Mark Rubin JEW OF OKLAHOMA

Mark Rubin
Jew of Oklahoma: The Triumph of Assimilation
Rubinchik Records

A Cannily Handcrafted, Smart, Fun and Decidedly Relevant Album.

Mark Rubin, the self-proclaimed Jew of Oklahoma, and co-founder of the Austin, Texas Americana band the Bad Livers, says this about using the banjo to play traditional Jewish songs:
It’s an instrument of my tradition, and Yiddish culture is also my tradition, so for me, at least, I don’t see why not.
Rubin, who’s played in traditional bluegrass and country bands for decades, is set on setting the record straight and righting wrongs with his album; The Triumph of Assimilation.
Rubin has remarked that he has as much a right to sing Folk songs and play the banjo as anyone, regardless of his DNA.
“Jewish-Americana” is an apt, well-deserved, and fitting description.
Kicking off with “A Day of Revenge,” a song based on a poem by Mordechai Gebirtig, Rubin sets the stage for an album of Folk-based and Yiddish-fuelled songs.
“Revenge” comes off first as revenge fantasy, then makes a hard left turn before the instruments fade.
“It’s Burning” is a wake up call for everyone to realize the tools most needed to affect a change are available to us all as long as we’re willing to open our eyes. As a Jewish person currently living in New Orleans, Rubin understands fully the difficulties with staying kosher in the ham-laden Southern States.
His song “Down South Kosher (A Dance of Hunger and Reconciliation)” is less a novelty song and more a clever and witty social commentary disguised as a novelty song.
Of course, the best way to follow a song like this is with the darkest song on the album.
If Rubin’s goal with this album is to right wrongs, “The Murder of Leo Frank” is a great place to start.
Frank was wrongly accused of the rape and murder of Mary Phagan; then hung by a lynch mob.
Rubin sets the story straight once and for all.
One of the finest things about this song is Rubin mentioning folk songwriter John Carson and the injustice he caused by fanning the flames of antisemitism with his songs.
Carson, a racist and KKK member singlehandedly inflected as much damage as possible just to get attention and Rubin does a fine job of wresting that from Carson, with his factual lyrics and impassioned singing.
Which brings to my mind the murder ballad album World Without End by songwriters John Murry and Bob Frank—instead of singing murder ballads of old, they wrote entirely new ones, based on true events. Dark, violent, and certainly not for the squeamish, Rubin’s “The Murder of Leo Frank” would fit right in and that’s a hell of a compliment. “Yiddish Banjo Suite” is a medley of three Yiddish tunes performed on a five-string banjo. Lively and fun, bizarrely this would fit right in during a Saturday night Square Dance.
How long before one of the many Psychedelic Bluegrass Jam bands pick up on this one, as it’s ripe for jamming and layers of improvisation.
(WAIT A MINUTE, did I say “Psychedelic Bluegrass Jam bands?” Yes, sadly, I did.)
“Unnatural Disasters” is more wry social commentary because; hey, Fake News is all the rage these days, and you just know that the Jews are behind everything bad that’s happening; with their space lasers and global warming and ‘stuff’; don ‘cha?
“Good Shabbes” is actually such great advice this old gentile should take it up.
Smartest thing I’ve heard in a long while:
You can put that phone away, it can wait til another day.”
Okay, there’s more, but you get the gist of it. Mark Rubin, The Jew of Oklahoma, has crafted a smart, fun, relevant album and you should definitely give it a listen or three.
What? Would it kill you?

Released 1st June 2021
Review by Roy Peak

https://www.jewofoklahoma.com/

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Shipcote & Friends LOCAL STARS

Shipcote & Friends
Local Stars
Low Fella Records

Rather Lovely and Thought Provoking Tales From the Mind of the King of Geordicana.

