Laura-Mary Carter
Town Called Nothing.
Velveteen Records

A Great Solo Effort That Neatly Mixes Genres and Comes Out Victorious

When I was much younger and a devotee to the U.K. and USA charts; answering just about any question on a particular single; and in recent years I have also generally always been able to recall gigs and venues with absolute confidence.
However, I’ve never ever been able to remember the names of individual band members (apart from a few obvious groups); so when I heard about this release I never thought that it would be even remotely connected to Blood Red Shoes.
Despite having seen them on several occasions and having all of their releases, I never realised that Laura-Mary Carter is the female member.
Hang your head in shame Bill.
Naturally I was keen to see and hear how much her release would sit alongside the guitar driven modus operandi of Blood Red Shoes.
The simple answer is ‘totally different’.
The EP title relates to a place in Arizona that really is called Nothing and has a population of TWO!
Laura-Mary was so fascinated that she has visited it and with the assistance of Ed Harcourt has produced a lovely track backed with an equally good video – you can almost feel the tumbleweed blowing down the Main Street – assuming there is one in Nothing.
Get in my car.
Let’s drive to to nowhere.
In this town called Nothing’.

A beautiful vocal and guitar backing on a track that would fall easily into Alt Folk or Indie Folk, and is as far away from BRS as it’s possible to get.
To complete the story apparently Laura-Mary was told by a tarot card reader that she would find her heart in Arizona – she didn’t and there weren’t actually TWO people living in Nothing.
The opening track ‘Blue’s Not My Colour’ relates the sad story of a relationship ‘going nowhere in a hurry ‘ never caring for the likes of you my friend
it didn’t even bother me when you spoke sarcastically’.
The first time that we appreciate this is a massive change from her previous duo’s releases and it’s a lovely Country tinged  tune.
To continue the theme of broken relationships Ceremony emphasises how they can just drag on as there is
nothing worse than being stuck when the doors are being shut’.
The various tracks have been recorded in an assortment of studios across both the U.K. and USA and they reflect the artist ‘s clear leaning towards Americana.
The bulk of the tracks were written using an acoustic guitar while she was in LA; and she felt that doing so it allowed her to concentrate more on her vocals; but in a far more reserved and contemplative mood than on her duo songs with Steve.
It will be interesting to see what if any effect this will have on the upcoming Blood Red Shoes album due early in 2022.
A mere six tracks; but all different in their own way and all worthy of inclusion on a release that surprised me very pleasantly and hopefully, this won’t just be her only solo release. 
Before I finish I must bring up a Blood Red Shoes gig several years ago in Newcastle, which three of us had really enjoyed, only for Steve to offer an apology at the end, that ‘we hadn’t been at our best that night’ much to the amazement of the audience.
Great effort Laura-Mary with (hopefully) a lot more to come.

Released December 3rd 2021
Review Courtesy Bill Redhead



Ken Pomeroy
Christmas Lights in April
Horton Records

A Major Stepping Stone and a Great Indication of Finer Things to Come.

