Ags Connolly WRONG AGAIN

Ags Connolly
Wrong Again
Self-Release/At The Helm

The Most Authentic Honky and Tonkiest Country Songs Ever Produced in England.

Ags Connolly; real name …… do you know what? I’ve known Mr Connolly for several years now and don’t know what ‘Ags’ is short for; if indeed it is a shortened version …… maybe it’s a nickname or maybe he was actually christened Ags; perhaps we will never know.
Arguably Britain’s Favourite Country Troubadour, this is Connolly’s third album and without spoiling the surprise; probably sounds the way he dreamt of when he was but a lad listening to his Country and Honky Tonk Heroes in his teenage Oxfordshire bedroom.
While as far from an overblown production a you can get; there’s a much clearer and bigger sound here than I remember from his previous releases. Starting with the authentic Twang of opening track I’ll Say When; which features Mavericks’ accordionist Michael Guerra giving an already great song some added class.
Probably because he sounds like he’s making the kind of music he loves, rather than music that will get him airplay; Ags brings a pathos and humanity to Lonely Nights in Austin and Indian Sign that is as surprising as it is expected. Confused? If you see him play live you will know what Ags Connolly is capable of when he sings a song; but actually capturing that magic on record? Well he has ……. and more than just these two songs too.
Ags can certainly write a cool song; but here there’s something different ……. he’s delved even deeper than usual on the dance tune The Meaning of The Word and later on Say It Out Loud he sounds like a man on the edge; and the melody is just what you’d hope to hear were you to stumble into a rough and tough Border Town cantina one sad and lonely night.
Perhaps it’s because there’s been a lot of competition across the Countrypolitain World in the last two years that Ags has had to ‘up his game’ but not just the melodies; but the songs and stories themselves are all top of the class; with the gorgeous Sad Song Forever and What Were You Going To Do About It? both being exceptional for an English singer-songwriter, as both are so ‘believable’ and sound like they’ve been hiked out of some long forgotten songbook; rather than being typed up on an I-Pad!
HANG ON THERE! I thought the first time I played this album; as I instantly recognised one song …… a cover version indeed! Not something I normally associate with this young man; but his treatment of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain sits in here quite seamlessly and it’s sad to say; many younger listeners probably won’t know it’s providence …… so a great choice as well.
The ‘best song’ doesn’t have to actually be your favourite; does it? Favourite Songs come in many shapes and sizes; and are favourites because they touch your heart and/or brain in some unimaginable way ….. which is how I feel about the title track Wrong Again (Lose a Life) which took my breath away the first time I played it a month ago and still sounds like one of the 45’s you’d sit by the radio praying would come on next.
It is perfectly constructed with lush harmonies, pedal-steel, Twangtastic guitars, rat-a-tat drumming and a rock solid bass combo, as well as featuring Eamon McLaughlin’s steller fiddle playing ….. then add Connolly’s trademark ‘world weary’ vocals and you have a Country Song that much more famous singers dream of recording.
Apart from thoroughly enjoying this album; I’m simply thrilled that my friend has had the opportunity to sing his songs in such esteemed company; and company that brings out the best in him ……… now hopefully World Domination is finally on the horizon ……. or at least an invite to Country 2 Country, as this record is more Country than any of the names I recognise on the 2020 poster!

Released November 1st 2019
https://agsconnolly.com/

The Kinks ARTHUR the 50th Anniversary (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)

The Kinks
Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)

Fifty years ago the British rock band the Kinks released their groundbreaking album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). This was way back in the beginning of the era of concept albums and rock operas (you may recall a band called the Who and their album Tommy, for one), and Ray Davies’ songs were well-suited for this particular approach. Their previous album, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, showed the band moving away from trying to be nothing more than a hit-maker and shifting into more a “grown-up” band, and Arthur continued that idea, showing that not only was rock ‘n’ roll here to stay, it was evolving into a much more adult and intelligent medium, along with some help from songwriters like the Kinks’ Ray Davies.

Originally planned as a teleplay for Granada Television in the UK—although the television plans fell through after nearly a full year of planning—Arthur is the story of a British carpet-layer who moves to Australia after World War II (based on Davies’ real-life brother-in-law) as much as it’s about how Britain had been changing since World War II. The Britain that Davies had grown up with was quickly changing and Davies felt like documenting this in song. 

