Amelia White & Brett Ryan Stewart 11AM

Amelia White & Brett Ryan Stewart
11AM
Wirebird Records/Bandcamp

Cutting Edge Country Duets With A Classic Twist or Two.

I’ve been a fan of Amelia White for a few years now; so much so I occasionally play her albums for ‘fun’ and ‘relaxation;’ which may sound odd ……. but with so much new music to review during the week, Sunday’s are precious to us and generally mean delving deep into my/our music collection for something to play; so anything from the last ten years that gets on to the hi fi has to be very special indeed.
So when Amelia got in touch recently asking nicely if I’d give a listen to a new project with her friend Brett Ryan Stewart, my Scooby-Senses went into overdrive.
As she insisted this is not a normal Amelia White album; but a bunch of duets; so I wasn’t too surprised to hear a rich and smouldering man’s voice on opening track Somebody to Hold; a love song in the mould of Tammy and George if George was substituted by Charlie Rich, methinks.
Absolutely gorgeous and swoonsome, with some sublime guitar, deeply emotional viola and violin (from Molly Thomas) and accordion behind the star struck couple ……. just the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from Tim and Faith; but increasingly you’d be disappointed as Music Row’s favourite couple go full on Power-Pop.
It’s the same with Like I Do, which follows …….. slow burning and simmering; will their love explode or implode? Only time will tell.
The all too short EP close with Boom Boom; NO not the John Lee Hooker Classic; but a crisp and sharp Country sizzler with the couple surrounded by a sympathetic band and numerous finger clicks and handclaps as the two very disparate voices melt together to form a single sound that will tug at your already shredded heartstrings.
Which brings me to my Favourite Song here; the dark and gloomy Mr. Sunshine; which is predominantly Stewart on his own pouring his broken heart out over some shimmering guitar and a drum beat that sounds like continuous punches to the jaw; but never strong enough to knock you out ….. just soften you up as Stewart’s world weary and achingly beautiful lyrics take you out when you’re least expecting it.
7 or 8 years ago I had a period when Country Couples were being heralded as ‘the next big thing’ and personally, I was disappointed that apart from My Darling Clementine they all more or less disappeared into the ether after delivering some great debut albums.
Which is what I fear will happen here; especially as Amelia White has a new Kim Richey produced solo album coming out later in the year; which is great news ….. but …. but …… I’d love to hear a full album from the couple; possibly with their adaptations of some Country Classic duets ….. why not?
Surely the world is finally ready for such a magnificent beast?

Released June 4th 2021
https://brettryanstewart.com/
http://www.ameliawhite.com/

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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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Mary Hott DEVIL IN THE HILLS

Mary Hott
Devil in The Hill
Self-Release

A History Lesson from the West Virginia Coalfields That Needs To Be Heard By the Nation At Large.

As the last child of a generation of Coal and Tin Miners I’m a sucker for a song about the coalfields, be that my local community in the NE of England or further afield in Nottinghamshire or even Olde Americae.
This particular group of songs and stories come from a tiny spec in West Virginia called Fayette County; that 99% of Virginians couldn’t find on a map ……. but need to be told for the generations that follow.
Even the background to the original concept is fascinating; with an old Coal Mining store being bought and restored to become a museum; only for ex-employees to make pilgrimages and tell their own dark and torrid tales,
These stories from the Whipple Company Store and similarly bleak recollections of coal mining and railroading life from other parts of West Virginia have been suppressed for too long.
At first, the people themselves kept silent and hid the stories out of fear and indignity.
When they finally shared their tales, their validity was often doubted, shaming them into believing that silence may have been the better choice.
And now the people who shared these stories are gone.
It is up to us to remember and continue sharing our history from the perspective of the people who lived it.