Sometimes it’s nice to hear an entire album where there is no showing off from the musicians, just simply letting the songs happen organically.
Oklahoma native Ken Pomeroy’s clean guitar lines and a smattering of understated pedal steel are mostly all that’s here to push these songs along, and pretty much all that’s needed too.
Her clear voice—with just a hint of twang—is the highlight here, as are the songs, all written by Pomeroy from the age of 14 to 18. She’s still learning her songwriting craft, but she shows amazing promise. Pomeroy’s earlier release, her EP, Hallways, showed her with a plaintive and yearning voice which has now grown more assured, more honest.
She’s also learned to trust her instincts and how to let loose a bit more.
This is an album of songs mostly about love and memories with some thoughtful observations to lead the way.
The first track, “Joan,” starts with soft notes on guitar and then the pedal steel sneaks in right before Pomeroy sings the all too true opening lines:
Flowers grow and then they whither away,
just like I knew we would.
“White Noise” has some nice pedal steel throughout to complement a tale of lost love.
“Grey Skies” is a sad memory of a love letter as much as a wish for understanding. Eyes feature many times in Pomeroy’s songs, and in “His Eyes” she relates a tale of noticing darkness in the eyes of a —friend? a lover? a family member? but you catch the fondness she has for them, an empathy we could all use more of.
“Rain” is observations of a wanting love with a charming melody and a sweetness not found anywhere else on the album.
The title track, “Christmas Lights in April,” is another lost love song, but honestly spoken of, not sad as much as it is earnest.
Old folk songs were mostly matter of fact, the singer commenting on life and what they see, and how they are getting through the days, and several of Pomeroy’s songs fall under this tradition.
But it’s the song “Flannel Cowboy” that really got my attention here.
Pomeroy’s performance gives out serious Neil Young vibes with its cryptic imagery and the way she doesn’t tell the whole story, letting the strum of the guitar and the wailing vocals fill you in.
A plea for a return to love, to be forgiven, a wish for a safer future?
The darkest song on the album, and definitely my favorite.
Sometimes it’s not the flawless performance, that’s the perfect one.
If Pomeroy keeps writing and performing songs like this she’ll stand out in a crowd of singer-songwriters anywhere she goes.
This isn’t a perfect album as some of the lyrics could be tightened up a bit; and Pomeroy could allow herself some room to stretch the tempo more often, but this is a great indication of finer things to come.

Released December 10th 2021

Review by Roy Peak


Abe Partridge LIVE IN THE UK (Agony Is Alright)

Abe Partridge
Live In The UK (Agony Is Alright)
Alabama Astronaut Records

Even More Southern Gothic Alt.Country-Folk Fighting Punk after Midnight Behind a Dingy Bar.

As you know we have eclectic tastes here at RMHQ, and being the contrary buggers we are; it’s regularly albums that are deemed left of centre that we fall in love with and that’s why Abe Partridge is high up our list of ‘favourite discoveries’ and why we described COTTON FIELDS & BLOOD FOR DAYS as
This LIVE ALBUM was recorded on a 2019 UK Tour with songs coming from a variety of venues, but mostly Bush Hall in London Town; but neatly edited to sound like one full concert.
The album opens with David Ford introducing Partridge at the Bush Hall, who doesn’t so much sing as crackle a song called Alabama Blues over a starkly strummed acoustic ……. the audience is so reverential you can hear a pin drop as Partridge recants his biographical tale from the darkest pits of his heart.
Now, if you get past that song (Mrs. Magpie didn’t btw) you are in for a rare treat.
“Sing about what you know” is the advice most aspiring songwriters get; and Partridge does exactly that; and his introductory stories set the scenes much better than I ever could.
Track #2; No Teacher (Blues) recalls the time he formed a band and headed North ‘to Seattle to find the Ghost of Kurt Cobain; only to find hipsters with lumberjack beards!
The song goes on to (tongue in cheek) recount the other mistakes he made trying to make it big; with more detail than a chemical formula filling out three wonderful minutes.
Like all music; I love these songs for personal reasons; Partridge just ticks all of my boxes in the way the likes of Tom Paxton, Malcolm Holcombe, Slaid Cleaves and even Townes Van Zandt have over the years; his songs 403rd Freakout, Get Thee Behind Me and Undisclosed Location (in SW Asia Killing Floor Blues) are so raw and honest that your jaw will hang wide open when you hear them the first time; and only the truly brave would dare request them on radio shows.
I doubt Partridge will ever headline Glastonbury or Lollapalooza; but he’s likely to be play the tent at the back of the field where hundreds will pack in to hear White Trash Lipstick and Preaching The Blues and have their lives changed; while the other 100,000 who watch the headline act will only remember the light show!
I desperately don’t want to ‘over-sell’ Abe Partridge to you; and I know he will only appeal to a minority of music fans of any persuasion ……. but those who ‘get’ Colors (which is as a duet here with David Ford) and/or Our Babies Will Never Grow Up To Be Astronauts will travel many, many miles to see the troubadour sing them in a tiny hall or bar unfitting for the quality of material on offer; but that’s the perversity that inhabits music fans like no other.
Even though Partridge’s songs are often quite dark in tone; there’s also a warmness and pithiness to his stories which will make you smile as you travel alongside him down the dark tunnel that he takes you on; which in turn brings me to the song that has easily become my Favourite ….. Black Flag T-Shirt.
Partridge cuts through the crap and falsehoods that surround us every day; by talking about the people who wear ‘cool band t-shirts‘ that ‘say something about the wearer‘ but who obviously have never heard the music that Black Flag, Nirvana or (in the UK) Joy Division ….. we see them everyday; and Abe describes them and the feelings they leave with us like a poet.
I’m not sure where Abe Partridge fits into the grand pantheon of singer-songwriters; and I don’t even know anyone else who has even heard of him (I’ve asked!) but to those of us who are unbridled ‘fans’ he’s up there ….. check him out a) I urge you and b) I dare you!

