The Cold Stares HEAVY SHOES

The Cold Stares
Heavy Shoes
Mascot Record

Cocksure Blues Rock Meets Southern Rock at a City Centre Crossroads.

As regular readers will know we have very eclectic tastes here at RMHQ; none more so than my good self. Recently I’ve been dabbling in the Jazz pond, alongside my normal Americana/Roots listening; but one of my Guilty Pleasures has always been good old Blues Rock, which stems from my teenage years half a century ago.
As the acts I loved got Heavier I moved on to more melodic music; but still like to raise the roof every now and again; which is where The Cold Stares entered my life last week.
The album had been sitting around unplayed; simply because I was 99% sure what the contents would be …. and I was correct; but in a case of ‘right place/right time’ it went into the player on Monday morning and was still rocking the office at tea-time!
Unlike most of their contempories; Kentuckians,The Cold Stares actually manage to sound Bluesy, while ‘turning it up to 11’ and allow singer singer Chris Tapp to actually ‘sing’ instead of scream.
Obviously it was the opening track Heavy Shoes which initially caught my attention. POWERFUL hardly covers it; but there was cool guitar riff that runs all the way through; and Tapp reminded me of Paul Rogers in his full majesty (which covers both Free and Bad Co.) and to some degree Brian Mullins could well have took lessons from Paul Kossoff at times; on a song that makes Whitesnake sound like a Pop Combo!
I’d be nervous of playing this album through headphones, as my ears are in a ragged state anyway; but these songs do need to be played loud(ish) to get the best from; mostly because you can actually feel the bass/drums combo in your chest at times; but for once that doesn’t detract from the songs; with Save You From You, Strange Light and 40 Dead Men being prime examples of a band who have served a long and tough apprenticeship; never wavering from their goal ….. and now actually living out their combined dreams; doing what they want for an ever appreciative fan base.
As I say; Heavy Blues/Rock isn’t my normal ‘go to’ genre; but occasionally bands like The Cold Stares come out of the shadows, and while frightening me at first; have something special in their armoury (You Wanted Love? Take This Body From Me?) that are significantly different from the norm, to catch my attention, but then grow to appreciate the classy playing and surprisingly intricate production values that combine to give us some quite Classic Contemporary Rock.
As you’d expect from a Heavy Blues style album there’s an all purveying darkness from start to finish; but The Cold Stares carry this off with not just class but panache too; none none so than the funky-ass Gothic sounding In The Night Time, which straddles Southern Rock and British Blues with swagger and style.
Which brings me to my Favourite Track here.
Not necessarily an easy task as there isn’t anything here that I would say could be a Commercial/crossover Hit; although there is certainly a lot to like and admire; but one song seems to stand out above the rest and will sound great on both Rock Radio in the car and in a sweaty club at 11.15 on a Friday night; and that’s Hard Times, with it’s Jack Bruce a-like bass lines and cocksure vocal performance on a song that will resonate with just about everyone who is living on the back foot these days.
While I certainly don’t want to be inundated with similar releases over the next six months; The Cold Stares have been a revelation for me; and a bit of an adventure too.

Released August 13th 2021


Ian Roland & The Subtown Set BEYOND WORDS (Single)

Ian Roland & The Subtown Set
Beyond Words

We’ve been fans of Ian Roland and latterly his Subtown Set ever since he sent RMHQ a copy of his solo HOW THE DUST JUMPS CD in 2015;
so when he got in touch a couple of weeks ago with this new single my heart genuinely skipped a beat.
In the intervening years their sound and songs have really developed and matured; as you will hear when you hear this new single.

Following on from the Ian Roland & Subway Set debut album, ‘Double Rainbow’ (Indiesonics, Feb 2020), Ian Roland & The Subtown Set release the second single, ‘Beyond Words’, from a new album they are currently recording.

The indescribable beauty of the natural world is the theme for this love song. In the words of David Attenborough, “We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited…All we need is the will to do so.” (‘A Life on Our Planet’, David Attenborough, 2020).

