Black *Scarr – DELUDED

black scarr

Black *Scarr
DELUDED
18 Til I Die Records

It’s Folk Music Jim; But Not As You Know It! Urban Folkicana?

One of our ‘finds’ this year was London band The Persecuted and for once I’ve actually kept up an occasional correspondence with Johnny Black from said Beat Combo. As many musicians out there will appreciate Johnny has to keep a lot of plates spinning to make a living from his chosen profession; one of which is this duo with singer-songwriter Emma Scarr.
So far so good; and when he told me they had recorded an album I foolishly said “send me a copy” without thinking……and there was no going back when he uttered the dreaded F-Word……”It’s more Folk than our usual stuff.”
Well three weeks later I can tell you it’s now been on and off both the office and car stereo with satisfying regularity.
A soul stirring harmonica opens the album and first track Going Home which stars Emma on a heartfelt story of a young woman who has moved to the country for a better life but hankers for the bright lights and crazy traffic of the big city. It’s a simple yet clever story and song that will resonate with many people who return home after life at University or the like.
That harmonica returns with a vengeance on Dirty Coins; a song on many another album that would be ‘my favourite’. A wonderful tale of two women (sisters) who are polar opposites, with one tied down to a life of domesticity and the other a free spirit that flits around the world, but each is jealous of the others life and lifestyle. (PS it took a while but I know what that harmonica melody is a homage to!)
It breaks my heart to admit to liking a Folk album; but there is something very refreshing about a simple observation song like Night Tube Home, about a musician having to take said mode of transport at the end of the night (I remember Jason Ringenberg once cutting short an interview for that very reason!).
Thankfully there’s the occasional flash of pedal-steel to add extra Country spice to a couple of tracks with Emma’s pleading Mrs. Average being a stonker of a South London Honky-Tonker; and on Another Beer her deliberately ‘flat annunciation’ couldn’t be any more effective on a Country-Folk response to the Rolling Stones Mother’s Little Helper.
Johnny does take the lead a couple of times with King of Rock and Roll being a real Folk-Rocking foot-stomper and on My Therapist Said he touches nerves that I don’t want to discuss; but it’s a song many of could have written……but didn’t.
On an album chock full of Kitchen Sink dramas none are any sadder or more eloquent than Carry Me Home about a woman who ‘pops out for some shopping’ and several hours later after meeting several acquaintances asks and needs to be ‘carried home.’ Sad? Yes; but beautifully described and sung by Johnny Black.
My favourite song here though is Can of Worms, a tale of sexual infidelity and its heartbreaking consequences. The story and intimate details are pin sharp and coupled with Darren Buddell’s pedal-steel and Emma’s exquisite fiddle playing make this the type of song we would normally associate with Loretta or Patsy; not a couple of English Folk Rockers.
While Mr Black co-wrote all of the songs with Ms Scarr, she takes most of the heavy lifting in the lead vocal department, with Johnny only sneaking in a couple of times; and the world here is a better place for it as Emma has a gorgeously ‘lived in’ and occasionally ‘world weary’ quality on the songs that she inhabits like an Oscar winning actress.

http://www.18tilidie.com/default.htm

Released 16th June 2017

Danny & The Champions of the World -BRILLIANT LIGHT

DANNY BRIGHT LIGHT

Danny & The Champions of the World
BRILLIANT LIGHT
Loose Records

Deeply Insightful Alt. Britainicana For Grown Ups.

