BJ Cole with David Eastoe DAYDREAM SMILE

B.J. Cole with Dave Eastoe
Daydream Smile
Cow Pie Records

No Blues On This Hawaiian Treat.

People like me, who have always been regarded as an anorak with OCD when it comes to the information you can glean from reading the credits on albums, will know who B.J. Cole is; and more importantly, where he sits in the hierarchy of UK Musicians.
For over half a century or so he has been Britain’s very own Mr. Pedal Steel Guitar.

From his early years in Enfield, England he was originally inspired by Hank B Marvin, then learning and swiftly changing from conventional guitar to steel guitar and then the exotic pedal steel where he quickly found a niche with his quirky and mystical sounds.
Initially for Albert Lee and then into the band Cochise who never received the rewards that there combined talent deserved.
Over the years he has expanded his talents and can be heard on hundreds of albums as a session guest, plus seven of his own studio releases.
Just check his impressive and elongated CV on Wikipedia.
So, at the end of this strangest of strange years he appears to have gone back to his roots and collaborated with magician & musician Dave Eastoe to deliver an enchanting new album.

Daydream Smile highlights the musical chemistry between friends BJ and Dave, enabling the sounds and cultures of the Hawaiian Islands to bring huge grins on to listeners faces, just when we need it most.
Of the nine tracks, there are six beautiful instrumentals and therefore, if my maths are correct, three with vocals.
Of these vocals “Down in Old Hawaii” stands out with the added female voice complementing the boys. The title track “Daydream Smile” wafts a gentle, warm breeze that takes you to paradise; whilst “Paniolo” casually shuffles along with some delightful yodelling.

Nevertheless, it’s the instrumentals that really capture the taste and smell as well as the sound of the Islands. Opening track “Slinky Hula Heaven” with it’s added vibes instantly transports you onto those volcanic rocks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Tipsy Doodle” wistfully glides you along a pure sandy beach enticing you to plodge your feet in the lapping waves and “Waltz of the Dolphins” had a quite mesmeric impact every time I played it.

Blue Aloha” with BJ’s understated steel guitar and Dave subtle acoustic, it is such a basic and simple track that it’s easy for it to be overlooked, but there’s such a powerful and sweet harmony that maintains your interest all the way through.
Picking a favourite wasn’t easy, but when push came to shove I have elected for “Muscle Beach” with the oomph of the bass just edging out “Little Gem,” but on another day this could easily swing the other way.

If I’m honest this is not my normal sort of music, but the more I’ve played it, the more I have enjoyed it. The test of any new music in our house is whether or not it gets added onto any of the MP3 Playlists.
In this case the answer is undoubtedly yes, it goes into the Smooth Playlist ideal for quiet nights, in front of a log fire, with the television switched off.
Without further peroration, Daydream Smile provides an indelible paean, transcending an irenic atmosphere that leaders throughout this virus ridden world should all stop and listen to ASAP.

Jack Kidd: DJ Extraordinaire “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released on 27th. November 2020
https://bjcole.co.uk/
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The People HOPEMAN/SHIPS (Double A-Side Single)

The People
HOPEMAN/SHIPS (Double A-Side Single)
Astral Records

Because of the amount of singles we receive every week we more or less have to pass them by; simply so to concentrate on reviewing albums; we’re not SMASH HITS after all.
But; every now and again I actually do select a single to put on the site; a few months ago it was Bruce Springsteen; earlier in the year it was Lamont Dozier and today …… it’s Glasgow band; The People, whose 2017 album STORR is still something that finds its way onto the living room stereo on a Sunday morning.
Perhaps it’s the time of year or more likely the type of year we’ve endured; but this Double A-Side single has kept me captivated like star struck teenager for days now.
HOPEMAN sounds as beautiful, dark and dangerous as a Highland Glen in the twilight, with the stinging guitar breaks sounding like a chill wind that cuts through you like ice.
Although a single; I doubt it will make its way onto daytime radio, which is a huge shame; but with its hints of Nick Cave and The Blue Nile; there are still enough discerning DJ’s on the likes of Radio 6 and in their own locale, Radio Scotland who will throw caution to the wind late at night, when the mood and demographic change for the better.
Ever so slightly, t-other song SHIPS is a touch more commercial; but only just; but it is much more romantic (with a small ‘r’) and will squeeze the heartstrings of inhabitants of coastal towns the world over.
The songs themselves are still unravelling; mostly because I keep finding myself becoming immersed in the lusciously velvety production on both songs, which just smothers your senses and the words become meaningless as the singer uses his earthy voice as a beautiful instrument of his own creation.
For a band with day jobs there’s an awful lot of hard work and indeed love/passion has gone into the creation of these two songs; and I can’t recommend that you buy them highly enough.

