Native Harrow
Old Kind of Magic
Loose Records

Transatlantic Cross Generational Americana Influenced Timeless and Beautiful Folk Songs.

Old Kind Of Magic’ is the fifth long-player from Native Harrow AKA Stephen Harms and Devin Tuel yet were pretty unknown to me until Summer 2022 when they seemed to play every Festival on the circuit, leaving friends and musicians I admire totally dumbfounded and unconditionally ‘in love’ with their music.
At this stage I must apologise; as while I too have enjoyed this album since I first heard it; I mis-filed it on my spreadsheet and I’m now posting a month after release.
There’s so much to like here; straight from opening track the winsome and windswept Song For Joan, which starts with the sound of the seashore and ends with Devin’s captivating pearlescent voice fading, somewhat tearfully off into the mid-distance.
For what is meant to be fairly ‘simple music’ i.e American Folk that straddles the Americana spectrum; there’s a whole lot going on behind Devin Tuel’s mesmerising vocals; not least the songs and stories themselves.
Most songs work on many levels; but Heart of Love and Long Long Road both signal very mature songwriters who know exactly how they want to write; and as a self-produced album ….. know exactly how they want to sound.
I’m pleased to say that there aren’t two songs even vaguely alike here; with Stephen Harms even experimenting with new ‘sounds’; here and there; and succeeding where others failed; most notably on the 60’s flavoured As It Goes, with sweeping and swooping Hammond organ ala Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll at their combined finest …. yet the song and Devin’s (in this case) smokily exotic vocals fit alongside everything else perfectly well.
This is immediatly followed by Magic Eye; again tinged with a 60’s ‘vibe’ …. but this time I was reminded of some of Marianne Faithful’s more recent releases which also mix and match the modern with the past; unpeeling influences on every play …. while never not sounding like Native Harrow.
The finale; Find a Reason is spectacularly timeless ….. beautiful lyrics matched with a vocal performance worthy of any great Americana or Folk singer you can think of; but yet again ….. it’s simply Stephen Harms and especially Devin Tuel doing what they do best; and that’s better than most.
For my Favourite song; and it is always the song I’m drawn to … not just the peripheral sounds of singer and musicians; no matter how good they are … and here they are much better than ‘good’; so I’m torn between the title track Old Kind Of Magic which is the prefect imaginative love song soundtrack to the sun coming up over a damp meadow, when the future can be anything you want it to be.
The other, I Remember is the type of bewitching Folk song that I would have no qualms pointing people (like me) towards who hadn’t heard of Native Harrow before and were wondering if they should tender their hard earned cash for something by them. It’s almost perfect and certainly an ‘ear worm’ which is an oddity in this word.
There you have it; while traditionally a cynic, I am an overnight convert to this couple originally from Pennsylvania and now living in rural Suffolk; one of England’;”s most beautiful yet forgotten counties.

Released 28th October 2022



Steve Pledger
What Tomorrow Knows

Bordering on Lo-Fi Folkiness With Brave Subject Matter and Songwriting.

