The Gothic Cowboy (aka Melvin Litton) BETWEEN THE WARS

The Gothic Cowboy (aka Melvin Litton)

The Rustic Heartworn Highway is Re-Opened

This album arrived after its release date, which normally means it doesn’t even get a play; but …….. there was ‘something’ about the guys name ‘The Gothic Cowboy’ and the sepia tinged CD cover that made me pick it up a couple of times last week; and again on Sunday morning; which was when I weakened.
Now this is going to be a bit of a brave statement; I was totally engrossed straight from opening track Border Blues, a ‘song of our times’ and ……… in …. deep breath ….. sung in the vein of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Everything from Litton’s weary and grizzled voice through the rusty yet sharp lyrics and story and coming out with a minimal production that makes every note and word as clear as a mountain stream.
There’s a lot to get through here; as it’s a Double Album …… 26 tracks in all; and there isn’t much light to balance the shade of the dark and very dark tales; but if you wanted Pop Music you wouldn’t have bought this anyway; would you?
You can close your eyes and press ‘random’ to find a killer song; Summer Days are Long, with Dan Hermreck’s mandolin and Til Willis’s mournful harmonica complimenting Litton’s tale of constant sorrow; or it may be Cold Ohio City; a ‘talking Blues’ that genuinely will leave you spellbound; and if it’s Caspion & The White Buffalo you will find yourself leaning in towards the speakers so as not to miss a single word of this harrowing historical anecdote set to music.
Just like the songs of Townes and Guy, there’s a real rustic beauty to Yellow Rose Motel and Marijuana Fields; the likes of which most of us never expected to hear again.
…….. and that’s only the first album!
I normally expect Double Albums to be retrospectives or Live Recordings; but as far as I can ascertain these are songs that Melvin Litton has had on the back-burner during the 20 years of his previous career in the Border Band and this has been his first opportunity to dust them off and let the world hear them in all their glory.
The second album opens with the fabulously titled Creek-Bank Ghetto Boys; which if nothing else would make a great t-shirt; but Hell …… it’s powerful Country-Folk song that just may turn your world upside down!
Quite often I receive albums of this ilk where the performer is trying too hard to sound like Van Zandt or even early Dylan; but Melvin Litton just sounds like himself which just happens to sound parallel to what those greats sounded like; back in the day.
I guess Litton plays a lot of Folk Festivals; but to me intimate songs like The Devil’s Daughter, Sunday Morning and especially Indian Land will be best suited to a small club where the audience are packed in and can hear and appreciate every chord change, let alone these exquisite stories.
As I say this is a Double Album made up of 13 songs on each platter; but Litton has a lot to say; and isn’t afraid to let the tape keep rolling, which gives us a couple of opuses too; with Murder of Bob Rose coming in at nigh on ten minutes, and Montana Bound at seven and a half; but if you get that far you will appreciate that these songs need that length to allow the stories to breathe and resonate too.
Gosh; this has been a long (and thoroughly enjoyable) couple of days; but selecting a Favourite Song is nigh on impossible. There’s not a single commercial, catchy tune here …… this is Folk Music at it’s finest; but I suppose Holly ‘n the Drifter or Yellow Rose Hotel from album #1 and Help Me Crossover from #2 are all songs I can point you towards; with Yellow Rose Motel probably shading it as a song I’ve come back to to play on it’s own; so that song is officially the RMHQ Favourite Song on this wonderful Double Album of songs and music that I genuinely never expected to like half as much as I have.

Released November 29th 2019

RMHQ Personal Top 25 Albums of 2019

It’s no surprise to all of our readers, occasional and regular, that 2019 has been another fantastic year for the music we love; and my personal Top 25 certainly proves that.
You’ve already seen the RMHQ Readers Top 25 and now here’s my own choices …….. as eclectic as ever and based solely on the excitement, fascination and especially longevity all of these albums have had on me this year.
Coincidentally and much to my frustration, most of these didn’t make it into the Readers Top 25 as most of these didn’t get the publicity they deserved from the artists themselves and their representatives!

