Gretchen Peters and Kim Richey at City Varieties, Leeds

Gretchen Peters and Kim Richey
City Varieties,
Monday 29th August 2022

This concert was a first for me in a couple of ways.
The venue; The City Varieties Music Hall was a big part of my childhood in the 1960’s as it was the venue for a variety programme that my parents loved; so when Gretchen Peters announced her imminent ‘retirement’ from touring and with no local concert on the agenda, Mrs Magpie and I decided on a trip South (98 miles …. but still South).
When I was a travelling salesman I went to a few gigs in towns around the UK; but spending my own money on fuel, a romantic meal and a hotel out of my own money was certainly a first …. but seeing Gretchen Peters for the *last time would certainly be worth it.
As usual Kim Richey was the opening act; and as we are both huge fans we were in the venue in plenty of time for her first song; which can’t be said for perhaps 50% of the Sold Out audience …. what’s that all about? Even if Kim had been a young teenager starting out on her career surely either courtesy or just plain ‘supporting live music’ should have made for a fuller auditorium?
Maybe it’s a ‘Leeds thing’?
Whatever; Kim came out to tumultuous applause and with a smile and a wave went straight into Come Around; or at least I think it was. Her guitar playing was certainly loud enough but the vocals patchy; which was pointed out by a lone voice at the end. Kim apologised but hadn’t realised; and the sound guy turned his dial; making the rest of the set very nearly crystal clear.
The second song of the evening was my favourite of hers; Pin a Rose; but I hadn’t heard the story of how it came about before; which is one of the things we love about seeing singer-songwriters in concert. I won’t spoil it for you; but it involves a co-write with one of my other favourite’s and the phrase came about when Kim heard her (and my own) favourite TV detective use it one night!
With only 45 minutes to play with; Kim’s normally charming song intros were kept to a minimum, allowing more time for I Don’t Carry Much Regret and Every Time You Come Around the element of surprise for many in the room.
By the time we got to Wild Horses my notes say ‘fantastic venue – amazing acoustics’ and with the benefit of hindsight; are still true …. the acoustic were simply amazing.
That song, from her most recent album EDGELAND, was followed by an online request for Those Words We Said from her 1995 debut; Those Words We Said, which I’d not heard before and was simply stunning.
The all too short appearance closed with a song Kim sang on her Opry debut; a whispered version Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down that came close to having a standing ovation when it ended!
Thirty minutes later Gretchen Peters and her three piece band; including the legendary Barry Walsh on piano and piano-accordion alongside an electric guitarist and bass player made their collective way onto the stage.
Although I was at the front of the stage, I was having problems with the new lens on my camera so couldn’t concentrate on the opening song; therefore missing the title …. sorry.
Camera sorted and no longer panic stricken; thoroughly enjoyed the very relevant Wichita; which featured some staggeringly sharp electric guitar interludes to accentuate the power of the chorus.
Next was a personal Favourite; The Matador which featured some beautifully mournful accordion from Barry, which sent a shiver down my spine.
Although she had a new Live Album to promote; Gretchen still went ‘off piste’ tonight, by including a variety of songs from throughout her career; several which don’t appear on said Double Album.
Many of the songs tonight, we know like the back of our hands (Say Grace and Blackbirds spring to mind) but others stretch the memory banks (When You Love Someone and the duet with Kim Richey Guadalupe) while others the audience may have been hearing for the very first time tonight; of these I’d forgot how wonderful Love and Texaco from 2000 was/is a genuine heartstring tugger; as was To Say Goodbye from 2007!
Highlights were certainly far too many to mention; although Bus to St. Cloud and Five Minutes both got 5 stars in my notes; which is as good as it gets.
Of course there were two ‘contractually obliged’ encores; and both left me with something in my eye (?) … England Blues; which I didn’t recognise; but had the lines
Got my hand on the wheel and I’m drivin’ on the left hand side
Hold on, baby, it’s gonna be a hell of a ride
God save the queen and the BBC
They can’t do nothin’ ’bout you and me

and more appropriately for me ….
Holed up in a hotel room on the river Tyne
Just me and my baby and a do not disturb sign
24 hours by the hotel clock
Hotel maid goin’ knock, knock
Holed up in a hotel room on the river Tyne

Which I really need to buy ASAP!
Then the others left the stage, leaving Gretchen and Barry to perform a spellbinding rendition of When You Are Old; which was …. well….. you know…… the most wonderful way to close a wonderful show.

