RMHQ Radio Show on Nova Radio NE Ep:7

RMHQ Radio Show Ep:7
Nova Radio NE
26th June 2022

Just when I thought I’d figured out the Starship Enterprise control deck; that masquerades as the Nova Radio knobs, sliders and whizz bangs …. I missed another cue last night; mercifully not the first link of the evening.
Purely by accident it wasn’t/isn’t the cheeriest of programmes; but that was probably my psyche working overtime when I was selecting the songs to play.
Plus; for once …. not a lot of Blues … which I will put right next week.
Anyways; thanks for listening especially as I introduced a couple of fabulous newish singer songwriters and bands to the RMHQ playlists …. and if by chance you know a North East based singer-songwriter that may fit in …. tell them to drop me a line on the Twitter @rockingmagie

Bob DylanBlowin’ in the wind
PreludeThe First Time I Heard Dylan
Paul WesterbergIt takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry
Richmond FontaineFrom a Buick 6
Neko CaseHonky Tonk Hiccups
Durham County PoetsIn the Groove
Dave AlvinSouth West Chief
Amy Speace & Orphan BrigadeThere Used to Be Horses Here
Our Man in The FieldEasy Going Smile
The DelinesRoll Back My Life
Allison MoorerEasy in the Summertime
John MartynMay You Never
Grainne DuffyShine it on Me
Howe Gelb & The Band of GypsiesCowboy Boots on Cobbled Stones
Hannah WhitePay Me a Compliment
ShipcoteMother Dear
Brennan Leigh & Noel McKayBe My Ball And Chain
Margo CilkerFlood Plain
David Ford and Annie DressnerJust Like You
Anthony TonerEast of Louise
Matt McGinnAnnie (Many moons ago)
Chastity BrownWonderment
Steve PledgerMatches In The Wind
Jay and the CooksFrontline Worker Blues
Anna AshPopularity
George JonesTake The Devil Out of Me
Bobbie GentryOde to Billie Joe
Little WalterBoom Boom (Out go the lights)


Various Artists
Americana Railroad

‘Good Old Fashioned’ Train Songs With a Contemporary Makeover

Only a couple of weeks ago I had a deep and meaningful conversation with a couple of friends regarding the lack of ‘good old fashioned’ Cowboy and Train songs in modern Country and Americana.
We could all name a couple from a few years ago …. but nothing in recent years; well … it appears that Carla Olson and husband Saul Davis had been having similar thoughts about the latter subject; trains and corralled a number of their friends to record this rather marvelous compilation.
In advance I have to tell you that my copy bares very little information about the songs apart from the artist singing them; so I can look like a smart-arse dropping in the name of the album that they were originally released on …. so let’s treat the majority as new songs; if only to make me look like I know what I’m doing.
The first song here is Carla herself alongside Stephen McCarthy on lead vocals. delighting us with a melodious and contemporary slice of Twang infused Alt. Country with Here Comes That Train Again; which may or may not be a metaphor for a love affair ‘on the rails.’
There are a handful of songs and singers I recognise; namely Rocky Burnette with his 90mph Honky-Tonky arrangement of Mystery Train; Dustbowl Revival who retain the original harmonies but still turn Marrakesh Express into something of a ‘Border Country’ dance tune and John Fogerty sounds like he was born to sing the All American Classic; City of New Orleans; the other is Peter Case giving us his best rendition of a modern Woody Guthrie passionately poring over This Train.
Mystery Train oddly enough makes a second appearance further along the line; only this time James Intveld makes it into a sadder than sad heartbreaker….. such is the power of the songwriting.
With this in mind there are surprises around every corner; Paul Burch and Fats Kaplan had me grinning like a ninny the first time I heard the slide guitar in Waiting For a Train and the two Rob Waller’s two inclusions the punchy as Hell; The Conductor Wore Black and Midnight Rail from the other end of the musical spectrum are nearly worth the entrance money on their own!
On the other hand there are acts here I’ve never heard of singing songs that are staples of my own collection; and it’s fair to say Gary Myrick’s pedal to the metal Americana-Grunge arrangement of Train Kept a ‘Rollin is as edgy as Americana gets these days; and sticks out like a sore thumb among songs like Alice Howe’s 500 miles and Deborah Poppink’s beautiful rendition of People Get Ready (which is only tenuously linked to the railroad theme ….. but hey; it’s a winner).
I’d not heard of either Kai Clark or John York before hearing them here, singing Train Leaves Here in The Morning and Runaway Train respectively; but I’ve now had to research both with a view to getting on their mailing lists for future releases; which is why I love VA albums like this …. there’s always someone new to discover.
Plus there are some quite famous names tucked away in the shadows too; Dom Flemon’s Steel Pony Blues will certainly be a song radio stations pick up on; and I don’t think I’ve heard Dave Alvin sing South West Chief before; but it’s the type of song me and my friends were pining for in that conversation.
This now brings me to the difficult choice of Favourite Song; and I’ve gone for a tie between two ….. one by Carla Olson & Brian Ray; the sizzling Whisky Train which rocks like a Mail Train going around a tight corner and the other is from another new act to me; AJ of The Seratones which is majestically different from everything here; almost nursery rhymeish ….. but stunning nonetheless in a delightfully Lo-Fi fashion.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this album; even though some of the songs are only tenuously linked to actual railways and trains; but hey ….. we all have vivid imaginations and Carla Olson has done a fabulous job pulling everything together in this fashion.

