WOW! We are big fans of Laurence Jones here at RMHQ so any new music is a reason to get excited about, especially as this new single comes from a new self-titled album Laurence Jones Band set for release on Friday 27th September 2019, plus there’s a European and UK Tour too.
The Blue Highways Play Johnny, Play (Single) Self-Release
I’m not sure where to start with this single from The Blue Highways; as it’s a doozy in it’s own little way ….. but alongside their own guitarist Jack Lury they have also managed to lasso six of the finest guitarists from Britain’s Americana Glitterati ….. including Tony Poole – King of the electric 12-string Rickenbacker (Starry Eyed and Laughing, Bennett Wilson Poole), Joe Hazell – Curse of Lono, Paul Lush – The Lost Sons of Littlefield and Danny and the Champs, Lewis Fowler – Two Ways Home, alongside pedal-steel legends Henry Senior Jr – Danny & The Champions and also CJ Hillman! Six guitarists, you say? Yes; but this song is very much mostly about the words and chorus than the magnificent duelling guitarists behind singer Callum Lury. Trust me; you won’t be disappointed.
Bruce Springsteen Tucson Train (Single) Columbia Records
Just like the metaphorical ‘London busses’; you wait ages for a great Bruce Springsteen single; then three come along one after the other! Much to everyone’s surprise …… here’s the latest instalment; nay …. teaser for Bruce’s next album WESTERN STARS, single #3 TUCSON TRAIN.
I kept picking this album up and putting it down again; not because I didn’t think I’d like it ….. quite the opposite actually; I just needed to be in the right place at the right time, and most importantly the right frame of mind to do it justice, as this type of Blues needs to be cherished, admired and savoured like a fine wine. Even though I’d not heard of Terry Robb before, it comes as no surprise to find this is his 15th album ….. yes ……FIFTEENTH! Right from the first two instrumental tracks here Butch Holler Stomp and Still On 101 Terry Robb shows what not just an accomplished Blues guitarist he is; but with his majestic flourishes quite experimental too without ever deviating from the path carved out by Robert Johnson nearly 100 years ago. Damn right this is The Blues, with a capital T and B. By track #3 How a Free Man Feels, Robb actually sings; and wowza what a voice he has too; clean and crystal clear which is perfect for the way he delivers this age old story. While only ever playing an acoustic or Resonator and occasionally supported by a stand-up bass and drums, Robb can kick up quite a storm with his variant on Country Blues, with the title track Confessin’ My Dues and Keep Your Judgement both being the type of song that will fill the dancefloor at a dive bar or Honky-Tonk; and on Three Times The Blues aficionados of all persuasions will sit open mouthed at his mastery of the wooden instrument. I’ve heard a lot of guitarists ‘like’ Terry Robb, from Stefan Grossman through to Joe Bonamassa but very few times have I been as awestruck as I was the first time I heard Death of Blind Arthur, as Robb flits between the Blues, Jazz and Classical in the blink of an eye. Two entirely different songs tie for the title of RMHQ Favourite track; Heart Made of Steel is an acoustic trio sounding as ‘heavy’ as Cream ever managed with a lorry load of Marshall amps; and the track that precedes it, It Might Get Sweaty sounds like that’s exactly how these three cats felt in the studio at the end of the recording session; and it still leaves plenty of room for expansion when played live! It’s when I discover acts like Terry Robb and records like this I despair when the Awards Season comes along and the ‘experts opinion’ of what constitutes The Blues is 100 miles apart from my own interpretation; but I can’t do any more than advise you to invest your hard earned money in this album to discover what Blues Music can and does sound like in 2019.
Davina and the Vagabonds Little Miss Moonshine Red House Records
It was 5 or 6 years ago when I first saw Davina & The Vagabonds at the Jumpin’ Hot Club in Downtown Newcastle and they blew me and the other 30+ people in the basement; and again the following year when they headlined the Saturday night Outdoor Stage at SummerTyne Festival when they had Grannies, kids, love struck teenagers and me frugging and shrugging to their grand beat! Leap forward to today and you too can join in the fun via the first single from their imminent album SUGAR DROPS (July release).