*Subsequently a 2023 UK Tour has been announced and sure enough Gretchen has added Sage Gateshead; which is on my doorstep.



Steve Dawson & the Telescope 3
Phantom Threshold
Black Hen Music

A Varied and Intriguing Set of Soundscapes from Canadian Musical Polymath

The second in a trilogy of releases this year from musical polymath Steve Dawson; is this instrumental release, recorded at the Sam Phillips recording studio in Memphis with Jeremy Holmes (bass), Chris Gestrin (keyboards), and Jay Bellerose (drums/percussion).

The album notes suggest that this is best listened to as one whole, but it’s divided into tracks, so here goes…”Cozy Corner” which opens is reminiscent in feel of the recent Dean Owens/Calexico collaboration with it’s Spaghetti-Western-ish soundscape, albeit somewhat jazzier.
The short (one and a half minutes) “Burnt Edge” which follows, is a pedal steel work-out/wig-out, before the return of the Mexican flavoured and bizarrely named “Twig Bucket” the second-longest track on the album, it’s a guitar showcase.

“Ol Brushy” moves into somewhat funkier territory, with phased and wah guitar accompanied by underscored keys before the title tack “Phantom threshold” introduces some plaintive violin to the Mexicali mix amongst the shifting rhythms and dynamics.

The Waters Rise” a Fats Kaplin co-write, brings in a musette style accordion over pedal steel and guitar and would make an ideal soundtrack to a noir western.
There’s a strange sideways shift with the album’s only cover – the Beach Boys’ “You Still Believe In Me” – but not as you know it, Jim…around the core melody, played on pedal steel, there are discordant keyboard stabs and musical nods to Brian Wilson’s arrangement – but thrown out of step – it’s a good signpost to the rest of the album, in the mix of melody and discord sitting side by side.

“Tripledream” is based around a core of slide guitar and pedal steel and toddles along nicely before slipping into a gentle “waiting for a thunderstorm” to approach middle and a jazzy funerial ending – I’m guessing the three moods in the song gave it its title.
“Lily’s Resistor” moves back to twangier territory and is similar in feel to the opener.

Penultimate track “That’s How it Goes in the Relax Lounge” is less relaxed than its title suggests, although the use of vibes on the track give it shades of an angsty 60s movie.
“Whirlwind” which concludes is a strummed/picked solo guitar workout – imagine the ghost of Robert Johnson pitched up in a modern studio and decided to show off all his licks and you’d get somewhere close.

Back to the comment about this being an album best listened to in one go – well, yes, I’d tend to agree. It’s good accompaniment music – whether that something is something mundane, or something more refined, “Phantom Threshold” offers a varied and intriguing set of soundscapes.

Review by Nick Barber
Released 12th August 2022



Crosby Tyler
Don’t Call The Law on Me!

