Ramblin’ Roots Festival – Tivoli Vredenburg, Utrecht Holland

Ramblin’ Roots Festival
Tivoli Vredenburg
19th October 2019

The Dutch Ramblin’ Roots Festival (not to be confused with the English Festival with a similar name) has historical links to the older well-respected Blue Highways festival. The current festival is homed in a huge and spectacular entertainment complex with a variety of different size venues and public art spaces spread over nine floors, from the largest Grote Zaal on the ground floor to the smaller Cloud Nine up on the…yes, you’ve guessed it – ninth floor.
Like the TakeRoot Festival in Groningen, there were no planned gaps between performances in different locations, so a plan had to be made and routes up and down in the lifts and on the escalators taken to ensure that as little was missed as possible.
Most of the keener folks found their way to the Pandora hall up on the 6th floor to see Robert Ellis as first act of the day. Sporting an all-white suit and wearing facial glitter, the “Texas Piano Man” strode a line between early Elton John and Ben Folds both in musical and performance style. “Fucking Crazy” opened the set and others like “Passive Aggressive” and “Topo Chico” (“an ode to Texan bubble water”) kept up the entertainment value. In the 70s, Robert Ellis would have been huge. There’s still time for the rest of the world to catch up.
Then it was the big elevator down to the main hall to catch Dustbowl Revival – the Californian outfit are the perfect good-time festival band, although the fact was lost on many of the first to arrive in the Grote Zaal took to their seats, unfamiliar with the soulful, New Orleans funky sound of the band. Indeed, guitarist and frontman Z. Lupetin remarked that they might be better served by standing – and dancing. It didn’t take long for them to make that happen, to be fair. A brass section of trombone and trumpet and a fiddle that at one point was made to sound like a Wurlitzer organ helped to conjure a vivid mix of southern styles. Two covers – of Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” helped give the band a touchstone with those of the crowd who were less familiar with their material but gave less of an insight into their “true” sound.
Then it was back up nine floors in a very packed lift to the ninth floor to catch a few minutes of Chance McCoy – musically he seems to be exploring several avenues in search of a common style at the moment and it seems a bit difficult to find an audience that appreciates both the more experimental and the traditional in his music. It will be interesting to see where it leads though.
It was then sideways across the ninth-floor foyer to discover that the room called “Hertz” is actually a 500-ish seater amphitheatre. Sway Wild, playing as a three piece were playing to a packed room. Like Dustbowl Revival earlier, their soulful, energetic sound might have had even more impact in a room designed for standing, but they were well-received for their soulful and at times almost Tom Verlaine-esque guitar as heard on songs like “Chimney Fire”.
Frazey Ford – back down on the ground floor was up next and was beautifully established in the setting with grand piano, vibrant shimmering acoustics and ethereal blue light to match her dress. Otherworldly stuff from the start off, she played a set that included several (unnamed to these ears) songs from a forthcoming new album. Not so angelic but striking was the wonderful “Motherfucker” played at the grand piano…and then it was time to get back in the lift again and up to the very top of the building once more to catch Rod Picott. Rod seems to be on a creative roll at the moment and this festival show was similarly charged to his recent UK shows but with a little less chat, down to the constraints of the festival time slot. We got a great versions of “Girl from Arkansas” and “Ghost” from “Tell the truth and shame the devil”…and a little chat about the venues that Rod and Slaid Cleaves used to play in as kids in metal tribute bands.

No rest for the wicked and it was all the way down nine floors again to get in position for Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore making their European band debut together. Unlike the acoustic duo shows that they have played, this was much more the full-on Guilty Ones rock’n’roll band experience, playing a mix of Dave’s songs “Johnny Ace is Dead”, rock’n’roll standards “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and Jimmie Dale’s “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own”. Dave dedicated “Marie Marie” which the two duetted on, to big brother Phil who he said is very unwell. If there’s regenerative power in rock’n’roll, there was plenty of energy for him to feed on in this show.
The main name of the festival may have taken their bows, but there was still more – up a mere 6 flights to Pandora to catch the set by Drivin’ & Cryin’. Early numbers were affected by a somewhat muddy guitar mix which reduced the finesse in their sound, but the happy accident of a guitar string breaking meant that Kevn/Kevin Kinney switched to acoustic which suited the venue’s rig and these ears, much more. A penultimate singalong of “Straight to hell” was followed with a somewhat disappointing cover of “Jumpin’ jack Flash” and then it was back downstairs again for the final time to catch North Mississippi Allstars. By now, some of the less hardy punters had caught the last electric bus but there was still a large crowd gathered in the Grote Zaal to boogie along to the funky jam band and soulful guitar of the Allstars – and there was even a psychedelic rub-board solo too, of which I heartily approved. Music for drinking and dancing at midnight – perfect.
All in all, an excellent, well-curated festival that may be a notch behind TakeRoot in terms of the big names on the scene that it attracted, but a great audience experience within each performance – good views, good sound and good music – now if they could just see their way to selling food in the lifts…

