I’ve been having ‘one of those mornings’ doing grown-up things, like sorting out my Embezzled Pension, finding a new Life Insurance Policy, finishing off some ironing and reminding Son #1 that it’s his Mam’s birthday next week….. making me all harassed, when this belting slice of Southern/Country Rock arrived in the e-mail. It’s pretty much exactly what I needed and will go straight into the Summer ‘Driving’ playlist for the car. Being busy I didn’t read the Press Release until I’d played it three times…… WHAAAATTTT? These guys are from London? London, England? No way dude! If it’s true; and I have no reason to doubt the source……. Brit -Country has some Stars in the Waiting! This is pretty damn authentic Classic Country Rock that sounds like it comes from Alabama or Memphis, not Croydon or Kensal Green! Apparently there’s an album in the offing, and if this is the starter then the main course is going to be like a red raw T-Bone steak; and I can’t wait.
Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules Live Mules! Self-Release
Bringing the Good Times Back to Country-Blues!
This delightful little album from Glasgow’s finest purveyors of Countryish Music was recorded three years ago when the band were in the support slot for The Stray Birds in a hall in Scotland’s ‘Murder Capital’ ………Shetland (if the TV series is to be believed!) and only came to light a couple of months ago when Dan was having a bit of a ‘sort out’ of some tapes. With only a tweak here and there the clarity of this recording puts many bigger names to shame and with so little chat belies the fact that this is a Live Album at all. Rising River Blues comes from a Meade solo outing and gets new fizz added with the band absolutely on fire behind the chirpy singer-songwriter. If you’ve ever seen Daniel play live, in any of his guises you will know he visibly enjoys what he does, which is a rarity in this industry, and that comes across especially on the self-effacing Let Me Off at the Bottom and If It’s Not Your Fault (I Guess It’s Mine) which also features some staggeringly intricate guitar work from Lloyd Reid too. Earlier I described Meade’s music as ‘Countryish’, which it is, but there’s a healthy dose of olde worlde Blues in the mixer too; which comes to the fore on their rip-roaring cover of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s Hooray! Hooray! which closes the record in fabulouso fashion. That Country-Blues hybrid is probably the template for the two singles that are included here too, their first ever being Long Gone Wrong and the twisted love song Please Louise which was their most recent at the time of recording. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “This album is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you gonna get;” which brings me to my Favourite Song here, There’s a Headstone Where Her Heart Used To Be; a fairly simple song originally but here it becomes a veritable Country Hoedown, with Meade pouring his heart out in his best George Jones fashion, but with a punk spine to it. I absolutely love it! Live Mules! Has been something of a ‘palette cleanser’ for me recently as I’ve used it in the car as a ‘bit of fun’ to tap my toes to in between listening to more ‘righteous’ and ‘serious’ albums by the great and the good; and everything from Mark Ferrie’s pneumatic bass playing, Thomas Ferrie’s rat-a-tat-tat drumming and Lloyd Reid’s understated yet still flamboyant guitaring and of course Dan’s distinctive singing have made my heart swell and occasionally skip a beat on a bunch of sharply observed and really smartly written songs ; and I can’t recommend this highly enough; especially if you want an introduction to the rare talent that is Daniel Meade for only £3.99!
I’ve been hearing whispers since Christmas about this year’s SummerTyne Festival at Sage Gateshead, yet they’ve managed to throw me a complete curve ball with the first Headline Act announcement only bloomin’ KD Lang!
Says Tamsin Austin, Director of Performance Programme at Sage Gateshead said: “This year we are delighted to announce the return of k.d. lang to SummerTyne as our first headliner. Her performance in 2008 was one of the absolute artistic highlights of the festivals history and we couldn’t be happier that she is coming back to join us as part of the Ingenue Redux tour marking the 25th anniversary of her seminal album, to perform it in its entirety at SummerTyne along with a range of other material from her long and celebrated career. It promises to be a very special evening.”
More news as we get it! Tickets for k.d lang go on sale Friday 1 March.
SummerTyne Americana Festival 2019 runs Friday 19 to Sunday 21 July
These Telecasters Tell a Classy Country Music Story .
