Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles LOVE’S MIDDLE NAME

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Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles
Blue Corn Music

It’s Only Rock & Roll, But You’ll Love It!

The only time I’ve seen Sarah Borges play live I had to travel 250 miles for the privilege. Well; in those days my job took me around the country and I’d made appointments accordingly so I could stay over in Nottingham; but you get my point.
Constantly evolving and reinventing herself, I was excited but didn’t really know what to expect when I first played this album a few weeks ago; but subsequently it’s been my ‘go to’ album when I needed something loud and noisy in the car.
The venomous House On a Hill sets the scene perfectly for a musical ride that’s the perfect accompaniment for driving around town in an MG Midget with only four gears and a rag-roof on a sultry Autumn evening.
Sarah’s voice has aged nicely in the intervening years; and her songwriting and storytelling shows no sign of diminishing either; certainly if the Power Ballad Let Me Try It or the sizzling Girlie Book, which isn’t quite as risqué as I’d hoped, are anything to go by; and they aren’t alone.
With so many genres to pick from these days I’m stumped for where this fits in…… but think Lucinda fronting the Georgia Satellites as her voice lives and breathes every word she sings, and the band which revolves around the industrial powerhouse of Binky and Phil Cimino on bass and drums (although Ed Arnold also bashes out a neat beat on two tracks) prove a perfect foil for Ms Borges gritty and heartfelt vocals while Producer extraordinaire Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambler supplies some really astonishing guitar all the way through.
Ambler’s slick production allows the band to R.O.C.K but lets the listener actually hear and appreciate the lyrics; which is a joy to behold on Lucky Rocks and the Honky Tonkiest song this side of the Cumberland Gap; Get As Gone Can Get.
There’s also a couple of smashing ballads here too, first and foremost is the acoustic Oh Victoria which showcases Sarah’s mellower side; but the song itself is also quite spiky too, which is as good a word as any to describe Grow Wings too; which is a real pot-boiler and so atmospheric you can virtually smell the sweat in the studio.
Then of course I have to choose a Favourite Song for you; and for once it was quite an easy decision; even though plenty of others were contenders; but Are You Still Taking Them Pills is both a firecracker and a showstopper of a song. Wryly observational of the people that inhabit small towns not just in America but across the Western World, Sarah Borges turns the original Western Swing tune by Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay into a sleazy and tightly wrapped Rock n Roll tune of the finest magnitude!
There’s not a lot else to say; as the songs and Sarah Borges herself speak for themselves and all I can do now, is advise you buy it then another copy for someone you think deserves an album that just might change their lives for the better.

Released 12th October 2018



Carson McHone CAROUSEL

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Carson McHone
Nine Mile Records

A Country Carousel Worth Loads of Spins.

“Carson McHone’s album Carousel is mostly electric barroom windups with a few satisfying ballads thrown in for twangy effectiveness.” So says the accompanying Press Release; but is that the case?

McHone hails from Austin, Texas where she cut her teeth with regular weekly engagements in the local honky-tonks. McHone rocks out effortlessly on many of these tunes and has just enough twang in her voice to keep it “real-life country for real.” The album’s kick-off song, “Sad,” is a twangy barroom jaunt and a good introduction for what’s to come. “Lucky” shifts gears emotionally to keep it surprising and interesting. “Good Time Daddy Blues” is well sung, but the production is a bit ‘paint by the numbers’ with too much generic yeehaw going on for my taste. (Now, perhaps that’s the point, McHone could be going for a classic feel on the barroom staple songs. Some of these songs do have a purposeful classic country vibe, but this one’s a bit too pat for my tastes. One needn’t have the fiddle and the pedal steel both share the solo section. Yes, classic country used to do this a lot, and it’s still done a lot, which is kind of my point.) Instead, give it over fully to one instrument and let them shine, give the player a chance to dig into it a bit and make a complete emotional statement.

