Scott H Biram FEVER DREAMS

Scott H Biram
Fever Dreams\
Bloodshot Records

Truly Authentic Soul Cleansing Country-Blues Rises From the Swamps.

Apparently this release came out of the blue as much for the record label as for music fans.
While I understand the Taylor Swift’s of this world needing to plan album releases months and years in advance; but for the likes of Scott H Biram and his fans; anytime is a good time …….. and with the current state of the world as 2020 grinds to an end like a ’67 Mustang on one brake pad; perhaps this is the right time?
With the Reverend Biram you never know quite what to expect; and here opening track Fever Dreams is a lot less ‘fire and brimstone’ than some of his more recent releases but as the title suggests; is intense, sweaty and quite oppressive in many ways; and his guitar picking alternates between scratchy and sublime ……. yep; he’s still on form in every way.
Like the rest of us I guess Scott would like a modicum of fame and fortune; but it will only come when the world and more importantly, the Music Industry ‘gets on board’ his three wheeled wagon; as his idea of ‘commercial’ – Single Again, Hallelu and the raggedly beautiful Can’t Stay Long sadly, won’t ever bother the Grammy Board….. and my world is a whole better place because of that.
Even other Blues/Folk singers in this idiom tend to have a format that they follow; not so Scott Biram …….. that last song, Can’t Stay Long is the best song Johnny Cash never recorded; but it’s followed by the fearsome Psych-Cowpunk of Drunk Again … I imagine the reverential crowds at his gigs will take a step back when he plays it live; in case the sparks from his guitar set fire to their Souls!
Never ‘Easy Listening’ and nor is it meant to be; songs like Whatcha Gonna Do and Chickens will scare the Bejasus out of most people who hear them; but others will whisper the word ‘genius’ with absolutely no irony at all; such is the effect this cat has on music fans.
With such an eclectic; or should that be erratic collection of songs it’s been mighty difficult to choose a Favourite; although I seem to have narrowed the runners and riders down to three; and they couldn’t be more different from each other if he tried; and I guess he did.
Biram even finds time to include a fairly (by his standards) straight-edged instrumental with Can’t Stay Gone (Goodnight From the Highway), but I worry if I play it backwards at 45RPM it will actually be a Strauss composition …. heeheeheehee.
Hobo Jungle is a ‘love song’ but not in the Frank Sinatra way; this is both rustic and rusty and sums up many of our feelings in a whole new way.
Monkey David Wine is ……. I’m not sure actually; but channel the Mekons through Lynard Skynard and RL Burnside then listen after a night on the beer and it might all make sense; until then just turn it up to 11 and forget all of your woes.
The last of the trio is Everything Just Slips Away, a haunting Country-Blues that sounds like it’s risen right out of the Swamp at midnight under a full moon and, as of its melancholic beauty I’m saying this is and will be my Favourite Song here … for now.
With this release only arriving a couple of days ago I probably haven’t had time to digest absolutely everything here; but my gut reaction is is that even though Biram somehow channels every musical genre from Punk to Metal via Country at one time or another; I think the overall album is a direct descendent from Robert Johnson and Leadbelly ……. this is the Blues in every shape, form and heartbeat; and while it’s as far from being a Christmas record as you can get; it may be what we need to cleanse our Souls as this horrendous year finally peters out.

Released November 27th 2020
https://www.scotthbiram.com/

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The Ghost of Paul Revere GOOD AT LOSING EVERYTHING

The Ghost of Paul Revere
GOOD AT LOSING EVERYTHING
Rocksnob/Rootsy

Left Field Lo-Fi Americana Full of Light and Shade.