Where to start? Arlen Roth is described as both ‘legendary’ and ‘acclaimed’ in the accompanying Press Release and looking at the long list of guest contributors to his latest (and 16th album!) yet I’ve never heard of him. A brief look at his Wikipedia page show us that while he’s not too shy in the limelight; he’s best known for his work behind the scenes be it onstage, on record, on film or via his prestigious ‘How To’ books and video or even his time as a columnist in Guitar Player magazine! Here, Roth demonstrates and showcases the versatility of the Fender Company’s Telecaster guitar on a number of well known songs and tunes from across the decades and playing alongside some of the biggest names in the Music Industry. The Twangtastic Remington Ride starts the party with a joyous ramble alongside Steve Wariner; and the way the notes fly out of the speakers you can easily imagine both players alongside Cindy Cashdollar on lap-steel were all grinning like ninnies during the recording. For the pedants out there, there’s nothing really new or innovative here, so if that’s what you’re looking for STOP READING now; as this is an album dedicated to an industry’s love affair with a guitar….. no more and no less; and the result is beautiful beyond words. Jack Pearson’s vocals on Key To The Highway take this rendition into Eric Clapton territory via JJ Cale on decaf coffee, it’s that laid back; but the guitar work is still mind boggling. There are classic tunes associated with Fender’s finest here left, right and centre with Will Ray making Rumble even sleazier than I remember and Joe Bonamassa making his guitar strings sound like they are made from pure silk on Joe’s Blues; and the Titan of the Telecaster, William Kirchen esq. does what he does better than anyone else on this instrument on the magnificent Tuff Tele; while a song I would normally associate with a Gibson SG (I too can be pedantic!) Chuck Berry’s Promised Land gets added Country Twang via Jerry Donahue, and Sweet Mikey C’s smooth vocals are a credit to behold. But, it’s the surprises that are totally unexpected are what make this album extra special. Mrs. Robinson a guitar song? Here it is, but anything featuring Albert Lee is going to be classy, isn’t it? Funky Mama (a tribute to Danny Gatton) which not for the first time sees Arlen Roth himself take lead is truly splendorous, as he is on the beautiful Tennessee Waltz too, when daughter Lexie Roth provides some delicious smoky vocals making me want a whole album of this two singing The Classics in this manner. Choosing a Favourite Track has been fun; as several certainly have their merits but I will choose two, the instrumental Bunky which sounds like Roth and Brad Paisley are trying to melt their strings! The other is a case of Arlen ‘keeping the best ’til last’ with a guest appearance from another undervalued ‘Legend’ Redd Volkaert on A Minor Thing, and the two sound like they are just sitting back in the studio at the end of the session as the youngsters are packing their gear away thinking,”I showed those old guys” only to receive a 6 minute effortless Masterclass in guitar playing and indeed picking from two Guitar toting Granddaddy’s with more talent in their little fingers than most hipsters will accrue in a lifetime. While pretty much each track is significantly different from what goes before it or follows, there is a definitive Classical Country thread linking everything together here, but neither a Nashville one or Bakersfield either….. this is just pure damn Country Gold….. or should that be platinum?
Folk-Rock Meets Alt. Country on a Moody and Melodramatic Soundtrack to Our Lives.
*Disclaimer. Roy Peak is a trusted member of the RMHQ Extended Family who write prosaic reviews from the heart in a style becoming of the wonderful records he creates as a side line to his day job as ‘Bass Player For Hire’. So obviously there will be no nepotism involved in the writing of this review. (Ya think?) That said, I only got to know Roy after reviewing his last album ALL IS WELL and as we live on different continents we are more pen-pals than friends; but he does have phenomenal musical taste that mirrors my own. Opening track Sylvia, Sylvia took me by surprise as it’s a moody acoustic modernish Folk song with a bit of a bouncy beat and some lightning Dobro from Mark Williams ; not like I remember at all…… but better? Not for the last time here, Roy uses his world weary voice as an extra instrument to curl its way around his words in a way most others couldn’t possibly achieve. One song title in particular caught my attention as I skimmed the album cover; The Radioactive Kid, which may or may not also be the title of a Bill Bryson book but that’s only coincidental as this gloriously intense self-searching tale with a searing Hawaiian/steel guitar thread will tug at your heartstrings in a way my favourite travel writer never could. When reviewing songs you are supposed to try to get to the roots of what the writer ‘meant’ but as a fan; I just try to explain the emotions that the songs create which is sad but hopeful when I hear Look Up At The Moon, ‘smiley’ with the dark and almost gloomy Look at Miss Ohio and ’empathetic’ each time I tap my toes to the growling Broken Too. I’ve said a couple of times lately that I’m not really a lover of instrumentals; but the delightfully moody Not Enough Mermaids (with that beautiful Hawaiian/steel guitar lilt again) is a TV theme tune in waiting surely? The title An Ever Darkening Sky squeezed my heart near to bursting the first time I heard it, as it really captured the zeitgeist of my life that evening; but today I’m in a different place and can just appreciate it for what it is; an intense and beautifully created song about depression and the shades that beast creates inside your head. In today’s ‘market’ I suppose this album fits into the Alt. Country file; but there’s a bit of a Folk-Rock edginess to it too; none more so than the bittersweet break-up song Walk Away, which features Mr Mark Williams on harmonica too; which is something of a rare treat. Then there is the ordeal of selecting one of my friends ‘musical babies’ as a personal favourite…….. well; I’m going for the ginger haired step-kid; Old Crow, which by the standards the album sets is a bit of a ‘right Royal Rocker’ albeit of the shoe-gazing type, and one that could and should prove a stepping stone for a whole album of Neil Young/REM/Tom Petty/Waco Brothers influenced songs in the near future perhaps? There’s an argument that it’s never been easier to release music, but when I hear albums by songwriters like Roy Peak I marvel at the talent and fortitude that is actually out there to still battle through the numerous and tricky hurdles that the current music industry creates; to get their songs and tunes out into Internetland, making this a better place for me and you to live in.