Single Released July 30th 2021


Dave Kelly 40 YEARS ON

40 years On-A Recollection

A Cornerstone of the Original British Blues Scene Gets To Be Stage Centre Again.

Loving music, collecting records and going to gigs has been a big part of my life for ……. a long, long time; and it comes as no real surprise that I’ve been aware of Dave Kelly since the late 1960’s (starting with him and his sister Jo-Anne around that time too!), as well as him being part of The John Dummer Blues Band and an original member of The Blues Band, I even bought their debut album when it came out in 1980, plus their 3rd; “Itchy Feet;” in fact I’m sure I saw them live at one time.
So how come Dave Kelly faded into the background of my personal library.
Folks, it’s a complete mystery.

So this retrospective is not just extremely welcome, it is a revelation (to me).
Repertoire Records have scoured through Kelly’s work over 4 decades and filled 3 CD’s with 55 re-mastered recordings, 23 of which have never been available before. It’s a comprehensive catalogue in the form of a quality Box-Set that also has the added bonus of a 40 page nostalgic booklet, with liner notes from Repertoire’s very own Chris Welch. Add to that, a forward by long-time Kelly fan Roy Bainton and an in-depth interview with the man himself.

As for the music, well, logically each CD has a theme; CD1 is entitled ‘All My Own Work’ and understandably features 19 tracks that Kelly co-wrote with Tom McGuiness. CD2 has the headline of ‘Between the Covers’ featuring 21 of Kelly’s favourite songs through the years, where he applies his own take on some Classics, interestingly not necessarily all of the Blues persuasion. Completing the set, CD3’s moniker is ‘Alive and Kicking’ providing us with 15 live tracks that were recorded during various European Tours.

Nostalgia may well be a thing of the past, gone but certainly not forgotten. T
he music on these 3 CD’s is top notch. Off the first CD my favourite tracks are the ones where Dave displays his undoubted talent on slide guitar like “Straight Line (To My Heart)”; “Ungrateful” and “Mr. Estes Said” although I couldn’t help sing along to “Waiting For Bessie” too.
On the covers album there are tons of pleasant surprises, but I particularly loved the rocking version of Delbert McClintons “Two More Bottles of Wine”, the raucous “Return to Sender” plus the bouncy interpretation of Goffin & Kings “I’m Into Something Good”.
However, TVZ’s “Pancho & Lefty”, Guy’s “Anyhow I Love You” and Steve Goodman’s classic “City of New Orleans” are real eye-openers, as is Dave’s beautiful instrumental version of Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine”.

Finally, the 15 live tracks illustrate just how good Kelly and his Band truly were, but more importantly highlighting what a superb guitarist Dave is, whether it be acoustic, electric or slide.
In fact his attempt at Steve Earle’s “My Old Friend The Blues” is very Cooderesque, and his take on Muddy’s “I Can’t be Satisfied” and also “That Same Thing” both have spine tingling intros, even by Kelly’s standards.
Even without a horn section his guitar led “Barnyard Boogie” from the Louis Jordan catalogue is full of raw energy.
The Clovers had a massive hit in 1954 with “Lovey Dovey” and it has subsequently been covered by many more over the years, but Dave’s sprightly attempt shows precisely how good his vocal skills are too.
However, my Favourite Track, not just on CD3 but on the entire Box-Set is “Rolling Log”, with some tasty accordion, as well as a stentorian, Quo like back beat, it’s another track where I dare you not to sing along to the infectious chorus.

Congratulations to all at Repertoire Records, this is a splendid shop window for what Dave Kelly has consistently delivered over these selected years.
Enhanced by the re-mastering we have a clear and concise record of great music from one of the cornerstones of the British Blues scene.
It has certainly elevated Dave Kelly out of that faded background in my personal library and quite rightly placed him at centre stage. It ought to do the same for you.

Released on 30th. July 2021
Review by Jack KiddMessin’ with the Kidd” on


Lisa Mills THE TRIANGLE (Extended Edition)

Lisa Mills
The Triangle (Extended Edition)
Melody Place Music

Classics and More Re-Imagined as Soul Drenched Blues Heartbreakers and Tearjerkers.