Davies was only 25 years old when this album was released, although already one of rock’s top notch songwriters. Heck, he’s one of those songwriters who could decide to write a concept album on the telephone book and it would be well thought out, perfectly planned, completely balanced, and still rock your socks off. I’m pleased to announce that Arthur still holds up very well fifty years on. The ear worm that is “Victoria” is deliciously pleasant, with a decidedly upbeat and rockin’ rhythm guitar, “Drivin'” and “Shangri-La” propel the story along with sharp wit and Davies’ usual ear for those little things that add up to tell a story. “Mr. Churchill Says” is full of actual quotes from Winston Churchill himself, lines which nearly every Brit would have known well at the time.

The songs throughout are solid and rockin’ and for the anniversary release we get newly mastered mono and stereo tracks, demos, live BBC recordings, and the long missing solo album from Dave Davies which was recorded around the same time but never released. Personally, I love hearing demo versions and alternate tracks but I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, and at over 80 tracks, that’s a lotta songs to listen to, so anyone who’s a completest when it comes to box sets, shouldn’t have anything to complain about, especially with a booklet of interviews from all the key players at the time and loads of extra artwork. And hey, if that’s a bit much, you can get a smaller version in vinyl or CD format.

Courtesy the Legendary Roy Peak.

RELEASED October 25th 2019
https://store.thekinks.info/


Rob Vincent THIS TOWN (single)

Rob Vincent
This Town (Single)

Being the contrary soul I am; it’s been a bit of challenge in the last year with our friend, Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Robert Vincent becoming the latest ‘darling of the populist press’ and even being tagged ‘the next big thing’ in several publications ……….. RMHQ told you all that TWO FLIPPIN’ YEARS AGO!!
But; we still know talent when we hear it and we are sticking with him …. until he’s headlining Glastonbury, then we will drop him like a stone! So it’s with giddy excitement that we share the first single from the forthcoming album to be released on February 14th 2020.

https://www.robvincentmusic.com/



The King Dukes NUMB TONGUES

The King Dukes
Numb Tongues
Qsounds recordings (Fr)
Paratone/Little Paradise Records (UK).

We’ve Found The New Soul Rebels Just With Added Ska, Rhythm & Blues

Marc Griffiths from Bristolian popsters The King Dukes got in touch a few weeks ago after being given my details via a mutual friend. Out of courtesy I gave it a quick listen in the car …… and 30 minutes later was wondering why they aren’t headlining The Royal Albert Hall!
Well; maybe that’s a stretch; but phew these cats can pull a song together that not just pulls on your heartstrings but makes you want to dance too; be that a fast shuffle or a late night smoocheroony!
Bizarrely I-Tunes has listed opening track Caril-Ann as ‘Jumping Jive’ …… pah…… this is Rhythm AND Blues with a side helping of Ska on the offbeat! Trust me …… I know this stuff; and if The King Dukes get on the Scooter Festival circuit this is a surefire floor-filler.
I simply love hearing music for the first time, hoping for surprises and The King Dukes deliver more happy surprise than Santa Claus!
Dying Man is a real slow burner featuring a heavy, heavy Hammond organ spine and trumpet solos of Chet Baker proportions; but the melancholy that singer Marc Griffiths oozes will make you go weak at the knees; and later on the break-up song I Guess Mondays (aren’t gonna be the same anymore) the quiver in his voice will have ladies everywhere wanting to give him a great big cuddle.
Yet, this is far from being a sad album …… (I just adore sad songs) The King Dukes are a dance band in the traditional sense; fast songs, slow songs all coming from a rock solid rhythm and horn section and judging by Gone, Gone, Gone, Rub You The Right Way and the splendiferous Keep On Living someone has a great record collection dating back to The Yardbirds and Long John Baldry but stopping to listen to Dexys and Vintage Trouble along the way too.
The King Dukes trademark R&B/Soul/Ska beats really come into their own on the single I Gotta Go too; A 45rpm disc worthy of the format btw.
Two songs in particular stand out though; album closer True, True Love; a duet between Griffiths and the hot and sensual sounding April Jackson is an absolute Modern Day Classic in the R&B genre; but the ‘heart-string tugger’ Coming Right Back For Your heart just about shades it for the title of RMHQ Favourite Song ……… man I can only imagine the lights being dimmed at the end of the night at St. Dom’s Soul Club in Newcastle and Tony Fiddes playing this; and the floor will immediatly fill with happy loving couples thinking they are hearing some great lost Northern Soul 45.
I’ve sort have had a bit of a musical hiatus lately; but what a way to have your Musical Mojo restored …….. Long Live the King Dukes!

