Doug Schmude
Burn These Pages
Lost Hubcap Records

A Rare Story-Telling Rootsy Americana Talent in the Grand Tradition.

As Santa starts pulling on his boots in readiness for grooming the reindeer, I’m still playing ‘catch up’ with reviews from November! Some have already fallen by the wayside, but I can’t let 2018 fade away without telling you about this charming album from son of Baton Rouge Doug Schmude (rhymes with moody apparantly).
For once it was a combination of the CD’s artwork and the artiste’s quirky name that drew my attention to this disc two months ago, which has led to several ‘listening sessions’ each of which has helped unfurl ever more from Shmude’s clever and intelligent songwriting. 
As always I judge albums by their opening track and Setting Fires on the Moon ticks every box I have; a fascinating love story sung by a warmly distinctive voice over a rather lovely melody. What’s not to like?  
Even Mrs. Magpie found herself tapping her toes to Silas James; but there’s so much more to this snapshot of small-town Middle America than a catchy tune.  Who among us won’t have their imagination piqued by the opening lines;
“His Hair was whiter as the white album,
 eyes as Blue as a Skip James song,
 he knew music like the B-Side of his hand,
 a song for every problem known to man!”
 loosely reminding me of my Favourite Song of all time, Mark Germino’s Rex Bob Lowenstein, this is one for all of us. OK it’s a bit of a fantasy song to me;  but I really hope Silas James really did exist.
This is followed by the darkly brooding Worry Stone which feature some delicious fiddle playing by Georgina Hennessy, and is a very clever story in a Jackson Brown kind of way. As I said at the beginning, it’s one of the songs that slowly unravel the more you hear it.
One song especially fascinates me; and it’s one of those songs that make people like me with no talent at all, sit back in awe as they listen. My Daddy’s Musket is something of a historical tale about the Civil Way on the surface; but touches on many things that effect people; especially in the USA today. Congratulations all round chaps and chapesses. 
Mostly this is a Singer-Songwriter album that straddles the Rootsy edges of Country and the prosaic edge of Modern Folk, but there’s a rocky side to Doug Schmude too; with Salt being a moody Lo-Fi assault on the senses; and one I love to bits!
The album closes with the rather delicate title track Burn These Pages, a songwriter’s song in some ways, as it feels like you are intruding on a man’s personal thoughts at times. But that’s the art of the songwriter isn’t it? 
I’m troubled as to what to choose for my Favourite Song; Silas James certainly has it’s merits as does the haunting Chris Knight song Enough Rope; another intense Lo-Fi rocker that’s chock full of dirty electric guitar and a story-line that Springsteen would have been proud to have written circa The River; but I’m going for the stunning El Tren de la Muerte, a thoughtful ‘Border Song’ in the mould of Tom Russell and Dave Alvin that will surely turn up on albums by Schmude’s contemporary’s in years to come.
There’s a whole lot to like here on Doug Schmude’s 4th release; especially the very mature songwriting and the clever production which can be claustrophobic when necessary but also allowing room for songs to breath and slowly filter into your subconscious.
Released 16th November 2018 



Rebecca Loebe GHOSTS (Video)

Rebecca Loebe
Blue Corn Music

Rebecca Loebe is one of those artists that have flitted in and out of my ‘musical life’ a couple of times over the last few years; and I can remember playing a couple of tracks on my Olde Radio Show several years ago.
Here we find her again with this gorgeously delicate single Ghosts; taken from the album GIVE UP YOUR GHOSTS due for release in early February; and from the few tracks I’ve played has all the hallmarks of being a bit of a game-changer for this young lady.

Single of the Day…..Skapones A Go-Go! EP

Skapones A Go-Go! (Single)
Cosa Nostra Records

You know we like a bit of Ska here at RMHQ; especially of the 2 Tone persuasion so I can’t tell you how excited I was when this arrived in the E-Mail box earlier today!
The Skapones are local lads to me; well….. Darlington is technically in the North East, but in the Deep South (…..hahaha) and have been regulars on the scooter and club scene for a couple of years now, and have re-mixed this track from their recent Cradle to the Grave album (*watch this space!) alongside the ultra-rare Live It Up! track as downloads ‘only’ for the Festive Party season. 
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!! 
Plus, the lads have been invited to play in NYC in 2019 and have opened a Crowdfunder page to help them get there…… 

Released 12th December 2018 

In Layman Terms STRONG ROOTS

In Layman Terms
Strong Roots
ILT Records 

Super Cool Jazz-Funk and Blueslicious Hybrid.