Coincidentally it was at SummerTyne Festival a few years ago, which was meant to take place last weekend but sadly cancelled because of the ‘Covid restrictions’ that I first discovered Lisa Mills; when she played a solo slot one afternoon to a small; but very influential and appreciative crowd of Geordie Music fans.
But; for me it’s been a long wait for new music; and even then, this release which first came out last year as a 14 track CD to coincide with a Tour which didn’t ever turn up at RMHQ, has now been gussied up and 4 sparkling new songs added.
We certainly live in strange times, as in the intervening year Lisa has gone back into the studio and added a couple of extra and it’s fair to say; very special songs to go alongside the originals.
Opening track Greenwood, Mississippi opens with some pretty funky guitar work before Lisa enters the fray with her trademarked raspy (and dare I say it?) sexy vocals on a Classic Blues belter, worthy of Maggie Bell or Bonnie Raitt at the height of their combined powers.
While I expect many of these tracks to be expanded when played live; as Fred Mollin, Brennan White’s and Michael Toles’ guitar playing throughout is as exciting as it is exemplary; but on record these songs are generally stories for listening to and well worth the effort.
The laid back and tight groove of I’m In Love is very nearly what we used to call a ‘Power Ballad’ but the way Lisa purrs the chorus and on I’ll Always Love You too; makes these two beauties undoubtedly Soul infused Blues Classics for the 21st Century surely?
For an Electric Blues Band; these cats can cause a mood change in a heartbeat; none more so than the Gospel Luscious Travel On and their rendition of I’d Rather Go Blind; where they really do make Lisa Mills shine in the spotlight; as she surely deserves.
The more I’ve played this album; the less I know where to fit it in my collection; as it’s definitely Blues to the core; but with a Southern Soulful heart; yet there are songs here too, like Someone Else is Steppin’ In and Members Only that had my mind wandering back to the re-invention of Tina Turner!
Trying to Get To You is a super-cool late night payen, in the style of Dorothy Moore (?) to a lost love that would have melted on every schoolgirl’s stereo had it been a single in the 1970’s; and even though it’s a brave choice to include here as a Torch Song; of course Just Walking in the Rain is guaranteed to be a tearjerker, even after all these years.
Then there is Groove Me …… yikes, it’s almost like one of those mysterious ‘white label’ Northern Soul 45’s the Cool DJ’s would slip on and lovelorn kids would join together like horny limpets.

Whatever; the one thing that infuses every single track is Sheer Class; with none more so than the two that I can’t seperate for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song; the funky-ass Tell Mama and the sultry A Place Nobody Can Find; which are like chalk and cheese in style; but both had me shaking and shimmying around the office a couple of times.
The former Tell Mama is a R&B Rocker Deluxe and when the band kick in dance halls across the Western World will fill up instantly; whereas A Place Nobody Can Find, has harmonies worthy of the Supremes and the band straight outta downtown Memphis, as Lisa sounds like a cat on heat.
Perhaps it’s been a case of ‘right place/right time’ for this album; as it arrived during a Summer heatwave and Lisa’s singing and arrangements have really and truly touched my Soul in ways I’d forgot music can.

14 Track CD & LP Released 2020

18 Track Download Released July 30th 2021


Nina Simone
Little Girl Blue
BMG / Bethlehem Jazz

A Sensitively Re-Mastered Classic.

