Sara Petite
The Empress
40 Below Records

More Twang and Emotion Than a Pickup Truck Full of Beer Swigging Cowboy Hatted Texans.

Sara Petite hails from Washington state, and is currently based in San Diego, but has more twang in her little finger than a pickup truck full of cowboy hatted Texans.
The Empress, her seventh album, features more of Petite’s excellent songwriting, the usual well-crafted lyrics, and hey, it sounds as if she’s having a blast, which is always a huge bonus if rarer than you’d think.
Petite has a way of embodying the characters in her songs without losing herself in the process, and her brand of barn burning Country is drop dead hilarious one minute and serious as a heart attack the next, without losing sight of those three chords and the truth.
A little bit trailer trash, some good old-fashioned Honky-Tonk, a smattering of Outlaw Country cheekiness, combined with just enough dive bar earthiness to keep it honest, and then a bang-up rollicking band that’s sure to clear the cobwebs out of any drinking establishment to back her up.
Petite rocks out hard on these eleven tunes.
More Alt-Country than Americana, with a few forays gloriously nearer to punk, the production by Grammy nominee Eric Corne is focused and sharp, but evenly rocky and brittle when needed.
Petite kicks off the album with “God Save the Queen,” a mission statement from Mother Earth herself—this tune snarls and punches all the way to the last note.
“Forbidden Fruit” is lighter in jest, but just as heavy in truth with lines like:
This apple’s ripe for picking
I’ll show you what I like
Come a little closer, honey
Close enough to bite
There’s more if you get hungry
Hanging high up in the tree
Do I tempt you baby
Or do you tempt me?
The challenging and Country-Noir of “Lead the Parade/Meet Me on the Other Side” contemplates death from the perspective of one who has passed.
Accepting, yet not tearful.
Honest, not mournful.
The gospel-tinged coda really makes this one work.
“That Was You and Me” is a goodbye to an old lover, but with plenty of musical twists and turns—the kind of romance that’s doomed from the start.
Quite often it’s the explosive relationships here that are the most memorable, and also the most heartbreaking.
“She’s Come Undone” is someone falling apart, yet unapologetic and “Bringing Down The Neighbourhood” sounds like it could be a tribute to George and Tammy; and there’s a good chance that if time travel was possible, the couple would undoubtedly sing it themselves.
When you first unwrap the CD your eyes will be drawn to a song called The Mistress; and if you’re already a Sara Petite fan you’ll be tempted to skim straight to it; and if you do this pedal-steel drenched heartbreaker will be worth the entrance fee alone … these days only Sara Petite can write and deliver such a classy and sad song like the Queens of Country did in the 50’s and 60’s.
Listening to an album full of feisty songs like I Want You So Bad coupled to the subtly sweet Tread Softly and the stunning title track The Empress; it’s easy to hear why Petite is a five-time International Songwriting Competition finalist, with a fan base many radio friendly ‘Country Stars’ would be proud of.
Great songs, fully-embodied lyricism, and a no holds barred approach to her craft, Petite is still shaking things up two decades into an already storied musical career.
Long live the queen.

Released 9th June 2023
Review by The Legendary Roy Peak



Black Deer Festival Preview
Fri, Jun 16, 2023 – Sun, Jun 18, 2023

Who RMHQ want to see – and suggest you might do too

Last year’s post-COVID Black Deer Festival was a triumph – and this year, it looks like it’s going to top even that.
For the Americana (and all points West) crowd, the line -up is one to drool over.

For this hopeful punter/reviewer, I’m already trying to work out my schedule, but there are several on my must-see list.
Brennen Leigh returns to these shores for the first time in a while – her upcoming album is one of the best she’s done and it’ll be a treat to catch her live – over in the States, Brennen has been playing in a trio with Melissa Carper and Kelly Willis – sadly there’s no Kelly, but it’ll be no surprise if Melissa (who had a fab recent album too) and Brennen don’t appear on the same stage together at some point – and when that does – expect magic to happen.

There are gems galore in the small print on the poster too – Bonny Light Horseman, Jaime Wyatt, Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real are four who we don’t see enough on this side of the pond and should be highlighted in your app; and for Blues Fans don’t miss Joanne Shaw Taylor… trust me.

Last year, one of the joyfully unexpected bonuses was the Arkansas night – and most of the main culprits have returned – Jude Brothers, Dylan Earl, Dylan LeBlanc too and Willi Carlisle – expect shenanigans!

