Mick Mullin
Mullin’ it Over

A Trad Country- Gospel Album Cleverly Straddling Camp and Sincerity.

Mick Mullin certainly has the right geographical and cultural credentials for the music he’s making – “The son of a Kentucky coal miner’s daughter and a Tennessee Bible editor, ” growing up in Nashville surrounded by the sounds of his family’s beloved Baptist hymns, classic Rock ‘n’ Roll and, of course Country.
This, his second full length release is a collection of traditional Country tunes with enough quirks and loveable oddness to entertain absolutely everyone throughout.

“Thank God they Closed the Honky Tonks” has the tongue-in-cheek seriousness of many a Country tune sitting musically somewhere between Hank Snr and Alan Jackson – Mullins’ delivery is quite idiosyncratic – no disrespect but he has an old sounding voice that belies his younger looks!

“Bristol 1927” tells the story of the historically famous recording sessions that kickstarted the Country genre and features backing and shared vocals from Hannah Juanita and it shuffles along in a pleasant and steady waltz time.
A sense of place and time is similarly evoked on “August in New Orleans” which features saxophone to add a little of a jazzy, Western-swing feel into the musical mix -it also features the hilarious refrain of “it’s too hot to love you darling”, which anyone who’s been to Louisiana at that time of year, will heartily agree with!

“Lettin’ Love Speak for Itself” is laced with bluesy dobro and awkward emotions expressed honestly – and it works. Taking a different turn is “Small Black Gun” which tells the story of “Long Black Veil” from the viewpoint of the real killer in the song – it borrows from the rhythm and musical setting of the original and it follows in a long country tradition of “answer” songs. It’s an interesting musical curio, especially for fans of the genre.

The Twang and Blues quotient goes up a notch with the walking bass driven “Foolish Son;” before things take a more tongue in cheek/emotionally dark turn on “Keep All my Roses” telling the all too common tale of a relationship gone mega awkward when he finds his partner “alone in bed with another man/my dear friend and the drummer of the band” – but the show must go on; of course.

A Drifting Cowboys style intro then leads into a cover of John Prine’s “You Never Even Call Me by My Name” – Mullins’ cover takes the song back to its classic country core and it’s a perfect arrangement.
Mullin even finds the time to take a new look at “Long Black Veil” through the eyes of the real killer on the hauntingly Gothic “Small Black Gun.”

The biggest musical shift takes place on the penultimate track, Wouldn’t it Be Wonderful, where a Hammond organ leads into a string-backed, Gospel influenced song that might not affect a non-believer like me too much lyrically; but which easily wins more Religious thinking listeners over musically; and that Country-Gospel theme closes the albumin a more uptempo manner with the Bluegrass flavoured “Do You Know Where You’ll Go?”

All in all, this is a release worthy of the attention of any fan of older, Traditional Country and Gospel too – cleverly straddling the line between camp and sincerity at different points …. and often at the same time!

Review by Nick Barber
RELEASED October 29th 2021


Courtney Marie Andrews HARE & HOUNDS Birmingham

Courtney Marie Andrews
Hare & Hounds
19th October 2021

The last time Courtney Marie Andrews was scheduled to play in Birmingham was in December 2018, at the Glee Club – my eldest niece was in her first term of a pharmacy degree at Birmingham University and I’d gotten tickets for us both.
On the morning of the gig, Courtney’s laryngitis knocked that opportunity for six – we tried again, but this time COVID moved things on once more.
So – three years after the last attempt to catch CMA in the West Midlands; with my niece now in her fourth year at Uni, Courtney Marie Andrews finally made it to Brum – she nearly didn’t though – delayed and cancelled flights meant that she’d arrived on the morning of the gig after only four hours sleep in 48 hours!!
Before her return to the Birmingham stage, support duo Memorial kicked things off pleasantly with a sound that most obviously triggered comparisons with Simon & Garfunkel, but to these ears they came across as the UK equivalent of Mapache from the US West Coast – they went down well and it surely won’t be long before they’re much better known.
In the USA , Courtney has been playing with a band similar to that on “Old Flowers,” but for this European visit she was flying solo playing her own guitar and keyboards.
The set she played didn’t adhere totally to her 12 song printed setlist – kicking things off with “Rookie Dreaming” she then played the first of two new songs in the set – tentatively entitled “James Dean” on guitar – and later there was a second new song played on keys that didn’t get introduced.
In between, there were songs from “Old Flowers” – “Burlap String” and “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” in particular shone in a solo setting.
“May Your Kindness Remain”, despite not being on the setlist, was given an airing too.
Three encores ensued – all audience requests – and the reverential silence throughout the performance; eventually became a prolonged enthusiastic roar.
Before departing the stage, Courtney stated she was glad to be back – the feeling in the room was that we were more than glad to welcome her return.