Which makes “Spider Song” with its droning harmonium probably my favorite cut on this album, followed closely by “Dram Shop Girl” which comes off tender, but with a touch of darkness reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt. Both of these tunes have an innocence to them rather than naïveté that makes them work, as well as being forward thinking in their arrangements. “Drugs” with its plaintive repeating chorus: “Drugs, I need drugs, I need drugs,” is catchy and strong, and I find myself coming back to listen to it again and again, and “Gentle” is whispery and resolute in its emotional impact. These songs definitely are worth listening to over and over, as Carousel definitely gets better with each spin.

I like McHone’s voice and songs, and her band is obviously talented, but I feel this album represents a transition in McHone’s learning curve. She’s reaching for something with her art and I hope she gets there, as we will all be the better for it.

Review by the Legendary Roy Peak

Released 26th October 2018

Jen Awad BASIC BITCH (Single)

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Jen Awad
Basic Bitch

Hahahaha….one of of my PR friends has been following my Twitter feed recently and picked up on my grumpy tweets that alluded to some back-biting and even backstabbing, he thought this fabulous new release from RMHQ favourite Jen Awad might be appropriate and even make me smile……. it did!

Released October 12th 2018



Ethan Hanna
Tin Man Heart

The Sad and Lonely Heart of a Saturday Night in the Dark End Of Town.

I’m not sure if there’s any basis in fact but is it possible that Singer-Songwriter is the third largest profession in Northern Ireland? It certainly feels that way judging by the amount of albums, singles and EPs I seem to receive on a weekly basis.
Bizarrely; apart from those ‘finger in the ear’ traditional Folk ones which are quickly dispensed with; the standard is always remarkably high, and this debut album from Ethan Hanna is a perfect example of working hard at your craft before putting anything on disc.
The album opens with the sound of the sea pounding a beach, followed by some intense guitar playing before a gruff voice enters the cinematic fray on the almost Irish Gothic Bikes & Cars. This is Dark Irish-Americana from the gut and owes more to Sean Rowe or my most recent favourites Curse of Lono than the homage to Bruce you’d first guess from the title.
Hanna ‘rocks it up’ on the next song Perfect; which is actually about his imperfections and sung in his now distinctive world weary, rough around the edges and gruff vocal manner, while the bass and drums trade punches to the jaw behind him.
The ‘apprenticeship’ I alluded to earlier shines through from start to finish; as I guess Hanna has actually managed to recreate the sounds he hears in his head on the enigmatic Proud and darkly beautiful Bad Dreams; which is quite some achievement when his very personal stories slowly unravel.
This isn’t an ‘easy listen’ by any stretch of the imagination; but if you have the imagination that Ethan Hanna has you will love the heart crunching Shadow City and Late August Wonder, with its deliberate ‘nod’ to Bruce even sounds like Ethan was fighting back the tears as it ended.
I receive far too many albums from singer-songwriters who try too hard to ‘be someone else;’ but Ethan Hanna proudly treads his very own path here; caring not a jot for commercial success; as the tragically beautiful Fire and the ethereal Now You’re In New York which is …….. Basically, just tragic!
Choosing a Favourite Song on an album like this is a thankless task; as individual each song will touch me in different ways whenever I hear them depending on how sad I’m feeling (you will never play this when you are in a happy mood btw); but today I’m going for Passenger seat; which finally takes young Mr Hanna into the Tom Waits territory that has been threatened since track #1; and our new friend from Lisburn, Northern Ireland says more about the fragility of love in under two minutes than most songwriters twice or thrice his age can say in a lifetime.
A Classic of its genre perhaps?
Is it the water in Nor’n Iron? The education system? Nothing on the telly? Or perhaps genetics; but yet again we have found ourselves another clever, imaginative and introspective singer-songwriter that deserves your full attention.

Released 5th October 2018


Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit LIVE at the RYMAN

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Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Southeastern Records

The Crown Prince of Alt. Country in All His Lucid Glory.