*Here’s my Bi-Annual disclaimer; Shipcote aka Graham Anderson Co-Boss of the legendary Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle is one of my closest friends in real life.
That said; I sort of became his friend some time after first being a fan of his music, so I’m confident in my relevent impartiality …. or not.
In many ways; this album is ‘more of the same’ but that’s
a) no bad thing
and
b) after all these years; quite some feat!
For the uninitiated Shipcote treads a lovely path between Olde-Timey Country Music, gentle singer-songwriter fayre and what the cognoscenti know as Geordicana.
The opening track is quite delightful and took a while to unravel; as Lorraine is a an insightful look at being half of a pair of twins; and as he sighs they are actually like ‘chalk and cheese’ and; it’s the type of song that many siblings who get to hear it will appreciate the sentiments involved.
Just like all of his peers Shipcote wrote and recorded these songs during the various Lockdowns that blighted 2020 and early 2021; taking advantage of a window of opportunity when two people were allowed in a studio at a time (socially distanced of course) to actually ‘lay down the tracks’; so compared to recent releases this is quite a stripped back to basics recording; but he has still managed to try out the new fangled interweb to get the help of a couple of friends; most notably guitarist extraordinaire Bry Younger who adds sparkle to just about every song here; most especially the prescient Swiftly Drift Away, but the instrumental finale Saltwell Stroll Pt:1 is100% Shipcote himself …… proving what an underrated guitarist he is himself.
I’m not sure how long Oh, To Be Singing Again will last in Shippy’s live sets, as it’s very much ‘of its time’ …… about the cramped yet observational world of a singer-songwriter while cooped up in the house and unable to go outside ….. by Law; and it’s fair to say it’s a Classic of it’s type.
But there are a couple of other guests here and there too; local Popstar Rob Heron gets to duet/harmonise on the droll Let’s Get Set For Winter; and the pairing works a lot better than I’d have guessed beforehand
Gem Andrews appears like a Summer Breeze on Bad Situation; adding a bit of a Country-Swing tone to a dark song about the perils of being locked in the house for fear of the Pandemic outside …… and a pairing that I wouldn’t be averse to hearing a lot more of.
Just saying, like.
This is immediatly followed by Paris France which lurches back to Shipcote’s humble beginnings; neatly combining Hot Club d’Paris swing and sass with a singer-songwriter’s sharp observations; and again it’s been all too easy for me to take Bry’s guitar talents for granted over the years; but he totally excels here.
It never ceases to amaze me that songwriters can still delve into their imaginations to come up with songs like Slow Walk on Wheels. It doesn’t necessarily make sense in the literal context; but just sit back and wallow in the melody and delightful way the singer delivers his almost poetic words.
Can I take you back to Track #2 Paul Torday?
A rather lovely and thought provoking song about a Durham Lad and Author that found fame late in life yet died at the tender age of 67. I’d not heard of him before hearing this song; but the way Graham sings with tenderness made me delve into his background …… and I am now the proud owner of two of his books. The power of music?
Then, unlike on all of his previous albums; there are not just two but three really, really special songs here ……. all well worthy of plays on National Radio and your attention.
The first is Texas Rose; a razor sharp song about the songwriter ‘looking at himself’ both physically and metaphorically and coming out the other side with a song that 99.9% of us can relate too; or perhaps just me …… but I doubt that very much.
Swiftly Drift Away, yet again comes from the mind of a songwriter confined to the four walls that he calls home; and only his imagination and his memories to call on for a song; some have been better at this than others recently; but here Graham not just taps into his own subconscious but one that weirdly mirrors my own and I guess many of you reading this damn review …… spooky.
The other, just might be one of my Favourite Songs by Shipcote of all time; Sweet Sorrow; the other duet with Gem Andrews and featuring young Bry on some of the most spine withering lap-steel I’ve heard in many a year; just creeps up on you every time you play the album and covers you in a mist of beauteous loveliness; as the couple sound like two lovers who know their relationship is coming to an uneventful close; just like so many marriages …… pulled apart by the mundane things in life, rather than one explosive event.
There’s a robust simplicity to these songs and the album as a whole. As I say the circumstances that surrounded the writing and subsequent recording were (hopefully) a once in a lifetime thing; and Shipcote has managed to use them to his advantage on one of his finest and fearsomely honest albums.

