Rye and Acutely Observed Rootsy Scottish Folk and Americana
Scotland and in particular Glasgow and surrounding areas has always had a rich history when it comes to Country Music, even supporting it in all its formats during the dark Line-Dancing era. That is one of the reasons it’s at the forefront of all that is good today in the British version of Americana. One of these flag-bearers is the ever wonderful Daniel Meade. But ….. and it’s a big B.U.T he appears to have gone back to the roots of his Roots on this; his latest Solo release sans The Flying Mules. Not normally a fan of sweary words in songs; I can’t help myself mentally singing along and punching the air to the quirky and almost anthemic opening track Anyway, Anywhere, Anyhow …… especially the chorus on Daniel’s rye observation regarding the current state of Country Music; and his own Independent role. Even though this is sung in his native Glaswegian brogue; I expect many other Rootsy/Americana acts to adopt it into their own shows before the year is out. Once you get past that ‘protest song’ it’s back to normal with Meade’s rye and acutely observed songs; starting with the danceably rocky These Things Happen; a song that will make you smile then think “Oh! That’s what it’s about!” Such is Meade’s skills with his songwriting he drops in several other musical time bombs, masquerading as a simple Folk/Americana song …….. give Funny How The World Turns a few consecutive listens and you’ll find it’s not as simple as you’d first thought; as is Workin’ On an Old Song, where the singer actually explains the intricacies of writing a simple song. Meade’s ever growing army of fans are going to especially love Same Kind of Crazy and the articulate and melodious title track Rust as they follow the Americana path we normally associate him with; but for me the real excitement is hearing him pour his heart out in a more Traditional Singer-songwriter (Folk?) manner with Dreams Grow on Trees and On The Line; although the latter has ‘big feel’ to it. Now with all of that behind us I’m going to tell you what my actual Favourite Song is, and it will make not just Daniel roll his eyes back, but ‘Real Music Fans’ too ……. but howway man! How can I not love the Music Hall inspired slice of good ole Rock & Roll that Lord Alex Harvey of the Gorbals would have been proud of ……. ladies and gentlemen …….. I give you …… Fanny, Fanny, Bang, Bang! If you ask me this would be the perfect choice for the UK to enter into the Eurovision Song Contest! As he himself hints in a couple of songs, Daniel Meade is unlikely to ever headline the main stage at Glastonbury or the Royal Albert Hall; but as long as he and his likes are releasing albums like this I will be a happy man.
It’s Time to Discover a New British Blues Guitar Hero.
Not unlike my formative years in the early 1970’s when interesting and exciting album releases and subsequent tours were happening most weeks, it’s a great time for British Blues Rock at the moment. But, unlike that golden era, this generation of artists are sadly getting lost to the Spotify ‘shuffle’ button and having to play to ‘double digit’ crowds in a pub, while across town either a Looky-Likey band or at best a reformed band with just the original drummer and keyboard player are selling out an Academy! Hey-Ho; onto the reason for my rant …….. Sean Webster. I’d not heard of him until Drummer extraordinaire, Meister Mixer and friend of RMHQ sent me this ‘Live album’. The first thing I noticed were the three venues that the songs came from; Bootleggers in Kendal I know and love; but a Community Centre in Ferryhill (about 12 miles from my front door) and a Working Men’s Club in Lancashire? Some mistake? Surely. My ire was raised further, because I was listening to opening track Give Me The Truth as I was reading. Webster has a gravelly voice, akin to my heroes Sir Joe Cocker and Roger Chapman, plays guitar in a fabulously understated manner (Paul Kossoffesque?) and has a really tight and supportive band around him ……. and this particular bittersweet love song is very well crafted too. This album is so good; and it has to be said ‘so fascinating’ to this Blues lover, that I keep wanting to angrily wandering off shouting at the world; but I will try to keep to the script. My only gripe is that, like many live albums the audience applause is quickly faded out and there’s no chat between songs ….. but I guess that means it all fits on one CD and also allows for repeated consumer plays and therefore longevity (I know all too well how tedious recorded stories and jokes can become). Many things here have impressed me; none more so than Websters ‘liquid’ guitar style; yes it can be flamboyant when needed, but generally its so understated you can forget how innovative he’s being (back in