From this side of the pond, there’s a lot to enjoy too – here at Magpie Mansions, we are going to be checking in on Daisy Chute (who we saw do a great couple of slots in High Wycombe at the Ramblin’ Roots Revue a couple of years back) Grace Petrie, Robert Vincent, very own Kristine aka My Girl The River and new daddy Rob Heron (and the Teapad Orchestra obviously) .

If female solo artists are your bag, then you’re spoiled for choice – but we recommend Allison Russell (going to be even bigger next year – as she’s on a path of exponential growth upwards) Elles Bailey, Bella White, Tami Neilson, Amanda Shires and Simeon Hammond Dallas…we did say you’d be spoiled for choice!

And we’ve not mentioned a single headliner – but that would be too obvious.

See you down the front…
Last year’s review –
Our photos from last year –

Preview by Nick Barber


Cowboy Junkies
Such Ferocious Beauty
Cooking Vinyl

Still Pushing Boundaries After Nearly 40 Years While Creating Music of The Highest Quality and Beauty.

What with Michael Timmons’ day to day job as a ‘go to record producer’ it’s no wonder it’s over 5 years since Cowboy Junkies last album of new material; although their covers album RECOLLECTIONS was pretty damn good in every which way; but at RMHQ it’s ‘their songs’ we crave like a crack addict.
So it was with baited breath and a big mug of coffee that I tentatively pressed ‘play’ on the office Hi-Fi; as the Timmons siblings are more than capable of throwing us a curve ball … with great relief opening song What I Lost is as deep, dark and beautiful as any fan could hope for, with Margo’s stunning and distinctive voice as cool as ever, while Michael’s guitar playing swoops and soars with additional rumbling from the top end of the fret board unlike any of the Guitar Gods on the road today.
With that in mind; the opening to Track #2 Flood, is almost psychedelic …. even Gilmouresque; and continues throughout while Ms Timmons remains front and centre apparantly oblivious to the ‘wall of sound’ her brother is creating behind her.
While I can’t say I’ve liked every Cowboy Junkies album; like you can’t like every Neil Young album, as both are contrary at times; ‘never making the same album twice’ …. which is actually a good thing; and Such Ferocious Beauty is a perfect moniker for this particular bundle of songs, with the slow and acoustic Canadian Gothic song Hell Is Real being juxtaposed between the punchy Shadows 2; about the Timmins’s father falling deeper and deeper under the spell of dementia; and Circe and Penelope with it’s haunting harmonica and rustic acoustic guitars; which is one of their few songs this century that sounds anything like Trinity Sessions; but the addition of a cello halfway through takes it into a whole new stratosphere.
Even after four plays now; this album is still throwing up surprises; possibly because while I’ve been digesting one song it’s meant I haven’t always been listening intently to what follows; which is why the intense and simmering story in Throw a Match has just taken me by such surprise …. was it there this morning?
It must have been, but I couldn’t remember it from the first three plays.
Weird, I know … but that’s the Cowboy Junkies for you.
Tucked away in the middle is a very important song in the Cowboy Junkies canon of work; and that’s Knives. As intense and complex as you’d expect; but here the addition of a violin finds the band setting sail to unchartered territory …. and I love it.
There’s an all encompassing darkness, and even ‘fear’ (courtesy of some scary guitar playing!) to Mike Tyson (Here It Comes) but the sensitive way Margo delivers the story makes this a full on contender for being my Favourite Song; but the staggeringly beautiful Blue Skies with its birdsong opening and tender acoustic guitar accompaniment just about edges it out of that first place.
Yet, again there is another song here that has just unravelled and took my breath away; so I suppose I have to make Hard To Build. Easy To Break its equal and therefore a joint Favourite Song.
There are highs and lows here, darkness and light too and the three multi-talented Timmins siblings alongside lifelong friend Alan Anton are still pushing boundaries all the while; but you always know they will never over step the mark in the name of experimentation.

Released June 2nd 2023


Fenton Robinson SOMEBODY LOAN ME A DIME (Re-Release)

Fenton Robinson
Somebody Loan Me a Dime
Alligator Records

A Cool & Classy 50 Year Old Blues Album That Sounds Like It Was Recorded Last Week.

