Cheley Tackett BUCKEYE

Cheley Tackett
National Road Music

A Real-Deal Feisty and Passionate Country Singer-Songwriter

Lazy journalists often point to the disposable Spotify Generation who cherry pick songs for their playlists as ‘the main users of music today’; but in my humble opinion….that is complete and utter bollocks!
In the world I live in (and presumably you too) music is still a ‘considered purchase’ , and by using the internet wisely it is timeless.
Last week I saw two talented young men regaling us with Blues songs from pre WWI that they meticulously learnt from YouTube, which strangely brings me to this Cheley Tackett’s fourth album Buckeye, first released in the US in 2017 but getting a new lease of life two years later to coincide with a UK and European tour.
What little I knew of her background hardly prepared me for the opening song Bitter Girl; yet it’s the perfect way to introduce us to a very prodigious talent with a leathery, worn and very expressive voice and a special talent with words and storytelling. Plus any song with a Nah Nah Nah chorus is always going to find favour at RMHQ.
For the uninitiated like me, Cheley sits comfortably in the early Mary Chapin Carpenter and Lucinda Williams camp; mixing acoustic and electric guitars, catchy tunes, Country sentiments and more attitude than a cat on heat.
Paraphrasing the adage ‘Never choose a book by the cover’ certainly doesn’t apply here; as on the album cover Cheley looks in defiant mood and her eyes tell you not to mess with her; and that image inhabits her songs $2 Bill, Crucible Steel and on The Healer she will turn your head inside out.
Another thing here; is the all pervading darkness many of her characters live in, but Cheley shines a light on for us to examine lives that are oft ignored; in the Southern Gothic My Best Dress (a co-write with Ashley McBryde and Randall Clay) the character hurts, she hurts a lot in a timeless lament, and I can’t think of a song in this vein this good I’ve heard for over 20 years.
There’s a fascinating cover song here; CSN&Y’s Ohio which is sung straight from the heart and features some drum effects that mirror ‘boots on the ground.’ Who knew that this ‘protest song’ from 1971 would still resonate with a new generation in 2019?
As a Country Album at heart; there are copious tales of heartache and break throughout, with the haunting Used to Feel Good being about ‘how real life can take away the fun that a relationship was founded on’ and the poetic Heavy Heart will touch people who have lost loved ones both physically and emotionally.
Then, there is All She Knows is Rain, which starts
“Six years old watchin’ cartoons in a trailer reeks of cigarettes
Mama’s long gone and Daddy’s out cold on his cloud of barbiturates
And she’s right at home all alone
Ain’t no use to cry”

Can a song get any Countrier than that?
But there is also a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel too which is why Magic Still Happens is the RMHQ Favourite Track; but I won’t ‘spoil’ it for you……. check it out on the attached video (albeit a different version) and cry your heart out.
Although she’s been around the scene in the USA for nearly twenty years; Cheley Tackett is a new find for us here in the UK and while some of the venues on her UK Tour are in far flung corners; I think she’ll be back soon (Festival season?) and just like Mary, Lucinda and Nanci before her we will clutch her to our collective bosom and make Cheley Tackett one of our own.

Released USA 2017
Released UK March 1st 2019



John Mayall
Nobody Told Me
Forty Below Records

Founding Father Proves Electric Blues is in Fine Fettle.

