Devin B Thompson
Tales of the Soul
Severn Records

Cool Soul To Make You Think While You Dance.

As a teenager our default LP’s at parties were Motown Chartbuster Vol’s 1 & 3; which laid the groundwork for a lifetime loving Soul Music of all hues and styles.
Devin B Thompson was also brought up in a house full of music, eventually gravitating to one singer above all others; Frankie Newsome aka Little Willie Parker; who he eventually got to know and become friends with.
Even if I hadn’t known that ‘fact’ I think I would have eventually guessed that Parker was a major influence on the music; but so many others are too!
As I checked out the artwork on the CD before playing the album I was left confused as to what to expect; as the actual cover pays homage to Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, while the inside photo looks like something from a Blue Note album (which I think would have made a better actual cover).
So, I was blown away by the oh so sweet sounds that did come out of the speakers; as Thompson purrs his way through Bobby Blue Bland’s Love To See You Smile; even sounding like Smokey at times; which is no bad thing; is it?
There follows a step back in time for a sultry rendition of I’m Gonna Cry a River; which instantly had me on my feet and doing a lonely shuffle in the office; imagining Mrs. Magpie was in my arms.
Even two songs in you quickly realise what a great singer Devin P Thompson is; and he has the ability to not just make you dance but think about the words and stories on offer within the songs themselves.
The first three songs are all covers; but it’s when we get into the singers’ own songs that things really get interesting.
I Ain’t No Good is a stone cold sleazy heartbreaker; that many men will associate with and ladies will raise their eyebrows to; while still consider going home with ‘him’.
This being a Soul album; there are broken hearts around every corner; and the way Thompson sings them both men and women will appreciate and understand the content, the way he croons Can’t Get Over You and especially Back Together which sounds like it should have been released way back when on the Atlantic label.
Alongside this Trademarked Sweet Soul Music; Thompson also releases his inner Funkateer on Read Your Mind; which features the magnificent Robben Ford on guitar extraordinaire.
This being 2020, no Soul album would be complete without something really deep and meaningful, and even without it being ‘a worthy cause’ Tell Me was written in the wake of Devin seeing the hostility that faced Footballer Colin Kaepernick; is a stinging Soul song that is easily my Favourite Song here; and it opens with:
Tell me what it is about my skin
that you don’t like
and in the chorus he begs the question;
Tell me what would you do
if you watch people die
because they look like you do?

and in the chorus he asks the listener to ‘walk in his shoes‘;
Dear Lord; this is 2020 ……. why is this song and those like it still necessary?
The song closes proceedings and almost demands that you then press ‘play/repeat.’
I’ve dropped some very big names in here and there; but there’s one more singer that comes to mind; and that’s Jeffrey Osbourne; a favourite of our in the 80’s who also had the musical ability to stop you in your tracks then make you want to dance and holler; which is quite some talent; and Devin B Thompson sounds like he’s cut from exactly the same cloth.

Released October 30th 2020



Sam Morrow
Gettin’ By on Gettin’ Down
Forty Below Records

Introspective and Boogielicious Country Rock For Less Refined Ladies and Gentlemen.

If you know us here at RMHQ, it would come as no surprise that we rather liked Morrow’s 2018 release CONCRETE & MUD. While I/we have eclectic tastes I especially have a penchant for Southern Rock especially when it has an extra splash of Boogieliciousness; and it had both.
Leap forward 2 two and a half years; when one and a half of them were spent flogging the act around USA and Europe and the listener has every right to think ‘has anything changed.?’

The answer is both yes AND no.
No; in as much as Sam Morrow and Band are still treading the same ole road that made the last album and subsequent tours such a success; but ‘yes’ as all that time on the road has tightened up not just their ‘sound’ but Morrow’s songwriting too.
I found myself hissing ‘yeesssssss’ through clenched teeth as the opening bars of Rosarita sashayed out of the office speakers for the first time, a few weeks ago.
Yup; this is the Sam Morrow that I discovered two and a bit years ago; and suddenly all of my First World Problems eased away as I was transported to the same mythical highway Little Feet made famous in Willin’.
The title track Gettin’ By on Gettin’ Down follows; and it’s a torrent of Wah-Wah and fuzztone guitar; and Morrow sounds like he was simply born to Rock & Roll.