Although he’s been treading the boards around the region for a few years I only became aware of Durham Lad and singer-songwriter Steve Pledger a couple of years ago via a charity project he organised on behalf of refugees coming to Co. Durham.
I’ve tried my best to see him in pone of his many gigs too; but so far never managed!
WHAT TOMORROW KNOWS appears to be his fourth full length album; and in this digital age he’s not shy coming forward releasing ‘downloadable’ singles too.
There’s an instant charm to opening track The Baptist’s Father; but on not necessarily the first listen; Pledger’s lyrics are razor sharp and keenly observed as he tells, what sounds like a personal story, about a young man ‘growing up’ and finding the strength to leave a religious family …. and I know a couple of (now) lapsed Catholics who will appreciate his raw sentiments.
When I review albums by (relatively) unknown artists I try to find similar more famous acts to compare them too; and with Steve Pledger that’s actually very difficult; as his subject matter can be quite left of centre; theatrical with The Stagehand’s Tale and the never twee familial story Sister Dear which again sounds like plenty who hear it will nod along ‘knowingly.’
Obviously there are ‘love songs’ here; but like Paul Simon and James Taylor before him; they are not ‘moon and June’ rhyming couplets; with Steve finding a whole new observational angle on Same Smile/Same Words …. is it a break up song or a song of hope; or both?
I love his bravery in tackling world events, especially as he never preaches or panders; yet Fields That Still Divide and the sparse Hope That Never Fades both take us down a dark path, but also offer a shaft of light at the end.
I regularly receive albums from singer-songwriters who tread a lonely path, and obviously some are better than others …. of which this Lucas Drinkwater produced album is certainly one.
I use, yet dread the term ‘Modern Folk’ but I can’t think of a more apt description of Steve Pledger’s ‘style’ of writing and possibly even singing, as he uses everything he can muster in the studio, but it still sharply comes across as a ‘less is more’ production ….. and I’m singling out Waiting to Hurt as a beneficiary of that modus operandi ….. everything about it;including a gentle saxophone and not least Pledger’s smoky and sultry vocals are spellbinding, which is something as rare as hens teeth in the Folk world.
If I didn’t know Pledger’s ‘heritage’ I’d have sworn that this album was Canadian; as it combines ‘effortless cool’ with ‘incisive’ and ‘cerebral’ songwriting …. what I would normally associate with the likes of Stephen Fearing, Steve Dawson and/or Terra Spencer who hall impressed me immensely in recent years.
Which brings me to the coin-toss between two songs for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song; the densely passionate Revelation with its haunting fiddle playing and the deceptive Rise which will get lost in the tailspin the first few times you play WHAT TOMORROW KNOWS, but sooner or later this musical time bomb will catch your attention when you least expect it ….. and WHAM! It will hit you like a left hook to the jaw, leaving your head spinning and seeing stars.
For that very reason I’m going for Rise as my Favourite especially as it borders on the Lo-Fi Folkiness that I’d associate with Nick Drake or Bert Jansch; but you can’t slide a cigarette paper between the two.
Steve Pledger is an undoubted talent in the Singer-Songwriter/Folk field and on this evidence, M’lud …. will only need a little push or tiny slice of luck to make the great leap forward.

Released 28th November 2022


RMHQ Radio Show Ep30 @NovaRadioNE 27th Nov 2022

RMHQ Radio Show
Episode 30
Nova Radio NE

27th Nov 2022

I’d intended starting tonight’s programme celebrating Wilko Johnson, guitarist with the original Dr. Feelgood in the 1970’s. then Ian Dury’s Blockheads and a succesful solo career …. but the Super Computer somehow lost the track of his I wanted to play; but Roxette and something from the new incarnation who are still carrying the torch had to suffice.
There is also plenty of other eclectic songs; old and new from my collection for your listening pleasure … with one particular story and song I want to draw your attention too.
19 year old Faye Fantarrow was drawn to my attention earlier this year, then dramatically fell off my radar … until last week when I saw that a fundraising concert on her behalf was coming to Fire Station in Sunderland. It turns out she has a brain tumour and a hospital in USA can perform a ‘revolutionary operation’ ….. #FightForFaye …. you can help financially here

Then of course there’s the music ……

Dr FeelgoodRoxette
Dr FeelgoodKeep Under Cover
Beth HartBang Bang Boom Boom
Drive-By TruckersShake and Pine
Charlie MusselwhiteDrifting from Town to Town
White BuffaloHeart and Soul of the Night
Maple Run BandTears of a Fool
Garrison StarrThe Devil in Me
John PrineLonely Just Like Me
Bonnie Raitt & John PrineAngel from Montgomery
Judee SillJesus Was a Cross Maker
Will HogeMy Worst
Faye FantarrowBOOM
Lake PoetsWindowsill
The BandStage Fright
Robbie RobertsonBroken Arrow
Todd RundgrenIn My Mouth
Love on DrugsNever Walk Away
Native HarrowHeart of Love
Robbie FulksAmerica is a Hard Religion
Kelly HoganI’ll Go To My Grave Loving You
Father John MistyI’m Writing a Novel
Bobby DoveHaunted Hotel
Lindi OrtegaCigarettes and Truckstops
Blackie and the Rodeo KingsKick My Heart Around
LindisfarneWinter Song


Maple Run Band
Used To Be The Next Big Thing
Self Released

Seamlessly Going Through the Americana Gears on Some Interesting and Insurgent Country Backroads.