For a genuine ‘Living Legend’ John Mayall sure does divide opinion among the cognoscenti I call my peers. On the plus side I have one friend who not only goes to see him every time he visits the North East, but has actually bought two Mayall albums this century.
The others, like me cast a wistful eye back to the cusp of the late 60’s and early 70’s when the Blues Maestro had his Bluesbreakers band and was a stepping stone for guitarists Green, Clapton, Taylor (and much later Walter Trout)……. but get them to name an album from his 35 album back catalogue dries up after the Beano Cover (1966) and two mentions for Blues From Laurel Canyon (1968)!
Which brings me to this, John Mayall’s 36th Studio album in a career stretching back over half a century, and featuring a host, nay…… a myriad of today’s finest Blues guitarists guesting on each and every track.
The distinctive liquid platinum sound of Joe Bonamassa’s guitar playing permeates opening track What Have I Done Wrong; although for me, the biggest and best surprise (after all these years) is how deep and raspy John Mayall’s voice is…….. very BB King in tone, and with the horn section from Conan O’Brien’s house band sounding like their lives depend on hitting those notes….. I’m in for the long haul!
While the album does feature a vast array of household names on guitar; none even try to get anywhere near overshadowing Mayall’s amazing voice and whip smart songs.
Bonamassa makes a second appearance on the atmospheric Delta Hurricane, which to some degree is the song that proves a cornerstone for what goes before it and subsequently follows here; it’s a personal history of The Blues, as sung by the Founding Father of British Blues; which went on to beget and influence every guitar band that ever existed in the America’s, North and South (discuss?).
Of the Guest Stars, Todd Rundgren turns up on That’s What Love Will Do, Larry McCray does his funky stuff on The Hurt Inside and Stevie Van Zandt provides the perfect foil to Mayall on the supercool and sultry It’s So Tough, and the world is probably a better place for their inclusion…… but all of these songs are certainly good enough and strong enough to just stand on their own merits.
All I really want to do is talk about the songs and how much I’ve quickly fallen in love with Mayall’s voice; but I keep feeling obliged to mention the guitarists; especially as a couple are new to me.
Carolyn Wonderland, from his current ensemble adds her magic sparkle to three tracks; with the Swinging Chicago sound that ripples through Like It Like You Do; being her finest moment and the song a contender for Favourite Track status.
The other new name to me is Alex Lifeson, who contributes some searing Mick Taylor like guitar on the dark Evil and Here To Stay which also features some tinkling ‘Orleans style piano and Mayall’s haunting harmonica solo’s and it stood out the first time I played the album and yet again this morning so this is my Favourite Track on a very impressive and comprehensive display of Contemporary Blues Music that leans on the past but shoots for the future.
It’s been well over 40 years since I last listened to a John Mayall album (Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton aka The Beano Cover) which was a turning point in my musical heritage; and I’ve listened to a Helluva lot of Blues albums in the intervening years so my final thoughts on NOBODY TOLD ME is that it sounds nothing like my memory of John Mayall at all; and is all the better for that as it’s full of his great modern and post-modern well constructed songs and shows that Electric Blues is in fine fettle and doesn’t need to rely on ‘Rock’ at all.

Released February 22nd 2019

Cedric Burnside, Jumpin’ Hot Club, Newcastle.