The album begins with Don Dixon talking about the mining community and how these stories have been passed down orally from Father to son and Mother to daughter for well over a century.
The rest of the album is West Virginian Folk Singer Mary Hott and a band of musicians who sound like they too ‘feel’ each and every one of these songs in their hearts …. and their scarred lungs.
The first song is They Built a Railroad; and proves to be a sad cornerstone for all that is too follow; with the now, romanticised Railway bringing workers in and then take the coal out ……. but the thread that weaves throughout is the way the workers were horrendously treated; most especially when they tried to form a fledgling Trades Union and make their working conditions slightly better.
“Our ancient hills held a rich man’s treasure,
They carried workers from Ellis Island.
They brought freed slaves to work the mines.
They trafficked girls for comfort and pleasure.
Total power over humankind.”
Powerful stuff indeed.
Then there is Annabel Lee, which follows; and this particularly dark tale of a beauteous young woman who is brought in to town; to ‘bring pleasure to the men’ ……. if your heart doesn’t cry out by the last verse; you’re reading the wrong review.
The emotion in Mary Hott’s voice, as she sings her songs is a genuine 8th Wonder of the World; as she has the capacity to go from passionate Honky-Tonker/Murder Ballad one minute, The Spot then grab your heart the next; squeezing out sparks the next with Devil in The Hills; then follow that up with the Gospel Infused Rise Up WV; which mentions all of the creeds and colours that were brought in not just from across the State but the Country to work the mine; and still make them all sound like a cohesive story; and never patronising the listener.
A rather fabulous album comes to a natural close; with Mary slowing things down quite beautifully with the traditional Gospel Ballad, Life’s Railway to Heaven and finally slow and heartfelt version of Take Me Home Country Roads; which couldn’t be any more fitting.
Which only leaves me to select a Favourite Song; which is hardly fair …… but the two songs/tracks that jumped into my head last night were the haunting 48 seconds of Blair Mountain Ballad, which will send a shiver down your back; and then, there is Room of Lost Souls which ….. well …… honestly; this raw tale of a miner who first goes down the pit as an 8 year old then eventually dies when his son is the exact same age; and the circle goes on ……. and sounds like a long lost Bobbie Gentry song; and if it was it would be heralded from the Rolling Stone rafters.
As well as a bunch of amazing yet horrendous songs; wonderfully created and constructed you also get a booklet that details the background (and more) to each and every story …… and this alone should be available in every school across America ……. this is your History; don’t forget it….. like the Authorities want.

Released June 4th 2021
https://maryhott.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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Vincent Neil Emerson SELF-TITLED

Vincent Neil Emerson
Vincent Neil Emerson
La Honda Records / Thirty Tigers

A Reflective, Thoughtful and Warmly Human Set of Texas Singer-Songwriter Tales.

Arising and evolving out of a tradition of Texas songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle, Vincent Neil Emerson throws his contribution to that body of sound with gusto; and comes out with his own distinct take, on this self-titled release.
There are elements of these listed influences scattered through the album – “Learnin’ to Drown” is vocally very Steve Earle in essence, and opener “Texas Moon” has the melodic feel of a young Guy Clark (and a bit of non-Texan John Prine too?) while “The Ballad of Choctaw-Apache” is very much in the Van Zandt story song mould.
Such pigeon-holing would do Vincent Neil Emerson a disservice though – those are just starting points to get a handle on where his music has been birthed form, inspirationally, and there’s a lot more personal observations and experience too in this album.
The aforementioned “Learning to Drown” is a cathartic release, dealing with Emerson’s father’s passing:
And I thought about closin’ the door
And endin’ it all
Like my father did before
But it ain’t worth
All the people who won’t see me anymore

Then there’s the earlier released single; “High on Getting By” which is a man coming to terms with the terms of our existence
Well I been drunk
On the ideas of my future
And I been high
On gettin’ by”
.
Both are musically framed with washes of acoustic stringed instruments like mandolin and fiddle along with keyboards around a picked guitar and Emerson’s caramel vocals.
Vincent Neil Emerson has certainly done his dues on the road, playing with friend Colter Wall, The Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett too; and that road-toughness and sensitivity to other musicians is prominent throughout his own songs.
Stylistic changes such as shifts into bluegrass territory on “High On the Mountain” and the Western Swing flavoured album closer “Saddled Up and Tamed” are handled and sequenced with careful placing – big praise must go to producer Rodney Crowell here too; who has forged a big and warm sound throughout; yet still managing to make each song sound ever so intimate at the same time.
There are gems of lines to be found everywhere:
I pulled into Austin
‘Cause Fort Worth ain’t the same
” from “High on the mountain” is one of many that will bring a wry knowing smile to any listener’s face.
Over the ten tracks of the album, there’s a great deal of variety and depth but at the same time, there’s a clear Vincent Neil Emerson “sound” that is more than a just a composite of his influences.
If Country singer-songwriter is your bag and you’re missing some of those that have left us and are looking for the next wave to roll up on the shore, you could do worse than getting your feet wet on this thoughtful and warmly human showcase of Vincent Neil Emerson tunes.

