Here’s another new singer from RMHQ; Finnian is a songwriter from Dundalk, Ireland. Over the last number of years he has toured extensively throughout his home country and Europe. He recently supported David Keenan on his Irish Tour and is now releasing the first single ‘Even Flow’ from his new album ‘Under The Influence’.
Starting out as a folk based singer- songwriter renowned for a strong and dynamic vocal, he has been praised by peers in the industry and audiences throughout Ireland and Europe for his honest, clever and thought provoking lyrics and although playing as a solo acoustic based artist is something that he thoroughly enjoys and executes with a passion and energy that has received critical acclaim he decided to add another dynamic to his music. Just over a year ago he put together a band and submerged himself in the hunt for a new sound. Something that would merge lyrics and music more consistently.
His first full album ‘Under The Influence’ due for release in Summer 2019 is the embodiment of two years of hard work and is a hugely ambitious yet solid projection of that sound he was searching for.
Fiery, Feisty and Heartbreaking So-Cal Country Tearjerkers
I’ve not heard a Country album like this for a long, long time …….. catchy melodies aligned to really feisty and punchy lyrics and Jade Jackson’s voice is ‘to die for’ as the young people would say. The opening track Bottle It Up is just the sort of toe-tapping, punch the air slice of music I needed to hear last week …… and again this morning; and I’m not even Jade Jackson’s target demographic! Those young women will lap this up like kittens and a bowl of cream …… it’s far from being anti-men; but just the sort of Feminist Anthem that I want my Granddaughters listening to and enjoying as they grow up. To some intents and purposes this is the type of music that Taylor Swift could and should be making; so in her absence it’s left to Jade Jackson to deliver the goods with really sharply observed and delivered songs like Multiple Choice and Now or Never, which both have a bit of a punky spine to them too. Primarily aimed at younger women, there’s plenty of heartbreak here too ……. tissues should be at hand for the tearjerkers Loneliness and Don’t Say You Love Me; but even I, at my age can empathise with these sentiments too. For only a second album Jade’s songwriting and storytelling is very mature as is shown in Dust and the album closer Secret which both sound like they’ve been influenced by Lucinda at some time or another in their development. To say that I’ve been impressed by this album is a huge understatement; as Jade covers a lot of territory in these songs, all of which are autobiographical in one way or another, and if that’s the case she’s had one Hell of a life; and not just following her horrific accident when she fell 15ft from a rope swing! But that’s what sets songwriters apart from the rest of us mere mortals; and brings me to the contenders for the RMHQ Favourite Song, the epic Shiver has to be up there; as does the feisty title track Wilderness too but I’m going for the song Tonight with it’s sweet melody masking another teenage heartbreaker that will have young women all over the Western World crying into their tissues while pressing ‘repeat’ 100 times a night! (Just like Mrs Magpie did when listening to David Cassidy 45’s before she met me!) I’ve enjoyed this a lot, even though it’s not meant for old guys like me; but good music is good music, regardless of the listener’s age and this damn good music!
Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers No Good Deed Pretty Good For a Girl Records
Post-Glam Rocking Blues With an Indie Slant.