my teenage days Sean Webster would easily have made Sounds Top 10 guitarists of the year at least once) but mostly it’s his songs and the way he delivers them that have impressed me most. He can do heartfelt slow-burners better than most of his peers; that’s for sure. When you first hear Heart Still Bleeds and Don’t Feel The Same. Then again, there’s a clue in the word ‘Blues’ …… this guy can wring the notes out of his guitar while drowning you in pathos too …….. his re-invention of John Mayer’s Slow Dancing in a Burning Room and Keith Urban’s epic ‘Til Summer Comes Around are prime examples; but you will find your own too. Every other song here is from Webster’s own imagination and life, and boy does he use ‘that voice’ to great effect to draw the listener in on Hear Me Now and the concert closer You Got To Know, when I think he had sparks coming from his guitar strings. Several of those songs deserve the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Track; and many of you will wonder why your Favourite isn’t mine; but when you hear The Mayor you will understand why; Webster’s guitar simply sizzles throughout and when he sings; he uses his voice like the boxer Muhammad Ali on the night of ‘Rope a Dope’ ….. slowly reeling you in; until he delivers the knockout in the last verse! I still need to do more research into who Sean Webster is and obviously discover his back catalogue; but that’s the purpose of not just ‘retrospective’ collections like this; and probably sites like RMHQ ……… we lead where others follow.
The Band Sean Webster – Vocals, Guitar Floris Poesse – Bass Guitar, Bv’s Hilbrand Bos – Keys, Bv’s Ruud Gielen – Drums, Bv’s
Recorded on March 21st at Bootleggers, Kendal,
March 23rd Mainsforth Community Centre, Ferryhill and March 24th Legion Blues
Joel Paterson Plays The Beatles (Let It Be Guitar) Ventrella/Bloodshot Records
Dance On, The Beatles as You’ve Never Heard Them Before.
At the start of this year I’d have sworn that Instrumental albums were ‘well out of fashion,’ yet I’ve received 9 so far; and saw the amazing Los Straightjackets reinvigorate this much maligned category at Sage Gateshead. Which brings us to this little gem …….. and I’m truly baffled for how to introduce it; because I absolutely love it, but know 99.99% of the population will pass it by without a cursory glance. More fool them I say! It doesn’t really matter that I’ve never heard of Joel Paterson before; because as soon as I first heard the opening chords to All My Loving I knew I was going to be in for a rare treat; and it has been. Every single track here is obviously instantly recognisable; such was the genius of Lennon and McCartney; but in Joel Paterson’s magic hands each song gets a loving overhaul; without losing any of the original sparkle. Much like the legendary Bill Kirchen, Joel Paterson can pay homage to the greatest of guitar players, Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Hank B Marvin and James Burton to name but four; without ever sounding like he’s making a pastiche. While you and I normally associate Can’t Buy Me Love, Michelle and Something with their amazing lyrics; in these hands they manage to sound just as beautiful, melancholic and occasionally even transcendental. Concentrating on The Beatles earlier works Paterson even manages to throw some curve balls too; re-introducing us to Things We Said Today, Drive My Car and a childhood favourite of mine; From Me To You with effortless grace. It’s fair to say Joel Paterson knows his history; as I’d totally forgot about I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party (which becomes a bit of a hoedown here) and also Honey Pie; which gets a Classical meets Jazz guitar overhaul. The first time I ever heard and saw a pedal-steel guitar was at Butlins Holiday Camp as a teenager in the mid 70’s in their Hawaiian themed bar as a similar sounding combo played the hits of yesteryear; and that’s exactly where the sublime This Boy, Girl and also the Farfisa organ drenched Can’t Buy Me Love takes me whenever I hear these versions; I can still picture my Mam and Dad dancing too. Oh Lordy, what can I choose as a Favourite Track? I’ve always loved Drive My Car, and Joel and friends really do it justice; but the treatment given to Because is so gently exciting, I think it’s got to be that ……. or maybe And I Love Her? Oh I don’t know! Let It Be Guitar; Joel Paterson Plays The Beatles has been both a treat and a marvel over the last few days; and will undoubtedly be so again when it’s pulled down from the shelf when I’m feeling all lonely and melancholy. I envy anyone under 40 hearing these tracks for the first time and presumably going onto to discover the alternate magic in the Beatles’ originals; because without these songs the music you buy today wouldn’t exist.