While the stable this album came from knows my tastes better than most; and only sends things they ‘know’ I will like; it’s still somehow sat around the RMHQ Office waiting patiently for my attention, without ever wondering why I’ve listened to something much more ordinary.
But yesterday; the day after release …. I did play it and ……. WOW ….. WOOooooooSH and indeed WOWSER!
It quite took my breath away.
As is my won’t, the first track on a new album has to catch my attention for me to carry on listening …… and Good at Losing Everything, with it’s Gospelish opening; a stunning banjo retort and a singer who sounds like he’s only stopped crying seconds before entering the studio almost took my breath away.
Of course it’s a sad song; check the title out …… but the way the words are delivered make it brittley beautiful in a tattered and tragic kind of way.
I’m five hours into the album now and while The Ghost of Paul Revere aren’t quite as Alt. Country as I’d first thought; they are the epitome of Lo-Fi Americana in the way the songs tell their intimate and romantic (with a small r) stories of the people that inhabit their world.
Check out One of These Days or Diving Bell to hear what I’m talking about; and even the quirky arrangements on Travel On fit that bill too.
My copy doesn’t tell me who sings what; but all three core members (Max Davis [banjo], Sean McCarthy [bass], and Griffin Sherry [guitar] all appear to take the lead at one time or another; and when they harmonise …….. #swoon.
I’d not heard of them before picking up this CD; but it appears the band were first formed in 2011 and have released a couple of albums and EP’s; but also racking up millions of ‘streams’ across the various Interweb services; an apprenticeship which all comes together (I suppose) to maturely gel on the likes of Loneliness and Love at Your Convenience; which could easily both have been quite makish in lesser hands; but here are both powerful and insightful; while also getting your heart to pump a little faster without you knowing it.
While many of their peers find a particular musical automatic gear and away they go; The Ghost of Paul Revere somehow crank through the manual gears; offering light and shade from track to track and occasionally; in the case of Two Hundred and Twenty Six Days and Delirare; inside an individual song, which is a clever trick to pull off.
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on them; The Ghost of Paul Revere throw a curve ball by infusing string sections, looping, and adding a mellotron into the ‘interludes’ ’28:27′ and the outro ‘We Were Born Wild.’
As is the case these days;it’s no longer important to desperately try to write a Hit (i.e Commercial) Song; which gives writers like these guys the freedom to just follow their heart; which brings me to my choice of Favourite Song; the punchy harmonica laden, When Can I See You Again?
There’s more than a hint of Chicago Blues in the melody; but take a step back and you can imagine The Band; or more aptly, Levon Helm rasping out a glorious version in an outtake from the Lat Waltz.
Without having heard their back catalogue; I can still imagine that a gig from The Ghost of Paul Revere will be an event well worth catching.

Released November 27th 2020
https://www.ghostofpaulrevere.com/

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Margo Price RIVER (by Joni Mitchell)

Margo Price
RIVER (by Joni Mitchell)

 Margo Price welcomes the holidays with the release of “River,” a special rendition of one of her favorite Joni Mitchell songs.
While Mitchell has been a life-long inspiration for Price, Margo first debuted her cover of “River” during the Village of Love benefit for Planned Parenthood this fall.
Now, accompanying herself on keys, she captures the wishful, wistful feelings behind the Christmastime classic, more prevalent than ever as we prepare to face the challenges of a winter like no other.
With the song Margo sends fans a message of peace and love for the rest of the year, and the hope for 2021 to be everything 2020 wasn’t. 

Released December 1st 2020

Little Richard SOUTHERN CHILD

Little Richard
Southern Child
Omnivore Recordings

The King of Rock & Roll Was the Forefather Of Alt. Country Too!

Those fine folks at Omnivore recordings sure have the ability to unearth some forgotten gems; often hidden away in Record Company vaults covered in dust and spiders.
As a for instance, who knew the self-proclaimed King of Rock and Roll recorded so many albums in the 1970’s and that one; this one ……. was what we have come to know as Alternative Country?
Apart from appearing on a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ compilation in 2005, SOUTHERN CHILD has been hidden from public view ever since it was recorded in 1972 as a follow up to King of Rock & Roll; but rEPRISE label executives didn’t know what to make of it; and I’m damn sure his legions of fans wouldn’t have either!
If you had accepted a lift from Marty McFly in his DeLorean that year and landed in 2020 (God forbid!!) you’d have discovered that what Little Richard was doing then; is actually now commonplace; in fact if I was to do a ‘blind tasting’ I swear 9 out of 10 music cats would think this was from Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed or St. Paul and the Broken Bones or their like; but ….. Hell’s Teeth music lovers; this is … and only can be Little Richard.
When he bellows “I was born in the Country and raised in the County!” at the start of California (I’m Comin’) there’s that instant thrill that you’re in the presence of someone really special.
This song in particular just oozes the smells of the swamps and roadhouses that line them; Little Richard just bleeds sleaze and sass in every line and stanza.
Track #2 will stagger his old school fans; as it’s a lot slower and based around an acoustic guitar; although the rather amorphous title, If You Pick Her Too Hard (She’ll Go Out of Tune) and the way he sings it, could easily be a double entendre.
I’ve listened to this as a ‘brand new album’ and you should too; otherwise you end up in a rabbit hole comparing and contrasting with things that don’t actually exist.
This was obviously a very brave change of direction from the Master; and one that backfired …….. but when I first heard the title track Southern Child and I Git a Little Lonely I genuinely and absent mindedly thought “I would love to see this guy live belting these out at SummerTyne Festival.”
DOH!