Cedric Burnside
Jumpin’ Hot Club
Feb 15th 2019

Because of our respective shifts at work I’ve hardly seen Mrs Magpie this week; but still I had to go to see Cedric Burnside at the JHC in the recently re-aligned basement of the Cluny Newcastle.
Opening the show where Scott Taylor and Michael Littlefield from The King Bees performing an all too rare acoustic set of Blues standards with a few rarities thrown in for good measure.
They opened their set with Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Gravy and closed it with the great man’s Keep It To Yourself; and in between Scott huffed and puffed his way through 7 different sounding harmonicas and Michael gave the guitarists in the packed room a free lesson in sweet….. no, sublime acoustic guitar playing on songs and tunes from Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Magic Sam and Big Bill Broonzy too.
They alternated lead vocals, and it’s fair to say Scott has now ‘grown into’ a charmed voice that belies his young age.
With no break to speak of, Cedric Burnside too a minute to tune his acoustic guitar and simply nodded for the houselights to be turned down and away he went with Love Her Til I Die.
I’m not aux fait with his music so guessed at the titles of songs; so don’t get mad if I get them wrong; but tonight obviously wasn’t just about hearing his songs, it was about taking part in the ‘experience’ of seeing Cedric Burnside live on stage where he makes the Blues exciting again.
“Well! Well! Well!” Can this guy play a guitar? His fingers are lightning fast across and along the strings and he looks like he’s having a spasm as he inhabits many of his songs too.
This certainly felt like everything I’d heard about his performances from friends; Burnside is not just charismatic on stage but hypnotic too….. you can’t take your eyes off him; even though for the first few acoustic songs he just sits on a chair.
With a big smile of thanks and his catchphrase “Well, well, well!” when the appreciative audience went ballistic as each song ended, Burnside hardly spoke all night, save retelling one of his Dad’s favourite jokes.
But we weren’t here for chit-chat, we wanted to hear music and oohhee…. did he deliver!
His short solo acoustic set ended with the slow and sultry Feel Like Going Home, on which he gave us some sublime bottleneck guitar solos.
Side kick Brian Jay appeared from behind a curtain and strapped on a Les Paul for a ghostly rendition of Hard To Stay Cool, from his latest album of the same name.
Then Jay got behind the drums and the night took a completely new direction, starting with a Blues Chant of Voodoo ethnicity and followed that with a song full of staccato guitar and pounding drumming, which actually moved the bass drum 6 or 7 inches and (with hindsight) started the disintegration of the bass pedal!
From my vantage point I could see Jay doing quick running repairs on the pedal during the next two songs, a mighty shuffle followed by a sexy and seductive version of Give It To You, which was less than subtle in tone.
After this one the duo switched instruments with Cedric taking over on drums, much to his fans delight.
*My notes say ‘a very technical drummer with a knockout punch’ on Don’t Leave Me Girl; which proved very apt as the bass drum moved forward again and the drummer actually snapped the pedal, much to his and our amusement.
As he tried to fix it Brian Jay watched like a hawk, but regaled us with some mesmerising work on his Les Paul. After a few minutes, Michael Littlefield from the support act mysteriously produced a spare drum pedal that he keeps in his bag for such occasions (eh?) just as Venue manager produced a second pedal from a store cupboard above the stage!
A quick adjustment from Cedric and just by making eye contact….. WOOMPH! The duo roared into whatever song it was they were meant to play (Ain’t Gonna Take No Mess?) ; and the drummer took out his frustrations in the only way possible…. boom, bang, pow….. but always on time and in tune.
This, dear reader is why Live Music is the way forward; you don’t get this on Spotify!
I guess they were originally meant to finish the set at the end of that song; but the ‘band just played on’ for well over half an hour, and way past the curfew; and by this stage I had to put my notepad away and just immerse myself in the magic music that this duo were emitting from the stage a couple of feet away from me.
I’ve told my regular readers that I lost my ‘mojo’ over a year ago, and had virtually stopped going to gigs; but tonight Cedric Burnside (and the King Bees lads) revived whatever was lying dormant in my Soul. Two amazing Blues duos ripped ‘a new one’ into what can sometimes be a dusty and reverential genre, in a packed and sweaty basement…… plus there was even 10 or 12 people ‘idiot dancing’ at the front by the end of the evening.
…….. what’s not to like?


Boo Ray
Tennessee Alabama Fireworks
BRRB Music

Sparkling Country Tearjerkers and Heartbreakers.