Review by Nick Barber
Released June 25th 2021

https://vincentneilemerson.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

Lucy Grubb WASTE MY TIME

Lucy Grubb
Waste My Time
Self-Release

From the Heartlands of Americana via the Flatlands of East Anglia

Four or five years ago it was all ‘terribly fashionable’ to be a British Country/Americana singer; although most; truth be told were really Folk Singers hanging onto Country’s shirt tails and most; therefore were quickly found out and duly disappeared.
The Shires and Ward Thomas seemed to have gone on to some success (leaving RMHQ trailing in the dust!) and one or two, who really were Country musicians at heart have continued on a weary and lonely path; and come out the other side relatively unscathed.
Lucy Grubb is a good case in point; she’s appeared at clubs, pubs and on stages beside the big stage all over the UK and Europe; and has used this apprenticeship to great effect on this; her third EP release.
The delightful title track WASTE MY TIME can’t decide whether it’s a Country song or Americana; but that’s hardly a problem as both are one and the same; and Lucy Grubb melts them together with easy going class. For a young woman of only 23, her voice has a weary, lived in quality which is just perfect for a song like this; and her band really do her justice, staying in the background and leaving the singer in the spotlight.
In the UK, Lucy’s native East Anglian accent is often made fun of; but you’d never guess that she was from anywhere other than the heartlands of America, without ever forcing an unsightly ‘twang’ on the winsome Other Side and especially so, on the cinematic and bittersweet finale When It Rains; which treads carefully around being maudlin …… with yet again Lucy’s gorgeously expressive voice saving the day.
Which only leaves me to tell you about You Don’t Do Anything which is a straight up Honky-Tonkin’ Country song; of the finest hue, conjuring up memories of Tammy and maybe even Dolly in the way she tells her story of a crumbling relationship …… easily making it my Favourite Song here by a Country Mile and I’d absolutely love to hear a whole album like it.
I will never understand how one act can become a Star while others of similar or gifted with actual talent can be left behind; let’s not let that happen to Lucy Grubb; this 4 track EP is only sample of what she’s capable of ….. help her make the next step on her career.

Released June 4th 2021
https://www.facebook.com/LucyGrubbMusic/

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Craig Cardiff ALL THIS TIME RUNNING

Craig Cardiff
All This Time Running
True North Records

Intricately Constructed and Articulate Songs; Which Will Haunt You for Years to Come.

WOW!
Apparently Canadian Singer-Songwriter Craig Cardiff has previously self-released 25 albums and EP’s since 1999; but this on the fabulous True North label is his first in 6 years and this is the first time that I’ve heard of him.
If ALL THIS TIME RUNNING is the benchmark; then the loss has been mine.
First of all I’m not sure I agree with his description of himself as a Folk Singer; I have him pegged as a Singer-Songwriter and I believe there is a very subtle, but significant difference ….. which we can debate at a later date.
The title track kick starts the album; and the first thing I noticed was Cardiff’s voice; part gruff and part velvety in texture but incredibly sensitive and expressive.
The song itself has an expansive feel to it; and I swear that there’s a banjo in the many layered musical backing to Cardiff’s intense and beautiful tale of love.
One of the reasons that it’s taken me so long to actually write a review; is Cardiff’s voice which he uses like an instrument all of its own; it’s like a cloak that wraps everything together in a way you find yourself not always taking notice of the words and stories; but that’s a good thing at times; but you really should pay attention as Craig Cardiff really can write a cleverly constructed and articulate song; the likes of which will haunt you for years to come ……. which has already happened to me with Yellowknife, Fire, Fire, Fire and the meticulous and bouncy Emm & May, which had me humming the melody and mumbling a few words late one night at work!
We all know the adage that songwriters should ‘write about what they know’ and Craig Cardiff does this with imaginative and colourful flourishes on Bryant Park, Greyhound SK and Wyoming; truly ‘painting pictures with words.’
My copy has a bunch of Bonus Tracks on it; and I hope yours does too; as the two versions of Moon are both worthy of inclusion; especially the Big Band rendering and the title track All This Time Running comes back with an Explicit Version; which would normally turn me off …… but we ain’t talking NWA here, just a slightly more punchy approach which does a great song no harm at all.
For my Favourite Song I’m actually torn between the Bonus Track Dirty Old Town and The American, which appears much earlier.
Dirty Old Town confused me at first; as I was expecting the Ewan MacColl song, made famous by The Pogues; but no…. it’s actually a rather lovely Modern Folkie missive with some really sharp and neat guitar work behind a love song we can all associate with.
The American, on the other hand is a a cool rootsy, Jazz tinged song; with swooping strings and a drummer who must have studied under Levon Helm (less is more?) making it the perfect accompaniment for a warm Spring/Summer evening preferably sitting on a veranda drinking something quite exotic …. which makes this easily my Favourite Track here; although the competition was very high.
Craig Cardiff covers a lot of ground here; dabbling in a variety of styles, that are all woven together to create a genuinely complete body of work; well worthy of his contempories all across North America … and beyond.

Released 14th May 2021.

https://www.craigcardiff.com/

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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
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