Released 19th November 2021



Strange Desire
Vacancy Records

Dark and Rich Country Folk and Americana Tales From Trans-Atlantic Troubadour.

Even though I think that I have my ‘finger on the pulse’; I obviously can’t know absolutely everyone on the Roots Music scene; but how I’ve missed out on the previous two albums by singer-songwriter Barrie-James beggars belief.

Apparently he was a founding member of Scots-Rockers Kassidy, which sort of rings a bell; then moved to L.A where he’s now based; writing and becoming pals with the A-Listers, which is how he can attract Lana Del Ray and Ashley Campbell to guest on this album.

While the cover photograph initially attracted my attention; as it would have had I seen it in a Record Shop, it was the title of the opening track; Angry Man which was the reason that I rushed it into the office CD player.
It’s a lot slower and a whole lot more intimate that Steve Earle’s Angry Young Man; but dredges a similar trough that not just appealed to me, but somehow feels like Barrie-James O’Neill was singing about me that first few days; and I love the way he manages to convey those horrible suppressed feelings via an acoustic Folk Song. It’s a ‘thumbs up’ from me.
Next out of the traps is the duet with Ashley Campbell; Country 33; on which the couple remind us of the Classy and Classic Country duos from George and Tammy through Gram and Emmylou to Faith and Tim on a sad, sad love song that not just tugs on, but squeezes the bejasus out of your heart strings.
As I listen and type the word ‘stylish’ keeps springing to mind and I don’t know if that will be taken as a compliment; but that’s exactly how I feel about songs like Pretending Not To Breathe, Anything and Lady Alone too, and it probably applies to most others too; without ever taking away from the raw intimacy in the arrangements and the subject matter too.
While not quite in the same arena as those three songs; Emerald Girl and Lady Alone also have a ‘stylish’ thread to them; but also sound timeless in the way they’ve reminded me in parts with the bedsit troubadours of my youth like James Taylor and Graham Nash, but I can also envisage an Ed Sheeran fan stumbling on this album and becoming an overnight Barrie-James fan.
Without taking anything away from the obvious hard work done after the event in the control room; there’s a beautiful simplicity to the arrangements in Barrie-James’s own particular take on Country-Folk, with Lady Alone, Solid Rose and the epic title track, Strange Desire, all of which will appeal to the heartbroken of all ages and sexual persuasions …… which is quite a talent, I think you’ll agree.
There really is so much to like and admire here that it’s nearly impossible to single out one song as my Favourite; especially as Mrs Magpie absolutely loves the finale Riverside; a darkly simmering tale of unrequited love song or is it a Murder Ballad? You will no doubt make your own mind up; but the combination of James’s voice alongside the smoky Lana Del Ray has both my wife and I clambering for a whole album in the same vein from the duo.
As is my wont I’m actually going to disagree with my wife; simply because I’m smitten with two other and very different songs; Bad Girl is punchy and more of a band effort that feels like a punch to your heart; and the song that immediately follows, Strange Desire takes James’s writing and arranging into a whole new stratosphere; ticking the boxes that I’d normally associate with Wily Vlautin or Howe Gelb, which is very high praise indeed, so I’m going with Strange Desire as my Favourite Song here.
After making a living from music since 2009 I doubt Barrie-James will become an overnight sensation because of this particular album; but were he to get onto one of the handful of British TV Shows that have ‘real music’ on them (Jools Holland? Graham Norton?) there’s every chance a whole new audience would fall in love with his dark and rich tales.

