Jane Allison LIKE MAGDALENE

Jane Allison
Like Magdalene
Horus Music

Highly Talented and Americana Influenced British Bedsit Country-Folk.

This is odd; I was 99% sure I’d reviewed Jane’s album Just Another Girl, but can’t find it in our archives …… oops, if I didn’t!
Whatever; that was the past and LIKE MAGDALENE is not just the present; but in some ways the future too.
For the uninitiated this young lady from the rather lovely town of Aberystwyth in Wales; seamlessly and charmingly straddles the Folk and Americana spheres with ease, with barely a trace of her natural accent in her singing voice; which will surely give songs like the torrid and dour opener Don’t Spill The Water; which has more than a hint of Rust Belt Americana to it; most especially in the breathy and breathless chorus; making it ideal for Roots Radio everywhere.
Like so few of her peers; Jane isn’t afraid to wear her influences on her sleeve; with the emotional Shower of Stars and Kiss of Peace sounding uncannily like adaptations of something Leonard, Joni or RMHQ Favourite, Gretchen Peters may have written; but not actually released ….. but; no … these are from the pen of Ms. Allison herself.
Alonza Bevan’s production make’s Jane’s crystal clear voice and fascinating songs shine throughout; dipping in and out of 60’s bedsit melancholia that relationships of all types can bring; with ease on If I Was Famous, Banks of the Landwehrkanal and Summer Wind; but never allowing this album to sound even the merest hint of depressing; these songs will appeal to anyone and everyone who knows what ‘darkness’ feels like; but there will always be light at the end of that particular tunnel; and here it’s in the shape of the powerful title track Like Magdalene, the delightful Shower of Stars and especially High Road (when the shadow of Joni circa Blue encapsulates every word).
Then, there is one other song that captured not just my imagination when I first heard it; but my heart too.
It’s been a tough old 18 months for everyone; and I’ve not been immune to my own ‘black clouds’ especially recently; and while I’ve tried to blank them out somewhat with Tamla Motown and/or loud Indie Music; nothing speaks to more than a song from someone who ‘has been there’ and I can only presume Jane Allison has; as Frayed with its massive peaks and troughs will touch many another soul as it has mine; therefore making it my Favourite Song on a rather exceptional album.
I guess if I were to ‘pick at the seams’ I would hear the Celtic influences of Jane’s roots; but to me this is quite simply as good British take on ‘Americana’ (which knows no boundaries!) as I’ve heard in years; in fact it’s so damn good, you would be mistaken for thinking Jane Allison was Canadian!

Released June 12th 2021
https://janeallison.net/

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The Rubinoos CBS TAPES

The Rubinoos
CBS Tapes
Yep Roc

Garage Meets Power Pop and Begets Punk ….. PLAY BLOODY LOUD!

BERKELEY, Calif. — On November 2, 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States. The events of November 3 were less earth-shaking, although it was the day the power pop pioneers The Rubinoos recorded this album. The group walked into CBS Studios on Folsom Street in San Francisco to, as band co-founder and singer Jon Rubin recollects, “have a ‘set up and get comfortable in the studio’ kind of affair.”

…….and, to some extent that’s what you get …… a Garage Band of young fearless musicians without a care in the world; or more importantly ‘Hit Records’ in the forefront of their mind.
All first takes; this in many ways is a Live Recording and to my ears; the forerunner of many Punk album that would follow in the next few years.
The only thing that would make opening track All Excited any better would be if the drummer counted everybody in ….. “1,2, 3 ….hit it!” The following couple of minutes is very much ‘of its time’ as is the album itself; mid 70’s Power Pop with edges so rough and ready they all become timeless …. and certainly haven’t dated as much as many of what their peers would record in the next 12 months.
That track is one of only three self-penned songs here; and all three sit very comfortably alongside the myriad of cover songs that the Rubinoos put their very own twist on.
If I’d had a band in 1976 it’s quite conceivable that I would have insisted the Archies’ Sugar Sugar and my two favourite Beatles songs; She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand were included in the set list; just like Jon Rubin did; but I wouldn’t have had the wit or imagination to have the Funk Classics, King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Strut and The Meters Cissy Strut in the mix too; as both only entered my collection ten or more years later ….. and here The Rubinoos certainly do justice to and show what great musicians they were at such a tender age.
For a Favourite Track I very nearly went for the Surf Instrumental Walk, Don’t Run …… but that’s because I’m re-discovering that much neglected sub-genre; which leaves a coin toss between Heartbeat, It’s a Love Beat (DeFranco Family? No; me neither) which has melodies and a chorus that sounds like The Adverts covering The Osmonds!
T’other is a Rubinoos original; and a song that blew my metaphorical socks off ……. I Want Her, So Bad …… a genuine contender for the very first Punk Rock song (although there are other contenders) and one I’ve subsequently totally fallin in love with.
The all too short album comes to a close with a Jonathan Richmond Song; Government Song done absolutely straight and possibly the one song here that actually is a forerunner to the fun time edgy Power Pop that The Rubinoos became famous for; but everything that precedes it; warts ‘n all, has to be there too to create the magic; doesn’t it?
Four weeks ago I had absolutely no idea what to expect; as I’m particularly suspicious of ‘previously unreleased albums;’ but 2021 is probably a case of ‘right place/right time’ for The Rubinoos to take over your car stereo for the second time as you re-live your youth and scare the bejaysus out of your kids and Grandkids ……. PLAY LOUD and PLAY OFTEN!

