RMHQ Radio Show on Nova Radio NE Ep:7

RMHQ Radio Show Ep:7
Nova Radio NE
26th June 2022

Just when I thought I’d figured out the Starship Enterprise control deck; that masquerades as the Nova Radio knobs, sliders and whizz bangs …. I missed another cue last night; mercifully not the first link of the evening.
Purely by accident it wasn’t/isn’t the cheeriest of programmes; but that was probably my psyche working overtime when I was selecting the songs to play.
Plus; for once …. not a lot of Blues … which I will put right next week.
Anyways; thanks for listening especially as I introduced a couple of fabulous newish singer songwriters and bands to the RMHQ playlists …. and if by chance you know a North East based singer-songwriter that may fit in …. tell them to drop me a line on the Twitter @rockingmagie

Bob DylanBlowin’ in the wind
PreludeThe First Time I Heard Dylan
Paul WesterbergIt takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry
Richmond FontaineFrom a Buick 6
Neko CaseHonky Tonk Hiccups
Durham County PoetsIn the Groove
Dave AlvinSouth West Chief
Amy Speace & Orphan BrigadeThere Used to Be Horses Here
Our Man in The FieldEasy Going Smile
The DelinesRoll Back My Life
Allison MoorerEasy in the Summertime
John MartynMay You Never
Grainne DuffyShine it on Me
Howe Gelb & The Band of GypsiesCowboy Boots on Cobbled Stones
Hannah WhitePay Me a Compliment
ShipcoteMother Dear
Brennan Leigh & Noel McKayBe My Ball And Chain
Margo CilkerFlood Plain
David Ford and Annie DressnerJust Like You
Anthony TonerEast of Louise
Matt McGinnAnnie (Many moons ago)
Chastity BrownWonderment
Steve PledgerMatches In The Wind
Jay and the CooksFrontline Worker Blues
Anna AshPopularity
George JonesTake The Devil Out of Me
Bobbie GentryOde to Billie Joe
Little WalterBoom Boom (Out go the lights)


Various Artists
Americana Railroad

‘Good Old Fashioned’ Train Songs With a Contemporary Makeover

Only a couple of weeks ago I had a deep and meaningful conversation with a couple of friends regarding the lack of ‘good old fashioned’ Cowboy and Train songs in modern Country and Americana.
We could all name a couple from a few years ago …. but nothing in recent years; well … it appears that Carla Olson and husband Saul Davis had been having similar thoughts about the latter subject; trains and corralled a number of their friends to record this rather marvelous compilation.
In advance I have to tell you that my copy bares very little information about the songs apart from the artist singing them; so I can look like a smart-arse dropping in the name of the album that they were originally released on …. so let’s treat the majority as new songs; if only to make me look like I know what I’m doing.
The first song here is Carla herself alongside Stephen McCarthy on lead vocals. delighting us with a melodious and contemporary slice of Twang infused Alt. Country with Here Comes That Train Again; which may or may not be a metaphor for a love affair ‘on the rails.’
There are a handful of songs and singers I recognise; namely Rocky Burnette with his 90mph Honky-Tonky arrangement of Mystery Train; Dustbowl Revival who retain the original harmonies but still turn Marrakesh Express into something of a ‘Border Country’ dance tune and John Fogerty sounds like he was born to sing the All American Classic; City of New Orleans; the other is Peter Case giving us his best rendition of a modern Woody Guthrie passionately poring over This Train.
Mystery Train oddly enough makes a second appearance further along the line; only this time James Intveld makes it into a sadder than sad heartbreaker….. such is the power of the songwriting.
With this in mind there are surprises around every corner; Paul Burch and Fats Kaplan had me grinning like a ninny the first time I heard the slide guitar in Waiting For a Train and the two Rob Waller’s two inclusions the punchy as Hell; The Conductor Wore Black and Midnight Rail from the other end of the musical spectrum are nearly worth the entrance money on their own!
On the other hand there are acts here I’ve never heard of singing songs that are staples of my own collection; and it’s fair to say Gary Myrick’s pedal to the metal Americana-Grunge arrangement of Train Kept a ‘Rollin is as edgy as Americana gets these days; and sticks out like a sore thumb among songs like Alice Howe’s 500 miles and Deborah Poppink’s beautiful rendition of People Get Ready (which is only tenuously linked to the railroad theme ….. but hey; it’s a winner).
I’d not heard of either Kai Clark or John York before hearing them here, singing Train Leaves Here in The Morning and Runaway Train respectively; but I’ve now had to research both with a view to getting on their mailing lists for future releases; which is why I love VA albums like this …. there’s always someone new to discover.
Plus there are some quite famous names tucked away in the shadows too; Dom Flemon’s Steel Pony Blues will certainly be a song radio stations pick up on; and I don’t think I’ve heard Dave Alvin sing South West Chief before; but it’s the type of song me and my friends were pining for in that conversation.
This now brings me to the difficult choice of Favourite Song; and I’ve gone for a tie between two ….. one by Carla Olson & Brian Ray; the sizzling Whisky Train which rocks like a Mail Train going around a tight corner and the other is from another new act to me; AJ of The Seratones which is majestically different from everything here; almost nursery rhymeish ….. but stunning nonetheless in a delightfully Lo-Fi fashion.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this album; even though some of the songs are only tenuously linked to actual railways and trains; but hey ….. we all have vivid imaginations and Carla Olson has done a fabulous job pulling everything together in this fashion.