Released Digital 5th November
Released CD/LP 12th November


Margo Cilker POHORYLLE

Margo Cilker
Loose Music

‘Dazzling’ Modern Country Filtered Through Alt. Americana

How has it taken so long for Margo to release her first album?

Ahead of any review (and especially for an artist new to me) I like to look for and listen to some of an acts’ previous releases.
The two main reasons being
a) to see if the latest offering is a change in direction or more of the same and
b) to understand what the artist is trying to achieve with the new album.

The result wouldn’t see Margo as falling into the ‘prolific’ category, as the best I could manage was a couple of singles and videos but it was enough to highlight this was a lady with a smashing Americana/C&W voice.

From California originally she has spent time in Montana, Oregon and interestingly, in the Basque Country of Spain, so was clearly not averse to trying differing locations and this wanderlust comes through on the album.

With a band that includes members from The Decemberists and Joanna Newsom’s it was reasonable to expect an above average offering and personally, I feel this is exactly what you get.

On Brother, Taxman and Preacher the various persona allow her to ‘have everything’ (Brother), ‘take everything’ (Taxman) and to ‘tell everything like who to vote for’ (Preacher) while on ‘Wine In The World’ she delivers a Gillian Welch influenced beautiful tune that suits her vocals perfectly.
Wishing she had both all the wine and time in the world’ backed by a suitable arrangement of strings/guitar/piano.

The production and arrangements are never too hard or heavy and Sera Cahoone hits the right notes on tracks that I find it hard to believe is her first release of an album. Her polished delivery on the likes of ‘Flood Plain’ just adds to her plea to a partner to ‘either stay or go but remember I will be here at home’. She then moves effortlessly in to a honky took piano and horn driven ‘Tehachapi’ before delivering probably my favourite track in Barbed Wire (Belly Crawl) as she wants to break away with the threat that ‘I will be going farther this time’ but time will tell if she makes it.

The wanderlust I alluded to earlier is evident on ‘Chester’s’ as she
makes her bed by the side of the road as her friends get married yet feel alone
maybe time to move on and away?
However on ‘Kevin Johnson’ the boogie piano takes her through the simple story of a man raised as a ‘godly man’ who gets married before they have two children and he hears ‘the people cry’ and he announces rather plain fully that ‘it’s not hard and he can do that too.’
His well intended aims turning to nothing more than a feeling of resignation where he joins them if you cannot beat them.

I saw the album described as ‘dazzling’ in one music magazine and I suppose that’s as good a descriptive word as possible. I am not always sold fully on some ‘country’ albums but this one that sells itself fully.

I cannot imagine it will be 6/7 years before Margo releases her next album, if this is as successful as I feel it may be.

Loved her voice.
Loved the band.
Loved the production.

Margo and her husband may need to set down their roots close to a high quality recording studio, although with her husband also being a singer/songwriter they may just set up their own!

Review by Billy Redhead

Released 5th November 2021


Steve Goodman THE BEST OF

Steve Goodman
The Best Of
Omnivore Recordings

A Learning Template For Aspiring Singer-Songwriters Everywhere.