While I simply adore Sam Morrow’s songwriting; primarily as he likes a hook, chorus and melody as much as I do; it’s also fair to say that this is a ‘Guitar Rock Album’; not in the meandering self-indulgent ways of yore; but all of the songs are based around riffs that the 70’s Masters would have been proud of.

As you’d expect from the 60’s inspired ‘Groovy’ Haight-Ashbury style album cover; Morrow borrows a lot from his record collection; with Golden Venus incorporating the ‘heavy sound’ we associate with the likes of Moby Grape; but with added country slickness.

Round and Round on the other hand, takes us on a Doug Sahm type of road trip; and I can easily imagine it being drawn out when played live; with enough guitar solos to fill the Albert Hall.

I could be wrong; but for a band with Southern Rock leanings; Sit Crooked, Talk Straight is one helluva brave song to release at the end of 2020; as it’s very much a ‘song of our times’ and may not play too well in some cities across the Bible Belt; even if it does have Waylon Jennings undertones.

I guess any song that includes a cow-bell is going to have Rolling Stones comparisons thrown at it; which is patently unfair on the slick and sleazy Make ‘Em Miss Me; as it blows everything the Stones have recorded this century right out of the water.

Money Ain’t Everything is a tight and punchy Country Rocker that owes more to the Clash than it does Chet Atkins; that’s for sure; such is the eclecticism of Sam Morrow’s songwriting and arrangements.

Selecting a Favourite Track was quite easy; although that’s only because I’ve chose two to tie!
The finale; I Think I’ll Just Die Here finds Morrow solo, with acoustic guitar on his lap reflecting on a life well lived; and a rather fine song it is too.
T’other is as quintessential a Southern Boogie as you will hear this year; Wicked Woman and it’s absolutely everything you would dare hope from a song with that title; and before the feminists start burning their bras, the lady in question is feisty, intelligent and his whole life revolves around her …. just as it should be.

Arguably this is a more mature album than Concrete & Mud; but not in any detrimental way as it sits side by side comfortably; but with slightly more grown up themes and stories.

Released October 30th 2020



Jason Mandell
Soul of America

Jason Mandell’s a new name to us at RMHQ, but this song nearly blew me away this morning ……. and just may be the anthem that all Left of Centre ‘right-thinking’ Americans need to hear this week…… and then sing out loud!

Jason Mandell is a singer and songwriter in Atwater Village in Los Angeles, California. After releasing several albums with his band The Coals (“romantic, musically poetic material that gnarled Nashville bards would kill for” – LA Weekly), he is out on his own. “Soul of America,” his first single, is a lament for our nation’s woes and a prayer for its healing. The song begins as a lyrical folk ballad in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger or early Bob Dylan, but swells into a rousing anthem, with mariachi horns and a gospel choir – a musical reflection of the diversity that defines the American experience. Its lyrics paint a stark picture of a landscape haunted by shuttered union halls, burning crosses and buried soldiers, as its restless narrator searches for the joyous and generous spirit that lives in the wilderness and the soil, while dreaming of Billie Holiday and Robert Frost – two patron saints of American self-expression. 

Don’t forget ……. VOTE Biden!


Anti Records

A Short, Sharp and Bluesy Dip Into A Star’s Old Record Collection.

This has been a year when for a variety of reasons I’ve received a lot of albums and EP’s of songs ‘artists grew up with.’ Most have been home recordings, as acts try to scrape a living in these torrid times; but I doubt that is the case with Wynonna.
Wynonna Judd is one of those singers that I’ve admired for a long time but barely own a handful of songs from. Odd; but true.
So I was more than happy to give this EP a listen and when I first played it, could hardly believe my ears!
To some extents and purposes it was the opening track I Hear You Knocking that first piqued my interest; as the Welsh Rocker Dave Edmunds’ version was a single I nearly wore out back in the 1970’s.
The version here is quite raggedy and all the better for that, as Wynonna turns it into a sleazy Honky-Tonky belter, with false endings and some ‘curious’ harmonies; all of which combine to give it a charm that I’d never have expected, in advance.
This is followed by a slow and almost tantric adaptation of Slim Harpo’s King Bee; which was a stalwart of most Blues sets I saw in clubs and bars around Newcastle in the mid to late 1970’s and features some harmonica playing that will send a shiver down your spine. I personally associate this song with the first Rolling Stones LP, which was part of the fabled ‘box of old records I was given in 1970, and helped form the eclectic musical taste I still have today.
The single that preceded the EP is a sublime rendition of John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery.
As I said at the time, ‘the world probably didn’t need another version of this song’; but if it did it had to be Wynonna’s raw version recorded in the middle of the night alongside husband ‘Cactus’; on them hearing of John’s passing.
Why you didn’t hear this song day in and day out on National Radio, I will never understand.
The five song EP comes to a wonderful close with the rinky-dinky Country Blues; Ramble on Rose; apparantly a Grateful Dead song; who are a band that has completely passed me by for half a century, therefore I’ve never heard it before.
Bizarrely it’s reminded me of something Bette Midler would have sung in The Rose; and perhaps they missed a trick by not including it in A Star is Born.
Which only leaves more song to tell you about on this wonderfully eclectic EP; and it’s the one that simply took my breath away and has me crossing my fingers in anticipation of a whole album in the same vein.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone else dare to cover Miss Simone’s Feelin’ Good.
Why would they, as the original is very nearly perfection on vinyl. But that’s probably all the challenge Wynonna needed; as she pays homage to the original yet uses her own distinctive vocals to give it a spectacularly contemporary edge too.
Only age and experience gets you to choose and sings songs like these with such confidence and, dare I say it …….. distinction; and Wynonna has all in the locker.