Released 17th June 2022


Chastity Brown SING TO THE WALLS

Chastity Brown
Sing To the Walls
Red House Records

Heartfelt and Gutsily Crafted Soul That’s Guaranteed to Make Your World Shine That Bit Brighter.

Very occasionally, when listening to an artist for the first time, just one particular song has the capability to deliver an almighty gut punch, which in that very moment, is the gateway to connecting with the album and indeed their whole world………. today it has happened courtesy of Minneapolis born Chastity Brown.

Digging deep in the vaults of RMHQ, I am aware there is a lot of ground to cover with regards to Ms Brown and her own contemporary twist on a tapestry woven with threads of Americana Soul, Blues, Gospel and a smattering of Funk: her previous release, Silhouette Of Sirens, was way back in 2017 making Sing to The Walls her first musical offering since Pandemic times.
I was half expecting the album to be ladened with Lockdown frustrations and anxieties, but delighted to discover it simply beams out a joyful positivity, a loving groove which most definitely keeps the glass half full for the duration.

The album swoops in with the first two singles, Wonderment and Backseat, the former kicking off with Chastity’s surging, distinctive rich vocals ringing out, powerfully honest.
Musically softly lapping in at the start, with rhythmic plucking adding a spiritual Indian echo. The current gradually gathers pace to a rising driving beat of guitars, explosive drums leading to a swirl of Hammond keys.
Wow by the end of the track I already feel like I’ve been on one hell of a journey, one where we have perhaps witnessed the artist allowing herself to be gradually released from shackles to embrace new experiences: “letting go.”

Neatly rooted in that same spot, Backseat’s exquisite chant of “I never felt so free” introduces us to a contemporary funk groove pulsing with a strong hooky drum beat, the engine of the track which just screams out to be played on the open road.
Oh, so it makes sense, when I skim the press pack, to discover that Ms Brown nurtured her cool rhythmic vibes by teaming up with two drummers, Brady Black in Stockholm and Greg Schutte at her home studio to work on the album.

Perhaps, because I have just returned from Boston (!), another standout track for me is one bearing same name, making me just want to turn around and head straight back out!
Immediately whisking us to Chastity’s blissful happy zone, it lyrically hangs basking in the first flush of a new romance.
With smooth sensual vocals, rolling casual drums and sweet melodic layers, it leads us to a charmingly exhilarating guitar solo, making it one of the happiest peaks on the album for me.
It does not sit all alone though, there are 10 stunning songs to discover here, and transforming Lockdown into writing time resulted in Chastity Brown having a huge pile of new material at her fingertips.

