David Massey
Island Creek
Poetic Debris Records

Easy Like Sunday Morning, Authentic American Country-Folk

There is something about the artwork on the cover that hinted at the contents therein; seeing David in his ‘everyman’ attire sitting looking out onto a sunset over the creek sort of let me know that I shouldn’t expect any Black Sabbath covers or anything even remotely edgy …. which was just what I was hoping for last Sunday Morning.
What you see, is what you get starting with the charming title track, Island Creek; a laid back Country-Folk delight, in the manner of someone like James Taylor or John Denver; albeit with a more ‘world weary’ vocal styling.
The pace picks up on Demon Wind; when David treads the sort of path I expected from Roger McGuinn a few years ago; although the accompanying silvery electric guitar solos; from the aptly named Jay Byrd; owe a bit more to Steve Cropper; but the lyrics certainly have the sting in the tail I would expect from the American Folk legend.
Speaking of guitar playing; on Don’t Know Where I’d Be Jay Byrd, pedal-steel player Casey O’Neil plus mandolin player Zan McLeod combine to take Massey’s beautifully tattered love song into a space normally reserved for more lofty songs and songwriter.
The band kick in and kick up a Saturday night laid-back, ruckus on Curtain Drawn; the type of song that people of a certain vintage will hear; nod at the sentiment and then look across the room at the love of their life who will no doubt; be oblivious to the feelings being generated by osmosis.
There are only six songs here on this Mini-Album/EP; but Massey has certainly played to his strengths by not really including any filler; although perhaps I’d have preferred a couple of cover songs rather than album closer; Fight Finished, a celebratory Love Song to and about baseball team the Washington Nationals who won a trophy in 2019; but as a long suffering Newcastle United fan I’m happy to forgive him this rocking and rollicking indulgence.
Which all only leaves my Favourite Song, Long Long Time; a toe-tapping mid-tempo bittersweet song of love lost. It’s never clear whose fault the break up was; (presumably his, as it’s always the mans fault!) but this tale crackles with genuine unrequited passion and longing; which I love to bits.

Released February 5th 2021


Grand Nationals (Bill Meyer) NEW OLD STOCK

Grand Nationals (Bill Meyer)

Second Time Around Songs For Second Time Around Love

Sometimes it takes a couple of plays/listens to ‘get’ a band; and that’s what happened here, with the Grand Nationals re-recording of their back catalogue for the Digital Age.
Obviously I don’t know the original songs, as the band and in particular Bill Meyer reside and play in and around the Bay Area of San Francisco and I live in NE England ….. but good music knows no boundaries and Bill thought I might like what I heard.
He was right.
Opening track, Lucky is a cool as you like, swoonsome love song that comes across as a Bob Seger/Tom Petty hybrid with a chorus and backing singers that many Headline Acts would give their eye-teeth to have in their set list.
To some greater or lesser degree; and I could be wrong here, but most of these songs will really appeal to guys (mostly) back on the *dating scene after a long time out of the ‘game.’
We all grew up listening to Teen Love Songs, and that’s what makes up Classic Rock/Magic/ FM etc; but we move on; but sometimes need a familiar story and groove; and with more mature themes; which is where bands like the Grand Nationals come in on a Monday or Tuesday night; giving second-time around romance, a soundtrack.
Got You In Mind, We Ain’t Giving Up (on Love) and Funny That Way all make perfect sense when you hear them and imagine them in that scenario IMHO.
Meyer’s voice certainly has that ‘world weary’ almost ‘lived in’ sensibility; but while he sounds like has been around the block and had his downfalls; there’s a rasp when he pours his heart into He Would Have Felt The Same and the rather delightful Diamond Dust that tells us he hasn’t given up and will always see light at the end of the tunnel.
Then of course there is the song that stands out above all others; still with a Petty/Seger vibe; but the horns on Heaven Only Knows and the longing in Meyer’s voice sound like a leftover from a Boz Scaggs session that is getting a new lease of life.
Even if you are in a long and loving relationship, like what I am …… or even a lady who appreciates Classy and Classic AOR Music; this little beauty is for you too, as there are plenty of songs here that will suit your discerning tastes too.