Released October 25th 2019
https://www.thekingdukes.com/about


Big Boy Bloater at The Black Bull, Gateshead

Big Boy Bloater
The Black Bull
Gateshead
25th October 2019

For a variety of reasons I’ve had to miss Big Boy Bloaters last two visits to the region; but this being my Friday off work and the opportunity to see him play in an iconic Punk venue was too good to miss!
With no support act I arrived at 10 to 9 just as a very dapper looking Bloater was buying a pint. We said ‘hello’ but with the other two Limits already on stage there wasn’t any time for chit chat.
It never stops being funny watching the headline act have to push their way through the crowd to get on stage; and that’s just happened tonight ……. their little face were an absolute picture.
With no other intro the trio opened with a spooky instrumental before going into Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle, which quickly had a couple of ladies dancing along to the sharp beat.
If you don’t already know him, Big Boy Bloater is the last in a proud lineage of British Rhythm and Blues acts; great and often catchy songs with danceable beats as well as razor sharp guitar solos dotted around; often catching you unawares and always leaving you dazzled and impressed.
Predominantly giving us a selection of songs from last year’s release PILLS the band were on fire for a solid hour and forty minutes, with my notes saying Insanely Happy, Leonard Cohen and Banging My Head (Against the Wall) were all stand out songs.
But, boy can Bloater tell a story or two too in his intros, which helped make That Ain’t My Name and Nasty Little Rash as gigglicious as they are danceable.
Now; this being a) Friday night and b) a Big Boy Bloater gig, and with songs like Friday Nights Alright For Drinking, Sweet & Brown and Messin’ With The Booze, ‘drinking’ was an ongoing theme all night with Bloater prefacing each song with “let’s have a little drink,” taking a sip of lager and then ‘Cheers Everyone’ …….. which was reciprocated by the effervescent crowd made up of all ages and apparent musical affiliations.
One of the main things I love about Big Boy Bloaters albums is that he often takes a sideways look at life and love, which gives us belters like Robot Girlfriend and It Came From the Swamp both of which had the ladies around me dancing into a frenzy while a bunch of lads at the back added ‘harmonies’ ……. or something like that!
The night ended with A Devil Not an Angel, the 17th song of the evening and the pub was rocked to its foundations by a powerhouse trio and a frenzied stomping audience.
Last but not least, while his name was on the tickets credit must also go out to drummer Matt Cowley and bassist Steve Oates who were outstanding and their soundman wandering around with an I-Pad was a legend in his own rites!
I’ve been to a lot of gigs over the years, both large and small but very few of them were ever as exciting and intimate as this ……….. just a shame there weren’t more ‘younger people’ there.

https://www.bigboybloater.com/?fbclid=IwAR2F51IEXx5sUkDfhnhlwnaYYPx6IxSdg9ZRE4xpJ2c2VTk2tvPiCj3NRpc

Single of the Week Matt McGinn (ft. Ciara O’Neill) BUBBLEGUM

Matt McGinn (ft. Ciara O’Neill)
Bubblegum
Self-Release

Singles come in many shapes and sizes; and as a ‘man of a certain age’ still hold a special place in my heart …….which I think is where this particular beautiful tome is destined to stay anyway.
In theory it’s a ‘taster’ for the forthcoming album LESSONS OF WAR by Northern Irish singer-songwriter, and Friend of RMHQ, Matt McGinn ………. but ……… even taken out of context, it is an absolutely stunning piece of work.
I’ve been a huge supporter of Northern Irish music since first discovering Energy Orchard (starring Bap Kennedy) several decades ago; and something that has surprised me is how rarely any of the generation who grew up around the Troubles ever write songs about that time; or perhaps it isn’t a surprise at all as ‘time is something of a healer.’
But, when they do, there is always a terrible beauty about their heartfelt outpourings …… and woah there ……. using the Schoolgirl diaries of Bronagh McAtasney (@NrnIrnGirl1981) as a starting point, does Matt McGinn and Mick Flannery capture the day to day minutiae of a teenage girl’s day in Northern Ireland at that time with grace, providence and and a huge amount of Soul.