After listening to the first single from this album Swift Street on constant rotation for two solid days back in April; my first play of BRILLIANT LIGHT was still a huge surprise….lots of surprise actually and many different feelings prickling my senses across all 18 songs on that first day.
The striking guitar intro to opening track Waiting For the Right Time is trademark Champions of the World and when Danny’s riveting voice floats in like a London fog even the pickiest of music fans would have to sit back and listen to whatever followed; and in this case it’s justly merited. This laid back and sad song is a fascinating way to open proceedings; and it perfectly sets the scene for what is to follow.
The beautifully bittersweet Bring Me To My Knees follows and half way through my bottom lip began to tremble but I managed to fight back actual tears as Henry Senior Jr.’s exquisite pedal-steel playing compliments Wilson’s sad, sad story.
I was only two songs in and worrying that I wouldn’t be able to see it through to the end of all 18 tracks…..yes EIGHTEEN songs and pretty much all of this ilk! Depending on your ‘hipster values’ you can either buy the single CD, or a an old-fashioned Double LP, or an actual triple LP with an extra two sides of cool instrumentals.
Of The Champions six albums, I have to say this is the least accessible when you first play it; but subsequently the layers and emotions peel away leaving you stunned with the quality of songwriting on Don’t Walk Away and Long Distance Tears; while Wilson show’s a new found maturity in his story telling too, with Never In The Moment and the superb It’s Just a Game (That we were playing) and
I’ve always admired the way Danny can write a song about his childhood ‘memories’ and make the the listener feel he’s writing about them; yet at no time is he ever mawkish. Here the single Swift Street is about ‘three old photos’ of family members but generated memories of my own parents and siblings; and it will bring back similar memories for you too.
There’s always a soulful streak on a Champions album and here Waiting For The Wheels To Come Off is another sad song as is It Hit Me but both are strangely uplifting and as cool and insightful as they’ve ever recorded; but it’s for their quintessentially British take on Americana that we know and love them.
Let The Water Wash Over You (Don’t You Know) is Southern Rock straight out of South London and on The Circus Made The Town; if it wasn’t for Danny’s distinctive voice I would swear I was listening to something recorded in Laurel Canyon circa 1973.
So; favourite track time and it’s not been easy; as there isn’t really a definitive ‘stand out’ song; this is an old fashioned AOR/Grown Up album that you should listen to as a complete ‘work’ but I will point you to Gotta Get Things Right in My Life, not just for the touching lyrics that punched me straight in the heart but also Paul Lush’s staggering guitar parts and the other is the album closer Flying By The Seat of Our Pants which could be not just the Champion’s theme tune but that of RMHQ too.
I’m not sure but history may prove BRILLIANT LIGHT to be Danny and The Champions of the World’s definitive album (or even triple album if you buy that model!)

Released June 30th 2017
http://www.dannyandthechamps.com/

The Mekons – Existentialism (2016)

mekons x
The Mekons
Existentialism (2016)
Bloodshot Records

Our Favourite Noisenik Multi-Cultural Post-Punk Rockers Raise The Roof (Again)

To coincide with a short UK Tour and due to ‘public demand’ Bloodshot Records are finally releasing this 2016 Live Album in it’s own rite; and as a special treat we have asked Mekons fan and friend of RMHQ, singer-songwriter, famed producer and engineer Mr Roy Peak to have a listen and put his thoughts don on paper. Here’s the results.

When a band like the the Mekons decide to do a live album they say the hell with 48-channel digital consoles and four packed nights at the Royal Albert Hall. They pick a small, tight room in Brooklyn, fill it with rowdy fans, and then the band crowds around a single microphone—mixing be damned!—and they send the results out into the world. Sure, this isn’t Abbey Road Recording Studio quality, but it does make for a damn interesting document, fitting in these hardened, topsy-turvy times we all live in.

(The video document that captured this recording, called Mekonception, shows more than one microphone. I suspect these were for the live mix in the room for the audience, mostly to amplify the vocals and add some effects to the sounds. The sound engineer part of me would like to know more how all this was accomplished as the sound is full, well rounded, nearly perfectly balanced, and stereo friendly—it sounds awesome in headphones!—and fantastic on my old 1970s Pioneer with thrift store speakers.)

Now that’s out of the way, what about the performances, the songs, the attitude? I’m happy to announce that if you’re a longtime Mekons fan you should be more than satisfied. I have a feeling the Mekons would fit right in during the dada art movement of the early twentieth century, as an art-house drinking band, their rolling singalongs shaking the walls of the Cabaret Voltaire. The band pulls no punches politically, and plays with their usual mix of rowdy, crowded vocals and tight, taut rhythms wonderfully, adding some fun and unexpected vocal effects and swirling ambience throughout. These arrangements are exceedingly brave and well thought out down to the nth detail, and its amazing they pulled it off so effortlessly and still sound as if they were having the time of their life while doing so. From Gang of Four like rave-ups, to drunken singalongs, to the melting pot mish-mosh that is the Mekons musical oeuvre, this album feels so right and every song fits together in a manner nearly forgotten in today’s world of Spotify singles and NoiseTrade EPs. I love it when albums sound like albums and not one or two singles and a lot of filler material. It probably helps that this was recorded all together during a single focused performance, but still, the end result is breathtaking.

Nowadays whenever a reviewer mentions the Mekons they always add that they’re becoming more “Americana” all the time. I don’t hear that. To me the members of the Mekons always sound as if they’re having a blast which is something sorely lacking in many of the so-called Americana acts that are in abundance of late. Wilco are far too serious, Jason Isbell too dour, Steve Earle has so many chips on his shoulders it’s a wonder he can walk upright, and everyone has a “story” or a so-called “validating reason” they’re making a new album. (Writing this album saved me from addiction!” or “This album is all about the problems of bullying!” or “These songs represent my lifelong struggle with toe fungus and it was recorded on vintage all-analog equipment as that’s the only way for me to fully realize my vision!”)