Released December 4th 2020
https://www.facebook.com/thepeoplemusicscotland

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Scott H Biram FEVER DREAMS

Scott H Biram
Fever Dreams\
Bloodshot Records

Truly Authentic Soul Cleansing Country-Blues Rises From the Swamps.

Apparently this release came out of the blue as much for the record label as for music fans.
While I understand the Taylor Swift’s of this world needing to plan album releases months and years in advance; but for the likes of Scott H Biram and his fans; anytime is a good time …….. and with the current state of the world as 2020 grinds to an end like a ’67 Mustang on one brake pad; perhaps this is the right time?
With the Reverend Biram you never know quite what to expect; and here opening track Fever Dreams is a lot less ‘fire and brimstone’ than some of his more recent releases but as the title suggests; is intense, sweaty and quite oppressive in many ways; and his guitar picking alternates between scratchy and sublime ……. yep; he’s still on form in every way.
Like the rest of us I guess Scott would like a modicum of fame and fortune; but it will only come when the world and more importantly, the Music Industry ‘gets on board’ his three wheeled wagon; as his idea of ‘commercial’ – Single Again, Hallelu and the raggedly beautiful Can’t Stay Long sadly, won’t ever bother the Grammy Board….. and my world is a whole better place because of that.
Even other Blues/Folk singers in this idiom tend to have a format that they follow; not so Scott Biram …….. that last song, Can’t Stay Long is the best song Johnny Cash never recorded; but it’s followed by the fearsome Psych-Cowpunk of Drunk Again … I imagine the reverential crowds at his gigs will take a step back when he plays it live; in case the sparks from his guitar set fire to their Souls!
Never ‘Easy Listening’ and nor is it meant to be; songs like Whatcha Gonna Do and Chickens will scare the Bejasus out of most people who hear them; but others will whisper the word ‘genius’ with absolutely no irony at all; such is the effect this cat has on music fans.
With such an eclectic; or should that be erratic collection of songs it’s been mighty difficult to choose a Favourite; although I seem to have narrowed the runners and riders down to three; and they couldn’t be more different from each other if he tried; and I guess he did.
Biram even finds time to include a fairly (by his standards) straight-edged instrumental with Can’t Stay Gone (Goodnight From the Highway), but I worry if I play it backwards at 45RPM it will actually be a Strauss composition …. heeheeheehee.
Hobo Jungle is a ‘love song’ but not in the Frank Sinatra way; this is both rustic and rusty and sums up many of our feelings in a whole new way.
Monkey David Wine is ……. I’m not sure actually; but channel the Mekons through Lynard Skynard and RL Burnside then listen after a night on the beer and it might all make sense; until then just turn it up to 11 and forget all of your woes.
The last of the trio is Everything Just Slips Away, a haunting Country-Blues that sounds like it’s risen right out of the Swamp at midnight under a full moon and, as of its melancholic beauty I’m saying this is and will be my Favourite Song here … for now.
With this release only arriving a couple of days ago I probably haven’t had time to digest absolutely everything here; but my gut reaction is is that even though Biram somehow channels every musical genre from Punk to Metal via Country at one time or another; I think the overall album is a direct descendent from Robert Johnson and Leadbelly ……. this is the Blues in every shape, form and heartbeat; and while it’s as far from being a Christmas record as you can get; it may be what we need to cleanse our Souls as this horrendous year finally peters out.