Released July 9th 2021
http://www.shipcote.com/

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Ted Russell Kamp SOLITAIRE

Ted Russell Kamp
Solitaire
PoMo Records

File Under: Classy and Classic Modern Americana/Country-Rock With West Coast Overtones and Folk Undertones

We’ve been late to the party with Ted Russell Kamp; only discovering his multi-talents and great voice three years ago with his 11th solo album, WALKIN’ SHOES, which we loved to bits; as we did with the follow up, in 2020 DOWN IN THE DEN …… and without spoiling your surprise; SOLITAIRE is very much in the same laid back, West Coast Country Rock Singer-Songwriter vein and it’s held a special place lately in the Magmobile on weekend journeys around the highways and by-ways of the Kingdom of Northumbria.
Opening track My Girl Now is real toe-tapper and actually a bit faster than you think it is ….. try singing along ….. it’s nearly impossible without gasping for breath half way through. Kamp’s slightly raspy voice is almost perfect for this tale of winning a heart after a long and troubled courtship of sorts …… and very much sets the tone for what is to follow.
Probably best known as the bass player in Shooter Jennings’ Band; Ted is also a Producer of some repute too; but IMHO he is also one of the finest songwriters in the idiom as I’ve heard since the heydays of Country Rock in the 1970’s. .
Birds That Sing at Dawn finds Kamp’s already husky voice dropping down a key or two as he sings about a beautiful if flawed love affair……. ‘the one that got away’ ….. and I bet you don’t pout; as I did the first time you hear the chorus;
I’ll just sit here drinking whisky
Waiting for the birds that sing at dawn
.”
Like so many other songwriters; these songs came to Kamp as he was housebound during Lockdown I in 2020; and there’s a claustrophobic feel to a couple because of that; Be Your Man and Exception to The Rule are prime examples; with sparse arrangements that enable the singer to sound as profound and heartbroken as music allows.
While most of these songs are from the Country Love Song playbook; i.e. lost love and broken hearts are the threads that hold everything together; what else would you expect from titles like Only a Broken Heart and/or A Rose or Two? and they both live up to the billing; but don’t worry …… Ted Russell Kamp has a special way with his words and arrangements that will tug at your heartstrings while still allowing you a ‘knowing smile’ at the same time …. the intricate title track Solitaire, being the type of song we’d normally associate with someone like JJ Cale and again later on The Spark too.
We need to go back to the beginning for my Favourite Song on this rather fine album; and even then it’s a coin toss between two …… the intricate and articulate Path of Least Resistance being ‘one of those songs’ where I’ve been left thinking ‘where did that come from’? The use of imagery and metaphor is simply outstanding; more so from someone best known as a side-kick!!
The other follows immediatly after and is by far the most up-tempo track here; bordering on actual Country Rock and if you were to hear it on the radio you would presume it was a killer tune from Poco or The Eagles or maybe even The Pure Prairie League; but no sirree You Can Go To Hell; I’m Going to Texas is 100% Ted Russell Kamp and you need to hear this song ASAP.
One of music’s problems these days is that too many musicians get pigeonholed for lazy fans on streaming sites; which has to be a dilemma for someone like Ted Russell Kamp as I doubt there’s a genre called Classy and Classic Modern Americana/Country-Rock With West Coast Overtones and Roadhouse Undertones ….. but I could be wrong of course.

Released May 7th 2021
https://tedrussellkamp.com/

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RMHQ Music Hour Ep:21

RMHQ Music Hour
Episode 21
May 21st 2021

Who knows where the time goes …. 5 months and 21 Music hours; phew.
This week features our friend Bobbo Byrnes talking about his Gateway Record; which for the second week running was something I’d never heard before ….. which is what this is all about.
Apart from that I’ve delved deep into my own collection for everything else; so …. nothing new this week, just me being self-indulgent.

Kevin Costner and The Modern West#21 PodcastTop Down
Elizabeth Cook#21 PodcastEl Camino
Bruce Springsteen#21 PodcastSleepy Joes Cafe
Neil Young#21 PodcastUnknown Legend
Lucinda Williams#21 PodcastProve My Love
Willie Nile#21 PodcastLevon Helm
The Band#21 PodcastKing Harvest
Ian McNabb and Crazy Horse#21 PodcastEvangeline
Stone the Crows#21 PodcastPenicilan Blues
Rory Gallagher#21 PodcastDaughter of the Everglades
Bobbo Byrnes#21 PodcastSomewhere Else
Izzy Stradlin (Guns n Roses)#21 PodcastShuffle it All
Rolling Stones#21 PodcastThe Last Time

Paul Handyside LOVELESS TOWN

Paul Handyside
Loveless Town
Malady Music/Bandcamp

A Musical Arcade of Roots, Americana and Good Olde Folk Songs.