Rookie Dreaming
James Dean (new song)
Burlap String
Break The Spell
It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault
If I Told
Rough Around The Edges
May Your Kindness Remain[To be kind?]…
new song (on keyboard)
Guilty (on keyboard)
Ships in the night (on keyboard)
—– encore —–
Table for one
How Quickly Your Heart Mends
Near You

Photos – https://www.flickr.com/gp/efsb/22BE76

Review and photography by Nick Barber


Marla & David Celia
Indistinct Chatter
Elite Records

Two Golden Voices and a Treasure Trove of Contemporary Canadiana via Germany.

I first encountered Canadian David Celia via his 2015 album Double Mind; which knocked me sideways and genuinely made an appearance in my garden one Sunday in the Summer just gone; then he teamed up with Marla Winkler (now Celia?) in 2018 for the probing DAYDREAMERS ALBUM; which again I rather liked.
So; as you’d expect I was rather excited and flattered when Marla got in touch a couple of weeks ago offering a copy of this; their latest release.
I immediately uploaded it to the magic box and regrettably forgot about it until earlier this week, when it flagged up on the Reviews Spreadsheet …… so on it went in the car on a drab Autumn day on the journey to work.
All I can say is that it was most certainly a case of right place/right time; as it was like sitting alongside a long lost friend who had the ability to make me feel warm and loved; and smile too (which are all in short supply post-Brexit!).
Thinking that I knew what to expect, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the opening song; Clowns Everywhere; the couples harmonies are worn and whispering in a way that surprisingly reminded me of Simon and Garfunkel; and that keeps coming back again and again as the album evolves.
On that first play I just let the gorgeousness drift over me like a velveteen fog; lazilly I could tell you that the couple encompass all that was wonderful about the Laurel Canyon ‘sound’ but that would be doing them a huge injustice; as they obviously use a lot of influences to create their very own distinctive style of Folk Music.
Once you tear yourself away from the fabulous arrangements that surround the couple’s golden voices; the songs unravel like a garden of earthly delights; with unexpected hidden messages leaking out of Paranoia vs Miracles and Colours of the Rainbow that are quite startling when you finally ‘get’ them
Even on Mama Nature, Marla and David never hit you over the head with any particular message; but the messages are certainly there when you look for them.
I don’t want you to think that this is Hippy-Trippy nonsense; no sir … when you hear the intricate Cuento Conmigo, or Struggling with the Ying-Yang; you’ll think they are coming more from a Joni and CS&N direction than … well; let’s not make this personal!
Something else that’s taken me a while for the penny to drop; is the excellent production here that allows the instruments to ‘breathe’ that not justs compliments Marla and David but allows them a comfort not every singer is allowed in front of a microphone.
As many know, I’m no particular lover of Vinyl; as it’s generally the provenance of hipsters with too much money; but in this case I actually think that these songs will sound ever more wonderful on vinyl and a good hi-fi; but I’m also more than happy to hear them on the office hi-fi via the computer.
While the album is gorgeously relaxing; don’t fall into the trap that this is ‘easy listening’ …… there’s a lot more to these songs than many people will realise; which brings me to two in particular that I’m torn between as my Favourites.
With Childhood Dream Marla and David somehow paint vivid pictures with their words; and the harmonies send a shiver down my back every time I hear this song.
Then, there is the enchanting Love Of Life, where the couple sing to each other in a ghostly manner over a subtle and somehow evocative and soft country melody; the likes of which Nanci Griffith and John Prine would have been so proud to have recorded themselves.
The other song is Goodbye; an insightful view on the disposable the times we live in today; and a much more intense chorus than anywhere else …… but that just shows what a great pairing this couple are and when you listen to the story therein; I defy you not to have a tear in your eye and a rage in your heart.
Like the majority of albums that pass my desk INDISTINCT CHATTER is unlikely to trouble the Grammy or Juno committee’s; as they will be too busy trying to please the big labels in what is left of the Music Industry; but that doesn’t mean that the likes of you and I don’t recognise a career and possibly even a genre defining record when we hear it.