Released October 30th 2020



Full Light Records

A Spine Tingling and Intimate Live Retrospective From an Unsung Hero.

If I’m totally honest with myself, then I don’t really like “Live” albums. Always struggled with the majority and have, maybe, a handful that I return to and play again.
Good job then that singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott falls into the chosen few. I’ve been lucky to have seen him live on a couple occasions and know how mesmerising and indeed compelling his shows can be.

This though is slightly different, recorded in South Central Colorado, last September, inside a converted former Catholic church near the border with New Mexico.
The old adobe building rescued and lovingly restored by Scott’s friend Mark Dudrow over the past couple of decades. Incredibly, there was no advanced marketing or advertising, simply “word of mouth”, which meant that only a couple of dozen people turned up to the village of Jaroso from nearby Taos or Santa Fe.

Something else worth noting, the gig was played not just as Unplugged but without the use of a PA System. Best described as back to basics, or even a fly on the wall, old-style approach, using a four-track recorder, one mic on whatever (mostly borrowed) instrument Darrell was playing, one mic on the vocals and a stereo pair for the assembly. Simples.

On the CD, there are 11 live, spine-tingling tracks from the session, seven are Scott originals plus four covers.
Come on in, grab a chair, wherever you may” is how he welcomes the small crowd and leads straight into “There’s a Stone Around My Belly,” a beautiful mid-tempo, typical DS tune, immediately involving the audience getting them to sing-a-long with the repetitive “Hallelujah” chorus.
It all goes eerily quiet for the beguiling, acappello version of “No One Needs Angel” followed by “Life is Cheap” from his 1997 first album Aloha from Nashville, which again has most of the crowd singing with him.

The first of the covers provides a parochial, all join in, to Merles’ “(Have You Ever Been Down To) Colorado” followed by another original, “Fiddler Jones,’ which I first came across on the 2013 album Memories and Moments which Darrell originally recorded with his good friend Tim O’Brien, here though it’s just him with a Banjo for accompaniment, which only seems to emphasise the hook:
And the people all know me wherever I go, There’s Fiddler Jones, there goes Fiddler Jones”.

Hoyt Axton’s cool “Evangelina” has the audience enthralled before Darrell treats them to the spell-binding history of “The Hummingbird,” from his 1999 sophomore album “Family Tree”; a song all about a Gibson Guitar and the misdemeanours of childhood.
The banjo returns for Malcolm Holcombe’s haunting “Who Carried You” followed by the hymn like “On Life’s Other Side;” which has the entire gathering enthusing through the chorus:
On life’s other side we’ll wander and tarry no more,
On life’s other side we’ll carry the weight of this old world no more,
We’ll walk with each other with nothing to hide,
Every path of pure sunlight on life’s other side”.

You can hear the proverbial pin drop throughout Mickey Newbury’s “Saint Cecelia” before the finale again bows to the locals with a rousing rendition of “Colorado” which is originally off my favourite Darrell album, 2010’s “A Crooked Road”.
I can’t help feeling that the Playlist was wholly appropriate, given the venue and it’s history with the enthralled congregation and the protagonist in absolute unison.