Aha! There’s a new album from Paul Handyside coming out and it pains me to say that neither Bob Harris or any of our popular TV shows Lorraine, Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton or even Later With Jools Holland will feature him; but all (apart from Bob ….. probably) will interview Tom Jones and the Tax Avoider from Take That and give them precious air time to promote music no one will buy.
Life’s not fair is it?
But the discerning music fans like you and I don’t need them; do we?
This is Newcastle singer-songwriter Paul Handyside’s fourth solo album; and I’ve been playing it on and off for two months now; sometimes when I was even supposed to be listening to someone else for review purposes.
I’m a great believer in the opening track being a ‘strong song’; something to capture the attention and …….. the title track, Loveless Town just might be the best song Paul has ever released.
Seriously.
A self-confessed Roots Songwriter; Paul goes all Hill Country George Jones siphoned through Steve Earle, with trusty sidekick Rob Tickell playing a lap steel as if he’s channelling the spirit of Buddy Epson …… I know that’s a lot to take in; but I’m not wrong.
Just as you try to get your breath back, Handyside and Tickell hit you with the sucker punch that is Light of My Life; a more spacious, but still maudlin love song that takes us on a journey of love that needs a video akin to a lonesome cowboy sitting on the trail, or possibly a travelling musician sitting in a windswept bus station at midnight with the only the moon and memories for company.
Beware; Paul is a Roots songwriter; not just Country Music; he can and does change direction in the blink of an eye; but his rich baritone voice and Rob’s symbiotic accompaniment take us on all kinds of journeys, not least with the gently swoonsome heartbreaker Don’t Let Your Heart be a Hotel or the bittersweet bedsit troubadour love song Only You and of course there’s the punchy Lord, Show Yourself which is Roots Music at its richest and most expressive.
As with many albums I’ve received lately; this was written and recorded during 2020 during various Lockdowns and Paul somehow keeping his head above water while working in the Health Care sector and Rob, like so many like him, losing his day job in the Arts; but those frustrations and occasional angry bursts come out in the music …… although not always literally.
With so much on offer here; it’s been incredibly difficult to select an out and out Winner of the Favourite Track accolade.
I first heard Paul sing Hartley Pit Disaster two or three years ago and it hit me like left hook to the solar plexus …… and I’ve subsequently requested it at two further concerts. A Modern Folk Song, about a real coal mining disaster at a local Northumbrian colliery that eventually changed the laws; and is actually best served by hearing Paul tell the story before you hear it. While a ‘local song’ it will touch the hearts of any and everyone from coal mining communities around the world where these tales are all too sadly commonplace.
BTW There are harmonies in the mix; but at some stage I’d love to hear this Paul and Rob perform this song with a Colliery Band and associated choir …… it bloody deserves it!
Anyway, that’s not even my second Favourite Song here!
I know …… but the quality of writing and singing is exceptional.
#2 is most likely the finale; another beautiful, if bittersweet love song Someone Like You that manages to marry the essence of modern Bedsit Troubadour stylismo, with Cowboy Country Music melancholia and imagery too.
Then, there is a song that kind of sums up a lot of what we have all suffered politically and even emotionally in not just the last two or three years; but in the case of Great Britain; 10 or more …….. Not In My Name captures the frustrations and angst of a nation; any nation and is surely destined to be a thunderous end of night sing/shout a long that initially brought back memories of a Red Wedge Tour many moons ago and if ever there was a time for a Folkie to turn up at the barricades with a guitar and a bag of full of Anthems; now is the time and Paul Handyside (with Rob too) is just that man!
His time has come …….. this by far; is probably/definitely Paul Handyside’s most complete and finest body of work so far; as I’m sure there is more and hopefully even better to come.