Golden is the heavyweight track of the album and demands our undivided attention.
It’s the only song steeped in, but not dominated by rage and angst: “Why have I got to be angry?”, this is Chastity boldly laying down her reaction to the racial tensions and riots she has witnessed, some being virtually on her doorstep.
She hits us with the hefty, raw emotional force of her uplifting words, a calling to remain strong and steadfast in the face of adversity.
It’s a message we cannot help but take positive inspiration from, as her exceptional vocal delivery booms out:
Does this black woman’s voice have too much power
Would it go down sweetly if I sang softer?

This album is so seriously good that I’m hopping through the title track Sing to the Walls, a piano driven beautifully crafted tribute to breaking through barriers and the rousing Like A Sun which really does what it says on the tin (!) to finally arrive at that aforementioned killer track which started this whole journey off for me……

Curiosity is an instant smash to my ears, another piano led empowering ballad: heartfelt words to a lost love but not wallowing in self-pity, instead flooded with mature emotions that are full of longing yet uplifting and releasing.
Chastity Brown flips heartbreak spelling out that we have to sometimes endure emotional pain to set us on a path to a happier place.

It’s Curiosity setting into motion,
I was a stranger to myself, when I knew ya
I should say thank you, for loving and leaving me

These sentiments sum up the very essence of an album which causes spirits to be raised a little bit higher with every play. In her own words:
What matters to me is my survival – and for my survival, it has been necessary to try and embrace some joy”.
I cannot imagine there has ever been a better moment than this to catch Chastity’s wave of positivity with Sing To The Walls, as we all try and put our best foot forward again.

Review by Anita Joyce
Released 23rd June 2022

https://store.compassrecords.com/products/sing-to-the-walls @ChastityBrown @Aladjoyce

RMHQ Radio Show Ep:6 June 19th 2022 On Nova Radio

RMHQ Radio Show
Episode 6
Nova Radio

We’re getting there, 6 episodes and the mistakes are getting fewer and further between. Sadly I was blighted with croaky voice and nagging cough courtesy Hayfever …. but that just focussed my mind for playing ‘more music and less talking’.
As you will see and hear there is a heady mix of old and new songs across the myriad of genres that make up what we know as Roots Music and Americana …. hopefully ‘something for everyone’ …. thanks for listening.

June 19thNeil YoungUnknown Legend
EP 6CS&NWooden Ships
Rolling StonesRoute 66
Eve SellisHeart Shaped Tattoo
Gipsy Dave SmithBlue World
Heather Lynn HortonFlesh & Blood
Jason Isbell & The 400 UnitSave It For Sunday
Kinky FriedmanBorn Under a Wanderin’ Star
Laura Benitez & The HeartacheA Love Like Yours
Dr JohnSleeping Dogs Best Left Alone
Bap KennedyMoonlight Kiss
Johnny DickinsonOcean Blues
Will HogeJohn Prine’s Cadillac
John PrineAngel From Montgomery
Blackie & The Rodeo KingsKing of This Town
Eliza NealsBucket of Tears
Jack BurnessShepherd’s Yard
Ian SegalPsycho
My Darling ClementineI Lost You (But found Country Music)
Michael UbaldiniBeautiful and Bleary Eyed
Lucinda WilliamsPineola
John Paul WhiteHeart Like a Kite
Bobbo ByrnesLast Hurrah
Bobbie CrynerYou’d Think He’d Know Me Better
Five Points GangDrifting Away
Wily Bo WalkerMotel Blues
Slaid CleavesThe Dad Song

Black Deer Festival 2022

Black Deer Festival 2022
Eridge Park,
Royal Tunbridge Wells

A successful return for the UK’s biggest Americana focused festival

Initial disclaimer – I’ve never been a big fan of outdoor festivals ever since the time my tent flooded at Reading Festival in the late 80s, but this time I’d got a lovely AirBnB to retire to of an evening, so I thought I’d give Black Deer a go – its lineup of largely Roots and Americana acts, with a sprinkle of more populist acts like James and Imelda May promised a fine weekend’s entertainment.

