Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective MOVE THE PLANET

Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective
Move The Planet
Self Release

Middle Aged Indie and Americana Kicks Full of Teenage Hormones!

To paraphrase Mark Germino’s DJ Rex Bob Lowenstein; one day we are reviewing Neil Young, Rod Stewart and David Olney then it’s the band from down your street.
Which is exactly why I didn’t get around to reviewing this album by Colchester, Essex’s Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective latest album …. we were packed to the gunnels with new releases back in April, as well as my home/work conundrum was spilling over; but today I finally find I’ve got a couple of hours to myself and I can’t think of a better album to tell you about.
Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective are the type of musicians who you will find playing your local music bar or club somewhere you couldn’t find on a map on a rainy Tuesday night; while the household names are checking their Spotify statements in their gilded towers.
As ever there’s a new shift in direction here; starting with Life’s a Blast; which actually opens with the sound of a motorbike engine; then the band kick in with a quintessential Pub Rocker that will have your toes a-tappin’ and your head a bobbin’ from start to finish.
The good times are certainly rolling!
With an eclectic back catalogue to fall back on too, these are the type of songs that the band can draw on when an audience gets a bit ‘angsty’ ….. something for everyone?
I love the slow, Alex Harveyesque Love Is Blind and the funkalicious Hyper Ecstatic too, both of which feature rinky dinky pub-piano and ‘Big Man’ sax as the sizzling guitars take an occasional step back.
As usual; the songs themselves are written from the heart and generally have a hook that winds you in like a big fat salmon…… you can put up a fight, but the Roots Collective will always get you in the end.
Even by their standards Love Is Love Isn’t is a bit left of centre with it’s Tex-Mex melody behind Williams’ husky vocals ….. but it’s still a winner at RMHQ Towers.
Two years ago I was inundated with ‘political’ songs from across the world; but post-pandemic they have been few and far between; but here’s there’s not just one belter ….. but two! White House Blues appears to be very influenced by Country Joe and/or Lovin’ Spoonful with its jaunty melody and punch the air chorus; and as far Our Leaders Are Insane ….. the lyrics bite like a rottweiler on amphetamines!
I’m no prude but I genuinely don’t like the use of the F-Word in songs ….. I think it’s not necessary as music is an entertainment for all the family ….. but it appears I’m in the minority.
Which brings me to Crazy F**ker and On Another Rainy Day, both of which are both clearly marked EXPLICIT.
The former; dedicated to and about their deceased friend John Tucker; actually has a great melody and were it a Punk song I can imagine the crowd going bonkers singing along …… but that’s not really their or our demographic, is it?
The latter is actually a rather nice Folky type song in the mode of Richard Thompson or Billy Bragg; and whether the F-Word is absolutely necessary is wide open for debate; as were it not there it would certainly be a contender for Favourite Song.
That title therefore goes to Cold and Dusty Road, a rather good song that straddles Folk Rock and Alt. Country with a tip of the hat to Americana too …. and the end result is so good, belies their heritage playing pubs and clubs across SE England.
In many ways this album will make listeners/fans feel like teenagers again ….. it’s got that vibe; but the actual songs are aimed squarely at us oldies ….. but in a ‘good way.’

Released April 2022


Charlie Musselwhite MISSISSIPPI SON

Charlie Musselwhite
Mississippi Son
Alligator Records

Beautiful and Intimate Acoustic Blues For the Connoisseur and Casual Listener Too.