22 Holy Moly & The Crackers TAKE A BITE
20 Vandoliers FOREVER
19 Steel Woods OLD NEWS
18 Sugaray Rayford SOMEBODY SAVE ME
17 Will Kimbrough I LIKE IT DOWN HERE
16 Joy Williams FRONT PORCH
15 Jeb Loy Nichols JUNE IS SHORT
14 Tony Bengtsson WEST ELIZABETH
13 North Mississippi Allstars UP AND ROLLING
12 Screamin’ John & TD Lind MR LITTLE BIG MAN
11 Tullie Brae – REVELATION
10 Dave Rosewood GRAVEL & GOLD
09 Matt Anderson HALFWAY HOME
07 Chuck Mead CLOSE TO HOME
06 Sam Lewis LOVERSITY
05 Jason Ringenberg STAND TALL
03 Beth Hart WAR IN MY MIND
02 Jason Hawk Harris LOVE AND THE DARK


Ramon Taranco
Cuban Blues Man

Funky-Ass Cuban Rhythm and Blues.

I’ve mentioned before that we receive albums from a variety of sources; and this one came after Ramon’s ‘team’ contacted a Radio DJ friend of mine; Jack Kidd who liked the album so much he suggested that they contact RMHQ as it might be something we too might like.
Jack and I have similar, if eclectic taste when it comes to ‘Blues Music’ and he wasn’t wrong.
If you were in a record shop and spotted this CD; you’d be right in thinking that the title ‘said it all’ ……. it does, and in quite a special fashion.
Cuban musician Ramon Taranco has lived in Canada for quite a few years now and has invented his own hybrid that combines Cuban Rhythms with Cool Canadian Blues and the world is a better place for it.
While the story within opening track Desperate Love is as sad as sad can be; Ramon and his band hit a groove right from the first few notes and even I found myself moving my shoulders in time to the music. Quite contemporary at first listening; but after a couple of plays the searing guitar licks; swashbuckling keyboards and Family Stone influenced bass n drums combine with Taranco’s wonderful voice to stop you in your tracks and demand that you listen.
The older I get the more I find myself actually listening to and deciphering the songs themselves; and not letting the tunes wash over me as I did in my youth ……and there are some crackers here.
As you’d expect with a Cuban-Blues hybrid; the melodies and actual tunes are always danceable …… that’s a given; but Taranco’s songs Love Survives and Devil Can Blues; although from opposite ends of the spectrum will both be just as effective if just accompanied by a single acoustic guitar; but in this format they are a bit fabulous.
As I checked out the album sleeve while listening the first night, I was instantly drawn to Suicide Hotel Boogie …… well; who wouldn’t? Thankfully it’s not the type of story I’d normally associate with the Grunge Bands; this is a lively tale and something of a leftfield love song; with one helluva stomping beat.
Another title I was drawn to was The New York Shuffle; which turns out not to be the Graham Parker song after all; but a song driven by a funky-ass bass that evokes memories of Blood Sweat and Tears, Bozz Scaggs and War at their finest.
Not for the first nor I’m sure the last time this year; I’m torn between two disparate tracks for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song; the smoky shuffle that is Take Her Dancing is always going to be a contender; but Complicate Blues has really grown on me. Not a conventional melody, as it criss-crosses Jazz, Funk, Blues and I guess Cuban rhythms and the way Taranco sings it, he actually uses his voice as an instrument in its own rite; so after some internal debate ………… COMPLICATE BLUES is my favourite track here; probably.
Apparently this is Taranco’s third album; and that maturity comes across in the way each and every song is constructed; all individual but combining to create a wonderful package.

Released November 27th 2019


Deborah Crooks
The Department of the West

Quality Americana With a Dash of Alt. Country Around the Edges.