Friday, the first day, somewhat overdid things on the weather front – temperatures in the mid-thirties Centigrade meant that acts in shadier environments became more appealing – on that score, I caught the songwriters’ circle in the Ridge tent at the start of the day, where Irish Mythen set a personal benchmark with an effervescent and lively performance: Emily Barker and Caroline Spence contributed acute observational songwriting on ecology and relationships before Imelda May, delayed in traffic and rounded things off with a poem about the female orgasm!

Caroline Spence made a solo appearance with CJ Hillman, immediately afterwards and her summery voice and acoustic arrangements won over many. The Felice Brothers, over on the main stage produced a fiery, rebel rousing set before the polish of Imelda May – after that I decamped to the Ridge tent for reasons of self-preservation and musical choice to see well-received sets from Israel Nash and Shovels & Rope, whose boisterous performances fired up the crowds. Highlight of the day for me though was the “Ozark Holler Hootenanny” over in the smaller Haley’s Bar – a collection of artists based around the trio of Dylan Earl, Jude Brothers and Will Carlisle with a guest appearance from Lady Nade, who delivered a hugely entertaining collection of songs from Arkansas.
A fine end to day one.

Day two and while less sunny, was incredibly humid.
Early performances by Lady Nade in Haley’s bar and slide-blues maestro Jack Broadbent did nothing to lower the temperatures and provided fine evidence of the breadth of UK roots talent. The much anticipated (not least by me) appearance of Courtney Marie Andrews on the main stage was a brave set, with four as of yet officially unreleased songs taking their place amongst CMA’s strong back catalogue. Wilco’s only UK appearance on their current tour followed immediately after and a festival pleasing set including personal faves like “Impossible Germany” went down well – and Courtney Marie Andrews and band were invited back on to join on the band’s performance of “California Stars”.
Things started to take a turn towards the apocalyptic near the end of an energetic set from the Waterboys when the decision was taken by the organisers to evacuate the arena due to rapidly approaching electrical storms – and a correct decision it was too, as the festival site was battered by one of the worst storms I’d seen outside of travels in the US and mainland Europe. It took over an hour to get off the car park but at least in our case there was dry accommodation at the end of our escape.

Incredibly, Sunday saw the site looking as though nothing had happened – a combination of fortunate geology and hard work meant that, other than a last minute pull-out by The War & Treaty, things were unaffected.
Irish Mythen continued her plan for world domination to a supportive crowd on the main stage, whereas Hiss Golden Messenger drew a rapidly growing audience in the Ridge tent – as did John Smith, in trio format with the core of Lauren Housley’s band. At the end of the day, the Americana punter was faced with a stark choice – the Dead South on the main stage or the Drive-By Truckers in the Ridge Tent – this reviewer stuck with the guitar assault of the DBTs and enjoyed it greatly, right up to the emotional denouement by Patterson Hood, dedicating the final song of their set to his terminally ill father-in-law who he would be rushing home to see post gig (and tour).

All in all, this was an entertaining and enjoyable weekend. Audience numbers were good enough to pack the different stages, but not too full to make movement around the site difficult and there was a pleasingly varied mix of people in attendance.
Black Deer isn’t perfect by any means – there were logistical issues for audience, performers and press that could be tightened up – but such is the friendliness of the whole affair, that you’ll struggle to find anything else that succeeds in bringing Roots and Americana to a mass audience in such a successful way. Other festivals with a similar musical focus are often preaching to the musically converted – Black Deer is bringing new and younger ears to the herd.

Review by Nick Barber

#Photo – Mike Scott of the Waterboys.
More photos from Nick here: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10158582215302115&set=pcb.10158582222807115

RMHQ Radio Show Ep:5 at Nova Radio NE

RMHQ Radio Show Ep:5
Nova Radio NE
Sunday 13th June 2022

Thanks everyone for tuning in; the figures are already 3 x what listened to our first show a month ago; and the ‘Listen Again’ is booming too …. everyone at HQ is over the metaphorical moon.
This week’s show was another mix of what we call Roots, Blues and Americana … even pushing the boundaries with a couple of edgy songs.
As is becoming ‘usual’ the final tracks I played bore very little resemblance to what I set out to play …. hey ho ….I really enjoyed it all and hope you found something that either intrigued you or made you want to buy a song or too.

