RMHQ EXCLUSIVE Interview With Peggy Seeger by Kris Wilkinson

by Kris Wilkinson

June 2023

“So..Rocking Magpie? Why would you want to speak to somebody like me?” Peggy asks.

“What?” I thought, “Interview a living Folk legend and extraordinary crafter of songs?”

Our website, The Rocking Magpie loves great music from many different genres and Peggy represents the Folk genre, although she most definitely cannot be pinned down in one simple genre.
She writes ballads, lullabies, ragtime, traditional folk, uptempo, political attention grabbers, heartbreakers…she is all things unto herself.
If an idea has sticking power, she writes about it. 

Peggy: So! What do you want to ask me about?

MGTR: I have pulled together a couple of questions for you. I tried to think outside the box because I suspect you get asked the same couple of questions many times over.

Peggy: (big sigh) Oh, you bet.

I congratulate Peggy on her number one folk album released in 2021 called ‘First Farewell’. I draw her attention to a song I enjoyed ‘Gotta Get Home By Midnight’ (which I swear could have been written by a Ragtime great or a Blues legend).
I particularly love the lyric
‘…Eyes are the colour of time
and so I mention this and ask Peggy if any artists have inspired her through the years or does she herself have a favourite lyric?

Her answer is no surprise – she is a steely eyed craftsperson when it comes to songwriting and has no time for ‘good enough’ lyrics.
But first she tells me where that particular lyric came from.
And I will say now that I suspect I could chat with Peggy an hour once a week, every week for a year and she would still have volumes of incredible stories from her time as a Folk singer travelling the world; and so she shares her story recalling it with clarity and fine detail.

‘Well, first of all, ‘my eyes are the colour of time’, that was said to me by an Israeli boy in 1956, it would have been in March, and I was in Denmark staying at a youth hostel and he was going away to the Finnish logging camps because that’s where the money was.
He was putting the touch on me and asking if I would go along with him.
He said ‘there’s good money there’ and I asked what would I be doing and he said ‘you would probably be working in the kitchens and the laundries’.
Here Peggy deadpans ‘Oh goodie’ and I have to laugh.
She continues, ‘‘That was what a woman would go to a logging camp for. He was eager to have me as his lover and he would say ‘your eyes are the colour of time’.
Fortunately Alan Lomax made me a better offer and I came to England instead.’
I comment that had she gone to the logging camp we probably wouldn’t be talking.
(Thank goodness Peggy had no dreams of working in a Danish logging camp laundry!)
She circles back to my question.

‘I haven’t necessarily been ‘inspired by’ other artists directly.
I am an intense critic of craftsmanship and of picking out weak lines and feeling that that one weak line just ruins it.
(I often tell students beware of the ‘weak line’ because it will haunt you. You’ll cringe when you hear that song and think you could have done better).
*Tune in soon for a future conversation with Peggy about the craft of songwriting!

Peggy continues, ‘That’s one of the reasons I love Paul Simon. I haven’t picked a hole in any of his songs. It really takes something to please me.
I do have favourite songwriters, but many songwriters, myself included, can produce amazing works of art and then they’ll produce something that is SIMPLY ‘not good’.
I have produced some songs that are not good and fortunately I had Ewan MacColl or I had my present partner to critique my writing, or I had some innate thing inside my head that said to me ‘why hasn’t anybody picked up on this’ and so I withdraw those songs.
I soon realised very quickly that songs tell me themselves that they’re worth finishing.
I haven’t found any of Paul Simon’s, I haven’t found any of Danny Ellis’, whom you probably have not heard of but I will tell you about the best overall CD.
For me, I don’t like superlatives. I think it’s a man thing.
They have to be better, they have to be louder, they have to be quicker, they have to be smoother, it’s always the best, the best, the best.
Women, I think we share more and realise there’s lots of us who are the best which of course is an oxymoron.
To me the one album that I can listen to all the way through without a single cringe moment is Danny Ellis’ album called ‘800 Voices’.
It’s the story in twelve songs about him being dumped in a Christian Brothers orphanage in Dublin when he was eight years old. His single mother took a new lover and this man didn’t want Danny around so she took him to an orphanage and said she’d be back at Christmas and he’s sixty and still waiting for her to come back.
It is an astounding and amazing album.
He knew how to construct it and sequence it. He takes you from his first sight of 800 boys playing in the playground, every song is different.
She goes on to tell me more about this album and of course I’ll be tracking it down because if it’s one of Peggy’s favourites it absolutely must be worth a listen