I have two problems with album; firstly every time I play it I just get lost in the music and don’t get around to writing an actual review (hence this is now a month after the release date!) and secondly……. I’m damned if I can decide if this is Blues, Jazz, Country Rock or most likely, a fusion of all three! 
As I understand it Cole & Logan Layman are siblings who have played music together all of their lives, eventually forming a trio with percussionist and trumpet and flugelhorn player extraordinaire Hamed Barbarji in 2015 and eventually co-opting drummer Nick Davidson into the ensemble in 2017…..for everything else you can Google them! 
The title track Strong Roots eases us into a veritable smorgasbord of sultry, sassy and occasionally brooding hybrid of all that I love about Southern Music. That damn trumpet sure does give this cool Soul track a Jazzy tinge; but when Cole Layman slips and slides his guitar into a groove it sure sounds like the Blues to me too; and Logan’s sultry singing style criss-crosses both genres with culpable ease and grace. 
This is followed by some super New Orleans Funk that has Logan delivering a Cleo Lane type scat at times and a melody that  revolves around a bass line straight outta Stax, and some trumpet from Blue Note in I’m Somebody! Now do you see why  I’m both impressed and confused by this album?   
Things get slow and sultry on the gorgeous Ain’t Gonna Fake It No More; which for some reason had me thinking back to Melba Moore as Logan Layman lays it on the line for her man; as Barbarji channels the ghost of Chet Baker over some intrinsically fine guitar and drumming in the background, which all left me kinda breathless a couple of times. 
It’s quite funny when you see the fresh faced quartet smiling in their photos; as on record, especially Notice Me they sound like hard-nosed, long in the tooth, world weary but classy players who have played a hundred lonely Tuesday nights in sleazy and smoky clubs  on the delicious Heartbroken and the cleverly astute Notice Me.
There’s only one cover here, and their arrangement of the classic Fever is both reverential and classy; and sure to catch the attention of a generation who may never have never heard it before. 
Choosing the RMHQ Favourite Track hasn’t been easy; as this is an album for kicking back and wallowing in from start to finish; but somewhere between the Urban growl of Make Me Yours and the Jazz Funk of Way Too Far which closes the album with a sizzling nod in the direction of both Prince and Gwen Dickey you will find Heartbroken which is possibly and probably the one song that everything else shoots off from like sparks from a musical grinder. 
I really don’t know what else to say; but it will be one helluva shame if this band were to stay in the shadows as not just their songwriting but superb musicianship deserve a big, big audience. 
# Interestingly CD Baby suggest this to be for fans of Amy Winehouse, John Mayer and Tedescshi Trucks Band……. which is probably fair enough!

Released 7th November 2018

Luke James Williams DROVE

Luke James Williams

The Sound of a Breaking Heart Set To Music.

So many albums to review and so little time has meant some absolute gems have fallen by the wayside this year; and this flawed diamond nearly followed suit; but even a cursory play in the car on a sunny afternoon over a month ago meant I knew that I had to come back to it sooner or later; as you need to hear this… really, really do.
A haunting slither of what will probably be described as Alt. Folk in the mainstream press;  actually follows in a long line of very intense, quintessentially English singer-songwriters starting with Nick Drake right through to the more recent Martin Longstaff aka Lake Poets. 
Luke opens his record with an instrumental, of sorts called From The Drove. A hybrid of background noises followed by some kind of acoustic guitar noodling brilliantly leads into the first actual song Snares & Traps. Not for the last time here I can picture the singer clenching his eyes closed as desperately stops himself screaming his very eloquent words out; painfully pouring his heart out alongside some very taught guitar playing.
The mood picks up ever so slightly on Speak To Me; and here the guitar playing is almost Spanish in origin which gives this sad song quite an exotic texture, which I wasn’t expecting. 
The claustrophobic Rabbit Hole is tucked away in the middle; which has a lot going on behind William’s sorrowful voice, but never so much that it ever interferes with the song or indeed, words and story; because this is a song that the sad and lonely at this time of year should listen to……. or perhaps not. 
At only six tracks and five songs long; I felt a little bit cheated tonight as the brooding You Are The Captain filtered away; as this and especially the winsome, but delicately powerful Still In Bed, which is the RMHQ Favourite here more than hints at a talent that is on the cusp of blossoming into something very special indeed.
I don’t know much about Luke James Williams as his e-mails have both been quite short and straight to the point; but in DROVE, from the very first time I played it; (in very much the wrong setting) gave me a shiver down my back, just like the first time I heard Nick Drake and The Lake Poets. 
As the hipsters would say “Luke James Williams is the Real Deal.” 