Recorded over one day in 1957, Nina Simone’s debut album is one of those records which stands the test of time as being one which sets a very high career peak from the off – as, over the generations did album’s like John Prine’s debut, or the Ramones first too.
Musically, of course, this is light years in style away from those acts, but it established her as an almost fully-formed force to be reckoned with at 25 years old.
The stylistic variety in this album is still clear – in Daphne A. Brooks’ essay written for the album, she references Simone’s
wide and robust, rich and varied knowledge of jazz, blues, American songbook, folk and spiritual standards and aesthetics
across the eleven tracks on offer.
Historically, the breakthrough track on the album “I Loves You, Porgy” and the later to become a classic “My Baby Just Cares For Me” are both here and familiar, but it’s a deeper dive into tracks like the smoky “Mood Indigo” or the jauntier “Love Me or Leave Me” which sound fresh to these ears through a lack of saturated familiarity.
The purpose of this particular release is that it has been newly remastered – for high definition and standard digital release, vinyl and CD. I reviewed the HD digital version; and my impression was that the mix gives the instrumentation a little more room to breathe – the frequently featured brushed snare has had a little of its harshness removed and the drum bus has been panned across the stereo image – but fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how much of a purist fan you are of the original – piano and vocal are panned to the sides, as was often the case at the time of recording.
To modern ears, used to a vocal being set centre, it is a bit disconcerting to hear Nina Simone over to the left; it would have been a nice bonus to have realigned the instrument field to suit the modern listener, even as an extra – I guess if panning of this type was good enough for the likes of the early Beatles, then there’s justification to keep to the original sound field – but maybe next time….overall this is a careful and considerate re-release – the remastering is sensitive to historical context and is a preservation exercise rather than a reinvention.

Little Girl Blue Track listing:

  1. “Mood Indigo” 
  2. “Don’t Smoke in Bed” 
  3. “He Needs Me”
  4. “Little Girl Blue”
  5. “Love Me or Leave Me”
  6. “My Baby Just Cares For Me”
  7. “Good Bait”
  8. “Plain Gold Ring”
  9. “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
  10. “I Loves You, Porgy”
  11. “Central Park Blues”

Review by Nick Barber

VINYL Released July 16th 2021
CD Released August 13th 2021


The Wandering Hearts

The Wandering Hearts
The Wandering Hearts
Cooking Vinyl

A Flawless Collection, Echoing Summers Past, Yet Promising Memories Still to Be Made.

The Wandering Hearts first burst onto the Americana scene in 2017 with a lot of promise and plenty of critical acclaim. An English 4 piece band, who got together for a chat about their favourite music; who then went on to put some songs on SoundCloud.
Within a month they had a deal with Decca, who released their debut LP, Wild Silence the following year.
After doing the obligatory festival rounds they traveled to the US, appearing at both the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry in the same week; which is mind blowing when you think about; but ‘talent will out’. 
This, their follow-up is eponymously named, and much like the first carries on the harmonious influences of Fleetwood Mac, This Is the Kit , Mamas and the Papas, even echoing the Seekers here and there too.
Now a trio since the departure of Tim Prottey-Jones, the sound remains the same delightful blend of pop, Country and 60’s Laurel Canyon ‘type’ vocal groups; with A.J. Deans baritone vocal contrasting the harmonics of Francesca Whiffin and Tara Wilcox.
Opening the album is Hammer Falls, which has a strong Fleetwood Mac ‘Tusk’  vibe; until it opens up into the ‘ear-worm’ chorus.
Over your Body keeps the mood going and then Build a Fire, explodes with a raucous sing along, clap along melody, which seems to come from the Western end of Country and Western.
I Feel it Too is a gentle Folky tune highlighting the album’s clean and polished production values; which are never over done to the point it becomes product; just crisp enough to present the songs and artists in their best light.
Credit to Simone Felice and David Baron for excellent work here.
Dolores is a heartbreaking love song, about Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan; to some degree in the style of the Cranberries themselves.
Everyone’s fighting a battle you know nothing about
it’s a gentle lament; most tenderly sung.
Dreams is a dark Country Pop number reminiscent of the Everly Brothers or maybe even Richard Hawley; and
A.J. again takes the lead for the densely moody ballad Tell Me When I Wake Up.
As we approach the end, On Our Way Now is another big exuberant number that lifts your heart and makes you long for  Summer Festivals, where this would surely be an end of show belter.
Stardust with the 3 voices blending beautifully is another crowd pleaser which makes me long to see The Wandering Hearts play live.
Eventually Lullaby, gently closes the album; and certainly leaves you wanting more.
Sitting here listening again on a very sunny and sultry day; these songs sound like they belong on a Festival stage sung live and, all in all this will be the soundtrack of the Summer in my house,

Released July 30th 2021
Review by Tom G.