For a man of ‘a certain age’ Charlie Musselwhite doesn’t show any aptitude for slowing down; does he?
I’ve lost track as to how many albums he’s released over the years; but in many ways this one is the most fascinating?
Why? You might ask.
Well, not only does he play the harmonica and sing; but he plays a mean acoustic guitar too …. which I wasn’t really aware of his skills in that department.
The trademark harmonica playing that starts opening track Blues Up The River; is pure Charlie and when he sings; it’s like the sun coming out after the rain. I’m well aware not every Blues fan likes this laid back style of playing; but to me it’s the finest type of music my ears get to hear.
You often hear the word ‘authentic’ in reviews; I use it myself, but only when it’s an act with the Heritage of someone like Charlie Musselwhite …… he’s played with some of the very best over the years yet still isn’t afraid to experiment, as some of his more recent releases show and that class oozes out of every single track here, especially the slow and sweltering In Your Darkest Hour or the beautiful Pea Vine Blues too.
Does the world need another version of Crawling King Snake?
Probably not, if you’d asked me a month ago ….. then I heard Musselwhite’s reading and ….. BOOM! I was in Blues Heaven for four minutes and ten seconds; and still feel the same way today.
To all intents and purposes these sensitive and intimate songs need to be heard late at night when you are all alone; only then will the bittersweet love songs Stingaree and Rank Strangers; which features some sublime Resonator guitar by the very way; will unravel and make sense.
Tucked away in the middle is gorgeous guitar led instrumental called Remembering Big Joe and it took my breath away the first couple of times I played it; such is the complexity of the arrangement and Musselwhite’s playing.
Even looking at the song titles will make you realise that this isn’t a ‘happy-clappy’ album; and you get exactly what you’d expect from the poetic The Dark and My Road Lies In Darkness; but the end result in Charlie’s hands is stupendous.
While I love the album name; the fabulous and toe-tapping Country-Blues of Blues Gave Me a Ride could easily have replaced it and the casual shopper would have then known what the contents there in would be.
Just like in olden golden days of our collective youth; MISSISSIPPI SON cries out to be listened to in silence and even reverence from start to finish; and with every track well worthy of its place here, I still feel the need to point you to a couple of songs that have slowly become Favourites; Hobo Blues is something of a spine-tingler and later on the haunting album finale A Voice Foretold sounds like the age old Gospel Song it is, but rearranged for the 21st Century.
I doubt that there’s a single definitive Charlie Musselwhite album that you could be pointed towards to start your love affair with his music; but this is as good as anything before it, IMHO.
The only question that remains is; when are we going to get a definitive retrospective of his long and illustrious career?

Released June 3rd 2022



Drive-By Truckers
Welcome to Club XIII
ATO Records

After 25 Years They Still Have the Ability To Surprise and Please

Another Drive-By Truckers album?
Their third in less than two years? ….. guess someone used lockdown fruitfully.
Opening track The Driver, is so unlike anything I’ve heard from the band ever before ….. angry, grungy, claustrophobic and edgy beyond belief that I had to double check that I was playing the right CD.
That said, it’s powerful and altogether ‘different’ in an excellent manner; although when I played it on my radio show …. I hadn’t realised that there was an F-Bomb quite early on!
The grungy guitars and diesel powered bass lines continue through second track Maria’s Awful Disclosure; so much so I even imagined the guys standing with their heads bowed down as they play their instruments as if they are a tip-top Nirvana tribute act!
Things move back into normal Drive-By Truckers land on the gorgeous, wordy and waltz time Shake & Pine which in lesser hands could easily become a guitar fest; but here the guys show amazing restraint while Patterson Hood shows us how to deliver a modern Alt. Country Classic.
The title track Welcome to Club XIII takes us back in time to when we/they used to go clubbing at the weekend; although this particular one sounds way more fun than The Oasis or Jimmy’z that I used to frequent.
As the songs come and go, they reel you in like a big ole catfish; and after 12 previous albums over the last 25+ years, the Truckers still have the ability to surprise you; none more so than Billy Ringo in The Dark, which deals with depression with incredible sensitivity; yet still managing to be a classy Rock song that will live in our memories for decades to come.
Reviewing albums can regularly take the fun out of listening to music; but the first couple of times I played WELCOME TO CLUB XIII I kept forgetting to scribble notes as I quickly became immersed in the music; which might explain nothing being noted against Forged In Hell and Heaven Sent, which is quite fabulous from start to finish ….. and back again.
The album closes with Wilder Days, which is actually the polar opposite of its title as it’s a ballad of exceptional proportions as the singer mournfully looks back on his Wilder Days,through misty eyes that are slightly foggy with age.
For an actual Favourite Song I’m torn between the slow and sultry We Will Never Wake You Up in the Morning, with its mysterious backbeat underneath another dark tale of ‘losing hope’ but is nonetheless very, very listenable over long periods.
The other, Every Single Storied Flameout is a veritable foot to the floor Rocker in the vein of Tonight’s The Night era Neil Young; plenty of grungy and squalling guitar juxtaposed against a brass section in full flow; which occasionally takes your mind off the fascinating story; another tale of ‘looking back – to look forward’ and played at 11 in the car on a Summers evening makes for quite the soundtrack.
Hence this is very much my Favourite Song here.
I think it fantastic that after a quarter of a century together, Drive-By Truckers still have the capacity to fascinate and please their fan base in equal measure … as they do here.