Review and Photos – the Legendary Nick Barber aka @efsb on Instagram/Twitter/Flickr

Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/efsb/albums/72157711435780662

Libby Koch REDEMPTION 10 (Live at Blue Rock)

Libby Koch
REDEMPTION 10 (Live at Blue Rock)
Berkalin Records

Breathing New Life Into Her 10 year Old Debut Album.

I came to Libby Koch’s music rather late; so hearing this re-working of her first album has been a bit of a fact finding mission; as I can now hear where she started on her path to (relative) glory.
That is only half the story; as the re-workings are by Libby with a handpicked band of Nashville’s ‘finest’ in tow whereas the originals were just her and an acoustic guitar; plus this recording was ‘as live’ before a small audience of friends, fans and family in the Blue Rock Studio.
That’s a new and innovative approach to my reckoning.
So with nothing to ‘compare and contrast’ this is all new to me; so let’s treat it that way?
Opening track Houston is one of those passionate bittersweet break-up songs that Country Music does better than any other genre; and Libby sings right from the pits of her soul, with the occasional fiddle and steel-guitar interlude for even extra pathos.
Especially on a debut album; songwriters are told to ‘write about what you know’ and Libby does that very thing; and managing to pull the listener through the emotional ringer on Can’t Complain, which starts with her parents marriage break-up when she was 7 and closing with a break-up of her own; but Bless Her; she get’s through it all with a Can’t Complain attitude …… even if it will leave listeners with misted eyes.
I guess it’s a similar bit of personal background on Don’t Give Up On Me and the brittle Stay With Me; although she may have a vivid imagination ….. although they both sound terribly ‘real’ to me.
For all the sadness in the songs themselves; Libby and her band manage to conjure up a special ‘warmth’ on just about every song here; most especially on Just The Way which has more than a hint of Bobbie Gentry in not just the tone; but the sentiment too and the simply constructed, yet complex story of the title track Redemption had a similar effect on my heartstrings too.
I know there’s a saying ‘keep the best ’til last’ which may not always be true; but on this album it is; with the beautiful heart-string tugger I Still Miss Someone closing the show and album; but it’s the predecessor Ready Now that has won my heart and therefore becomes the RMHQ Favourite Song; although with so much to choose from you will likely choose something entirely different.
Obviously with so much going on in her life now, it would have been all too easy for Libby Koch to have left this album in the cupboard marked ‘of its time’; but with many of the songs having grown and developed over the last 10 years, and still being in her set list now; this has been the perfect vehicle to dust them off and let a whole new audience hear them in all their glory.

Released October 18th 2018


Keb’ Mo’
Snakefarm Records

An Emotion Ringer of a Christmas Album.