With so much going on at the moment; this album nearly got lost ……. as I’d misfiled it.
Thankfully last night I had a spare couple of hours and decided to hunt it down on my laptop …… and there it was in the ‘Unknown Album’ file alongside 13 others ……. sorry guys and girls.
Anyhoot; Deborah Crooks is a singer-songwriter from California and is a member of a band called Bay Station; but this is her fourth solo album.
That’s all you really need to know, isn’t it?
A sorrowful guitar and pedal-steel combo combine on opening track Lit By The Mystery a graceful backing to Ms Crooks’ world weary vocals making the song send a shiver down your back, in the way Lucinda and Margo Timmins did the first time you heard them.
I don’t use those two singers as examples lightly; as this album will sit very comfortably alongside both in my collection; and the tragically beautiful Honey and The Other Side could both be mistaken for ‘lost songs’ by either; but you would find yourself doubting your ears; as Deborah’s voice doesn’t exactly sound like either; more ‘tattered velvet’ in texture and expression.
There’s an effortless finesse to the way these songs are constructed; and I’m sure there will be minimal lighting when they play the two pertinently observed song about Native American History are sung in concert; What The Land Will Tell You and the title track Department Of The West as both have a delicate melody but a very powerful message that will and should be listened to in silence.
I’ve struggled a couple of times here with my descriptions as I don’t want these gorgeous songs to sound ‘preachy’ or ‘worthy’ as that couldn’t be any further from the truth …….. they; and the jaunty River Stones are all what Americana music is all about for me; imaginative, cinematic, informative and last but not least …… entertaining.
Let The River Do The Running sits comfortably in both Americana and Alt. Country camps, with its rustic imagery being a metaphor for a struggling relationship; and the band sound as if they’ve been unearthed in a boarded up roadside diner somewhere West of Vegas and dusted off and plugged in; such is their authenticity here and on just about every other other track.
There are a couple of songs I’ve already mentioned that could easily be my Favourite Song; as well as the stunning The Other Side, but I’m going for Long Roads as it piqued my attention last night and still sounded stunning this morning; and now I’ve discovered what it’s about ……. phew……….. Deborah Crooks is one subtle songwriter!!
I’m not going to spoil the surprise ……. find it yourself and listen as it unravels over several plays ……. then you can thank me.
Yet again I was feeling a bit jaded and considering taking a sabbatical over the holidays; but discovering this gem has restored my faith in the Power of Music …… and I’ve now got three more of her albums to discover as well as her other band Bay Station!
It’s only Rock n Roll ……. but I love it.

Released 6th December 2019

Rev. Freakchild ROAD DOG DHARMA

Rev. Freakchild
Treated and Released Records

A Totally Bonkers Mix of Outtakes, Radio Interviews and Amazing Cover Versions.

It’s fair to say Reverend Freakchild is ‘left of centre’ with his music; which sort of straddles the Blues, Rock and possibly even the Folk fences with a Zappa like arrogance; and so much so that even I’ve struggled to get my head around his work.
So much so; that when I reviewed his Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues album for No Depression I received copious hate mail from his fans!
Which brings me to his latest release, a left of Left of Centre mixture of outtakes and live tracks interspersed with snippets of radio interviews from across the US of A.
I rather like the way the album starts with someone dialling in the radio station followed by a fragment of The Reverend singing before the dial gets switched again!
This is followed by someone called Cornel on WNCD out of Youngstown Ohio;who has a voice so deep, it sounds like a stereotype DJ that turned up on Happy Days or the American Pie albums; interviewing our man.
While all of these interviews are at the least, ‘interesting’; I just love the way The Reverend tends to ignore the inane questioning and, like a politician just goes off on his own merry way to get his message across at 100 mph, whether that be an album or local live date.
While I’m on the subject; who knew that there really are American DJ’s called Wildman, The Bluesman and even Big D?
The first song on the album; Roadtrance starts like any other, then ……. well, it sparks off into half a dozen different directions all at once but based around a psychedelia-Folk riff and wanders off for over 7 minutes.
Then, not long afterwards he delivers pretty straight version of JJ Cale’s Call Me The Breeze which made my reconsider my previous thoughts on his oeuvre.
Freakchild shows what great taste he has by his choice of covers that are included and when he turns ZZ Top’s Jesus Just Left Chicago into a slow and moody Field Blues, or the straighter than straight, back to raw basics version of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ he more than makes up for the wacky interview tracks that are on offer here too.
Obviously not the easiest compilation to select a Favourite Track from; but it’s always going to be a pleasure hearing someone cover Townes’ White Freightliner Blues but to merge it with a folk version of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows; just might be the mark of a Genius (as his fans referred to him in the green ink mail); and Hippie Bluesman Blues (Alt. Country remix) is another contender; but I’m going to throw caution to the wind and select the Rocktastic All Across America as the RMHQ Favourite Song here as it’s a bit of a keeper; and shows what this Cat can do when he really puts his mind to it.
Regardless of whether I ever play this album or not ever again; I love being part of a World where The Reverend Freakchild not only exists but is adored by countless fans all over the world; and that’s exactly the world I want to live in.