RELEASED November 9th 2011
http://mattmcginnmusic.com/

Here’s what they themselves say about the song:

Matt recalls:

 “In a writing session one day with [Irish Songwriter] Mick Flannery, I told him about an interview I’d heard on RTE Radio on the journey down. It was a lady from the North reading from her teenage diary and it was amazing how her everyday teenage experiences were surrounded by the darkness of ‘The Troubles’. It was enough to start myself and Mick off and it wasn’t long before ‘Bubblegum’ was finished.”

Matt asked friend and fellow Co. Down songwriter Ciara O’Neill to help out on vocals.

“It’s a bit weird ‘not singing’ one of my own songs on my own album, but I have always loved the purity of Ciara’s voice. It made sense to get her involved as the song is from the point of view of a young woman. As soon as I heard her sing it, I knew I’d made the right decision”

Matt also approached Vyvienne Long to play cello on ‘Bubblegum’

“I have loved Vyvienne’s playing since the first time I heard ‘O’ {Damian Rice}. I was delighted that she got what the song was about and was happy to play on it.”

‘Lessons of War’ – the Album

Bubblegum is the lead single from the forthcoming 4th studio album ‘Lessons of War’. The album sees Matt collaborate with musicians from war affected areas across the world for a stunning collection of songs that explore the futility of war, its horrors, its affects, and after affects.

 “I didn’t mean to write an album of anti-war songs, it just kind of happened. The first time I saw the image of the young refugee washed up on the shore, it triggered something in me. I felt I had to do something, and writing was all I could do.”

In 2016, with help from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Matt set about reaching out to musicians from areas across the world that had been scarred by conflict. It was to be the beginning of an incredible three-year journey that took Matt, from his home in the Mourne Mountains, to working with some of the most incredible individuals.

One of the key collaborators on the album is Yazan Ibrahim, a young virtuosi Flamenco Guitarist from the Golan Heights, occupied territory that borders Syria who Matt found through friend and ex-Energy Orchard member, Joby Fox, and brought to Ireland. Over five days they wrote and recorded anti-war songs, designed to try and show mistakes of the past in the hope they might never be repeated

Other contributions on the album came from Citizens of the World, a London based choir of refugees from all over the world; Seydu a percussionist and philanthropist from Sierra Leone; Richard Moore a guitarist and producer from Derry who was blinded by a plastic bullet, aged 11 and Mark Kelly, a band manager and music engineer who lost his legs in a bomb blast.

Belfast filmmaker Colm Laverty was on hand to capture much of what happened over these years and has created a documentary, also titled ‘Lessons of War’, soon to be released.

Ed Dupas THE LONESOME SIDE OF TOWN

Ed Dupas
The Lonesome Side of Town
Road Trip Songs

Modern Country Gold If You Like Heartbreak, Melancholy and Dancing.

With so much going on at RMHQ we regularly forget to go back to albums we have loved over the years; one such is Ed Dupas’s last album TENNESSEE NIGHT, which got a very welcome spin last week after playing this the full day before.
While any song sung by his distinctive ragged drawl is going to sound like an Ed Dupas song; and even without knowing his long-term relationship had just broke up before finishing these 11 songs; a cursory listen to the lyrics will tell you that this is one sad, sad man …….. but that makes for some great songs for us to draw from, doesn’t it?
The title track The Lonesome Side of Town opens the album and signals the path we are all about to accompany him on. Trust me; this is a Country song that blows anything you will hear on Country Radio today into a cocked hat!
I like Blues music; but only Country can get into the dark pits of the heart that makes for a beautiful and sad song; and Dupas manages that many times here; not least with It All Sounds Like Leaving and the rockier Love Me Right, with it’s intense and jangly guitars.
Even sad songs can be danceable; which is where Both Hands On The Wheel comes into play; but it’s the type of song you want to hear at the end of the night not knowing if this relationship is going to last any further than the fade out. But it’s also worthy of solo spins;
“I’ve got both hands on the wheel
Far from all the fears I used to feel
I guess the old wounds take the longest to heal
Yeah, I’ve got both hands on the wheel.”