But the whole album sounds so fresh; and often exciting too …. with the soul searching Ain’t No Telling and an early contender for Favourite Track status; Last Year’s Race Horse (Can’t Win This Year’s Race) which metaphorically touched places most other songs can’t for a man my age.
In fairness I could live without ever hearing Puppy Dog Song again (and that’s true of the 3 In The Name outtakes too; but that’s more than recompensed with by the addition of the Country Rock fantastique instrumental Sneak the Freak tagged on at the end.
For my actual Favourite track her I’ve been torn between In The Name (take #3) which sees Penneman pouring his heart out alongside some sublime slide guitar and a wailing harmonica; and becomes as harrowing and Soul searching as Country Music gets. Yet at the other end of the Love Song spectrum; Burning Up With Love is a right ybelter; and I’m going for the latter as it sounds as fresh and truly exciting as anything the young ‘uns in this category will release in the next 2 or 3 years; which is amazing when you consider that it’s nigh on half a century old and initially; wasn’t deemed good enough for release.
Once you get past the album cover; which is ‘of its time’ and very, very Little Richard; you are in for a right royal treat from the one time King of Rock and Roll who; apparantly was the forefather of Alt. Country too.

Released (yellow vinyl) November 27th 2020
Released (CD & Stream) December 5th 2020


Steve Earle HARLEM RIVER BLUES (Single)

Steve Earle
Harlem River Blues
New West Records

Oh man!
I heard a rumour a month or so ago ……. and now here it is; Steve Sings Justin!
Me? I’ve been a fan of Steve Earle’s ever since Copperhead Road; but….. and those who know me will confirm it; I’m actually more a fan of Justin Townes Earle; whose songs have ‘touched me’ in so many ways, over the years; few more so than Harlem River Blues.

Here’s what else you need to know ……. On the forthcoming album, J.T., Steve Earle & The Dukes pay tribute to Steve’s late son, Justin Townes Earle (J.T.), who passed away on August 20, 2020 in Nashville.
The album will be released digitally on what would have been Justin’s 39th birthday, January 4, 2021, CD and vinyl formats will release March 19, 2021.

The first track, “Harlem River Blues” is available to stream today. The poignant song is one of Justin’s best-known compositions and took Song of the Year honors at the 2011 Americana Music Awards ceremony following Justin’s win in the Emerging Artist of the Year category in 2009.

100% of the artist advances and royalties from J.T. will be donated to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle. While sombre in parts, the album is ultimately a rousing celebration of a life lived with passion and purpose.

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Ben Glover SWEET WILD LILY (ep)

Ben Glover
Sweet Wild Lily (EP)
Proper Records

A Storyteller of the Finest Hue, Using the Medium of Music to Reel the Listener In.