As JD McPherson says in the liner notes – “ This ain’t your uncle’s Beatles cover record. This inspired recording is just what Doctor Robert ordered for Beatles fans (and contrarians) everywhere. Let It Be Guitar!”
Hot Club of Cowtown Wild Kingdom Gold Strike/The Orchard
Still Swinging and Sizzling After All These Years!
While they’ve been around virtually forever in musical terms (since 1994 actually) Hot Club of Cowtown have rarely crossed my path; even though I’ve been privy to conversations (arguments?) between friends who salivate at the prospect of seeing them on their irregular sojourns to NE England; and the thought of this, the band’s first album of ‘original’ in 10 years has had them bouncing around like cats on a hot tin roof ! I don’t know why I’ve not ‘got into them’ before; as straight from opening track My Candy the bizarre blend of Red Hot Parisienne Jazz and Western Swing actually works a treat; especially the way Elana James purrs the lyrics with an obvious ‘twinkle in her eye’; as she does through the rest of her songs on the album btw. The word that keeps springing to mind as my laptop bounces on my knees as I try to type, is ‘delightful’ ….. and I can’t think of a better way to describe the extraordinary Near Mrs. and of course High Up The Mountain which makes me smile like a ninny every time I’ve heard it. As far as I understand it, this wouldn’t be a Hot Club of Cowtown album without the inclusion of a couple of standards; and here they charm the life out of you with their luscious harmonies on How High The Moon, which also features some staggering interplay from this dexterous trio and who’d have thought that the Andy Stewart (ask your Grandma!!!) ‘Classic’ Loch Lomond would ever sound even vaguely contemporary in the 21st Century; but somehow these crazy kids manage it. It’s both odd and clever how the writers here can drop in the aforementioned songs then add one about a (prehistoric) Caveman, placing alongside Whit creating a genuine heartbreaker of a Cowboy song in Billy The Kid and then include a bittersweet breakup song, Easy Money too and they all make perfect sense in this particular setting. Classy, or what? Baring in mind there are only ever three musicians playing and/or singing here they make a truly beautiful noise; which isn’t really a surprise after all this time; is it? Earlier today I was stumped for what to select as my Favourite Song; but an hour or so ago I was in the car and the rambunctious Tall, Tall Ships and the more sentimental and emotional Before The Time Before Men really struck a chord; with Whit Smith’s intense guitar playing and Elana James fiery fiddle plus Jake Erwin’s understated bass combine to create a really stunning song; so it wins the prize. I’ve really enjoyed listening to this album as it’s been like a breath of fresh air; especially as Hot Club of Cowtown sound so unlike anyone else I think I’ve ever heard before …… and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Jade Jackson Nochtwache Hamburg 23rd September 2019
The last time my path crossed with Ms Jackson was at the 5 Spot in Nashville a little over 12 months ago. On that occasion her group of musicians were extremely capable but there was an ineffable non-cohesiveness about them. Twelve months on, and how things have changed – the introduction of Julian Ness to the rhythm section of Jake Vukovich and Tyler Miller has made the disparate parts into very much a band, visible in both the visuals and musical tightness superbly on display in this north German concert;one of a short tour.
Nochtwache is a subterranean basement venue, a few streets from the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and was a fine setting for the evening’s fiery melodious show.