But, wait just a minute, there’s an added bonus, in truth it’s less a ‘bonus’ and more like a Lottery winning experience!
Those music loving people from Proper Records have included a 12th. track; another live recording from Darrell’s days as a member of Robert Plants Band of Joy.
Not solo, but aided and abetted by the other members of the band …….. Patti Griffin, Buddy Miller & Mr. Plant himself on a stunning cover of Porter Wagoners 1955 hit “A Satisfied Mind”.
Check out the video on Social Media and witness the curly headed Midlander look across in awe at Darrell Scott’s superb, intense delivery.

In summary, the concept was a simple idea, transformed throughout into a magical, enchanting record of what must have been an awesome, historic event. I started by stating that I generally don’t like “Live Albums”, but; I kid you not; I absolutely love this one.

Jack KiddMessin’ with the Kidd” on

Released on 6th. November 2020



Martin Simpson
Home Recordings
Topic Records

An Unassuming Title – But Untold Riches Lie Behind the Front Door.

Those of us who follow Martin Simpson on Facebook have enjoyed regular performances from his back yard during the current pandemic, (when the weather was better) and he’s clearly been busy when not under the umbrella, battling with the Yorkshire winds.
As he states in his liner-notes
No gigs, no travel, lots of time. Time to focus and to reflect and time to practise
the result of that is a collection of influential and pertinent covers, traditional reworkings, originals revisited and snapshots of life and music during lockdown – it’s a fascinating aural diary of a specific point in time – and their connection to other points in time.
“Family Reserve” opens things, a Lyle Lovett cover and the warm-close mic-ed guitar and refrain of
we’re all going to be here for ever
is a glowing introduction to the world of the collection. This is followed by one of the few tracks that have a contribution from none other than Mr Simpson himself (son Max and friend Amy Smith are occasionally on backing vocals elsewhere) – a cyclical banjo riff played outdoors and captured on a phone, is punctuated by percussive call and response from some passing geese – not surprisingly giving the song its title “Lonesome Valley Geese” – this harmonious synchronicity of made and found music is also present on the album-ending-also-phone -recorded “March 22nd,” where birds accompany resonant and melodious (and all-too-short) picking. Recently Kitty MacFarlane has used birds and other samples on her recordings as musical accompaniment, but here it’s a live performance – and it’s lovely.
Elsewhere, there are tributes – the banjoified “3 Day Millionaire/Don’t Put Your Banjo in the Shed Mr Waterson” and “Angel from Montgomery” are both respectful and thoughtful nods to not just friends in person but friends in spirit too.
There are also songs where Mr Simpson the technician, has had time to deconstruct and rebuild older tunes – the creepy “House Carpenter” being one and the tragically beautiful “Delia” too.
“Augmented Unison” (named after two notes a semitone apart – very meta) and the complex “The Plains of Waterloo” – on all of these, the liner notes provide fantastic technical insight to not only how the songs work structurally and emotionally, but how (Folk) music is a shifting and evolving thing and that Tradition is never static.
That’s the “time to think” box ticked.
Just before the aforementioned “March 22nd” there’s a cover of “The Times They are a Changin’” which is appropriate in so many ways today -politically, socially, emotionally, personally and musically.
Simpson’s arrangement features a bright rolling and thwacked guitar which sounds like Nic Jones on speed – it gives the song an urgency which explodes on the final chord, before juxtaposing with the reminder of constant nature – constant, wonderful nature – on “March 22nd”.
This collection, despite its variances in recording conditions and situations (drawn together and produced admirably by neighbour Andy Bell) works really well as a whole – for those unfamiliar with Martin Simpson’s work, I also feel it’s also an excellent starting point as a primer from which the listener can start to take a journey down the many musical roads he inhabits.
“Home Recordings” is an unassuming title – but untold riches lie behind the front door.
Wipe your feet and come on in….

Review by Nick Barber

released November 13th 2020


The Style Council LONG HOT SUMMERS (The Story of)

The Style Council

80’s Modernism Keeps on Burnin’ For a New Generation.