Jumpin’ Hot Club COUNTRY CANTINA 2021

Jumpin’ Hot Club
Country Cantina 2021
The Barn
Easington Colliery
Co. Durham

Friday 23rd July 2021

I’ve been a huge supporter and a small cog in the Jumpin’ Hot Club team for decades; yet this was the first of their 6 (or is it 7?) previous Country Cantina Mini-Festivals for work/holiday reasons I’ve managed to attend; and even then I missed the headline act!
At the other end of the afternoon I set off in plenty of time to make the 25 minute journey; yet because of punching the wrong Sat-Nav coordinates into the car and then trying to follow a hand drawn map around the maze that is Easington Colliery (home of Billy Elliott) I actually took 87 minutes to find the site; a derelict farmhouse and barns that have been converted into an outdoors Community Centre; which is actually the perfect setting for a small Country Music Festival.
So; instead of arriving nicely relaxed, I turned up desperate for the toilet near the end of opening act, Shipcote & Friends’ set.
Hey ho – I did get to sit in the glorious sunshine to see and hear the trio perform a beautiful version of one of my favourite of their songs; Lucky Fell then after some debate and audience riposte; a stunning encore song; Amy about; and dedicated to Amy Winehouse who died ten years ago to the day.

The 15 minute break meant I got to say ‘hello’ to a few friends in the audience and also Gem Andrews who was going to be part of the Songwriters’ Circle which was imminent; and the reason I took a day off work.
It soon appeared that there was a delay and it was because Lady Nade, who was making her way to the NE from Bristol 300 miles or more away was delayed; but nearly there.
So it was determined that Gem and another RMHQ Favourite Ver Van Heeringen would start without her.
A slightly nervous Gem introduced herself then opened the first of her first three songs with Letter; a rather beautiful love song; and a lot more Country, courtesy of Gem’s rich voice and new-found ‘Twang’ in it.
With that out of the way she visibly relaxed and followed it with a staple of her concerts pre-2018 pregnancy; Two Lighthouses, Gem’s adaptation of Julia Darlings’ poem ….. and when played in the right key (not the last time today!) was absolutely delightful.
Then; baring in mind where we were, Gem thought it appropriate; and she was correct ….. to include her ode to coal miners; Lungs, which in the shadows of a village that saw some of the most violent clashes in the Miners Strike was listened to in awe and received a noisy round of applause at the end.