Released 17th June 2022


Michael McDermott St PAUL’S BOULEVARD

Michael McDermott
St Paul’s Boulevard
Pauper Sky Records

A Brave and Varied Musical Journey Which Holds its Head Up Optimistically and Boldly

I first got wind of Michael McDermott from friends who’d seen his incendiary performances at a pre-COVID Kilkenny Roots Festival – unfortunately a pandemic got in the way of the ability to consolidate that impact, but now MM is back with “St. Paul’s Boulevard” an album thematically linked by place and character, recorded with a stellar cast including Will Kimbrough, David Grissom and Grant Tye – who for many years was a staple of Robbie Fulks’ band.

The album opens with an aural sound-city scape “Aram Cara” before leaping into the “Dancing in the Dark” paced and styled “Where the Light Gets In”.
The tempo remains pacy on “Our Little Secret” which has the soulful feel of Danny and the Champs, as does the following track “Sick of This Town” where McDermott bemoans the rotting banality of small-town America.

“The Arsonist” takes things down a notch to ballad tempo, a setting where McDermott is at his most affecting – I’ve avoided mentioning Bruce Springsteen up until this point, (he’s often a reference point in reviews of Michael McDermott) but this track conjures up the feel of epic Bruce, with its exploration of personal doubt and mix of dark and light, set against a dynamic mix of guitars and keys – heck, vocally this also verges near to Prince territory in places too.

“New Year’s Day” – one of many songs with this title, sits astride U2 and Slaid Cleaves in its sound over a tale of personal emotional symbolic rebirth. “Meet Me Halfway” takes the exploration of relationships further and tackles issues of communication over a Bon Jovi-type vocal and arrangement (but with far more incisive lyricism than 80’s hair-rock).

“The Outer Drive”, driven (sic) by drums and banjo namechecks “Wonderwall”, but that aside, it’s a song of cars, a girl and escape “with just a hint of holy”.
Classic themes are also seen on “Marlowe”, but in a literary and cultural/historical sense, where everyone from Moses to Michelangelo gets in on the act as touchstones to compare to the effect of a loved one.

Fast strummed guitar kicks in “All That We Have Lost” and it’s soon joined by kick drum and percussion for a stomping and rollocking roll-call of
all that we have lost
from Lincoln to Kennedy and several in between.
This observation on death is shadowed by “Dead By Dawn” with its carpe diem call to embrace a loving moment, to preserve the transient and fleeting bits of goodness that we have.