As I occasionally mention, one of the many joys of doing these reviews is that I get to discover new acts that I wouldn’t normally get to hear; and then pass on that excitement to you.
Sometimes it’s not even a fresh faced act still in their teens; or in the case of our friends at Omnivore Records it’s an act long forgotten and barely remembered; which was the case a couple of years ago when they re-issued a pair of Singer-Songwriter Steve Goodman’s albums …. which knocked me sideways.
While the accompanying Press Release was quite concisive; I still Googled him; only to find that he had died of leukemia in 1984 at the tender age of 36 …… but what a legacy he has left behind.
While I’m only a new found fan; even I know that there’s oh so much more to Steve Goodman than his The City of New Orleans which is got out of the way as the introduction to this compilation as an intimate demo; and we can then get on with wallowing in Goodman’s genius, starting with the raw love song Yellow Coat from 1981 and should be a staple of any and every young Folk Singer’s repertoire in 2021.
As a ‘Best Of;’ there’s a strange mix of Live and studio recordings here, that I’d probably have preferred to have been seperated into two albums; but what do I know?
While my brother Brian had albums by many of Goodman’s contempories that I listened to at that time; very few have aged as well as these songs here, with The Dutchman and Souvenirs standing out like the Goodman Classics that they are and still sound hauntingly timeless as I sit here in my office.
If you’re as new to Steve Goodman as what I am; there’s so much to like here; and I’m sure when someone under 50 hears the dryly observant Banana Republic, Chicken Cordon Bleus or Would You Like To Learn to Dance and the bubbly ‘road song’ This Hotel Room they will be sparking off to check out the albums that they came from before the next song comes onto the player.
If I’m brutally honest there are a couple of tracks included that may get skipped over after a couple of plays; but nonetheless
Goodman’s playful rendition of As Time Goes By and Talk Backwards too plus, of course the two songs cut with and about the Chicago Cubs; A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request and Go Cubs Go …… but; I’m sure no Steve Goodman retrospective would be complete without them.
But; and it’s not even a big ‘but’ everything else here is not just a ‘keeper’ but in many ways a learning template for aspiring singer-songwriters, and while the actual reference Video Tape is from a past world; the song itself is as if Steve could see into the future and know that our lives in the 21st Century are in the mode of the Truman Show!
With a catalogue as strong as this it’s nigh on impossible to select a single song as a Favourite; come on….. how can you choose between the deeply personal My Old Man, which got me to thinking about my Old Man and his many traits that I hated but now miss every day; or the rip-roaring Men Who Love Women Who Love Men ……. which really does need to be a re-issued single and shows what a clever and interchangeable songwriter Goodman was; and then there’s Johnny Cash playfully introducing You Never Even Call Me By My Name, which he wrote with John Prine ….. my God why have I never heard this song before?
I’m sure that the many recordings of Goodman’s songs have left his family reasonably well off; but why oh why is his name not mentioned in the same vein as his friends John Prine and Tom Paxton; but I guess there’s still time ….. starting here?

Released November 5th 2021


Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes AS LONG AS IT’S NOT US

Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes
As Long As It’s Not Us
Social Family Records