Word went around that Lady Nade had arrived; but as she sorted herself out JHC regular, Vera Van Heeringen carried on regardless; starting with telling us the background to Gods; from her latest album which I loved and held the 50 strong crowd in awe.
She followed this with Enough Time; then throwing caution to the wind performed a brand new song; either called Nora Lee or Let The Tears Come Raining Down; which was the heartbreaking chorus; and as uptempo as Vera ever gets.
It was finally time for Lady Nade to make her appearance; and while not quite the London Palladium; she made quite the entrance huge ….. and I mean HUGE beaming smile, short floaty dress and magnificent silver boots. After a short apology she launched into her set with her ‘radio hit’ Willing, which left the majority of the audience open mouthed.
Nade then explained how she got ‘into songwriting’ via writing poems after a close family member died, which evolved into songs and introduced her to Folk Clubs ….. and the song Complicated came from that period.
As I sat on the grassy knoll near the stage I was amazed at how clear and soulful her voice was/is live; and possibly aided by the oddly wonderful acoustics from the outdoor barn setting.
One of the joys of gigs for me is hearing the stories behind songs; and while it was no real surprise, but we all chuckled when Nade explained Call Yourself a Friend was about her ‘best friend’ going out with her ex-boyfriend …….. “never upset a songwriter!”
I know and already love the song; but watching the faces of people hearing it for the first time made my torrid journey well worth while.
It was now back to Gem; who regaled us with Carol; about a friend who got cancer in her 70’s and decided to go out with a bang …… trying all of the Class A drugs she could get her hands on! (Who knew you could see flavours of muffins????)
This was followed by a new and unfinished song Gem had alluded to earlier in the day; her Covid Pop Song (Back To Colour); written in the wake of her Grandfather’s demise from this horrible virus; and made all the more raw and cathartic when we found out one of her uncles died of it the previous Wednesday.
Gem’s finale was another favourite of ours; and several other friends in the very appreciative audience.
I know it doesn’t mean much; but I was just as impressed with Vera’s Adidas SK8 shoes as I was with her songs; and I lover her songs.
Her three in this set were as cool as they were fascinating; none more so than Man With a Gun; which featured some really impressive guitar work to accompany her songs and the darkly passionate You Won’t Be Broken.
For a variety of reasons there hadn’t been much interaction between the three singers; but this changed during Pass the Whiskey; which would normally feature band members doing solos; but today we had Lady Nade adding a scat-trumpet in the middle.
Quite the raconteur Lady Nade really did have the crowd in the palm of her hand during her intro to Last Dance; which she wrote while preparing for her wedding; even though she hasn’t even got a boyfriend!
While most people hadn’t heard her first two albums; she still got a cheer when she introduced the as yet unrecorded One Sided from the proposed third album.
For a finale Lady Nade asked for requests; notably picking on me …… and my mind went totally blank!
Thankfully she decided on the introspective Ain’t One Thing; about being ‘body positive’; which if I hadn’t been so ‘shy’ would have been my choice … honest.
While obviously not Glastonbury; it was cool to see both Lady Nade and Vera (who also had her own brand hot sauce with her) selling a few CD’s and tote bags.

Now running slightly behind schedule; Goat Roper Rodeo Band decided to forgo a proper soundcheck and more or less ‘went for it’!
That ‘Rocking and Rolling’ attitude; really won the crowd over and right from the get go the Welsh acoustic trio ‘went for it.’
I’m not really sure where to fit them in; as opening song Space Cowboy (NO! Not that one) was very Flying Burritos in the way they harmonised and used a bouncy melody to get at least two women dancing.
Next up was a smartly constructed Since You Been gone and with barely time to draw breath as they changed lead vocalists for the third time; Honey Bee was what I can only describe as Welsh Grass; and mighty impressive it was too.
Annoyingly I was ‘on the clock’ and nervously checking my watch by the sharp as a tack Latino Ballerino; and grumpily had to leave the Festival at the end of the magnificent slice of Country Rock that was Key Lime Pie!

I genuinely wish I could read maps; then I would have seen all of Shipcote’s session; and despaired at missing the last two acts; but what I did see reignited my love of Live Music after the last two years ……. it’s only Folk and Rock and Roll; but I love it.


The Barn



Jackson Browne
Downhill From Everywhere
Inside Recordings

Still as Relevant and On The Mark Today, As He Was 50 Years Ago.

I can’t really remember when or where I first heard of Jackson Browne; the OGWT I presume; but I have vague memories of long haired A Level students at my school carrying around JACKSON BROWNE and/or LATE FOR THE SKY LP’s under their arms (while I had T Rex and Rod Stewart); so he seems to have ‘always been there’ in my life.
That said, he’s a singer that I’ve never really played a lot of the years; probably losing track long before the Millenium; I guess ……. but that doesn’t mean a ‘hill of beans’ in the grand scheme of things; as he’s been releasing albums relatively ‘under the radar’ and touring nearly non-stop, it appears.
So; with all of that knowledge, I was pretty excited to receive Browne’s latest a few weeks ago. Oddly enough, the first day I went to play it in the car it was a cold and rainy July morning; and it was pretty obvious that I needed some sunshine to get the best from it; and I was correct.
Mmmmmmmmm….. opening track Still Looking For Something is totally fascinating. It is exactly what it says on the tin via the song title; and the only surprise is how astute Browne is with his thoughts on growing older and he manages to capture something of my own anxieties in his words; as I guess you will too.
Even in a ‘blind tasting’ if I’d had three guesses as to who this album was by; I think I may have guessed it was Jackson Browne singing. Previously I wouldn’t have thought he had a distinctive voice; but it turns out he has; and to some extent he’s still using the tried and trusted formula that brought him great success 50 years ago; “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with his clever My Cleveland Heart; which would be a man-made version;
They’re made to take a bashin’
and never lose their passion

