Matt Andersen HOUSE TO HOUSE

Matt Andersen
House To House
Sonic Records

Powerful, Gentle, Expressive, Haunting and Warm All at The Same Time

I first ‘discovered’ Matt via his COAL MINING BLUES album in 2011; but whatever else happens in my life; Matt Andersen will always have a spot in my heart as his HONEST MAN album got me through some very long and lonely nights 6 years ago pre and post my Prostate Cancer diagnosis (thankfully now removed and I’m Cancer Free).
So perhaps I had already pre-judged this; apparantly his first ever solo-acoustic release …… which surprised me as I always associate him with being solo and acoustic; but with hindsight there has always been other musicians gently supporting him on his other albums.
Without delving too deep into his back catalogue; this album seems to be a rich mix of old and new songs with the beautiful addition of Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready; which fits in quite perfectly as an album closer.
Andersen has always had an amazing voice; and on opening track The Other Side of Goodbye somehow manages to make a simple acoustic Folk song totally epic! I genuinely can’t think of another singer in my extensive collection who sounds even a tad like this heartbreaking missive.
If you’ve never heard Matt Andersen singing before I really don’t have the words to describe his voice; as there’s a slight burr to it, it’s powerful, gentle, expressive, haunting and warm all at the same time; and I can’t for one minute anyone else singing his love songs like See This Through, Burning Lights and/or House To House; as I doubt anyone else could ever find the nuances in his words the way he himself does.
Although recorded over a few days; every song here is a ‘single take’ with no jiggery-pokery added afterwards; which creates some truly stunning and atmospheric songs; none more so than Gospel flavoured Time For the Wicked to Rest or the starkly beautiful Peace of Mind.
Matt Andersen’s songs always have the capacity to not just describe the feelings we all have about our relationships; but get inside our heads and articulately put words to the feelings in a way we can’t; which is certainly where Let Me Hold You and All We Need come into play for me.
This is a complete album from start to finish; and should be listened to as such and in the order Andersen has released it; no chopping it up into bite size pieces please; but there are three very special songs here; well; for me there are; which makes choosing a single Favourite Song very difficult.
Peace Of Mind may just be the finest song Matt Andersen has ever released. The power he exudes by deliberately restraining his vocals on a tale that really resonated with me; especially the chorus ..
Lay my burdens down to rest
Use my heart and not my head
Keep all the colours outside the lines
Drink the wine and smell the flowers
There’s more; but you should get the gist. |
Then there’s the rearranged version of one of my previously Favourite Songs; Coal Mining Blues, which now takes a very dark path indeed and is all the better for it.
But there’s also a surprise here that not just took my breath away; but brought a tear to my eye and that’s the wondrous duet with Terra Spencer who’s harmonies add extra depth to the charming and heartfelt Raise Up Your Glass, of which I can already quote you each and every line …. but won’t; which is why this is very much my Favourite Song on a rather special album.
Oh; one more thing …… with a majestic voice like Andersen’s it’s easy to miss what a wonderful and expressive guitarist he is too ….. listen carefully my friends and you will hear a Masterclass in acoustic guitar.

I will leave it to Matt Andersen,
These songs that are as much about the space as they are about what happens between the spaces.
I’ve learned those moments need to be there in a show.
Big and strong isn’t big and strong if you don’t have a quiet moment to compare it to.
This album is pretty much all about those types of songs.”