Title track “St Paul’s Boulevard” is a reflective ode to finding meaning amongst the chaos of life on the eponymous/figurative boulevard, whereas “Pack The Car” again seeks refuge in escape and its myriad possibilities before “Peace, Love and Brilliant Colours” takes an early Steve Earle swerve musically with a rallying cry for community and strength.
“Paris” closes the album out with a sentimental, romantic wish for escape that brings in strings and piano to underscore those rose-tinted, hopefully desires.

On “St Paul’s Boulevard” Michael McDermott has certainly viewed the world in widescreen and technicolour too, on a brave and varied journey which holds its head up optimistically and boldly.
Last time McDermott toured in the UK he was a solo act – here’s hoping that he can bring the band next time to do justice to these broad soundscapes.

Review by Nick Barber
Released 1st July 2022



Billy Hector
Rock Night in Jersey
Ghetto Surf Music

Bodacious Blues Rock That Errs on The Side of R.O.C.K …. But is Only a 5 or 6 on The Richter Scale!

I first uncovered Billy Hector two albums ago with his OLD SCHOOL THANG release in 2015; and if pulling them out of the cupboard for accompaniment on long car drives makes me a fan; then …. I’m a fan!
Two things I need to tell you before I go any further; a) Billy used to be Hubert Sumlin’s tour guitarist and b) While this is Blues Rock music that errs on the side of R.O.C.K …. it’s only a 5 or 6 on the Richter Scale; which is all I can cope with these days.
The magnificent I Know How To Party gets the show on the metaphorical road; with Billy and cohorts showing the kids how to ‘do it’ both in deed and music.
This is followed by the slow burning She Don’t Love Him Anymore, which leads into some glorious slide-work from the Maestro that will live in the memory long after the album has been replaced by his next release.
There’s a ‘slick cool’ to many of the songs here; and I’m pleased to tell you that the songs themselves take precedence; and the intricate and even revolutionary at times; fretwork and super-pro backing, take a secondary position; regardless of how good it is …. and it’s Damn Good BTW.
Too many ‘famous’ guitarists these days concentrate on guitar fireworks; forgetting that the words in their songs are just as; if not more important than their technical showing off …. which certainly isn’t the case with Billy’s writing on and in Doctor, Doctor and the funkalicious Lazy Man which has a groove so good, Mrs Magpie looked on in disbelief as I boogied around the kitchen to it one night!
There also two covers here too; and while I didn’t recognise either, the choices really are exemplary; Hector does to Leadbelly’s Poor Howard what the Cream did to Crossroads 50 years ago; and the other is actually one of my favourite songs here; France Chance which features some genuinely sizzling guitar work and industrial style powerhouse backing from Sim Cain and Wilbo Wright was actually written by Mississippi Joe Callicott in 1967 on a long forgotten album of his own, that sounds nothing at all like this. I have no idea how a musician can hear Folk Songs like these; and then turn the words and melody into pumping Rockers ….. it’s witchcraft methinks!
Speaking of Favourite Tracks here, I’ve eventually narrowed it down to three (not including France Chance); with the horn section turned up to 8; the slinky Tell Me What You Want has a big band feel to it, with hints of both BB and Freddie King in there too; then there’s the feisty Ms Martha where Billy not just growls his vocals but makes his Strat growl too!
Which only leaves the actual winner; Rockstar Betty, which I fell in love with the first time I played it. More laid back than most songs here; but the bodacious story and supercool refrain; made it an obvious choice, even though the others ran a very close race.
I hear quite a few albums ‘like this’ every year, but there’s ‘something special’ about Billy Hector’s way with words and geetar playing that appeals to me over many more ‘famous names’ on the circuit these days ….. and I can only hope against hope that he visits NE UK sometime soon …. as the audience is ready and waiting.