Normally I refuse all Christmas music until December 1st, so this is a first for RMHQ; and it’s only because we love Keb Mo that we are writing a review of a Christmas Album in October …… yes; OCTOBER and the sun is shining!
Although 7 of the 10 songs here are shiny new originals; Keb’ Mo’ adds his special ‘magic’ to the hoary old chestnut Please Come Home For Christmas; turning it into a heartwarming love song; even though the message contained in the lyrics are is still sad as ever.
This is followed by the title track, Moonlight, Mistletoe and You and the charm simply oozes out of the grooves like gingerbread and hot chocolate; in a way that will remind you of a young Nat King Cole at his smoothest.
With so many classics to choose from I can’t imagine it’s easy for a songwriter to come up with new ideas for Christmas songs; but Keb’ Mo’ manages to come up with some real ‘tummy tinglers’ and even ‘smile inducers’ while still maintaining his artistic integrity L.O.L.
Santa Claus, Santa Claus is a fizzing Blues, that will find its way into many other artists sets at this time of year for decades to come; as might the low down and sad, sad, sad Santa Claus Blues; which is exactly the type of Keb’ Mo’ Christmas song I’d have hoped to find here; but feared I wouldn’t.
the ‘tongue in cheek’ Christmas is Annoying, which is cheekily hilarious at times.
The other cover here is absolutely beautiful; yet not a song I’d heard before even though it was ‘made famous’ by Billie Holliday. none the less the duet between Keb’ and Melissa Manchester, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm is exactly what grown ups will want to hear on the build up to the Big Day as they snuggle up on the sofa as the kids are pretending to be asleep upstairs.
So why is that not my Favourite Song? Well, you have to listen to Keb’s own When The Children Sing to understand why; somehow he manages to keep everything the right side of ‘twee’ and it’s not kept back until the end by accident.
In it’s own way I expect this song to be the ‘hit’ as it touches every emotion you have; and in my head I’m imaging the video featuring Keb’ alongside a host of children, plus the cast of Sesame Street singing and smiling their little hearts out.
It’s taken him 25 years to get around to making a Christmas album; but the wait has been worth it …… as has playing a Christmas Album in bloody October!

Released October 18th 2019




Collectible Boxed Set Presents 23 180-Gram Vinyl Singles in Faithfully Reproduced International Picture Sleeves, Exclusive New Double A-Side Single for

“Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” Plus 39-Page Book

London – October 16, 2019 – From 1962 to 1970, The Beatles released 22 UK singles; of those 44 A and B-side tracks, 29 were not included on the group’s British albums at that time. These singles, plus an exclusive new double A-side single for the mid-1990s-issued tracks “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” are newly cut for vinyl from their original mono and stereo master tapes by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios for a new limited edition boxed set. The Beatles: The Singles Collection presents 46 tracks on 23 180-gram seven-inch vinyl singles in faithfully reproduced international picture sleeves, accompanied by a 40-page booklet with photos, ephemera, and detailed essays by Beatles historian Kevin Howlett. The collectible set will be released worldwide on November 22 by Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.

Preorder The Beatles: The Singles Collection:    https://thebeatles.lnk.to/SinglesCollection2019

the Singles Collection offers a fascinating view of the creative trajectory of The Beatles’ John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr across their relatively brief recording tenure together. Just three and a half years divide 1963’s “She Loves You” and 1967’s “Strawberry Fields Forever,” a remarkable, illustrative example of the band’s rapid, groundbreaking evolution. From the band’s star-making 1962 debut single, “Love Me Do” with its B-side “P.S. I Love You,” to their 1970 finale of “Let It Be” / “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number),” the new collection underscores The Beatles’ breathtaking creative arc.

Because it was rare in the 1960s for UK singles to be released in picture sleeves, the collection’s seven-inches are presented in reproduced picture sleeves from their original releases in several countries around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Greece, Holland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, USA, and West Germany.

The Singles Collection follows the September 27 release of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album in a suite of Anniversary Edition packages. The acclaimed new edition’s Super Deluxe set features new stereo, 5.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos mixes by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell, plus 23 session and demo recordings, most of which were previously unreleased. Abbey Road’s Anniversary Edition releases returned the iconic album to the top of charts around the world. In the UK, Abbey Road reclaimed the No. 1 position on the official albums chart after 49 years and 252 days, breaking The Beatles’ own Guinness World Record previously held by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which revisited the chart’s No. 1 spot in June 2017 with its celebrated Anniversary Edition after 49 years and 125 days.


The Beatles: The Singles Collection

1962 [sleeve art: U.S.]