Released May 21st 2021
https://www.paulhandyside.com/home

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Rod Picott WOOD, STEEL, DUST and DREAMS

Rod Picott
Wood, Steel, Dust and Dreams
Self-Released

A Veritable Smorgasbord of Newly Re-Recorded Cleaves/Picott Co-Writes

Aimed squarely and unashamedly at die-hard fans, this 1000 physical double CD only limited release is not going to be streamed; so as Rod himself says
–“It’s a collector’s edition. I’m thinking of it as a run of folk art prints. This album is for the folks who have sustained me over the years and want to help get me to the other side of 2020.
The thinking behind the album was to bring together in one place all of the songs co-written by Rod and long time friend and musical accomplice Slaid Cleaves.
It turns out that both had had a similar idea to produce such a project, but it was Picott who got to it first, with Slaid’s blessing.
Over two CDs there are 26 tracks – some released by Picott, some by Cleaves, some by both and some never released at all; but everything here is a brand new recording though.
The liner booklet provides copious notes on each track so it defeats the object in a review to repeat the information contained therein – how does it stand up as a body of musical work therefore?
Well, it’s very good indeed. Being recorded as one project, there’s a consistency and warmth about the whole sound, glued together admirably by producer Neilson Hubbard.
My first reference point when listening were the tracks I knew, to see how they compared with versions that I’d already heard.
“Broke Down” was my point of entry and it’s a gorgeous take – Rod’s voice is more upfront and mellow and the lack of drums and addition of gentle harmonica fit the mis-en-scene of the song’s sentiment(s).
Conversely, “Bring It On” is a harsher, rougher take with gritty Twang and a more anguished vocal – “Sinner’s Prayer” has more of a darker, apocalyptic edge too, now.
Throughout the superb notes that accompany the release, there are explanations as to how these versions – and others found their shape; and it’s a fascinating read.
Instrumentation is generally sparse and supportive but tender, acting as an appropriate counterpoint to what are (to these ears) Rod’s finest recorded vocal performances.
“Beyond Love” is nearly all vocal, punctuated by lonely guitar and it’s something that Leonard Cohen would have prodded you with a sharp object to get his hands on.
Of the songs I was less familiar with (or hadn’t heard before in any form) “Sparrow;” about the effect of the death of Rod’s mother, is tender sentiment without sentimentality, sung from deep down and sounding far away and yet close. “Fire Inside” from “Out Past the Wires” now becomes a Springsteen Nebraskaesque howl of raw emotion.
The one track on the release which is not a co-write is “The ballad of the Magic Rats”, the story of the band that Rod and Slaid played in as teenagers, and ties the whole musical and thematic package together quite perfectly.
If you’re one of the die-hard fans that this double CD is aimed at, you’ll love the insights to the songs, but most of all you’ll love the performances; this is the closest I’ve heard to encapsulating the essence of Rod Picott as I’ve heard him on stage and in person.
You’ll need to hurry though, because as soon as word gets round, the 1000 copies will be gone. Make damn sure you get yours.

Produced and Mixed by Neilson Hubbard 
Recorded by Rod Picott and Neilson Hubbard 
Guitar : Will Kimbrough
Acoustic Slide Guitar : Matt Mauch
Mandolin and Bass : Lex Price 
Percussion : Neilson Hubbard
Harmonies : Neilson Hubbard and Matt Mauch
Harmony on “Bring It On” : Slaid Cleaves 
Mastered by Alex McCollough 
Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica : Rod Picott 

Review by Nick Barber

Released May 21st 2021
http://rodpicott.com/

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Michael Johnathon THE PAINTER

Michael Johnathon
The Painter
Poet Man Records/Wood Songs

Portrait of an Artist by an Admiring Artist in a Night Cafe on a Starry Night.