Released October 22nd 2021



The Royal Hounds
A Whole Lot of Nothin’
Self Release

The Kings of the Honky Tonks Deliver a Vast Array of Musical Riches.

“Fiery Honky Tonk With A Rock And Roll Edge Served With A Healthy Sense Of Humor” is how the Royal Hounds describe their music and that’s pretty accurate.
The guys in the Royal Hounds—Scott Hinds, Matheus Canteri, and Nathan Place—are all top-notch Nashville-based musicians who definitely know their way around their instruments every bit as well as they know their way around a Honky Tonk, and these tunes are steeped in seasoned, whiskey-soaked, honkytonkness.
The Hounds gleefully play with genres, fitting Bluegrass, Country, Rock, and fire-branded playing into their sound without any of them sounding forced.
These cats swing effortlessly, starting with the rocking and rolling Cheap Drunk and closes with the awesome Dead Guy Blues and inbetween you get a little bit of everything that you’d want to hear in a ‘good time’ bar on a Friday night..
The songs are mostly just vehicles for the Hounds to showcase their musicality, but they’re not just novelty songs either.
Some of the verses on “Bring Out the Barrel of Beer” and “I Hope You go to Hell” may be a bit crass, but it probably gets a big laugh in the bars, which is kind of the Royal Hounds specialty.
We get not one, but two, instrumental tunes: the pure country “Corn Fritter,” and the latin tinged “Door #3,” which the Hounds use to full advantage to stretch their musical muscles to the utmost.
“In the Rickety Pines” is the Hounds version of a murder ballad, “Pickin’ in the Graveyard” answers the question of where dead songwriters spend time in the afterlife, and the songwriting on “Krismastofferson” is nearly sublime.
Marrying a Honky Tonk legend and Christmas magic together into a new holiday tune, is no easy craft, especially as effortlessly as it all comes together.
This could be my new favorite holidaze tune.
Witty, it rocks, and some magical fiddle playing by Aaron Till, and don’t forget the obligatory sleigh bells on the intro.
If there’s a video for this tune, it’s bound to be a knee-slapper.
Rounding out these tunes are Rory Hoffman on organ and accordion and Eddie Lange on pedal steel, with clear, clean production by Hounds’ guitarist Matheus Canteri.
The Royal Hounds are more Honky Tonk than Danny and Dusty, funnier than the Georgia Satellites, and look aimed to take on the world, no holds barred.

The Royal Hounds shows are so good that they have, not one, but two weekly residencies on lower Broadway—You can catch them Sunday nights at Layla’s and Tuesdays at Robert’s Western World, the undisputed home of traditional country music in Nashville.