Twang Infused, Articulate and Keen-Eyed Contemporary Classic Country Songs

First and foremost; if I’d been casually flicking through the racks in a Record Shop and stumbled on this CD, I’m pretty sure that the cover artwork (inc. the back) would have made we want to uncover the contents; and do you know what?
The music certainly lives up to the artwork in every which way.
The title track, Don’t Call The Law On Me! opens the album with a police siren then slides into a slightly tongue in cheek Honky-Tonky 60mph about the singer defending his lady’s honour by fighting a man in a bar ……. I’m not altogether sure what the outcome was here; but ….been, there, done that and still lost the girl!
Next up is the first of a trio of ‘truck driving’ songs; and my world is all the better for hearing Trucker on The Road, which had my imagination running wild as I drove my Hyundai around the backroads of Northumbria pretending I was in charge of Tyler’s 18 Wheels of Steel
In-between there’s the melancholy Twangfest of The Family I Never Had; which any musician who hears this sad tale about putting ‘the band’ before ‘family’ … then sitting thinking ‘where did the time go.’
There’s a glorious ‘Friday Night’ in a Roadhouse or Working Men’s Club about these songs and the way Tyler sings with a voice full of rustic charm delivers them like musical time bombs; especially the whimsical yet purudent, nods to Willie Nelson; Peace, Love and Beer and Bikers, Hippies and Honky-Tonkin’ Cowboys that will have the melodies and choruses coming back into your head hours and days after you last heard them.
I’m not sure how the delightfully observant Stop Being An Ol’ Redneck will play out when Crosby plays his home State of Tennessee; as he’s bound to do …. but Hell; if he plays it at the end of the night, they’ll probably be too drunk to notice that it’s about them.
Apparently not his regular band; but the backing musicians (who all come with exceptional pedigrees) play with amazing sympathy for the songs and Crosby Tyler’s road-worn voice; always shining but never so much that the singer is in any danger of being overshadowed; with the intense Fat of The Land being a prime example of singer and band being in sympatico.
This only leaves me to select a Favourite Song; and that hasn’t been as easy as I’d first imagined it should be; as the album closer Us Black Sheep Ain’t Like The Others; another song about a man who is intrinsically selfish; but points out that he isn’t the only hypocrite in the back pews of the church on a Sunday morning.
Perhaps I heard a little bit too much about my younger self in there for comfort; but it’s always good to know you’re not alone out there.
With that in mind; possibly the best constructed song here; and simplest too, Born a Bad Boy treads a similar path too ….. as Tyler takes us on a trip down the mean streets of a small town, with a story of said Bad Boy who still has dreams of redemption and a life not chasing the next dollar bill.
Lord I was born a bad boy and empty of love,,,,,
I did time at Buster Cole
3801 Silo Road
5 years for being top of the game
5 years for pleading insane,
I wore prison stripes, tailored ivory white
Had a cell mate who was a parasite
Pressed license plates morn to noon,
Lived on baloney, white bread, and cabbage soup
But that was then,
When it all tumbled down
Ashes of memories sprinkled over this town
Yonder back that monster I was”

I doubt Crosby Tyler will ever play the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury; but that matters not a jot as he will have people travelling many, many miles on a weekend to hear his Twang infused, articulate and keen-eyed songs that not only will they touch their hearts; but make them want to dance their troubles away too.

Released August 31st 2022


RMHQ Radio Show Ep16 @NovaRadioNE

RMHQ Radio Show Ep16

Sunday 28th 2022

It was a dilemma selecting the music for tonight as I’ve been having internet problems all week, meaning I couldn’t forward any ‘new music’ to the Nova Super-Computer; plus it was a Bank Holiday weekend; and baring in mind the listening figures have gone up every week; I decided to do a ‘seats of the pants’ show ….. making it up as I went along, playing a mix of tracks and artists already featured for the benefit of the new listeners.

Ep16Mark GerminoReb Bob Lowenstein
28/08/22Archie BrownOne cup of coffee
Dale WatsonYou think you’d no better
Eve SelisTear this house down
Jacob BryantDevil and An Old 6 String
Muddy WatersHoochie Coochie Man
Johnny WinterGoin’ down slow
Alejandro EscovedoRosalie
John Paul WhiteMy Dreams Have All Come True
Los LobosSail on Sailor
Annie KeatingCowgirl in the sand
John TurrellStella Maris
Kim RicheyChase Wild Horses
Bo DiddleyRoadrunner
Chuck BerryRock & Roll Music
3 Pairs of BootsOne Day at a Time
Markus RillFlesh + Blood + Bone
Our Man in The FieldIt is What It Is
ShipcoteOld Is Cool
Rod PicottWashington County
Slaid CleavesRacetracks and Rodeos
1957 Tail Fin Disaster65 Rioja
Rob Heron & Tea Pad OrchestraShe Hypnotised Me
The Big Gun Show00 Stud
Hanging StarsBlack Light Night
Dave AlvinJohnny Ace is Dead
Tom RussellNavajo Rug
Natasha HawsConstant Fairytale
Luke James WilliamsBreathe
Yola CarterWhat You Do


Freedy Johnston
Back on The Road To You
40 Below Records

Songs Designed To Make You Smile Before Pulling the Rug Away From your Feet

Here’s a confession; when this album first arrived I was convinced I must own at least a couple of Freedy’s previous releases as I instantly recognised his name.
A cursory check proved embarrassingly empty, so an in depth trawl through two old hard drives was just as empty; which meant a rummage through the boxes in my garage …. nothing, nada …. nowt.
By this stage I’d played the album a couple of times; and didn’t even recognise his voice! So yet again my ageing memory has failed and confused me yet again.