*This theory came to me because a good friend is a salesman in the fashion trade; and once took on a shirt brand that was very colourful and, at the time had fancy ‘double colours’ ……. Andy couldn’t reason why they were so popular; until a customer explained that the customers buying them were men ‘of a certain age,’ who still felt the need to dress up for a date; unlike the younger men who barely had a shower.
Plus these ‘dates’ were invariably mid-week as both parties would have child care issues on a weekend!

Released 20th January 2021



Kat Danser
One Eye Open
Black Hen Music

Capturing Old-School Rhythm & Blues Magic in a Bottle.

Apparently I received a copy of Canadian minstrel, Ms Danser’s previous album GOIN’ GONE in 2018; it’s there in my music files; but I can’t find a review in our back pages; and it’s rather good; and I’m familiar with a lot of the players on board too.
I won’t make that mistake with ONE EYE OPEN; as it’s a bit of a doozy.
First of all check out the cover; it really is a pre-cursor to what you get inside; starting with the late night groove of Way I Like It Done, with Kat shimmying her way through a Bump n Grind Blues that’s full of New Orleans style piano from Kevin McKendree and a funky-ass rhythm section.
Things immediatly slow down on Track #2 Lonely & The Dragon; and while it’s probably the coolest song here; it will leave the average male listener coming out in a hot sweat as Kat Danser purrs her story like she-cat on heat.
Do you get a sense that this is no ordinary Blues release?
Each time I’ve played it something new has disentangled making me go back to the start of the track to get the best out of it.
While it’s difficult to put all of these tracks into one single basket; it’s fair to say between Kat and producer Steve Dawson they have delved into the hey days of Classic Rhythm & Blues, to come up with a very switched on and contemporay release; with the punchy Trainwreck and the righteous Gospel Blues mantra of Get Right Church sandwiching a Punk infused One Eyed Closed; yet all being closely related via Kat Danser’s fabulous genetics and Steve Dawson’s skills on the guitar.
With so much on offer to choose from as a Favourite Track where do I start?
Album finale Mi Corazon, sung in a haunting Spanish, is as left of centre as the Blues gets and has tickled my taste buds a few times now.
Frenchman Street Shake needs to be played L.O.U.D to get the best from it; not that it’s a ‘rocker’ Hell; it’s almost the opposite as it’s the epitome of good time New Orleans music with added geetar and funky horns; but the joy it evokes needs to be shared with your neighbours at every opportunity!
Then again, Bring It With You When You Come is as slinky as it is old-school groovelicious and even a tiny bit licentious too.
But, being the soppy old sod I am, I think I’m going for the heart-breaking ballad Please Don’t Cry with its swirling Hammond back-beat accompanied by a subtly supportive bass and drums ; which bizarrely sounds like Dusty singing Patsy in a sleazy Havana cocktail lounge circa 1960; and that’s exactly the imagery I would give an accompanying video …… but I am a hopeless romantic at heart.
For what sounds like a simply produced album; spanning several studios and homes during lockdown Steve Dawson has managed to capture some ‘real magic in a bottle’ here; and made me, for one want to trawl back through Kat Danser’s back catalogue to see if anything matches these apparent career highlights.

Released 19th February 2021


Elliott Smith EVERYBODY CARES VA Charity Compilation

Out today; Everybody Cares: An Elliott Smith Compilation which has been put together by Francis Lung (ex-WU LYF), La Blogotheque and My Favourite Elliott Smith Song (a fan podcast) – the compilation of Elliott Smith covers with 100% of the proceeds going towards LGBTQ+ right charities (AKT, The Audre Lorde Project and GIRES).
The charity compilation was put together in June 2020 as a live show via La Blogotheque’s Instagram, raising over £1500 for the aforementioned charities – now, in an effort to keep supporting, they are releasing the compilation via Bandcamp.
Cover versions come from Christian Lee Hutson, Francis Lung, Oceanator, Keep Dancing Inc., Blaenavon, Marissa Nadler, Martin Courtney (Real Estate) and more.