Released November 15th 2019

Catherine MacLellan COYOTE

Catherine MacLellan

A Charmingly Simple Production Masks Some Deeply Personal and Intricate Songs.

I can’t believe that it’s been five full years since Catherine MacLellan released RAVEN …… but it is.
Where does the time go?
Unlike Coldplay and the likes, Cat hasn’t been sitting on a beach contemplating her navel while sipping Champagne Cocktails in-between releases; nope she’s been as busy as ever celebrating the life and work of her father Gene MacLellan in song and on stage. Who he? Only the man who wrote the legendary Snowbird; among many other slightly less celebrated but still amazing songs.
But that ‘break’ and presumably re-discovering her father’s masterworks, has given Ms MacLellan a fresh outlook on her own writing; or that’s how it seems to me on the mysterious COYOTE that opens the album. While a ‘simple’ love lorn Folk song at first hearing; the singer uses the marvelous imagery of the howling coyotes in the hills around her home, for the spirit of love that is missing from her relationship.
“Coyote running through the fields
Followed by the moon
Wild thing you don’t bend or yield
It’s me who gives in too soon”

There’s a charming simplicity to all 14 of the songs here; but don’t fall into the trap that any of the songs are ‘simple’; Catherine has the ability to create beautiful, yet melancholic stories that paint vivid pictures in your head.
Night Crossing; about her travelling on the night ferry from England to Holland is an odd subject; but add a Celtic fiddle and you feel your are standing in her place; and the loneliness she describes in Breath of Wind is heartbreakingly beautiful, in a way that I could never find the words to describe.
That’s the thing with songwriters like Catherine; they have the ability to find light when the rest of us only shade; which is a true gift.
Sweet By and By and Too Many Hearts are two perfect examples of the Songwriters Craft being used in a way mere mortals can never express. The first is a wonderful story of Cat meeting up with an old friend at a bar she was singing in and the cat n mouse interplay that followed; whereas the latter is a dark slice of Alt. Folk describing the confusion we all feel when a relationship ends.
Too many hearts are broken over fear
Too many hearts are broken here my dear
So let’s not break these hearts of ours
Send them up to the moon and stars
Like most of her contempories Cat appears to have given up trying to write a commercial song that will become a radio hit (or should that be Spotify?); she writes from the heart; and whatever will be, will be; try listening to the engaging Come Back In or Roll With The Wind to hear a Master Craftswoman at work …… which also brings me to my Favourite track; Emmet’s Song.
Even without the aid of a crib sheet, you know this is a deeply personal song about a real person; and so it is. ‘Emmet’ is Cat’s ‘troubled’ teenage nephew who came to live with her. This could have been about me during my own teenage years; or at least two nephews and a niece of my own ….. and I’m sure you will find someone close to you who has lived through the same experiences and, mercifully come out the other side without the aid of an Aunt like Catherine MacLellan. 10/10 all around.
I’ve been playing this album amid the hub-bub of the early Holiday season alongside the most spiteful General Election I’ve ever known; and it’s been a perfect antidote to the utter madness that is currently surrounding me.
There are as many fragile songs here as there are optimistic and even empowering songs; such is Catherine McClellan’s wonderful way with storytelling; that she can make them flow like life itself.

Released 6th December 2019

Mary Chapin Carpenter – Our Man Walter Cronkite (Single)

Mary Chapin Carpenter
Our Man Walter Cronkite
Thirty Tigers 

WOW! Who knew that Mary Chapin Carpenter was back in the recording studio?
Not me; that’s for sure!
Which made receiving her latest single so exciting last night …… and now, here’s the video. Does life get any better than this?