So, with nothing to compare and contrast with I’ve been left treating this as a new act for RMHQ.
The charming and slightly quirky title track Back On The Road To You starts proceedings and this left of centre love song; which has the singer trying to rebuild bridges that he alone had broken and return to the home they once shared.
At this stage can you imagine that ‘quirky’ is a ‘given’ for every track here; as in this case and several others; the arrangement can only be described as ‘quirky’ and on other songs it’s the subject matter; and once or twice it’s even the way Freedy Johnston sings the song that is ‘quirky.’
Fear not; this isn’t Tiny Tim ‘quirky’ ….. it’s Jonathan Richmond, Barenaked Ladies and/or, Kinky Friedman style singing and storytelling; deliberately making you smile then pulling the rug away from your feet when the ‘real story’ hits you between the eyes!
That’s exactly what happens with the rocktastic Time To Move On and later with Trick of Light, which sounds like charm personified until ……. you don’t really expect me to spoil the surprise do you?
This is one of those albums that will leave many music fans such as Mrs Magpie; nonplussed as you have to work hard at hearing the songs then listening to them (there’s a big difference) before finally understanding them in all their glory.
A perfect example would be Madeline’s Eye, which has a very commercial arrangement which will have you tapping your toes to the beat; but eventually your eyes will pop wide open before you gasp “OH!”
Freedy Johnston is clever without ever being a smart-arse; which I like and admire.
Everyone who buys BACK ON THE ROAD TO YOU will all have their very own Favourite Song for a variety of personal reasons.
I’m going for either The I Really Miss You Blues; for all of the above reasons, which all collide like a musical blackstar leaving me as satisfied as a Grizzly Bear eating a freshly caught salmon. (Pretentious? Maybe …. but it is one of those albums that brings out the best in me).
The other; and probably my actual Favourite is the Twangtastic tale of unrequited love and nod to Tom Petty at the same time; There Goes a Brooklyn Girl. At face value it’s a normal Country song; but Johnston puts his very own indelible stamp all over it making it an absolute winner from start to finish.
That’s about it.
I love this album but realise it’s not for everyone …. simply because of his voice and them quirky arrangements; but Hells Bells that didn’t do Bobby Dylan any harm, now did it?

Released September 2nd 2022


Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler At Whitley Bay Playhouse.

Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler
Whitley Bay Playhouse.
25th August 2022

I don’t remember exactly when it was, but by chance, I first heard Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler being interviewed on the radio.
Throughout, tracks from their soon-to-be-released collaborative album ‘For All Our Days that Tear the Heart’ had been played.
I followed that up with a couple of Youtube videos and subsequently bought the album.
Then, when I saw they were playing a show at Whitley Bay Playhouse, I thought ‘I’m in’ and I’m glad I did.

Confession time.
Despite what I now know of her substantial acting career, on first hearing that interview, I’d never heard of Jessie Buckley and all I knew about Butler was that he had been in Suede; a ‘Britpop’ band I had paid scant attention to.
Over the preceding weeks, I listened to ‘For All Our Days that Tear the Heart’ a lot, and it is excellent and on the day of the gig was short-listed for the 2022 Mercury Music Prize.
Thanks to Wikipedia I discovered that Buckley has quite a backstory. Notably, her mother is a vocal coach….I decided I didn’t want to know much more so I skimmed the page and left it at that.
I just wanted to take the songs at face value, go to the gig and see the music I had [accidentally] discovered brought to life.

I was not disappointed, from the off when Buckley and her two backing singers expertly vocalised the intro to the album I knew this was going to be good, and it was, it was more than good, in fact it was one of those gigs that leaves you thinking you have witnessed something very special indeed.
However, it would be wrong to single out Jessie Buckley, clearly, she’s the star of this show, but in reality, she is the lead singer in a superb band, featuring Butler on guitar/harmonium, two backing vocalists, a violinist, a drummer/percussionist and a double-bass player.