Here’s what Davina has to say: Davina says of the debut track, “My songs always begin with an emotion, so it started out as an ‘I see you and I see through you’ song. I do what I do because I am who I am, not because I wanna make a buck or because it’s the next cool trend. There’s nothing smellier than dishonest music and fake people. Even if you’re doing music from eras past and paying homage to music that you, yourself have been influenced by, it needs to come from the heart and from your own truth. Then, through the process of writing it, I started reflecting, and I ended up giving advice to these types of people and having a little empathy; it was hard when I started out, too. You can get lost in what you think others want and it’s not necessarily who you are. “At the end of the day though, it still needs to be your work and your words.”
The album marks the first time singer/songwriter/pianist Davina Sowers entered a proper studio to record an album. The Minneapolis-based artist holed up in Nashville’s Compass Sound Studio with producer (and Compass Records co-founder) Garry West, along with her trumpeter, string arranger and husband, Zack Lozier, and a rotating cast of powerhouse players including Todd Phillips (David Grisman, Robbie Fulks) on bass, Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, Tom Jones) on guitar and Reese Wynans (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa) on Hammond B3.
Country Doesn’t Get Much More Countrier Than This Anymore.
I don’t have to give you three chances to guess who Casey Kristofferson’s Dad might be, do I? Yup, it’s Kris and her Mum is none other than Rita Coolidge, so the pedigree is certainly in the genes; but I’ve lost count of the number of albums I’ve received over the years from children/siblings/cousins twice removed of famous Rock Stars. One or two have stood the test of time, AJ Croce and The Chapin Sisters spring to mind, but the rest? PAH! Now I’ve had this album for a week or so, I’m happy to report young Casey sits in the former camp; taking her looks and gorgeous voice from her Mother and to some degree her writing skills from her Father. That said; DIRTY FEET is very much a ‘band effort’ with Casey herself and ‘guest’ Andy Buckner sharing singing duties as Aaron ‘Woody’ Wood supplies some mean Country guitar too, giving everything a ‘Classic Country Rock’ feel about it, Opening song Blessed & Cursed errs on the side of Classic Country in the way Casey sings her little heart out, but boy can these cats Rock and Boogie too, when they put their minds to it. On Feeling More Like Myself and Only Thing I Can’t Do Without Buckner takes the lead and somehow criss-crosses the gung-ho Southern Rock sound I loved as a young man with modern ‘Trucker Country’ that the kids love today; and to my untutored ears ……. it’s a marriage made in Heaven! So far I haven’t researched the band’s videos; but I hope the pictures live up to the sultry way Casey delivers Drown, with its perfect mix of bitterness and heartfelt sadness; and like so many other tracks here; really comes to life whenever Jim Aaron blows his harmonica and Woods makes his guitar weep and wail. So far I’ve played DIRTY FEET in the car a few times, and also in the house too, and both scenarios work, as you can blast the hell out of them if you want, but get just as much enjoyment listening on headphones. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why Casey includes Me & Bobby McGee here; and I’m sure it’s a fan favourite when sung live; but here it only distracts from her own efforts which are pretty damn good in their own rite. One song in particular jumped out the first time I played this album; but there are a couple of others that are now running it a close second; Buckner’s heartbreaking ballad Bad Side of Me and the epic grungy finale Dirty Feet which sounds like Casey and Buckner spent 48 hours listening to Skynard and Jason Isbell non-stop before writing and recording this absolute monster! But there is also that ‘special song’ I alluded to; Quit Drinking Less, which ticks every box we have here; with the dynamic duo swapping verses on a love-lorn heartbreaker that is as Country as a Nudie suit or a Stetson hat. Casey’s voice aches with sorrow as Buckner takes on the role of the ‘done wrong’ man as the band sound like they have tears running down their cheeks as they keep time behind them. It’s a genuine gold plated belter. These songs thankfully never, ever approach that Heavy Rock Country that breaks my heart when I try to watch the CMA Awards, Ms. Kristofferson, Mr Buckner and friends give us the type of Country Rock that is full of melodies, pathos and occasionally sizzling guitar solos, but most of all…… 21st Century HEART!
Her Crooked Heart To Love To Leave To Love Self-Release
Imaginative and Sincere Songs of Love, Breakup and Beyond.