Released 21st November 2018



Holly Rees
Stick Around (EP)

Apart from her name, Holly there isn’t anything Christmassy about this delightful, sad and broken-hearted love song, unless you are sad and broken-hearted at this time of glee and bonhomie; from local lass and friend of RMHQ Miss Holly Rees. 
A very simple arrangement gets the message across in a way pomp and bombast can never achieve…………………. this goes straight to the heart and stays there.
Released December 7th

JD McPherson SOCKS!

JD McPherson
New West Records

Rockin’ and Rollin’ the Billy-Oh Out of Christmas. 

I’ve been send six Christmas albums this year, and have only decided to put pen to paper on two; this and the Rodney Crowell release which coincidentally are on the same label but like chalk and cheese when it comes to the singer’s approach to the Holiday Season.
 As I sit here on a grey, wet and miserable December Monday which has followed a similar weekend JD McPherson has got me smiling and tapping my toes to his red hot and equally cool LP of Rocking and Rolling songs. 
You know exactly where you’re going with the traditional intro and ongoing melody that accompanies All The Gifts I Need which opens the album; and had me doing a Peppermint Twist as I made coffee with this in the background yesterday…….and to some greater or lesser extent; who doesn’t like a honking saxophone on a Christmas song?
Maybe I don’t listen to enough rootsy Rock & Roll, but there’s something very refreshing about hearing songs like Hey Skinny Santa, What’s That Sound and especially Claus V Claus, which all have that authentic 50’s feel to them but are just what I need to hear as 2018 blends into 2019.
If you already know JD’s cannon of work you will know he has a mean sense of humour which comes across fabulously well on the title track Socks and the lovely ballad Ugly Sweater Blues, which both find the McPherson tongue pressed firmly into his cheek….. but hey, man….it’s Christmmmaaasssssss!!! 
It’s fair to say that McPherson takes enjoying Christmas very seriously, with Holly, Carol, Candy & Joy being an intricately constructed song about all of the girls in his life at this time of year and on Hey Skinny Santa you could easily daydream Eddie Cochran or Bruce Springsteen blasting this out at the top of their voices.
While this is a ‘brand new album,’ the absolutely fabulous Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights) was first released in 2012 and hasn’t aged a single day in all that time. 
If that single hadn’t already been on the official RMHQ playlist it would have definitely been our Favourite Track here; but being the contrary fool I am; that title is now going to be a tie between the frantic Santa’s Got a Mean Machine and the slightly menacing Bad Kid, which is  as cool a slice of Rock and indeed Roll as was ever released at Christmas time. Does the Bad Kid get redeemed by the end? That’s not for me to say is it?
Oh boy; this is a keeper…….a Christmas album that you can pass down to the Grandkids because it genuinely is timeless and will never age. 