When I first received this CD the cover artwork reminded me of something else; and for the life of me I’m still baffled. Even if you’d bought this album by accident after seeing ‘that cover’; you certainly won’t be disappointed when the sweat stained opening track Seven Day Fool blasts from your speakers. Mindi’s rather sultry vocals are aided by a power-trio who certainly know what they are doing in the shadows; and even their harmonies on the chorus are whip-smart. The title track NO GOOD DEED follows and opens with a Suzi Quatro/Glitter Band industrial strength drum beat and the song itself sounds like it should have been on Top of the Pops in the early 70’s or perhaps mid 80’s as a post-Punk pastiche; and I bloody love it! There you have it, Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers are consummate and stage ready musicians; but sound like they are having a blast and loving what they are doing …….. which is a bit of a rarity these days. Mindi’s selections of songs to cover are as interesting as her own penned songs, with the Young Rascals (or Pat Benatar mega-hit depending on your age) You Better Run, virtually sizzles with excitement and hints at a dangerously angry woman who has been spurned, the way Mindi not only growls the lyrics but toots her saxophone until the reeds nearly pop out; and Ike and Tina Turner’s Baby, Get It On finds Mindi duetting with drummer Third Richardson cranking up the tempo even higher than that coveted couple ever managed on disc. One minute Mindi Abair and band are creating a big ole Rock & Roll racket with Movin’ On and then they slow things down and get a little Bluesy with Mess I’m In and Bad News which shows not just how cool they are; but how they know the way to an audience’s heart. Where to go for a Favourite Track? Sticking a pin into the Sleeve notes would be one way, as everything here is a contender but with careful thought; I’m torn between two sleazy heartbreakers; Sweetest Lies and Who’s Gonna Save My Soul? With the latter and it’s thread of hope in a hopeless world probably winning by a whisker (and the nod to the Allman’s Whipping Post in the guitar refrains helped my decision too btw). If there’s one song here that actually sums up why I’ve become so smitten with this album, it’s their sweet rendition of Good Day For The Blues, where everything comes together on a song that should and could be sad, sad, sad but Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers make it a glorious and sweepingly joyous six minutes.
I don’t know where to start? Kete Bowers’ back-story I presume; as being born on the banks of the River Mersey and leaving home when the last ‘years of austerity’ in the North bit hard; and subsequently marrying and divorcing colour his songwriting like a very fine black permanent marker. Even getting this album recorded was fraught with despair; as a financial backer disappeared without trace days before the original recordings were to start. But being the dogged character he is, Bowers sent out even more e-mails and a Canadian record label picked up the challenge alongside Michael Timmins from Cowboy Junkies agreed to be Producer too. So; hopefully you’re not expecting a happy go-lucky collection of dance tracks after that are you? The stone cold beauty of this collection of songs is the combination of Bowers’ heartfelt and often gut-wrenching songwriting with a distinctively rich voice and Timmins trademark crisp production that forces the listener to listen intently to every damn word and chord progression. Northern Town which starts the album and sets the mono-tone was originally conceived as a commentary about living in and eventually leaving Birkenhead between 1976 and 81; but sadly could have been written any time in the last 5 years as it’s just as pertinent and observational today in 2019. It’s no surprise at all to find each and every song is desperately person in tone, word and deed with each and every one being tragically beautiful too; with A Place By The River and Ghosts visiting themes many others have attempted to capture; but never in such an extraordinary manner as Bowers uses his words and Timmins his magic touch on the emotional dashboard. It’s a long time since I heard anyone use their voice in this deeply sensitive way to convey their feelings from the very pits of their soul, as Kete does on A Fine Day To Leave and later on You Stole My Joy, which uses imagery in a way I would normally associate with film directors Ken Loach and Shane Meadows. As this is only Bowers second ever album, and nine years after the first it’s unlikely you will ever have heard of him before this review; but I will throw a couple of names into the ring as to whom he reminds me of; Canadian Stephen Fearing and legendary English Folk Singer Ralph McTell; a strange combination, I agree …… but listen and tell me I’m wrong. Normally I would avoid a ‘single’ as my Favourite Track; but Winner is such an emotional and heartbreaking narrative; sung with raw passion how could I select anything else? We all know talent isn’t enough on it’s own to become succesful these days; but Kete Bowers just needs a smidgen of good luck and a couple of TV appearances to make this album into some kind of chart hit for this exceptional singer-songwriter.
Look, it’s a cool song by French based Aussie-Brit band Sunset Sons anyway; but how could I resist making this our Single of the Day with this video? Serendipity plays a huge part, as Son #1, now 40 has been drawn back to skateboarding as my Granddaughter aged 10 has ‘got into it’ and a whole day of our imminent holiday with them is booked at a Sk8 Park in Tampere, Finland where they live!