The Mekons, even with all of their forthrightness and sense of responsibility, still manage to sound fun, throwaway, and relevant all at the same time, a true punk rock trick, incapable of being forced or insincere. As a Mekons fan I had high hopes for this album and it far exceeded my expectations. Fun, rocking, rollicking, and truly relevant, I plan on listening to this one quite often for quite a while.

https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/artist/mekons

Released June 2nd 2017

Roy Peak – http://www.roypeak.com/

EXCLUSIVE King King – (SHE DON’T) GIVE ME NO LOVIN’ (single)

king king june 17
King King
(SHE DON’T) GIVE ME NO LOVIN’
Manhaton Records

Today is the day when King King premiere the official music video for their new single on the Rocking Magpie! We welcome you to spread the work about this fantastic music video and single.

The single is taken from the band’s forthcoming fourth studio album “Exile & Grace” (released ON Manhaton Records on Friday 6th October). mixed by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Feeder and Therapy)The new album promises to deliver even more of a punch from King King, with killer songs performed with true passion by a fist tight line-up.
“Exile & Grace definitely has a rockier feel and sound to it,” says King King’s Alan Nimmo. “We are following our influences from the Classic Rock genre, Bad Company, Whitesnake and Thunder. We really set out to challenge ourselves with this album. We’ve stepped up the quality of song writing and pushed ourselves physically in both performance and delivery!”

Buy/stream the single here http://bit.ly/KKLovin
http://www.kingking.co.uk/Home.html

Chuck Berry – CHUCK

chuck berry 1

Chuck Berry
CHUCK
Dualtone/Decca Records

Enough Reelin’ and a Rockin’ To Bring Out The Marty McFly In All of Us.

It’s always up for a drunken discussion as to who actually invented Rock & Roll; but even the pedants among you have to admit that Chuck Berry has to be a contender; and it’s a given that Johnny B Goode is the greatest actual Rock & Roll song of all time…..FACT! It’s even in a capsule on the moon and who can forget the bit in Back To The Future when Marty did a ‘duck walk’ playing a Gibson ES-345 and the guy made a phone call to ‘cousin Charles’?
So, any new album from Mr. Berry has to be worthy of our attention here at RMHQ, hasn’t it?
The opening song on Berry’s first album since 1979 (!), Wonderful Woman is a whole lot better than I dared to expect and a whole lot more Bluesier too. The vocals and guitar are trademark Chuck Berry, but the delightful ‘loved up’ lyrics, wailing harmonica, honky-tonk piano and the funky back-beat had my toes tapping and lips mouthing the words while I played air-guitar along with three generations of Berry men are pure Chicago Blues.
Track #2 is the single Big Boys that was coincidentally scheduled for release the week the week Berry died; and would have been a world wide hit regardless of the timing. Boom-Boom-Boom….. this is a saucy Chuck Berry song with a Twinkle in its eye, in the same way that My Ding-a-Ling is still my ‘guilty pleasure.’ A quality dance tune of the finest order and one that genuinely sits up there with his legendary hits.
I have to take a deep breath here, as not every track here is any where near that high quality threshold; the pop-Reggae of Jamaica Moon and live recording of 3/4 Time (Enchiladas) in particular could and should have been left in the studio. Sorry, but it’s true.
But; when Berry is good he is great…….Lady B Goode uses ‘that’ melody for a lively response song to Johnny B Goode and who would deny Chuck Berry the opportunity to regenerate his classic beat?
There are plenty of pleasant surprises here too, with Berry slowing things down on the lip smacking and hip grinding She Still Loves You; and on Dutchman he regales us by narrating a ‘talking Blues’ worthy of Robbie Robertson or David Olney.
I keep using the word ‘surprised’ here and I have been, many times as this is a whole lot better than it has any right to be after all these years and at Berry’s age while writing and recording; which brings us to the two songs which tie for the ‘Favourite Song’ title; first there is the soulful and melancholia of Darlin’ where Chuck writes and sings his own epitaph in a way I would never have expected in a hundred years; then there is Eyes of a Man which closes the 10 song album. A slow Gospel infused Blues that reduced me to tears the first, second and third times I heard it and while his Classic, bouncy Rock & Roll dance songs will be how he will be remembered; this song is a man coming to terms with his life and how I will now remember Charles Anderson Edward Berry 1026-2017 RIP.