Released November 27th 2020
https://www.scotthbiram.com/

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https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/album/fever-dreams
https://scotthbiram.bandcamp.com/

The Ghost of Paul Revere GOOD AT LOSING EVERYTHING

The Ghost of Paul Revere
GOOD AT LOSING EVERYTHING
Rocksnob/Rootsy

Left Field Lo-Fi Americana Full of Light and Shade.

While the stable this album came from knows my tastes better than most; and only sends things they ‘know’ I will like; it’s still somehow sat around the RMHQ Office waiting patiently for my attention, without ever wondering why I’ve listened to something much more ordinary.
But yesterday; the day after release …. I did play it and ……. WOW ….. WOOooooooSH and indeed WOWSER!
It quite took my breath away.
As is my won’t, the first track on a new album has to catch my attention for me to carry on listening …… and Good at Losing Everything, with it’s Gospelish opening; a stunning banjo retort and a singer who sounds like he’s only stopped crying seconds before entering the studio almost took my breath away.
Of course it’s a sad song; check the title out …… but the way the words are delivered make it brittley beautiful in a tattered and tragic kind of way.
I’m five hours into the album now and while The Ghost of Paul Revere aren’t quite as Alt. Country as I’d first thought; they are the epitome of Lo-Fi Americana in the way the songs tell their intimate and romantic (with a small r) stories of the people that inhabit their world.
Check out One of These Days or Diving Bell to hear what I’m talking about; and even the quirky arrangements on Travel On fit that bill too.
My copy doesn’t tell me who sings what; but all three core members (Max Davis [banjo], Sean McCarthy [bass], and Griffin Sherry [guitar] all appear to take the lead at one time or another; and when they harmonise …….. #swoon.
I’d not heard of them before picking up this CD; but it appears the band were first formed in 2011 and have released a couple of albums and EP’s; but also racking up millions of ‘streams’ across the various Interweb services; an apprenticeship which all comes together (I suppose) to maturely gel on the likes of Loneliness and Love at Your Convenience; which could easily both have been quite makish in lesser hands; but here are both powerful and insightful; while also getting your heart to pump a little faster without you knowing it.
While many of their peers find a particular musical automatic gear and away they go; The Ghost of Paul Revere somehow crank through the manual gears; offering light and shade from track to track and occasionally; in the case of Two Hundred and Twenty Six Days and Delirare; inside an individual song, which is a clever trick to pull off.
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on them; The Ghost of Paul Revere throw a curve ball by infusing string sections, looping, and adding a mellotron into the ‘interludes’ ’28:27′ and the outro ‘We Were Born Wild.’
As is the case these days;it’s no longer important to desperately try to write a Hit (i.e Commercial) Song; which gives writers like these guys the freedom to just follow their heart; which brings me to my choice of Favourite Song; the punchy harmonica laden, When Can I See You Again?
There’s more than a hint of Chicago Blues in the melody; but take a step back and you can imagine The Band; or more aptly, Levon Helm rasping out a glorious version in an outtake from the Lat Waltz.
Without having heard their back catalogue; I can still imagine that a gig from The Ghost of Paul Revere will be an event well worth catching.

Released November 27th 2020
https://www.ghostofpaulrevere.com/

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Margo Price RIVER (by Joni Mitchell)

Margo Price
RIVER (by Joni Mitchell)

 Margo Price welcomes the holidays with the release of “River,” a special rendition of one of her favorite Joni Mitchell songs.
While Mitchell has been a life-long inspiration for Price, Margo first debuted her cover of “River” during the Village of Love benefit for Planned Parenthood this fall.
Now, accompanying herself on keys, she captures the wishful, wistful feelings behind the Christmastime classic, more prevalent than ever as we prepare to face the challenges of a winter like no other.
With the song Margo sends fans a message of peace and love for the rest of the year, and the hope for 2021 to be everything 2020 wasn’t. 

Released December 1st 2020

Various Artists A GULF COAST CHRISTMAS

Various Artists
A Gulf Coast Christmas
Gulf Coast Records

Ho Ho Ho; 2020 Just Got Itself A Bluesy Christmas Soundtrack.