‘Say Hi’ arrives just ahead of a run of intimate underplay dates from the France-based band – including London’s Camden Assembly on June 26 – which sold out immediately after going on sale. The 4 dates (which will be followed by festival appearances at Truck & Boardmasters) are Sunset Sons’ first UK dates since Nothing But Thieves took them on tour for a run of huge shows (alongside Demob Happy) in late 2018.
The new video for single ‘Say Hi’ – shot in & around the Southbank skate space – is a sort of inverse homage to Tom Hanks’ 80s classic, ‘Big’. Featuring the band’s own bassist Pete Harper, the video rounds out with some sweet home movie footage of a teenaged Pete skating back home in Australia….
In a week when I’ve reviewed albums by Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson and Chuck Mead, this latest release by English singer-songwriter Paul McClure has possibly excited me more than all of those releases by household names. While I’m truly flattered for my opinion to be considered by those record companies; it’s the likes of Paul that makes this reviewing malarkey worth while. I had to stop doing what I was doing and start the CD again when I first heard the deeply personal and brittle opening song The Morning and My Love, which finds McClure pouring his heart out while he plays a piano in what sounds like an empty room. Just like that first song there’s an intensity and deep felt pain in several other songs here; even though the pace picks up on Sing To The Stars and This Is What They Mean (When They Sing About The Blues) which kick what we normally think of as Folk Music into a ditch, as McClure criss-crosses traditional genres with ease. Unlike Paul McClure on title track Market Town, I couldn’t wait to leave my original Home Town as a young man; moving 10 miles away to a shiny new dormitory town; which I’ve lived in for 40 years so can empathise with his deep held love he has for the Market Town he has never left and will fight to the death anyone who would ever criticise it! There are joys a’plenty in the characters in songs like Sing To The Stars; about an old chap McClure met at a gig and got around to telling the songwriter that his biggest regret had been been working day and night to put food on the table; but it had meant he missed his kids growing up; and McClure manages to get that pathos across in every line and stanza. As a died in the wool ‘romantic’ selecting a Favourite Song was quite easy, with the charming Grandad’s Pants just getting pipped at the post by Daddy Will You Hold My Hand. ‘Swoon’ McClure’s story swept me back to my own days as a young father; but also made my heart swell as I thought of my two sons and their own children as Paul McClure with Ally McErlaine supplying slide-guitar tug and squeeze at the listeners heartstrings like a hand in a velvet glove. While we get excited by the romantic imagery conjured up by our American and Americana friends; Paul has gone back to what he knows best ……. living, loving and working in an English Market Town; and his personal songs will catch the attention of even our friends across both the North Sea and the Atlantic because each and everyone of these tiny stories are actually International and deserve such a widespread audience.
Real Deal Authentic and Thought Provoking Modern Country.
Aaron Watson first graced our pages way back in 2016 when we highlighted a single; then nothing until last year when another single appeared to promote a small UK Tour then nothing until now; and it appears he’s become an overnight star ! Well; I know he’s put a hard shift in over the last 20 years or so ….. but; well ….. you know what I mean! As I do, I played this album a couple of last week and while a few songs stick in my mind, it wasn’t until Thursday morning when I slid the disc in the car stereo for a road trip to North Northumberland that ‘it hit me’; and soon I was pretending I was in a Ford Mustang speeding around the back roads of Wyoming (I have a good imagination). Just like last week opening track The Ghost of Guy Clark sounded sublime in the Summer sunshine; but today the story unravelled a bit more and I eventually decided that this was going to not just be my Favourite Song here; but just may be my Song of the Year …… it’s going to take something really, really special to better this, trust me. RED BANDANA is a bit of an emotional and musical roller-coaster with Watson galloping through a couple of Rockers with gusto and potency with Dark Horse and Kiss That Girl Goodbye being sure fire fan favourites ‘in concert’ and Live or Die Trying; while a bit ‘sentimental’ for my