‘If I want to listen to a song more than once, that says something to me. Another one of my favourite songwriter’s is Peter and Lou Berryman.
In my travels as a touring Folksinger, I meet a lot of Folksingers.
Some that never make it but make it in their own circle.
Peter Berryman is one – I want his brain saved for prosperity.
If you get my previous album ‘Everything Changes’ there’s a song on that called ‘Do You Believe in Me’. That’s one of his songs.
The two of them, they were married at one point but they divorced but they still sing together.
She makes the tunes and plays the accordion, he plays the guitar, every single song either has one or both of them singing, but these songs are absolutely zany!
The logic of them or lack of logic is unbelievable! (she laughs).
I also like Flanders and Swann. They are so English. They are so musical and so clever.
I haven’t heard a bad song of theirs. And then there is the odd one offs and I have collected a database of 5000 songs and I have collected them from EVERYWHERE.
So as a song crafter, I’m writing for the new album, and I’m writing with my daughter-in-law and we work very well together.
There’s one song that has taken six months to perfect between the two of us.
We work differently. She’s a trained musician and absolutely superb and her input is different to mine as a Folksinger.
I spent the last week trying to pick out one note, a final note in the penultimate verse and I think I’ve finally got it.’
We continue talking about craft and come full circle back to Paul Simon in which she adds ‘he knows what to leave out.’

I bring up the song The Invisible Woman. I ask her amongst all the ‘new talent, young talent, emerging talent’ what inspires her to keep writing? 

‘Other people, and things that are happening (in life, in the world).
I could not have written ‘The Invisible Woman’ without my older son, Neill.
We had never written a song together previously. So he came up and laid on the sofa and neither of us had an idea.
So he’s lying there and he says ‘You know mom, I’m sixty, I feel invisible.
Now, I never met a sixty year old man that felt invisible.
I think he meant in the way people pay attention to him, especially younger women.
I’ve felt invisible for twenty five years but chiefly invisible to young people and especially to men. I’m so happy to be invisible to men!! (she laughs)
So I said if you want invisibility try being a woman of eighty or eighty five. So he quite happily just turned it over to being an invisible woman.
So we both worked on that song. So I wanted to mention that he started that idea and we both worked on it.’

She continues about inspiration. ‘What does inspire me is different song forms. For this new album I’m working on I desperately need a funny song. I’ve got the subject – but I’m no spoiler. It’s something that I feel very strongly about but I’m going to treat it with humour.’ 

Peggy does not hide her feelings when it comes to political views or anything else, for that matter. We spoke more about Paul Simon’s writing and his ability to write a song where it starts out about one thing and then turns a corner and is about something else.
Peggy calls these ‘wedge songs’.

‘On the album First Farewell, ‘How I Long For Peace’ is a wedge song.
It opens up with the chorus and you get an idea of general longing for peace. People don’t want to talk about capitalism, or hypocrisy or greed, they’re not expecting what comes in verse four.
We all want peace.
The wedge, you get to people who don’t want to talk politics but who feel that they want peace.
Then you have to go into why we don’t have peace. It even goes into the fact we will never have peace until men abandon fighting.
I sang it as a new song to several people, men and women, and there were a number of men who objected to that line.
They said what about Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, yeah ok, you can pick them out because there are so few of them.
They felt the line should be ‘until WE abandon fighting…. No, absolutely not!’ she says emphatically. 
We continue on this topic for a few minutes. Peggy says to me ‘Men are fighting and the hypocrisy and greed, both men and women, and I’m trying to write songs that are inherently political yet trying to keep hopeful.
I don’t write apocalypse songs anymore. We all know how bad things are.’