Much like many of my generation I was absolutely devastated in March ’83 when Paul Weller announced that he was splitting up The Jam.
With 20-20 hindsight the writing was on the wall the night they played Move On Up on The Tube; but it was still a shock none the less.
I can’t actually remember if I’d seen any videos of Long Hot Summer before I obediently bought the 12″ single (EP?); but do remember it being a ‘life-altering’ moment for me.
I got it!
Many didn’t and still don’t.
But, Paul Weller really understood what it meant to be a Mod; as Modernism had always been a transient movement, with the emphasis on ‘movement’ ….. his and therefore ‘our’ heroes had constantly changed and evolved throughout the 1960’s; and that’s what he was doing ….. and I was with him; loafers, chinos, cardigans, Benetton T-Shirts, Clubmasters, raincoat and of course the obligatory foppish Soul-Boy fringe (but I drew the line at tying a sweater around my shoulders or smoking French fags!)
What better way to start this chapter in Weller and my life than the blistering Headstart For Happiness? Sensitive and punchy in equal measures and with a smouldering beat; what the Hell is not to like?
Personally I’ve always thought that the Style Council songs have aged very very well; certainly my CD of the Greatest Hits has been a constant in every car I’ve owned in over 30 years; but how would they sound when taken out of context of being background music on a car journey?
Starting with Long Hot Summer itself, what an incredibly complex arrangement and striking lyrics too for one so young; and that keeps on going through every song here …… as no two songs are alike.
As this was the first song that dawned a New Age of Modernism; it’s actually Socially important to understand that Paul had left straight up British R&B way behind and was about to incorporate Soul, Modern Jazz and even Cinematic and Folk stylings into his melodies that would accompany some of the most stinging observations on the times we were living in during the days of Thatcherism; and we could dance to them too ….. and boy did we dance like the world was about to end!
All of the singles still sound as fresh in 2020, as the day they first hit the airwaves; especially Speak Like a Child and My Ever Changing Mood; but peal away the veneer and Wall’s Come Tumbling Down and the dancetastic Money-Go-Round are, scarily both just as apt and anthemic today.
For me and Mrs. Magpie it always seemed so terribly grown up listening to Have You Ever Had It Blue and The Paris Match and their like. Her friends were playing Bros and most of mine RAWK but to us and the cognoscenti drinking our cappuccinos was the Coolest way to live (and still is).
Obviously I can’t describe every song here; but listening; I mean really listening has thrown up some staggering surprises about songs that I’d totally forgot about.
It Just Came to Pieces In My Hand?
Gulp …….. what an intense piece of songwriting this is.
Boy Who Cried Wolf still sounds a bit ‘Eighties’ but my God Weller’s songwriting was certainly showing signs of the maturity fans now take for granted thirty years later.
It’s taken as late as this very morning for me to unravel Life at a Top People’s Health Farm; and I must have played it and/or danced to it 100 years since it’s day of release.
While he had undoubtedly been something of a ‘Voice for Working Class youth’ with The Jam (btw David Cameron can Fuck the Fuck Off, claiming to like Eton Rifles! ) but here in his mid-Twenties Paul was definitely becoming more Socio-Political in his writing; A Man of Great Promise, Come to Milton Keynes and, of course the jaw dropping instrumental Dropping Bombs on the White House anybody?
Because these songs were a major part of my life at this period; it would be no surprise if I was to select a Love Song as my Favourite track; Have You Ever Had it Blue and the long lost Sweet Loving Ways were obvious contenders as was one of my Favourite Songs of all time; You’re The Best Thing (that ever happened to me); but on playing this album to death; I have two very left of centre surprises for you.
I must have heard it before; of course I did, because I had a well played copy of COST OF LOVING; but I had completely forgot how beautiful and insightful Dee C Lee’s rendition of A Woman’s Song was ……… why was this not a #1 Hit?
Again; with my other choice is a song I’d more or loss forgot about; probably because I couldn’t dance to it.
Ghosts of Dachau!
How old was Paul Weller when he wrote this song? 26? 27?
How on earth could a Pop Singer dare write and release such a powerful and intrinsically dark song on a Pop Record ……. but Paul Weller had the both the balls and nerve to do just that;
The crab lice bite
The typhoid smells
And I’m still here
Handsome in rags
A trouserless man
Waiting helpless for dignity
Come to me angel
Don’t go to the showers
Beg, steal or borrow
Now there’s nothing left to take
Except eternity
I keep talking about Paul Weller here; and it mustn’t be forgot that what you are hearing is the sum total of a cleverly constructed group of musicians; with Mick Talbot and being the lynch-pins that Weller knew he could depend upon to sympathetically bounce off when needed.
I stand by what I said at the beginning; The Style Council have stood the test of time far better than all of their contempories and, in my humble opinion; where any of these songs to be released as if from a time warp previously unheard, in 2020 they would still sound either as beautiful an/or profound as they did when they were first written; and without this stepping stone Paul Weller wouldn’t have evolved into the Modfather who sells out arenas.