It’s kinda funny how Jason Isbell became an ‘Overnight Success’ after God knows how many years he has been hawking his act around the bars, clubs and concert halls around the world to ever increasing, but never huge crowds of appreciative Americana fans. But, to me and you he’s been a bonafide Star ever since his early Rock n Roll days in Drive By Truckers and even more so since he went solo and redefined what Alt. Country could actually be, but it took him winning TWO Grammy Awards earlier this year, and more recently getting one of his songs included in the A Star is Born movie; primarily to make Bradley Cooper appear ‘authentic enough’ for the rest of the world to catch on.
So with a whole new fan base to sate; Jason and those cool cats at Southeastern Records have culled 13 tracks from last year’s six Sold Out nights at the Ryman to showcase his talents where they shine brightest……in concert!
Although he has more ‘famous and popular songs’ I can’t think of a better song of his than Hope The High Road to open this album. It rocks like rowing boat in a storm, and Isbell’s way with words is as articulate as a Hemingway novel; and don’t get me started on those guitar solos!
This is followed by a spectacular version of 24 Frames and White Man’s World which was scarily prophetic when it first appeared on Nashville Sound but now; a year later it’s sadly even more pertinent; and Amanda’s fiddle playing often out rocks the guitars; and boy do they sizzle!
Although this isn’t a ‘live from the soundboard recording’ there’s certainly enough intensity and excitement in Last Of My Kind and Flagship to make new fans want…. No ‘need’ to check his website to find out when Jason & The 400 Unit are coming to town.
His songwriting has always been exemplary in my book; but when you hear the crystal clear production coupled to Isbell’s fierce approach on Super 8 and Cumberland Gap, you just know that those Two Grammys are only going to be the start of a big collection of shiny trophies.
Finding a Favourite Track here hasn’t been easy, as each and every song has its own merits especially the mesmerising Elephant, which is one of the most heart-breakingly clever and beautiful songs I’ve ever, ever heard and I’m going to go against the grain and pass over the Grammy Winning We Must Be Vampires; which is still every bit as brilliant as it was on the original album but instead I’m choosing the epic The Life You Choose, which I’ve grown to love over the last three years; and again Isbell somehow manages to wring even more passion and imagery out of it in this format than I could ever have dared hope.
If I have a complaint about LIVE AT THE RYMAN, it’s that some truly amazing songs from the first three albums are missing; presumably because of licensing issues, but they are missing none the less; but…. Hey ho…….. what is here more than makes up for that and showcases a truly amazing talent.

Released October 19th 2019


Swampcandy MINE

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Raw, Passionate Hillbilly Punk Infused Blues.

In a month when I’ve had releases by Sir Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello and the legendary John Hiatt to review, an album by a little known band from the backwoods of Americay, who nobody I know has ever heard of has not just captured my imagination but my heart as well!
Swampcandy are a definitive Roots-Rock band first formed in 2007 but really came to life in 2010 when singer/bassist Joey Mitchell joined original singer Ruben Dodd and, as they say…..the rest is history!
Best described as a Blues/Hillbilly/Folk/Country hybrid opening track JC’s Revenge is a really powerful foot stomper that made me do a double take the first time I played it. Best played LOUD Ruben Dodd sounds like he’s either got the Devil on his tail or Old Nick has actually inhabited his larynx as he growls and wheezes his way through four amazing minutes.
Oohhee! Joey Mitchell then kick starts the album on the second track with the jaunty and whoopielicious Party With The Devil and the darkly delicious frame of mind is set for what is to follow.
Those of a sensitive disposition can leave now.
When I first started reviewing Swampcandy’s ‘style’ would have been described as ‘Old Timey’; which it is……but boy oh boy….. is it contemporary and at times, frighteningly futuristic too!
Red Shoes finds the two singers bouncing off each other like electrons, then Burn The Meadow takes Olde School American Folk music into uncharted territory but on Dead Man Walking and Sack o’ Bones the band somehow manage to out Punk the MC5!
There’s a little bit of everything here, showing Swampcandy’s diverse and fascinating skill sets in all their ragged glories; none more so than on the fleshy Ragtime-Folk of San Francisco (the hills of) or the majestic Years on End, which features luscious and almost Angelic harmonies and a demonic Grand Piano; or my Favourite Track, the simple and delicate Knock Out which is a brittle and beautiful observation of the times the ‘working man or woman’ finds themselves in.
Swampcandy are ‘different’ in many ways from what you will normally hear; treading a very lonely and personal musical path that won’t ever be commercial in financial terms; but will bring joy and pleasure to everyone who invest the time in actually listening to their music.
I’ve just had another thought……. Swampcandy are the type of band that will play to a crowd of 50 in a tent at Glastonbury when U2 or Coldplay or whoever are headlining in front of 250,000 across the field; but two years later those 50 people will still be talking about the night that they had their lives changed.