#Buiy Don’t Spotify

Allman BrosRamblin’ Man
Allman Betts BandSouthern Accents
Elizabeth CookEl Camiino
Eric Burdongto
Alan PriceSavaloy Dip
Davina & The VagabondsSugar Kisses
Billy Bragg & Joe HenryRock Island Line
Jim WhiteErnest T Bass
Big Harp GeorgeUptown Cool
Blinddog Smokin’Bayou Lady
Drive By-TruckersThoughts and Prayers
Elles BaileyCheats and Liars
Green On RedTime Ain’t Nothing
Los LobosFlat Top Joint
Los PacaminosRaised on Margaritas
Dale WatsonAin’t That Livin’
Rob Heron & Tea Pad OrchestraSoul of My City
Rod PicottMark of Your Father
Larkin PoeHorseshoes and Hand Grenades
Billy Bob ThorntonPrivate Radio
Nev ClayLeaving Do
Bo DiddleyRoadrunner
Chuck BerryRock & Roll Music
SWEATY LAMARRAbbey I’m sorry I stole your man
Jason RingenbergGod Bless The Ramones
Speedbuggy USALast Train to Clarkesville
Angaleena PresleyMotel Bibles

David Olney NEVERMORE (Live in Holland)

David Olney
Nevermore (Live in Holland)
Strictly Country Records

One of America’s Greatest Yet Undervalued, Singer-Songwriter Troubadours

Where to start?
Obviously only a couple of weeks ago I reviewed the companion piece to this Live Album; EVERMORE recorded over a couple of years at concerts hosted and recorded by his friend Pieter Groenveld, (Founder of Strictly Country Records) and this is the last in the series.
Not a lot is different from my words on that other release, as the format is exactly the same with David accompanied by Daniel Seymour in presumably the same venues.
In the interim I’ve given a lot of thought to David Olney’s ‘work’ ….. I love the depths he plunges and the way he can make the ‘ordinary’ thing sound ‘extraordinary’ with his words and enunciation. Plus; he seamlessly straddles the worlds of Folk Singers, Country Singers and what we now know as Americana with effortless grace; probably making him the Last of the Troubadours?
That said; knowing that this is the ‘last’ recording of a David Olney concert adds a certain pathos that wouldn’t be there were he still alive today.
With no introduction NEVERMORE starts with a heartfelt rendition of Crack In The Wall with some mighty harsh guitar playing to accompany one of Olney’s darker tales.
The mood picks up (slightly) with Ice Cold Water and if you are new to his works; these two songs alone will test your desire to investigate further; and if you get past them you are in for a rare treat discovering one of the Music Industry’s finest Troubadours.
As I’m prone to saying ‘there’s not a lot of laughs’ here’ but that’s because at a David Olney concert; the drole humour comes in his introductions and stories; not usually in the songs themselves.
As something of a ‘fan’ I’m really impressed by the song selection on these albums; I was aware of several ….. Wall, This Side or The Other and Sweet Sugaree spring to mind; and surpass my memories of each as David dredges the bottom of his heart to create these massive tales.
Tucked away in the middle is one of David Olney’s lesser known masterpieces; from 1997’s REAL LIES, the slow burning and claustrophobic Border Town becomes a cornerstone for all else to hang off.
A quick check of my collection shows that the captivating Rex’s Blues and Innocent Heart were there all along; but my memory isn’t what it used to be …. so this has been something of a refresher course.
The biggest pleasure here; as it always was seeing David in Concert was the way his would drop a musical time-bomb into the set list; and here it’s the low down dirty Blues of Slim Slammy and his thoughtful variation of New York Mining Disaster 1941; which was certainly a contender for Favourite Song.
That title ends up being a metaphorical knife fight between the beautiful Ferris Wheel and his stark reworking of the Classic Buddy Holly song; Everyday ….. which could and should have been an Olney original when you hear it.

I’m not sure why EVERMORE and NEVERMORE weren’t released as a Double Album; as the songs are different on both; but seperate albums they are and I heartily recommend you buy both as an insight into the work of one of America’s greatest yet undervalued singer-songwriters in the the Americana/Country community but hopefully I’m wrong; but there’s always the possibility, like so many others ….. that an untimely death becomes a great career move!

