Jay & The Cooks
Dried Up Dreams
Juste Une Trace

Rich and Deep Americana; from France via Louisiana, Chicago, Austin and Even New York City.

Well, this is an odd one singer, songwriter and guitarist Jay Ryan hails from Chicago and that’s where and when he discovered the delights of ‘music’ which in turn led him to Austin and NYC where he rode the coattails of first the Blues, then Punk and eventually tired of his humdrum life; sold a bass guitar and took a one way trip to France where he became a cook before eventually forming a band as a sideline then co-founding the record shop and label Cinq Planetes.
Four albums later we arrive at DRIED UP DREAMS; not exactly a (dreaded) ‘Concept Album’ but songs that he’s put together on the theme of being an ‘immigrant’ which he himself is/was.
Not knowing what to expect; opening track, the story of an African American construction worker that Ryan knew in the 70’s; Alton McCarver hit me like a first round sucker punch to the cut ….. sounding like a seedy mix of Tom Waits, David Olney or our very own Wily Bo Walker fronting Wilco featuring Stephane Grappelli on violin!
Man it’s as heady as it is deep …. and if you get past it (and I urge you too!) you are in for a veritable treat.
In many ways and this shouldn’t come as a surprise; but it did …. Jay Ryan somehow manages to combine all of his musical influences (and then some!) across these 10 songs; and the outcome is actually as fantastic as it is fascinating.
The Olney influence is front and centre on the ‘noir tale’ of guys sitting around in a bar; putting the world to rights; Chew The Cud; to a snarly punk/Blues grind Ryan confesses
Some like the Beatles
I like the Stones

and that’s pretty much all you need to know about the man …. he’s an outsider; and cool with it.
A lot of Americana is themed around being ‘a strange man in a strange town’ here Jay and The Cooks at the extra jeopardy of being in a strange country too; which makes finding love all the harder than it normally should; and his exquisite writing in the feisty Dried Up Heart and its polar opposite Empty Glass of Love sum up those torrid feelings better than many of his lauded peers could ever manage.
I really didn’t know what to expect with a song called Confederate Son; but fear not …. but this Southern Rocker coupled with more NY irony than you could ever imagine has more twists and turns than a Louisiana back road.
I Just Came Here To Tell You is an insightful break up song; sung to a Hill Country arrangement that will have you wiping the dust from your eyes as you tap your feet in 4/4 time.
To all intents and purposes there can only be one Favourite Song here; as it’s as contemporary and razor sharp as you’d hope to hear in 2022; but on any other album another Punk infused Blueser; the punchy Poor Everybody or the incisive and tongue in cheek look at modern life via Organic Lush would surely be my #1; but Front Line Worker Blues wins the title hands down … no contest.
Many others have tried to sing their praise; and most have missed the target; but Ryan hits the bullseye with not just his fabulously observational words; but the harsh and even angry sounding arrangement; which it should be.
I’m not going to spoil the surprises by repeating the vignettes contained hear; but as a ‘Front Line Worker’ myself; (a bus driver who worked all through the pandemic) I can only applaud Jack and the Cooks for this special song.
Because I received this album four months after its release I very nearly dismissed it without listening; but now I have I feel like a Musical Evangelist and now need to scream it’s raw beauty from the rooftops!

Released March 18th 2022


Durham County Poets OUT OF THE WOODS

Durham County Poets
Out of the Woods

Memphis Infused Swampy Soul and R&B All The Way From Quebec

As I was born and bred in the original County Durham, in NE England any reference to ‘God’s Country’ in my email folder is always going to grab my attention .
The only annoying thing here; is that I’d not previously heard of Canadians, the Durham County Poets before, and this is their fifth album.
Hey ho!
With all that in mind I had no idea what to expect when I pressed ‘play’ on the car stereo ….. perhaps I was even expecting Folk Music; but opening track Working On It is actually a horn-fuelled Rhythmaly infused Blues stomper that I instantly fell in love with.
The type of music that sounds just as good in a Concert Hall as it does on a Saturday night in the backroom of a cramped and seedy bar.
This is followed by the glorious Together In the Groove which would make a great signature theme tune for a Quebec based PI drama; and singer Kevin Harvey sounding like the illicit offspring of an affair between Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs, if I’m not mistaken.
All through the album the band are as tight as a drum; held together by an industrial strength rhythm section that really gets the chance to shine during Back At the Groove Shack and the slow and sultry Good Kind of Crazy, which also had my shaking my shoulders to the groove a couple of times (in the car!).
With the benefit of hindsight I certainly wasn’t expecting such a groovalicious set of songs as what the band dish up; regularly straddling the line between Little Feet and Boz Scaggs with consummate ease; not least on the salacious Love’s Got a Hold On Me (which also features some heartbreaking piano playing) and the Cajun tinged and Gospel-lite That’s What Makes Me Smile about the narrator’s daughter getting married, which closes the album in the most delightful of ways.
There is one cover song here; and it’s a Bob Dylan song I’ve never heard before; Not Dark Yet; and in the way Adele did with ‘her Dylan song’ this has been twisted and turned until the Swampy arrangement is absolutely perfect for Kevin and the band to bring the very best out of His Bobness’ poetic words and leave this listener quite breathless.
This is followed by What We Got Going On; which has a similarly dark claustrophobic tone; but slowly builds and builds until everything synch’s together as one in the last few haunting lines.
In some ways playing and liking OUT OF THE WOODS has been a case of ‘right place/right time’ as Summer has finally got its act together in the UK and the Memphis influenced R&B ‘sound’ Durham County Poets create has been a perfect soundtrack for several car journeys in the stifling heat; as well as afternoons in the conservatory reading a book based in LA; which sort of brings me to my two most favourite tracks; Mean Old Dog; which allows the horn section free and unbridled reign plus the truly majestic bittersweet Through the Glass, with its dazzling guitar interludes and heartbreaking vocals.
This album has been a joy from start to finish and is so good I’ve even delved into their back-catalogue and I’m already looking forward to future releases; plus it’s gone straight into the file marked ‘Best of 2022’..

