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
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