Unlike the heady days of the 70’s and 80’s when the great and the good would dive headlong into Jackson Browne’s albums for their own Megahit; I doubt the new generation will with these songs; which is a huge shame as the songwriter still has a lot to say about life, love and the state of the world we find ourselves in; and a very clever and pleasant way of doing it; try the piercing Until Justice is Real, the title track Downhill From Everywhere or the punchy A Human Touch, a duet with co-writer Leslie Mendelson, and grapples with the discrimination that still surrounds same sex relationships; but will have many of us thinking about our own relationships; regardless of orientation.
Browne’s long term followers will undoubtedly love the Carribean-lite deliciousness of Love Is Love and the Jazzy and thought provoking A Song For Barcelona; and no doubt you will too.
As I said earlier there was a time when Megastars would come to Jackson Browne for their next big hit; and 9 times out of 10 he would come good; and here there a few songs that fit that mould; none more so than the Tex-Mex drenched The Dreamer, whose stark message will pass many listeners by, as it has a lovely lilting melody; but the sharp eared among us will hear Browne’s harrowing story through clenched teeth (and fists). For what it’s worth I can picture the likes of Joe Cocker singing this mid-concert to pure silence; but perhaps it is best left to Jackson Browne sings and Los Cenzontles’ Eugene Rodriguez.
We don’t see half the people around us,
But we see enemies who surround us
And the walls that we’ve built between us,
Keep us prisoners of our fear.”

Not that there should be any doubt; The Dreamer is certainly my Favourite Song here and should be yours too.
There’s a helluva lot to like here; and very little, if anything to dismiss; with this being the type of CD that your kids will buy you as a Birthday present and you will stick it on the (Electric) car stereo and it will still be there a month later with you singing along merrily on the way to and from the weekly ‘big shop.’
It’s a tad odd that we talk about ‘Americana’ music in all its glories; but forget that the likes of Jackson Browne were treading that path long before it was Cool; and I’m perfectly happy sitting this slickly produced album alongside modern day legends like John Prine, Guy Clark, Mary Chapin Carpenter and indeed; Miss Nanci Griffith.

Released July 23rd 2021



Willie Nile
The Day The Earth Stood Still
River House Records

The Elder Statesman of NY Rock & Roll Continues His Creative Roll with Emotive and Catchy Lockdown Tales