Admit it; if you were in a record store and saw an album called Tennessee Alabama Fireworks by a guy called Boo Ray you’d pick it up, wouldn’t you?
I thought so…… and then you’d probably ask the assistant if you could hear a couple of tracks?
Trust me, as soon as you hear the pedal-steel that opens the catchy Truckin’ Tune; A Tune You Can Whistle it would have you reaching for your wallet; and when Boo Ray’s raspy vocals trample all over the Twangy geetar you would be throwing your cash across the counter and not waiting for the disc to put in a bag!
Well; that’s how I felt.
Boo Ray? I’ve not heard of him before; but that’s obviously my loss as he puts the Americana into Ameripolitan or whatever we are calling Country Music these days. He’s got a mighty clever way with words, as he croons all over the mellow ballad Honky Tonk Dream, then kicks up a storm on the apologetic love song 20 Questions without letting you catch your breath.
I haven’t checked, but I picture Boo Ray hiding behind a big ole pair of Aviator glasses; possibly even the Elvis type as he hides his tears on Gone Back Down to Georgia and the heartbreaking We Ain’t Got The Good too.
To all intents and purposes Don’t Look Back and Out Run the Wind is the type of Country Music you pray to hear in a bar on a Tuesday night, when there are more people on stage than in the audience, and those who are there, are there because they don’t want to go home; and Boo Ray sings from the heart just for them.
All of these songs could easily find their way onto those shiny albums that those guys with designer stubble and made to measure Stetson hats bring out every few weeks; but none of them can find the pathos in She Wrote the Song the way Boo Ray does; and when he sings,
“it’s the pain pills that took away my sweetheart/
it gives me cold chills/
I think I’m gonna leave a star.”
you will have cold chills yourself.
The biggest surprise for me here; is that the songs come in at 6, 7, 8 or even 9 minutes long; but don’t worry that this is a Prog whig out….. not in the slightest; Boo Ray just lets his songs breathe and develop in a way very few others are allowed these days; and my own favourite song Skin & Ink which closes the disc is a mighty 8 minutes and 19 seconds long; but like everything that has gone before it…… not a single word or note shouldn’t be there.
If you are of my generation and discovered Country Music via the Country Rock acts of the late 70’s and 80’s like the Allmans, Skynard or Creedence then this album is meant for you. Great songs, sung with passion and from the heart by a leathery voice and a band that has the ability to stop your heart on a whim.

Released 15th February 2019


Keith Howe
That’s the Vibe
Flac Music

Enough Blood, Sweat and Tears To Make Your Heart Pump and Your Feet Twitch.

Can it really be three whole years since Keith sent me a copy of his band Blacktop Deluxe’s album? Apparently so……where does the time go?
Although still with Blacktop Deluxe and after 17 years slogging around the back-roads of Southern England with them and another band called Blue on Black; he’s finally decided to make his first ever Solo Album…. and this is it.
The first thing that struck me about the first song Dice Will Roll (The Blues Will Follow) is that it has a much bigger and fuller sound than that prev band album; there’s not just a brass section in tow but sexy sounding female backing singers too, making this cracking attempt at a Chicago Blues tune very special indeed.
Howe makes no attempt to adopt an American accent when he sings; but after years on the road he’s evolved a distinctive singing style that belies his Cornish roots; and is perfect for the imagery he creates on Dust Off The Rust and Old Crow Road, which have the romanticism we normally associate with bands from the Southern States as opposed to England’s most Southern county.
Sitting here listening again; this very much a classy album in the vein of Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago Transit Authority; but with a modern slant on Blues Will Roll and/or Living With Fragile Things, but I could say that about 90% of the songs here too.
I still think it’s brave for guys like Keith Howe to tread their very own path in Rock Music; as it’s all too easy to fall back into the Covers Circuit to make a living; but when you can write songs like the punchy Got It and Gone or Blue Horizons, you really should have the self-confidence to still shoot for the Stars.
This album ticks a lot of boxes for me and if Keith Howe came from London or Memphis the national press in both countries would be falling over themselves to praise Put Me In My Place or the slow and dirty All You Millionaires to the high heavens; but Howe comes from the ‘sticks’ in Cornwall so he can’t be any good, can he?
Which brings me to the RMHQ Favourite Song, Ace In The Hole which made me hark back to the glory days when you could see Dire Straits or Graham Parker & The Rumour or for me in Newcastle, White Heat The Eastside Torpedoes or Arthur 2 Stroke in a bar for under a quid and have the time of your life.
Quality and Class never go out of date, which is why this album will never age, even if it’s roots are in the 70’s and 80’s it’s perfect for 2019 and beyond……. and I can only imagine the effect these guys will have if they get to play the Festival Circuit this Summer!

Released February 15th 2019


Blinky Bill
Mungu Halali (single)
The Garden

How can I not like a guy called Blinky Bill?
Over the years I’ve tried to get my head around World Music; but with very little success, just like Jazz.
But this belting new single from Blinky Bill has not just had me tapping my feet in the sunshine but…… gasp…… smiling too! What’s not to like?