1st October 2018



Elvis Costello & The Imposters LOOK NOW


Elvis Costello & The Imposters

His Aim Is Still True!

Elvis Costello is the only act I’ve ever queued TWICE for his albums on the day of release (This Year’s Model & King of America); and for a long time afterwards I bought each and every album he released; until The Delivery Man …..well, like the three that preceded it I don’t think I’ve listened to it a third time in 15 years.
So, while obviously flattered to be asked to review his latest, and 30th studio album, I was very nervous last Sunday playing it for the first time.
What if I really didn’t like it?
But, a combination of me not playing his albums for a decade and possibly now having more refined tastes……… there was no need to panic; the Kid is in fine fettle and right back in the game!
The first thing you hear Under Lime and it’s as sharp and melodic as anything Costello recorded in the 80’s (his peak period btw) yet while the arrangement sounds a bit jazzy and not unlike his songs with Burt Bacharach the lyrics are brand new, shiny and even attention grabbing.
Panic over.
Now I’m settled into it. LOOK NOW is real ‘Grown Up Music’; no, not AOR because very little here ‘rocks’ this is 100% quality singer-songwriter material aimed at Grown Ups, that takes chances unlike any of his peers would ever dare take…… try the magnificent Burnt Sugar is More Bitter (written with Carol King no less!) and Dishonour The Stars and then point me to someone other than EC who could write such a song and arrange it in this manner and yet it’s still ‘commercial’ and listenable over and over again.
There’s always been something of a Poet in the way Elvis chooses his words and constructs his songs making the listener know exactly what he means in Mr & Mrs Hush or the intense Stripping Paper even if they aren’t to be taken literally.
As is my won’t I’ve played this five times before reading the Press Release and only then did I realise that the two brooding ballads Don’t Look Now and Photographs Don’t Lie are both co-write with Burt Bacharach; whose (with hindsight) ghost is all over them.
To some greater or lesser degree he’s taken a big step backwards to jump forwards with the bittersweet Suspect My Tears and He’s Given Me Things, with both not sounding particularly like anything else he’s recorded but takes you back to a time when his song writing shone like a star in the sky.
While far from being my ‘Favourite Song’ here; I admire the way he casually drops in the left of centre arrangement of Why Won’t Heaven Help Me without a care in the world.
Finding my actual ‘Favourite Song’ was actually quite easy this time; as the I Let The Sun Go Down punched me straight in the heart the first time I heard it. String arrangements, luscious harmonies and Elvis Costello at his sharpest, cleverest and indeed witty even all rolled up in a quasi-political observation that will catch many a radio producer out!
If we forget his Angry Young Man phase in the late 70’s; Elvis Costello was a Master craftsman of his art between Trust and Spike; constantly reinventing himself yet always letting that one and only voice take us on musical journeys we’d never ever contemplated taking with anyone else; but ended up wondering why no one else had ever thought of that direction before.

Released 12th October 2018


John Hiatt – The Eclipse Sessions

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John Hiatt
The Eclipse Sessions
New West Records

A Masterclass in Americana and Roots Singing and Songwriting.