The evening’s most engaging songs start sparse, then gather intensity to reach an orchestral crescendo, as on the album’s opening song The Eagle and the Dove and on For All The Days – the album’s title track. They worked the up-tempo songs brilliantly too, as on the second song of the night – Babylon Days after which (to the approval of the sold-out Playhouse) Jessie tells us how much she has enjoyed being in Whitley Bay
I had an ice cream, walked on the beach and I’m going for fish n’ chips afterwards’.
It was personable stuff and it’s clear this woman knows exactly what she’s doing, she has the audience in the palm of her hand; a true professional, as evidenced when during Seven Red Rose Tattoos when she doesn’t allow some ear-piercing feedback to derail her, she takes it in her stride and the awkward moment passes without fuss.
It’s a great song, close your eyes and you could be in a smokey jazz club circa 1940.
The album version features some beautiful Miles Davis-Esque trumpet.
That, and the piano part are missing tonight although It’s hardly noticeable at the time; such is the sound the seven-piece conjures up.
I’m on a quest to find love again’ she sings and you believe it, such is the passion imbued in her exquisite vocal.

Bernard Butler, would appear to be the musical director of the project and seems content to gently strum the guitar and be the quiet guy while Buckley joshes with the audience. I would have liked to hear a bit more of his guitar but that’s just personal preference I guess.
It’s all about that voice and at one point, mid-song a guy lets out what can only be described as a howl – of appreciation, of pain – maybe he had a cramp – who knows?
Again, undaunted, she holds the note, smiles and then laughs at the end of the song.
On stage, she’s very physically expressive and between songs, talks with her hands.
I was absolutely shitten’ myself’ she informs us in her lilting Irish accent when she speaks of her writing collaboration with Butler and then dedicates ‘I Cried Your Tears’ to her vocal coach, sorry; her Mother and all women.

It’s genre defying music, it drifts in an out of Jazz, Blues, Latin and Folk but it all comes together in its complexity to give a richness to the songs that make this, not only a great album but an amazing live-music experience too.

On the more rocky ‘We’ve Run The Distance’ Buckley’s vocal gymnastics puts me in mind of Sam Brown, and that’s very much a compliment – it’s one highlight of many, another was Catch The Dust which she sings sitting cross-legged at the edge of the stage. Like everyone present, I was awestruck and when they leave the stage the audience rise to their feet as one.

The band return and perform a cover of Dylan’s Just Like A Woman reimagined as a jazz standard before the evening’s final song, Catch The Dust, delivered by Buckley accompanied only by a loop of Butler’s guitar.

Perched on the edge of the stage, along with the band, she sings directly to a pregnant woman in the front row.

It felt slightly contrived but nonetheless, a very tender live music experience.

Funnily enough though as they left the stage, Jessie’s last words were ‘And thanks to Michael, our bus driver’, which kind of summed the evening up.

Fun, as well as uplifting and intensely emotional.

Review by the one and only Folkin’ Magpie Graham!