This is a bit of an odd one; and a challenge too.
Earlier this week I got into a bit of a ‘Twitter Spat’ about too many sites/publications sticking religiously to getting reviews out on or about the Date of Release; of which I am not just guilty, but proud M’Lud.
In my defence I spend an inordinate amount of time promoting my reviews from across the years in my more bored moments; too.
Why am I telling you this?
It’s late April and this album was originally released in the US back in February; but as I’ve only just received it; presume it’s getting some kind of European Release soon …… but that doesn’t matter; as I just like it and want to tell you about it. Fair enough?
Something else that would normally be against me spending my time here; is that it’s a tribute/song cycle to the artist Vincent Van Gogh and the effect he has had on the Artist in question. Personally, I’ve never liked Van Gogh’s style of painting; though always admired it; even going as far once, half a century ago as having a blazing row with my 5th Form Art Teacher half a century ago which led to a visit to the headmaster’s office.
The opening track; The Painter openly steals the melody from Don McLean’s own Vincent; but Johnathon is quite open about that in the background story; and even closes the disc with his own rendition of that Classic song; and does it very well indeed.
In between it’s a fascinating journey; with the gentle Folk Singer taking aspects of Van Gogh’s life and work turning them into fascinating songs that stand up on their own; like a beautiful sunflower (groan!).
For instance Blues Tonight is a gorgeous tale that could just as easily be song about a weary love affair; but in context is a cornerstone that the many other layers are built on. Then, there’s the punchy Othello; a lovely song; and presumably about a work that the singer has done in the style of The Master; and yet again ….. Johnathon may be telling us that Artists of all persuasions can and do use, words, music, paints and clay to mask our inner feelings from the world ….. context is everything here.
This is followed by a straight up cover of Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in The Cradle; which confused me at first; but is more than likely the singer’s own tale as told through Chapin’s eyes; and more than any other will make complete sense if used in any form of stage presentation ……. which will be well worth catching btw.
It’s probably best not to take every song as ‘literal’ ……. Michael Johnathon is a Folk Singer after all; but his writing and storytelling is quite intriguing and articulate, that’s for sure; with Sunday Morning and its sublime banjo refrain being the type of song we’d normally associate with the likes of Don McLean himself as well as Don Williams; plus The Statement and The Journey both being in a similar vein; but with much more edge and pathos to the lyrics and annunciation.
Perhaps he discovered it via Adele’s zillion selling version; rather than His Bobness’s original, Johnathon takes Make You Feel My Love on yet another journey of discovery with a lovely string section and delightful piano accompaniment; yet again getting me thinking that this combination is surely destined for some kind of Stage Production; and a successful one at that.
BTW, the sequencing is as exceptional as the songs themselves; with that latter song being followed by a Folk re-invention of Blue Moon; and ending with; what else but Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) which; if nothing else reminded me what a great and undervalued songwriter Don McLean was/is …… and; what a wonderful voice Michael Johnathon has.
I’ve deliberately missed one song; simply because it’s outstanding and therefore my Favourite Song here.
Vincent In The Rain, which comes in at Track #2; and like so many others here, not just stands out as a really good song sung well on its own; but in context makes you want to hear (and feel) what is coming next and next and next; ad infinitum. Obviously a personal story to the writer/singer but one many of us will associate with in our own ways too.
To some degree I’ve rushed this review; but that’s mostly because it has excited me in a strange way. Much like the work of Vincent Van Gogh, I shouldn’t ‘like’ this type of Smooth Folk Music; as I’m far too cool ….. but ….. but …… even the bright Artwork on the cover drew me in and ‘in’ I’ve stayed all morning and now feel I need to hear more of Michael Johnathon’s back catalogue and …….. God Forgive Me …… but buy a book of Van Gogh’s works!

# Now I’ve read the Press Release it appears Michael is actually planning to base a film based around these songs sometime in 2022! Watch this space.

Released USA February 2021
Released Europe April 2021

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Alex Roberts LIVE AT THE VIC INN (Colchester)

Alex Roberts
Live at the Victoria Inn, Colchester (Feb 2020)
Self-Release/Bandcamp

Exciting, Intriguing and Very Intimate Contemporay Folk Music.