‘Mungu Halali’ is the latest track lifted from Nairobi native Blinky Bill’s acclaimed debut album ‘Everyone’s Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales’ (out now), and was shot on the fly around various locations round Nairobi (Bill’s parents make cameo appearances), the new video was shot by Bill’s former Just A Band bandmate, Mbithi Masya.

Speaking about the sun-bleached video – which opens with a cameo from veteran Kenyan broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela, and takes in old haunts of Bill’s including Nairobi music institution Jimmy’s Record Store and Bill’s own childhood home (both his parents make cameo appearances) – Masya says; “This is one of the most intimate videos I’ve made, inspired by my relationship with Bill and his life on the come up in music. Early discussions revolved around Bill wanting to avoid the lowest hanging fruit of an idea, which would be something overtly religious featuring a choir. Instead he wanted Mungu Halali’s video to feature the people, spaces and places that have mattered to him through his musical journey. The people in the video are friends, all of them.”

Blinky Bill – that alias a childhood cartoon nickname that wouldn’t budge – originally made a name for himself in electro-funk outfit Just A Band. Formed with Masya in-between studies at the University Of Kenyatta, the self-effacingly named band’s debut ‘Scratch To Reveal’ arrived atop a strong electro house sound, spiked with the owned-up spirit of touchstones including Gorillaz and Daft Punk. 2009’s follow-up album ’82’ took off via viral single releases ‘Huff + Puff’ and ‘Ha-He’, the latter of which arrived with a blaxploitation-referencing music video which became Kenya’s first viral internet meme.


Kalyn Fay
Good Company
Horton Records

The Sound of An Oklahoma Lonely Heart.

It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think; but this album arrived on the from not just it’s American publicist but the British one too on the same day last month; both of whom only work with ‘interesting and articulate’ artistes, so it had to be worth a listen.
Sadly, because of work commitments and an ever increasing backlog of other albums I’ve struggled to find the time to give GOOD COMPANY the time I felt it deserved, until much earlier this morning……. sitting eating breakfast in the conservatory as the sun rose in a beautiful clear Winter sky.
Timing is everything; and the title track, Good Company was the perfect accompaniment as Kalyn’s smoky world-weary voice telling a tale of someone at a crossroads in their life questioning what the future holds, was just what I needed to hear.
Now I’ve played the CD three times, and writing during the fourth it’s apparent that that song is the gateway to what follows; as Ms Fay dictates her thoughts on many things in a very intimate and personal manner, none more so than Come Around which might even conjure up memories of Roy Orbison’s darker masterworks.
By her standards Highway Driving is uptempo and very nearly a ‘rocker’; but the tale of the pleasure you get from driving late at night, interspersed with electric guitar solos that sound like a bullwhip Kalyn describes that fragile loneliness like nothing I’ve ever heard before; but can associate with perfectly.
In the Press Release Kalyn describes these songs as being ‘quintessentially Oklahoma’ and they probably must be, as a couple have a slight ‘Native America’ melody from her Cherokee heritage in them; but Long Time Coming, Faint Memory and of course Oklahoma Hills when you delve deep into their lyrics are as international as they come and will resonate with listeners all over the world; such is Kalyn Fay’s magical way with words and storytelling.
There is also a cover song here; and an old personal favourite…… although I didn’t actually recognise it. Well, you wouldn’t would you? Kalyn’s warm purr turns Malcolm Holcombe’s grizzled Dressed In White into something Gothic, but warm hearted too; which is quite an achievement.
You must get tired of me saying that ‘this is an album that needs to be heard in it’s fullness, rather than cherry picking songs on streaming sites’; but it’s true. This is a fully formed ‘grown up record’; Kalyn’s’s second and songs like Alright In The End, Wait For Me and Baby, Don’t You Worry are all wonderful little vignettes; but heard in context alongside or juxtaposing each other are heard in a completely different light.
That theory is the same with my Favourite Song here, Fool’s Heartbreak. It’s everything you would hope it would be with a title like that; and could easily be the type of 45 we would play on repeat for an hour on end as heartbroken teenagers; but here as it tail ends the disc and as it’s steel-guitar and Hammond B3 plus Kalyn’s honey covered voice bleed into Holcombe’s Dressed in White it will crush you, but also let you know that you’re not alone out there…… Kalyn is suffering with you.
In 2019 Kalyn Fay sits very comfortably in the section marked Americana; but there’s so much more here; in my younger years she would sit in the Singer-Songwriter section somewhere between Linda Ronstadt, Melanie and Emmylou Harris.