Kicking off with “Motorcycle”, the set was balanced between Jackson’s two albums – nine songs from “Wilderness” and seven from “Gilded”. It was a mark of the quality of the show that every song sounded like it could have come from a greatest hits album, hopefully not too distant in the future. JJ has a Tom Pettyesque ear for melody and dynamics, especially on songs like “Long Way Home” whereas songs like “Multiple Choice” seem to be cut from similar stuff to “Trinity Lane” era Lilly Hiatt, although “Tonight” could easily knock a rockier Taylor Swift into a corner. This was one of those shows where there was a reciprocated ‘feed’ between audience and band and things just went from level to level. The tightness and cohesion of the band is also allowing JJ to become much more the front-person. The show was laced with self-effacing good humour, movement and control. My German friend who saw the band a couple of nights later in Cologne said that they/she were “begeistert” – “enthusiastic” – and that gets it nicely.
This confidence came to a head with the penultimate song, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love” which the band had put together in the soundcheck that afternoon – yet which sounded like they’d been playing it for years. The main set ended with “Troubled End” before the inevitable venue eruption and an encore of “Secret” which saw JJ leave the guitar behind and even sing from the audience.
It was one of those nights where, in a few years’ time I’ll be able to say “I saw Jade Jackson before she started playing the arena circuit”. This band have the lot – everyone else out there just needs to realise it. It shouldn’t take long.
HARRY NILSSON’S FINAL ALBUM, LOSST AND FOUNND, FINALLY TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAYVIA OMNIVORE RECORDINGS ON NOVEMBER 22 First album of unheard material by Harry Nilsson in 40 years features contributions from Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks, Jim Keltner, and Harry’s son, Kiefo Nilsson. Produced by Mark Hudson (Ringo Starr, Aerosmith).First LP pressing on white vinyl.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The music world was stunned on January 15, 1994, when superstar vocalist Harry Nilsson was struck down by a heart attack at the young age of 52. What the music world did not know at the time was that the multiple Grammy®award-winning artist was at work on his first album of original material in nearly fifteen years — fans would have to wait another quarter of a century to hear it. Omnivore Recordings is proud to release Losst and Founnd, a brand new album by Harry Nilsson. Produced by Mark Hudson (Ringo Starr, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne), the album features nine Nilsson originals as well as covers by Jimmy Webb and Yoko Ono. With musical contributions from an all-star cast of musicians, including Van Dyke Parks, Jim Keltner, Webb, and Harry’s son, Kiefo, the album features classic Nilsson melodies that have been his trademark for over 50 years. Nilsson’s estate is administered by Warner Chappell Music (WCM), who championed the album as part of the company’s effort to create new opportunities around catalog. WCM is working on a four-series podcast delving into the backstory behind Losst and Foundd, to be released leading up to the November album drop. Losst and Founnd will be available in CD, LP and Digital on November 22, 2019. Nilsson’s legacy — a body of work including “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “Without You,” “Coconut,” “Jump Into the Fire, “Spaceman,” and “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City” — has been bolstered in the last few years with the successful documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? and the many, many usages of Harry’s songs in film and television including this year’s Netflix hit Russian Doll, which features Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up” from his classic Nilsson Schmilssonalbum. From the liner notes by producer Mark Hudson: “Dear Harry . . . It’s been a little over 25 years since we’ve had one of “our conversations” and I can’t tell you how much I miss your wisdom, humor, passion, stories, and most of all . . . your music . . . Anyway, I finally finished the record we were working on . . . All of your ideas I would write down, and I have put them into this project . . . Making this album was a dream come true for me. I promised you we would finish it and get it out there one day and that day has finally come!” Find out why everybody’s still talkin’ about one of rock’s greatest singer/songwriters with new music by Harry Nilsson on Losst and Founnd. Track listing: 1. Lost and Found 2. Woman Oh Woman 3. U.C.L.A. 4. Hi-Heel Sneakers/Rescue Boy Medley 5. Lullaby 6. Animal Farm 7. Listen, the Snow Is Falling 8. Try 9. Love Is the Answer 10. Yo Dodger Blue 11. What Does a Woman See in a Man