Released June 3rd 2022


James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LOW NIGHTS

James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band
Highlights of The Low Nights
Last Night From Glasgow

Classy Scots Roots Rock With a Healthy Dash Of Americana and Alt.Country on The Side

Sadly this album has been sitting; unplayed on my desk for quite a few weeks ….. I don’t know why either as everything about James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band ticks my musical boxes.
But; played it was three days ago and I then spent a whole evening at work metaphorically kicking myself, for nearly letting it go.
Opening track Gasoline is a fabulous slice of moody Americana with Edwyn’s imagery and imagination right to the fore on a song that could easily come from the John Prine or Sturgill Simpson playbooks with Calexico as a backdrop.
If you like that song – trust me; you are definitely in for the long haul.
While I namechecked Prine and Simpson back there; not everything else here is in the vein, as the band slickly move between the Alt. Country of Love Too Late, Jeremiah and; of course the harmonica heavy Blue while sliding waist high into the Country Rock swamps with Buy Me a Ticket, Is It Enough and the Twang Fest Stargazer which is a contender for Favourite Song.
Tucked away here and there you will also find things that more or less defy pigeon holing – as they are packed with all kinds of musical goodness – I’m particularly thinking of Sometimes We Fade and Because of You here.
Which therefore brings me to the difficult choice of finding a Favourite Song. Earlier I mentioned Stargazer as a contender and it certainly is; but last night I became overwhelmed by Never In Her Eyes; with its delightful rolling guitar backing is probably the most intimate song here and certainly the gentlest (although it’s a dark story when it unfolds) so this morning I’m plumping for that
In typical Scots fashion, there’s a whole lot going on here, with no single musical avenue to pin your hat on; although I’ve filed it under Roots Rock …. but don’t be surprised if they ever turn up second on the bill to some high profile 90’s Indie Band or better still someone at the top of the Americana Pops. But, better still if they turn up in a small club somewhere driveable I think that could be a stunning night of live music.

Released May 27th 2022


Mavis Staples & Levon Helm CARRY ME HOME

Mavis Staples & Levon Helm
Carry Me Home
Anti Records

Fans of Gospel and Country Soul Will Find a Lot to Like in This Final Performance From Two Icons

Recorded at Woodstock, New York’s Levon Helm Studios in the Summer of 2011, shortly before Helm’s passing this release is a lot more Mavis aurally than Levon; as might be expected.
Content-wise there are several standards making up the 12 tracks, but they’re delivered with Soul and energy from a band that combined members of both Staples’ and Helm’s line-ups.

Opener “This is My Country” is a Country-Soul delight, with “do-do-do” backing vocals and a New Orleansy shuffle from Helm, overlaid with a feisty vocal from Staples.
The much recorded “Trouble in Mind”, in lesser hands might have been reduced to a by-numbers performance but here, a thumping Crescent City Blues stomp underscores the familiar melody.
“Farther Along” starts acapella before developing into a gorgeous harmony gospel backed version, all the more poignant given the fact that this was the last occasion that Helm and Staples would appear and record together.