Sarah Shook at Jumpin’ Hot Club, The Cluny Newcastle

Sarah Shook
Jumpin’ Hot Club
The Cluny

Friday 26th August 2022

After a while you forget when you first heard an act; they just seem to be an integral part of your life; so it was a bit of a shock (#groan) to find it was 2017 when I first reviewed Sarah Shook’s SIDELONG album when Bloodshot Records re-packaged and released it to an unsuspecting world.
Roughly the same time, Shipcote from Newcastle’s premier Roots Promoters the Jumpin’ Hot Club came back from SXSW raving about a young singer called Sarah Shook he’d seen one afternoon at Bloodshot’s infamous Yarddog gigs; and how he’d left his details for when she was going to tour UK and Europe.
Nothing happened for two years then e-mails and contracts were exchanged for a UK Tour …. only for Covid to stop it in its tracks… TWICE!
That out of the way Sarah hit the UK earlier this week like a runaway train, blowing fans, old and new totally away …. including several of my more ‘hard to impress’ friends.
Although the gig itself was officially Sold Out, there were about 30 people in Cluny 2 when local support act Holly Rees started their set; and after 40 minutes of their Punky/Garagey/Grungey hybrid, the crowd had probably trebled, and seemed in particularly good spirits cheering every song from the young trio as if they were headlining.
While a tad too ‘noisy’ for my delicate ears; I was impressed with a couple of songs, Careless and Getting By (with choreographed audience handclaps) that a good producer could really get the best out of.
As the Disarmers nervously made their way onto the stage Cluny 2 was totally full with barely a two feet gap between the front row and the stage (I was here camera in hand for two songs then made my way upstairs ….. for my ears’ protection!)
With no introduction and barely a nod between the band members all night, they went full tilt into the crunchy Good as Gold, which came and went in barely two minutes.
This was the template for the evening ….. very, very little chit chat …… ‘less talk more music’ (where have you heard that before Pop Pickers?) and the music was quite phenomenal.
Since Shipcote and I first heard and fell in love with Sarah Shook barely 5 years ago; her music has evolved beyond belief; and tonight’s 22 songs (TWENTY TWO!) in barely 90 minutes was a veritable Best Of, with songs coming from all three albums; some I recognised, while others (even some of the older ones) were now arranged so much they too sounded like exciting new songs.
As the gig progressed, I was transported back to the late 70’s Punk gigs and later in the early 80’s the Mod Revival gigs I attended; tonight was sweaty, noisy and adrenaline fun filled from start to finish.
Talking To Myself and Been Loving Youfrom Nightroamer were both outstanding; sounding like the Go Go’s on steroids; Parting Words from Years and Sidelong were both cranked up to be virtually unrecognisable from the original versions ….. but worth the entrance fee themselves.
In many ways tonight’s gig wasn’t about individual songs; it was more about ‘being there.’ My notes are certainly in that vein ….. “all lean and sinewy no – fat or flab anywhere” elsewhere I describe the band as being ‘a bar band in Ozark or Breaking Bad that get talked into joining the bad guys by transporting their wares over State Lines in drum cases;’ with that in mind Sarah looks like the ‘brains’ of the operation, with the other members being her older brothers who would kill you in the blink of an eye.
The word that got used in conversations earlier in the week and again tonight on the way out was ‘tight’ …. as in ; “the band were the tightest I’ve seen in years” …. and they most certainly were.
As I said earlier, there was next to no chit chat, and as I have a copy of the set list there were 5 handwritten changes; telling you these guys know their licks without playing the same songs over and over again, night after night.
24 Hours later I’m still not 100% sure how to describe Sarah Shook & The Disarmers’ ‘sound’ …. there’s still plenty of Insurgent Country in there of course; but this is such a complicated and clever mix I was lost until this morning I read a Tweet from @AlanMuttley1066 …. “Doc Martens & Cowboy Boots …Country with a (Punk) Attitude.”
I can’t disagree …. but tonight’s finale was a 7 minute Pink Floydian odyssey that went way beyond Prog, with everyone; including the pedal-steel player getting the opportunity for a short and sharp solo …. that again; was totally mind-blowing.

Canyons & Highlands CANYONS & HIGHLANDS

Canyons & Highlands
Canyons & Highlands
Black Dust Records

Top Shelf High Quality Americana via a Campervan in Scotland

To all intents and purposes, Canyons & Highlands is Scots singer-songwriter Norrie McCulloch alongside some Scottish and Americans friends/musicians who added their individual parts via the medium of the internet when inter-Continental travel was out of the question.
OK; that’s been commonplace with a lot of albums; but I’ve heard very, very few that sounds as clear or ‘warm’ this particular album does from start to finish.
Norrie, who recorded his parts in a campervan on the drive; as he didn’t want to disturb his wife, who worked for the NHS all through the pandemic; has always been a Folk Singer; of the modern persuasion who always erres on the side of Americana.
The first thing I noticed as opening track Pushing On/Wolves was the luscious harmonies that accompany McCulloch’s brittle Scots’ brogue on a song that’s is so deep, you’re left wondering if the singer can get back out the other end.
This is followed by the far less sombre Hurry Up Angel, which features some fabulous guitar parts that really add an emphasis to the words that sting your ears when you listen too closely ….
Hurry up Angel
Stop falling behind
There’s a Devil on our trail
Looks like he’s got a taste for blood
And he’s spent a night in jail
You’ve been kicking down doors
With no shoes on your feet
You’re gonna hurt something one day
I hope it’s not my heart”