Mary herself, says about it “The song is less about an iconic newsman and his seminal broadcast of the Apollo moon landing and more about the mysterious passing of time,”

Released December 6th 2019


Jack Bruce & Friends
The Bottom Line Archive
Store For Music

A Fitting Epitaph For a Legendary Singer, Songwriter and Bass Player.

As a spotty teenager in the early 1970’s many of my musical discoveries came via my elder brothers record collections, and there collections were as varied then as mine is now……… coincidence?
This was how I first fell in love with The Cream; albeit after they had already split up; and then Jack Bruce’s seminal solo albums HARMONY ROW and SONGS FROM A TAILOR, although I didn’t understand how he could be the bassist in Rock Band and also a Folk Singer (it still baffles me today); but both of these albums became ‘gateways’ into a whole new field that I may never have experienced at such a tender age.
Always a Maverick, Jack Bruce’s career has spanned both Rock and Folk; but also Jazz (of both the Rock and Fusion varieties); and to some extent all of that finds it’s way into the songs on this amazing double album.
Recorded during the final set of of a two shows a night, four night residency at the legendary Bottom Line in NYC on March 19th 1980 this is a veritable Supergroup of it’s time with Billy Cobham on drums, David Sancious on keyboards and guitar, Clem Clempson on lead guitar and of course Jack Bruce on bass.
There’s a noisy reception from the crowd as the instantly recognisable intro to White Room fills the room; and the ensemble give them exactly what they want, with Jack sounding exactly like he does on the original recordings; but Clempson’s liquid guitar playing somehow sounds more intricate than Eric’s ….. not ‘better’, but certainly ‘different’….. in a good way.
My memory’s not as sharp as it used to be, so I can’t tell you what songs come from which albums; but that matters not a jot once you immerse yourself in the magic that this quartet produce.
Obviously to my generation the inclusion of Born Under a Bad Sign, Politician and the finale Sunshine Of Your Love are every bit as amazing as you’d hope in these hands; but it’s the other songs here that have not just stunned me; but impressed me beyond belief; mostly because this end of the Jazz/Rock spectrum hasn’t aged terrible well in other hands …… now has it?
For the first time in a lot of years, the length of and ‘self indulgence’ in a few of these tracks wasn’t even noticeable the first twice I played this double album; even the intense 19 minutes and 5 seconds of Bird Alone seems almost ‘the right length’ for everything that is included therein, especially David Sancious’ spectacular piano playing ….. which surprised even me!
With so many years now behind us, it’s been an absolute joy to re-discover Theme For an Imaginary Western and Running Out of The Storm again; albeit with completely different and exciting arrangements; but this has also been a way to appreciate Jack Bruce’s bass playing; which even though he was probably the greatest ever Master of that instrument is probably underappreciated.
Post War and The Loner both had me sitting transfixed listening so intently to all of the bizarre constituent parts coming together in a way my brain finds it difficult to conceive; but my heart knows that this is something very, very special indeed.
Speaking again of ‘self-indulgence’ the inclusion of drummer, Billy Cobham’s track Quadrant 4 didn’t make sense at first; but remember this was the band’s 8th performance in 4 days; and then this fire and brimstone Jazz-Rock fusion piece suddenly makes sense; and had I been in the room that night I’m not sure that my head wouldn’t have exploded or even imploded as each band member sounds like their life depends on keeping time with each other as the track roars to a crescendo of an ending.
If you’d asked me before hearing this album what my Favourite Track would be, I’d have probably said one of the Cream songs or probably Theme From an Imaginary Western; but there’s a song here I can’t remember hearing before and has absolutely blown me away.
Jet Set Jewel is intricate, complex and just beautiful in the way Bruce delivers a bass guitar performance par excellence alongside Sancious’ amazing keyboard playing and Clem Clempson’s molten guitar in the background and you can set your watch by Billy Cobham’s meticulous drumming as Jack Bruce sings his little heart out. 10/10 all around.
While the other band members here are all as exemplary as you’d expect ……. this is after all a Jack Bruce album and a fabulous reminder and a very fitting epitaph for one of my Favourite ever musicians.