Released October 15th 2021
Review courtesy the Legendary Roy Peak




Sue Foley
Pinkey’s Blues
Stony Plain Records

Laid Back Sass and Sizzle That’s The Perfect Soundtrack to a Saturday Night BBQ

Yet again I just presumed I had reviewed a Sue Foley album at some time in the past; such was my excitement when I saw this release on a list two months ago ….. but it appears not.
But …… AHA!
A long trawl through a case of CD’s subsequently turned up the Queen Bee anthology from 2009. Okay that means I’ve missed out on another dozen of her releases; but that’s not all my fault; and I have heard a lot of other new music in the intervening years.
Which brings us right up to date with PINKY’S BLUES on one of my favourite labels; Stony Plain; and right from the get go Ms Foley thrills and amazes the listener with her guitar dexterity on the instrumental title track, Pinky’s Blues.
To my mind starting an album with an instrumental is both brave and daring; but with hindsight it’s her album and she can do whatever the Hell she likes; even if I did think that it was a very long intro to what is actually track #2 Two Bit Texas Town the first time I played the disc!
That said it is rather delightful; full of liquid gold guitar licks in the mode of Albert King methinks; but of course I could be wrong.
Personally I’d have gone for Hurricane Girl as the opener; not just because I’m a sucker for a 1..2..3..4 count in; but somehow it comes across as a bit of an autobiographical look at her life; and above all else it has a real catchy hook.
Back to the start; the second song; Two Bit Texas Town starts with a really stylish and languid guitar solo before Sue cuts in with a drole look at a backwaters town that has seen some Legendary Blues acts in its time; yet still remains anonymous to everyone that doesn’t live there ….. and she likes it that way.
Although Canadian born an bred; it’s quite apparent from the way she plays and what Ms Foley songs about that she’s a very proud adopted Texan these days, as this song lurches straight into the sizzling Dallas Man and then the stompin’ Southern Men; which not for the last time features some stunning guitar breaks and a backbeat worthy of The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
To all intents and purposes this is quite a laid back album; hence my mention of Albert King earlier; whereas my memories of the Queen Bee album was a really feisty player and singer too …… but I’m not complaining; as the older I get songs like the sedate and bittersweet Say It’s Not So and Think It Over, which have already been added to several of my IPhone playlists.
While never ever getting up to even rambunctious; Sue still turns up the heat on Stop Those Teardrops; which sounds like it should have a cool dance attributed to it for the video.
Speaking of ‘dance tunes’ my copy has three Bonus Tracks; a fabulous instrumental called Okie Dokie Stomp and the title pretty much says it all really and the finale which sounds uncannily like Messin’ With the Kid; but is actually When the Cat’s Away the Mice Play which may or may not be an innuendo laced set of lyrics.
Like the vast majority of albums I receive these days, there are no obvious ‘singles’ here; but that still leaves plenty of tracks for the Cool Kids with Internet Radio Shows to pick from; which in a roundabout way brings me to the two songs I’m deliberating between for a Favourite Track; Hurricane Girl really is as feisty and fizzing as this album gets; and add to that mix Jimmie Vaughan as a guest guitarist ….. what’s not to like?
The other is a song that again could only come straight outta Texas; Boogie Real Low, which adds an extra helping of sass and sizzle to an album that’s already the perfect soundtrack to a Saturday night BBQ somewhere hot and sweaty; which makes it my Favourite Track her by nose.

Released 22nd October 2021


Freya Beer BEAST

Freya Beer

Dreaming in The Sensual World From Risk Taking Young Singer Songwriter.

As the 2021 live music gig world moves very quickly from ‘occasional’ to ‘one practically every night of the week,’ I have been interested especially in (to me) new artist(e)s and new venues in the North East.
So, a few weeks ago I bought a ticket for a new location (Bobiks) and a new artiste Freya Beer.
And what arrives a few days later ……. but an invite to review a new release by the said young lady.
Fortune clearly favours the brave…
Having set up her own label, SISTERHOOD in 2019 (an unfortunate choice in view of the changes since then) she clearly wanted to control her own destiny; and after several very intriguing singles the result is ‘Beast’.
A few listens and it’s fair to say the risk has proved to be worthwhile.

The opener features heavily the drums of Andy Hargreaves (I Am Kloot) and that turns out to be a significant part of the album that follows, and Freya’s vocals suit his backing perfectly as she dives straight into the mix with an excellent first track.

In terms of vocals, there is a hint of Karen O and a sort of rocky/ gothic sound on ‘Calm Before The Storm,’ but lyrically, we encounter an artiste with a definite leaning to the poetical aspects – after fronting some John Cooper Clarke gigs that wouldn’t be a surprise.

I have to admit that the more I listened the more I realised that the tracks suit her perfectly and equally, so did my enjoyment of each of the songs too.
Ms Beer switches from very upbeat to a much simpler, but just as effective tone on the intriguing ‘Secret Garden’ as she builds the track to demonstrate her ability to keep the listener waiting for more.

Track 5 ‘Arms Open Wide’ is a beautiful soothing song, as we get to hear her voice to its best effect on a track that moves along to a percussion crescendo. A much more softly whispered opening to ‘Dear Sweet Rosie’ is a dramatic change in tempo and demonstrates her varied music tastes.

Completely out of the blue, the eighth song; ‘To The Heavens’ had me harking back to the first time I heard Kate Bush; and that is possibly my favourite song, as it smoothly moves along to confirm a thought that this album my well feature on some ‘best of  2021’ suggestions.
It really is that good from a singer I had never heard of a couple of months ago.