Released March 4th 2022



Beth Hart
A Tribute to Led Zeppelin

Blues Rock Queen Pays Homage to Some Groundbreaking Classic Songs

When it comes to choosing albums to review, I keep telling myself not to set myself ‘challenges’ – just choose things I like or at least, will probably like.
Yet, this has been a huge problem for me, as I’m a fan of Beth Hart and pretty much adore all of her albums that I’ve reviewed; but … The Led Zeppelins?
Never got them.
I’m old enough to remember their first album being released; which I borrowed from a friend at school as I did with the next three ….. and just didn’t get ‘it;’ of course I appreciate Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as musicians (Bonham was always overrated btw) …. but them as a band?
Nope ….. not for me.
So; what if anything could Beth Hart bring to the party to change my mind?
Things start with a note for note rendition of Whole Lotta Love; with Beth sounding exactly like Mr Plant …… down to the incredible high notes she hits; and they really do get hit!
It must be 40 years or more since I played the original; so can’t remember if the freaky speaker to speaker mix in the middle sounds is new; but it certainly sounds amazing; just like it would have done to teenagers the world over half a century ago.
I instantly recognised the intro to track #2 Kashmir; and was then pleasantly surprised to hear Beth; now using her own distinctive vocals; put a neat twist on the overtly masculine tale; and to me; makes this journey worth the ticket.
As I’m by no means a Zep fan; there are a couple of songs I didn’t know – The Crunge being the first; and although on the Heavy side, fits Beth’s dark side perfectly; although again, the masculine lyrics sung by a woman are bound to raise an eyebrow or two; even in 2022.
The mystical No Quarter Babe, is another song I’m not aux fait with; but it’s inclusion is perfect for Beth; who strangles every note within an inch of its life; then let’s go just as parody is about to come in ….. but never does.
The finale, The Rain Song is another I can’t remember, and sounds nothing like I remember from my school days; trying to understand why my friends thought Robert Plant was the Second Coming. Here Beth makes it a big production that wouldn’t be out of place on one of her ‘own’ recent albums.
Then; there are The Classics.
Obviously recording a whole album of Led Zeppelin songs was always going to be a brave career move; but including Stairway to Heaven is near madness!
Much like Whole Lotta Love; it’s very nearly a note for note copy of the original; but the kicker is Beth mirrors Plants histrionics without ever copying him; and the Folkie intro here, is rather special the way she interacts with the delicate acoustic guitar.
One of the few Zep songs I openly admit to liking is Black Dog; and to say Beth Hart does it justice is a vast understatement ….. and if she was to use this as an encore song, it will definitely bring the metaphorical house down.
Which only leaves two songs; and probably against my better judgement they are where I’m going for a Favourite Track.
There’s the medley Dancing Days/When The Levee Breaks which is as intriguing as it’s memorable with Beth and Producer Rob Cavallo putting something of her own stamp on two songs incessantly linked withy the Rock Gods that are Led Zeppelin.
The other is another straight up version of the original; but with Beth giving it her all, and a case of ‘right place-right time’ mood wise; Good Times Bad Times wins the accolade of Favourite Track; and even at RMHQ bares repeated plays.
While these songs were all cutting edge back in the day; they all still stand out as groundbreaking but have stood the test of time; and could actually point Beth Hart’s younger parts of her fan base into the direction of the original songs, and perhaps some Zep fans in hers.

Released February 25th 2022



Sarah Borges
Together Alone
Blue Corn Music

Out of Adversity Comes Rusty Gold

Here’s another fantastic album that nearly got lost in the rush; arriving as it did on the actual day of release and scheduled reviews took prominence; but I always knew I’d come back to it.
You’d never guess from her photos that Sarah Borges has been making music for twenty years now (unless she started in kindergarten!) but she has and TOGETHER ALONE is her latest release.
Still sitting comfortably in the Country Rock field most notably led by Tom Petty; Sarah kick starts the album with the intense Wasting My Time; with its heartfelt vocals and wailing electric guitar and Hammond organ. Written and recorded during the pandemic (of course) her frustrations at not being out with friends or especially playing music …
It’s been a while now since I’ve seen my friends
Don’t know when I’m gonna see ’em again,” 
“Without them around
It’s harder to pretend that I know where I’m going.”