Released April 2022


Tony Baltimore LET’S ALL GO INSANE

Tony Baltimore
Let’s All Go Insane
Conch Town Records

Genre-Fluid Americana; From Folk to Country Via New Orleans on a Saturday Night

Growing up in Maryland to working class parents gave Tony Baltimore a strong work ethic, which served him well when he began playing up to eight shows a week in Key West.
Three albums later and Baltimore has his most accessible collection of songs yet, while doing a good job of checking off all of the requisite Americana check boxes: gospel-tinged backing vocals, funky backbeat drums, snappy Tele-style guitar, and plenty of Hammond B3, but that doesn’t mean he’s a one-trick pony. Co-produced by Ian Shaw, Let’s All Go Insane, is a mix of traditional New Orleans style, alt-country, indie rock, and good old Country-Folk music, making Baltimore a definite genre-fluid artist.
The kick off title song, along with “Seaside Blues,” are pure New Orleans flavored fun, along with “Loot the Joint” which amps up the exuberance considerably.
When Baltimore aims for a party atmosphere he definitely succeeds—and those punchy horns don’t hurt, either!
“Fly Alone” is not your typical love song, rather a one-sided love of patience, hope, and waiting, the violin throughout adding to the quiet desolation.
“Window Pane” gives off Gordon Lightfoot vibes, a story of time passing by, while “Postcard” is a 60’s pastiche of letting go no matter the consequences, making your own way with love at your side.
“Storm the Beach” is the closest Baltimore gets here to protest, yet it’s a doozy, taking both politicians and the media for sowing discord for their own gain.
“That Girl’s Got Eyes” is the album’s pop song and my personal pick for favorite on the album. Contemporary rock guitars and pounding drums, mixed with an extra-catchy chorus, and a vibrant and surprising violin solo.
“What Kind of World” ends the album on a hopeful note, full of triumph and the knowledge that one can always find a way to get by.
Recorded both before, during, and after the pandemic, Let’s All Go Insane is Baltimore’s paen to love and individuality.

Review courtesy the Legendary Roy Peak

Released 17th June 2022


Chastity Brown SING TO THE WALLS

Chastity Brown
Sing To the Walls
Red House Records

Heartfelt and Gutsily Crafted Soul That’s Guaranteed to Make Your World Shine That Bit Brighter.

Very occasionally, when listening to an artist for the first time, just one particular song has the capability to deliver an almighty gut punch, which in that very moment, is the gateway to connecting with the album and indeed their whole world………. today it has happened courtesy of Minneapolis born Chastity Brown.

Digging deep in the vaults of RMHQ, I am aware there is a lot of ground to cover with regards to Ms Brown and her own contemporary twist on a tapestry woven with threads of Americana Soul, Blues, Gospel and a smattering of Funk: her previous release, Silhouette Of Sirens, was way back in 2017 making Sing to The Walls her first musical offering since Pandemic times.
I was half expecting the album to be ladened with Lockdown frustrations and anxieties, but delighted to discover it simply beams out a joyful positivity, a loving groove which most definitely keeps the glass half full for the duration.

The album swoops in with the first two singles, Wonderment and Backseat, the former kicking off with Chastity’s surging, distinctive rich vocals ringing out, powerfully honest.
Musically softly lapping in at the start, with rhythmic plucking adding a spiritual Indian echo. The current gradually gathers pace to a rising driving beat of guitars, explosive drums leading to a swirl of Hammond keys.
Wow by the end of the track I already feel like I’ve been on one hell of a journey, one where we have perhaps witnessed the artist allowing herself to be gradually released from shackles to embrace new experiences: “letting go.”