I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s an age thing, or a rare side effect from the AstraZeneca anti-Covid jab; but I’m being drawn to Folk Music at the moment.
Mercifully not the ‘finger in the ear’ type about fair maidens and flagons of ale; but rather some really exciting and innovative music by the likes of Alex Roberts.
This is his ninth album and because I don’t move in the same circles, I’d never heard of him before he sent me a very polite e-mail a few weeks back about this release; but I’ve had a couple of days when this is all I’ve played at home.
For a Live Album recorded in a pub; the sound quality is exceptional; adding a warm texture to Robert’s well rounded and expressive voice, but oddly making his acoustic guitar playing sound as sharp as a cutthroat razor; right from the opening track Wandering Aengus.
I don’t want to put off my regular readers when I tell you that this is a re-working of a WB Yeats poem; fear not …… this is actually a darkly beautiful tale; accompanied by bouzouki playing so intricate, I swear at least two strings must have become entwined by the end.
Yes; of course this is Folk Music; but the universal kind that you ‘get’ where Alex Roberts is coming from when you hear his plaintive rendering of Leadbelly’s In The Pines …….. woah…… woah and thrice woah; while this is stark and brooding; you can not only hear a pin drop in the room; but I guess the audience were afraid to breathe out for fear of spoiling the hypnotic mood coming from the small stage.
If you’re still not convinced; Roberts’ almost reinvents Richard Thompson’s Modern Classic; Vincent Black Lightning, slowing it down to a snail’s pace which allows each word and note to hover above you before fading into the ether.
Strangely with those two songs here it’s actually Alex’s own songs that are why this is album is worth taking a punt on.
Love Too Strong is exactly what you would hope a song of that title would suggest; only better; and the oddly titled Petrichor is just as quietly stunning even if you weren’t to know that it is a love song to the singer’s wife.
Personally I love the way Robert’s generally doesn’t start singing straight away on his songs; allowing his dexterity on the guitar enough room to guide you towards the words like a flickering candle; nowhere better than the biting Carry Me and The Pyramid too.
Even though this is a Live Album, most of the extraneous bits have been edited out; leaving the music to have the frisson of a live setting; but no boring whooping and wailing to get in the way of future plays.
Now; selecting a Favourite Song has been difficult; as so much here is well worthy of your valuable time; yet easy as who among us doesn’t like a song about a Peregrine Falcon?
Seriously I was smitten with Hacking Back to The Wild the first time I heard it; not realising what the subject matter was. But; the more I’ve heard it it, the more this particularly moving song has stayed with me.
It’s songs like this one which leave me standing in awe at the skill and imagination that musicians have and use to paint pictures with words and music alone, in a way I can’t even dream about, especially when they are as delicate as the instrumental, Durdle Door.
For the uninitiated like myself Alex Roberts comes from the school of Folk musicians that spawned John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch and arguably; the young Tom Waits and that’s not too much of a stretch; trust me.

Released April 20th 2021
https://www.alexrobertsmusic.com/

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Sara Watkins UNDER THE PEPPER TREE

SARA WATKINS
Under the Pepper Tree
New West Records

The Real Great American Songbook Re-Imagined For Kids of All Ages.

Family has always been important for Grammy winner, Sara Watkins. As a member of Nickel Creek with her elder brother Sean and alongside Chris Thile, all 3 of them child prodigies, they had huge success.
With this group taking a hiatus Sara has subsequently recorded solo and then went on to forge a sisterly trio with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan (I’m with Her).
Then there are the regular informal gigs a The Largo Club in LA under the auspices of the Watkins Family Hour which spawned another previous album of immense variety.
So it comes as no surprise that her latest follows the theme of family.

Under the Pepper Tree is an enchanting selection of songs that Sara has personally compiled with families in mind, a set of 15 songs; 2 originals plus 13 she nostalgically enjoyed as a child.
Don’t be misled, as at first glance you might think that this is an album purely for children, it is and it isn’t, it will strike a chord with all ages, consequently stimulating and provoking memories with some classic, beautiful songs from across the ages.

Produced by Tyler Chesters the 15 songs have been sequenced to consider the retro-fad of needle droppers logically starting at Side A-1, flipping over through to Side B-7, with the added bonus of a intriguing book for those electing for the 12 inch vinyl option.

Whatever format you choose the opening track of “Pure Imagination” (from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory) sets the tone with several other movies providing further memorable magical songs.
It’s not long before she re-unites with fellow Nickel Creek band-mates on a cracking rendition of “Blue Shadows on the Trail” (from the 1986 film The Three Amigos) that features her own fiddle playing and Chris Thile distinctive world-class mandolin.
Just as this song is fading out, Sara sprinkles some pixie dust and we fade into what could be the best track on the album.
You’ve probably never heard “Edelweiss” (from The Sound of Music) sung this way, especially when Saras 3 year old daughter joins in and sings along.
Get your hankies ready.

Moon River” (from 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s) continues the nod toward epic Hollywood tunes, containing some exquisite jazzy guitar (brother Sean I assume) followed by the albums title track.
This might just be 70 seconds of magnificent fiddle, but it is a glorious fusion that leads into “When You Wish Upon a Star” (from 1941’s Pinocchio).

Other highlights include Taylor Goldsmith (of Dawes) effortlessly dueting with Sara on Harry Nilssons “Blanket for a Sail” (from his 1977 album Knnillssonn) which is then followed by a exquisite cover of Stephen Fosters timeless and much covered “Beautiful Dreamer” unbelievably first published over 150 years ago.
One Hundred and Fifty years ago!!!
Just stop and think about that.
Another bonus on this track is the contribution from multi-talented David Garza (Dah-veed).