The Very Mature Sound of a Woman At One With Her Talent
Is it really three years since Beth Hart released FIRE ON THE FLOOR? Where does the time go? I only discovered her via the DON’T EXPLAIN album with Joe Bonamassa (which spawned a Twitter spat with the guitarist !) then fell in love with her via her next solo album the fabulous BANG BANG BOOM BOOM and a most memorable concert that year at a sparsely attended Sage Hall I in Gateshead; where the singer put on a ‘show’ worthy of any of the greats in Vegas, in front of a couple hundred people. A lot has happened since then; most notably she now sells out the same venue months in advance of an appearance. So; what to expect from her 12th studio album? Personally I was actually expecting a lot; but wasn’t prepared for the massive leap in direction and maturity in not just her songwriting, but the way that Beth actually performs her songs here. There’s a clue with the Soulful Bad Woman Blues which opens the album like a fizzing fuse on a Looney Tunes bomb ………. you know there’s going to be an explosion …. and when it comes, it’s more glitter and confetti than TNT. Maybe I should have listened to a couple of earlier albums before putting pen to paper; but the biggest surprise (and thrill) here is that nearly every track features Beth playing piano; something she excels at, but is often overlooked because of her dynamic singing style; even on the tender ballads. I love it when established artistes throw away the safety net and walk a musical tightrope; which Beth does several times; most notably the deeply personal War In My Mind and uber-cool Without Words In The Way and also Rub Me For Luck, which all sound as if Beth had been listening to a lot of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin before going into the studio ……. as each song is incredibly sensitive yet powerful in equal measures, which is quite a feet to pull off. Regular fans shouldn’t be too alarmed, as Beth can still ‘Rock your socks’ off better than most, with the ‘Randy Newman meets Motley Crue’ ballad Try a Little Harder, funky Sugar Shack and the more intricate Spanish Lullabies all having the ability to make you think you’ve known them forever while being astounded at way they sound quite unlike anything Ms Hart has delivered before. Without checking the track list I was pleasantly surprised to find another song about and dedicated to a member of Beth’s family; this time it’s the gorgeous Sister Dear. Fair play to the songwriter; it’s a great song that will resonate with just about all of her fans and if you have such a talent; ‘write about what you know.’ Sitting here in a dark living room, listening on headphones I’m staggered by the overall quality on offer here; not just in the way producer Don Cavallo has somehow managed to create a claustrophobic feel that perfectly matches Beth’s vulnerability in her very mature lyrics; but the way the band can sound like an orchestra on one song and be as quiet as church mice on others. This is very much an album that will unravel like a mystery novel the more you play it; but today a couple of songs tie for the position of Favourite Song. The mean and moody; almost Blues-Noir Woman Down is one and the other, Without Words in The Way is the type of deeply intimate ballad that I never actually thought Beth Hart was capable of writing ……. but she has and it’s mesmerising. Saying this Beth Hart’s ‘Best Album’ is futile; as each has its own merits; but what WAR IN MY MIND is, is the sound of a woman finally coming to terms with her undoubted talent and letting her heart over rule her head, making the final product as good an album as you will hear this or any year. The other thing with this album is that there is absolutely no need to compare Beth Hart with any other singer who has preceded her …….. she has now become the bench mark for all others to look up to.
The Orphan Brigade To The Edge of The World Proper Music
Intensely Beautiful and Windswept Tales of Love, Life and Dreaming.