We loved the debut album by Maple Run Band a couple of years ago; so when this arrived after it had already been released (forgivable from an Indie act doing their own promotion) it went straight onto the office hi-fi; and only three songs in took preference over the large ‘to do’ pile …. sometimes music ‘gets’ me like that.

The title track, Used To Be The Next Big Thing is one of those songs that very few songwriters get to write in their careers; it’s so good it is already in my Top 10 songs of 2022! ‘Write about what you know’ they6 say; well Trevor Crist has done just that; and then some ….. his use of imagery on a song about a musician looking back on a stalled career is genuinely exceptional and will make 90% of musicians that hear it; nod sagely. While I’ve never been a musician; it also becomes a metaphor for my career about twenty years ago … and will many other music fans.
That melody only whets the appetite for what follows; a mild barrage of Modern Country songs, with an Americana spine; but steeped in Traditional Country values and sentiments, starting with Track #2 Loretta, a heart-worn tale of a lover who left ‘without ever saying goodbye’.
OK, this is an ages old Country theme; but the drole and sad manner in which Crist sings; best described as ‘worn down’ and the band intimately playing their instruments makes for a very memorable 4 minutes or so.
It’s hard to say where Maple Run Band fit in these days; but I recently saw Jason Isbell and I’m pretty damn sure they would have made a better support act than the one I saw that night; especially songs like the tragically beautiful Birmingham and Still Believe which would have fit in seamlessly with his fans.
There’s a delightful change in tempo as we go through the gears; not least when drummer Nicole Valcour gets a spot in the limelight singing Mud River, with Crist supplying breathless harmonies and then the band cruise down the Country highway on a sunny day with Tumbleweeds and When You’re Around; and in between they go for the heartstrings with the snappy Tears of a Fool; which has hints of Merle and Waylon on the chorus if I’m not mistaken and as usual; all sound ‘believable.’
Speaking of which, album closer Sunny Day doesn’t conjure up those exact images as Crist goes all maudlin on a tale of grief and sorrow with ironic undertones …. which appeal to me like you wouldn’t believe; and the soaring harmonies remind me (and absolutely no one else of Chris and Pauline Adams from 70’s Folk/Prog Rockers String Driven Thing!)
For my Favourite Song I’m actually going left of centre, although Sunny Day and the opener Used To Be The Next Big Thing would be stand out tracks on any album released this year or next; but ….. the break-up song, Damned Old Song is the sort of story I wish Johnny Cash could have picked up on during his American series of albums; perhaps there’s still time for someone of that ilk to pick up on it and make Trevor Crist, Nicole Valcour and bass player, ‘Spence’ Spencer aka Maple Run Band the a second opportunity at being The Next Big Thing!

Released 11th November 2022


Dave Arcari at The Cluny II, Newcastle

Dave Arcari
The Cluny II

25th November 2022

It’s particularly odd that Dave Arcari has been a regular visitor to a variety of Newcastle establishments for the last 25 years or more; yet tonight was the first time I’d ever seen him play live … and I’ve been a fan for most of that time too.
Tonight’s gig, in the Cluny II basement was opened by a local trio, Ferriday’s Fireballs. As I sat facing the stage as I was baffled by the set-up, a Telecaster guitar, two single drums and (what looked like) a synthesiser; yet the trio standing to the side were dressed in whip smart suits and crepe-soled brothel creepers, looking like grown-up Punks or Rocakabillys.
With no intro, bar a “1-2-3!” they sounded like they had taken a mouthful of ‘meanies as they blasted through their self-titled signature tune, which had stolen the melody from a/any Bo Diddley tune…. then they seamlessly slipped into third gear for an adrenaline fueled White Lightning ….. featuring not a synthesiser; but what was actually a double-neck lap-steel!!!
They only stopped once; to introduce a song of their own; written in deference to their hero, Lee Brilleaux; singer with Dr. Feelgood called “Hey ho Brillo!” and as the Feelgood’s original guitarist Wilko Johnson had died the previous day; they had changed the lyrics to “Hey ho, Wilko!” and they’d appreciate the (sparse) audience would sing-along…. and we did with gusto!
The audience filled a little as we waited for the Star to take the stage; but with two other Roots gig in the area and times being as tough as they are, it was still a disappointing crowd facing Arcari when he hit the stage and he blasted straight into Mistake Me For the Devil as if he was headlining the Madison Square Gardens!
This was going to be ‘one of those’ nights; and it was with Arcari, solo and playing a series of ‘signature’ Resonator guitars simply ‘taking no prisoners!’