I was a little concerned that the closing tracks would be a bit disappointing but ‘Beauty’ soon dispelled that thought as it pounds out with driving guitars and drums dovetailing on what would be a track to lose a live set as the audience bounce along.
A gentle piano backing to the final track leads us to a false sense of security as we move into an almost heavy metal feeling to ‘Put It To The Test’ before she brings us back down to earth very gently.

It will be interesting to see her live in Bobik’s, as it is a small intimate venue; although I suspect that will be the best setting to see her at her best to enjoy her vocals and poetical lyrics.

Well done Freya – the risks you took have paid off.
A smashing album of various moods that deserve a wider audience.
I had deliberately chosen to avoid watching any videos prior to listening to the album for the review, but after seeing a couple of them subsequently, nothing has altered my opinion … and indeed, it may well have made me even more confident that this young lady will be a success in the years to come.

Released October 15th 2021

Review by Bill Redhead




Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Georgia Blue
Southeastern Records

A Labour of Love Giving New Life to Old Songs; and Hinting at Vast New Musical Areas of Exploration for Isbell & Co.

When the State of Georgia had a chance of turning ‘blue’ (in favour of the Democrats) in the 2020 US elections, Jason Isbell joked on Twitter that he’d record an album of covers of songs by Georgia artists if that happened…and so, true to his word, here we are – with Mr Isbell and Co. bringing along a bunch of their friends to the party, but more of that as we progress.

Things begin with an old-timey take on REM’s “Nightswimming” – there’s more banjo, mandolin and stringed sounds courtesy of Chris Thile and Bela Fleck than on the original take; and less harmony too and no piano, which gives it a much looser feel.
Then BAM! – It’s “Honeysuckle Blue” with 400 Unit guitarist Sadler Vaden credited in what is a loud, romping cover of the Drivin’ n’ Cryin song – Vaden’s one time band.

The first big “Wow” moment comes third track in with a show-stopping vocal from Brittney Spencer on the James Brown classic “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” – there’s terrific bluesy guitar and understated grooving horns too, which put a much different slant on the track – there’s less of Brown’s frantic energy and more of a controlled, patient bluesy feel; and very nice it is too, especially at preposterously high volume in your kitchen, which I can recommend….

“Cross Bone Style” is a Cat Power song with Amanda Shire taking on the vocal and it’s a tribute to the versatility of the 400 Unit that it doesn’t sound anything like them.
Shires’ tremulous vocal (and fiddle playing) is given full reign and room to stretch out and it’s another powerful take on a less-well known cover that does one of the jobs of a good cover in sending the listener to search out the original.

Things take a turn towards a warmer, rootsier sound with Adia Victoria’s take on Precious Bryant’s The Truth, the close mic-ed vocal and picked guitar create a nice intimate feel, juxtaposed against fills of slide, fiddle and accordion and even by this stage, it’s clear that this is no by numbers karaoke album – there’s sensitive consideration of song and (guest) artist and space and respect is given to each interpretation.

Isbell is probably best renowned for his guitar skills, but his vocal chops get shown to great effect on Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – guitar, piano and soaring strings frame what is essentially a fine vocal showpiece for the grit and sweetness in Isbell’s distinctive voice.
Then it’s back to more traditional Southern Rock with “Sometimes Salvation,” featuring Steve Gorman. A Black Crowes song of some note; which is given a renewed energy, roughness soul and power.
It’s another where turning the volume up to 11 will add an extra dimension too.

The loud/soft sequencing continues with a take on the Indigo Girls “Kid Fears” featuring Julien Baker and Brandi Carlile – vocals weave in and out across the stereo field to create a mesmeric version of the song, which – either intentionally, or by osmosis – seems to have soaked up the spirit of REM too.
Then it’s a take on probably the most obscure (to this reviewer) cover on the album – “Reverse” by “Now It’s Overhead” which has a funky U2 edge to it – stuttering guitar a la The Edge and a soaring vocal sent me scurrying to the original which reveals that this take brings the vocal – and thereby the core of the song – to the fore.

The listener is then back into more familiar territory with the return of Brittney Spencer and vocals from John Paul White too, on a splendid cover of Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” – Georgia it may be, but there’s a Philly soul feel to the horn and vocal arrangement and the song has a lovely fell and pacing courtesy of the fine ears of the players in the 400 Unit.
Credit to all concerned for breathing new life into a song that I’d normally give a pass to, due to over-familiarity, but there are plenty of new twists and turns here to give this song several more chances.