I tell her that her latest version of ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ with just her on piano is just wonderful and steals my breath away.
(If you haven’t heard it yet please stop reading and go listen to it now. Thank me later.)
She thanks me for the compliment. I tell her I can feel it all happening as she sings it.
Her voice is so rich and emotive. I ask her how this newest version came to be.
‘Well, I love the song. I’ve written a book, a memoir called First Time Ever, and I devoted a whole chapter to that song.
But you need to read the whole book to understand the context.
It’s an easy read.
So, when Ewan sang it to me, I know where he got the idea for the song.
It’s based on an old folk melody, which we can talk about another time.
I always sang it like a bird with a gentle guitar accompaniment and there was a great freedom singing it like that because my voice could do it.
My voice won’t do it now. I’m taking singing lessons now to adapt to my new voice.
So I hadn’t sung it for twenty years because I couldn’t.
I have a piano where I transpose it down and just idly play.
I took it down to A flat, and I found I could just settle into it and let my mind drift over the two life partners that I’ve had and I sing it to both of them.
There are different aspects to both of them.
My mantra is ‘been there done both’ in love. (Peggy has changed part of the last verse from ‘And I knew our joy would fill the earth and last ’til the end of time’ to ‘I thought our joy would fill the earth and last ‘til the end of time’…it’s a heartbreaking moment.)
I sank into playing the song and it was such a pleasure. And when Neill and I were talking about what we would do on our tour of last year, 2022, in Autumn, five of them were with Neill and the previous concerts were with my younger son.
When Neill heard it he said that it had to go into my concert, just me on piano and he on a little synth.
I’ll tell you what really hits me, this song is a warhorse. It’s been ridden by over a thousand other singers each in their own style.
I’ve heard it in gospel, reggae, heavy metal, as a rap, as fast country bluegrass banjo, and then there’s Roberta Flack, and others.
It’s amazing that a song can last through all of that.
Some of the pop songs have, I guess … Smoke Gets In Your Eyes for example.
Some are tied to their own accompaniment but mine wasn’t tied down so the other artists were able to put it in their own style.
For a song to last through all of that.
It’s amazing. I’ll tell you what hasn’t lasted since my version is that the melody of the first line and the melody of the last line are not the ones that Ewan MacColl wrote.
If you listen to my version, you hear the tune that he wrote. If you listen to Roberta Flack and to Peter, Paul and Mary, the first line and the last line and the cadence is different.
Maybe it just needed somebody with a new take of it?
And maybe a ‘face’ needed to sing it?
What I really would have liked would have been some kind of conversation between myself and Roberta where the voice talks to the face because we’re both invested in the song big time.
But that can’t happen now because she’s ill (For those that don’t know Roberta, very sadly, has been diagnosed with ALS and can no longer sing).’

I tell her that my hope for this new version is that a new generation will discover Peggy through it because of its simplicity and its power and to just hear a woman’s voice honestly sing.
She responds, ‘People hop into bed so easily these days. They didn’t when this was written. Maybe they did and I just didn’t notice.
But people still fall hopelessly, helplessly in love and that’s what this song is about.’ 

With my remaining time I ask Peggy about modern technology and streaming (Peggy did a regular series during lockdown).
‘Well it took me a long time to learn how to do that. The new technology, for one, is putting on makeup.
I didn’t used to put makeup on to go on stage, I just got up on stage, that’s what you do as a Folk singer. But I put makeup on for those programmes, I think I did twenty of them, Peggy at Five on Sunday.
It was merely an attempt to give people who follow me something to look forward to at five o’clock on Sundays.
And it kept me in trim because I would be looking up songs.
I might start it again because I feel a bit like I’m on lockdown now because I don’t have any concerts. Right now I have conversations.
And just getting ready for that, with the merchandise, and I’m going by myself, and it’s heavy stuff. I’m 87 going on 88.’ (I can only hope to be as whip smart and capable at Peggy’s age!)