A:  Love Me Do
B:  P. S. I Love You

1963 [sleeve art: Italy]

A:  Please Please Me
B:  Ask Me Why

1963 [sleeve art: Norway]

A:  From Me To You
B:  Thank You Girl

1963 [sleeve art: Greece]

A:  She Loves You
B:  I’ll Get You

1963 [sleeve art: Chile]

A:  I Want To Hold Your Hand
B:  This Boy

1964 [sleeve art: Austria]

A:  Can’t Buy Me Love
B:  You Can’t Do That

1964 [sleeve art: Holland]

A:  A Hard Day’s Night
B:  Things We Said Today

1964 [sleeve art: Sweden]

A:  I Feel Fine
B:  She’s A Woman

1965 [sleeve art: Spain]

A:  Ticket To Ride
B:  Yes It Is

1965 [sleeve art: Belgium]

A:  Help!
B:  I’m Down

1965 [double A-side / sleeve art: France]

A:  We Can Work It Out
A:  Day Tripper

1966 [sleeve art: Turkey]

A:  Paperback Writer
B:  Rain

1966 [double A-side / sleeve art: Argentina]

A:  Eleanor Rigby
A:  Yellow Submarine

1967 [double A-side / sleeve art: Australia]

A:  Strawberry Fields Forever
A:  Penny Lane

1967 [sleeve art: West Germany]

A:  All You Need Is Love
B:  Baby, You’re A Rich Man

1967 [sleeve art: Mexico]

A:  Hello, Goodbye
B:  I Am The Walrus

1968 [sleeve art: Japan]

A:  Lady Madonna
B:  The Inner Light

1968 [sleeve art: South Africa]

A:  Hey Jude
B:  Revolution

1969 [sleeve art: Denmark]

A:  Get Back
B:  Don’t Let Me Down

1969 [sleeve art: Portugal]

A:  The Ballad Of John And Yoko
B:  Old Brown Shoe

1969 [sleeve art: Israel]

A:  Something
B:  Come Together

1970 [sleeve art: UK]

A:  Let It Be
B:  You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

1995 / 1996 [exclusive double A-side single / sleeve art: worldwide]

A:  Free As A Bird [1995]
A:  Real Love [1996]


Bobbo Byrnes
Red Wheelbarrow
Broken Silence

Real-Deal Observational and Heartfelt Country Rock

I was taken wholeheartedly by surprise last year with Bobbo Byrnes last album, Two Sides To This Town; so was giddily excited last week when this arrived.
While not a million miles away in context; Red Wheelbarrow has a much louder and rockier feel than I remembered; but that’s far from being a hardship; as good quality Country Rock has always been welcome around these here parts.
Opening track Look For It is the first song to combine the very best of Country AND Rock; plus there’s a pseudo-political message that he delivers with with great self-assurance; and as Byrnes himself sings;
I might rant and I might rave
I might piss off half this room
But you know down deep
Below my Skin
I bleed the same as you
There’s certainly enough Twang here to satisfy anyone who has ever worn Wranglers and a Stetson; but it’s clear that Byrnes isn’t expecting any invitations from either the CMA or AMA to their Awards ceremonies; this is the music he wants to play and as he himself says; it’s the opposite of the Country and Rock music you hear on the radio.
Sally Starr might even be Indie-Country; if such a thing existed and Mrs. What’s His Name is a twisted love song that straddles Country and Folk-Rock with carefree abandon and really deserves plays on Independent radio, as does Part-Time Cowboy which sounds like a theme tune for the majority of acts I love and listen to in my office; and some days it may even be about me.
Speaking of ‘TWANG’ as I did earlier, Byrnes delivers a fabulous Countryfried ‘driving song’ with Looking at the World Through a Windshield that is one part Little Feet, two parts Commander Cody and a fourth part adrenaline!
It’s not really the biggest surprise in the world when I discover many of the 30/40 year old acts I write about are ex-punks; and sometimes they twist their favourite songs into their albums; but who knew Bobbo Byrnes was an Art-School Rocker????
How else do you explain the amazing cover of Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain ……. and it even has Phil Manzsanera guesting on guitar! 10/10 to all concerned.
Just for the Hell of it I was going to make that my Favourite Song; but in fairness there are a couple of others that are more deserving of the title as they are more representative of Bobbo Byrnes exceptional ‘sound’; the runner-up is the superb Lovers; originally by a band called Five Easy Pieces. A relatively simple concept for a writer of this quality; but sometimes less is more; and the melody and construction combine to make a thing of rare beauty.
But the accolade actually goes to the mystical John Prine song Mexican Home; which sounds like the kind of song Van Morrison should have written when he went through his Country phase; and if Bruce wants a song to cover on his impending WESTERN STARS tour, this will fit in like a delicate hand into a velvet glove.
He’s been around a long time and I only wish I’d discovered Bobbo Byrnes in one of his earlier guises; but I didn’t so I shall just wallow in these two albums.