Released June 24th 2022



Kat Riggins PROGENY

Kat Riggins
Gulf Coast Records

Contemporary Soul That Rocks Until The Blues Squeezes Out.

This is a bit of an oddity as the first time I played PROGENY I struggled to get my head around it; as it’s a completely new direction for Kat Riggins; then I closed my mind to what I ‘thought’ she should sound like; and as if by magic; the songs entered not just my Soul but my heart too.
The next step; as usual to finally read the Press Release ….. AHA!
This is Ms. Riggins’ second album on Gulf Coast Records, home of its founder Mike Zito who not only shows what a thoughtful producer he is; but has assembled a stellar cast of his friends to support Kat Riggins amazing voice and her incisive songs too.
What concerned my initially was the crunchy guitars that play a major part throughout; and start with opening track Walk On; but given time the combination works a treat; with Kat now treading a fine line between Nu-Soul and Blues Rock …. that works a lot better than you’d expect.
The fire and brimstone in that song is summed up in a couple of lines:
Places to go
People to see
I just can’t keep still
So let me walk on!
I’m gonna claim my spot
and take my seat,
I might throw my weight around;
Because the kitchen aint never too hot for me
Baby my time is now!”

Yeop; this is a powerful Blues Rocker that will have ladies of all persuasions shouting along and bellowing out “Ain’t that the truth sister!
There’s a sensitive claustrophobic feel to a couple of songs too; as Kat digs deeper than I’ve ever known before; and Mike Zito really adds a special ‘zing’ not just with his guitar; but in the control room too; I’m thinking of the punchy Warriors and Cross the Line; but the more I hear it, the dark ballad Mama could easily be included too.
Kat Riggins’ existing fan base are sure to love this album; but with Zito at the helm and the team at Gulf Coast Records at the helm; there’s plenty hear to crossover into the Blues and Blues Rock territories with Sinking Low and the sassy 40 25 40 being perfect for radio stations in those idioms.
Not everything here has sparks coming off the guitar strings; there are also a couple of stunningly beautiful ballads in here too, with the bittersweet Got To Be God being an absolute heartbreaker of the finest order.
Over the years I’ve know a few Rock acts try to ‘get down wif da kids’ by including a bit of Rap in a song or two; and invariably it doesn’t work; but in the electrifying My City, someone called Busta Free seamlessly slides in and out half way through; and it works a damn sight better than it should (for once!).
While the album itself surprised me; there are plenty of surprises within that surprise to show the diversity that Kat Riggins possesses ….. none more so than right in the middle when Kat delivers a stunning Gospel a cappella Walk With Me Lord only accompanied by twittering birdsong; and when the crunchy guitars of Promised Land; sequenced immediatly afterwards; I can easily imagine the light show and fireworks that would happen in concert.
Another big surprise is the bouncy story of Kat’s family in the jaunty and Honky-Tonky It’s In My Blood, which sounded out of place at one stage; but eventually grew on my so much I regularly find myself singing along to the chorus!
Now; for my Favourite Track I’m torn between two absolute belters; Woahman, which is a cry for womankind the world over and will surely become a cornerstone of any and all gigs in the near future.
As a songwriter I think Kat Riggins surpasses herself with the other of my Favourites; as Espresso is such a clever and thoughtful song, with Kat comparing ‘being in love’ with the “buzz you get from drinking espresso!”
As I say; this is a bit of a change in direction for this fantastic Soul Singer; but not dangerously so as both her voice and her words are well suited to the Rocky backdrop that Mike Zito has created for and with her.

Released 24th June 2022


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