The Sarah Borges I know and loves comes into play on the second track, Lucky Day …… Rocking and indeed Rolling Country infused Rock of the finest hue; and no doubt destined to be a cornerstone of her sets when she gets back out on Tour.
Even though she was living in an enforced ‘house arrest;’ Sarah never feels sorry for herself here; she’s as feisty as ever and alongside Legendary Producer Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambler sure knows how to catch your attention and not let loose until the album is over.
I once read a review that called a song ‘rusty gold’ and that’s as good a description as I can think of for Something To Do, 13th Floor and the rifftastic Pretty Christine; all of which will certainly benefit from being played on a sunny day while driving down a coastal highway with the windows down and the breeze in your hair.
Like all good Rock & Roll the album sounds pretty straightforward the first couple of times you play it; especially when you get caught up in the melodies and choruses; but eventually stories unravel and You Got Me On The Boat and the punchy as Hell Wouldn’t Know You take on a whole new resonance that will keep you coming back time and time again.
While looking for a Favourite Track Rock & Roll Hour was the obvious choice at the beginning of the quest; but as the days have gone by the introspective and intense title track Together Alone has started to stand out;
It’s the little things I’m missing
Now that they’re gone,
Borges muses over a mournful melody.
Lines across faces, and photos from places
Our shadows growing long.” 
as the bittersweet story of lost/unrequited love builds and builds until I’ve found myself playing air-guitar, eyes tightly closed and mouthing the lyrics ….. something I’ve not done for many a year.
Yet, there is still one other that I’ve totally fallen in love with ….. the diesel powered She’s a Trucker; which I can’t help but dedicate it to my friend and colleague Lorraine who is about to become just that. Normally the domain of Bill Kirchen, I’ve not heard a Truckin’ song for a long while and Ms Borges certainly puts her own indelible stamp on this story and the world is a better place for it.
There’s an interesting back-story to this song too; as with no touring on the horizon Sarah took a job as an airport courier during the pandemic to keep the bills paid; and the long lonely hours spent  four-wheeling across state lines, carrying occasionally strange cargo has culminated in this fabulous song.
In some ways this is an A-Typical Sarah Borges album; but there are still surprises around every corner and Eric Ambler’s production via modern technology which brought the musicians who were scattered across the USA together is nothing short of mind-boggling …. as it works as good as any studio recording; and better than most.

Released February 18th 2022




Jamie McDell
Jamie McDell
Self Release

Bittersweet and Dark Around the Edges Alt. Country from New Zealand via Nashville and Toronto.

I can only think of a couple of acts I’ve reviewed from New Zealand over the years; so was intrigued when this arrived a few weeks ago.
The first track here; Dream Team opens with a strange wail (albeit via a guitar) then slides seamlessly into a love story told via the darker parts of Alt. Country; and Jamie’s quiver in the voice aligned to some squalling guitar tells you that this isn’t/wasn’t the ‘Dream team’ of the chorus ….. more like a poor man’s version of Bonnie and Clyde.
I like to use the first track on an album as a taster for what will follow; and here I seriously wondered if Ms McDell had peaked too soon ….. mercifully; she hasn’t; she just gets better and better as the songs come and go.
This is followed by the quaintly titled Botox; and again Jamie’s distinctive voice draws you into a young girls troubled life trying to fit in; which is a subject I’ve not heard sung about before.
That’s the main difference between this album and the vast majority I hear; just like her peers Jamie McDell writes about the world she lives in; just isn’t and never has been a normal life as we know it.
Poor Boy is probably the song this album hinges on; as it’s Jamie looking back on her younger self and the unconventional lifestyle; and the song contains some sizzling lines like:
I broke some records
running circles on a track
I broke my nose
Then my brother broke her eye back.”

I can sit here and quote you lines from at least another 8 songs that are well worthy of your attention; but I will leave those surprises for you to find yourself.
While dark around the edges the songs here are all destined to capture the listeners imagination because of the way she pours her heart and soul into every stanza and verse.
Her clever use of imagery comes to the fore in Limousine Running and later on, in Baggage Claim too and on the album finale Daddy Come Pick Me Up; she goes all in Country; albeit of the broken hearted, broken relationship variety.
I’ve absolutely loved the variety of stories here; which brings me to two particular songs that are inherently different; the Celtic Folk flavoured Sailor with its intricate guitar and shimmering vocals; while the other is the tragically beautiful Mother’s Daughter, which will resonate with many of us who take the traits of one parent over the other; and the effect it can have on so many around us.
Still only 28 Jamie has been a star in New Zealand since she was barely 16; but growing restless she moved to Nashville in 2017 where she recorded an album; which brought her some good support tours; but now ensconced in Toronto this album is sure to bring her to a much wider audience.

Released February 25th 2022



The HawtThorns
Tarot Cards & Shooting Stars
Mule Kick Records

Enough Twangtastic Country Rock To Make a Grey February Day Feel Like a Sunny Day in July or August.