Things take a perkier turn on “Hand Writing on The Wall” which mixes a pushed Rockabilly groove, great horns and a commanding vocal to really heat up the mood.
It’s then followed by “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free” which skips along as a lively funk-soul number – on this, piano skilfully interweaves between the horns and guitars to give it a bit of a Dr John feel.
“Move Along Train” takes things at walking Blues pace and is a call and response organ-laced gospel-soaked vocal masterclass from Staples.

Most poignant title of all is “This May Be the Last Time”, considering the circumstances of the recording – again it’s a gospel song, taken at a tense, growling pace.
“When I Go Away” – so many prescient song titles – lifts the tempo once more and features some skilful backing vocal rounds.
There’s another tempo shift on “Wider River to Cross”, which becomes a slow but swinging late-night soulful groove -Helm’s hi-hat work pushes things along and gives the song a lift maybe missed by lesser drummers.

There’s then a duo of “You Got To..” songs – first there’s the rock’n Soul of “You Got to Move” which Helm train beats into submission and then there’s “You Got to Serve Somebody”, one of the funkiest songs on the release, where rhythm and vocal combine to create fine and tangible aural sweat.

Things unsurprisingly end with “The Weight” – Mavis Staples holds back slightly in her timing and treatment of the vocal and gives the old chestnut a fresh breath of life – Helm duets too, and it’s clear that the other performers work well to make the most of his ailing, but still strong and distinctive vocal powers.
It’s a far livelier and dynamic version than I’d expected and it’s a fitting, as well as a touching end.

A time capsule and a historical document this may be, but it’s a joyful one and does great justice to the collaborations between Staples and Helm – fans of Gospel and Country Soul will find a lot to like here.

Review by Nick Barber
Released May 20th 2022


Nitty Gritty Dirt Band DIRT DOES DYLAN

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Dirt Does Dylan
NDGB Records

A Joy Beyond Belief as Stardust is Sprinkled Over These Americana Classics.

It’s a well known fact that I don’t like Bob Dylan ….. but him singing his own songs (that voice – YUK!) ….. cover versions on the other hand….. I’m in!
I was quite excited when I received this album a month or so ago …. as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are famous; aren’t they?
Yet when I skimmed my data base; just as I feared …. I actually don’t own a single track by them … so this has been a voyage of discovery.
Just to confuse me, the album starts with a Dylan song I’m not aux fait with; Tonight I’ll Be Staying With You and when placed alongside the Hits, as it is here ….. it couldn’t have been written by anyone else.
Featuring the legendary Jeff Hanna on lead vocals and son Jaime on backing; it’s a timeless start to a fabulous homage to His Bobness; and possibly aimed fair and square at naysayers like myself.
Perhaps it’s just me; but there’s a freshness and even ‘kick’ to the production here; and the musicality throughout; which regularly features ‘guest stars’ is rather exceptional … although my friend Ian, who is a NGDB fan says I shouldn’t be surprised, as that is what they are famed for.
Over the years, I’ve heard (and bought) many versions of Girl From the North Country, I Shall Be Released and of course Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright but and perhaps this is the passing of time affecting my memory, these versions really are razor sharp and bang on the money; son Jaime takes the lead on Girl From the North Country and somehow adds stardust to an old chestnut of a song; then on I Shall Be Released, the current ‘go to’ ladies for harmonies etc. Larkin Poe help take this into a stratosphere that Robbie Robertson could only dreamt of.
Casual observers like myself possibly think that the world didn’t need another copy of Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright; but Jeff Hanna’s intimite version brings it right back to where it started; and hearing Jimmie Faddon’s occasional ‘easy on the ear’ harmonica makes for a very special version indeed.
I’ve never really understood the actual story in Mighty Quinn; but remember loving it as a child; coupled with it being bastardised as a football chant at Newcastle United when our centre-forward Wyn Davies’s name was substituted for Quinn the Eskimo; so I’m always going to like this song in 2022.
One of the few things that irk me here is the sequencing, if only because the ensemble piece The Times They Are a’Changing should really have been the epic finale surely? It certainly evokes memories of The Last Waltz (and Band Aid?) as Jason Isbell, Steve Earle, Roseanne Cash, The War And Treaty (Michael Trotter Jr. & Tanya Trotter) and the totally underrated Matraca Berg take turns to lead the verses and join together for the choruses … but what do I know?
Hmmm; selecting a single Favourite Song simply isn’t possible … is it?
The quirky jug band arrangement on Country Pie was new to me; and sits in perfectly well with the million sellers; as does the Folklicious and even dark rendition of She Belongs to Me but my Favourite ever actual Bob Dylan song is also here; and it’s the one from the album the Dylan Cultists hate …… Forever Young from Planet Waves, which Jeff, Jaime and Bob Carpenter don’t stray too far from the original path; but yet again sprinkle stardust on every word and note, breathing new life into again in 2022.
Had I seen this album in a record shop I doubt I’d have picked it up, let alone bought it ….. but it’s been a joy beyond belief this last few weeks playing it in the car and at home too, where even Mrs. Magpie tapped an unwitting toe a few times.
The other thing I got to thinking while listening ….. is this where Americana had its Roots?