As is my won’t; I hadn’t read the Press Release until I was playing this album for the third time; and when I did I was stopped dead in my tracks …. as I had no idea that it was a Re-Release and …. even allowing for some 21st Century re-mastering; there’s absolutely nothing in the production or the way Robinson sings or plays guitar that sounds like it could be nigh on 50 years old!
Apparently SOMEBODY LOAN ME A DIME was the fifth ever release on this now esteemed label and came about after Alligator head honcho Bruce Iglauer saw Fenton Robinson at Pepper’s Lounge on the South Side of Chicago and instantly felt that this virtually unknown player was perfect for what he had in mind for his new label.
As has often been the case; Iglauer was right!
The sumptuous title track, Somebody Loan Me a Dime opens the album and sets the scene for what is about to follow; fluid guitar playing, a rich and velvety vocal, a band that sounds like the members were born to play the Blues and a bunch of songs that sound like they come from the heart of a man who has had his heart broken a thousand times; but keeps bouncing back.
If I’m honest I have never heard of Fenton Robinson; so when I first played the album; tracks like You Don’t Know What Love Is, Gotta Wake Up and The Getaway made me think that this ‘young’ guitar slinger had obviously been influenced by Robert Cray, Joe Louis Walker and Keb’ Mo … but it turns out, they must have been influenced by Robinson; not just in the way they play guitar but the way they all write songs too.
Robinson plays Chicago Blues like virtually no one else; maybe you can hear a bit of BB King in Directly From My Heart to You; but that’s no problem at all to these ears.
I want to keep shouting “I can’t believe this album is half a century old!” but need to restrain myself; it is …. but won’t feel that way to 99% of the people who buy it in 2023.
The only thing that hasn’t been much of a surprise is the soulfulness in Robinson’s singing and writing; as most of the Chicago Bluesmen of that time were playing both genres quite naturally; and that comes to the fore on the enigmatic Going To Chicago and Checking On My Woman where he sounds like a young Smokey Robinson fronting Albert Collins’ touring band.
Speaking of Bluesmen who may have been influenced by Fenton Robinson; check out Texas Flood; a re-make of a Larry Collins single that Robinson had played guitar on; but I can imagine a young Stevie Ray Vaughan listening to this on repeat in his bedroom.
This album has been an exceptional voyage of discovery for me; and two songs in particular have struck me as Gold; the sick and sultry Country Girl which sent a shiver down my back the first time I played it; and the song that follows it, Gotta Wake Up, which is as edgy as Fenton Robinson gets alongside a brass section that is so subtle you forget it’s there; but the song would be nothing without its glorious interjections alongside some of the most majestic guitar playing I’ve heard in years … and I’ve heard a lot.
I’ve got nothing else to say apart from, if you like any of the players I’ve namechecked you are going to love this album ’til your dying day.

When Fenton Robinson passed away on November 25, 1997, the blues world lost one of its truly exceptional artists.

Released June 6th 2023


RMHQ Radio Show Ep:53 @NovaRadioNE #Newcastle

RMHQ Radio Show
Episode 53
Nova Radio NE

Saturday 27th May 23

My Sunday evening radio show was transferred to Saturday afternoon this week; as the Premier League football season was coming to an end with 4.30 ko’s on Sunday. At the time of planning we all thought the excitement could extend to Newcastle United; so a three hour programme was pencilled in.
Thankfully (?) on the Monday night a draw meant they couldn’t drop out of the European Cup places so Sunday would be a ‘dead rubber’.
The Music!

As it was going to be a very sunny afternoon I planned to play ‘fun’ music from the Rootsy genres; but as usual that plan quickly went adrift, starting with Tina Turner who sadly died a couple of days before broadcast and ending with Tom Petty’s ‘Refugee’ for pretty obvious reasons if you follow UK politics!
In between we had loads of new tracks and singles coupled to a few older songs that I re-discovered tucked away on the Nova Super Computer.