Husband and wife duo KP & Johnny Hawthorn both had reasonably succesful solo careers before teaming up for their debut album under the joint name The HawtThorns in 2019 MORNING SUN, of which we said “The Perfect Soundtrack For a Charming Country Saturday Night” and three years and a pandemic later; the same could be said of this album.
Unlike most everyone else in the Alt. Country scene, KP & Johnny certainly aren’t afraid of a hook and a melody to accompany their sharply observed songs; starting with opener All The Right Reasons; which while having elements of 70’s and 80’s Country Rock in it – The HawtThorns actually have their own distinctive style and sound; unlike anyone else I can actually think of.
This is one of those rare albums that has songs like Lotta Love, This One is Ours and the Twangtastic On The Way; which features the name of the album in the very catchy chorus; that can actually make a grey February day feel like a sunny Sunday in July or August.
While I was super impressed with their debut; even having it in the car last Summer when we were allowed a little bit of freedom; after a week of fairly intense listening this album the songs seem to have a more mature ‘feel’ to them; which is fair enough as a lot has happened in the interim years and the HawtThorns plus assorted collaborators have had a lot of time on their hands to make songs like Let’s Get Together, Baby It’s a Gift and the introspective One Human At a Time mature, evolve and end up being fully rounded and very easy on the ear, even if the message is a tad on the dark side.
Harking back to their imaginative use of hooks and melodies; The HawtThorns really do sound as if they want every single song to be the type of thing you’d turn the dial up a couple of notches if they came on the car radio ….. which is exactly what I did last week when the punchy Keep It Alive came on one night on the way home from work.
Which neatly brings me to my Favourite Track, which was going to be the album finale When Georgia Cries, as it’s a stunningly beautiful Country song worthy of a cover by Linda Ronstadt or Emmylou Harris; but until that happens I’m more than happy to hear KP Hawthorn’s delightful voice whenever possible. But; one that nearly got away, the delightful and breathy duet The One That Got Away caught me off guard last night as I was feeling very sorry for myself with a dastardly mix of a Cold and Covid. Obviously as a duet I could lazily compare it to Gram and Emmylou, and that wouldn’t be a million miles away; but KP and Johnny’s voices which should be polar opposites combine here like a Prairie Wind on a suitably charming tale of lost love, which will melt the hardest of hearts.
In some ways this is ‘more of the same’ from their 2019 debut; but on repeated plays, I promise you that this album will reveal hidden treasures on every single play.

Released February 25th 2022



The 2.19

A Modern Twist on Classic Blues From Chicago and London But Straight Out of Belfast.

Never mind being entitle REVELATOR this album has been something of a revelation this week.
If you don’t live in Northern Ireland you are unlikely to have heard of The 2.19 or its constituent parts; but it’s quite obvious from the first track Revelator, that the band is made up of road wise musicians who play what they love; and love what they play ….. Blues Rock with the emphasis on Blues; which isn’t always the case with bands these days.
Made up of a bunch of friends who have played in a myriad of other bands over the years which means The 2.19 certainly know how to play the Blues of the Chicago and British variety with comfort and class.
Probably only destined to be sold at gigs, this album actually holds some truly diamond encrusted tracks that could easily have graced albums by the Superstars that came out of the British Blues Boom in the late 60’s; yet somehow don’t sound dated at all.
While most Blues Rock albums I receive these days are really Heavy Rockers paying lip service to what we know as the Blues, The 2.19 seem to spark off a variety of influences from the last 50 years to create a sound that is actually quite distinctive and very varied.
While REVELATOR kicks off with a short series of electric Blues; they quickly through a curve ball inclusion of some cool acoustic tracks, that recall memories of first hearing Led Zeppelin and Free; with No Time to Bleed, All Kinds of Evil and the jaunty One Way Ride being outstanding for a band with no record label behind them.
Like all bands since time immemorial, The 2.19 revolve around the singer and here Chris Chalmers has some pitch perfect leathery vocals; but twin guitarists Paul Wilkinson and Ady Young show their combined class on the slow and sleazy pair of All Kinds of Evil and Bad Blood; which will send a shiver down your back.
No Blues band is worth the name without a great back line on drums and bass; and here Monty Sneddon and Marty Young provide a subtle yet powerful backdrop for the songs to develop and Cummings to lead the line valiantly, no matter how slow or fast the song is.
Plus, no Blues album is complete without some soulful harmonica; and here the occasional inclusion of Andrei Marinescu on said instrument really adds a touch of class that I wasn’t expecting.
Personally I love the way the band use light and shade, not just in the songs themselves but the order in which they come on the album, which will no doubt make for a great night out when they finally get to play this album in its entirety on stage.
For my choice of Favourite Track it’s a toss up between the slow burning Led Zeppelin/Big Bill Broonzy hybrid Black Dog Moan and the album closer Old Days Coming Back, which tips its hat into John Martyn and the forgotten slower side of Free territory; plus the grizzled and almost demonic vocals at the end are pure Alex Harvey, who I always loved.
While I’ve mentioned their obvious influences here; be in no doubt The 2.19 are very much a shiny new band in their own rite; and while their combined ages probably preclude them from World Domination; there’s a very lucrative Festival circuit around Europe that can only benefit from their inclusion.