As expected his ‘crack’ between songs was nearly worth the admittance fee alone; especially every time he sang a ‘new song’ from recent release DEVIL MAY CARE, with him worried about forgetting the words; with the first of these; the mean and moody Meet Me In The City misfiring a couple of times; but isn’t that the joy of being at a gig?
This was followed by a monologue, worthy of Billy Connolly introducing Cherry Wine, which surprisingly got a couple of women dancing.
Without being drawn into listing every song he played; mind blowing highlights were definitely his Classic song and story, Devil’s Left/Right Hand, 9lb Hammer and Time Will Come aka Brexit Blues from the new album as well as a red hot version of I Can’t Be Satisfied, which nearly had smoke coming off the strings.
In his introduction to raucous See Me Laughing he told us about not just his love of; but the difference between the various Mississippi Blues and this was his own personal tribute …. and KERPOW! was it a blast!
Without actually leaving the stage he was ‘convinced?????’ to do one more song; which turned out to be two ….. a monster version of Dust My Broom then ending with a greasy and very loud Walking Blues…. and the night was over; and not one face in that room wasn’t smiling!

Cowboy Junkies at Fire Station, Sunderland.

Cowboy Junkies 
The Fire Station,

November 23rd 2022 

Timing is everything of course and sometimes things just click into place, as they did for me 23 years ago when by chance I happened on Cowboy Junkies at The 1999 Sweetwaters Festival in New Zealand.
That festival; a highlight of a yearlong trip for me, for its organiser Daniel Keighley it was a disaster. Allegedly, there was a contract taken out on his life after Sweetwaters collapsed, with him owing creditors millions of dollars, ultimately Keighley was jailed for fraud.
Fast-forward to November 23rd 2022 and Cowboy Junkies land at The Fire Station, Sunderland described as a ‘vibrant, mid-scale live music venue housing a brand-new state-of-the-art auditorium’.
It’s a world away from that baking hot field in Auckland but more than any other artist I witnessed at that doomed festival, it was the music of Cowboy Junkies that has stayed with me over the intervening years. 

Now, and indeed since their inception in 1986 Cowboy Junkies continue to interpret songs by other artists.
Tonight, the band take to the stage and go straight into David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’; the opening track from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and from Cowboy Junkies latest release Songs of the Recollection, which Margo tells us that the first ‘half’ would constitute songs from that album; then a longer set with ‘the songs you’ve come here to hear.’
The band built the song to powerful effect and Margo Timmins vocal swelled in an unexpected manner. For sure, she is no longer the gentle songstress she once was, from the off tonight, there’s passion and anger in her voice.
From a Bowie cover, it’s an effortless transition into The Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane.  

‘Here we are in Sunderland’ Margo tells us, ‘trying to sell some records’.
Track 3 on Songs of the Recollection is The Rolling Stones No Expectations and tonight’s re-working features some beautiful lap steel work by Jeff Bird, then it’s The Cure’s Seventeen Seconds, which is introduced by Margo, who is as always flanked by a vase of flowers, with tales of the band hanging out at Toronto’s punk club The Edge during the late 70’s/early 80’s.
For a Canadian band there is of course the obligatory Neil Young cover to address and tonight on Wearside, Cowboy Junkies bring a brooding darkness to ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’.
A couple of minutes in and Michael Timmins dense power chords build a rich backdrop that he softens only to allow Margo to emphasise the lines
 ‘Don’t let it bring you down, It’s only castles burning, find someone who’s turning and you will come around’. 
The song delivered with an unexpected level of depth and resonance; the excellent sound system in The Fire Station augmenting some really fine musicianship.  