Released 15th February 2021
Bandcamp link:https://everybodycares.bandcamp.com/

Here’s where your money goes:
AKT https://www.akt.org.uk/
The Audre Lorde Project https://alp.org/
GIRES https://www.gires.org.uk/


Big Harp George
Living in The City
Blue Mountain Records

Simply Smokinnnnnnnnnnnn’ Friday Night Rhythm, Blues and All That Jazz !

I can’t possibly keep up with what everyone in the music industry is up to; so when Big Harp George released this follow up to UPTOWN COOL at the tail end of 2020, I was blissfully unaware; until his new publicist was recently trawling through some old reviews and stumbled on the little known Rocking Magpie website …… so here we are; the dynamic duo is back together again.
First and foremost; how much does the impeccably dapper George look like Sean Penn on the album cover? As I’ve said before; if I’d been idly trawling through the racks of a record shop and alighted on this; well ….. you’d have to, wouldn’t you?
Opening track Build Myself an App; sort of takes a Blues Brothers formula but adds a lively and slightly tongue in cheek, contemporay set of lyrics about a musician ‘of a certain vintage’ having to get ‘with it’ and move with the times; all set to a suburb Classic Rhythm & Blues riff.
One of the many joys on his previous album was the divergency in his musical styles; and that continues here with George and his cohorts swinging like a set of horny Aristocats on First Class Muck Up, Smoking Tires, Co-payment and Don’t Talk, where is harp playing is as sharp as a carpet tack on both those last two songs.
But; and only musicians of the highest calibre can pull this off; they never let their golden thread unravel, even when they take things down real low and cool on the jazzy Bayside Bounce and Heading Out to Itaipu and not forgetting the rather slinky ballad, Enrique, which shows a path I’d love to hear more of in the future.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the title Pusher In a White Coat; but I was pleasantly startled by the Film Noir sounding bittersweet love song; which features a guitar solo from the late Little Charlie Baty, that’s worthy of Kenny Burrell; really needs an accompanying video in the same dark and steamy vein.
I’m really in a pickle trying to choose an individual Favourite Song; as so many have their merits; but I’m probably erring towards the title track Living in The City which starts with a really funky bass line then swings and sashays like a fat lass on a Friday night somewhere your Mother doesn’t want you to go; and George’s story is along those lines anyway …. and, not for the first or last time, his harmonica playing is simply smokinnnnnnnnnnnn!
The other that I’m rather taken with is another with a double entendre title; Chew Before You Swallow, and it’s the type of racy and Classic Big Band Rhythm & Blues that you fantacise about stumbling upon; but presume nobody records songs like this anymore ….. well, Big Harp George does!
There’s not a level that you can’t enjoy this album on; be that as background in the living room, cranked up to 10 in the car or …… if you are that way inclined, in the bedroom too.

Living in the City features a moveable feast of musicians. It’s dedicated to the late Little Charley Baty whose guitar talent shines on six cuts in some of his final recordings, sharing six-string duties with Kid Andersen who contributes bass, too.
It was produced by Chris Burns who plays keyboards throughout.
The extensive line-up also includes Ben Torres (sax and flute), Michael Peloquin (sax), Mike Rinta (trombone), Carlos Reyes (Paraguayan harp and violin), Firas Zreik (zither/qanun) and Doug Rowan (baritone sax). June Core holds down drums throughout augmented by Derrick “D’Mar” Martin and Loay Dhbour, who plays iique, an Arabic percussion instrument. Joe Kyle is the bassist on six tracks, and Amal Murkus is featured on vocals for one cut. Backing vocals are delivered by Lisa Leuschner Andersen, Loralee Christensen and the Sons of the Soul Revivers (brothers James, Dwayne and Walter Morgan).

Released 10th October 2020



A Smyth
Last Animals
Lover Records

Understated, Dark and Intricate Lo-Fi Romantica.