Released October 30th 2020



Dave Keys

NYC Native and 2 time BMA Nominee, keyboard slinger Dave Keyes releases his self penned single “It’s 7 O’Clock Somewhere” this very week.
The song pays, tribute to the frontline heroes during the Covid pandemic and the tradition that arose in Italy earlier in the year and went around the globe as fast as Covid-19 itself.
For Dave and his fellow citizens in NYC, every night at 7PM as shifts would change at the hospitals people would congregate in the streets, applaud, bang pots and pans from windows and make a joyous noise in honor of the selfless acts of these hospital workers.
The song is a rocking celebration of the human spirit and people bonding together in a crisis.
Keyes in addition to his own work, performs regularly and tours the world with Popa Chubby and R&R legend Ronnie Spector.

and if you don’t want to actually buy, stick a few dollars, pounds, Euros, Scheckel’s, dubloons or whatever into a charity box somewhere, you know it makes sense.

PS ….. the photo at the top is my Granddaughter in London, cheering for the NHS and Key Workers.


Ashley Campbell
Something Lovely
Vacancy Records

Very Personal Country Songs For You To Interpret in Your Own Fashion.

Let’s go back three years when Ashley Campbell played at SummerTyne Festival in Gateshead.
Alongside the national cognoscenti at the time, my friends in the local Roots Music community were wetting themselves with excitement at the prospect of seeing (and hearing?) Glen Campbell’s daughter; but then seemed to spend the whole gig playing Top Trumps with the variety and nationality of venues they’d seen her Father play over the decades, which seemed to me, to be at the detriment of young Ashley on stage.
A year or so later she released her debut album, THE LONELY ONE, which again was praised to the Heaven’s albeit with copious mentions of her Sainted Father filling many column inches.
Personally, I was underwhelmed by both the concert and the album (so much so, I didn’t even review it).
It’s now 2020, and the world is in the midst of a particularly cruel pandemic and in the hands of crazy politicians, left, right and indeed centre; and the only antidote I can think of is music, music, music.
Yet again, we have to thank my serendipitous IPhone for bringing this to my attention this morning; albeit a couple of weeks late.
Out on my early morning walk the stunning and stinging Good To Let Go, which was my second song of the morning, oozed into my ears like a fog and genuinely stopped me in my tracks.
While Ashley is telling a taught tale of a relationship that has struggled to close; in my case my Mother in Law of 42 years years had died 12 hours previously after battling Covid and dementia for 6 horrid months; and this song couldn’t have been more apt for how I was feeling, especially as the sun tried to break through the grey clouds casting its light over the bright Autumn leaves.
Of course I’m an old romantic…… but come on; I ask you; if this had happened to you?
So with tears running down my cheeks I continued on apace, through the hauntingly beautiful Forever’s Not That Long (which just may be the best song Loretta and Dolly never sung!) and the mellow heartbreaker of a duet with Vince Gill, If It Wasn’t.
Pull yourself together man! I kept telling myself.
These songs aren’t about ‘you’ ….. Ashley Campbell has no idea who you are!
But, that’s the power of great music isn’t it?
Ashley Campbell has written a bunch of very personal songs from her own life; that I (and no doubt) you too, will interpret in your own special way.
Without actually re-listening to her debut album; I feel Ms. Campbell has taken a deep breath and dug deep into her own experiences and influences for this album; gently shrugging the shadow of her Father from her shoulders; although her love song to Glen, Remembering is as raw as it is heartwarming …… and yet again made me cry salty tears for the second time in half an hour.
Perhaps one of the things that ‘turned me off’ that night at Sage Gateshead was Ashley’s dependence oh her banjo ……. and a mighty fine banjo player she is; but it’s a thing of moderation at RMHQ; so while the rest of the tracks here are based around the more ‘commercial’ guitar format, it’s therefore a refreshing treat to hear the instrumental Moustache Man, with Ashley showing some rather unique dexterity on this much maligned instrument.
While a lot of albums this year have been quite spartan in their production; this on the other hand is fair luscious at times; with a string section swooping in and out on occasion; most notably on Alice; but there are other offerings too.
Before I get onto my Favourite Song; I simply must mention the finale; Ashley’s rather lovely version of Good Vibrations, which keeps the ‘feel’ of the original, but adds some spicy banjo; and of course her own fabulous vocals.
For my Favourite Song I’m torn between two rather different songs; the title track Something Lovely features those sumptuous strings again and some really intricate guitar picking, while Ashley’s voice really, really picks out the sentiments in the words.
But; the song I’m choosing is Suitcase Heart; primarily because I love the ‘metaphor’ of her ‘heart being a suitcase’ as she can’t maintain a relationship ……. a very simple construction; but never the less an extremely ‘clever song’ too; that’s nonetheless accessible and very commercial too ……. just perfect for radio, methinks.
Love it!
I stand by my thoughts from 2017 and 18; so my new found love affair with Ashley Campbell’s music starts today and will continue unabated forever (I hope).