Released November 2021



Judy Collins

Every Song Elicits the Word ‘Beautiful.’

I don’t know if I’m correct in saying Judy Collins is having something of a renaissance late in her career; but if it is it’s very welcome here at RMHQ; and as was proved on her recent live album; her stunning voice hasn’t aged a day.
While I’ve always known she was a great interpreter of other songwriter’s songs; I was surprised to find that this is her first ever album of her own songs …. fancy that?
The title track SPELLBOUND comes in at Track #1 and if this beauty doesn’t stop you in your tracks you’re listening to the wrong album. The production is crystal clear and suits Ms Collins like a velvet glove on a song that finds the singer looking back on a love story she was a part of many years ago.
As I’ve continued to play the album every track has elicited the word ‘beautiful’ …. and every song here is exactly that; as Judy more or less looks back on a life well lived.
I think it’s difficult to pigeon-hole this particular album; in some ways it’s the epitome of Americana while we certainly get an array of Folk Songs; as the winsome When I Was a Girl in Colorado and Prairie Dream probably fit under that umbrella better than most; but in 2022 would you say Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell are still thought of as Folk Singers?
Me neither.
Here, Judy’s songs Hell On Wheels, Arizona and the intensely intricate Wild With Mist all transcend such a type-casting; these and others need a whole new genre outside such a simple label.
As regular readers know RMHQ tries its best to promote new singers and bands to the populace; but for many of you out there Judy Collins will be a ‘new name’ too and; especially if you are an aspiring singer-songwriter yourself, I urge you to seek out Grand Canyon and City of Awakening to discover how to take an everyday subject and make it into something staggeringly wonderful.
Before I tell you which is my Favourite Song; I must mention that the only only ‘old song’ here is the re-recorded finale The Blizzard from her 1990 album Fires of Eden and stands shoulder to shoulder with the other dozen songs like an elder sibling, or even matriarch.
I didn’t know the story behind the Thomas Merton song; but Googled him as I played it …. and when you understand that he was a monk/author, philosopher and renowned anti-war activist in the 1950’s and 60’s; the song will take on a whole new resonance with you, as it has me …… which it ties for the accolade Favourite Song with So Alive, which couldn’t be any more different as it’s about falling in love for the first time and actually sparkles as the notes come from your stereo speakers.
I doubt I will be alone in actually ‘discovering’ Judy Collins in the twilight of her glittering career; but while I knew her from her singles in the 1970’s I’ve been lucky enough to have been ‘forced’ to listen to her last four albums for review purposes and it’s been an absolute joy from start to finish.

Released February 25th 2022



North Mississippi Allstars SET SAIL

North Mississippi Allstars
Set Sail
New West Records

Laid-Back Funky Southern Soul and Jazz

My last encounter with these guys was in a shiny, modern cultural venue in Utrecht, where they played a lively, barnstorming set to an appreciative (but very drunk) Dutch audience.
They even squeezed in a rubboard solo played through some effects pedals.
It was a very psychedelic night indeed.
Things take a slightly more downbeat turn on “Set Sail” which generally adopts a more low key funkier groove. The title Track “Set Sail Pt1” kicks things off with its New Orleans strutting soulful sound, featuring a fine Lamar Williams Jr vocal (son of the Allman Brothers bassist Lamar Williams, Sr).
“Bumpin” which follows, somewhat belies its name on one level – it’s not so much an ode to dancing as such, more an ode to slow, warm love-making and its tempo and grind evoke warm, sensual southern nights.

Lamar Williams Jr returns to the vocal mic on “See the Moon” a mid-paced soulful stomper that would fit one of the less violent moments in a 70s blaxploitation movie quite nicely.
It’s late-night music, as its title suggests. “Outside” keeps Mr Williams at the mic and carries other side of the tracks sentiments to a brisk, organ laced tune. It’s one of the more narrative-led songs on the album and is all the stronger for it.

“Didn’t We Have a Time” has a much folkier melody and more of a gentle psychedelic feel, with melodies following the chords and decorated with keys and lightly phased guitar phrases, edging towards the jazzier end of the spectrum – at just over six minutes it allows an improvised rhythm to develop beyond the vocal too.

