out in my head for the title of RMHQ Favourite Track; possibly autobiographical but not necessarily literal; Modern Day Explorer which closes the album is a delightful History Lesson that ends with…… well, I won’t spoil it for you, but it is well worth seeking out. The other is a bit of an oddity; but one that made me ruefully smile as it unravelled before my very eyes in the car. It Just Is will pass many listeners by; but just like Dan Rauchwerk I too am fascinated by wandering around graveyards and cemeteries reading the headstones and wondering who they were and more pertinently, what their stories were; as we all leave a mark on this world we live in. So; I’m choosing It Just Is; partly because it’s ‘different’ but mostly because it’s a beautiful love song to people the writer never knew. Which is a nice thing to do. As I’ve said many times over the last four years; the whole purpose of this website is finding new artistes and delivering their work to your ears without you having to do any hard work; and in Dan Rauchwerk I think I’ve unearthed another musical diamond.
Released UK & Europe January 7th 2019 Released US & Canada Sept 27th 2018
I have a ‘guilty confession’ …… I think I took a dislike to Kaia’s last album NINE PINS before I’d even played it because she is sporting a banjo on the cover. I remember playing it once, but it never got reviewed…..I guess because of my Anti-Banjo racism at that particular time. I get like that with banjos. Sorry. Now that’s out of the way; let’s get back to today and young Ms Kater’s 5th, album in a fairly short recording career. Opening track New Colossus was released as a single back in October 2018, and as far as I know only got one UK play; on the groundbreaking Leader’s American Pie which is a damn shame; as it’s a luscious modern Folk song of grand proportions that shimmers and shines; and showcases both Kaia’s exciting songwriting ability and her pearlescent voice. I’ve certainly heard a lot weaker songs on Bob Harris’s various shows on BBC Radio 2; and that’s for sure. The accompanying Press Release can be a bit pompous at times; but does go someway to explaining the story behind the short interludes that intersperse several tracks; as it turns out to be Kaia’s father describing the time and events that surrounded his leaving the island of Grenada and moving to Canada……. powerful stuff indeed, especially Death of a Dream and in the same vein a couple of fascinating songs evolve from these stories; most notably the La Misere, an a’ Capella song sung in a French dialect and the title track Grenades; a cool late night Jazz tinged Folk song on which Kaia channels her inner Nina Simone to tell a harrowing story about her father’s homeland of Grenada; as the young Canadian delves into her roots and comes out with two amazing songs. Without knowing too much about Kaia Kater’s history or indeed back catalogue; GRENADES sounds a very ‘grown up’ album; and maybe it’s a Canadian thing; but the way several songs are constructed they remind me of Joni Mitchell post Blue; have a listen to Hydrants or Poets Be Buried and tell me I’m wrong. Selecting a Favourite Track on an album like this is never going to be easy; and as in the case of the Single there’s no real outlet these days for songs like these apart from your home stereo; which is a damn shame; but if you do only download one track let it be Canyonland; which even though has a banjo as the lead instrument (!) is a fabulous example of what is possible and available in the Modern Folk idiom and will make you want to download the rest of the album to see of Kaia Kater can match the quality of this nigh perfect four minutes; and she does! This is far from being a Concept Album; but in light of the world that the current incumbent in the White House is creating GRENADES asks some very fascinating questions and really does show a a young woman at the crossroads of an exciting career.
Tom Brumley & The Buckaroos Steelin’ The Show Omnivore Records
A Master-Craftsman Makes His Pedal Steel Guitar Shimmer and Sizzle
What is it with Pedal-Steel guitars that excites me so much? I think I can even recall the night on OGWT that I first saw and heard one…….. subsequently having to ask my brother Melvyn what that magic box was and even over the next ten years or so they were still as rare as hen’s teeth in British Rock & Roll. Yet today, with this disc of pure delights I now have six albums of Pedal-Steel instrumentals in my collection and I’m aware of a 7th on its way in March 2019! To the uninitiated like me Tom Brumley is probably an unknown quantity; but it turns out he was the maestro behind the Buck Owens ‘sound’ during the 1960’s and these 17 glorious tunes are all culled from that golden period of Country & Western music. *He also played in both Chris Hillman’s Band and the Desert Rose Band while also sitting in with scores of household names in the studio during the 1970’s. The album starts with a majestic two-step called Tom Cattin’ that combines some amazing guitar playing from Buck Owens and Red Simpson alongside the 100mph fiddle playing of Don Rich and Brumley’s sublime picking on the steel; and even 50 years later you can feel the excitement from the studio session. That excitement continues throughout; none more so than Seven Come Eleven and Pedal Patter which may even have been groundbreaking in 1968! Unlike today; Country Music was made for dancing to back in the 1960’s and The Buckaroos could turn their hand to whatever it took to get people on the dancefloor be it the Steel Guitar Polka, a Highland Fling or any one of a handful of beautiful waltz’s with the Waltz of the Rose’s being the finest example here; and I’m not sure what a Neosho Waltz was but I love the tune that accompanied it! Choosing a Favourite Track was never going to be easy; although the legendary solo on Together Again, as Buck Owens croons his little heart out is obviously going to be a contender; but as this is primarily an instrumental album dedicated to Tom Brumley I’m going to select Steel Guitar Rag from 1965 as it is a spine tingling showcase of all that is good about Steel Guitar playing and proves what a Master of his craft Tom Brumley surely was.