Released December 14th 2018



100 Albums That Changed My Life

This time last year one of my best friends bizarrely challenged himself to ‘posting an album a day’  from his ‘musical life’ on Facebook throughout 2018…..which I thought was utter madness! Somehow he’s managed it, and set me thinking…… 352 was far too many surely, perhaps I could post 12 as ‘an album a month’ from across my life, throughout 2019, which became a list that very quickly grew and grew to 50+ i.e  an album a week.
 Then, last week that list was 175 albums! Mercifully I’ve now culled it down to a manageable Festive 100!
Seriously; all of these 100 albums have  effected my musical tastes over the 50 years since my big brother Brian first gave me a pile of LP’s that he no longer wanted back in the Summer of ’69, with the Dusty Springfield one being part of that package. 
The first and indeed Top Ten are My Favourite Albums of all time, but the other 90 are various gateways into the many directions which finally brings me to where I am today; and are just the order in which they came into my head.
I’ve always had eclectic tastes and an inquisitive mind; but generally, as you will see it’s a pretty commercial collection of albums with nothing intrinsically ‘cool’ or ‘clever’ that I’ve discovered on Google just to impress you…… it’s all  a snapshot into my musical life and back catalogue. 
* As with John’s original idea, the only caveat was that I would only use one album per artist (i.e. Rod Stewart and the Faces being two distinctly seperate turns in my head). 
Let me know if these stir any memories……………..

1Rod StewartEvery Picture Tells a Story
2UndertonesSin of Pride
3Yardbirds5 Live Yardbirds
4Rory GallagherLive in Europe
5Johnny WinterAnd Live
6Orange JuiceRip It Up
7The Housemartins London 0 Hull 4
8Dr FeelgoodDown By The Jetty
9String Driven ThingThe Machine That Cried
10Ian McNabbMerseybeast
11Rolling StonesGoats Head Soup
13Elvis CostelloAlmost Blue
14The TymesTrustmaker
15Joe CockerI Can Stand a Little Rain
16Leonard CohenI’m Your Man
17Uncut MagazineSounds of the New West
18Chet BakerSings
19Smoove and TurrellAntique Soul
20CreamWheels of Fire
21The JamIn The City
22Paul WellerStanley Road
23Nanci GriffithLast of The True Believers
24Mary Chapin CarpenterCome On Come On
25Slaid CleavesBroke Down
26YazooUpstairs at Erics
27Dusty SpringfieldA Girl Called Dusty
28AC/DCIf You Want Blood
29MelanieGarden in the City
30The ByrdsSweetheart of the Rodeo
31U2Joshua Tree
33Small Faces Singles
34Secret AffairGlory Boys
36Stevie WonderInnervisions
37George BensonIn Your Eyes
38John MorelandHigh on Tulsa Heat
39StranglersRattus Norvegicus
40Gem AndrewsScatter
41Waco BrothersCowboy Dreams
42Kelly HoganBecause It Feel Good
43SpecialsThe Specials
44MadnessOne Step Beyond
45UB 40Signing Off
46Arthur 2 StrokeLive at Banwells
47Billy ConnollySolo Concert
48Dave Alvin Ashgrove
49James HunterPeople Gonna Talk
50Big CountryThe Crossing
51Bad CompanyBad Company
52BlondieParallel Lines
53Style CouncilCafe Bleu
54Joe JacksonI’m The Man
55Chuck ProphetNight Surfer
56TrojanTighten Up Vol 2
57Aztec CameraHigh Land, Hard Rain
58Martin StephensonNight Boat to Bolivia
59Prefab SproutSteve McQueen
60FreeAt Last
61Johnny CashAmerican Recording
62TrojanSkinhead Box Set
63Phil SpectorChristmas Album
64ShipcoteOld Is Cool
65Alison MoyetRaindancing
66Gram ParsonsGrievous Angel
67David BowieZiggy Stardust
68Randy NewmanSail Away
69Blondie Parallel Lines
70Willie Nile House of a Thousand Guitars
71MC5High Time
72Tift MerrittBramble Rose
73Bobbie CrynerGirl of Your Dreams
74Laura CantrellNot The Tremblin’ Kind
75Malcolm HolcombeDown The River
76Rob VincentI’ll Make The Most of My Sins
77Justin Townes EarleHarlem River Blues
78The FacesA Nod’s as Good as a Wink
79Ronnie Lane’s Slim ChanceAnymore For Anymore
81Stone RosesStone Roses
82Teardrop ExplodesKilimanjaro
83Kane GangBad and Lowdown World
84Human LeagueDare
85Nick HeywardNorth of a Miracle
86Kim RicheyEdgeland
87Andy WilliamsGreatest Hits
88Jeffrey OsborneJeffrey Osborne
89Paul YoungNo Parlez
90Q TipsLive at Last!
91SqueezeEast Side Story
92Graham ParkerSqueezing Out Sparks
93Cowboy JunkiesTrinity Sessions
94Frank ZappaHot Rats
95Harry NilssonA Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night
96Icicle WorksBlind
97Elton JohnGoodbye Yellow Brick Road
98Alejandro EscovedoA Man Under The Influence
99Elizabeth Cook Balls
100Rodney CrowellThe Houston Kid