“Never Want to be Kissed” features William Bell – and while his vocal shows the strain and pain of his 82 years, it probably carries even greater emotional weight because of that.
Strings and horns come to the party and make the sound full and (more) controlled – for me, it’s the highlight of the album. Lamar Williams Jr returns for three of the last four songs; first off there’s album title track Pt 2 – “Set Sail Pt 2” which jazzes along with added strings, noodling guitar and bouncing bass. It fits the improvised ethos of large parts of the album – it’s physically functional and organic, rather than lyrical, but in the right dark, hot club it’d be perfect.

“Juicy Juice” with its funky Meters type rhythms and almost scat lyrics comes across as another improvised groove -dynamics are introduced through the production – instruments come louder and pan across the range to what otherwise might be seen as a little one dimensional if one is expecting a conventional song structure – once again, it’s on the jazzier side of the soulful spectrum.

“Rabbit Foot” and “Authentic”, both featuring Lamar Williams Jr close out the album – the former is a jam based around a steady, yet insistent beat, whereas the latter is social commentary saying that
we don’t need to see the guns in the street
and it’s a much more crafted song, with instrumentation seemingly built around the lyrical core.

On their thirteenth album, The North Mississippi Allstars have taken some large strides towards the soulful, jazzy side of the tracks – where it works best for me, is when the improvisation is built in and around the song, which gives it the element of surprise. If southern soul and jazz is your thing, then this one’s for you.

Review by Nick Barber
Released 29th January 2022



Peter Rogan
Broken Down Love
Melt Shop Records

A Cool and Soulful Memphis/Nashville Country Rocking Americana Hybrid

After spending too many years in his youth trying to ‘make it’ in the Rock World, Peter Rogan changed track mid-stream, moved to New York and turned to Jazz to make a living, which paid the bills; but even though his songwriting got him to be a three-time finalist in the Great American Song Contest in 2014, 2016 and 2018; yet actual ‘success’ still evaded him; so like so many before him, he packed his bags and moved back to his hometown of Reading PA, where he now works in a Steel Mill and writes and plays in his spare time.
Which brings us to this; his second album, originally financed successfully via a Kickstarter appeal.
The titular track, Broken Down Love opens the album; and apart from the relative success in the Great American Song Contest, nothing of the above springs to mind; as it’s a fully formed slice of Sad Americana, with a hefty dose of Alt. Country in the melody, which combine to become a smokey and atmospheric tale of heartbreak.
Track #2 Short Shifter Blues follows and is a bit crunchier, with a downtown Chicago Blues feel to the mix; and the first time I played it I couldn’t quite put my finger on who Peter ‘sounded like’ ……. but the penny soon dropped when his a slightly slower and Countryfried rendition of the Stones’ It’s Only Rock n Roll slithered and slinked out of the car speakers; he sounds more like Mick Jagger than Mick Jagger does these days. I doubt it’s ‘affected’ in any way; just a happy coincidence.
Please don’t let that worry you; as this album is as much about Rogan’s songs as it is the way he sings them; and sing them he most certainly does; squeezing every last drop of emotion as possible out of Will Kimbrough’s delightful Don’t Be Afraid of The Rain and John Hiatt’s emotionally charged Thank You Girl; which just might be the best song the Rolling Stones never recorded this century!
I really should stop with the Jagger/Stones connection; but occasionally it’s just so obvious …… but on the slower and more intimate songs like Butter Lane and Ships a’ Burnin it’s a lot less obvious and it’s the way he sings his own articulate words that capture your attention.
There’s light and shade throughout BROKEN DOWN LOVE with a superb mix of Rockers and slow burning Rollers too; which brings me to my selection of Favourite Song.
The first day it was obviously going to be the slow and sultry All That’s Left is The Blues; which mirrored exactly how I felt that evening as work was getting me down.
(Which is always something that staggers me about music; how a songwriter a 1,000 miles away from me has the ability to get inside my head and replicate my most personal feelings even though they’ve never met me.)
Then there’s the swampy My Kinda Strange, and the battle between Rogan and Will Kimbrough’s guitars, punctuated by some dynamic organ playing by Phil Madeira which which wouldn’t have been outta place on FM Radio any time in the last 50 years.
Then, there’s Dancin’ Naked.
Significantly different from everything else here; although this Soulful Memphis/Nashville Country Rocker hybrid, featuring the McCrary Sisters on harmonies is simply a song deserving a huge audience across the world …… it’s a Honky Tonk belter of a love song, the likes of which you keep for Special Occasions.
Everything about this album is deceptive; right from the cover art (which would have made me pick it up in a Record Shop btw); the subtle changes in tempo make Country Songs actually Rock and his softer acoustic songs have biting lyrics; and then of course there’s his singing style ….. it works for me on several levels; and even the Jagger ‘thing’ isn’t really that obvious after a couple of plays.
Yet again; it’s surprises like this that keep us going at RMHQ, Peter Rogan has been a fabulous discovery that’s unlikely to have a marketing budget to get reviews in the more famous magazines and websites ….. so it’s left to you and me to shout about Peter Rogan’s talents from the ROOFTOPS!