Released June 10th 2022



Mary Gauthier
Dark Enough To See The Stars
Thirty Tigers

Masterful Songwriter Comes out Sparkling From A Melting Pot of Life, Death and Love.

The songwriter’s songwriter, Mary Gauthier returns with her follow-up to “Rifles and Rosary Beads” and, as its title suggests is a collection of songs that, by and large, seek out the light amongst the darkness of the world.

The album begins with a trio of what might be classed as love songs – on the opener, Danny Mitchell’s keys create a loping backing reminiscent of The Band set against a paean to the redemptive power of love in a world gone mad
You’re my girl – in this broken heart-fall-apart world
– it finds Gauthier in fine melodic voice too.
“Amsterdam” which follows, is piano-led Dylan-esque observation in ballad form, about the living power of relationship moment set against the background of a cityscape – there’s a danger in singing about positivity in stepping over the boundaries of sentimentality, but Gauthier’s close and quirky observations keep this the right side of that tape – and it’s done in catchy sing-along form too – it’s definitely going to end up as a live favourite.
“Thank God For You” appropriately adopts a melodic minor key gospel musical vein for a song of salvation through love – it’s peppered with observations about life’s detritus that the narrator has risen above and the use of context and contrast again stamps the song with the ring of authenticity.

“How Could You Be Gone?” tackles the shock and disbelief of losing someone with a series of sharply observed snapshots and lyrical vignettes – similarly “Where Are You Now?” is reflective both musically and lyrically in its ruminations on loss – and uses language of landscape figuratively to explore the titular question.
Title track “Dark Enough To See The Stars” a co-write with Beth Nielsen Chapman finds some resolution and comfort in the fact that although friends may not physically be still with us, their love is – musically, soaring backing vocals from Jaimee Harris and tremulous twangy guitar and piano complement the emotional core of the song.

“The Meadow” deals with temporary temporal situations – living in a moment and finding some love in it amongst life’s fleeting circumstances.
Fats Kaplin provides washes of ghostly pedal steel to underscore the piano/vocal narrative. “Truckers and Troubadours”, in itself a very Gauthier sounding title, creates kinship and life metaphor in the shared experiences of two types of road warriors – like John Prine or Tom Waits, Gauthier’s songs are laced with individuals – not cyphers of stereotypes – and that’s what lifts this above and beyond.
“About Time” also deals with travel and life’s journeys and experiences
so many thoughts to think” …
“and I try not to think – about time”.
There’s a laconic sense of carpe diem which provides a catalyst for our lives’ movement forwards.

The album comes to a close with “Til I See You Again” – Gauthier returns to the subject of those who have left us -delicate finger-picking frames the message to those no longer with us
may you sleep inside the stillness of the night – til I see you again
-it’s a reflective and reassuring end (sic).

Once again, Mary Gauthier doesn’t disappoint – the title “Dark Enough To See The Stars” perfectly encapsulates the melting pot of life, death and love that she’s conjured up here, forcing her into new emotional corners and seeing her coming out the other end sparkling.

Released June 3rd 2022
Review by Nick Barber


RMHQ Radio Show SUNDAY 5th June

RMHQ Radio Show Ep:4
Sunday 5th June 2022
Nova Radio NE (Newcastle)

Well; we made it through another exciting episode without any ‘potty mouthed’ songs!
As expected it was another eclectic mix of Americana and Roots Music; albeit with the boundary being pushed here and there ….. but, what the Hell? Hopefully there’s something here you’ve either never heard before or at least not for a long time.