After a short break, which I’m sure Margo Timmins needed considering the amount of tea she consumes, the band returned the stage now bathed in green.
Another thing about tonight is the first-rate lighting that adds to the atmosphere of what certainly feels like an occasion.
The opening song of the second set is a Junkies’ original; taken from their 2018 release All That Reckoning –‘The Things We Do To Each Other’, then it’s ‘A Common Disaster’ lifted from their 1996 album Lay It Down, which leads into ‘Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning’, followed by a lengthy reworking of ‘Working On A Building’ – a track taken from The Trinity Sessions; the recorded version coming in at just under 4 minutes.
Tonight’s version extends to what feels around 12 minutes and the band’s extensive psychedelic-blues wig-out is reminiscent of The Doors at their best.
Jeff Bird’s soaring harmonica and Michael’s guitar work had me in a dream state and when Margo riffed ….
 ‘If I was a drunkard,
If I was a liar,
if I was junkie, a teacher’ my eyes closed and it was the 60’s all over again; and I was with Jim Morrison’s in Los Angeles rather than in Sunderland on a chilly 2022 autumnal night.  

From that high-point, bass player Alan Anton and drummer Peter Timmins left the stage while Michael, Margo and Jeff Bird took it back to acoustic territory with ‘Something More Besides You’ followed by ‘Rake’ (by the great Townes Van Zandt).
Before performing ‘Angels in The Wilderness’, taken from their 2012 album The Wilderness; Margo tells us she had spent the perfect day ‘watching folks walking their dogs on the beach’.
If that was her perfect day, listening to Cowboy Junkies in this state-of-the-art setting was my perfect evening.  

What followed, was possibly the most poignant song of the night.
Earlier in the day the news had broke that Wilko Johnson had passed away, so when The Junkies performed Vic Chesnutt’s ‘Flirted With You All My Life’ and the repeated refrain ‘oh death, clearly I’m not ready’ swirled around the room, I thought of Johnson and reflected on his considerable contribution to the British music scene.
I was still dwelling on that thought through the conclusion of the set which inevitably included the classic, Blue Moon Revisited (Song For Elvis)  a song Cowboy Junkies have made, if not their own, very close to it. 

Cowboy Junkies have clearly maintained the qualities that have sustained them for 36 years but certainly, from what I recall of that festival performance in 1999 they have broadened their horizons and Margo Timmins has become more assured; her vocals now Bluesy and a lot more dramatic.
Yes, the sibling trio of Michael Timmins (who throughout had sat, head down, hunched over his guitar), Peter on drums and Margo along with mainstay collaborators Alan Anton (bass) and Jeff Bird (lap-steel, harmonica, percussion and mandolin) for me, epitomise Cool; both musically and visually. 
I’ll leave the last word to their compatriot, Neil Young – ‘Long may they run’. 