Albeit bot anywhere near this list; if one song sums up me and RMHQ…… this is it; local lad made good, Mr John Miles esq. ….. Music (Was my First Love)

Willard Grant Conspiracy UNTETHERED

Willard Grant Conspiracy
Loose Records

A Beautifully Sensitive Epitaph To a Modern Musical Genius.

If you’re reading this I doubt I need to tell you who or what Willard Grant Conspiracy are; or more pertinently ‘were’. But if you are just being inquisitive,they were an ensemble nay, multitude of musicians who gathered around the ever evolving singer-songwriter Robert Fisher, who sadly died on February 12th 2017, and the core of these songs and interludes were written and demoed in the previous 12 months. 
Now that the rawness of his passing has gone, lone time friend David Michael Curry has re-evaluated the work and gone about creating this final testament to Robert Neil Fisher and Willard Grant Conspiracy. 
As a side-bar, Fisher lost me off many years ago, leaving me in his slipstream as he blazed a trail somewhere between genius and madness, (in my humble opinion). 
So; what to make of this final release? 
As opening track Hideous Beast growled it’s way from the speakers my eyebrows raised so high they nearly touched the back of my neck. Now, with the benefit of hindsight I can’t think of a better way to attract the listener’s attention, but long concealed memories of trying to listen to the crazy and experimental work from Zappa and Beefheart in my teenage bedroom sprung to mind; but hey….it only lasts just shy of two minutes; so no real trauma was done. 
Mercifully the second song, Do No Harm is more like the Lo-Fi, shoe-gazing introspection that I adored so many years ago, as are several others here that fit that marvelous description too…….especially the dark and almost Gothic I Could Not and the single that trailed the album release, Untethered with its slight Country underscore and Johnny Cash Americana sensitivity.
‘Sensitivity’ is actually a good word to describe the overall ‘feeling’ on this album; Robert always was a canny song-writer; and I know it’s presumptive of me, but as these songs were written after his diagnosis, I think it’s fair to imagine him mining both his heart and Soul when writing and even ‘constructing’ the brittle and beautiful Let The Storm Be Your Pilot, and the breathtaking Share The Load, which will surely reduce many who hear it to tears. 
Each track here has it’s very own worth; which means choosing a Favourite Track from the wonderfully eclectic mix is difficult to the extreme; but the bleak and brooding Love You Apart certainly bares repeated listening when taken out of context; as does Chasing Rabbits and Margaret on the Porch too; but I’m probably going for the relatively simple Saturday With Jane as the RMHQ Favourite Track, possibly because Robert sounds uncannily like Lou Reed on one of the few songs that would fit into a Radio playlist. 

Being the Americana Renaissance Man he was; it’s no real surprise to find two instrumentals here; the quirkilly titled Two Step borders on being Chamber music; when the title suggests something else completely, such is Fisher’s eccentric sense of humour. The other instrumental is Trail’s End, which brings everything to another Zappaesque conclusion, as it meanders and turns left,right and left again before ending as a wild crescendo …….which just may be the perfect epitaph for Robert Neil Fisher Esq. 
There’s a lot going on here; and an awful lot to like, especially when it’s put into the context of being the last writings and recordings of a man who history will show to be something of a Musical Genius.

Released 7th December2018.

Ryan Bingham WOLVES (Single)

Ryan Bingham
Lost Highway 

We like Ryan Bingham a lot here at RMHQ, and we are looking forward to his UK visit in early 2019 a lot even if he ain’t coming to Newcastle 😦 so it’s been a blast this morning listening to the first song Wolves (especially in this acoustic format) from next year’s AMERICAN LOVE SONG album……… enjoy! 

Album released Feb 14th 2019