# “I have a tattoo of a red wheelbarrow on my left arm and a lot of people ask me why.  Well it all goes back to a poem by William Carlos Williams called The Red Wheelbarrow. I can’t type in the sixteen words that make up the poem but it can be found here.
It’s a short but important poem that starts with “So much depends upon” and here’s the thing – all he is doing is describing a scene but the scene doesn’t exist until the poet says it exists and in that what he is actually saying is “All art depends upon”. Because here’s the thing – all art is dependent upon one thing and that is the actual doing of it.
You’ll always hear someone say things like “I could’ve written that” or “I could’ve painted that” but they didn’t. Do your art, whatever it is and in the words of Andy Warhol – “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”  Bobbo Byrnes.

Released 11th October 2019


Karen & The Sorrows
Guaranteed Broken Heart

Beautifully Dark Country Heartbreakers and Hope Makers.

Who among us can resist a Country album called GUARANTEED BROKEN HEART by a band called The Sorrows? Even without hearing a note I was pretty sure the contents would be right up my street.
Although her band are called The Sorrows, this is very much Country Music by and from singer-songwriter Karen Pittelman who originally formed the group way back in 2011; and this be their 3rd album.
Oh my, my preconceptions were proven correct yet again with the delicious Twang fest of the title track Guaranteed Broken Heart which opens the album. Ms. Pittelman has a delightful ‘quiver’ in her voice as it seems she is fighting back the tears on a Country Heartbreaker of the Deluxe variety, that comes at you like starving wildcat.
Things slow down to more of a romantic stroll on the next song, There You Are which features a vast array of instruments somehow creating an ‘Acoustic Wall of Sound’ behind Karen’s pained voice.
Two songs in and Karen & The Sorrows already prove what skilled and astute musicians they all are; and boy can they tug on the heartstrings!
The tempo moves up and down just like any tempestuous relationship in all its raw glory, with Karen’s rye and often bittersweet observations on love, loss and longing capturing the mood of each and every individual story quite majestically.
Tracks #4 and #5 sound like the yin and yang of one particular relationship; Why Won’t You Come Back To Me is so dark it’s very nearly Gothic, especially the choral chorus that builds and builds towards the end; and when the steel-guitar and fiddle come in a shiver will run down your back. Then, just as you are trying to get your emotions back in check she follows that with Your New Life Now, which is nearly too simplistic in its form; as Karen sounds positively frightening as she talks about her ex-lovers ‘New Life Now’. (*There ain’t nothing more scary than a scorned woman!)
While I presume the target demographic here is ‘brokenhearted young women’ …….. and trust me; they will buy this in their droves to wallow in late at night with a big bottle of red and a pair of scissors to cut up all of their old photos; but first and foremost songs like Third Time’s a Charm, Jonah and the Whale and It Ain’t Me are just sizzling Country songs that could have come from Music Row in the late 60’s but are very contemporary today in 2019.
For me, although not an ‘easy listen’ – and it’s not meant to be, this has been a joy as I’ve discovered another exciting songwriting talent; one who can not just get to the heart of the matter in When People Show You Who They Are or Something True; but make a very stark and deeply personal story very accessible; although you may feel like an eavesdropper at times.
What I especially like here; and it’s true of many albums I hear, is that there is no dead weight on this album; no ‘filler’ …….. every song deserves its place and each song is especially constructed to bring the best out of Karen Pittelman’s exquisite storytelling; and none more so than my Favourite Song, Queen of Denial which is another where she sounds like she’s fighting back the tears on a song that will resonate in one way or another with everyone who hears it, be they male, female or other.
Reading her bio has been interesting as it seems Karen Pittelman has been quite a ‘trailblazer’ over the years writing about and fighting for sexual equality in not just Country Music, but the Music Industry in general writing articles for some hard hitting and international publications; but here at RMHQ we aim to change the world ‘one song at a time’ and Karen & The Sorrows are going to help us in that quest.