Don’t think this is in the realms of Leonard Cohen’s early albums; Hell! Dupas can still kick up the dust when he needs to; Love Me Right is just the right side of angsty to not be Alt. this is pure Country Gold, and on the other ‘rocker’ State of the Nation Dupas and band ask some very hard questions of our politicians and journalists alike, while still wanting to have a good time at the end of the working week.
But it’s Ed’s way with a sad love song that I’ve enjoyed most here which is why these two songs are tangling for the title of RMHQ Favourite Song; the first is track #2 Lonely and the other is Love Tears The Heart Right of Me and both are deserving of not just my humble accolade but much greater recognition; and if that means one of the Major League acts renting them, then so be it …….. they are still Ed Dupas’ intellectual property and we can say “Oh; you should have heard Ed Dupas original version” when someone at work is crying along to their radio.
Perhaps that last paragraph is what I hate most about ‘music’ these days; but just like Ed Dupas and another 1,000+ singer-songwriters we all just stumble on doing what we do; just waiting to catch a break …… until then we will always have this album.

Released October 25th 2019
http://www.eddupas.com/


Kinky Friedman RESURRECTION

Kinky Friedman
Resurrection
Echo Hill Records

Introspective, Thoughtful and Soul Affirming Country From a Master-Songwriter.

I’ve got a friend, ‘Scribbler’ who is not just a fan but a friend of Kinky Friedman; introducing The Star many times over the years at The Jumpin’ Hot Club on Tyneside. My friend once made me a ‘Best Of’ cassette that I didn’t have the heart to tell him never got past Track #3 or 4.
In my defence The Kinkster was always more of a Novelty Act rather than a songwriter to be taken seriously by the likes of me.
That changed a few years ago with the release of The Loneliest Man I Ever Met in 2015 when he sort of ‘got his act together’ and wrote and performed ‘proper songs’ that reflected his life as a man in his late 60’s.
This third album since that renaissance is very much in the same lineage, and full of songs that an aging man who has had a full and interesting life can write.
Opening track Mandela’s Blues is fascinating, partly because the melody is South African in concept (think Paul Simon’s GRACELAND) and Kinky’s loving story of this Great Statesman will surely make us think twice about today’s political leaders who are generally financially motivated rather than a genial and caring Statesman, caring for all under his care as Nelson Mandela was.
More than once here Friedman taps into his early coffee-shop troubadour heritage for inspiration; one of the best is title track Resurrection, with it’s jaunty Country Beat masking a beautifully heart rending and even heart reviving story. Somewhere in the mix Willie Nelson makes an appearance, duetting on the chorus, but it’s Friedman’s words and the way he drawls them that will stay with you hours after hearing this song.
I’m still impressed that Friedman can use his songwriting powers to touch the frayed parts of my heart that others rarely touch these days; with I Love You When It Rains and The Bridge That Never Burns, which immediately follows are two such Classic Country-Folk songs that deserve to be heard not just in the safety of our homes but on National Radio too.
In a similarly enigmatic vein Blind Kinky Friedman takes us on a dark journey into his soul and heart, with a scintillating Country Blues soundtrack and later on A Dog In The Sky, a love song to ‘mans best friend’ who has passed and the innate feeling of loneliness that can leave their owner/best friend with.
Kinky Friedman has never ever been a ‘one trick pony’ and he proves that here by slipping seamlessly between genres while still making a cohesive ‘Americana’ album; Greater Cincinnati is a straightforward Country tune in the style of George Jones yet Ai! Mariachi is a Border Song Deluxe that Tom Russell would be proud of, which shows what a rare talent this man actually is; and probably always has been.
As a ‘man of a certain age’ myself many, many songs here have touched me in a way that I’ve thought “that will be my Favourite Song”, the gentle and evocative Me & Billy Swan is a perfect example as Friedman sings of all the unsung heroes from Nashville of old; but then again the Honky Tonky waltz Carrying The Torch is just beautiful; pure and simple; but in the time old tradition Kinky Friedman has kept the best until last with Spirit Dad.
Friedman’s ‘band’ of Larry Campbell, Lincoln Schleifer, Dennis McDermott and Bill Payne come into their own as the hottest swing band to ever play on a song; and boy what a song! I won’t spoil the ‘surprise’ but woah!!! is this a doozy or what?
With the benefit of hindsight I think I can give you an eloquent argument as to why Johnny Cash’s AMERICAN SERIES opened the door for the likes of Kinky Friedman and a host of other singers who can no longer actually ‘sing’ regale us with tales and interpretations that ‘mean something’ without really worrying about commercial success; whereas they do often, ironically win Awards and top radio charts!