Tina TurnerNutbush City Limits
Wily Bo & ED BrayshawLive With Me
Guy DavisGot Your Letter in My Pocket
Chuck ProphetFelony Glamour
Kyshona TrioWe The People
The Countess of FifeHumans Are a Bad Breed
Stefan GrossmanVestapol
Ruthie FosterWar Pigs
Marty StuartThe Sun is Quietly Sleeping
Margo PriceShotgun Willie
Casey James PrestwoodDay Drinking
Amanda Shires & Bobbie NelsonSummertime
Zach AaronTruth is a Mirror
Bella WhiteWorth My While
Dean MuellerLife Ain’t All Roses
Ben HemmingThe Devil’s Dance
Lee HunterThe Sycamore’s are Turning
Cowboy JunkiesMike Tyson (Here it Comes)
Stephen FearingGone But Not Forgotten
Beau JenningsI Know The Guys
Chastity BrownLoving the Questions
Tom BlackwellKill Me With Kindness
Malcolm HolcombeBits & Pieces
Annie KeatingCowgirl in the Sand
Helen McCookerybookCoffee & Hope
The ByrdsSo You Want to be a Rock & Roll Star
Tom PettyRefugee

Chastity Brown & Tom Blackwell @ Jumpin Hot Club #Newcastle

Chastity Brown & Tom Blackwell
Jumpin Hot Club
The Cluny II
Thursday 25th May 2023

First up was Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Tom Blackwell, looking very dapper in a suit and pristine white shirt. He opened with the slow and simmering I Can’t Help It, which seamlessly went into Paradise Blues without missing a note.
With only 40 minutes to showcase his back catalogue and imminent new release; Tom was like a magician the way he changed harmonicas and re-set his acoustic guitar between songs; generally with some self-depreciating quips to entertain the appreciative crowd.
Just over half way through he played the title track, Regency Cafe from the new album; and while I have my own review copy at home; I only realised how much he reminds me of the solo work from Ray Davies in the way he arranges and sings his songs; the subject matter is similar too.
The other two new songs found him dipping his toes into the Americana waters with Tom Trouble and what he introduced as his ‘daft song’ Kill Me With Kindness which was filled with wheezy harmonica bursts ala Neil and Bob which merited two stars in my notes.
For a virtual unknown this far East I was pleased to hear Tom receive a request for The King of Doubt, from the back of the room, which was actually one of the highlights of a razor-sharp set.
Tom has recently re-located to the NE, so hopefully I will get to see him a lot more in the near future.

I’ve seen Chastity Brown a few times over the years so was surprised to see a drum kit as the back of the stage; which was filled by an intricate lady drummer called Tara who wonderfully Chastity’s ‘Jazzy set’.
You will have to forgive me as we go forward, because not only did I become immersed in the music; occasionally forgetting to scribble notes; Chastity didn’t introduce any songs; bar one …. and her set list, which I photographed seems to be written in some secret code!
Her opening song, Cult Classically set the tone for the Jazzy vibe that prevailed all evening; intricately soft drums accompanying some clever piano or guitar; but with Ms Brown’s stunning vocals very much front and centre.
This was followed by Boston from the latest album; and the sparse guitar and drums with an intense vocal performance took a beautiful song into a whole new dimension.
Wonderment from the same album followed and Chastity’s choppy guitar breaks were quite astounding at times; which while I know she can play guitar, tonight she used her Semi-Acoustic as a lead instrument which was a great surprise.
On previous visits Chastity was accompanied by a pianist, but tonight she played it herself and just like her guitar playing, left me stunned as she channeled her inner Carla Bley at times with her passionate all encompassing playing as Tara watched her like a hawk for key changes.
As the gig ebbed and flowed, Chastity introduced a new song; Mosaic as a ‘work in progress’ for a project she’s working on with the Minnesota Orchestra …and sort of beggared belief as she played it solo on the piano which was beautiful; but I haven’t got the imagination to think what it might be like with a full orchestral backing.
One of the joys of watching music being played live, is when something goes slightly wrong ….which occurred tonight when Chastity got her verses mixed up in a song …. no one else in the world apart from us witnessed it, which I think is rather cool and special.
After 60 very special and intimate minutes Chastity and Tara thanked us for being there; then left the stage only to come back on for an obligatory encore, a particularly ‘heavy’ version of Curiosity, which was met with reverential silence from the audience then a torrent of applause at the end.
This was a really special evening of music from two very talented singer-songwriters who chopped and changed songs into barely recognisable from their recorded versions; but proving that there’s never just one version of a song.



Lee Hunter & The Gatherers
Between Nothing All
Bird Tale Records

Quality Americana, Folk and What We Used to Call ‘Bedsit Music’.