Released June 25th 2021
https://rubinoos.com/

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The Flatlanders THE TREASURE OF LOVE

The Flatlanders
Treasure Of Love
Rack’em Records & Thirty Tigers

A Timeless Set of Old and New Classic Tunes That Define Americana.

As the publicity shouts, this is the first album from the legendary combo in twelve years and therefore … expectations are high.
Content-wise, lockdown has given the trio the chance to collect and finish recording songs of their own songs and a few covers that have appeared in their live sets, but had never been fully realised in the studio until now.
The covers chosen suit the harmonies and heartbreak that have laced the Flatlanders’ output over many years – the Everly Brothers’ “Long Time Gone” sounds just as fragile as that earlier take, but now adds a wry world-weariness.
Initial single release “Sitting on Top of The World” is a rollicking turn-taking ear-worm, whereas “Give My Love to Rose” is as much imbued with the spirit of Johnny Cash as you’re ever likely to hear in the 21st Century.
Arrangements throughout are unfussy and wrought from the road; with the story and the timbre of the voices to the fore.
Allocation of song to voice is strong too – Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s tremulous tones suit the melancholy title track “Treasure of Love;” whereas Ely and Hancock tend to take the narrative course on songs like “Satin Shoes” and “Mobile Blues”.
In the trio format, there’s a good mix of turn-taking and two and three part harmonies, which offer a great deal of light and shade – “Ramblin’ Man” being a perfect example of where the egos retreat for the benefit of the song.
With fifteen songs to go at, there’s plenty of variety too – favourites for me are all the ones where Jimmy Dale Gilmore takes the lead; but especially “The Ballad of Honest Sam” with its Western imagery and mythology – timeless and Classic.
One low spot for me is the inclusion of the jokey “Mama Do the Kangaroo,” which is no doubt a live crowd-pleaser, but which sounds somewhat one dimensional and jars against the other material on offer – still, when you’ve got a skip button and fourteen other excellent tracks, I’m not complaining.
Twelve years did you say?
Let’s hope it’s not that long before The Flatlanders’ catalogue is further expanded, based on this timeless set of Classic tunes, old and new.

Review by Nick Barber

Released 9th July 2021
https://www.theflatlanders.com/

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Amelia White & Brett Ryan Stewart 11AM

Amelia White & Brett Ryan Stewart
11AM
Wirebird Records/Bandcamp

Cutting Edge Country Duets With A Classic Twist or Two.