While 99.99% of the population will never have heard of the members that make up The Orphan Brigade, I can’t help but think of them as a ‘Roots Supergroup’; how else can you describe the combination of Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover and Joshua Britt? Answer me that? On the back of their superb HEART OF THE CAVE, they have come up with another stunning golden concept based around living on Northern Ireland’s rugged West Coast (although many of the songs easily transfer to many other similar territories). Just like their previous release I’m struggling to find a convenient peg to hang these songs on; they certainly have a Folk thread to them, but is it simply Irish or probably Celtic in origin, but also quite Americana at times and a couple of songs are on the verge of ‘Folk Rock’…… so if you’ve got this far, I will leave the final decision to you. While certainly not a fan of bagpipes in any form, but the haunting (Irish) Pipes intro; courtesy Barry Kerr is the perfect way to start these dark and gloomily beautiful tales of life, love and dreaming. This is followed by Mad Man’s Window; an atmospheric song that could easily come from any of Robert Plant’s solo albums and conjures up some amazing visions as a really taut drumbeat and combination of traditional acoustic instruments battle with the singer to gain your attention; and the winner is you. Just when you think you are getting a handle on The Orphan Brigade they keep throwing musical time bombs that will catch you unawares hours after playing this record. Well, that’s what happened to me with the Fairhead’s Daughter and Black Nun yesterday. The songs and stories will reel you in anyway, but for a ‘Folk album’ these songs are generally best played LOUD …….. especially Dance Me To The Edge of the World and the exceptional Banshee (*but other belters are available too). All of these songs and constructions are quite complex; but courtesy of some classy production, all are easily accessible with the glorious Under The Chestnut Tree, Children of Lir and of course, Captain’s Song (featuring Mr John Prine) being prime examples. While each individual song is its very own little vignette, adding them together in this fashion and with this particular running order makes it all become a bit of a ‘Theoretical Soundtrack’ hence selecting a Favourite Song very difficult indeed; but To The Edge of The World (Children’s Reprise) is simplicity itself and quite beautiful too; whereas the finale Mind The Road is as deep as it’s windswept yet the ghostly love song Isabella is the personification of a timeless song; and therefore takes the accolade. Today has been the perfect day for writing this review; as the variable Autumn weather has been the perfect accompaniment for the light and shade that makes up this glorious LP.
Ward Hayden & The Outliers Can’t Judge a Book Self-Release
A New Name But the Same Old Quality
It seems like aeons ago that I first heard the fabulously monickered band Girls, Guns and Glory with their Sweet Nothin’s album; and it became one of those albums that I would pass around ITK friends; who all loved it ….. but sadly we never got to see then in the NE of UK and they subsequently fell off my radar. Now with a shiny new name (due to PC concerns) they are back as Ward Hayden and the Outliers and to celebrate this they are releasing this cracking EP of 5 covers and one of their own songs. The Fountains of Wayne song Hackensack gets a droll Country makeover with Hayden making fabulous use of the natural ‘warble’ in his voice; and the ‘Alternative’ is certainly stamped right across this Country missive. No longer the Party Band du jour, Hayden and the Outliers now sound like the band you really, really need to hear on the jukebox of a seedy dive-bar as the clock strikes midnight. Although it’s been covered by others I always associate Can’t Stop a Train with the Derailers, and while this version isn’t a million miles away the added pathos in Hayden’s vocals and that sublime pedal-steel turns it into Country Deluxe. I initially presumed that their own song Naturally Crazy was a cover too; as it has the capacity to sound like you’ve known it all your life; but you haven’t ….. it’s brand new and signals great things for whatever these crazy cats have in store for us. Who knew that when all of the pomp and chutzpah of Viva Las Vegas was removed a sultry heartbreaker would be left in it’s wake? Well that’s exactly what happens here ……. and I can’t stop pressing ‘repeat’. On the other hand Chuck Berry’s Promised Land is gussied up and draped in leather for a right rollicking romp at the end. Then there’s one more song on this all too short EP; and a very brave song to cover it is too. These days Johnny Cash is probably more famous for ‘that’ picture and possibly the Folsom Prison album than anything else; but at one time he was a genuine Protest Singer (I think he even lost a record contract because of it) so including a stirring and heart-string tugging version of The Ballad of Ira Hayes is sadly still all too relevent in 2019; but it still sounds just as breathtaking in this format; hence why it is the RMHQ Favourite Track here …….. by a Country Mile.
Late last week regular reader and RMHQ ‘friend,’ Ryan Michael got in touch regarding his band The RoomSounds new single and asked if I’d give it a listen. I have …… and I love it; hints of the Knack, Rembrandts and possibly even The Kinks, if I’m not mistaken ….. genuinely; love it to bits!