Stateless Alt. Country From The Hidden Dark Soul of Australia

While not quite being there at the beginning of Australian band Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes’s illustrious career; but we did join in circa 2015 with a very positive review of their BLACK COFFEE album in Maverick Magazine; and we followed that up with an even more praiseworthy review of SOME GIRLS a few years later on these pages; which I tagged as “Deep and Dark Uneasy Listening for the Discerning Music Lover;” which it was and made me very excited when this disc arrived last week; a couple of weeks after its Australian release.
The opening track has a very intriguing title, OK To Love and the song itself follows a very intriguing path about someone with a broken heart tentatively re-starting their life; and Bryan sums up the emotional turmoil therein very very eloquently; and the beautifully melancholic arrangement, that all bodes well for what is to follow.
This is immediately followed by the magnificent title track AS LONG AS IT’S NOT US, which borders on the darker fringes of Alt. Country; but pulls back from the brink in a manner that draws the listener in like a moth to a flame. Presumably a biographical tale from Lachlan; it’s also a story that many of us on the outside can connect with as the story unravels.
Without having sat down and listened to all three previous albums back to back; I feel that the band have certainly matured and listened to a lot of other contemporary Alt and Country Music in the years since I first heard that BLACK COFFEE album; with influences now ranging from Giant Sand to Sturgill Simpson via Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell being apparent here and there; but never overwhelming the band’s distinctive groove on Quit While We’re Ahead and/or The Road or anything else.
When I play these review albums I tend to imagine where and when I would hear them played live; and with these songs I can easily picture sitting in a darkened theatre or concert hall listening to the prescient I Found God, The Understudy or more likely Never Said a Word; because they deserve the intimacy such a venue gives; no chitter chatter or people ordering from the bar at the back of the room.
Sitting here writing and listening on a cold and wet Autumn morning; I find myself keep wanting to use the word ‘impressive’ over and over again; and I don’t know why I’ve shied away from using it; as I can’t think of a better word to describe the way not just Take It Out On Me with it’s McGuinn flavoured jangly guitars and the New York meets New South Wales inspired I Went Down are not just constructed, but conveyed too; but the album as a whole too.
Then there are another two really exceptional songs that are squabbling inside my head for the title of Favourite Song; the one that will probably lose by a hair’s breadth is the dark and almost painful Weighing On Me which even by Alt. Country standards is heartbreaking beyond belief; and all the more moody because of the piano and shuffling drums in the background ….. prepare to cry!
The actual Winner of the accolade is a song that I was drawn to by the title alone; You Remind Me of Myself which is a phrase I’ve found myself using more and more in recent years; and the song could nearly be autobiographical in many ways; but I also feel that it will to a great many people who get to hear it ….. and that’s a sign of a genuinely ‘great song’ isn’t it?
I’ve said it many times in the last few years that some of the best Alt. Country I hear doesn’t necessarily come from America; and this album is a case in point; as it is Stateless, certainly not sounding Australian but no paean to America either; just a medium to get their intricate and personal stories across to the widest audience possible.

Released September 2021


The Accidentals VESSEL

The Accidentals

A New Direction That Turns Out To Be Their ‘Saul to Damascus’ Moment.

Occasionally you come across a hidden gem – accidentally or otherwise; and I have to admit The Accidentals were totally unknown to me until I was approached to consider a review ‘Vessel’, their 4th album; but one that allegedly goes down a ‘different route’ to their preceding releases.

Being a bit of a cynic; ‘a different direction‘ generally seems to turn out to be an album that is only marginally different from the previous ones; but I am always prepared to be corrected.

‘Vessel’ could be a sort of Saul and Damascus moment for The Accidentals – I’ve listened to this 4 times and it gets better with each listen.
Morning walks give me uninterrupted time to listen to an album with nothing else to consider, apart from the route I decide to take. Having also listened to tracks from their previous albums I can now actually ‘get’ the changes they have made.

The Accidentals are Katie Larson, Savannah Buist (the original members) and Michael Dause from Michigan and there is no doubt that their new direction suits them and their musical abilities perfectly.
On some tracks I found them akin to Better Oblivion Community Centre and I cannot give them any higher praise.
Excellent harmonies allied to fine song writing has created a smashing album to be proud of.

They open with ‘Vessel’, a signature note about perspective
It’s not a race but we won’t be outrun. We will get to where we wanna be’.
And it’s fair to say perspective is a theme that runs through the whole album and perhaps it’s the reason for their move to a more upbeat/electric feel – one that really works.
They fought off concerns and delays during the making of the album and have triumphed.

On ‘Go Getter’ they demand changes that will force them to
burn it down to build it better’.
The ‘change of direction’ takes them to a level where they appear to feel really comfortable away from their earlier more folkie offerings.

Vocally, I can hear links to the vocals of Tina Dico and Phoebe Bridgers and ‘Slow & Steady’ is a beautiful track about their drive back home in a snow storm to (hopefully) get back before the family dog Maggie passes away.
Each single and slow hour gets her closer to Maggie; but at the same time it takes Maggie closer to death which makes for a really fascinating song.