Released December 13th 2019

2019 RMHQ Readers Top 25 Reviews.

It’s ‘that time of year’ again and just like me, you will already be overwhelmed with magazines and websites giving you their Top 10’s across the various genres …… and funnily enough we are no different!
As usual, we will be giving you two Top 25 ……. this one is the biggie …… the actual RMHQ Readers Top 25 reviews of albums and singles released this year and based on actual statistics, the other will be my on personal Top 25.
Obviously not a science, it’s no coincidence that each of the Readers Top 25 were actually promoted by the artists themselves and/or their labels via Social Media and on their own websites ………… coincidence?
So, here it is in reverse order ……….

24 Jason James – SEEMS LIKE TEARS
23 Roses and Cigarettes – ECHOES & SILENCE
22 Willie Farmer – THE MAN FROM THE HILL
20 Jason Ringenberg – STAND TALL
19 Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul – SUMMER OF SORCERY
18 Eamon Friel – ATLANTIC LIGHT
15 Casey Kristofferson Band – DIRTY FEET
14 Various Artists – Songs & Rhymes From The Mines (an East Midlands View)
13 Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld – WINTER STORIES
12 The Delines – IMPERIAL
11 John Fusco & The X Riders SELF- TITLED
10 Dave Rosewood – GRAVEL & GOLD
08 Robbie Fulks – 16
07 Screamin’ John & TD Lind – LITTLE BIG MAN
06 Nils Lofgren – BLUE WITH LOU
05 Arlen Roth – TELE MASTERS
04 Rory Gallagher – Blues (3 CD Box-set)
03 Billie Williams – HELL TO PAY
02 John Kilzer – SCARS
01 Bruce Cockburn – CROWING IGNITES

Rob Vincent MY NEIGHBOUR'S GHOST (Single)

Rob Vincent
My Neighbour’s Ghost
Thirty Tigers

Oohheeee Yabugger!
As you know we’ve been championing Rob Vincent for a couple of years now; and I can’t tell you how excited we are here at RMHQ that it looks like he’s about to take America by storm!
The new album IN THIS TOWN YOU’RE OWNED is due for release in February and, trust me here …….. I know stuff ……. while it still captures Rob’s sensitive outlook on life around him and us; with the help of Ethan Johns magic fingers and ears in the control booth, it’s a bloody massive leap forward from I’ll Make The Most of My Sins and the world is about to be at his feet!

One of Liverpool’s most prolific & revered songwriters, Robert Vincent is announcing his third studio album ‘In This Town You’re Owned’, due for release on 14th February 2020 via Thirty Tigers. Alongside the announcement, Vincent is sharing a new single from the record today titled ‘My Neighbour’s Ghost’,

Of the new track, Robert explains “There is so much we can all learn from life. ‘Life will take you, if you like it or if you don’t, so live it’. Do we sometimes take our lives for granted? Do we always live life to the full? Should we take in what is going on around us more?

On ‘In This Town You’re Owned’, Vincent returns with his most socially & politically poignant album to date, produced by Brit Award winning Ethan Johns – who has won acclaim for his production work with, amongst others, Paul McCartney, Ray LaMontagne and Laura Marling. On ‘In This Town You’re Owned’ more than before, Vincent deals in hard truths and easy melodies, furthering the tradition of classically crafted songwriting, asking the difficult questions about everyday emotions. “I’m just really interested in the human condition and how people react to things.” adds Vincent.

Having received the inaugural Emerging Artist Award from ‘Whispering Bob’ Harris in 2016, Vincent was then invited onto BBC4’s ‘Old Grey Whistle Test: For One Night Only’. That performance marked a real breakthrough for Vincent, establishing him as one of the UK’s leading lights in Americana and propelling him to #1 in the iTunes Country chart.

Though Vincent’s tastes are eclectic and his influences many, the Americana circuit continues to provide support and inspiration for him as an artist. “It’s nice to have a family and have a home,” he says. “In itself it’s priceless — it can be quite lonely being a musician.” Most importantly, Vincent continues to knuckle down and hunker away at his craft: “I feel like I’m missing a trick if I don’t write every day because every day you’re different. Constant movement, constantly writing as much as you can so you’re capturing different light and shade.”