Released May 20th 2022


Patrick Wise & Jessika Mae present… KEROUAC LIVES!

Patrick Wise & Jessika Mae present…
‘Kerouac Lives!’
H14HEAD Records

Full of Carefree Youth, Truth, Rebellion and Fabulous Music

Brrrmmm… brrrmmm ……. Revving up the theatrical engine for a free- spirited rocky road trip with Jack Kerouac, from heaven to hell and a whole stream of consciousness in between.

Serendipity at work here: as I was planning my first post pandemic flight, a trip to New York City and BOOM! this new release landed at my door courtesy of RMHQ: a musical retrospective based around the life of American ‘50s and ‘60s Beat Generation author and poet Jack Kerouac…..celebrating his centenary……bringing him back from the dead?
I hope that’s grabbed your attention too.

Undoubtedly this musical soundtrack is pure Rock Opera at it’s heart, Tommy meets Godspell, with enough contrast and drama to match the turbulent tale of Kerouac’s own real-life ground breaking story. Not my usual genre by any means, but it is the sensitive interpretation of how events shaped this renowned writer’s destiny and legacy, which makes this album an especially poignant tribute. Perhaps quite rightly in this case, the exceptional lyrics, written by poet Heath Common, steal my attention in equal measures to the atmospheric score composed by John Hardie.

The opener is Typewriter Blue, a full force gutsy anthemic rocky start, driven by a bouncy bassline, establishing Patrick Wise’s vocals representing Kerouac reincarnated: part musical theatre, part rock opera coated with a sprinkle of Neil Diamond-esq gravel, it documents his early days firstly at home in Massachusetts and wrestling with a difficult childhood:

A childhood spent in dreams
A life that’s disconnected, nothing as it seems

The song then transports us to New York City, a bittersweet spell in his life, making new friends but struggling to get published.
Midway B/V’s echoing a heavenly choir reinforces the idea that Jack is talking to us from above.

Epic life events catapulted Kerouac from extreme happiness to darkest misery and the album replicates this: the jump next is to Eternal Song, soaked in pathos and opening with mournful strings, it builds up to achieve a hymnal quality as he begs God for answers.
The track recounts the family tragedy when Jack’s older brother Gerard died of rheumatic fever aged nine, Kerouac was only 4 at the time.
The lyrics spell out the anguish and the song concludes with a dramatic thunderclap, implying this dark cloud will shadow his whole life:

left in the graveyard all alone
Life can seem empty when you’re so young
Nothing seems real, eternal song”

The following two songs bathe in a joyfully glistening pool of Kerouac’s life.
Bowery Beat lifts the mood instantly, strumming into happier times when the Beat Generation movers and shakers inspired each other soaking up the Be Bop Jazz sounds of Parker/Gillespie, writers together positively inspired by the scene in New York City.