Released 18th October 2019

Lynne Hanson TRUE BLUE MOON (Single)

Lynne Hanson

We’ve been fans of Lynne Hanson for quite a few years now; especially her solo albums …. and her SuperGroup The Lynnes are rather fine too; so any release is cherished here at RMHQ.
As a precursor to an album release in February 2020 Lynne is releasing this stunning new single later this week and the world is suddenly a better place. Here’s what she has to say :

“My new single ‘True Blue Moon’ was written in response to the Jacques Brel song ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’. I read in an interview that he didn’t consider it to be a love song, but instead an example of how far a man would go because of love. This song was from the point of view of the woman who sees the romantic poet for a temporary lover and not capable of longer lasting love. It’s supposed to be a tongue in cheek song about that out of control feeling that we can sometimes have when we fall head over heels in love, and at the impossibility of that romantic fairy tale feeling actually being something that can be maintained over time.” ~ Lynne Hanson

Released October 16th 2019

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit 2 x REISSUES

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Self-Titled Debut & Here We Rest
Thirty Tigers

Two Genre Defying and Groundbreaking Americana Albums.


A helluva lot has happened to Jason Isbell’s career since the release of his (and the 400 Unit’s) self-titled album in 2009.
Today he is certainly an A-Lister in not just the Americana and Alt. Country Camp, but has been accepted graciously and successfully into the mainstream Country World too …….. with his last album being recorded Live at the Ryman and another 7 night run at the same venue starting on Friday 18th October to coincide with the re-release of his/their first two albums.
As what I think of as a dyed in the wool fan; it behoves me to say I’d never heard the self-titled 2009 album before this week (and I’ve still never even seen a copy of its predecessor SIRENS IN THE DITCH) . In my defence; after leaving Drive-By Truckers in 2007, and the internet still in its infancy Isbell was only a bit player on the scene at that time and the album hardly made a dent in the UK Scene at the time.
So; it’s been really, really exciting to see how the incomparable sound they create today has evolved.
The intro to first track Seven Mile Island is a bit of a mish-mash; and even when Isbell’s (now) distinctive voice kicks in the spin-dryer drumbeat is still on overload, and alongside some quirky guitar (lead and steel) almost drowns out what just might be a very thoughtful song.
Not a great start; and if I’d been given this album to review 10 years ago …….. I may not have got as far as track #2!
But had I continued, Sunstroke would certainly have caught my attention; a dark and brooding pot-boiler that, with hindsight signals the start of the upward spiral the songwriter and associated band members were to go on.
I can’t imagine how listeners felt ten years ago; but this song sent a definite shiver down my back.
For the next song the guitars, piano and amps are cranked up to 11 and the band set fire to the listeners senses on Good. It’s loud; and so intense I can’t think of anyone else round about that time who were creating music like this song ……. making it quite groundbreaking; if I’m not mistaken.
Although this is the forerunner to what we have come to expect from Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit; these songs from start to finish have certainly stood the test of time; with (new songs to me) The Blue, Streetlights and When My Baby’s Beside Me all sounding as imaginative and still as fresh as a daisy 10 full years after they were recorded.
Plus there are a couple of songs which must have been quite mind bending back then; Soldiers Get Strange must have been a very brave and even dangerous song to write; and especially play live.
As I’ve never had the opportunity to see this band play live, I can’t think why I recognised Cigarettes and Wine; but I do and I think it will go on to feature prominently on any future Best Of/Retrospective they will release, as it sounds (again with hindsight) one of those ‘definitive songs’ that a band has.
As much as I like that, one other song here is genuinely outstanding, and is the template for some of Isbell’s future leftfield love songs; the type others have tried to emulate but failed miserably.
This Is The Last Song I Will Write is almost mind-expanding in the way Isbell sort of combines Hank’s observational writing style with Pink Floyd or is it Who At Last style psychedelia to create a song that is the benchmark for a lot of the music I have received in the last ten years and therefore my Favourite Track here.
As Jason Isbell’s name is at the forefront I keep using ‘him’ to describe; what’s happening; but trust me that this album; and everything else they have released is very much a band effort, with everyone involved combining to create this unique ‘sound.’