Released October 9th 2020


Plants and Animals THE JUNGLE

Plants & Animals
The Jungle
Secret City

Another Montreal Band Comes to the Fore.

I’ve never been to Montreal, but if the city is as good as the bands that have broken through to the ‘Big Tim’e it must be a canny place to visit and certainly a special one for music lovers.
With that in mind, once the world is back closer to normality I may venture over, especially as my Dad did spend a few years in WW2 in Alberta on an RAF assignment, but that’s as close as any of the Redhead family has got to Montreal.
Our loss clearly.
Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Stars, The Dears , Wolf Parade, The Stills – the list just goes on and on. An array of talent in an array of genres certainly gets the music lover drooling over their work.
Plants and Animals were formed back in 2008 and have produced several highly praiseworthy albums in the period since; and that has seen them get critical acclaim from several areas of the Music Press – a situation fully deserved by the trio of Warren Spicer, Nic Basque and Matthew Woody Woodley whose early releases even made it onto a couple of Awards lists.
THE JUNGLE, is an album of only 8 tracks; although that initially filled me with dread, as I expect to have tracks of over 5 or 6 minutes used as ‘fillers’ to pad out the set, but it’s certainly not the case with this bunch, mainly due to the excellent arrangements and production that have brought out the best from the trio.
Having felt that their last album ‘Waltzed In From The Rumbling’ had been their best; my opinion has now changed.
‘The Jungle’ May well be shorter in length and track numbers but it is a totally different concept and a fine addition to an excellent musical back catalogue.
First impressions of the opener The Jungle’ is very much along the lines of an Arcade Fire track, as the almost hypnotic instrumental leads into a softly sung track that is ideal as an album or a live gig entree, before moving on to the main course. The beat is infectious and sets their stall out for the following tracks.
‘Love That Boy’ deals with family life and love and especially the way that childhood memories still remain in the brain all those years later. Accompanied by an intriguing video this is a song that just floats along behind a superb vocal.
Almost trance like?
On ‘ House on Fire’ I can almost hear this being featured at an Arcade Fire gig; with the intricate mix of vocals and accompanying guitar/drums producing another smashing track. It’s amazing what a mere trio can produce on this album.
As you would expect from a Montreal band they include a very delightful (although on occasions deliberately out of tune?) song that is delivered partially in French, but my very vague recall of school from Grammar School couldn’t give you a true translation, but I do know it is about Queens and hearts being broken in a relationship.
Favourite track probably goes to ‘Sacrifice’, a vocal that could have been from Brandon Flowers with the drumming of Woody taking this through to a crescendo as it bemoans that ‘ I gave you the best years of my life’ but clearly to no avail.
I did toy with placing ‘Get My Mind’ into the favourite position but it only just loses out, despite being yet another very good and very listenable track.
The whole mood drops a few notches with ‘In Your Eyes’, probably the softest track here, but one that perfectly conveys the mood in an almost samba manner – ‘don’t give up and don’t stop now’ a plea to continue or re-kindle a possibly fractured relationship.
The eighth track ‘Bold,’ is appropriately titled as it completes what is a bold and successful transition from the previous albums and one which is a total success.
We need for you to be more bold’ – fair heart never won fair lady; as they say.
Was I surprised by this album? Absolutely.
Did I like the change from their last album? Absolutely
To me, the best they have produced and it deserves to succeed after they have tried such a challenging and different route to get here; from their past endeavours.
Another Montreal band moves up the Canadian ladder – but how many are there waiting to get on the bottom rung?

Review by Billy Redhead.

Released October 23rd 2020