California Goes Country With Added Popliciousness.
It doesn’t happen often enough here at RMHQ but occasionally we like to open a cold beer, kick back and have……FUN, FUN, FUN and The Popravinas tick that box with a big bright felt tip pen! I first played a couple of tracks a few weeks ago and knew immediatly that to get the best from this album it should be a sunny day and I was preferably in my car, which is exactly what happened this afternoon, so with my cheap sunglasses in place I pushed the pedal to the metal for the drive home. Talkin’ Out Loud is chock full of crunchy guitars, a pneumatic bass and harmonies so thick you can’t see through them. Somewhere between Jonathan Richman, the Beach Boys and half a dozen bands from the 2nd Wave of Mod, this song needs to played exceptionally loud and with the windows down as far as they will go. Tim’s basement follows and my car stereo could hardly handle the popliciousness of it, but thankfully I could and found myself shouting along with the catchy chorus. Coincidentally I had to slow the car down for roadworks just as track #3 Did Ya came on; as it’s a lot mellower with not just an acoustic guitar but a cut glass pedal-steel for good measure too. These guys are now onto their third album in just over 10 years; but really know not just how to write and deliver a super slice of modern Americana influenced Pop Music; but how to mess with our emotions via the way the album is put together. They can out ‘Rock’ many Alt.Country bands with Dun Me In and Almost Sick; but also tug on the old heartstrings with Up The Coast to San Francisco too. Oddly enough it’s just as much fun listening again tonight as it was driving along with the wind in my hair and this album as my soundtrack; and not just today but two weeks ago I decided that the song Hard Way to Make an Easy Living, wasn’t just my new theme tune but one that will resonate with most musicians in my spectrum; therefore it is easily the RMHQ Favourite Song by an Alt. Country Mile! Four songs have been co-opted onto my ‘Soundtrack to Summer 2019’ playlist, and the CD itself will be transferred to the glove box of the car in the morning; as this is the perfect accompaniment for any car journey (or BBQ btw); regardless of the weather and any band who mirror Lynard Skynard by giving you a pronunciation guide (pr The Pope-rah-veen-ahs) have to be good guys in my book.
A Little Bit of Everything Good in the Rootsy End of Americana Music.
To some greater or lesser degree the Roots Music scene in and around Nottingham, or more specifically the Bagthorpe Delta is cruelly ignored by the music lovers of Great Britain (and probably Derby too!) but thankfully the leader of an itinerant collective of talented musicians, Al Rate is a friend of RMHQ and our tiny portal on the internet will never, ever ignore any of their fabulous or at least interesting music. That all sounded a bit ‘worthy’ didn’t it? The latest singer-songwriter from this fascinating area is Ryan Farmer who combines a quaint union of British Folk, Delta Blues and Hill Country style music right from the off with the jaunty She Can Do Anything, which could easily be from the Hank Sr songbook; but isn’t. Farmer isn’t afraid to use a melody on his songs, which is sadly something of a rarity these days; so his songs Motordrome Blues, 1849 and My Darling aren’t just there to make you ‘think’ about the stories, but actually enjoy them and tap your toes too. The downside to coming from the East Midlands is that Ryan doesn’t have a romantic backstory of ‘riding the rails’ or ‘cleaning dishes at the Ryman’ to fall back on; but thankfully he does have talent in abundance, not just as a songwriter but as a singer too with his warm burr filling both of the Bagthorpe Gothic songs Amelia and Ol’ Sparky Blues with as much hope as they do the fear and damnation he sings of. A bit of me wants to choose that last song as my favourite….. it’s a doozy btw; but I’m going to point you to Down In The Morning instead. Darkly beautiful and heartfelt too, this is the type of song the younger me would have expected on a James Taylor album or perhaps a solo album from an ex-Band member, as it combines a little bit of everything that is good in the Rootsy end of Americana music and deserves a much wider audience than the barfly’s of the Bagthorpe Delta. While I get giddy with excitement when labels send me albums by Rod Stewart or Bob Marley to review, (Dido and Jack Savoretti albums are waiting in the wings) but it’s discovering and telling you about the likes of Ryan Farmer that really makes this malarkey worthwhile.