Courtesy the Folkin’ Magpie

Photo-Set courtesy Harrisonaphotos


The White Buffalo
Year of the Dark Horse
Snakefarm Records

Heavy Alt. Country Concept Album that Bleeds Timeless and Personal Americana

This has an odd story behind this review; as I saw the initial reviews go out on the day of release, only to wonder why I hadn’t been sent a copy, but downloaded two tracks to play on my radio show anyway.
Then a few days later the PR (one of the good guys!) got in touch asking if I was intending reviewing it. I replied that I’d not received it!
Profuse apologies on both sides later (as I’m having major e-mail problems with Outlook) and a download was received in minutes.
It’s been a bit of a ‘heavy’ listen; as the artist himself says about it;
My forthcoming album is a sonic and lyrical journey of one lunar year in one man’s life” .
“Four seasons in 12 songs… Loosely based on my twisted truths and adventures.”
I’ve now played it on and off for a week or so; in between other releases and it’s now grown on me as has the concept.
It’s up to you how you play this album; be it the ‘conceptual/cerebral version’ or as I’ve enjoyed it best; a series of very good, thoughtful and personal songs that will unravel the more you hear them.
The story starts with the intense Not Today, with Jake Smith aka The White Buffalo ‘wishing the earth a Happy New Year’ and wondering what it has in store for him. Personally I really like the theatrical production; and especially the gruff and impassioned vocals that draw you in as if his words will protect you from the metaphorical storm.
The fuzzy fade out bleeds straight into the chilling Winter Act 2 …. can you see what he’s doing here?
The song itself is quite dark; but all the more intriguing because of that. Smith drawls his way through in a style I recognise; but can’t put my finger on.
I may upset Smith; but while I like the narrative he employs; it’s not absolutely necessary to wallow in the deep delights of Love Will Never Come/Spring’s Song and C’mon Come Up Come Out, which like a few sound like the sort of things Leonard Cohen wrote in his latter years had he took an Americana path; and the musicality throughout is truly exceptional by the very way.
THE YEAR OF THE DARK HORSE is certainly not ‘easy listening’ and I think it best heard in a room on your own; not least because Am I Still a Child and Love Song #3 are both tear inducing to the max.
52 Card Pickup …. is …. well…. different; and certainly one of those songs that will suddenly ‘catch your attention’ and make you go WOW! (Eventually … it certainly did me.) Following on from that with it’s spine chilling piano and electric keyboard interplay, album closer Life Goes On and Heart Attack are both quite Alt. Rock in approach and give some light (relatively) to the shade that most other songs cast.
For my Favourite Song it’s been an easy choice; although the anti-love song Donna and the Waitsian She Don’t Know I Lie both certainly have their merits; Kingdom For a Fool is the most commercial song here and the story/lyrics; again Waitsian in concept show what a powerful thinker and writer Jake Smith is and sitting shoulder to shoulder with the very best around these days.

Released November 11th 2022



Ruth Lyon
Direct Debit to Vogue (EP)
Pink Lane Records

Modern Folk Electronica Juxtaposition; Creating a Musical Garden of Earthly Delights.

Reviewing Ruth’s latest EP might just make me a bit of a hipster, as that’s who seems to be her current demographic; but we go back many years; as after seeing her as part of Holy Moly and the Crackers, A Newcastle based combo that were/are like a Northern English version of The Pogues or The Men They Couldn’t Hang; at SummerTyne Festival on a sunny Saturday afternoon many years ago; I hunted out the other singer , Conrad Bird to arrange an interview for Maverick magazine; which was published the very next month and quite some time before their first release.
While Conrad was the consummate all around showman, songwriter and bon vivant; it was always obvious to me that the co-singer and fiddle player, Ruth Lyon had talent unlimited if only she could beat her shyness.
What I didn’t know at that time; but would become more obvious as time went by and I saw the band play live, Ruth had/has a debilitating illness that has eventually confined her to a wheelchair.
Has that held her back? HELL NO!
Check her bio out to find Ruth isn’t prepared to let her ‘problems’ define her ….. and music while important is only a singular part of who she is …. and all praise her for that attitude.
The music!
I was already aware that her solo music was a departure from the punky Folk Rock deluxe that Ruth produces with Holy Moly, so I’m not even sure I was actually that surprised when I first heard opening track Wool. A sparklingly beautiful modern Folk song, sung in her smokily ‘flat’ Yorkshire accent and accompanied by some delightful piano and a bundle of electronica. If that sounds odd, it is and it isn’t ….. this is someone with a Folk Heart but using all of the technology at her fingertips to produce beautiful music.
Once olde fans get past that juxtaposition; the EP is a garden of earthly delights.
Second song Stone, is quite deep and poetic in construction but the subtle accompaniment and harmonies, actually gives it a late night Jazzy tinge which again; really, really suits Ruth’s gorgeous voice … and it is gorgeous.
The ‘hit single’ Trouble follows, and it’s not just Ruth’s words and story that will catch the attention; but the overall musical construction and melody that will appeal to many young women out there, as she delves into the minutiae of their and her lives, with some ‘fantasy’ thrown in too ….. which made it perfect for Indie Radio and especially BBC Radio 6.
Then we get the punchy Clown, the darkest and most cerebral song here; again it’s a modern Folk song, tinged with a Jazzy melody and sung a voice that will make your heart wobble.
Then; in my humble opinion, the best is left for last …. Flood. This is the song that will make many a jaw drop (if they don’t know Ruth and her ‘story’) …. sitting neatly alongside every song that goes before it, Ruth combines irony with righteous anger and disguises it as a love song of sorts …. how she keeps from screaming the chorus beggars belief, but she does and has created one of the finest songs of not just the year but of it’s oeuvre; Modern Folk ….. with bells on!
Obviously many who hear these songs on the radio will presume Ruth Lyon is an ‘over night success’ …. as I alluded to in the intro, this young woman has put more ‘hard miles’ in during her career than the likes of Adele or Ed Sheeran could ever dream of….. follow her Social Media accounts to read about a professional musician unable to get on a train …. or worse still, turning up at a venue to find that there’s no means to get her and her wheelchair onto a stage! Seriously!
But, be warned …. do.not.feel.sorry. for her, she’s a fighter and will only be judged by her talent … and that is here in abundance.
Her hashtag is #AttitudeIsEverything …. and it is!