Released October 25th 2019
http://kinkyfriedman.com/


Charles Esten and The Adelaides at Sage Gateshead.

Charles Esten and The Adelaides
Sage Gateshead.
23rd October 2019

As everyone knows I’ve sort of lost my ‘gig going Mojo’ so getting me out of the house has to be for something really special; and making Mrs Magpie happy counts very high on that register!
She was a big fan of the Nashville TV series and especially liked the character Deacon Claybourne, whom singer-songwriter Charles Esten played, hence me turning out on a school night.
London all girl Country trio the Adelaides opened the show looking like they were dressed for a night out in the Bigg Market over the Tyne Bridge rather than a concert in Hall 1 of this prestigious venue.
I’m not aux fait with their canon of work over the last two years, so I may get some titles wrong and I also don’t know their individual names.
I think they started with Nothing Holding Me Down or perhaps it was Run Like a River; and it was absolutely packed with delicious harmonies. This was followed by a wonderful rendition of the Pistol Annies Hell on Heels, which was the highlight of their 30 minute set.
They closed with a pantomime style sing-along, dividing the Hall into three areas for the chorus ……. not my idea of fun; but plenty went along with it.
Their was absolutely nothing wrong with this performance as the girls looked amazing and very confident too and each girl has a very good singing voice coupled to some amazing harmonies by several combinations; plus their songs were quite ‘good’ just the sound was a bit ‘thin’ in this huge Hall and would definitely have benefited from the girls having a band behind them.
Just a thought.


Twenty minutes later the headliners backing band, featuring the legendary Colin Linden from Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, who alongside some shimmering drum playing added some really eerie guitar playing that introduced Mr Charles Esten who was greeted with a wave of love and cheers from the ladies in the full house when he screamed ‘Hello GatesHEAD!’ then ‘Hello Newcas……tell!’
With a grin akin to the Tyne Bridge he and the band went straight the belter of a Country Rocker ….. Buckle Up, which many in the house recognised and shouted along with the chorus.
What followed were a fascinating combination of Esten’s own songs, ones he wrote or sang on the TV show and some intriguing and rather special cover songs.
The next song Road and the Radio (NOT Rodeo Radio as I wrote in my notes) was another Rocker and featured the first ‘guitar duel’ with Linden of the night.
Esten certainly knows how to play to the crowd; starting by dedicating the acoustic third song Honkytonk History to all of ‘the ladies in the audience’ and then listed all of the things women do in a day before having their husband’s dinner on the table! Then the chorus not just name-checked Willie and Waylon and also ………. Reyna!
As the night progressed I got the feeling that I’ve probably seen guitarist Colin Linden more than any other artist in the world!
But tonight Esten praised him to the Heavens; even introducing him as ‘the other half of Deacon Claybourne; I was the voice ……. he was the guitarist!!”
Plus, ‘that smile’ was never far away; even in the middle of a song when he looked like he couldn’t believe he was headlining a venue as grand as this one.
I was really impressed with Esten’s stage presence, which often blurred the lines between his real image and the persona of his TV character; but he played it well …….. appreciating that’s why 90% of the audience were there.
Aha!
The Adelaides made another appearance, first to join Charles for a stunning rendition of Undermined (from the series) and proved my point about why they needed a backing band ……. they very nearly stole the show, duetting and providing 3 part harmonies worthy of the Ronettes at times.
Primarily a singer who is competent on the guitar; Eaten played a couple of ‘Deacon’s songs’ alongside Linden and their intimacy lit up the night, which led into Charles singing a couple of songs of his own and a couple that he loved on the radio in his youth absolutely on his own, with no safety net.
The first, a quirky Country love song called I Still Do had the crowd whooping and hollering to the cheeky chorus about ‘Deacon’s vices, smoking, drinking and loving a woman who has moved on without him’. I immediatly recognised the first, but couldn’t remember the title …… BINGO ….. WOW ……. Only You! The electro-pop hit single by Yazoo and sounded nothing at all like this tender version. The next song went right over the heads of just about everyone in the Hall, apart from me, Adam, Lisa, maybe two others and Esten himself …….. but who else would expect this fella to do a raw and emotional cover of All Apologies??????
This is what Live Music is all about; with Esten even deliberately straining his voice on the high notes …… honestly, I got shivers…… while 99.95% of the audience applauded politely when it ended.
Towards the end I was enjoying myself my note taking went a bit out of the window!
There really were many things to enjoy tonight, away from Esten’s singing; he praised the way Country fans in the UK appreciate the history behind the genre and don’t just play disposable Music Row songs; and he also told us who the songwriters were and the story behind their songs; especially the fabulous Karleen Watt song Nashvillianaire and the first encore, the raucous He Ain’t Me (by Marques Houston), then the show came to a heart stopping close with the Adelaides rejoining the star for the tearjerker from Nashville; Two Arms Around Me.