At this point Peggy graciously asks about me and what I do.
I mention I met a British man and listening to that accent charmed me.
Peggy says, ‘Tell me about it.’ and we both laugh.
So we have this in common; and writing and appreciating good songwriting too.
That will be part two of this interview, a chat focused mainly on the craft of songwriting.
I recommend you take notes because Peggy knows what she’s doing; and is still writing circles around people more than half her age.
Aren’t we lucky to live in the age of folks like Paul Simon and Peggy Seeger?
I absolutely think so.
And can we just touch on the fact that in casual conversation Peggy threw out the line ‘That song is a warhorse. It’s been ridden by over a thousand singers.’
Incredible with words, isn’t she?

*A follow up interview by Kris will be published by the end of June (hopefully)

Interview by Kris Wilkinson

Peggy Seeger

Roseanne Reid LAWSIDE

Roseanne Reid
Last Man Standing

Exceptionally Mature and Inspiring Americana From the East Coast of Olde Scotia.

The old cliche ‘the second album is always the hardest‘ doesn’t appear to apply here. I loved Roseanne Reid’s debut album TRAILS; which erred on the side of her Folk upbringing; but hinted at Americana and even Alt. Country leanings across quite a few songs; but here?
Today, I defy anyone in a ‘blind tasting exercise’ to tell me that this young lady doesn’t come from the Mid-West of Americae instead of the East Coast of Scotland; not that her voice is ‘effected’;’ in any way; it is 100% natural, but the arrangements and instrumentation throughout LAWSIDE are targeting a much bigger audience than the Folk Clubs ever can.
It’s not often I get ‘blown away’ by an opening song that I already know; but all preconceptions were thrown right out of the RMHQ window when I first heard All I Need.
Roseanne’s beautiful, yet melancholic voice simply aches throughout the full heartbreaking four minutes of a cleverly written song.
For only a second album, the songwriting here is exceptionally mature and the inspiration for the songs come from some very interesting places; not least Shine On, which sounds incredibly personal with the singer grieving for a lost loved one; and then the notes tell us that it was written for and about the suicide of TV personality *Caroline Flack; a death that caused us all to question the tabloid press and Social Media (for 5 minutes it appears) …. but I feel many people will find solace in Roseanne’s words too.
I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets by saying the extraordinary Made Just For You is about her baby son and the feelings a new parent has at this time in their lives.
Plenty of other songs here have backstories too; but at the same time we all interpret songs in our own personal ways; which is why Daisy Chain, All My Days and especially the rambunctious Call It Love will appeal to you and I both; but most likely for totally different reasons to the woman who wrote them from her own experiences.
After the success of her debut album Roseanne was on the cusp of something special; just as Covid and the associated lockdowns put everything on hold; but she used that time wisely; not just creating her son, but fleshing out the songs she was writing for the follow up …. and the results (at least in the case of the songs) are better than could have been hoped for had she been rushed into the studio.
The arrangements on Mona Lisa and Till Kingdom Come, especially are deceptively simple, with a production that allows Roseanne’s words and tunes the space to breathe and linger in the air for a long time after the song has ended.
As I said at the beginning all of my preconceptions were quickly out the window in Track #1 and that follows through all 13 songs; with a couple being very, very special indeed, which is why I’m currently calling a Tie for Favourite Song.
Couldn’t Wish More For You uses a simple singer-songwriter love song template for what goes on to be a complex story of Joni Mitchell proportions as a cello joins Reid’s gentle rolling acoustic guitar playing that will bring a lump to your throat.
The other, What Constitutes a Sin? Is one of those handful of songs that genuinely stops you in your tracks and sounds horribly personal.
Maybe it is about her own life, maybe not, perhaps it’s completely made up …. but … phew, the way Reid uses her velvet tinged vocals to tell this desperately emotional story could be a game changer for her … especially across the Atlantic.
Personally I love the Americana instrumentation and flavoured production, and I can’t wait to see and hear Roseanne play these songs alongside a similarly assembled band
Even playing LAWSIDE the very first time, I knew it was going straight into my Top 10 albums of 2023 …. and it’s certainly the next step on what promises to be a star studded path to glory.