It’s been a long slog from the day I finally broke free from writing reviews for an unappreciative website/magazine and flying solo as the Rocking Magpie on my own. From Day #1 I presumed I could push out a review a day, Monday – Friday; and here we are 10 years later and I have to dismiss a lot more albums than the ‘team’ can actually listen to and then write insightful reviews after actually ‘listening’ to the music.
With no disrespect to the Major Labels we now work with; nothing excites me more than receiving a courteous e-mail from an artist asking if we will listen to their self-released album … which is what we have here from a friend of a friend who recommended RMHQ to her.
What little I know about Lee Hunter; and I really don’t need to know much more is that she lives in Jacksonville and has been ‘making music’ for a good few years now.
So with no pre-conceived ideas Track #1, I Want To Know Your Story is/was an absolute delight, Lee Hunter’s voice isn’t as sad as the song may suggest but strong and wise keeping the listener’s attention from start to finish.
This is followed by the wistful and piano led The Sycamores Are Turning; when it feels like Lee is using nature as a metaphor for life; and if I didn’t know better she sounds like current crop of cool singer-songwriters I’m listening to from Canada.
Even the first time I played this album, the songs felt like I’d known them forever; as Lee glides between Americana, American Folk and what we used to call ‘bedsit music’ with ease.
Whoever arranged these songs has done a great job; as Ms Hunter’s supporting musicians whom I’ve never heard of are quite exceptional; only ever adding subtle flourishes to their combined depth in the background that pushes Lee’s gorgeous vocals to the fore.
I’m mostly thinking about Joe Craven’s sweet violin on Listen and later the piano solo and pedal-steel that cuts through For a Little While too; but there are other examples too.
Lee Hunter’s ‘Folk background’ comes to the fore on tracks #5 & #6; My Johnny Was a Shoemaker and The Pirate and his Ship; which are both swathed in a Sothern Gothic blanket to give them a contemporary Americana ‘feel’.
I love a good ‘cover song’ and Lee Hunter certainly doesn’t disappoint on her re-make of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine which caught me by surprise the first time I played it and let out a loud “Oooooh” much to Mrs Magpie’s delight.
While this primarily an album for kicking back and immersing yourself in; there are still a couple more songs that stand out to me and therefore tie to be my Favourite Songs.
The intense Ready For The Storm again, sounds like it comes from a Folk heritage (reminding me of British acts Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention) as the electric guitar and violin fight for dominance as Lee Hunter takes what could be an ordinary song into a whole new arena with her expressive vocals.
The other is most certainly a modern Americana Folk Tale; as Out Of The Shadow makes you sit and listen intently in the way Gretchen Peters and Mary Gauthier do; and this song certainly sits alongside the best of their work in my humble opinion.
As I implied earlier, I love receiving albums from ‘Household Name’ acts from big labels; but nothing excites me more than discovering singers, songwriters and musical acts like Lee Hunter; and it makes the long hours listening to ‘average music’ worth it when a pearl pops into my life like this album has.

Released October 2022


Li’l Jimmy Reed with Ben Levin BACK TO BATON ROUGE

Li’l Jimmy Reed with Ben Levin
Back to Baton Rouge
Nola Blue

Classy and Classic Sweet Southern Blues From an Unknown Master of The Craft.