The Angels are smiling suddenly I’m finding that goodness will shine upon my soul”.

“Hey Jack” skips in with Jessika Mae on lead vocals, a playful ‘40’s jazzy ‘Quiet Storm’ delivery and with a West End worthy performance.
In the first flush of romance, it’s flirty and full of hope that love can conquer all.

The story drives ever forward, We Are Taking Sides wins the top slot, boasting a contemporary feel reflecting this passage of time.
A pleasing jangly indie guitar melody backdrops the new post- war era Kerouac is negotiating, with a waterfall torrent of ‘80’s style keys adding to the manic pace, life is fast with “TV Dinner in The Fridge” and “Never Time to Find a Love”, he is heading in the wrong direction, obsessively working at his own personal expense.
Right on its heels, “Time Wasn’t on My Side” confirms this was the wrong path, it is much darker and laced with dramatic desperation: Kerouac spiralling evermore downwards, the death of his sister, his beloved mother having a stroke and he himself dying just aged 47, a lifetime of heavy drinking taking its toll.

Everyday is the same as yesterday
Staggered downstairs I’ve already lost my way
There’s no tomorrow, yesterday has gone now
Everybody lives a lie

As the story draws to a final curtain, the last two tracks invite us to reflect on the huge legacy left behind. “Me and Dean” resets the focus back to one of the happiest times in Kerouac’s life and the inspiration for his breakthrough novel On The Road which elevated him up to be a celebrated Beat Icon.

It’s full of carefree youth, truth, rebellion, basking in the freedom of the road with his best friend Neal Cassidy.
The vocals are delivered by speech as if Kerouac’s spirit has joined us on this landmark anniversary, we assess his life together.
I tried to do my best, not everything was a lie”.
Musically it’s a driving adventure fuelled by emotionally building heavy powered guitar chords and Ms Mae duets with a stirring performance of ethereal ‘70’s folk harmonies.

Finally, a meditative Vangelis worthy instrumental soars us above the clouds, implying that he has finally found his God in the skies.
A peaceful, soothing Closure.

I am enriched for re-visiting the world of Jack Kerouac, even if musicals are not your bag, I say take the trip anyway and experience this incredible story through Kerouac Lives! For my part, I’ll have an extra beat in my step as I walk the New York streets with this soundtrack and a copy of On The Road to keep me company.

Review Anita Joyce
Released 13th May 2022



SORRY; but there isn’t a sample on any format ….. just trust us.

Ryan Law & The Shelter RYAN LAW & THE SHELTER

Ryan Law & The Shelter
Ryan Law & The Shelter
Last Night From Glasgow

Authentic Americana and Iconic Rust Belt Imagery

My initial reaction to hearing this; the band’s second release, was that Ryan Law & The Shelter could be the best ‘Bar Band’ I’ve heard in years …. if such a thing still exists!
With band members split between the spires of Oxford, England, across the USA and even Qatar.! Recording was done via the internet yet somehow the outcome sounds and feels like it could have been a ‘one take’ in the studio ‘as live’ such is the virtual electricity and excitement in every song; not least the opener Suit For a Man; which finds Law just about singing above the punchy and tight backing.
Big Riffs and a shout-along chorus?
What’s not to like?
Without ever sounding ‘forced’ Law’s singing style is sort of ‘middle American’ which adds an authenticity to everything; and the iconic imagery he/they create on Raider’s Town, Better Days and the steamy and muggy More Than Then are pure Blue Collar/Rust Belt stories that bely the country of their birth.
The guitar playing throughout flits between grungy and Tom Petty Twang with ease; and at times you get both in the same four minutes ….. I’m thinking Cool Cool Cool, which in another life would have been a huge hit on College Radio …. which I guess could be Community Radio these days?
I Don’t Know Man starts acapella, then some handclaps cause a false sense of security before Laws’ voice goes up an octave or so and the band come in like low level twister in August!
For a personal Favourite Song I’m genuinely torn between the sweet Honky Tonk of Our Credit; not least because of the keyboards/pedal steel accompaniment; but the in depth song itself made me concentrate more than usual …. and it was well worth the effort, I can tell you.
The other; Better Days to some degree would be what we expect from an imaginative and articulate Americana/Alt. Country band in the 2020’s …. but these guys add a sharper edge to both their words and their playing than I’d ever dreamed I’d hear before I pressed ‘play’ the first time last week; so this is probably edging ahead as Favourite Track.
In many ways Ryan Law & The Shelter are the type of band; regardless of genre that we dream of unearthing here at RMHQ and if you are wandering around a Festival some time soon and see their name outside a tent; or better still if they are playing a bar a club somewhere near you call in …… they are well worth that gamble.