I’ve been a fan of Amelia White for a few years now; so much so I occasionally play her albums for ‘fun’ and ‘relaxation;’ which may sound odd ……. but with so much new music to review during the week, Sunday’s are precious to us and generally mean delving deep into my/our music collection for something to play; so anything from the last ten years that gets on to the hi fi has to be very special indeed.
So when Amelia got in touch recently asking nicely if I’d give a listen to a new project with her friend Brett Ryan Stewart, my Scooby-Senses went into overdrive.
As she insisted this is not a normal Amelia White album; but a bunch of duets; so I wasn’t too surprised to hear a rich and smouldering man’s voice on opening track Somebody to Hold; a love song in the mould of Tammy and George if George was substituted by Charlie Rich, methinks.
Absolutely gorgeous and swoonsome, with some sublime guitar, deeply emotional viola and violin (from Molly Thomas) and accordion behind the star struck couple ……. just the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from Tim and Faith; but increasingly you’d be disappointed as Music Row’s favourite couple go full on Power-Pop.
It’s the same with Like I Do, which follows …….. slow burning and simmering; will their love explode or implode? Only time will tell.
The all too short EP close with Boom Boom; NO not the John Lee Hooker Classic; but a crisp and sharp Country sizzler with the couple surrounded by a sympathetic band and numerous finger clicks and handclaps as the two very disparate voices melt together to form a single sound that will tug at your already shredded heartstrings.
Which brings me to my Favourite Song here; the dark and gloomy Mr. Sunshine; which is predominantly Stewart on his own pouring his broken heart out over some shimmering guitar and a drum beat that sounds like continuous punches to the jaw; but never strong enough to knock you out ….. just soften you up as Stewart’s world weary and achingly beautiful lyrics take you out when you’re least expecting it.
7 or 8 years ago I had a period when Country Couples were being heralded as ‘the next big thing’ and personally, I was disappointed that apart from My Darling Clementine they all more or less disappeared into the ether after delivering some great debut albums.
Which is what I fear will happen here; especially as Amelia White has a new Kim Richey produced solo album coming out later in the year; which is great news ….. but …. but …… I’d love to hear a full album from the couple; possibly with their adaptations of some Country Classic duets ….. why not?
Surely the world is finally ready for such a magnificent beast?

Released June 4th 2021
https://brettryanstewart.com/
http://www.ameliawhite.com/

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Quinn Sullivan WIDE AWAKE

QUINN SULLIVAN
Wide Awake
Provogue Records

A Second Album That Elevates This Talented Young Man To A Whole Other Strata Altogether.

For many people who were once heralded as a child prodigy, the path to prolonged success can be fraught and disappointing; so many never seem to fulfil all that early promise.
That ‘prodigy’ badge is both a blessing and a curse, plus for the artist, an unnecessary millstone.
Quinn Sullivan certainly qualifies for the description and follows a long line of such ‘prodigies’ in the music world; i.e. Doug Sahm, Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood & Derek Trucks to name a just a few.

At 21 years of age, this inchoate musician from Massachusetts has already experienced so much more than 99.99% of aspiring performers, having the benefit of being under the guidance of Buddy Guy and releasing 3 previous albums (since 2011), all involving multi-Grammy winner Tom Hambridge. You can also add to his resume all the various live TV appearances and an array of gigs that include three Montreux Jazz Festivals and an Eric Clapton Crossroads Festival.

Wide Awake marks a vicissitude crossroads of his own, with a significant change of producer/collaborator, this time travelling to LA to work with Oliver Leiber (Paula Abdul, Ke$ha and Adam Lambert) with an obvious prescient to encompass much more than just his fabulous pluripotent guitar playing and strong singing voice. Although Quinn has always considered himself a songwriter, preparing for this album has seen him increase his efforts with pen and paper, concentrating on the lyrics and melodies with Leiber that will elevate his craft, not just for Wide Awake but for further albums down the road.

So, I hear you ask, has it worked on this, his fourth album. Well, from my perspective it’s very much a resounding yes. Much more of a mainstream rock effort with lots of hooks, overall it contains scale, scope and colours (not just blue) that project a whole gamut of sub-styles.
Baby Please” could quite easily have been a cover of a Ed Sheeran effort, while “In A World Without You” has a distinctive Latin feel, and then “She’s So Irresistible” has the twin cities funk of Prince Rogers Nelson all over it.

She’s Gone (and She Ain’t Coming Back)” starts off like a Coldplay classic but then vocally it moves into different territory; whilst lyrically there are some superb references,
we made love to Marvin;
singing girl let’s get it on;
baby I’ve heard it all through the grapevine;
that we’re done, that we’re done
followed by a beaut of a chorus.
It gets a little harder and bluesier with the punchy “Strawberry Rain;” with its ‘Oasis sounding like The Beatles’ chorus bolstered by an iconic wah wah guitar solo straight out of the Hendrix catalogue.
Jessica” provides some further poignant lyrics that recall another long lost love, with yet another memorable chorus “what do you see when you look in the mirror;
cos I see an innocent child;
Jessie I know you’d feel better inside;
if you could just see yourself through my eyes”.
For a 21 year old many of these lyrics are quite remarkable.