Songwriting has always fascinated me; especially the imagination that drives someone to write what they do; and here McCulloch combines his own active imagination to combine words and lines from old postcards he’s been collecting on visits to the USA; as well as fragments of his own letters home to combine with current observations; which makes Down From the Mountain; Zodiac and of course; Other Side of the World all the more introspective and deeply fascinating and destined to squeeze every heartstring in the house.
Where does life seperate from Art?
There’s nothing not to like here; with the singer using his enigmatic voice as an extra instrument; adding his own special magic to the deceptively simple and windswept nod to Country Gothic, Took It To Heart which benefits greatly from Dave McGowan’s (Teenage Fanclub) haunting pedal-steel.
We Get By is a torrid heartbreaker, as the singer takes us on a journey through a relationship that’s headed for the rocks but keeps on keeping on …… and is then followed by Zodiac, which starts with the narrator phoning home to with his partner ‘Happy Birthday’ ….. but she’s already left for a night out with friends.
Just when you think you can get your breath back, you’re hit with the emotionally bleak Drifting Apart; obviously some kind of ‘break-up’ song; but the type that hasn’t got a definitive ending ….. will they just stumble along or will things get better? Who knows? But plenty of us have lived this song too.
Hopefully you will guess by now; Canyons & Highlands won’t be in the Easy Listening section at HMV!
Which in a roundabout way brings me to the final two songs on this magnificent record …. I Am the Blues and Deep Forest Green; which I’m still debating which to make my Favourite for reviewing purposes.
If I’m not over thinking it; I Am The Blues is dealing with the taboo subject of depression; as Norries talks (prays?) to his Mother as Iain Thomson’s fluid electric guitar licks channel Richard Thompson to create a fog that the listener is never sure they or he will ever escape from.
Then, there’s the final song; Deep Forest Green, which is how I best know Norrie McCulloch …. solo and with an acoustic guitar; pouring his heart out like a barman with a quality whisky from the top shelf.
Perhaps; and I hope that this is the case, Norrie McCulloch has always ‘had the songs’, but changing his given name to the mysterious Canyons & Highlands just might just be a ‘game changer’ for one of my Favourite singer-songwriters/Folk Troubadours.

Released September 2nd 2022


Taylor Scott Band THE HANG

Taylor Scott Band
The Hang
Shade Tree Recordings / JTM Music

Plenty of Rhythm, a Hefty Dash of Blues, an Equal Measure of Raw Country Plus a Shot of Smooth Jazz.

Taylor Scott’s new album opens with “Leaning Tree,” an easy, rhythmic strum, a subtle shimmering B3 organ and the declarative statement
Losing track of time has always been a friend of mine.
To compare this with a water birth might not be where the average listener would go, but I’m not the average listener and this song is deceptively effortless. 
The struggle in these lyrics is palpable; while the music is upbeat and optimistic and made me start the tune over 6 times (Yes, I kid you not)! 
I was not prepared for the visceral reaction my body produced to this tune but the minor chord at the end really sums it up.
It was after the 6th listen of track one that I was able to move on and the troubling thoughts I birthed under the metaphorical water might have slipped out without effort; but believe me, there was pain, and every mother will tell you, that’s what we call “good pain.” 

TMI? Perhaps, but here I am on track two, “Last Winter,” and Taylor Scott literally ends the song by telling me it’s time to “let that go.”
So I do and get wrapped up in a blanket of “Throwback Grooves” that feels sweet and comfortable and conjures carefree summer breezes and salty ocean air. 
A sexy, rhythm and bluesy, slow jam with a horn solo that transports me back to a kinder, gentler time. “It’s all about the way it feels….
I’m swinging and my happy feet are dancing with toes planted firmly in 1972. 
Thank you, Taylor Scott. I needed that.

A Road-House stomp in a minor key follows with impending doom that goes from straight up Country to an Art Jazz interlude with great effect.
I was mesmerized by the diversity of this tune and it’s dedication to letting the song take you on a trip without luggage. 

“Bleeding Out” is a Funky Blues that’s traditional and summons Scott’s guitar talents to a degree that puts him up there with Stevie Ray and makes it obvious that he spent some time on the road as part of Otis Taylor’s band.