tastes is the type of Gung-Ho Country that will have them dancing in the aisles. Personally I prefer Watson’s more soulful slower songs; but as I say that’s my taste; but when his Good Ole Boy fans hear Blood Brothers, I hope it makes them look deep into their souls and question their political allegiances. Oddly in this day and age the album is made up of 20 songs; and normally I would question Watson’s quality control filter; but within reason every song here is worthy of release; with the singer taking us into some interesting territory on Burn Em’ Down and To Be The Moon, but Dark Horse, You On My Hands and Shake a Heartache are are all classy Modern Country; and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If it hadn’t been for that Guy Clark song either of Riding With Red or the title track Red Bandana would surely have been my Favourite Song; and there’s still time …… but both tick all of the boxes I have for a sentimental and romantic song; although in this case I *presume ‘Red’ of Red Bandana fame is Watson’s Grandfather and obviously still an inspiration to the songwriter to this very day. Both Country Radio and Legends are ‘preaching to the choir’ but both are rather exceptional songs that look back to the Glory Days; and I did find myself mouthing the words a couple of times. Watson isn’t afraid to tread off the traditional Country Radio Format at times; El Comienzo Del Viaje and Blood Brothers spring to mind; but none more so than the very brave song, 58 which closes is the album, and the all too brief 58 seconds feel like a punch to the gut when you realise that Watson is singing about the 58 who lost there lives …… no….. were murdered in Las Vegas in 2017.
I’ve been in several arguments over the last few years as to what Country Music ‘is’ in 2019; and while it covers a lot of areas …….. Aaron Watson and his songs are as authentic as they come these days; he’s the Real Deal in a way many of the Huge Hat acts that adorn the magazines could ever dream of being.
Fire Up The Tesla For a Midnight Drive Along Ventura Highway.
Normally if the first song on an album doesn’t ‘grab my attention’ I swiftly move on to the next one in the pile; but sometimes the artist involved is too important to me for me to be so flippant; and Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina certainly falls into that camp…… especially as this is his debut solo album! Why the reticence on my behalf? Well as the owner of three rocking Crazy Horse albums, numerous Neil Young ones featuring this legendary drummer who also plays one of my favourite albums of all time; Ian McNabb’s Merseybeast……the first track Lullabies and subsequently Your Life is My Life Too which swiftly follows the 22 second opener were absolutely nothing like what I expected at all. But; why can’t Molina record what the Hell he likes after sitting at the back of the stage for half a century? That second song, and pretty much everything that follows is as smooth as silk and full to the brim with gorgeous overdubbed harmonies on a song that sounds like it could be a lost track from Sunflower or Surf’s Up or Sunflower by the Beach Boys. It’s having those albums in the back of my mind which is how I actually got my head around LOVE & INSPIRATION, the songs here are quite enigmatic and very ‘West Coast’ with every song perfectly created to compliment Molina’s effortless singing style All 11 songs are self-penned and show a dormant talent finally allowed to flourish; with Too Young To Know and Follow That Star both sounding like they were from some starry eyed Lo-Fi Alt, Country band rather than a man who has tread the boards at every major festival and stadium known to man. While listening over the last couple of days words like ‘cinematic’, ‘ethereal’ and ‘delicate’ spring to mind whenever I’ve heard It’s Gonna Be Alright and especially You Wear an Angel’s Wings; yet each has a lot going on the background as does the nearest there is to a ‘rocker’ here, the co-write with Sir Ian McNabb; Dance on The Wind but only in as much as it’s a luxuriously soft-rocker. Oh man! Now Summer has arrived LOVE & INSPIRATION has already elbowed out a couple of albums due for review, as I’ve fallen head over heals in love with this album; which brings me to my Favourite Track here, Hopelessly In Love With You, which feels like a gentle cuddle and just needs a film soundtrack to attach itself too for it to be a major hit. As I said at the start, this probably won’t be what you would expect from the Crazy Horse drummer; but if you can get past your preconceptions this album really is the gift that keeps on giving.