Willie Nile is on a roll, after the well-received “New York at Night” comes “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, which in effect is a lockdown record, inspired by Nile’s personal response to the empty streets of New York during 2020’s COVID times.
The opening title track, The Day The Earth Stood Still, is Dylan-esque in its chord progression but like Tom Petty on steroids – it also quotes from the cult 50’s science-fiction film of the same name and is a hook-laden delight.
“Sanctuary”, which follows, starts with a spooky church organ before hitting a Springsteen/Blondie groove with bouncing double-drum beat rhythms – and is yet another total earworm.
“Where There’s Willie, There’s a Way” is a jokily self-promoting Ramonesesque stomp, and the double-entendres seem to be fully intentional, when Willie sings – amongst other things that “The crown jewels are on display”.
Nile’s neighbour Steve Earle pops up on the AC/DC chug-along, “Blood On Your Hands” which takes a lyrical swerve from the humour of the preceding track to demonstrate a social critique an and commentary on those in power – it’s angry ……
Hell will remember all the times you’ve lied
and it’s delivered with the right amount of rage by both Earle and Nile in sympatico.
“The Justice Bell” (For John Lewis)” takes a musical step back into gentler territory but still presents a defiant face of a wish to carry on the work of John Lewis in the eternal quest for truth and justice –
The justice bell will not be stilled/Hear it ring”.
“Expect Change” is reminiscent in feel to Blondie’s “Rapture” and is another paean to the one certainty in life; and the repeated refrain of “it’s coming” underscores the Ozymandias like message that “great” things are but transient.
“I Don’t Remember You” takes a more personal lyrical path and is another in the fine tradition of Nile’s New York character/relationship vignettes. T
here’s an upping in pace again with the joie de vivre of “Off My Medication” and it’s almost stream of consciousness hyperactive lyrical delivery suits the humorously confessional tale of life released from its shackles, with the narrator stating that
“…now I’m running naked with a Bible round the block
(Upon hearing that for the first time, I was expecting a different word that rhymes with “block” to be honest, but this is just as funny) – great handclaps and singalong title too!
Juxtaposed with this is the gently picked expression of romantic solidarity “I Will Stand.”
Penultimate track “Time to Be Great” slips back into funkier territory and is a positive call to arms in times of uncertainty – no better time than now to do what the hell you need to do!
Album closer “Way Of The Heart” is another Springsteenesque power ballad about the redemptive power of love, community and communion
“remember when you’re all alone, you’re not the only one
it’s an infectious optimism in the face of inevitable change and momentary hardship that pervades this album.

Yet again, Willie Nile pulls one out of the top drawer and his fire continues to burn strong and brightly.
As I said at the start of this review – Mr Nile is very much on a creative roll – keep it coming!

Review by Nick Barber

Released August 13th 2021


Alejandro Escovedo La CRUZADA

Alejandro Escovedo
La Cruzada
Yep Roc

A Brave and Successful Spanish Vocal Reworking of 2018’s “The Crossing.”

Originally available as a Record Store Day only release in 2018, the original pressing of Escovedo’s semi-autobiographical tale garnered sufficient interest and sales – reaching the Latin Albums Chart – to merit a full release.
While not exactly a ‘concept album’ La Cruzada/The Crossing:
tells the story of two young immigrants to the U.S., who bond over a mutual love of Punk Rock as they struggle with the racism and discrimination as immigrants, becomes an even more intimate experience.
Although not intended to be autobiographical, the album is, in many ways, the story of Alejandro Escovedo’s own life
Musically and thematically, nothing has changed from the English language release as the original backing tracks have been re-used and overlaid with new Spanish vocals – not all from Escovedo, with the album’s lead vocals mostly delivered by Alex Ruiz (Del Castillo), who recorded Spanish vocals over the original album’s instrumental tracks; plus some guest vocals from Patricia Vonne, Vanessa Del Fierro, and Escovedo himself.
Obviously translating a song from one language to another is never going to be simple; but Alejandro worked with closely withRuiz to keep the original styles and melodies of the songs together.
Vocally, Ruiz’s vocal timbre isn’t too far removed from Escovedo – his slightly deeper, rougher edged tones tend to work well on more the reflective numbers like “Lluvia De Flor De Cerezo” – whereas this reviewer slightly prefers the urgency and energy of Escovedo on the more uptempo numbers like “Sonica USA;” on the English language version of the release.
A favourite vocal performance here though, is the impassioned take on “MC Overload” where Ruiz’s processed vocal complements the stomping “Telegram Sam” rhythms.
Having loved “The Crossing” I found that this release was oddly, both familiar and strange – but then, not being a Spanish speaker, I’m not the primary target audience, I would suspect.
Kudos must go to Escovedo for the bravery in handing over the main vocal chores to Ruiz, making this very much a collaborative project – I can’t speak for Escovedo’s motives in doing this, but by utilising a (presumably) native speaker, this gives the album an artistic credibility both culturally and sonically.
It’s perfectly fitting that an album about cultural crossover and cross-pollination is available in versions that reflect those cultures and their combination.

Review by Nick Barber

Released August 27th 2021