“Shade Tree American Dream” feels like the best of Dwight Yoakam with less sugary frosting squirted through the corporate Nashville hose.  The breakdown in the middle is unexpected and sits like a nugget of fresh air that opens the track up in a way that feels almost psychedelic a la Sturgill Simpson.

“Talk to Me” dares to meld Smooth Jazz with American Roots and I felt myself smiling at Taylor’s honesty and sincerity in this particular song.
He follows it up with “Never Aim to Please” which he plays and sings with grit and regret. 
Tinged with just the right amount of fuzz, this song evokes a familiar Whiskey Town vibe with outro guitar solo that makes it a serious driving, radio flyer!

“Really Something” is ….. Really Something!
This song takes the Blues and puts it firmly into a warm bath of distorted Pop Music that energizes and delves deep into Soul music as it modulates up and reaches for the blue skies of exaltation.   

Ending the record with the title track, “The Hang” burns it all down with a rocking Blues mover that gets the hips shaking and returns us to that Dwight meets Sturgill vibe done the Taylor Scott way with “nowhere to be and plenty places to go” with B3 organ and guitar solos that carry us off to join the party. Produced by long time Los Lobos member, Steve Berlin, Taylor Scott’s “The Hang” is the most enjoyable 39 minute “hang” I’ve had in a long while!

Released August 12th 2022
Review by Emily Duff



Will Hoge
Wings on My Shoes
Edlo Records/Soundly Music

All That is Good and Indeed ‘Cool’ About What We Know as Alt. Country In 10 Songs.

Will Hoge is one of those acts that I presume is a whole lot ‘bigger’ in the industry than he appears to be. OK he’s Grammy nominated and this is his 12th studio album; so he must be doing something right; … but apart from me; who else do you know that would count themselves a fan; or just someone who owns more than one of his previous releases?
Which is all a damn shame because in many ways he’s the personification of all that is good; and indeed ‘cool’ about what we know as Alt. Country.
Also; while right from the get go; this is unmistakably a Will Hoge album; it doesn’t sound like any of his recent releases …. apart from his voice; there’s not even a hint of what’s gone before; starting with the crunchy guitars and diesel powered bass on opening song; John Prine’s Cadillac; where; along with some other fabulous comparisons, his lady makes him …
as happy as the music coming out of of the speakers in the back of John Prine’s Cadillac”!
Not only does Will Hoge have a very vivid imagination when he writes a song; the punchy as Hell, All I Can Take and the Twang filled, tongue in cheek and the timely Whose God Is This Anyway? Will get the hackles up on rednecks and Fundamentalists everywhere when they don’t really, really listen to the lyrics.
But he surrounds these with very keenly observed stories about those around him; none more so or better than the song about his Grandma; Queenie who ‘rolled her own cigarettes’, ‘cussed like a sailor’ and ‘played black music on the radio’ ….. and Hoge “Loved her more than Coca Cola!” which makes her sound an amazing woman who I’d loved to have met …. and sung with just the right amount of pathos to keep the tears away and a smile on your face.
Hoge’s take on a Love Song, isn’t of the ‘moon in june’ variety, it’s a lot more earthy and real, with It’s Just You and You Are The Place being apostate stories that will stop you dead in your tracks as they untwist before your very eyes, leaving you open mouthed and eyes a’poppin’.
There’s so much to like here; none more so than slow and sultry Ain’t How It Used To Be that simmers like a pan of boiling water; and even takes Alt. Country down a dark backstreet when you least expect it.
Which leaves me to tell you about my Favourite Song here; last week it was going to be the pained break-up song, the claustrophobic Birmingham which embraces you like Spring fog; and similarly …. eventually clears up and leaves you wondering what all the fuss was about.
But today it’s the majestic Dead Man’s Hand which is a whole novel filtered into a song that’s just shy of 7 minutes; but there’s not a wasted second or word. It’s very much a tale of our times wrapped up in a Classic Country mode that could be the result of a meeting between Cash, Springsteen and Olney at a writers workshop in Idaho; and that’s all I’m prepared to tell you about it; or it will spoil everything for you.
What else do you need to know? The arrangements are as crisp and sharp as you’ll ever hear and each and every song is every inch as good as I’ve alluded to; and better in some cases.
All I can say is that WINGS ON MY SHOES has gone straight into my annual Top 20 albums file without even touching the sides!

Released 26th August 2022