PS #1. Great artwork on the cover and the booklet is worth the admission price alone.

PS #2 Thanks to Markus Rill for the Marty McFly reference 😉

Released June 16th 2017
http://www.chuckberry.com/

Noah Guthrie – THE VALLEY

noah guthriwe

Noah Guthrie
THE VALLEY
Self-Release

Gleefully Pushing The Boundaries of Americana.

Apart from the albums I receive to review, for many years now I’ve used a site called Noise Trade to discover new and exciting artists across a broad musical spectrum. One of these acts was a young lad called Noah Guthrie who (as far as I understood) did quirky cover versions, in particular I’m Sexy and I Know It. With so much going on in my life I never bothered doing any research, so didn’t know that he was an established singer-songwriter and a regular cast member on the TV show GLEE!!!!!
Thankfully I didn’t know that latter snippet of information before I received and listened to his latest and second album; or the ‘music snob’ in me may have taken over.
THE VALLEY gets a hefty kick-start with a the peppy opening track Razor Blade; a major surprise for me with an clever story set to a fiery Alt. Rock soundtrack; with Guthrie’s distinctive rasping vocals sounding perfect for AM Radio.
Guthrie manages to go Country Rock on Love You Now; which follows, with his voice managing to swoop and soar like an Americana Eagle circling over the Nappa Valley while the band plays on.
It’s not just Noah’s voice that has taken me pleasantly by surprise (I can’t think of anyone else to compare him too apart from Robert Pant!!!) but his storytelling and way with words is extraordinary; with Till It Thunders and Beautiful Crime not just showing his gentler more acoustic side; but also his poetical with words too.
Mary is the cornerstone that the album revolves around; gentle acoustica alternating with a full-on Band full of shoe-gazing intensity supporting Guthrie’s breathy and breathless bittersweet love song. What’s not to like?
Which brings me to the battle for ‘favourite song’…..will it be the introspective brittleness of Beautiful Crime or the smart as a whip, yet brooding melancholia of title track The Valley or perhaps Calling Your Name when Noah sounds like he could break into tears at any moment; but no I’m going for the co-write with RMHQ favourite Matthew Perryman Jones, Pardon Me. A breakup song so powerful yet fragile at its core, you genuinely feel his pain with him, and will instantly hate whoever has broken his heart; such is the power of music this good.
The overall ‘flavour’ of the Valley takes me back to those early days when Americana was known as Modern Country and albums by The Jayhawks, Grant Lee Buffalo, Giant Sand and the like were pushing the boundaries of what we knew as ‘Country Music’.

Released June 23rd 2017
http://www.noahguthrie.com/

Steve Rodgers – I WILL GROW (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

steve rodgers

Steve Rodgers
I WILL GROW

A few months ago two friends from work went to see the legendary Bad Company at Newcastle Arena and the following day both sought me out to tell me that they thought I would like the support act, Steve Rodgers.
As is my won’t I did nothing about it.
Then this morning I was asked if I wanted to review the forthcoming album by that very same Steve Rodgers and as a taster could have Exclusive use of the video for the first single I WILL GROW.
Rodgers’ engaging voice instantly captures the attention but it’s classy melody and the deep story in his lyrics that make this song really quite extraordinary.
At 14 Singer-Songwriter Steve Rodgers began to write his own songs on guitar and piano. He started a band with his friends at 17, ‘Lost Sons of Davros’. From the ‘Lost Sons’ came ‘Boa’ who released two albums and their first single ‘Duvet’ was the title track to the Japanese multi award- winning animation series Manga ‘Lain – Serial Xperiments’. They toured the States, the UK but after much enjoyment, Steve has decided to follow his own singer-songwriter path.
Sadly, while I’m really impressed with I WILL GROW, for a single it doesn’t sound commercial enough for National Radio; but certainly serves as a delightful taster for the promised album when it comes.

PS I’ve managed to come this far without mentioning Steve’s rather famous father Paul…..he of Free, Bad Company and more recently Queen. Yes THAT Paul Rodgers.
Steve may look a bit like his Dad (not the biggest problem in the world) but has his own distinctive and memorable voice.

http://www.steverodgersmusic.com/
Released May 31st May 2017

Will Hoge – ANCHORS

will hoge

Will Hoge
ANCHORS
Thirty Tigers

Silver-tongued, Classy and Deeply Personal Country Heartbreakers.