Neatly rooted in that same spot, Backseat’s exquisite chant of “I never felt so free” introduces us to a contemporary funk groove pulsing with a strong hooky drum beat, the engine of the track which just screams out to be played on the open road.
Oh, so it makes sense, when I skim the press pack, to discover that Ms Brown nurtured her cool rhythmic vibes by teaming up with two drummers, Brady Black in Stockholm and Greg Schutte at her home studio to work on the album.

Perhaps, because I have just returned from Boston (!), another standout track for me is one bearing same name, making me just want to turn around and head straight back out!
Immediately whisking us to Chastity’s blissful happy zone, it lyrically hangs basking in the first flush of a new romance.
With smooth sensual vocals, rolling casual drums and sweet melodic layers, it leads us to a charmingly exhilarating guitar solo, making it one of the happiest peaks on the album for me.
It does not sit all alone though, there are 10 stunning songs to discover here, and transforming Lockdown into writing time resulted in Chastity Brown having a huge pile of new material at her fingertips.

Golden is the heavyweight track of the album and demands our undivided attention.
It’s the only song steeped in, but not dominated by rage and angst: “Why have I got to be angry?”, this is Chastity boldly laying down her reaction to the racial tensions and riots she has witnessed, some being virtually on her doorstep.
She hits us with the hefty, raw emotional force of her uplifting words, a calling to remain strong and steadfast in the face of adversity.
It’s a message we cannot help but take positive inspiration from, as her exceptional vocal delivery booms out:
Does this black woman’s voice have too much power
Would it go down sweetly if I sang softer?

This album is so seriously good that I’m hopping through the title track Sing to the Walls, a piano driven beautifully crafted tribute to breaking through barriers and the rousing Like A Sun which really does what it says on the tin (!) to finally arrive at that aforementioned killer track which started this whole journey off for me……

Curiosity is an instant smash to my ears, another piano led empowering ballad: heartfelt words to a lost love but not wallowing in self-pity, instead flooded with mature emotions that are full of longing yet uplifting and releasing.
Chastity Brown flips heartbreak spelling out that we have to sometimes endure emotional pain to set us on a path to a happier place.

It’s Curiosity setting into motion,
I was a stranger to myself, when I knew ya
I should say thank you, for loving and leaving me

These sentiments sum up the very essence of an album which causes spirits to be raised a little bit higher with every play. In her own words:
What matters to me is my survival – and for my survival, it has been necessary to try and embrace some joy”.
I cannot imagine there has ever been a better moment than this to catch Chastity’s wave of positivity with Sing To The Walls, as we all try and put our best foot forward again.

Review by Anita Joyce
Released 23rd June 2022

https://store.compassrecords.com/products/sing-to-the-walls @ChastityBrown @Aladjoyce


Jason McNiff
Tonight We Ride
Tombola Records

A Clever Left of Centre Selection of Re-Imagined Songs That Influenced This Talented Singer-Songwriter.