This is where I came in, reviewing this for Maverick Magazine; and even though it didn’t make a dent in the UK Charts at the time; the seeds were certainly sown for what was to follow.
The majestic Alabama Pines opens the disc in a way I’d not ever heard before …….. was this Country Rock? Not really; and Alt. Country was more or less just a handful of solo singer-songwriters at the time; so hearing a fully fledged band sound like this was like hearing the Beatles or Byrds for the first time.
Now, listening to both albums in chronological order It’s fair to say that the 400 Unit (and Jason Isbell) had been working really hard in the interim years to create ‘their sound’ with very few nods in any direction for direct influences (others may argue that pint; but they are wrong.)
With not hearing these songs in quite a few years; re-discovering We’ve Met and Heart on a String has been a real joy to behold; and I can distinctly remember playing Save It For Sunday on auto-repeat one night as I tried to unravel the ‘meaning of life’ contained therein.
Two songs contained here have gone on to become ‘definitive’ Jason Isbell songs and still occasionally feature on the finer Internet Radio stations (Somewhere there must be an Americana Gold radio station!) and who that hat has ever heard Codeine and/or Tour of Duty hasn’t been touched in one way or another.
Oh man; how heartbreaking is Codeine? I vaguely remember hearing this way back in ’11 and thinking I’d never heard such an obviously Country Song like it ever before; perhaps I still haven’t.
It was a similar feeling with Tour of Duty; which was and still is a million miles away from the Gung-ho ‘I love the flag’ songs that were filling the Country airwaves at the time; this was a very contemporary story and song that owed a debt to the Greenwich Village troubadours of the 60’s than it ever did Music Row.
I can still understand why I got so excited back in 2011; and most of the songs here have stood up to the tests of time; although I doubt The Ballad of Nobeard will ever get dusted off when they play the Ryman; but Daisy Mae and the twisted love song We’ve Met just might.
I’ve forced myself not to re-visit my original review to see what I selected as a Favourite Track; primarily because I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Heart on a String; which just may be one of Jason Isbell (and the 400 Unit’s) finest ever songs. Damn it ….. ‘might be’……. of course it is!
This has been a fabulous exercise for me; actually hearing the Self-Titled album for the first time and hearing one of the 21st Century’s most innovative and gifted Country/Roots/Americana bands coming together to create what has become a distinctive and definitive sound; that was and still is unlike any other out there.

Released October 18th 2019

Screamin’ John & TD Lind LITTLE BIG MAN

Screamin’ John & TD Lind
Down In The Alley Records

Dazzling Adaptation Of Classic Down-Home Blues For the 21st Century.

So many things have conspired this week to try and stop me finishing writing this review; but I’m adamant that I will get it done and posted by close of play!
Even from the opening rinky-dinky piano chords that lead into opening track the breezy Rollin’ Joanna I knew that this album was going to be right up my street; and when TD Lind’s slightly grizzled vocal cuts in I knew that this was indeed; the Real Deal.
A polite mixture of self-penned originals and Classic Blues Oldies has conspired to hijack every CD Player I have this week; and I haven’t minded a minute.
I hardly recognised BB King’s The Letter; primarily because this powerhouse duo have stripped it back to the bone and feature Joel Pinkerton’s ‘most Blues wailin’ harmonica’ as lead instrument instead of the geetar …… and the combination works a treat.
This is followed by Jimmy Reed’s Shame, Shame, Shame and short of howling Hallelujah! I can’t think of a better way of expressing my admiration for this startling 3 minutes of Blues Heaven.
I will come back to a couple of the cover songs later, as the duo’s own work is rather good too ……. with the title track Little Big Man the type of R&B you would associate with John Lee Hooker; but these cats have a sound very much of their own, and not a bit like the big man.
I always chuckle when unbelievers think that The Blues is depressing music; Hell’s Bell’s it’s anything but as Screamin’ John and TD prove on the rambunctious Gonna Drag You and Seth Walker and Jarod Dickenson’s Way Past Midnight …… this is Shotgun Shack dance music at its finest.
They can do dark and dangerous too; Reaper’s Knockin’ is a great example; and a tune I now want played at my funeral …….. just to scare the Grandkids!
I’m lucky in as much as I do hear Blues albums like this more than the average bear; but that doesn’t stop me being not just impressed but thunderstruck when I unearth songs like Cold Stone and Emptiness. On an album that will be stacked in the Classic or probably Chicago Blues rack; Screamin’ John and TD Lind turn the genre upside down on this very, very contemporary song; and one that deserves a much wider audience than what I can give it via these pages; hence it is the Official RMHQ Favourite Track here by a country mile.
There’s another song here that deserves an ‘honourable mention’; Huddy Ledbitter’s Goodnight Irene. A staple of most Blues bars and clubs I frequented as a young man; and probably you too; and more recently a song local troubadour and friend of mine Paul Handyside once recorded for my old radio show; gets a whole new lease of life here. Honestly there’s no way anyone under 50 hearing this beauteous song for the first time would ever guess it was over 100 years old.
This duo; producer Glyn Johns and their friends have created a brand new album, that can comfortably sit shoulder to shoulder with Classics of the genre in my collection (and yours).