I’ve been rather smitten by Geordie Soul songstress Beth Macari for a few years now; but after missing out on her last couple of singles (a lost e-mail address!) I now a shiny copy of her latest single One More Time in my grubby little mitts. Well; the first time I played it last week my eyes nearly popped out of my head ……. qu’ell surprise! Ms Macari whom we normally associate with the hi-octane end of the Jazz-Soul-Pop spectrum, has now slowed things way, way down on this fragile and rather beautiful ballad which genuinely showcases her crystal clear voice in a way I would never have thought possible. At first I presumed this was going to be a normal broken hearted broken love affair song; but Hell’s Teeth it is so much deeper than that, as it’s actually a love song for a loved one who has ‘passed away’. A parent? A lover? A grandparent? It’s not made clear; and nor should it be as it’s so incredibly personal it had me transfixed as I thought of first my own Mother who died 40 years ago; and then again on Father’s Day my dear departed Dad, and yes…… tears did flow as I played it while flicking through some old photos. I know nowt about the Popular Music charts these days; but this should be compulsive listening on daytime Radio 2 if there is any justice. What a song! What a story! What a voice!
Willie Nelson Ride Me Back Home Legacy Recordings/Sony Music
The Edgiest Easy Listening Country You May Ever Hear.
I have a confession to make ……… I’ve never heard a Willie Nelson album before…..no….. not even a Greatest Hits….. nothing……. I’ve wanted to; but where to start in a canon of work that stretches back to before I was even born? So; this has been quite exciting in it’s own little way. The album opens with the reflectively charming title track Ride Me Back Home; and already I felt comfortable and in good company, as Nelson’s distinctive and somewhat iconic voice hits the notes it needs to without ever over reaching; and the simple backing leaves you with a smile on your face on a song using the metaphor of Nelson’s 60 or so ‘rescue horses’ for the latter days of our lives. Nelson himself has contributed four songs here (3 of which are with Buddy Canon) and the other 8 are a fascinating mix of the old and the new, showing what an astute ear the man has. Of his own songs he revisits 1972’s Stay Away From Lonely Places and while I don’t know the original I doubt it was an edgy late night lounge tune, as it is here; which brings me to the ‘key thing’ that has always confused me about Willie Nelson, for Country Music’s #1 Outlaw ….. he sure can put the ‘easy’ into Easy Listening! Which is probably the best way to describe the smooth as silk interpretation of Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are and the delightful Maybe I Should Have Been Listening, which closes the record; with Nelson’s tired ole voice bringing even extra pathos to the words in both. Some years ago he visited the Great American Songbook; and that was what sprung to mind when I first heard Seven Year Itch; but it’s brand new and written especially for this project; which probably goes to show what a great songwriter he still is. But, make no mistake; this isn’t ‘background music’ by any stretch of the imagination; as on bassist Dan Spears’ Nobody’s Listening he tells a harrowing and heartbreaking account of a man on the edge, as he loses his job and his world then crumbles around him; then the song moves onto and into the small towns that have been swept aside by crazy weather patterns; then Nelson finishes by feeling ‘useless as a singer’, but he continues anyway in the belief that somewhere Somebody’s Listening. It’s intelligent, smart and most of all thought provoking. In the same way, Nelson breathes new life into Guy Clark’s Immigrant Eyes, which may or may not make Middle America think about where they came from; and where their country is right now. A beautiful song with diamond cut edges, beautifully sung. While trying to choose a Favourite Song, I knew even before I first heard it that I would love it; because Guy Clark’s My Favourite Picture Of You is one of my favourite songs of all time*; and yes; Willie really does do it justice. But …… there’s another contender for the throne today; as alongside sons Lukas and Micah Nelson they have had me heartily singing along to their tongue in cheek version of the tongue in cheek It’s Hard to Be Humble ……. which, may or may not be dedicated to me! Hahahahahah ….. that’s a joke. I’m not sure that there’s any surprises here for Willie’s fans; but for me every single track has been a delightful surprise and perhaps when I retire I will have the time to visit his back catalogue.
*Clark’s original is in the line up for my funeral btw.