As most of you will know by now; I trust my own judgement about music over everyone else’s; hence the website’s Mantra …. that ‘all albums are listened to from start to finish several times before putting pen to paper’ …. but last week I stumbled on a review of this album by someone I admire.
To say I was both shocked and disappointed at their words would be an understatement; but then I got to thinking; had they actually ‘listened’ to the songs at all …. or; God Forbid …. just looked at the track titles (it is a covers album after all) and wrote the script from that?
Sadly it wouldn’t be the first time that happened … trust me!
I on the other hand have played this 5 times before today; in a variety of circumstances and ….. Jason McNiff has exemplary taste in music and I can now see where his ‘style’ has evolved from.
Bert Jansch’s Running From Home is a spectacularly odd choice to start the album; as sadly Jansch and his catalogue have nearly disappeared from view in 2022; but as a young man, Jason sat at the feet of Jansch in the mid 1990’s learning from the Master; and here pays homage by taking a gruff old Folk song; dusting it down; slightly re-arranging it to suit his own voice and (if I’m not mistaken) has increased the tempo a touch; which really showcases his own stunning technique on the acoustic guitar.
This then virtually bleeds into a left of centre Townes Van Zandt song; My Proud Mountains.
Not an obvious choice; but a clever one as Jason again re-arranges it until it sounds very little like the original; but now a contemporary Americana tale for a completely new audience.
That’s actually why I really like this album; it’s the way this young Yorkshire man has taken some wonderful songs from across a variety of singer-songwriter idioms and made them more suited to the 21st Century.
I’ve always raised my eyebrows when either songwriters or music fans say proudly like they ‘only like one particular type of music’ …. I can’t think of anything sadder!
McNiff has selected a wide range of songwriters to cover here; and really does justice to Bob Dylan’s One Too Many Mornings and another song of his that I wasn’t aware of; Precious Angel as he also does with Dear Leonard’s gentle Moving On; which I too have always been fond of.
As with the Townes song; McNiff never takes the obvious route ….. there’s a Beatles song here; Tomorrow Never Knows, which now becomes a Modern Folk song and a million miles away from the original; as is his rendition of the Dire Straits multi-platinum hit single; Tunnel of Love which tooK me two plays for the penny to drop as to what it was! It was only while playing this version that I remembered what a great yet underappreciated songwriter and guitarist Mark Knopfler was and is.
Perhaps my friend who wrote the other review thought Jason was being vain including two of his own creations here; but why the Hell not? Especially as Shadow Ships of Dartford sits in especially well; with its’ hints of Van Zandt and Jansch in every line.
I Remember You, features some stunning guitar playing; perhaps the best here; and the story could easily be another Dylan B-Side from the 70’s.
This now brings me to the search for a single Favourite Track ….. yegads, that’s not been easy. I was instantly drawn to the relaxed; yet still passionate rendition of Tom Russell’s ‘signature tune’ Tonight We Ride; it’s been a Top 10 song of mine for many years, and young Jason really does it justice in the way he sings the chorus while adding his own signature Country-Folk guitar picking to proceedings.
Then of course there’s another forgotten Modern Classic, The Waterboy’s Fisherman’s Blues which now sounds as if it was written and recorded somewhere South of the Mississippi by a third generation immigrant.
But there is one other; and possibly because it’s a case of ‘right place/right time’ Stephen Foster’s Hard Times, which we would normally associate with Woody Guthrie; and here Jason takes that pathos, doubles it and via his lovely breathy voice; now lets it loose on an unsuspecting but hopefully grateful nation.
Hence this be my Favourite Song on a really special album.

Released 24th June 2022



RMHQ Radio Show Ep:6 June 19th 2022 On Nova Radio

RMHQ Radio Show
Episode 6
Nova Radio

We’re getting there, 6 episodes and the mistakes are getting fewer and further between. Sadly I was blighted with croaky voice and nagging cough courtesy Hayfever …. but that just focussed my mind for playing ‘more music and less talking’.
As you will see and hear there is a heady mix of old and new songs across the myriad of genres that make up what we know as Roots Music and Americana …. hopefully ‘something for everyone’ …. thanks for listening.

June 19thNeil YoungUnknown Legend
EP 6CS&NWooden Ships
Rolling StonesRoute 66
Eve SellisHeart Shaped Tattoo
Gipsy Dave SmithBlue World
Heather Lynn HortonFlesh & Blood
Jason Isbell & The 400 UnitSave It For Sunday
Kinky FriedmanBorn Under a Wanderin’ Star
Laura Benitez & The HeartacheA Love Like Yours
Dr JohnSleeping Dogs Best Left Alone
Bap KennedyMoonlight Kiss
Johnny DickinsonOcean Blues
Will HogeJohn Prine’s Cadillac
John PrineAngel From Montgomery
Blackie & The Rodeo KingsKing of This Town
Eliza NealsBucket of Tears
Jack BurnessShepherd’s Yard
Ian SegalPsycho
My Darling ClementineI Lost You (But found Country Music)
Michael UbaldiniBeautiful and Bleary Eyed
Lucinda WilliamsPineola
John Paul WhiteHeart Like a Kite
Bobbo ByrnesLast Hurrah
Bobbie CrynerYou’d Think He’d Know Me Better
Five Points GangDrifting Away
Wily Bo WalkerMotel Blues
Slaid CleavesThe Dad Song