I will hold my hands up; my relationship with John Hiatt’s music is actually very limited, as even though I knew ‘of him’ and presumed I’d like his music I didn’t own any of his music until his single Cry To Me arrived back in August; so, it really was with baited breath that I pressed ‘play’ on the office stereo that morning…….phew……ooh…..WOW! Where the first words that sprung to mind as I stopped what I was doing and stared open mouthed at the CD player as the very embodiment of Americana music filled the room for four exquisite minutes; and now nearly two months later I still felt the same excitement as it opened this, John Hiatt’s 23rd (?) studio album in 44 years.
Listening again tonight, second track All The Way to The River still makes me smile; because a month ago I played the album to Big Brother #2 who screwed his nose up when this came on, then looked quizzically at me before muttering….. “This isn’t Randy Newman, is it?” Oh how I laughed; but Hiatt’s grizzled voice and diamond edged lyrics could easily be mistaken for mid-period Newman; more so later on the pithy Poor Imitation of God and Over The Hill; which was an early contender for ‘Favourite Track’ status; but that has lost out to something a lot more personal.
As I don’t know his early work; I’m just loving this album for what it is with the songwriter’s razor sharp observations and red hot melodies on the sadly beautiful and worldly wise Hide Your Tears, Aces Up The Sleeve, Nothing In My Heart and especially the Country-Blues of I Like The Odds of Loving You which features some amazing bottle-neck guitar that made me feel a little feint at one stage.
Any of those songs would have been my ‘Favourite’ on anyone else’s album; as could the velvet edged Robbers Highway which closes the album; such is the gloriously high standard set here; but on an album that is more or less based around Hiatt’s distinctive voice and a laid back acoustic based band; I’m going left of centre for One Stiff Breeze which really rocks the joint and keeps taking me by surprise; as the 66 year old throws down the gauntlet to the scores of pretenders to his lofty throne…….. John Hiatt has still got IT!
While not really a ‘discovery’ for me; but still the first time I’ve heard a complete album by John Hiatt and there’s enough here to make me already buy a ‘Best Of’ to discover what I’ve been missing all these years.

Released October 12th 2018

Keb Mo & Roseanne Cash PUT A WOMAN IN CHARGE


Keb Mo & Roseanne Cash

WOW! What a great combination…..Keb Mo AND Roseanne Cash on a wonderful new stomping single called PUT A WOMAN IN CHARGE.
With all that’s going on politically in the US of A it’s a wonderfully romantic notion to boot men to one side and PUT A WOMAN IN CHARGE, but before anyone gets carried away remember the UK has Theresa May ‘in charge’ and we are going to Hell in a handcart and the memory of the divisive Madam Thatcher still sends a shiver down the spine of most people North of Watford Gap; but hey……it’s still a really cool song.

” Mo’ hopes the track can be a gift to women everywhere “My mother just recently passed at the age of 91. She was smart. She was strong. She was a leader. This video is dedicated to her and amazing women everywhere that are getting the job done.”

Written by Keb’ Mo’, John Lewis Parker (“Hard Habit To Break,” “Can’t We Fall In Love Again”), and Beth Nielsen Chapman (“This Kiss,” “Happy Girl”), “Put A Woman In Charge” is now available through all digital retailers, including Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, and more.
Music force Rosanne Cash, who delivered a powerful speech while accepting the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award during this year’s Americana Music Awards teamed up with Keb’ and sings on the track. On Nov. 2, Cash will release her first new album in nearly five years, titled “She Remembers Everything.” The poetic, personal and incisive collection features ten songs, all written or co-written by Cash, that reckon with a flawed and fragile world from a uniquely feminine perspective.

Erja Lyytinen ANOTHER WORLD (Single)

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Erja Lyytinen


Our favourite female Finnish ‘most Blues Rocking guitarist and singer’ is coming back to the UK in November; and to coincide she is releasing this stunning ‘other worldly’ love song from her next album, which issue for release in early 2019 as a single.

The song has a lot of meanings,” says Erja. “First of all, it is a love story. It´s a dream about loving somebody in another dimension, because it´s not possible in this world. I have always loved sci-fi movies, so I wanted to add something extraterrestrial and supernatural to the video, too.  Also, it is pointing at how important it is for us to be aware of environmental aspects. Do we need to find another planet someday to be able to breathe? All this has been wrapped together by these two worlds happening at the same time, and how in the end it is important that we as lovers, and as a human race, could survive.”