Released February 15th 2019

The Vandoliers FOREVER

The Vandoliers

Fiery Country-Punk With a Side Order of Kick Ass Mariachi!

I really don’t know how they do it; but the home of Insurgent Country, Bloodshot Records has found another gem here……The Vandoliers!
Even before I’d read the Press Release I correctly guessed that these, self proclaimed ‘Converse Cowboys’ must come from Texas; because where else would this fearsome hybrid possibly come from, and indeed they actually hail from Fort Worth.
Last week I played 5 or 6 tracks over a couple of days in the car; and today dressed in a Trucker Cap, a Big Damn Band t-shirt, mirrored Wayfarers and not having shaved for two days I was looking for something to play on a road trip to ‘oil country’ in Teeside, when I remembered this album. So metaphorically pushing the cassette into the player (my trusty i-phone actually) I set off on my journey; and within two minutes of Miles and Miles my Renault Laguna morphed into a Dodge Ram and I was now travelling along the blacktop of Texas with the machine cranked up to TEN.
With a million Alt,Country Rock bands on the circuit you have to be pretty special to stand out these days; and The Vandoliers do that not just with some great songs but they incorporate a good old fashioned fiddle player and a Mariachi style brass section to compliment a singer with a voice that you aren’t born with; but comes from a hard life fronting bands in noisy bars, and a guitarist who out Slash’s Slash, plus a rhythm section that can slide seamlessly between romantic balladry and full on machine gun RAWK with consummate ease and skill.
That’s the background; but what about the songs?
Every one is a 24 carat diamond!
All on Black and Bottom Dollar Boy are both very clever takes on the ‘bad luck’ theme we know and love; but you ain’t heard nothing like this ‘sound’; and they add fresh ‘magic dust’ to a tale of life on the road with Shoshone Rose; making being in a band playing dive bars sound quite romantic.
I guess that’s what I love about these songs; lead guitarist, singer and songwriter Joshua Fleming brings a new spirited and even spunky approach to all the things we take for granted in Country Music.
Sixteen Years appears to detail the band’s or at least singer Travis Curry’s torrid and tragic career to get to today fronting the coolest band this side of the Rio Grande.
There was no better soundtrack to today’s car journey that Nowhere Fast, which now sits alongside Bruce and Chuck Berry on my ‘driving playlist’.
Not everything here is fast and furious; The Vandoliers can do ballads too, with Travis Curry making his fiddle gently weep on Tumbleweed and using the metaphor Cigarettes in The Rain for a fragile and troubled relationship is almost genius, and certainly tear inducing.
Then there is my Favourite Song…… one which caught my attention last week; and because of events during the intervening few days made Troublemaker my current anthem! Combining the Mariachi brass of Ring of Fire, the fiddle from the Devil Went Down To Georgia with a backing band that sound like something from Sun Records on Meth and a singer who sounds like Billy Idol in a Cowboy Hat on a song about someone who could get into an argument in a phone box, only goes some of the way to describe this amazing track!
In these complicated days when it’s hard to know what really constitutes ‘Country Music’, I’m going to point you towards this album…… it will appeal to Cow Punks and Old School Cowboys and Cowgirls, Hipster Alt. Country fans and anyone who just vaguely likes quality, well written, interesting and classy but righteously ragged Rock and Roll!