Black Deer Festival 2022

Black Deer Festival 2022
Eridge Park,
Royal Tunbridge Wells

A successful return for the UK’s biggest Americana focused festival

Initial disclaimer – I’ve never been a big fan of outdoor festivals ever since the time my tent flooded at Reading Festival in the late 80s, but this time I’d got a lovely AirBnB to retire to of an evening, so I thought I’d give Black Deer a go – its lineup of largely Roots and Americana acts, with a sprinkle of more populist acts like James and Imelda May promised a fine weekend’s entertainment.

Friday, the first day, somewhat overdid things on the weather front – temperatures in the mid-thirties Centigrade meant that acts in shadier environments became more appealing – on that score, I caught the songwriters’ circle in the Ridge tent at the start of the day, where Irish Mythen set a personal benchmark with an effervescent and lively performance: Emily Barker and Caroline Spence contributed acute observational songwriting on ecology and relationships before Imelda May, delayed in traffic and rounded things off with a poem about the female orgasm!

Caroline Spence made a solo appearance with CJ Hillman, immediately afterwards and her summery voice and acoustic arrangements won over many. The Felice Brothers, over on the main stage produced a fiery, rebel rousing set before the polish of Imelda May – after that I decamped to the Ridge tent for reasons of self-preservation and musical choice to see well-received sets from Israel Nash and Shovels & Rope, whose boisterous performances fired up the crowds. Highlight of the day for me though was the “Ozark Holler Hootenanny” over in the smaller Haley’s Bar – a collection of artists based around the trio of Dylan Earl, Jude Brothers and Will Carlisle with a guest appearance from Lady Nade, who delivered a hugely entertaining collection of songs from Arkansas.
A fine end to day one.

Day two and while less sunny, was incredibly humid.
Early performances by Lady Nade in Haley’s bar and slide-blues maestro Jack Broadbent did nothing to lower the temperatures and provided fine evidence of the breadth of UK roots talent. The much anticipated (not least by me) appearance of Courtney Marie Andrews on the main stage was a brave set, with four as of yet officially unreleased songs taking their place amongst CMA’s strong back catalogue. Wilco’s only UK appearance on their current tour followed immediately after and a festival pleasing set including personal faves like “Impossible Germany” went down well – and Courtney Marie Andrews and band were invited back on to join on the band’s performance of “California Stars”.
Things started to take a turn towards the apocalyptic near the end of an energetic set from the Waterboys when the decision was taken by the organisers to evacuate the arena due to rapidly approaching electrical storms – and a correct decision it was too, as the festival site was battered by one of the worst storms I’d seen outside of travels in the US and mainland Europe. It took over an hour to get off the car park but at least in our case there was dry accommodation at the end of our escape.

Incredibly, Sunday saw the site looking as though nothing had happened – a combination of fortunate geology and hard work meant that, other than a last minute pull-out by The War & Treaty, things were unaffected.
Irish Mythen continued her plan for world domination to a supportive crowd on the main stage, whereas Hiss Golden Messenger drew a rapidly growing audience in the Ridge tent – as did John Smith, in trio format with the core of Lauren Housley’s band. At the end of the day, the Americana punter was faced with a stark choice – the Dead South on the main stage or the Drive-By Truckers in the Ridge Tent – this reviewer stuck with the guitar assault of the DBTs and enjoyed it greatly, right up to the emotional denouement by Patterson Hood, dedicating the final song of their set to his terminally ill father-in-law who he would be rushing home to see post gig (and tour).