Even in the bio on his website Leon Atkins, aka Lil’ Jimmy Reed is very vague about his back story, apart from being born in a shotgun shack in Louisiana sometime in the late 1930’s and being re-named Li’l Jimmy Reed in 1958 when he stood in at the last minute for the original Jimmy Reed.
Constantly touring since the late 1950’s in a variety of bands, I think Atkins/Reed seems to have concentrated on this part of his career rather than releasing albums; as only three others are listed.
I think the backstory is important to give you all an inkling as to what to expect on his latest album; which is classy and classic Southern Blues in the style of …. well, just about everyone I can think of, which all rolls together to create an very personal and distinctive style of playing; both his guitar work, singing style and his note perfect band.
The opening track Down in Virginia is a nigh on perfect introduction as to what follows; Reed’s voice is both luxurious and deeply emotional, the guitar playing errs between what we know from Muddy Waters but with some slick riffs that would make Buddy Guy proud; and when he puffs and wheezes into his harmonica you will be whisked back to Chicago when Little Walter was holding court.
This is followed by the salacious and slinky They Call Me Li’l Jimmy; when Reed reads out his CV, including how he got his name in 1958 as a way of seducing any ladies in the audience. Cool? Huh?
On Cincinnati’s the Place To Be; Reed’s guitar playing changes into an edgy format alongside a hypnotic bass that will have even those with two left feet shuffling around the dancefloor/kitchen.
When you hear songs like his take on In The Wee Wee Hours or Mailbox Blues and especially the slow burning title track, Back To Baton Rouge you; like me will wonder why Li’l Jimmy Reed isn’t much better known as the arrangements and actual stories are exemplary, making them every bit as good as most current household names hawking their acts around the world.
I love the shuffling beat, John Lee Hooker delivery and metronome timing on Engine Light, while Jimmy apologises to his young lady passenger when the car ‘breaks down’ and he wonders how they ae going to fill in their time.
This followed by another tale of skewed passion and high jinks with I’m The Man Down There, which features some sizzling harmonica playing, which edges it into the running for RMHQ Favourite Song; but is pipped at the post by the majestic A String To Your Heart, which would be a favourite even without the inclusion of some Deluxe Harmonica and ‘Pinetop Perkins’ style piano playing in the middle.
While I have to admit that Reed’s ‘style’ offers not a lot that’s new here; but as I said at the beginning his songs are all Classy AND Classic in the way he performs them; so “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it!” is as good an adage as I can think of to describe this rather excellent bunch of timeless Blues Songs.

Released 19th May 2023


Graham Nash NOW

Graham Nash

A Gleaming, Fresh Bundle of Engaging Folk-Rock Songs from a 60 Year Veteran

This is the year my mum turns 80: whilst any significant birthday can be a time of reflection, nostalgic serendipity is fuelling me towards this first new release in seven years from a music veteran; nay LEGEND.
The common thread?
We all grew up in Salford, my mum as a youngster marched alongside Mr Nash in the same Whit Walk Parades, my Nan served their school dinners.
So, it feels quite remarkable some 70 years later that I am delving into a bunch of shiny, brand-new songs that represent this same landmark junction for him as it does my Mum, and I’m curious to find out how this artist is taking stock of his own life, far away in time and space from those cobbled streets.

After just one listen, it was clear this album should be a winner with his fans: the songs giving a respectful musical nod to what has gone before, whilst lyrically providing a fresh, honest perspective and insight into his past and present mindset. Don’t get too comfy though as sprinkled in are some heavier weighted surprises: Graham Nash is showing no signs of putting his feet up anytime soon.

So how does this artist weave a trail of six musical decades within a new album?
Buddy’s Back encapsulates the early days of The Hollies, a buoyantly pure Rock n Roll pleaser: he’s not the first musician of course to pay tribute to this fifties legend but accompanying on backing vocals is his fellow founder member bandmate Allan Clarke, giving this track extra gravitas.
It’s sure to sit well in a live set.

Moving forward a decade sees him plucking an instrumental piece from a soundtrack by Alan Price to the 1973 film ‘O Lucky Man!’ all these years later, adding lyrics to create In A Dream.
Bordering on musical theatre territory, this is not my usual bag, but this soft, reflective orchestral ballad has a message that love can make everything alright and who am I to argue with that?
Sad strings are once more used for dramatic effect on I Watched It All Come Down where he gives a personal take on the rise and pitfalls of the Crosby, Stills and Nash years:

I watched it all come down
To reflector shades and telegrams at dawn
Changing highways on and on
I’m gone, been there too long
And although I’ve watched it fall
I want you to know, I’ve seen it grow, let go

The backbone of the album for many will be the heartfelt vintage folk pop tracks: A Better Life poignantly recognising the passing of time and contains a direct message for us all to try and leave behind an improved World for the next generations.
It Feels Like Home, complete with an emotive, old-school harmonica intro, is wrapped up with the right amount of country twang to make even the most adventurous folk homesick: it’s a feel-good love story that catches me off guard, evoking memories of my own early Salford years, making it an unexpected favourite.

The recurring theme of love provides affirmation that a point of personal contentment has been reached, whilst acknowledging there is always more to learn when it comes to matters of the heart.
The soft picking Ballad Love Of Mine conveys a touching regretful apology to his partner, with vocals upfront and confessional, whilst the piano led When it Comes to You is tenderly open about the sweet emotional place he is in:

You’re teaching me all that I thought I knew
Free from doubt, free from fear
I know what I need to do
When it comes to you’

Homelife aside, there are political frustrations voiced with the bluesy Golden Idol and Stars And Stripes which both convey Graham Nash’s thoughts on the MAGA era as he sings
I won’t fall for this illusion,
Just tell me the truth’.