It’s a fact that music can not just divide, but polarize opinions; meaning it’s not the first time I’ve read a review and thought; “What the Hell were you listening to? Because I thought …….”
We’ve all had those conversations and debates, haven’t we?
Much to my surprise, this debut release from the quirkilly monikered Irish singer-songwriter A Smyth, has done just that at RMHQ this week.
As soon as it arrived I immediatly thought of our King of Indie; the windswept and erudite *Original Rocking Magpie (Name changed) and sent it on forthwith.
In the meantime I played it non-stop, to the detriment of another album I was meant to be reviewing.
The following day *ORM returned an e-mail; and to paraphrase; with a “Mwwaaahhhh …. not for me.”
I was staggered; as I was still playing it over breakfast; and Naga Munchetty was on the BBC News settee ….. which means it must be very special indeed.
Why the disparity in taste?
Who knows.
Neither *ORM, nor I are the targeted demographic; that’s for sure …… as everything about this album is aimed at ‘young people’ of all persuasions; but there is more than enough to keep a man of my extended years engaged, and I also understand why young women would fall in love with him and young men would want to have a pint with this handsome young Dubliner.
The music!
Tell me about the music!
While I’m not too fussed on the electronic whirls and swirls that lead into opening song Rain Boys, they are gone so quickly so as to forget them the moment A Smyth’s crushed velvet tones ooze out of the speakers alongside some very understated and dark accompaniment.
This one song along simply excited me; not in a physical way ….much more cerebral?
While it’s obvious that young Master Smyth can write an intricate and engaging song; Me and My Old Man is a prime example; but on closer inspection; once you get past the tsch, tsch electric drum machine; When It Calls will have plenty of people sitting chin resting on hands staring longingly at their bedroom speakers with tears in their eyes too.
While not overtly a ‘lovey-dovey’ album; there are plenty of songs here that deal with the ups and downs of the emotions that effect romantically involved young people in a way that can only be resolved by listening to the ‘hurt’ in a song. A Smyth speaks directly to them via Say You Won’t Mind and Yeah You Said in a way only ‘they’ will understand (but we all do really).
Before I get onto my Two Favourite Songs; I can’t let things go without raising a glass to Producer Darragh Nolan (Asta Kalapa) and JJ Golden who mastered the final artefact ever so sympathetically; both really bringing the best out of A Smyth’s ethereal voice without ever forcing the issue.
A couple of songs have been released as singles in the last year; and been featured on mainstream radio in Ireland as well as BBC Radio 6; and it’s easy to hear why; as River is another winsome and bittersweet song that broken hearted lovers will pore over late at night; and my second choice, Hero will almost stop audiences from breathing; as they listen in hushed silence when played in concert.
But; I’ve more or less gone left of centre on a left of centre album for my actual #1 Choice; and as always sequencing on a record is essential, because here I instantly fell in love with the finale; Tempt; an eloquent and almost poetic slice of music; sung via a voice on the verge of tears as Smyth gently strums an acoustic guitar as the rain falls around him and you; metaphorically speaking.
While not a lover of the subtle technological wizardry on a few tracks here; they will undoubtedly help make this record appeal to Indie Kids; but most of those electronic wiggles and squiggles (hopefully) won’t be available when A Smyth appears in a downtown Club once Lockdown V, VI & VII are over; and there’s only he and his songs with no artificial safety net; and I’m 100% sure that he has more than enough talent to take these songs into the emotional stratosphere.
I won’t go into who the Press Lady compared A Smyth to; as I can see where they are coming from; but to me these clever and intricate songs will more likely appeal to older fans of Blue Nile, Fleet Foxes and Sufjan Stevens or their like.

Released February 19th 2021



Maximo Park
Prolifica Inc.

Plenty of Driving Guitars and Well Crafted Vocals; Now That’s Entertainment!