There are several outstanding tracks, but for me nothing beats ‘City View’ covering a breakdown between parents and a daughter ‘the birth of a daughter just makes you a father like a crown of thorns makes you a king’
but the daughter won’t answer the phone now……. A track that I played over and over.

The album was recorded with the assistance of various directors linked to the like of The Decemberists and First Aid Kit, although the pandemic did take a chunk out of their plans, so the band took matters into their own hands with the girls coming to the fore as Michael laid down the drum tracks.

Effectively, their hold ups have only served to drive them on even more and it’s possible that the finished oviduct us far better than if they had stuck to their original timetable and plans.
On ‘Simple Terms’ they try to
avoid wasting time waiting for a hero to turn up
so they just got on with it and made the best of an unexpected situation.

On a humorous note any album that manages to sneak the word ‘tessellate’ into a track (Fractals)
carve out canyons as they tessellate’ has to be worth a listen.
Alt-j and Tokyo Police Club both both had singles called ‘Tessellate’ and it didn’t do them any harm.
Pardon me on occasions for my childish sense of humour.

Being multi-instrumentalists the band are very comfortable moving through an array of instruments linking their fine harmonies to guitars, mandolins, drums and bass.
The end result is an excellent set of 14 superbly crafted tracks, vocals and harmonies too.

They are about to begin a USA, tour so I doubt if we will see them in the UK in the near future but here’s hoping that will be remedied any time soon.
But, The Accidentals harmonies and arrangements would be great in the intimate venues that abound for Americana (or Indie-Folk) acts over here.
Fingers crossed.

Give this a listen – I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Can I stress that their earlier albums weren’t poor in comparison to this – they were just albums that fell into slightly different category and personally, they are now in a place that suits them perfectly.

Released October 1st 2021
Review courtesy the Original Rocking Magpie; Bill Redhead.


Courtney Marie Andrews HARE & HOUNDS Birmingham

Courtney Marie Andrews
Hare & Hounds
19th October 2021

The last time Courtney Marie Andrews was scheduled to play in Birmingham was in December 2018, at the Glee Club – my eldest niece was in her first term of a pharmacy degree at Birmingham University and I’d gotten tickets for us both.
On the morning of the gig, Courtney’s laryngitis knocked that opportunity for six – we tried again, but this time COVID moved things on once more.
So – three years after the last attempt to catch CMA in the West Midlands; with my niece now in her fourth year at Uni, Courtney Marie Andrews finally made it to Brum – she nearly didn’t though – delayed and cancelled flights meant that she’d arrived on the morning of the gig after only four hours sleep in 48 hours!!
Before her return to the Birmingham stage, support duo Memorial kicked things off pleasantly with a sound that most obviously triggered comparisons with Simon & Garfunkel, but to these ears they came across as the UK equivalent of Mapache from the US West Coast – they went down well and it surely won’t be long before they’re much better known.
In the USA , Courtney has been playing with a band similar to that on “Old Flowers,” but for this European visit she was flying solo playing her own guitar and keyboards.
The set she played didn’t adhere totally to her 12 song printed setlist – kicking things off with “Rookie Dreaming” she then played the first of two new songs in the set – tentatively entitled “James Dean” on guitar – and later there was a second new song played on keys that didn’t get introduced.
In between, there were songs from “Old Flowers” – “Burlap String” and “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” in particular shone in a solo setting.
“May Your Kindness Remain”, despite not being on the setlist, was given an airing too.
Three encores ensued – all audience requests – and the reverential silence throughout the performance; eventually became a prolonged enthusiastic roar.
Before departing the stage, Courtney stated she was glad to be back – the feeling in the room was that we were more than glad to welcome her return.