Released May 20th 2022



Rod Picott
Paper Hearts and Broken Arrows
Welding Rod Records

A Stunning Album of Devastating Honesty and Emotional Perception.

Those who follow Rod regularly on Facebook will know as well as anyone that he’s a great writer – in lyrical and literate forms – and has a world-wise eye for the minutiae of everyday life in its hard physical and emotional ways.
In this latest release, the observational lyricism is married to some of the most sensitive production and instrumentation that Mr Picott has been presented in – and it’s a joy.

“Lover” – most definitely not the Taylor Swift track, opens things up
A few more miles in the motor I guess”
… I’m so tired of flying alone”
is a hymn for those of us middle-aged types fighting against the receding of emotional opportunity and the gaping maw of loneliness.
Lover come find me” is the call – tears – and it’s only track one.
Gently strummed guitar and faraway pedal steel push the heartbreak in the vocal to the fore of this raw confessional.

“Revenuer” (for us non-American folks that’s a kind of aggressive tax inspector/trading standards hybrid). “Revenuer’s coming but he won’t catch me
is not just an ages-old tale of being chased by the fuzz and that blurry line between right and wrong, but also a metaphorical departure in haste from the grim reaper.
Grumbling distorted guitar, pounding percussion and clanging barroom keys reinforce the sense of fear and determination at the song’s core. “
Mona Lisa” which follows is a Prine-esque finger-picked tale of waiting for the one – whoever that might be – and it finds Picott in fine melodic voice too with its central message of
You’re not the Mona Lisa / I’m not your James Dean
– a spiritual relation to the opener, this song hits home on a personal level with this listener.

“Dirty T-shirt” is a distant cousin in sentiment of Jonathan Richman’s “Everyday Clothes;” in that it celebrates the beauty in the imperfect and average around us – the tremulous, cracked fade-out on Rod’s vocal on the last line is the kind of sympathetic production that does these songs proud too – big kudos to Neilson Hubbard on that account.

“Frankie Lee” is a beautifully observed underdog character story and a co-write with Jennifer Tortorici that deserves – and will demand – pin-drop silence.
“Sonny Liston” uses the (insert adjective depending on your view of the man) icon as a motif and emblem for the shame of slavery – and by extension, America’s general mistreatment of all its “poor (and) huddled masses”.
Musically it’s got very much another John Prinesque feel and dynamic (Someone really ought to introduce Prine’s former guitarist, Jason Wilber to Rod. You heard it here first.)
“Through The Dark” follows – a Slaid Cleaves co-write and one which explores the notion and imperative – “Take my hand – I’ve got this – don’t let go…” –
but whether that is a defiant gesture or a desperate plea – well, you take your pick….

“Valentines Day” has a self-effacing back story about its recording, which I won’t spoil as it’ll surely come up on stage in the song’s introduction – but get the hankies ready; a broken vocal, a gentle melody
Here I stand/no-one’s hand in my hand / on Valentine’s day” and the details which remind me of the bit in “Manon De Sources” where Ugolin sews Manon’s ribbon to is chest – the heartbreak of impossible intimacy.
If Rod plays this on his upcoming visit I kid you not, I’ll be in the audience with my mask pulled up and wearing shades….and I’ll be keeping those emotional crutches in place for “Washington County” too with its oh-so current observations, fashioned in partnership with Mark Erelli of the fact that
once a month we reach the foodbank”.
There’s so much righteous anger in this song – for the right musical, yet wrong political reasons, it deserves to be an anthem sung far and wide.