I’ve struggled with this album for a couple of reasons; mostly because it’s quite a dark album and for once I’ve been in a very good mood and generally been playing bouncy music; and also when you peel back the initial veneer there’s a bit of a ‘feminist slant’ to several songs; and I’m an old man. But; being the Semi-Professional I am, I’ve persevered and last night, Saturday it proved the perfect soundtrack to long evening skipping between a tiresome book and trawling the internet; and now (Sunday) morning it has been an accompaniment for reading the Sunday papers. That said, this album is far from ‘Easy Listening’ or ‘background music’ …….. right from track #1 Letters, Rachel Ries aka Her Crooked Heart and her words demands your full attention and to be listened to. Now that the songs are embedded in my psyche and having read her bio, it appears that the Multi-Faceted musician wrote these songs in the aftermath of a short lived marriage (hence the title?) with some being quite literal – Courthouse, Pleasant Valley Reservoir and Young Love Is Like Nothing quickly spring to mind; but others like Are You Good You Are and For a Song, use ingenious wording to tell her harrowing story of heartbreak and sorrow. Every single track is differently constructed, with Loving You being sung from the heart out over a brutally plucked acoustic guitar and Enough sounding like a light-opera singer juxtaposed onto a Jazz instrumental, yet both and everything else in-between work exceptionally well; and combine to create an a multi-layered and very imaginative and complete album. I’ve loved the challenges that this album has given me; none more so than trying to find a genre to comfortably sit it in – Folk? Not really. Rock? Certainly not. Jazz? Hmmm, probably not. But, my Favourite Song, Windswept is a prime example; as it combines a bit of everything as it just features Rachel pouring her heart over an array of intensely played instruments that conjure up some weird emotions; perhaps Her Crooked Heart has reinvigorated the much maligned Art-Rock genre…. although, this will more than likely be in the Singer-Songwriter section; and I have no real problem with that. There’s a lot to like here; especially if you are at the end of a relationship yourself; but even if you are just a Music Lover (like what I am!) Rachel has an amazing voice that sounds a bit like Enya or perhaps even Adele (without the wizardry) and her songs, which sound quite gentle but have increasingly biting lyrics and stories remind me of Kate Bush’s first album and those early Elton John albums too; and that in itself is high praise indeed.
Joseph Arthur Painted Into Things (EP) Self-Released
We’ve got a new friend in the US of A who sent me a bucket full of shiny new singles and EP’s over the weekend, well in real terms there were 6 downloads; but you know what I mean. As you’d expect, some are better and more relevant than others and this three track EP entitled, Painted Into Things by Joseph Roberts who is not just a singer-songwriter by something of a renowned artist too, is as good a starting point as any. All three songs are wistful, poignant and a little bit sad, and they have been the soundtrack to a wet Bank Holiday Monday morning as I catch up on a backlog of e-mails and editing photos. The lead single Something Beautiful Won’t Come Out conjures up happy memories of my miserable younger, shoe-gazing days listening to the Lotus Eaters, Sundays and the like, with How Dull The Ache following a similar moody path to inner-happiness (?) while Firebreak has more than a bit of Leonard Cohen melancholia to it too; but with a cool DIY synth backing. I’m looking forward to hearing more of the same very soon.
It’s a sign of the times that, alongside many of his peers, Norrie McCulloch had to fund this latest album via Kickstarter and not through a Record Label that ‘believed in him’. Any hoot, the cash was promised and the record is here…… and therefore the world is a better place. While I loved the resolute starkness of his last two albums; but there’s something of a ‘band feel’ here; none more so than the opening track Dear Lady Blue’ an intense and bittersweet love song that is drenched in harmonies yet also features some stinging mandolin too, yet you are always drawn back to the singer’s distinctively warm Scottish brogue and words. For me there’s always been something about Scottish singing voices that gives off an ‘authentic aura’ regardless of whatever topic they are singing about, as is especially the case with the song that follows Road Sign, about a man who is reminded of ‘the love of his life’ in the mundane things he sees everywhere, including the Road Signs. Here McCulloch flits between heartfelt love songs and blue collar working imagery with ease; and a couple of times manages to combine the two. Janey (When We Were Young) opens with a mournful harmonica solo, then the story about a young lost soul arriving in the mining village; and managing to touch his heart over the next few years in a way few, if any can ever match, then disappearing when her Father’s work took them away again. It’s an intricately clever song masquerading as a simple Folk number; but be under no illusions …….. you will be left with a lump in your throat as you too, remember someone special from your own childhood. Drinking Money, on the other hand is a