Atomic Road Kings Clean Up The Blood Bigtone Records
Thrill a Minute Smouldering Blues-Noir
Had I spotted this album in a shop I doubt I’d have picked it up, as the band’s name and artwork hints at some kind of loud Rock music, doesn’t it……or is that just me? But; I’d have made a huge, huge mistake……. as Atomic Road Kings are proud purveyors of Chicago Blues Music; and perform it with class, panache and gallons of Cool! Opening track I’ve Got Time is slow, sensual and will send shivers down your spine as ‘Big’ John Atkinson sounds like a thunderstorm is brewing in his larynx and Eric Von Hersen makes his harmonica solos sound like they were borrowed from Old Nick; and there’s a lot more like that in every cut that follows. While I love Chicago Blues, I’m far from an expert in the genre so I can’t actually tell you who Atomic Road Kings sound like…… but perhaps they may even have their own distinctive sound; it sure sounds like it to my cultured ears. You can easily ‘cut a rug’ to the ballsy Have Your Way and You Got To Change or especially My Way Back Home; but these cats are at their finest when they slow things down and get a little funky. Rumours features some staggering guitar licks from Tony Delgado and later on Ain’t For Me he makes his guitar not just gently weep, but actually sound like it’s drowning in the tears produced by ‘Big’ Jon’s wailing and Von Herzen’s heart breaking harp playing between the front two. Another thing I’m no expert in is the gear that bands use in the studio; but it’s fair to say that the original 40’s & 50’s analog equipment that was used to record this album on somehow helps create a claustrophobic atmosphere for Atkinson’s fabulously authentic Blues songs which are all from the heart and directed at the Soul. There is actually a song, not from his pen and that’s the ‘traditional’ Two Sided Story, which I’ve never heard before and was a contender for the RMHQ Favourite Song category right from the first time I played this album as it’s a real powerhouse that has had me nodding my head along with the bass and tapping my feet to the drumbeat each time I’ve played it. But, the actual ‘winner’ is……… the title track Clean Up The Blood, which; if such a thing exists, is the finest and scariest Blues-Noir I’ve ever heard! Imagine if you will, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Wilson Pickett recorded a Nick Cave song for a remake of Key Largo while hopped up on mogadons! For what it’s worth, I bloody love this song. As usual this album isn’t for everyone…… not even all Blues fans, but if you like Mean n Moody Blues singers with a Diesel powered rhythm section and a side order of razor sharp bottle-neck guitar plus a wicked Harmonica player then Atomic Road Kings are for you.
A Real-Deal Feisty and Passionate Country Singer-Songwriter
Lazy journalists often point to the disposable Spotify Generation who cherry pick songs for their playlists as ‘the main users of music today’; but in my humble opinion….that is complete and utter bollocks! In the world I live in (and presumably you too) music is still a ‘considered purchase’ , and by using the internet wisely it is timeless. Last week I saw two talented young men regaling us with Blues songs from pre WWI that they meticulously learnt from YouTube, which strangely brings me to this Cheley Tackett’s fourth album Buckeye, first released in the US in 2017 but getting a new lease of life two years later to coincide with a UK and European tour. What little I knew of her background hardly prepared me for the opening song Bitter Girl; yet it’s the perfect way to introduce us to a very prodigious talent with a leathery, worn and very expressive voice and a special talent with words and storytelling. Plus any song with a Nah Nah Nah chorus is always going to find favour at RMHQ. For the uninitiated like me, Cheley sits comfortably in the early Mary Chapin Carpenter and Lucinda Williams camp; mixing acoustic and electric guitars, catchy tunes, Country sentiments and more attitude than a cat on heat. Paraphrasing the adage ‘Never choose a book by the cover’ certainly doesn’t apply here; as on the album cover Cheley looks in defiant mood and her eyes tell you not to mess with her; and that image inhabits her songs $2 Bill, Crucible Steel and on The Healer she will turn your head inside out. Another thing here; is the all pervading darkness many of her characters live in, but Cheley shines a light on for us to examine lives that are oft ignored; in the Southern Gothic My Best Dress (a co-write with Ashley McBryde and Randall Clay) the character hurts, she hurts a lot in a timeless lament, and I can’t think of a song in this vein this good I’ve heard for over 20 years. There’s a fascinating cover song here; CSN&Y’s Ohio which is sung straight from the heart and features some drum effects that mirror ‘boots on the ground.’ Who knew that this ‘protest song’ from 1971 would still resonate with a new generation in 2019? As a Country Album at heart; there are copious tales of heartache and break throughout, with the haunting Used to Feel Good being about ‘how real life can take away the fun that a relationship was founded on’ and the poetic Heavy Heart will touch people who have lost loved ones both physically and emotionally. Then, there is All She Knows is Rain, which starts “Six years old watchin’ cartoons in a trailer reeks of cigarettes Mama’s long gone and Daddy’s out cold on his cloud of barbiturates And she’s right at home all alone Ain’t no use to cry” Can a song get any Countrier than that? But there is also a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel too which is why Magic Still Happens is the RMHQ Favourite Track; but I won’t ‘spoil’ it for you……. check it out on the attached video (albeit a different version) and cry your heart out. Although she’s been around the scene in the USA for nearly twenty years; Cheley Tackett is a new find for us here in the UK and while some of the venues on her UK Tour are in far flung corners; I think she’ll be back soon (Festival season?) and just like Mary, Lucinda and Nanci before her we will clutch her to our collective bosom and make Cheley Tackett one of our own.
Founding Father Proves Electric Blues is in Fine Fettle.
For a genuine ‘Living Legend’ John Mayall sure does divide opinion among the cognoscenti I call my peers. On the plus side I have one friend who not only goes to see him every time he visits the North East, but has actually bought two Mayall albums this century. The others, like me cast a wistful eye back to the cusp of the late 60’s and early 70’s when the Blues Maestro had his Bluesbreakers band and was a stepping stone for guitarists Green, Clapton, Taylor (and much later Walter Trout)……. but get them to name an album from his 35 album back catalogue dries up after the Beano Cover (1966) and two mentions for Blues From Laurel Canyon (1968)! Which brings me to this, John Mayall’s 36th Studio album in a career stretching back over half a century, and featuring a host, nay…… a myriad of today’s finest Blues guitarists guesting on each and every track. The distinctive liquid platinum sound of Joe Bonamassa’s guitar playing permeates opening track What Have I Done Wrong; although for me, the biggest and best surprise (after all these years) is how deep and raspy John Mayall’s voice is…….. very BB King in tone, and with the horn section from Conan O’Brien’s house band sounding like their lives depend on hitting those notes….. I’m in for the long haul! While the album does feature a vast array of household names on guitar; none even try to get anywhere near overshadowing Mayall’s amazing voice and whip smart songs. Bonamassa makes a second appearance on the atmospheric Delta Hurricane, which to some degree is the song that proves a cornerstone for what goes before it and subsequently follows here; it’s a personal history of The Blues, as sung by the Founding Father of British Blues; which went on to beget and influence every guitar band that ever existed in the America’s, North and South (discuss?). Of the Guest Stars, Todd Rundgren turns up on That’s What Love Will Do, Larry McCray does his funky stuff on The Hurt Inside and Stevie Van Zandt provides the perfect foil to Mayall on the supercool and sultry It’s So Tough, and the world is probably a better place for their inclusion…… but all of these songs are certainly good enough and strong enough to just stand on their own merits. All I really want to do is talk about the songs and how much I’ve quickly fallen in love with Mayall’s voice; but I keep feeling obliged to mention the guitarists; especially as a couple are new to me. Carolyn Wonderland, from his current ensemble adds her magic sparkle to three tracks; with the Swinging Chicago sound that ripples through Like It Like You Do; being her finest moment and the song a contender for Favourite Track status. The other new name to me is Alex Lifeson, who contributes some searing Mick Taylor like guitar on the dark Evil and Here To Stay which also features some tinkling ‘Orleans style piano and Mayall’s haunting harmonica solo’s and it stood out the first time I played the album and yet again this morning so this is my Favourite Track on a very impressive and comprehensive display of Contemporary Blues Music that leans on the past but shoots for the future. It’s been well over 40 years since I last listened to a John Mayall album (Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton aka The Beano Cover) which was a turning point in my musical heritage; and I’ve listened to a Helluva lot of Blues albums in the intervening years so my final thoughts on NOBODY TOLD ME is that it sounds nothing like my memory of John Mayall at all; and is all the better for that as it’s full of his great modern and post-modern well constructed songs and shows that Electric Blues is in fine fettle and doesn’t need to rely on ‘Rock’ at all.