Christmas brings out the very best AND worst in me every year.
I love the last few days leading up to the 25th of December and the day itself is generally magical at RMHQ, with Phil Spector’s album on heavy rotation but …… grrrrrr ……. it begins earlier and bloody earlier every year (I saw my first Christmas tree in bloody October!) and then, there’s the music ……. aaaagggghhhhh!
I am of an age when Christmas Songs ‘peaked’ …… Slade, Wizzard, Mud and good ole Shakin’ Stevens topped the Hit Parade in my teenage years; but now in the 21st Century?
Several years ago I had a radio show and two years running recorded a two hour Christmas ‘Special’ …. the final product was very good and quite surprising (who knew Leadbelly recorded a Christmas song?) but boy did I have to wade through some tinsel covered crap to get there.
Since I went solo with this website, every year I get more and more inundated with inane saccharine pap from people who really should know better every Autumn ….. especially from our Country Cousins; so it was like a breath of fresh air when I received this from our new best friends at Gulf Coast Records.
While not quite a party ‘starter’ many people will hope for; opening track All I Got For Christmas Was The Blues by Mike Zito certainly sets the mood for what is to follow. Surprisingly Zito somehow channels the spirits of both BB King and Johnny Winter on a tantalisingly sad story of a love that is lost …… and boy that will resonate with many people at this time of year.
I’m new to Gulf Coast so not all of the mames here are familiar to me; but that matters not a jot ………. The Proven Ones ‘rip a new one’ into Blue Christmas and that harmonica opening and rinky-dinky piano will mean this song finds its way onto several Radio playlists, I’m sure. As will Diana Reins’ sultry Ring The Bells; and Zito’s blistering rendition of Run, Run Rudolph makes a welcome change from Keef and Chuck’s versions.
As they’ve made their way into my Top 10 Albums of 2020; I was excited to see LeRoux making an appearance; and they certainly don’t disappoint with the contemporary twist on the most traditional of stories Who Da Baby Daddy?
Two more acts we’ve reviewed this year, Kat Riggins and Albert Castiglia both prove that you don’t have to mine the tinsel seam to find a great Christmas song; Kat’s It Ain’t Christmas is a delightful Soul-Gospel missive that reminds me of Sharon Jones at her finest and Albert makes his guitar wail and cry on the sad, sad, sad Somebody Stole My Christmas; a song in a similar vein to the one that is my Favourite, that could have been written any time in the last 100 years, that’s for sure ……. but the way 2020 has panned out; it’s virtually a soundtrack score.
Of course there are surprises here; Tony Campanella’s Santa Claus Wants Some Loving is Blues Deluxe and Jimmy Carpenter’s Back Door Santa just might; and I’m not 100% sure but may be a little bit suggestive #wink and personally; I love it to bits.
While surprises but in a more traditional American Christmas format Merry Christmas Baby by John Blues Boyd and Lisa Andersen and featuring. Kid Andersen on geetar will send a chill down your spine as you toast the one you love; and the magnificent Odds Lane simply swing and shimmy the life out of Santa Claus is Back In Town too.
I mentioned earlier that my Favourite Song here is a ‘soundtrack to 2020’ and when you hear Christmas is Cancelled by Tom Atlas; while not actually literal; again twists the Nativity into a modern day parable; via a soulful vibe; and if nothing else it has made me salivate at hearing a whole album from a fabulous singer I’ve never heard of before.

Released November 15th 2020
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https://www.gulfcoastrecords.net/

https://gulfcoastrecords.bigcartel.com/product/a-gulf-coast-christmas


Dion ft. Amy Grant HELLO CHRISTMAS

Dion and Amy Grant
Hello Christmas
KTBA Records


The legendary Dion releases a new Christmas single ‘Hello Christmas’ featuring backing vocals by six-time GRAMMY® winner Amy Grant. The song was written by Dion along with Mike Aquilina who co-wrote many of songs that are heard on the recent Blues With Friends album.