A really well paced show, with numerous highlights; no song over 4 minutes long (21 in all btw!!), yet still enough time for Colin Linden to show the unknowing what a Master Craftsman he is and why so many people choose him to be their musical director.
As I said earlier, the lines between actor were blurred; but deliberately so; and actually the show was a belter because of it.

Photos courtesy HarrisonaPhotos
https://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Charles-Esten-Sage-Gateshead/
https://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/The-Adelaides



James Blunt ONCE UPON A MIND

James Blunt
Once Upon a Mind
Atlantic/Custard

Mature and Contemporary Songs From Superstar Singer-Songwriter

James Blunt, like Ed Sheeran and I suppose Mumford & Sons divides opinions among music fans like nothing else I know. Music Snobs get really ‘sniffy’ at their mere mention which I can only presume is jealousy, as I very rarely read or hear constructive criticism about any or all of this illustrious and highly succesful British trio.
Personally I have a confession to make; as I quite like James Blunt.
I do.
The bloke that is; as I love his self-depreciating interviews and Social Media posts. I don’t know enough about his back catalogue apart from ‘that’ ubiquitous single and the album it came from; which I bought for Mrs. Magpie one Valentines Day.
So; what to expect from his sixth album and one that promises that he ‘returns to what he does best, writing songs that touch the heart and the head.’
I rather liked first track The Truth the first time I heard it; a slightly dark and ‘Spanish’ feel to the backing that swoops and sweeps across the landscape created by Blunt’s distinctive voice and evocative story, that will touch a million hearts; both male and female.
The current single, Cold follows and the production and construction is best described as ‘windswept and interesting’, as Blunt’s tight as a drum plea to a lost lover starts quite claustrophobicly then gets juxtaposed against the huge cinematic choruses of David O Selznick cinematic proportions …… which is no bad thing when played loud on a dark autumnal morning.
There are more like that too; but Blunt can do sensitive too; which is something many of us forget; and ‘that voice’ is just perfect for Monsters; a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of role reversal between a son and a father.
How It Feels To Be Alive will sound gloomy to many people (Mrs Magpie?) but this powerful piano led and tragically grand song is actually breathtaking; and listening as I am on headphones; simply stunning from start to finish!
Unlike me, Mrs. M likes the bouncy and more contemporary I Told You, Halfway, 5 Miles and Champions (personally I think it has hints of Mumford & Sons the way it builds; but obviously I could be wrong).
But for me there’s plenty to ‘get your teeth into’ and, as the man himself said; the delightful Younger and Stop The Clock (two songs about ‘getting older’) are aimed at both the listeners heart and head.
From what I know of James Blunt, the songs here are remarkably mature and have plenty of depth to them; especially The Greatest and especially the RMHQ Favourite Song I Told You; commercial by my normal tastes; but cleverly constructed with a fascinating story in the lyrics.
It may surprise regular readers but I have genuinely enjoyed this album over the last week; and what won’t surprise you is that the CD now resides in Mrs. Magpie’s car and could be heard coming from the speakers in the spare room this morning as she got ready for work.

Released October 25th 2019
https://www.jamesblunt.com/album/once-upon-mind-144171