Honestly, there are no iffy fillers on here, but the King Magpie will want me to select my favourites.
The accolade almost fell to the song that was released as a teaser single, earlier this year, the anthemic “All Around The World” with its empowering message of positivity and hope.
But, I’m now leaning toward the blue eyed Soul of “How Many Tears” that sounds like it has come straight out of Philadelphia; sung by Hall & Oates at their almighty zenith.

Sullivan and Leiber have cast their net far and wide to encompass an entertaining range of musical influences into creating this enchanting album; and without any shadow of a doubt Messrs Guy & Hambridge helped create the very sturdy platform from where Quinn evolved and developed his awesome natural guitar skills and robust singing style. However, Wide Awake elevates this talented young man on to another strata, an altogether higher level that ought to ensure that he reaches a much, much wider audience.

Jack Kidd AKA “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released 4th June 2021
https://quinnsullivanmusic.com/

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Mark Rubin JEW OF OKLAHOMA

Mark Rubin
Jew of Oklahoma: The Triumph of Assimilation
Rubinchik Records

A Cannily Handcrafted, Smart, Fun and Decidedly Relevant Album.

Mark Rubin, the self-proclaimed Jew of Oklahoma, and co-founder of the Austin, Texas Americana band the Bad Livers, says this about using the banjo to play traditional Jewish songs:
It’s an instrument of my tradition, and Yiddish culture is also my tradition, so for me, at least, I don’t see why not.
Rubin, who’s played in traditional bluegrass and country bands for decades, is set on setting the record straight and righting wrongs with his album; The Triumph of Assimilation.
Rubin has remarked that he has as much a right to sing Folk songs and play the banjo as anyone, regardless of his DNA.
“Jewish-Americana” is an apt, well-deserved, and fitting description.
Kicking off with “A Day of Revenge,” a song based on a poem by Mordechai Gebirtig, Rubin sets the stage for an album of Folk-based and Yiddish-fuelled songs.
“Revenge” comes off first as revenge fantasy, then makes a hard left turn before the instruments fade.
“It’s Burning” is a wake up call for everyone to realize the tools most needed to affect a change are available to us all as long as we’re willing to open our eyes. As a Jewish person currently living in New Orleans, Rubin understands fully the difficulties with staying kosher in the ham-laden Southern States.
His song “Down South Kosher (A Dance of Hunger and Reconciliation)” is less a novelty song and more a clever and witty social commentary disguised as a novelty song.
Of course, the best way to follow a song like this is with the darkest song on the album.
If Rubin’s goal with this album is to right wrongs, “The Murder of Leo Frank” is a great place to start.
Frank was wrongly accused of the rape and murder of Mary Phagan; then hung by a lynch mob.
Rubin sets the story straight once and for all.
One of the finest things about this song is Rubin mentioning folk songwriter John Carson and the injustice he caused by fanning the flames of antisemitism with his songs.
Carson, a racist and KKK member singlehandedly inflected as much damage as possible just to get attention and Rubin does a fine job of wresting that from Carson, with his factual lyrics and impassioned singing.
Which brings to my mind the murder ballad album World Without End by songwriters John Murry and Bob Frank—instead of singing murder ballads of old, they wrote entirely new ones, based on true events. Dark, violent, and certainly not for the squeamish, Rubin’s “The Murder of Leo Frank” would fit right in and that’s a hell of a compliment. “Yiddish Banjo Suite” is a medley of three Yiddish tunes performed on a five-string banjo. Lively and fun, bizarrely this would fit right in during a Saturday night Square Dance.
How long before one of the many Psychedelic Bluegrass Jam bands pick up on this one, as it’s ripe for jamming and layers of improvisation.
(WAIT A MINUTE, did I say “Psychedelic Bluegrass Jam bands?” Yes, sadly, I did.)
“Unnatural Disasters” is more wry social commentary because; hey, Fake News is all the rage these days, and you just know that the Jews are behind everything bad that’s happening; with their space lasers and global warming and ‘stuff’; don ‘cha?
“Good Shabbes” is actually such great advice this old gentile should take it up.
Smartest thing I’ve heard in a long while:
You can put that phone away, it can wait til another day.”
Okay, there’s more, but you get the gist of it. Mark Rubin, The Jew of Oklahoma, has crafted a smart, fun, relevant album and you should definitely give it a listen or three.
What? Would it kill you?

Released 1st June 2021
Review by Roy Peak

https://www.jewofoklahoma.com/

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