Released June 2nd 2023



*Caroline Flack


Various Artists
28 Little Bangers from Richard Hawley’s Jukebox
Ace Records

A Musical Mix-Tape and Love Story To The Strange and Dirty Side of the 60’s

Renowned purveyors of archaic and hard to find gems, Ace Records often get experts in niche areas of the musical past to curate their releases – often those curators are known to only a handful, but in this case it’s the rather more well-known Mr Richard Hawley who was asked to put together a collection of what he (quite correctly) calls “Little Bangers.”
Mainly instrumentals from the recesses of the 60s. The 28 tracks are spread over a single CD/double vinyl, so you can guess from the maths, that we’re not talking songs of great length here – the “little” part of the title being most apt.

Fans of Richard Hawley will recognise several of these choices from his pre-gig playlists – they’re all quite insistent, driving tracks designed to get feet tapping and to get people in the mood – and that they most certainly do.
Those looking for links to Mr Hawley’s musical inspiration – at least in how these tracks manifest themselves – might find the connections harder to make – the most recent studio album “Further” was characterised by shorter, punchier tracks and that is one clear link – musically, there’s a not too disconnected line between “Path through the Forest” by The Factory and Hawley’s “Down to the Woods” – and the liner notes acknowledge the influence of Sanford Clark, whose “It’s nothing to me” on the Hawley vocal (that’s fine – but to these ears, it’s a spooky coincidence that the rise of Charley Crockett only occurred after Mr Clark’s passing – in fact CC has even recorded this very song… ).
There’s a guitar riff here and a guitar tone there – Hawley fans will have fun in playing spot the (guitar-based) musical nuggets.
If anything Cheryl Thompson’s “Black Knight” is the most Hawleyesque tune on here, in terms of melody and arrangement – if you’ve ever heard Hawley’s cover of “Crawfish” – they’re cut from the same cloth.

Despite the claim that RH just pulled a bunch of 45’s from his boxes of records and they formed this compilation, there are clear links and groupings to be made amongst the types of gems to be found here. Fans of surf instrumentals will likely be familiar with “Quasimoto” and “El Gato” as well as “Honky” – all these tracks were covered by many bands in the early 60’s Surfin’ scene and have appeared on numerous compilations over the years, but the versions on this compilation by The Roadrunners, the Chandelles and The Ho-Dads (that sounds well-dodgy nowadays, but trust me, it was quite innocent back then!) all possess a rawness and naivete that gives them their place here.
Then there are the tracks which mark the instrumental shift away from the surf sound – the tunes didn’t change much – still 12 bar riffs – but the guitar tones and effects get rougher – Jimi Hendrix famously said “You’ll Never Hear Surf Music Again” on “Third Stone from the Sun”, both as a tribute and a dismissal – and that in-between moment in time is captured perfectly on the opener “Hornet’s Nest” by Curtis Knight & the Squires which features Jimi Hendrix himself – it’s a ferocious jam caught between a musical past and present.

There are some famous names too – The Shadows “Scotch on the Socks”, Bobby Darin – “Long Line Rider” – The Troggs “Feels Like a Woman” and Bobbie Gentry & Jody Reynolds “Requiem for Love” – all the choices are deep cuts – not for the sake of it, but because they share a darkness and a grittiness that their crossover hits didn’t usually display.
As a result, they fit in perfectly – it reminds me of when the Northern Soul scene embraced Frankie Valli’s “You’re Ready Now” – it’s all about the sound.

And most of the rest are just fantastic instrumental choices – in 1981, Ostrich Records put out a couple of albums “New Wave Surf party” and “Instrumental Madness” (I own both and wore them out) which had a very similar feel to this Ace release – fiery, half -remembered tunes that leap out of the speakers – great mastering by Duncan Cowell!
To these ears, Link Ray’s “Poppin’ Popeye” is more Surf in style than a band often associated with the genre like The Ventures, as is “Neb’s tune” by Ahab & The Wailers, which, if you closed your eyes, could have been recorded by Los Straitjackets.
Les Brown Jr – no idea – sounds like he was a big band jazz guy whose gigs were running out with the advent of Rock’n’Roll so he decided to ask his son’s band along to join in with his older line-up and thus turn his hand to a bit of instrumental surf-jazz-twist.
It worked!
In his liner notes, RH comments on how little is known about some of the acts behind these tunes – and that’s part of the fun – the research and Discogs rabbit hole is a very deep – but a fascinating one.