All in all, this was an entertaining and enjoyable weekend. Audience numbers were good enough to pack the different stages, but not too full to make movement around the site difficult and there was a pleasingly varied mix of people in attendance.
Black Deer isn’t perfect by any means – there were logistical issues for audience, performers and press that could be tightened up – but such is the friendliness of the whole affair, that you’ll struggle to find anything else that succeeds in bringing Roots and Americana to a mass audience in such a successful way. Other festivals with a similar musical focus are often preaching to the musically converted – Black Deer is bringing new and younger ears to the herd.

Review by Nick Barber

#Photo – Mike Scott of the Waterboys.
More photos from Nick here: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10158582215302115&set=pcb.10158582222807115

Strongman Blues Remedy VOLUME 1

Strongman Blues Remedy
Volume: I
Stony Plain Records

Damn Fine Swampy Soul Laced R&B Straight Outta Canada.

Just as I always looked forward to releases from the late lamented Bloodshot Records label; Canada’s Stony Plain has gleefully picked up the mantle, with everything I’ve received from them in the last couple of years being at the very least ‘interesting’ but regularly fascinating and Tip Top from start to finish.
Just when I think that I must have reviewed something or other from absolutely every Canadian Roots musician/band; Stony Plain keep turning up new acts for me to salivate over – such is the case with the quaintly monikered Strongman Blues Band; which is actually the name of founder and frontman, Steve Strongman!
With 7 previous albums under his own name; Strongman decided a slight change of direction was merited, so gathered a bunch of his (Award winning) friends together to record this steamy mix of Rhythm & Blues with a hard lump of solid gold Soul at its heart.
If you didn’t know better, you’d presume the opening track, Hard Luck was recorded in Memphis on a hot July night; as the sweat literally drips out of your speakers as Strongman takes an age old Blues adage; and puts a contemporary 21st Century spin on it ….. with some Jimmie Vaughan style guitar and rinky dinky piano accompanying a crystal clear vocal performance.
That opening track sets the seal on what is to follow; with some sultry and swinging slower numbers like Swansong (featuring vocals from Steve Marriner), the heartbreaker I Don’t Miss (Harrison Kennedy vocals) and; of course the stinging album closer, Love Coming Down, featuring Mr Strongman himself knocking the listener sideways.
As you see so far; the band features a variety of singers; and for once that makes for some fascinating changes in tone and mood; especially Dawn Tyler Watsons’ raspy and full of longing Fine Young Man, which takes us into Sheba Potts Wright territory; and Harrison Kennedys’ second song the bodacious I Like to Ride; which sashays around the room like a nightclub charmer stalking his prey …… if you get my meaning 😉
There’s a golden thread weaving through every track here; even though each and every one is as different as chalk and cheese; and that’s Steve Strongman’s guitar playing and his deeply thoughtful and personal songwriting.
For my Favourite Track it’s come down to a toss of a coin between the heartbreaker White Lightnin’; which is as far removed from the George Jones song of the same name as you can get; with this one reminding me of Roy Buchanan; it’s The Blues of course; but with S.O.U.L at its core and very essence; and the other is the old school Texas Saturday night slow and seedy True To Me; which sizzles and shimmy’s in a way I’ve not heard since Johnny Winter died.
I was going to ignore it; but there’s also a song here that I genuinely don’t like …. and in my defence the happy-go-lucky Jug Band/Honky Tonky rhythm sticks out like a sore thumb anyways; but as a vehemently anti-drugs advocate all my life; Gettin’ Stoned sounds like the sort of throwaway song you’d find on a Lovin Spoonful or Arlo Guthrie album 50 years ago …. and it wouldn’t have aged well either.
Apart from that; I’ll tell you how good this album is; it’s been in my car’s CD Player for well over a week now; much to the detriment of several albums that need listening to prior to their reviews; but HELL! This album and band are so damn good I can’t bring myself to take it out and give them a try!

Released June 17th 2022