PS. Gotta love that suit he’s wearing on the cover…….what would I give to look that sharp?
This is the big one….. the actual RMHQ Readers Top 25 Albums of 2018. These aren’t our personal choices like the other Top 20; but order of precedence because of the hits/reads they have received across the whole year starting January 1st 2018. It’s been another amazing year at RMHQ and this list pretty much sums up how eclectic our little site is with household names rubbing shoulders with acts who have recorded their debut masterwork in their bedroom. Thank you to all of the acts, record labels and Press Agencies who have found us and sent albums; plus everyone who has ever visited the site and especially our regular followers who we love and cherish more than they would ever imagine.
HoHoHo…. are looking forward to the festivities? We’re excited to share the new single & video by Neo-romantic (Whatever that is?) composer Nico Cartosio titled, ‘Christmas On The Moon’. It’s a bit different from what we normally listen to at RMHQ……but ‘different’ is good; right? ‘Christmas On The Moon’ features a world-renowned orchestra conductor Gavin Greenaway and the violin that can be heard throughout the single is performed by famed chamber musician John Mills who is the co-leader of the English Chamber Orchestra and for the past 10 years has been the leader of the highly acclaimed Tippett Quartet. MERRY CHRISTMAS KIDS…..HoHo and indeed HO!
Bobby ‘Blackhat’ Walters Put Your Red Shoes On Self-Release
Sophisticated and Sizzling Blues and Soul Hybrid.
Bobby ‘Blackhat’ Walters is a brand new name to me, even though he’s been making music for over 40 years and this appears to be his fifth album in that time. But; and this is a mighty big surprise; for 27 of those years he was in the American Coast Guard rising to the lofty position of US Coast Guard Commander and served as a Military Aide to the President (it’s not clear which one!); and still found time to make glorious music in his spare time. I may have to come back to the stunning opening track I Smell Another Man On You; as this downright sleazy tale of his cheating woman is as good as I’ve heard of its type; which is mostly based around bands and singers on the now defunct Ecko Records label. Man, oh Man can Walters not only ‘tell a tale’ but he blows a mean ole harmonica too; and there’s a lot more of both as this record proceeds. That was a great start, but don’t think this is all “woe is me”… Hell No! There’s not just a twinkle in his eye on the cool acoustic Country Blues of This Grey Beard and the funky title track Put On Your Red Shoes, which absolutely sizzles in every single groove. Sometimes it’s difficult for a songwriter to shine with this type of Soul/Blues hybrid, but Bobby manages to combine some sweet danceable rhythms with his cool and clever story telling on Jimmy Reed’s You Got Me Runnin’ and his very own the so very politically incorrect Baby Mama Drama Blues! ‘Clever’ keeps coming into my head on this album; as Bobby ‘Blackhat’ seamlessly takes us on a roller-coaster ride of emotions; starting with those tunes I’ve just mentioned and grabbing and squeezing your heartstrings with the epic Grim Reaper which comes in at over 9 minutes long and his Award Winning I Hear Mama’s Voice at way over the 10 minute marker……… but neither loses your attention for a nano-second. The first time I played this album I was nearly three minutes into the haunting instrumental rendition of St. Leonard’s Hallelujah before I even recognised it. Played predominantly by Walters on the harmonica, with a gentle backing from his bandmates it is about to be written into my will as a tune I’d like played at my funeral! Which now brings us to the two songs that I will have to flip a coin to choose which is actually the RMHQ Favourite; the intricately beautiful When I Cry, It’s Ugly and the Chicago stomper Overdose of the Blues; which may not be ‘anything new’ but it’s a crackling 4 minutes of music well worthy of John Lee, Muddy or Little Walter at their finest. Oh dear….. my penny came down on its edge; so it’s a tie. There’s only one fault in this whole package; and it’s a mighty big one; as it’s the artwork on the cover! Deary me……who on earth thought that was eye-catching? It looks like something that would have adorned a 99p LP of Soul cover versions in Woolworth’s circa 1973; but when you flip it over there’s a great photo of Bobby Blackhat blowing into his harmonica…… and that image alone would make me want to buy this in a record store.