That righteous anger takes a different form in “Lost in The South” where Rod recounts the experience of a New England craftsman who when he moves South is, quite frankly – treated like shit – and so develops a double-shoulder sized chip before the years of being culturally streetwise harden the narrator against the blows towards a “Yankee lost in the South”.

As I remarked at the start of this, Rod writes a lot about his father in his Facebook posts – and his relationship with him; those posts offer a detached and objective observational – yet highly emotional – account of the complexity of someone – in this song “Mark of Your Father”, that idea is take into wider contexts and explores the difficulty of father-son roles, through a sequence of set-pieces. It’s in some ways a development and exploration of Larkin’s famous lines from “This must be the verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you

The album closes with another Slaid Cleaves co-write – musically it allies Kris Drever style picking to the difficulty of finding a positive way through the world;

You ask again and again
in the dark of the night
As you live and you die and you try to
make your own light

In creating an album with so much honesty and emotional perception on a personal level, Rod Picott has tapped into the seam of the universal.
Musically, it’s been perfectly crafted – stand up and take a bow Neilson Hubbard – around the timbre of Rod’s vocals and it’s drawn some wonderful vocal performances that ally the medium and the message.
I love it when artistically, everything falls into place for an artist – and that’s true of Rod Picott’s “Paper Hearts and Broken Arrows”.

Review by Nick Barber

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Full Release
US & Europe June 10th 2022

Jenny Spear GALAXIES

Jenny Spear
Laughing Outlaw

A Shimmering Darkness a Bit Like Romantic Poetry Set to Music

Australia doesn’t normally rate very high in the worlds of Americana and Alt. Country; but over the years I’ve discovered some really rare treats; and Jenny Spear appears to be another name that I can add to that list.
There’s a shimmering darkness to opening song Always The River that caught my immediate attention a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure if it was the brittle instrumentation or Jenny’s gorgeous voice; which sounds as if tragedy is never more than a stanza away.
As we all know, not every song has to be literal from start to finish; and that’s the beauty of this short EP; most songs sound a bit like romantic poetry set to music.
Track #2 Perfect Shade of Red starts with some incredibly clever acoustic guitar playing, that may even border on being Classical; especially so when Jenny’s winsome voice glides in like a Summer breeze; gently caressing the listener’s psyche in a way I would normally associate with someone like Fleet Foxes or Cowboy Junkies at their very best.
Raven’s Cry, is a tad more upbeat as the singer taps into her inner strength and wisdom on a harrowing tale of tragic love that is never destined to have a happy ending.
I guess that there’s a set of circumstances when these songs will be used as ‘background music’ … but I can’t think when; as they demand to be listened to; probably best on headphones too.
The mood certainly picks up on Stay In The Rain; but that’s only relative; as the velvety smoothness of the vocals and bass get to juxtapose with some delightful slide guitar as Ms Spear gets to tap a toe while deciding where this relationship is actually heading.
The title track; Galaxies has a beautifully long intro that leads into some very smoky and vulnerable vocals that could be mistaken for a re-mixed Dusty Springfield song circa A Very Fine Love in 1995.
As you’d sometimes hope; the best is kept for last; with another song that tips its hat in the direction of Dusty …… Alpha Romeo; which subtly tells a story about an ‘Alpha Male’ set to some clever instrumentation that falls on the right side of being kitsch but is saved by some cool playing on a Gretsch guitar if I’m not mistaken; and therefore is by far; my Favourite Song here.
Looking at her website it appears that Jenny Spear has been quite prolific over the years ….. so maybe I (and you?) will only have to scratch the surface to discover some more gems.

Released April 26th Australia
Released May 20th The R.O.W