Released 26th November 2022


The Great Divide PROVIDENCE

The Great Divide

A Spectacular Harvest of Glistening New Songs Farmed From the Hopeful Fields of Red Dirt Alt-Country.

Three decades ago, I was in a totally different life place and nowhere physically or musically near Stillwater, Oklahoma: but if I had been, I bet these Red Dirt Alt-Country giants would have been a totally irresistible riot to experience in a County Store or Music Hall.
Perhaps then it is my own brand of ‘Providence’ for this album to land on my doorstep from RMHQ.
For a band who have just recorded their first album in 20 years, there is an understandable level of interest, expectation and intrigue and it feels like a new Dawn for this well-seasoned band.

The opener ‘Wrong Is Overrated’ encapsulates the whole album in one fell swoop. It’s as catchy as it is confessional, assessing the damage which contributed to the band’s break up in 2003 (rock n roll stuff of too much drinkin’ and in-fightin’) with a mature acceptance of his share of the blame from frontman and songwriter Mike McClure.
His self-assured driving vocals power the track and easily convince me of his sincerity, interwoven with a deep joy that time has healed and paved the way for a glorious reconciliation.
The Country dirt has been dug deep as is tradition with this band, to hit gritty sharp edged-rock with a hefty guitar riff that reels you in so fast that you believe no matter how the rest of the album pans out, it’s been worth the spin for this track alone:

I’m a little older now and my memories are faded
Of when I made such a mess, when things got complicated
And all the things that I love the best
Are things that I have sometimes hated
But I caught myself before I got too jaded

The band ease back after all that drama with “I Can Breathe Again”, a dreamscape, soul tuggin’ ballad. It’s delectable with melodic steel layering a bygone pathos and the bright lead guitar playfully expressing newfound joy as a backdrop to this exquisitely produced track. It portrays the love story between frontman Mike McClure and his wife Chrislyn Laurence.
‘My Sweet Lily’ expands this theme more as he sings
You’re my redemption for the miles I have travelled.
No doubt this relationship is key inspiration for the songwriter’s new creative chapter.

It’s only now I am realising that this is an album stacking the brightest of layers.
Heartfelt songs for his partner and appreciation for his band of brothers who have emerged stronger for this fresh start, together leads us nicely to “Good Side”.
The sun drenched, hope-laden vocals grab you from the off, the jaunty guitar raises the mood to a feel-good factor eleven and yet it is the dazzling dancing organ keys of Bryce Conway which hog the brightest limelight, deliriously bubbling positivity.
Very apt as Bryce was instrumental to encouraging The Great Divide back into the studio after such a long break.

This band’s irresistible journey carries on with the heavier weight ‘Set It All Down’, a post-pandemic wish for us all to make a fresh start to the rest of our lives.
Understandable after such a long break releasing new material, we get their message loud and clear: time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted!
Cue the surprise track on the album for me, ‘Slipping Away’ is a reggae-steeled Twangtastic exceptional up-tempo slice of good times, making me want to kick shoes off and feel the sand between my toes as I dance.
The keys bounce the surf with the whole track radiating holiday happiness whilst reminding us that time stands still for no-one.