In fact, the two songs jostling for the top slot both serve as a reminder this album is as contemporary as it is nostalgic.
Right Now is the upfront, rocky opener of the album, setting the gauntlet down with a punchy guitar rift designed to uplift and energize as the artist assesses his next steps, he’s still evolving:

Trying my best to be the man I know I am,
I’ll try to take it easy, moving right ahead’

By a tiny margin the boisterous ‘call to verbal arms’ track Stand Up wins the day.
Urging us to speak out against injustices, this one caught me by surprise and spirited me to a virtual ‘90s indie mosh pit!
In my book, a dead cert crowd pleaser for his upcoming ’60 years of songs and Stories’ tour, demonstrating just how worthy this album is to be the latest addition to Graham Nash’s musical timeline.
Glad to have checked back in after all these years, just as I’m planning my mum’s first visit back to Salford post Pandemic.
We’ve all come a long way and this album inspires us not to slow our journey down just yet.

Review by Anita Joyce

Released May 19th 2023


Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives ALTITUDE

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives

A Byrdsian, Garage-Rock,Twelve String Trippy Delight.

Anyone who caught Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives on his UK/EU visit last year will appreciate that the man and his band are masters of any Country form (and others – Surf music too) they choose to turn their hands to. On this occasion, Mr Stuart is dipping his pen into late period Byrds twanging psychedelia.

Instrumentals “Lost Byrd Space Train” (“Scene 1” and “Epilogue”) bookmark the album and set the tone.
The opener is a rumbling, trippy ride which nigh-segues into the scorching “Country Star”, a sort of response to “So You Wanna be a Rock’n’roll Star?” yet much tougher and harder – it’s has echoes of a Creedence style road song and is bound to be a live favourite.

Twelve string, Beatle-esque melody and Byrdsian harmony takes over on “Sitting Alone” – has anyone seen Marty and Bennett Wilson Poole in the same room?
“A friend of mine” keeps up the pace – although more in mid-60s garage rock territory and would have sat perfectly in any of the Nuggets compilations with its driving bass and surf guitar riffing – definitely an air guitar showpiece.

There’s then a trio of single-word title songs “Space”, as its name suggests is slower and atmospheric – based around sitar and a lyric about being an outsider, it comes from the sort of place that the Thirteenth Floor Elevators might have frequented. Title track “Altitude” is much more cosmic country – it takes the path that the Flying Burrito Brothers were pursuing and I can almost visualise Marty S. doing the Gram Parsons facial twitch while singing it. The Parsons connection continues with “Vegas” which is a close cousin of “Ooh Las Vegas” – it even has the “oohs” and a copycat rhythm!!

The song titles get some extra words again with “The Sun is Quietly Shining”, a more reflective soundtrack to one of those films shot on Super 8 with lots of lava lamp projection effects.
It’s hippy-trippy heaven.
Early Pink Floyd anyone?

There’s a brief instrumental revisit to the “Lost Byrd Space Train (scene 2)” before the wig-out slow boogie of “Nightriding” with its grungy bass tones.
Tempo-wise things kick off again with “Tomahawk” which has its roots in old Blues stompers and late 60s Acid-Country.

“Time to Dance” is perhaps a bit of a late declaration because there’s been plenty to shake your bits to prior to this 12th track – choice of dance to this track?

Probably the Twist.

Last “full” track “The Angels Came Down” is the most laid-back on the album, with Stuart’s close-mic-ed saturated vocal framed by warm picked guitar and sweet harmonies, before the gentler trip-out of the final “Lost Byrd Space Train (Epilogue)”.

Once again, Marty Stuart shows that he’s the King of whatever he wants to turn his hand to, musically speaking – as a scholar of the genre he knows his stuff and its seeps into his music.

In the case of “Altitude”, Marty Stuart’s playing what he most obviously loves, not what the mainstream might dictate and that gives it all the more life and vibrancy.

Fans of the aforementioned Bennett Wilson Poole will love this – both albums are coming from very similar places – maybe we’re seeing a Paisley revival, revival?!!

Review by Nick Barber

Released 19th May 2023