Dion says about the song: “I was talking with a friend about how the world this year can use a little life-giving love and harmony. I told him that Christmas was the grace that changed my life and that I was looking forward to a shot of that this year. The next day I got together with Mike and I picked up the guitar, started singing and words started to flow. Later I was walking with my buddy [and co-writer] Steve Bottari and he started singing along – with some new words. The song just seemed to write itself, a gift to finish off this challenging year. From the start I heard Amy Grant’s voice on it; she just sounds like Christmas to me. I sent the track to her and she fell in love with it and added a beautiful counter-melody which makes it really sublime.”

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https://shop.jbonamassa.com/collections/ktba-records

The Bakesys COMPLETE BAKESYS

The Bakesys
Complete Bakesys
Bandcamp

All Shapes and Sizes of British Ska From One of Our Favourite Bands

My heart generally sinks when someone says “I love Ska Music too.”
Why?
Well; 99.99% of the time it means they once saw Bad Manners or the Specials at Uni and own Madness’s Greatest Hits, possibly a Two Tone Compilation plus every Christmas go to see a Lookey-Likey Ska Band on the annual ‘lads night bash’.
On the other hand there are literally hundreds of bands across the globe still keeping the flame that was first lit in the Alpha Boys School many many years ago, not just lit, but sparking off in a hundred new directions; and lovingly heralded by the Do The Dog Skazine.
One of my favourite bands over the last 20 + years has been the Bakeseys; and I’d forgot how much they’d evolved in that time until now; when you can hear everything in one sitting (warts n all).
Nothing for the Vinyl Fetishists here; as Kevin Flowerdew knows his demographic probably all listen to music on their phones now; so this is a Bandcamp Exclusive and therefore download only …… which I appreciate.
The party starts with their (nearly) hit Sunnyside Up; and is very much the song that non-believers will instantly recognise as Two Tone Ska; with its fabulously bouncy and danceable melody and razor sharp lyrics.
Bizarrely this is followed by a live track, Looking For Love from 1994, which opens with “This is our last song!”
I appear to have missed this early incantation as it certainly sounds highly influenced by The Buzzcocks of all bands; but the instant excitement from this and the other live tracks on the release prove that from Day #1 The Bakesys were a fantastic night out.
All in all there are 82 tracks here; and I sure ain’t going through them one by one!
Even with that bonkers amount of songs on offer; there are a lot more hits and misses.
We won’t deal with the latter category; but in the former; footstompers like Pickle My Brain, Life So Tuff, Yesterday’s Man and Old certainly beligh the theory that this is just Pop Music; probably by the third or fourth time of listening you will be too tired to dance; so actually listen to the words; they every inch as potent a Social Commentary as Madness and The Specials my friend.
If you really know your Ska it won’t come as a surprise to find a couple of demos and Dub Versions here; a bit of a ‘guilty pleasure’ back in the day; but generally hard work today; but then again I did find myself turning the volume up in the car for Rainy Day Dub.
Speaking of ‘turning the volume up’ that has become an involuntary action for the Live Tracks here; they just demand to be played L.O.U.D ……. try Don’t Worry, Be Happy and the ubiquitous Liquidator; your car will rock so hard it will scare the Bejasus out of that kid in the Corsa playing Hippity Hop at the traffic lights!
For my Favourite Song Animated Violence and Rich Boy Rude Boy have been a bit of a pleasant surprise here; and the title should probably go to Sex Freaks as it’s been in my Top 100 Ska Songs for a lot of years; but no …… I say no …… as The Bakesys have come back kicking and screaming in the last few years; regaining the piss and vinegar of their youth ……. getting all political again; which is a good, good thing.
Do The Austerity Skank, while an instrumental is rather haunting and bordering on the existential; but I’m plonking for a bit of bonkers Ska, which somehow seems a bit apt for 2020 as the pandemic gets worse and worse; so When The Zombies Come gets our seal of Ska approval.
Because it’s a download only; this obviously isn’t aimed at the Christmas Market; but it is the ideal ‘What the Hell’ present to yourself and will give pleasure for years to come as you dip and delve into one of Britain’s unsung heroes back catalogues.