Released February 1st 2022


Kate Ellis SPIRALS

Kate Ellis
River Rose Records

More Sad Songs to Make You Happy From Another 5 and Dime Somewhere Close to Home.

Normally I avoid Press Releases until well after I’ve played an album twice; and then it’s generally a quick skim to fill in some background; but in this case it was lying on the table next to me and a quote from Lyric Magazine jumped out at me ….. “Think Nanci Griffith … with a twist.”
Obviously I immediately thought “I will be the judge of that!” but of course it meant I had to listen there and then.
The gentle opening track, Can’t Not is actually in the playground I associate with Ms Griffith; but it and a lot of what follows reminds me of Gretchen Peters; the phrasing and breathy vocals especially and of course; the ever so sad lyrics, which will bring a tear to a glass eye.
I won’t get hung up on comparisons if I were you; as it turns out Kate Ellis has a very distinctive voice of her own and boy oh boy can she write a song to melt your heart.

Born in Louisiana, raised in NYC and now settled in London Town, Kate appears to have absorbed the musical ether from all three areas and is now using them as a musical Super Power. Even from track #2 Bluebirds and Rye she creates a Country-Folk love song that sounds like it should be from the swamps; but there’s also an urban edge to her observations, plus the instrumentation gracefully drifts between Country and Celtic with haunting ease.
As a music ‘fan’ I’ve always been impressed by the way a songwriter can see the same things in life as I do; but turn even the mundane into a thing of rare beauty ….. and Kate Ellis is one such talent.
The charming I Am The Tree, written after the writer’s Mother died; captures the emotions associated with such an event quite perfectly; and the album closer The Story You’ve Been Told (which is the nearest to a Nanci Griffith song here) niftily describes the way we see ourselves juxtaposed against the way others might see us …… it’s different and will benefit from being heard in isolation.
The bouncy and bittersweet Other Side of the Street on the other hand is written by her friend Tom Hackwood; and the way Kate sings it captures the competing emotions we feel/felt the first time we saw someone as a prospective lover.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of thought goes into synching the songs on an LP; and that comes to the fore in the middle when the gently retrospective Wonderland is followed by the punchy and evocative Honky-Tonky danceable hellraiser Scars and the mini song-cycle closes with Wolf which is breathtaking in the way Kate describes depression in a way that will resonate with fellow sufferers and hopefully make others appreciate how we feel on days like that.
Albums and indeed, artistes like this are the reason the likes of us here at The Rocking Magpie exists; you are unlikely to hear Kate Ellis on the radio and unless she has deep pockets, you’re not going to read reviews in national magazines or newspapers; and that’s a damn shame as you would then miss out on two really special songs; which I’m letting tie as my Favourites.
The title track Spirals has a delicious melody that will reel you in; and sooner or later the deceptive story, which again touches on depression; but is mostly about ‘growing up’ ….. no matter how late in life that happens and is worthy of any of Ms Ellis’s peers in the songwriting spectrum.
The other is a troubling song I ‘got’ straight away; Another Way; about a Father who is constantly angry and confused; frightening his child …… but who in turn looks back on his life with great sympathy.
Man ……. I can think of 5 or 6 household names that have tried to write such a song and never got close to the emotions Kate Ellis describes while still keeping the tale eminently listenable; regardless of the darkness in her words.
Let’s go back to the comparison with Nanci Griffith. I know exactly where that reviewer is coming from; as this album will sit comfortably alongside my Nanci collection; but Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gretchen Peters, Amelia White and Tift Merritt are all on that shelf too … and Kate is there on merit.

Released February 18th 2022