Air guitar fans (and lovers of Southern Rock in particular) get their moment with the 12 minute wig-out jam to the Allman Brothers “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” (featuring Peter Levin on jazzy keys too).
It’s not my cup of tea if I’m honest (I have a short attention span), but it’s clearly done with great energy, passion and prowess and there are plenty who will love this to bits.

The much missed and much-loved Vic Chesnutt gets his nod on the penultimate track “I’m Through”, a sparkling musical accompaniment featuring fiddle and piano surrounding a warm vocal from Isbell gives the song a great dignity and humanity – the perfect way to treat the Late Mr Chesnutt’s material.
It’s an especially lovely take on the song.

The album is bookended by a return to REM – this time with “Driver 8” – one of the more faithful covers on the album – Isbell rightfully respects and matches the faraway reverb of Stipe’s original vocal but adds a greater warmth by having the vocal slightly more to the fore in the mix, again aided by backing vocals from John Paul White.

I’m a big fan of cover songs and covers albums, so I was always going to be keen on listening to this, but it’s clear that Isbell & Co. have treated every song as a genuine labour of love that not only gives new life to old songs, but which hints at new musical areas of exploration for Isbell & co’s future too.
I’m now going to drive around with this on in the car at high volume – I suggest that you do too…

Review by Nick Barber

Released October 15th 2021

Not only, but also All proceeds will benefit:

Black Voters Matter – blackvotersmatterfund.org
Georgia Stand-Up – www.georgiastandup.org
Fair Fight – fairfight.com



Georgia Thunderbolts CAN WE GET A WITNESS

Georgia Thunderbolts
Can We Get a Witness
Mascot Records

A Distinctive Sound All of Their Own; Built Around a Gumbo of Southern Rock and British Blues.

As the years have gone by I’ve slowly and surely grown away from the Rock Music that I adored in my teens and twenties; but in mid-Lockdown August 2020 The Georgia Thunderbolts self-titled introductory EP, came out of absolutely nowhere and literally blew my bloody socks right off!
A lot of music has come and gone in the intervening 12 months; but when this CD arrived I was visibly excited …… but sadly; that evening i had to turn it off in the car after three or four tracks.
Why was that? You’re right to ask.
Well; music for me these days is becoming a case of ‘right place/right time’ and has to fit my mood ….. and this didn’t fit the bill at all……. I WAS TOO HAPPY!
That said; I did know that when the right day came along it would be the perfect soundtrack to ‘something’ ….. and ‘something’ was early last week when I’d had a day from Hell at work, which had followed several others in a similar vein …… time to crack out the Georgia Thunderbolts methinks!
Yep ……. opening track Take It Slow was cranked up to 9 and the windows were soon shaking as TJ Lyle; sounding uncannily like Bon Scott outfought guitarist Riley Couzzourt in a virtual knife fight, for the role of gang leader!
It’s still Southern Rock …… but with the emphasis on R.O.C.K and it works.
A year ago I said this about “the pounding beat of Lend a Hand (courtesy of drummer Bristol Perry and bassist Zack Everett) not just set the hair on the back of my neck upright; but had me desperately trying not to ‘head bang’ in the car!” and it was exactly the same that night and the one after …….. me doing my best Wyld Stallyns impression as I drove along the Washington Highway at midnight!
All four tracks from the EP are here; and haven’t aged a day; sitting in comfortably alongside songs both old and new; plus we get a couple of bonafide Rock Classics in Midnight Rider and Be Good to Yourself now covered in swaggering style for the 21st Century; and the world’s a better place for them.
But; this is really about introducing the combined talents of the Georgia Thunderbolts via their own songs; and what songs they are too.
Still proudly wearing their Southern Rock influences on their ripped sleeves; to me, there’s still more than element of of Paul Kossoff in Coouzzourt’s playing style, especially in the rifftastic Half Glass Woman, It’s All Right and the slow and bewitching Set Me Free too; while it’s also not too much of a stretch to imagine the band listening to AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock; in the car on the way to recording the stomping Walk Tall Man and Half Glass Woman too; and that’s meant as high praise indeed.
OK I’m probably going to deep into the ‘influences’ because even at this early stage in their career Georgia Thunderbolts have a distinctive sound all of their own; albeit a Gumbo of all of the above; which is probably the best way to describe the tragically beautiful anthems, Can Get a Witness and So You Want To Change the World; which are both surefire showstoppers when the band play live.
If the band’s own songs hadn’t been so good I probably would have gone for Be Good to Yourself as my Favourite Track here; but that’s hardly fair …. and I do like to be fair.
So, I’ve narrowed it down to two.
One is ‘obvious’ and the other less so; but just as memorable and stunning for songwriters at the beginning of a career.
The ‘obvious’ one is Spirit of a Working Man was my Favourite Track on the EP; a timeless anthem for the everyman among us who is struggling to make ends meet and has gradually had his spirit eroded until all that he has left is ….. well; this song will ring true with many who hear it across the world.
The other, Dancing With The Devil just about shades it for me, as it’s a song that shows that these cats aren’t just ‘one trick ponies’ ……. turning back to the Allman’s for a laid back groove that builds and b builds allowing all five members, Riley Couzzourt, Zach Everett, Bristol Perry, Logan Tolbert and of course TJ Lyle the opportunity to shine, individually and collectively.
Much of the Rock Music that I hear these days is destined to be played in Clubs and Bars; and while there’s nothing wrong with that at all …. in fact I’ve had some of the best nights of my life listening to that type of music in sweaty dungeons that may not have a Fire Certificate; but these songs and the Georgia Thunderbolts themselves seem destined for Arenas or major outdoor venues; while the band may not be top of the bill when that happens; it’s going to take very special band to follow them; and not to be blown off stage!