I suppose that I need to own up to the fact that although I’ve never felt let down by a live Maximo gig, but I haven’t always felt the same about all of their album releases.
Not that they have been bad – it’s just that they haven’t come up to the same exciting standards live.
As a result I was really looking forward to ‘Nature Always Wins,’ especially as we are dealing with a local band that have done well in their years on the national stage; and I had also planned to see their forthcoming local gig (not likely to happen now).
It is an achievement that this has even come out at all in 2021, when we consider the effects of COVID 19 and the various lockdowns that have impacted on the music scene in general; and this album in particular.
Producer Ben Allen and the band had to complete the album with them in the UK and Ben in Atlanta – the wonders of modern technology.
Paul Smith must have one of the most distinctive voices of current front men and the opener, ‘Partly Of My Making’ suits him down to the ground, quite catchy with a very subtle change of emphasis mid song.
A real ‘indie rock’ track.
A very gentle intro takes them into ‘Versions Of You;’
I can hardly comprehend these versions of you
with Smith at his best as the vocals rise and falls on a smashing track.
An acknowledgement within a relationship of how many impressions (versions)  a person can give of themselves.
‘Baby Sleep’ is Maximo at their best, with driving guitars and well crafted vocals and we then race into ‘Placeholder’, a song about relationships and coping within the confines of such a duo delivered at full pace. An excellent selection as their recent single.
One aspect of their music has always been their ability to spend time on their lyrics; and the meaning behind them and ‘All Of Me’ is, for me, the highlight of the first half of the album, a real toe tapper and a sing along at gigs (remember them?).
The band at their best vocally and musically too.
The second half starts with ‘Meeting Up’, another song about the vagaries of thinking how each party believes the other will be thinking; or imagining it’s progress.
In ‘Why Must A Building Burn’ they consider why matters have to go so sour before both parties realise that isn’t what they needed in the first place.
The pace never drops as we move into the last 3 or 4 tracks and this is where the band are at their very best, keeping a high tempo and not allowing the listener a chance to consider moving onto a new track.
As we get towards the end of the album I realised that I hadn’t really been aware of it coming to an end – always a good sign for me; but I will know better on a couple of extra listenings in coming weeks.
Possibly the softest song on the set is track 11, the penultimate track; ‘Feelings I’m Supposed To Feel’ but it isn’t out of place, as it gives Smith the perfect opportunity to run through his full range and I reckon this would be a cracker at a live gig, the spoken section getting the crowd ‘cranked up’ for the finale.
‘Child Of The Flatlands’ has a pensive Smith looking into a bleak future as the world changes; but he yearns for being back in the days when he was a kid.
Not my favourite track and one which I feel doesn’t sit comfortably as an end to an album.
Personally, I would have preferred this to have been slotted somewhere in the middle of the set.
Going back to my opening comments I’ve now listened to the album again; and although I feel it is better than their last couple of albums, I am still of the opinion that they are a better band live.
I also have to admit that as a regular gig goer I much prefer to be ‘entertained’ more at the gig, than when I am listening to a CD or vinyl at home; or on my headphones while out walking.
It’s an album I’ve genuinely enjoyed; (and Maximo Park fans certainly will) and that’s all that really matters – we all need an occasional uplift; especially as this year is unfolding; and the album will do that.
Maximo Park were scheduled to play this album at a number of socially distanced gigs in February but these have already been cancelled and replaced by a July Tour; fingers crossed things will get closer to normality by then!

Review by Bill Redhead.
Released February 26th 2021


Lainey Wilson Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’

Lainey Wilson
Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’
BMG/BBR Music Group