‘Heaven Is High’ and ‘Until We Cross’ explore more spiritual themes, both awash with serene hope but my favourite song just happens to be the final track and what a way for this band to wrap things up!

‘Infinite Line’ hits us like a runaway train running on a full tank of Bluesy Rock with the organ keys again raising the temperature to one of sizzlin’ hot coals that glow a warning for us all to make every day count.
Having reached an age myself where some good friends have been lost, this final song has lyrics inspired by exactly that and it really strikes an emotional chord:

“Nothing hits ya quite as hard
As when you start losing friends
I bet you think that they’ll be there
With you until the end
And in a way I suppose they are
If you keep them in mind
Keep ‘em in your heart as well
And they’ll show up all the time
They’ll show up right on time”

Older, wiser but a band brimming with fresh spirit and energy, this is one glistening release in which they showcase a brand new crop of mature Red Dirt songs. A comeback that will no doubt please their loyal fan-base and at the same time scoop up many more new followers along the way. I can vouch for that.

Review by Anita Joyce

Released 28th October 2022



Alicia Blue
Inner Child Work Part 2
Magnetic Moon

Modern Indie-Folk Encompassing Drum Machines, Loops, Synths, and More.

Indie-folk isn’t always acoustic guitars and banjos.
Modern indie-folk encompasses drum machines, loops, synths, and more, sometimes fully escaping the orbit of strum and twang. Doesn’t mean it’s soulless or ineffectual, no, not at all.
It’s simply more ways of connecting with “folks” and isn’t that what Folk always was?
Folk Music by folks, for folks.
Californian musician Alicia Blue continues the trend of updating “folk music for the folks” with her EP Inner Child Work Part 2. Back in July of this year Alicia Blue released an EP titled Inner Child Work which featured songs dealing with starting over, self-awareness, and sudden life changes.
Her new EP is a continuation on those themes. (Back in the days of record albums, these would constitute the differing sides of a vinyl disc, but now that we’re securely ensconced in the 21st century, it’s two EPs released months apart.)
Lincoln Parish, from the band Cage the Elephant, has done a solid job of producing Blue’s songs, keeping the production simple, yet effective, letting the words and melodies shine throughout.
Songwriters know full well that the very act of writing songs can be emotionally cathartic, much less hearing the songs transform in ways you never imagined in the studio. Blue has this to say about the songs on this album:
Each song on Inner Child Work Part 2 is really just about the difficulty of navigating this life and not having all the proper tools to live it in the most successful way, and by successful, I mean the most healthy way. I like to think that getting this all out helps me in some way.
The first single, “Young,” features John Paul White—formerly of the band Civil Wars, who co-wrote the song with Blue—on second vocals. This one takes ideas from Bob Dylan’s classic song “Forever Young” and flips them upside down. With the sparsest production on the EP—the drums and guitars turned down to whispering shadows, a drone in the background—White’s voice intermingling poignantly with Blue’s throughout, this one stands out for sure.
I Don’t Wanna Live Forever Young
Even if they tell me to Time flies
when you’re having fun
Changes come and I don’t wanna stay young”

“Picasso Blue” has a Heather Nova feel to it, chiming guitars and a big beat.
“I Want it Faster” is an uptempo pop tune, (Blue could easily go the pop singer route, she has the voice for it and effortlessly writes sweet melodies.)
“Believer,” which ends the album, is dreamy and reverb-wrapped, Blue’s voice yearning for some truth to latch onto. She’s learned some lessons on this journey but feels ready to try again.
See me babe the way I see you
It’s when it’s unknown that it pops up
When I’m trying to grow my heart shuts
This pain I call a friend Make me a believer too…”

Both EP’S are well worth investigating and bode well for Alicia Blue’s imminent rise through the ranks in the Americana playing fields.

Review courtesy The Legendary Roy Peak
Released 18th November 2022