Released 18th October 2021


Robbin Kapsalis & Vintage#18 SOUL SHAKER

Robbin Kapsalis & Vintage#18
Soul Shaker
Bird Song Records

Rhythm ‘n Blues Drenched Soul With a Firecracker Up it’s Backside!!!!

Momma Magpie used to tell me “You can’t judge a book by the cover,” but thankfully son #4; moi has no problem pre-judging an album by the cover ….. and this sizzler is pretty damn exactly what you’d hope it to be if you stumbled upon it in a record shop.
Even the bass rumble that opens first song Shake It Baby more than hints at what is to follow; and 30 seconds later when Ms Robbin Kapsalis enters the fray, sounding like the kind of woman Momma Magpie used to warn me about …… you just know that this album is going to be a surefire winner.
Shake It Baby not just sizzles but sets light to any emotional baggage you have, as Robbin gives us a Masterclass in danceable S.O.U.L from the Otis Redding and Sharron Jones playbooks.
Robbin and Vintage#18 hardly give you time to catch your breath as song after song will make your feet and hips ache to get on the dancefloor (or kitchen floor!); even the slower tunes, From The Heart of The One and the smouldering You Don’t Deserve Me aren’t the type of brokenhearted love songs to wallow in; they are there to dance your troubles away to; even though Robbin isn’t the type of woman to get on the wrong side of!

By nature I try to avoid using a Press Releases comparisons in my reviews; but can’t disagree when they say Robbin Kapsalis’s influences are Sharon Jones, Koko Taylor, Tina Turner and if you really know what you’re talking about; Gladys Knight too and I’d throw Beth Hart into that heady mix too; especially the exceptional Bluesy reinvention of Fever; and the big n brassy Lost Souls wouldn’t be out of place on any of Beth’s most recent albums either.
From start to finish this album is funky-ass Soul with more than a hint of that rocking sass that we associate with her hometown of Chicago and the smoothness that comes from her adopted home, Atlanta; check out The Cannonball and the majestic Livin’ Large and tell me I’m wrong.
For a studio album recorded during Lockdown; at times there’s claustrophobic energy here that sounds like the studio was a pressure cooker when Boogaloo and Jukin’ were being recorded ……. sweat pouring down the walls and the like?
As the overall standard is so high, there are several songs here that could easily be someone’s Favourite Track, but for me it all boils down to just one; Silver Spoon which is more or less autobiographical for Ms Kapsalis and is as fiery as a sprite with a firecracker up it’s backside …….

This is the second album from Robbin Kapsalis and Vintage#18 and I can’t really begin to tell you how excited it has made me; apart from it’s been a bit like the first time I heard both Sharron Jones and Vintage Trouble; Soul is still alive and well in these capable hands.

Released October 15th 2021


Archie Brown DIDDLEY BOW

Archie Brown
Diddley Bow
Self Released

Geordie-Tijuana Inspired Tunes to Sing If You’re Proud to Be Gray!