After reviewing a slew of dark and intimate singer-songwriter albums recently, I woke up this morning needing to hear some happy upbeat music.
After pressing ‘random’ on the I-player a few times the Country Rocker This Isn’t An Original Sin by Will Hoge boomed out of the office speakers! That’ll do for me, I thought.
I found the album and immediately Track #1 The Reckoning made me sit back in my chair. Nothing at like ‘Original Sin’ Hoge’s cracked and pleading voice on a slow sad ballad wasn’t what I should be listening to; but hooked me like a big fat fish on a Sunday morning.
Whoa…..this guy can really write a song; and sing it too.
The delightful acoustic guitar that opens the next track This Grand Charade will lull the casual listener into a false sense of security; as this song about the slow and painful breakdown of a marriage, as told from the husband’s point of view is stunning, as Hoge fills the verses with the kind of detail that surely only someone who has experienced that charade first hand can write and sing about.
OK, you may already know that this is CMA, ACM and Grammy nominated Will Hoge’s seventh sol album and his list of hit songs for others is long as my arm; but I didn’t but when you hear the likes of Through Missing You, Baby’s Eyes and the strikingly beautiful Angels Wings it’s easy to imagine the ‘hat acts’ and their managers in Nashville Town asking for permission to record them; but none will be as intimate as the original by Hoge himself.
It’s a similar story with A Cold Night in Santa Fe; my stomach was in knots as Hoge manages to describe a passionate love affair from start to its slow and excruciating closure in four minutes; which is some special achievement.
The title song Anchors, about a young man who worries about ‘the sinners of the father/weighing like an anchor on a chain’ will make your jaw hit your chest and possibly even forget to breathe for the last minute or so; at least it did with me!
The accolade of RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ should by rights go to This Isn’t An Original Sin and could easily have been the best song Steve Earle never wrote, Little Bit of Rust (which features Sheryl Crow btw) but actually goes to another blaster of a Country Rocker……and a Summer ‘driving song’ par excellence, Young As We’ll Ever Be, which closes the album and opens the door for me to Will Hoge’s expansive back catalogue.
All in one album of 11 songs Will Hoge takes us on an emotional roller-coaster but by the end you know there is still ‘hope’ that the next ‘love story’ will be the love of your life; and surely that’s what the best of Country Music does better than any other genre?
Now ANCHORS has been on the office Hi-Fi all morning, I’ve decided this just may be the finest Country Record I will hear this year; and I will hear a lot.

Released 11th August 2017
UK Tour July 2017

http://www.willhoge.com/

 

Ani Di Franco – BINARY

ani di franco

Ani Di Franco
BINARY
Righteous Babe Records/Aveline Records

Very Thought Provoking and Challenging Songs.

Ani Di Franco is one of those artists whose name I recognise but know absolutely nothing about; which meant this album has been moved around the RMHQ desk several times recently, from ‘urgent’ to ‘to-do’ to ‘maybe’ and back again several times.
Then on Friday Chastity Brown talked about Ani Di Franco in glowing terms; so it’s now on the office stereo for the second time this morning.
The title track BINARY opens the record and; sadly had me curling my lip the first time I heard it, primarily because of the Electro-Pop back beat that accompanies several vocal overdubs; but by the second outing Di Franco’s expressive poetic hip-hop lite lyrics are starting to win me over.
Straight away the following song Pacifist’s Lament was more ‘up my street’. It’s easy to let this lovely musical interlude wash over you; but as I was told in no uncertain terms on Friday…..listen to her words…..they may be shrouded inside a clever production; but when I took the time to listen carefully Ani Di Franco is a very insightful and powerful songwriter. Who knew?
Written prior to the latest American Elections Di Franco was very involved in getting young people to vote; and that ‘political activism’ comes across in Play God and Terrifying Sight; but the insightful way she unfurls the story in Almighty; set to a mystical almost Eastern tune.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a ‘man of a certain age’ but BINARY and many songs therein has been a challenge for me; with the rocky Spider and the more easy on the ear piece of Beat-Poetry Sasquatch sounding like the type of intellectual songs that people will argue of the meaning of for years to come; rather than the transient music I normally listen to.
With all of that in mind it hasn’t been easy to choose a ‘favourite’ song. At first I thought it would be Zizzing; as it’s a great word and surely beckons a frothy tune…..oh dear Lord no! The first minute is a dark piece of epic cinematic proportions, then Ani slides into the mix with an even darker tale of imminent death and destruction for mankind (I think).
What I will go for is the final track, Deferred Gratification. Another very articulate and intelligent song probably aimed at brighter people than me; but probably the most ‘traditional’ of singer-songwriter type songs that I recognise on this disc.

https://www.righteousbabe.com/

Released June 9th 2017