Picking a favourite track was nigh impossible, but if I was a red Scouser then I’d no doubt select Sara’s laconic version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from the 1945 Broadway show Carousel and more recently, erm !!! The Anfield terraces).
Now if she’d included her slant on The Blaydon Races then it would have been no contest.
However, both my heart and my head have chosen “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” (first recorded in 1934 by the Sons of the Pioneers, featuring Roy Rogers) and subsequently covered by a plethora of other artists.
What’s the reason for elevating this track to my favourite?
Well, when you involve your sisters from I’m with Her then you get three crystal clear voices, naturally and effortlessly harmonising in unison behind the once again warm and gentle fiddle from Sara, this time backed by some pedal steel that takes us all in a dreamy vision of the prairies and plains.

In many ways I’ve struggled to complete this review, even though I’ve had the album over 3 weeks now and played it whilst faffing about on my PC, whilst on my Lockdown walks and whilst pottering in the garden.
But, the more I play it, the more I love it.
Let me tell you, it’s not just an album for children, it’s probably more of a tribute to the “Great American Songbook” that so many other artists have tackled, but somehow omitted to make the music accessible to all ages.
That; my friends is precisely why you should all go out and buy your own copy, not just for yourself, but for your children or grandchildren, even great grandchildren, to listen to when you spend precious time with your family.

Jack KiddMessin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released on 26th. March 2021
http://www.sarawatkins.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://kf-merch.com/collections/sara-watkins


RMHQ Radio Show JUMPIN’ HOT CLUB 35th Anniversary Special Pt’s #1 and #2

RMHQ Radio Show
Jumpin’ Hot Club 35th Anniversary Special Pts #1 & 2

Bringin’ the Jive Since ’85

35 years ago this week in 1985 two young men. Graham Anderson and Adam Collerton booked their first act for the Jumpin’ Hot Club; and now in 2021 they are still announcing gigs from new and ground breaking Roots Acts in 2021.

The list of acts they’ve brought to the North East of England just goes on and on; with many household names in the Roots World making their first tentative steps into Europe courtesy of this nomadic club.

As a very minor cog over the last twenty years I’m proud to bring you two one hours shows highlighting the diversity of acts, if not an actual Best Of …….

Here’s Part #1

Hokum Hotshots1st Band Booked#11 PodcastGuitar Swing
Big Town Playboys1st Name Band#11 PodcastYou gotta do more for my baby
Davinia and the Vagabonds#11 PodcastMagic Kisses
Chuck Prophet#11 PodcastBad Year for Rock and Roll
Kim Richey#11 PodcastChase Wild Horses
Dale Watson#11 PodcastAint that livin’?
Howlin’ Ric#11 PodcastLeg Shakin’ Mama
JD McPherson#11 PodcastFirebug
Sarah Shook#11 PodcastHeartache in Hell
James Hunter/Howlin Wilf#11 PodcastI GOT MY EYES ON YOU
Laura Cantrell#11 PodcastThe Whiskey Makes You Sweeter
Everly Brothers#11 PodcastCrying in the rain
Chastity Browndebut#11 PodcastColorado
Otis Gibbsdebut#11 PodcastGhosts of our Fathers
Gem Andrews#11 PodcastCome a Long Way
Willie Nile#11 PodcastGrandpa Rocks
Waco Brothers#11 PodcastPlenty Tough Union Made
Be Good Tanyas#11 PodcastFor the Turnstiles
Danny and the Champs#11 PodcastJust Be Yourself
Sam Baker#11 PodcastMigrants
Mary Gauthier#11 PodcastCigarette Machine
Martin Stephenson#11 PodcastBig Sky New Lights
Frazey Ford#11 PodcastMoney Can’t Buy
Holmes Brothers#11 PodcastPromised Land
Alejandro Escovedo#11 PodcastRosalie
Dave and Phil Alvin#11 PodcastRattlesnakin’ Daddy
Hubert Sumlin#11 PodcastBlues is here to stay
Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham#11 PodcastCry Like a Baby
Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay#11 PodcastMr Wonderful (EXCLUSIVE)