It’s probably true of many American acts that I love and adore; that they are slightly ignored and ‘taken for granted’ on their home patch …. as I fear that’s the case with local hero, Archie Brown esq. an esteemed singer and songwriter in the Newcastle patch for well over 50 years; and still going strong.
Although most people reading this review will already know; and no doubt already be fans of the Young Buck; but my dearest hope is that someone reading this hasn’t heard of him and decides to take a punt; based on my words …… because if they do, they are in for a rare treat.
Never blessed with a voice that would get him in a Light Opera at the Tyne Theatre; but as the years have gone by it’s certainly evolved into one that expresses a life well lived and still has stories to tell that are well worth listening to.
Another thing is that as far as I can remember; Archie has never recorded the same album twice; always evolving – never repeating; which brings us to this swinging album that tip-toes in and out of Tex-Mex Border Music territory that I normally associate with Tom Russell, Dave Alvin et al; but with lyrics that are unequivocally British, all with a heart of pure gold.
This second songwriting collaboration with Scouse poet Kevin McKay starts with the dancetastic You Just Don’t Know; a tale of a blue collar worker ‘who is 20 going on 40‘ ending his shift on a Friday afternoon and wondering how his weekend will pan out; and the tension actually crackles in every swinging note.
Like so many other singers and songwriters; with no gigs to play during 2020 Brown and McKay used their time wisely writing and re-writing these songs; and that time was very well spent indeed.
While the music and melodies are all thematically connected; each song is razor sharp; occasionally witty but always incisive and insightful in equal measures.
Clowns could be about the ‘big picture’ politically; but on another night; just about the clowns that surround us day to day; and btw …… apart from Chet Baker; there’s only one other trumpeter I can recognise from 100 yards; and that’s local lad; Steve Nash who adds his sonic tones here with gusto and understated passion; making an already good song ….. great.
As a non-musician I am regularly astounded as to where songwriters get inspiration from; and here Brown and McKay regularly take the mundane things in life and make them sound extraordinary and even exotic when the music is added; try listening to Wasp or Venus of the East and more importantly, Blue Bird more intently than normal; and hear what I’m hearing.
As a man of a certain age myself; I love hearing an older singer singing a genuine love song that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is; and here Brown alongside the windswept and emotional accordion of Pat McCafferty on the bewitching McBrides and the shuffling Sweet Pea too.
I know Archie had his ‘day in the sun’ with the famed Young Bucks and was very nearly a pop star with the Bureau many moons ago; but for me he’s never sounded better than in recent years, when he’s slowed down and become an esteemed Elder Statesman in the locale; which really comes to the fore when he uses that grizzled voice to stun your heart like a taser when he sings the beautiful and introspective finale Mummy’s Boy.
Because I wasn’t expecting to hear those fabulous Geordie-Tijuana melodies; I’m diving in headlong to select my Favourite Song from the uptempo ones; at first it was the title track Diddley Bow; then it was the rather obvious; but nonetheless stupendous; look back through rose coloured glasses Back in The Day; which name checks some long forgotten watering holes in Newcastle Town; which several generations including my own replicated over both sides of the Millenium; but being the international man of mystery I try to be; I’m actually going for Hold Onto Your Hats; mostly because of the opening lines:
“It’s good to be me
On the cool end of slackness
Je ne sais quoi
No point in exactness….
Which could be my very own motto for life; but goes on to be the band’s way of thinking and by gum; it’s a belter from start to finish.
Archie even goes on to describe the bands’ raison d’etre thus:
It’s good to be tight
and loose as a monkey,
When the beats hitting right
The whole thing gets funky
Even if you live in Arkansas, Montreal or Beijing; that’s a band promising good night out there in those few lines; isn’t it?|
While the names involved in this recording may or may not mean anything to you if you live outside an NE postcode; trust me long term cohort and fellow Young Bucks Pat Rafferty on accordion, guitarist Tony Wadsworth alongside Chris Ringer on bass (Prelude), Steve Dolder on drums (Prefab Sprout) and on trumpet extraordinaire, ex-Chart Commando Steve Nash this is as close to a Geordie Supergroup as I dare dream about seeing and hearing; and I’m not easily pleased.

Released October 15th 2021