Released October 12th 2019

Rod Picott at Jumpin’ Hot Club, Newcastle

Rod Picott
Jumpin’ Hot Club at Live Theatre
10 Oct 2019

I’m still suffering from a bit of a ‘block’ when it comes to seeing live music these days; so it takes someone special to get me out of the house on a cold and miserable Thursday night.
On the back of a trio of exceptional albums, Rod Picott is one of the few capable of getting me to load up the camera and sharpen my reviewers pencil.
Sporting a big ole Epiphone semi-acoustic guitar, 0pening act was Yorkshire Lass Elaine Palmer, who informed us early on that she’s been playing at the Jumpin’ Hot Club for 20 years (yet she looks so darn young!).
Obviously I’ve seen her a few times over those years, but there was something a bit ‘special’ about her performance tonight. Her first song Coulda Been Lovers was as sad as you’d expect; but the next song No Fear was a huge surprise as it was full of Post-Punk angst that made it very memorable indeed.
This was followed by the dark and brooding Make Believe, in which the guitar played its part by providing a rumbling accompaniment, which was near perfect for such a dank evening.
Perhaps she’s mentioned it before, but she spent a lot of her childhood flitting between Yorkshire and Arizona; which came to play in the Country tunes Blackened Heart and Drive By; which had her attacking the gritty end of her guitar’s fret-board.
It was quite a performance and goes to show you should always go to see the support act, regardless of how many times you’ve seen them before.

After a very brief break we were called back into the ‘sold out’ hall as Rod was already on stage.
(A confirmed Anglophile. he was keen to get back to his friends house to watch the politics show Question Time on BBC1!)
With no introduction he eased straight into a very intense version of Getting To Me, during which he screwed his face up everytime he sang the chorus.
That’s one of the beauties of watching Rod Picott perform; he really inhabits his songs each and every night.
Early on he announced that he was going to concentrate on singing and try to keep the chat to a minimum; which he did ……. but his stories are always insightful and often very funny indeed.
This meant some songs were introduced and others from his vast back catalogue came and went with the wind.
Of the newer songs Take Home Pay and Welding Burns were both rawer and more passionate than on record, and the man from Maine really dug deep for Workshirts and Turpentine.
As a relative newcomer to Rod Picott’s music, I had no idea he had been in a longish relationship and toured the USA with Amanda Shires; but he did and the story behind the delicate ‘break up song’ I Might Be Broken Now was fascinating, as the couple wrote it together as they were breaking up.
Fancy that?
As was expected Rod included a couple of songs from the new album; and that was no hardship at all with The Folds of Your Dress, the incredibly beautiful Ghost and especially 38 Special and a Hermes Purse were all simply outstanding tonight.
As is his won’t Rod asked for requests, but didn’t expect any as ‘You English are so reserved.’
Ha! He was inundated with three mumbles …… which begat my own favourite, Black T-Shirt (but I was too embarrassed to shout for it), Uncle John which was new to me, but made sense following his back story; and a song I mostly know from his occasional writing partner Slaid Cleave’s version …….. Tiger Tom Dixon, who was actually one of Picott’s long lost relatives, but the story in the song was very accurate and astute too.
After an obligatory 10 second gap, when he walked off stage counted to three then re-entered the arena Rod gave us another Classic I’d never heard before; the fabulous Mobile Home and another song which sounded all too familiar but I couldn’t quite place it until it was virtually finished ……… it was only Bruce’s Badlands! Which, it has to be said sounded very authentic in Rod Picott’s hands.
Thin in the blink of an eye he was behind the merch desk glad-handing, posing for selfies with fans and selling more CD’s than HMV did in 2017!

Photos: https://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Rod-Picott/