Good Time Friday Night Southern Country Music

Louisiana native Lainey Wilson’s broad Southern Twang is the clearest take from the opening thumping rocky track of this new studio album, Neon Diamond.
Therein lies the essential core to how you’re probably going to respond to this – on the one hand, there’s an edgy vocal “authenticity” (whatever that is) that will appeal to some, but to some others it might (unfortunately) not fit their comfortable radio-friendly world-view, especially in non-US territories.
Style-wise, it’s further Southern Boogie on second track “Sunday best” – pure Roadhouse music to its core.
“Things a Man Oughta Know” nudges things down a few notches with some nicely picked rhythm mandolin in its straightforward challenging of gender stereotypes.
Next up. “Small Town, Girl” is a funky Blues shuffle through parochialism in an idealised America.
Oddly, things take a Euro-disco turn on the very radio friendly “LA,” which will likely appeal to the Nashville bachelorette crowd as they drive down Broadway in those open-sided party buses.
“Dirty Looks” takes a more reflective turn and style-wise would have fitted nicely on Taylor Swift’s eponymous first album, before it’s back to the singalong choruses of “Pipe;” which features idiolectic grammar and the best use of “Y’all” you’re likely to hear this year.
Lyrically it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek and this cartoonish approach suits the good time feel of the song.
“Keeping Bars in Business” takes a more serious tack, although its observation that the shittiness and rollercoaster emotions of life is good news for the brewery industry, might not find approval in all quarters!
“Straight Up Sideways” boogies its way towards a more hedonistic carpe diem approach to the imbibing of alcohol, although she sings, “there’s more than one way to get straight up sideways” – other forms of inebriation are clearly available.
The acronym titled “WWDD” – “What Would Dolly Do?” is not actually very Parton-esque in musical style, favouring a mid-tempo almost Glitter Band kick drum rhythm; but offers a fair enough way of dealing with life’s issues.
Things change again with a return to mandolin on “Rolling Stone” and the more acoustic rootsy sound makes a good vehicle for Wilson’s voice and also features some lovely twangy Calexicoesque guitar on the fade.
The album ends on the title track Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin,’ with its gentle brushed train beat, taking things to a more confessional conclusion.
Sitting here in a semi-detached house in Stoke-on-Trent writing this review, Lainey Wilson’s life experience could hardly be further away from my own; and of her targets demographic; so at times that gulf is a bit much for me to leap, but there’s a lot to enjoy in the humour, vocal timbre and philosophical hedonism on display in this showcase album.

Review by Nick Barber

Released 19th February 2021


Dan Israel LATE AT NIGHT (E.P)

Dan Israel
Late At Night

More ‘Grown Up Pop Music’ For the Alt. Generation.

We rather like Dan Israel around these here parts; and his SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER album was not just the coolest title I may ever have encountered; but we still stand by our stance that it was “An Album of ‘Grown Up Pop Music’ For the Alt. Generation.
Now leap forward a year or so and he’s back again, only this time with EP in the truest form; i.e an ‘extended play single’ where we get two really classy ‘Grown Up Pop/Rock Songs’ plus them in demo form and an extra demo for good measure …. plus it’s only available on our Favourite Music distribution site Bandcamp.
In keeping with many of his peers, the last 12 months have taken their toll on him and with the help of on Pandemic Blues he sounds like he’s filtering Righteous anger and bile on behalf of all of us, through a Rock and Roll filter bought on EBay.
I love the ‘Grungy’ feel to it; we need more songs that sound like this.
I’ve purposely avoided a lot of songs on this theme; but one way or another Dan has captured the zeitgeist better than most everyone else:
The pandemic blues, like Groundhog Day, everywhere you look, someone holds your fate,
You read a book, or you make a date, you stay inside, don’t go past the gate,
Oh, oh, the pandemic blues,
Oh, oh, the pandemic blues

The title track; Late At Night follows and while a completely different subject captures the subject of loneliness like a punch to your heart Dan Israel takes this uncomfortable subject and wraps it in crisp cotton leaving you feeling a little bit better about yourself after a break-up.
There are others around the world, looking at the stars just like you are.
Now, as a non-musician I’ve always been in awe of musicians who can turn a song and/or melody upside down and inside out …… this started with hearing Crossroads by the Cream and then discovering it was originally a Robert Johnson song.
Here; I love the rough and ready version of Pandemic Blues perhaps a tad more than the single; but it’s so different with Gripka playing all of the instruments in his basement as to make compare and contrast is futile; but the slide-guitar here certainly makes up for loud electric guitars in the ‘piss n vinegar’ stakes!
Late At Night, on the other hand breathes a little more freely, allowing Dan’s ultra-fine thoughts and words to drift in and out of your consciousness like the very air we suck in Late At Night.
In the last year; because of circumstances I’ve listened to a lot of stripped-back acoustic albums from artists normally associated with the electric format of Americana; some work but many have fallen by the wayside because the act has forgotten how to use the subtleties/nuances of the acoustic format to their advantage.
Dan Israel hasn’t that’s for sure!
The fifth and final track here should be a kind of throwaway or ‘filler’ ….. HECK NO!
Drove So Far/Lose The Plot, with Dan showing what a clever guitarist he is; is actually a real smart snapshot of why I love Americana Music. It follows perfectly well from the other two ‘demos’ but; as they do too …… actually sounds fully formed and ready to make its own way in the world.
Then, I sit back and re-read my words ….. and not for the first time recently, sigh at the thought that while Dan Israel has a dozen or more albums under his belt; but instead of being the cover star of Rolling Stone that his talent deserves; he’s dependent on the likes of RMHQ to get his songs across to the populace at large.
Life isn’t always fair; but you can do the right thing for yourself and Dan; buy the Bandcamp Exclusive this week ….. but it will prove expensive in the long run; as it will mean you will keep dipping into his back catalogue for weeks to come.
You’ve been warned!