jaunty Folk tale of the ‘working man’ who is willing to risk everything, as long as he has enough money to go out ‘for a drink’ at the end of the week. The title track Compass is a left turn for the singer-songwriter, as it not just includes congas but some really fluid guitar playing on a song that may be about a literal Compass that guides his way through life; or is it a ‘moral compass’? Perhaps we will all have a different interpretation. In it’s own way, this song reminds me of the great and underrated String Driven Thing, in concept and construction; and I know Norrie is also a fan of the late Chris Adams. On the accompanying piece of artwork Norrie included in my package, he describes his ‘work’ as ‘Folked Up Country’; and I only wish I’d though of that earlier; as it’s the perfect description for the three songs that close the album, She’s So Good, Simple Life and With You In My Life; which will all sit comfortably in the Folk Clubs of Britain, the downtown bars across Canada and the Honky-Tonks of Middle America; or basically where people gather to drink beer and listen to very good music. Quite a few songs came under consideration for the title of Favourite Song at one time another; but from the first time I played Hollow Love a month ago to earlier today, I knew it was a very special song indeed. Like many other songs here, it has it’s roots in the work of famed Scottish songwriters like Jackie Leven, Donovan and Eddi Reader, but Guy Clark and John Prine too in the way McCulloch takes his and our emotions and rings the very life out of them. It may have been hard work, physically and emotionally getting this album together ……. but it’s well worth it; and I have a feeling it could be a stepping stone to something special for this Son of Scotia.
Frank Sinatra I’ve Got You Under My Skin BMG/Dreyfus Jazz
The Master Gets a Masterful and Classy Overhaul
A few months ago I re-posted the Press Release for a series of re-mastered Jazz albums; and …… surprise, surprise; I was made fun of by a few friends. Who knew I liked Jazz? Well; I do and I don’t. Over the years I’ve tried my hardest to ‘get into Jazz’; but have generally failed miserably as it can be very tough on the senses at times; but I’ve always had a soft spot for what my Dad called ‘Dinner Jazz’ and in-particular Francis Albert Sinatra, Ella, Nat King Cole and Chet Baker (who also have new albums coming in this series). As I understand it, this album along with the others have just been ‘cleaned up’ using the finest quality technology for 21st Century speakers; with nothing added or taken away from the actual recordings. First of all you may ask, “Does the world need another Frank Sinatra retrospective?” Obviously the answer is probably ‘no’; but then again …… why the Hell not, as to some degree I’ve just spent two days rediscovering the man’s genius …. and you can too. It’s staggering to think that opening track You Make Me Feel So Young was recorded before I was born 60+ years ago; yet still sounds exciting and touching today, in 2019. Perhaps like Elvis,The Beatles, Bob Dylan and all of the other megastars that have touched our lives over the years, I wonder if we take them for-granted? Try listening; really listening to the arrangements and Sinatra’s phrasing on the title track I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Too Marvelous For Words or more importantly They Can’t Take That Away From Me and I swear you will get a little tingle the way youngsters did well over half a century ago! While Sinatra recorded in a time when records were churned out week after week; you can tell here that the man made Quality Control his priority with Mood Indigo and You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me transcending Pop Music and especially Easy Listening, which lazy reviewers and DJs have pigeon holed him in over the years; but these are really something delicate and really and truly special when you listen carefully. As a ‘man of a certain age’ my entry to this type of music was actually via Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch albums; and a song I associate with that time is here; and now Makin’ Whoopee sound completely different and even, dare I say it …… sexy, when purred by Frank! Apart from the ‘overall surprise’ I’ve had listening to this album; there have been a number of surprises from songs I’d not heard before, especially Just One of Those Things and Love is Here To Stay which both must have been groundbreaking when my Mother first heard them on the wireless in the mid 1950’s. As regular readers will know I’m normally quite contrary when it comes to selecting a Favourite Song; but today I’ve found myself staggered rediscovering My Funny Valentine and thinking ‘is there a finer song anywhere by anyone than In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning’? Yes, there is …… One For My Baby which made me hold my breath a couple of nights ago so I wouldn’t miss a note as Frank delivers a heartbreaker of truly epic proportions, that yet again, transcends simple Pop Music in a way I’d never thought possible. Listening to the quality of these recordings I doubt (and hope) the album won’t be found on the supermarket shelves as it deserves to be a considered purchase for connoisseurs of fine music of all persuasions. #PS ‘That song’ mercifully isn’t here …… just the good stuff 😉