Rookie Dreaming
James Dean (new song)
Burlap String
Break The Spell
It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault
If I Told
Rough Around The Edges
May Your Kindness Remain[To be kind?]…
new song (on keyboard)
Guilty (on keyboard)
Ships in the night (on keyboard)
—– encore —–
Table for one
How Quickly Your Heart Mends
Near You

Photos –

Review and photography by Nick Barber


Marla & David Celia
Indistinct Chatter
Elite Records

Two Golden Voices and a Treasure Trove of Contemporary Canadiana via Germany.

I first encountered Canadian David Celia via his 2015 album Double Mind; which knocked me sideways and genuinely made an appearance in my garden one Sunday in the Summer just gone; then he teamed up with Marla Winkler (now Celia?) in 2018 for the probing DAYDREAMERS ALBUM; which again I rather liked.
So; as you’d expect I was rather excited and flattered when Marla got in touch a couple of weeks ago offering a copy of this; their latest release.
I immediately uploaded it to the magic box and regrettably forgot about it until earlier this week, when it flagged up on the Reviews Spreadsheet …… so on it went in the car on a drab Autumn day on the journey to work.
All I can say is that it was most certainly a case of right place/right time; as it was like sitting alongside a long lost friend who had the ability to make me feel warm and loved; and smile too (which are all in short supply post-Brexit!).
Thinking that I knew what to expect, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the opening song; Clowns Everywhere; the couples harmonies are worn and whispering in a way that surprisingly reminded me of Simon and Garfunkel; and that keeps coming back again and again as the album evolves.
On that first play I just let the gorgeousness drift over me like a velveteen fog; lazilly I could tell you that the couple encompass all that was wonderful about the Laurel Canyon ‘sound’ but that would be doing them a huge injustice; as they obviously use a lot of influences to create their very own distinctive style of Folk Music.
Once you tear yourself away from the fabulous arrangements that surround the couple’s golden voices; the songs unravel like a garden of earthly delights; with unexpected hidden messages leaking out of Paranoia vs Miracles and Colours of the Rainbow that are quite startling when you finally ‘get’ them
Even on Mama Nature, Marla and David never hit you over the head with any particular message; but the messages are certainly there when you look for them.
I don’t want you to think that this is Hippy-Trippy nonsense; no sir … when you hear the intricate Cuento Conmigo, or Struggling with the Ying-Yang; you’ll think they are coming more from a Joni and CS&N direction than … well; let’s not make this personal!
Something else that’s taken me a while for the penny to drop; is the excellent production here that allows the instruments to ‘breathe’ that not justs compliments Marla and David but allows them a comfort not every singer is allowed in front of a microphone.
As many know, I’m no particular lover of Vinyl; as it’s generally the provenance of hipsters with too much money; but in this case I actually think that these songs will sound ever more wonderful on vinyl and a good hi-fi; but I’m also more than happy to hear them on the office hi-fi via the computer.
While the album is gorgeously relaxing; don’t fall into the trap that this is ‘easy listening’ …… there’s a lot more to these songs than many people will realise; which brings me to two in particular that I’m torn between as my Favourites.
With Childhood Dream Marla and David somehow paint vivid pictures with their words; and the harmonies send a shiver down my back every time I hear this song.
Then, there is the enchanting Love Of Life, where the couple sing to each other in a ghostly manner over a subtle and somehow evocative and soft country melody; the likes of which Nanci Griffith and John Prine would have been so proud to have recorded themselves.
The other song is Goodbye; an insightful view on the disposable the times we live in today; and a much more intense chorus than anywhere else …… but that just shows what a great pairing this couple are and when you listen to the story therein; I defy you not to have a tear in your eye and a rage in your heart.
Like the majority of albums that pass my desk INDISTINCT CHATTER is unlikely to trouble the Grammy or Juno committee’s; as they will be too busy trying to please the big labels in what is left of the Music Industry; but that doesn’t mean that the likes of you and I don’t recognise a career and possibly even a genre defining record when we hear it.

Released October 22nd 2021