ZZ TOPCheap Sunglasses
Lindi OrtegaCigarettes and Truckstops
Little FeatWillin
Mary GauthierTruckers and Troubadours
Kevin CostnerTop Down
Robert Conolly FarrHey Mr Devil
Jimmy Duck HolmesLittle Red Rooster
My Girl the RiverSomething in The Water
Kelly Joe PhelpsPiece by Piece
Gem AndrewsCome a Long Way
Steve EarleMr Bojangles
Jerry Jeff WalkerViva Luchenback
VandoliersBefore The Fall
Sam BakerMigrants
Roy PeakThe Radioactive Kid
The PopravinasDo The Creep
Carter SampsonRattlesnake Kate
Dolan SpringsLittle Dreams
Hogtown AllstarsSubway Casanova
Toy HeartsTequila and High Heals
Wayne HancockLove You Always
Tom PettyAmerican Girl
Hollis BrownLady Jane
Sir Douglas QuintetShe’s About a Mover
Willie NileA Little Bit of Love

Steve Earle JERRY JEFF

Steve Earle
Jerry Jeff
New West

A Heartfelt Tribute to a Friend, Mentor and Founding Father of Americana.

I like to think of myself as a Steve Earle fan; but don’t own all of his records; dipping in and out over the years but still owning 11 albums, including the last one; JT the tribute to his son Justin Townes Earle.
With that in mind I was wondering; only a couple of weeks ago what his next album would be like; as he’s known for digging deep into his soul and writing some very dark songs in recent years.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find it was going to be a tribute to his friend, Jerry Jeff Walker …. although it took another death to get Earle to go back into the studio.
Although I was vaguely aware of Jerry Jeff Walker by name; I don’t own a single song of his and was therefore depending on Steve to ‘teach me’ about him.
I love the way Earle starts the album by singing an introduction to himself and ‘why’ he made the record then using the same melody gliding seamlessly into Gettin’ By. In some ways I was relieved at the relaxed manner of song and especially the relatively jovial guitar/fiddle interplay and the actual melody too.
This is followed by Gypsy Songman, which was apparantly Walker’s ‘signature tune’ and the way Steve and the Dukes & Duchesses collectively get stuck in, make it something akin to a polka; ably aided by some swinging accordion that had me tapping my toes in time.
As I say, I have no idea what the originals sound like; so I’m going to have to presume Steve Earle is paying respect by keeping them ‘as they were’ and trusting his voice to make them Steve Earle songs.
If that’s the case I don’t know why I’ve missed out on Walker’s albums; as they seem right up my street; not least the jaunty I Make Money (Money Don’t Make Me), Charlie Dunn and the deep and introspective Wheel; all of which are entirely different ….. but stories within Americana songs that have affected me in different ways over the last few days.
Then there’s Mr. Bojangles which I associate with Sammy Davis Jr. and the like (and Mrs Magpie owns a Robbie Williams album with it on too ….. which we don’t talk about!) but who knew it was originally a Country-Folk song written and first recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker?
Just me then?
In its own way; it sounds absolutely perfect for Earle’s gritty and road worn vocals; especially when joined by that haunting accordion and some extraordinary guitar picking from Steve and Chris Masterson (I presume).
Just like Steve Earle over the years; Jerry Jeff Walker seems to be at his best when he writes about things and people and things around him; with My Old Man sounding like it must be totally true; and Old Road being one of those songs that fans will keep under wraps as it’s too good to share; and here the wheezing harmonica accompaniment gives it a pre-War Blues ‘feeling’ in the style of Leadbelly or even Son House ….. but it’s also unmistakingly Steve Earle singing Jerry Jeff Walker.
As this has been surprise after surprise for me; I’ve had to think long and hard to choose a Favourite Track; until I finally selected Hill Country Rain which is a full on band effort, that occasionally threatens to get out of hand ….. but never does as these cats are too damn professional for that. Plus Walker’s words are too damn good to mess up!
I’ve learnt a lot here (plus I’ve NOW bought two Jerry Jeff albums too) mostly from the songs; but for once a Press Release has been a good read too; with Steve explaining how he first discovered Walker via a copy of Mr. Bojangles aged 14, then after Earle moved to Nashville in the 1970s, he had the opportunity to get to know Walker, who enlisted him as his designated driver.

As Steve says;
This record completes the set, the work of my first-hand teachers,” Earle writes in the liner notes, referencing 2009’s TOWNES and 2019’s GUY, which he made after the deaths of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.

Released May 27th 2022