The Bakesys 1990 – 2020

Kevin Flowerdew – keys
Stu Flynn – vocals
Stef White – bass, vocals
Anthony Baker – guitar
Robbie Howe – drums, vocals
Nasser Bouzida – drums, percussion, vocals
Toby Courage – drums
Clive Cornwall – drums
Colin Milne – road crew
Harry Hayward – road crew
Mark Whittaker – drums, guitar
Nick Nicholls – drums
Keith Langley – steps, vocals
Grant Stone – vocals
Darren Trent – vocals
Antony Finn – vocals
Gwyn Edwards – guitar
Phillip King – saxophone
Will Kevans – trumpet

Released November 15th 2020
https://www.facebook.com/thebakesys/

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https://dothedogmusic.bandcamp.com/album/complete-bakesys





JOHN WALLACE WHEATLEY Spent the Morning Watching TV and Looking Through My Phone.

John Wallace Wheatley
Spent the Morning Watching TV and Looking Through My Phone
Self-released

Intelligent Classic and Soulful Pop Music of the Grown-Up Kind.

Suburban Dirts frontman John Wheatley takes a step aside from the acoustic Americana of the SD’s epic album, “I Want Blood” and launches full on into a self-effacing, philosophical, witty white Soul nee Classic Pop collection, on this very aptly titled (for the times in which we’re living) solo release.
Opener “Cemetery Smokes II” is one of two versions of the song on the album – the first version – which is number #2 – is very Style Councilesque musically and more tongue in cheek than version one (which is midway through the album ….. kids today, eh?) and is darker and a bit more like Sensational Alex Harvey in its storytelling tone.
Both versions were inspired by JWW finding a big grave slab with his name on – and the two versions reflect the different ways that one could take that…
“Heartstrings” fits well after the opener in musical style and Andy Fairclough’s Mellotron punctuates a soulful backbeat tale of phonies – and being a phony one’s self.
“Last Man Standing” – it seems to be a song title in fashion these days
My friends are all busy – or under the thumb” sums up the mid-paced cathartic ballad.
Again, the Philly-soul sound is prominent, yet mixed in with a bit of Mott the Hoople too – sounds a bit strange – but it genuinely works well.
The tempo lifts with “Neurotic Dancer” – but there’s a clear dissonance between the catchy melody and the fact that “you make me feel like a neurotic dancer”….
“In the End” (which comes halfway through) is a late-period Beatles/Beach Boys sounding slice of reassurance
it’s going to be alright in the end”…although JWW doesn’t sound totally sure in the melancholy musical way that those sentiments are delivered – the eternal pessimist can’t shake the fear but there’s more than enough positivity.
Following the aforementioned second/first take on “Cemetery Smokes;” “I’ve Only Just Realised” is reminiscent of the band Jellyfish with its 60’s harmonies and stop-start rhythms and classic pop sensibilities – lyrically, again there’s a glorious incongruity between the confident music and edgy, questioning lyrics.
“World War III” continues in a similar musical and lyrical vein with
She’s been told too many times she’s emotionally dead,” not being the sort of lyric that will find its way onto chirpy commercial radio, but will hopefully find its way into the ears and hearts of those who will appreciate its depth and appeal.
“The Singularity” starts as a piano ballad and then becomes an epic stomper quite rightly calls for us to get “the fuck out of here” in a rant against commercialism and “leaders who don’t want to lead”
and many others of society and culture’s ills.
Listen to this and you’ll be double-nodding – at the sentiments and the melody too.
Closer “The Morning Never Came” is a musically trippy rumination on the meaning of life, about regrets and the ultimate realisation that
none of this was meaningless
and it runs the gamut of feeling and musical styles before ending in randomness – quite deliberately.
This is quite a gem of an album – fans of 90’s band Jellyfish and their like will adore this and there are shades of classic stylings all over the place, yet used in both original and cohesive ways to create an album that will withstand a serious amount of re-listens.
In a just world, John Wallace Wheatley’s music would be listened to in a million bedrooms, on millions of sets of headphones and streamed in supermarkets.
People – make it so.

Review by Nick Barber
Released November 27th 2020

https://www.facebook.com/johnbumbag

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https://johnwallacewheatley.bandcamp.com/