Released February 12th 2021



John Paul Keith
The Rhythm of the City
Wild Honey Records

A Wonderful, Entertaining Love-letter To the Heart, Soul and Rhythm of Memphis.

The last time I came across John Paul Keith in the flesh (so to speak). He was suitably attired and sporting a Telecaster, was at the Basement, East Nashville ‘Tribute to Memphis’ night at the last Americanafest in 2019. Spookily, this album, his first self-produced one, is also Memphis themed; maybe there was something in the air that night?
The big change on this album compared to previous releases, is the addition of a 10 piece horn section throughout which adds punch and S.O.U.L Power everywhere you look and listen.
Opener “How Can You Walk Away?” is an instant Bluesy/Soul classic, with response female backing vocal singers that you can visualise doing synchronised dance-steps too.
The main man chips in with his smooth and exciting guitar solos – but there’s no noodling fret-wankery counter, to the expense of the song – everything is tidy and just as it should be.
”Love Love Love” which follows, keeps everyone on stage, but style-wise it’s a shift to a big dollop of Rockabilly swing with it’s “Rock around with Hollie Vee “ guitar runs.
Dance-tastic, too…btw.
Things are taken down a soulful notch with the white soul groove of “The Son’s Gonna Shine Again,” which skirts with Boz Scaggs territory and never loses its groove – melodically there are some lovely minor shifts, taking the melody and mood into quite clever territory.
Title track “The Rhythm of the City” is back to the Blues and Soul of the opening track; and is the album’s manifesto
my heart beats to the rhythm of the city/I move my feet to the tempo of this town”.
“Keep on Keep on,” which links into the second half of the album is something that could have leapt straight off the Blues Brothers’ soundtrack – it’s a narrative strut of a song.
“I Don’t Wanna Know” lives in the territory around 1962/3ish, when Soul, Doo-Wop and Rock’n’Roll were merged into one and barely distinguishable from each other – and it’s as lovely as it sounds.
“I Ain’t Done Loving You Yet” jumps forward a couple of years stylistically into Beatle-ish/Pettyish Twang areas -and it’s yet another hook-laden mini-symphony.
Mr Keith sure does know how to craft a hook, that’s for sure.
UK readers might hear some similarities with our own Bennett, Wilson Poole on this one too.
“If I Ever Get the Chance Again” is the sort of plaintive end of the night blues that Nick Lowe excels in, but here JPK is the man in charge of the dynamics; and those horns and backing vocals add extra punch to the descending lines, where Mr Lowe would probably just leave space.
It works.
“If I Had Money” starts with a bit of JPK that echoes the late SRV (Stevie Ray Vaughan – pay attention at the back) but shuffles with Ska-style horns countering and making it impossible not to move your feet and hips along to the beat – It’s all in the rhythm and JPK knows it.
Matters come to an all too soon conclusion with the deep soul of “How Do I Say No?”
It’s Valentine’s day soon – grab your partner (with permission) and schedule your last dance smooch to this one.
John Paul Keith has crafted a wonderfully entertaining love-letter to the heart, soul and rhythm of Memphis here.
Ideally this needs to be heard in the same dark, atmospheric and soulful bars like the one I last saw him back in 2019.
In the meantime, there’s nothing stopping you grooving around your kitchen and getting some practice in for when gigs make a welcome return.

Review by Nick Barber

Released 19th February 2021