Released February 22nd 2019

Indiana Bradley UNDER THE NIGHT

Indiana Bradley
Under the Night (Single)

You know we like things to be a bit ‘left of centre’ every now and again here at RMHQ…… and that’s what we have here!
Original from Indiana (surprise – surprise) Timothy ‘Indiana’ Bradley has travelled across many continents in his relatively short life and picked up musical influences from every path he’s trod.
He intends releasing a 5 track EP sometime in the Spring; but until then he’s given RMHQ and our readers an early listen to this slightly eccentric Mick Jagger meets Nick Cave influenced slice of Alt. Goth…… if such a genre exists!
Whatever….. I like it and think you will too.


Buffalo Blood
Buffalo Blood
Eel Pie Records

Haunting and Majestic Songs of America’s Ghosts.

There is something to be said about getting inspiration from traveling to specific locales. And when you’re an artist, sensitive to the spiritual vibrations resonating from within certain spaces where the emotions have run high, you can — hopefully — tap into that energy and gain insight and revelation to events, people, and feelings from another time.
Imagine an author writing about a haunted house while staying inside a supposedly haunted house. Or a painter working on his art while setting up in the very same spots where Vincent Van Gogh created some of his iconic paintings. It is thought by some that some spaces soak up the emotions and thoughts of the beings that resided there, just waiting for the correct energy to show up, to release them from within their patient waiting, to bring light to their darkness. Different places have different emanating energies. 
There is a lot of spiritual energy residing in the canyons and rocky plains of New Mexico. A lot of history, a lot of ghosts to inhabit those wide open spaces and wide screen horizons. Now imagine a group of musicians and songwriters traveling along the Trail of Tears, a pilgrimage of sorts, to write and record songs influenced by Native American culture, specifically the feelings of loss, abandonment, and cruelty brought on by “civilization.” There is a kinship here between this album and Mary Gauthier’s Rifles and Rosary Beads, another album about hard truths with no easy answers.
This is Buffalo Blood, an album by Neilson Hubbard, Dean Owens, Joshua Britt, Audrey Spillman, and James DeMain whose work together on this fine collection of songs and sounds are exemplary to say the least. These songs were written in the dry heat of the desert canyons of New Mexico, on Georgia O’Keefe’s aptly named Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, in the shadows of historic La Plaza Blanca. If you listen closely, you can hear the occasional bird or the shifting of the wind caught on these recordings as they were all recorded outside in these haunting, beautiful, stark places. What they have crafted here is new folk songs utilizing guitar, mandolin, and some excellent percussion, tied to haunting vocals, and thrilling, spot-on whistling. That’s right, I said whistling. And this ain’t no Spaghetti Western rip-off, either, this is true blue, dyed in the wool, horseback riding, deep in the canyons type of whistling where the echo bounces back at you and hits you in your gut. The real deal. Just like the percussion on this album, probably my favorite ingredient on the whole thing. You don’t need a standard drum kit when you have percussion this simple, strong, decisive. The beat of the drums here is the backbone of the continent. The majestic chanting is the spirits of the land given voice. 
It’s difficult to find a favorite song here. “Ten Killer Ferry Lake” is ghostly wails amidst wind on the rocks (I’m thinking this one was recorded at night, under a multitude of stars, you can hear the sand being blown into the mics. I hope this was recorded like this, even if not, I’m going to continue to imagine it was, because it just feels so right.) “Reservations” concerns itself with the plight of the modern day descendants of those who walked the Trail of Tears, pulling no punches with its language: “White men wanted everything, white men never listened to us, now our way of life is gone… ” and “Many things were said, treaties signed and broken, buffalo days are dead and gone… ” “Comanche Moon” picks up where that song left us, not exactly bitter, but not broken either. “Buffalo Thunder” begins with whistling wind and a far off desert storm before harmonized wordless chanting and ominous whistling disappears into the reverb. But my favorite song here might just be “Daughter of the Sun,” a desert fable dressed in a simple, heartfelt melody. This one reads as if it’s as old as the hills it was recorded in, a true testament to the musicians involved. 
I’m loving the focus given to these songs, the stark detail, the willingness of the musicians and production team to leave themselves emotionally open to the experiences required to bring this album to life. 

Review Courtesy Roy Peak esq.
Released 15th Feb 2019