This is the kind of collection which offers so much – it’s the kind of mixtape you’d want to give to a mate to impress them and to convert them to your musical world – to tell the truth, I didn’t need converting – I’ve been down this particular road for years – but there’s still plenty here that’s fresh and surprising and will open a whole fantastic new/old world of sound to an unsuspecting but curious audience, because of the Hawley connection.
Bring on Volume Two!

Review by Nick Barber
Released May 27th 2023



Brennen Leigh
Ain’t through Honky-Tonkin’ Yet
Signature Sounds

Country to the Core From an Artist at The Top of Her Game

Fresh off the back of a successful Western Swing excursion on “Obsessed with the West” there’s a quick return for Brennen Leigh on this Classic Country infused release.

The two-stepping starts immediately with “Running out of Hope, Arkansas,” a fast shuffle with infectious mandolin and pedal steel breaks. Leigh’s wry punning lyricism is very much in evidence here, as on the second track “Somebody’s Drinking About You” which melodically sparks echoes of Whitney Rose – which is a very good thing. (Reviewer’s note – I wrote this on a train to Kilkenny so wasn’t able to check the authorship!)

“The Red Flags You Were Waving” disappointingly isn’t an ode to Socialist love, but a cautionary tale of overlooking the worryingly obvious – thematically it’s in Loretta Lynn land, albeit at a gentler tempo.
Title track “I Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet” starts with that classic double fiddle drag, then stomps along gloriously in a proud hedonistic fiddle-driven manner – great piano fills too, whereas “Mississippi Rendezvous” takes a name-checking trip around the South and fittingly features a soulful and heartfelt vocal over rim-clicking snare.

I was somewhat intrigued what “Carole With an E” was about, as I know a few ladies with that name and spelling – none of them are married to a “chain-smoking, reefer-toking,Billy-goatin’ “ man though – and they’re definitely not hardcore truckers, which the eponymous heroine of this song most certainly is.
It’s a great tongue in cheek feminist addition to the genre of trucking songs – not Red Sovine, but maybe Rebecca Sovine…

It’s been two whole songs since the last one, so it’s time again for another drinking song – “The Bar Should Say Thanks” finds itself steeped in Merle Haggard style, as Leigh reclaims the cry in your beer and f*ck ‘em attitude for the ladies… “it’s all because of me” – the central femme fatale who puts lovelorn bums on seats and in doing so, single-handedly saves the brewing industry.

“Every Time I Do” then seamlessly glides into Patsy Cline territory and features wonderful lyrical Country pathos, while “Throwing Away a Precious Jewel” remains in romantic territory and gives a third person commentary on jumping in on someone else’s romantic misfortune – all’s fair in love and war though…

“I’m Still Looking For You” ventures musically towards classic CMT era Country, with a double-tracked twangy riff and lyrical longing.
I can relate, as will many more too!

There’s some beautifully recorded rhythm guitar on “When Lonely Came to Town” (you don’t get to say that too often) along with plaintive fiddle on this time-honoured tale of plunging into singledom.

“You Turned Into a Dragon” is probably the most contemporary sounding track – catchy and heartfelt, a tale of love sadly gone sour – (who could Brennen possibly be writing about?) but as ever in Country music, a great song has come out of the situation…

Anyone familiar with Brennen Leigh will know that if you sliced her open like a stick of rock, it’d say “Country Music” inside her – and on “Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet” that immersion in the genre flows through every note and word – this is an artist at the top of her game and to these ears it’s probably the best thing she’s ever done.
Hurry back to these shores Brennen!

Review by Nick Barber
Released 16th June 2023



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 – https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2022/06/20/black-deer-festival-2022/
Our photos from last year – https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzV8Rm

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.



photo-set https://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Chastity-Brown-Tom-Blackwell/i-ZFFKvv9