Good luck to Northern Irish singer-songwriter Ben Glover, who has made quite the name for himself in recent years as a ‘go to’ co-songwriter; most notably with the delectable Gretchen Peters; but a multitude of others too.
But …… and this is a very personal ‘but’ …… I just wish that fame and (hopefully) fortune had come via his own solo work; because it certainly deserves it.
He’s been a busy lad in the last few years; meaning this Four Track release is his first since SHOREBOUND in 2018; and has been a very welcome surprise at RMHQ this week.
The ever so delicate and charming title track Sweet Wild Lily opens the proceedings in a timeless and almost haunting manner. Glover’s distinctive voice aches with longing as he tells the tale of lost love; or is it just plain unrequited as the target of his admirations treads her very own path that doesn’t always include him.
Without reading the accompanying Press Release; I’m not sure if I’ve heard Arguing With Ghosts before; it certainly sounds as if I should have, if I haven’t*. Written alongside the enigmatic Matraca Berg; Colm McLean’s shimmering guitar makes an already haunting tale almost frightening in it’s delivery.
A little part of me was hoping that Broke Down would be Slaid Cleaves’ song of the same name; but nope, it’s actually a Glover/Gretchen Peters song; and as Country as I’ve ever heard Ben; courtesy of a nascent banjo/pedal-steel combo in the background ……. but it will be his stinging words what you remember hours and even days afterwards.
This only leaves the single Fireflies Dancing to tell you about. But that’s not as easy as you’d imagine.
Put simply; this is one of the finest and deepest songs I’ve heard this year – and I’ve heard a lot.
A relatively simple production and arrangement masks a song that I’m 99% sure is destined for numerous Country/Americana albums in the next few years; sometimes sung solo alongside an old acoustic guitar and also when it’s almost unrecognisable with a big ole rocking band and a singer in a Trucker cap and Redwings; and it lends itself to everything in between too.
Ben Glover is first and foremost a storyteller of the finest hue, one who uses the medium of music to reel the listener in; and he does it like an age old Irish Mystic.

*Doh!! Of course Arguing With Ghosts is the opening track on Gretchen Peters’ DANCING WITH THE BEAST from 2018!

Released November 13th 2020
https://www.benglover.co.uk/

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DAVE ALVIN From an Old Guitar (Unreleased Recordings).

DAVE ALVIN
From an Old Guitar (Unreleased Recordings).
Yep Roc Records

Long Lost Americana Gems Rescued For Posterity.

It’s over 40 years since The Blasters first propelled the Alvin Brothers onto the world stage; predominantly revolving around elder brother Phil the main vocalist and brother and lead guitarist, Dave. The brother’s explosive relationship is well documented; and eventually the younger sibling eventually split from the band in 1986 to pursue his own more singular career.
Since then Dave Alvin has provided a plethora of musical options for his fans and thankfully the two things that have remained constant, over the decades, is the quality of the music and that wonderful deep, dark baritone voice.

As a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and a more than willing collaborator he has few equals.
So, in 2020, with the world in the depths of a weird and scary pandemic, filling recording studios with human players and knob twiddlers has become nigh on impossible.
What’s a creative boy to do?
Well, if you’re Dave Alvin you have a look at your library of past recordings that, for one reason or another, were left off previous releases; and you also consider tracks that furnished various tributes etc. and then pull them together into a mighty fine 16 track album.
It’s no-where near a potentially unbalanced hotchpotch, it’s not even an incongruous collection, it just bloomin’ well works as a ‘complete ALBUM’ in its own rite.
If you know anything about Dave Alvin then his humble, self-deprecating approach to life and especially to his music has always been with his feet firmly on the ground, remaining staunchly modest whilst delivering continual, persistent, high-grade, end product.

From an old Guitar and Unreleased Recordings has 13 sublime cover versions and 3 self-penned numbers, cutting across various genres. Additionally, there’s an unbelievable array of guest contributors, including some much loved friends who are sadly no longer with us.
The lead track sets the tone with a Chris Smither cover, “Link of Chain” followed by Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” which had been a pre-release teaser single.
Lil’ Hardin Armstrong’s “Perido Street Blues” and Earl Hooker’s “Variations on Earl Hooker’s Guitar Rhumba” are both absolutely first class, rousing instrumentals and well worthy of inclusion.
On My Way Downtown,” from the pen of Peter & Joshua Case features two of the unfortunately departed, with Amy Farris’ violin and Chris Gaffney’s accordion helping provide a somewhat Celtic sound, which you don’t normally associate with Dave Alvin.

Wyman Reese adds a beautiful, restrained piano on the cover of Bill Morrisey’s “Inside,” whilst Gaffney tinkles the ivories, as well as adding accordion, on the prolific Bob McDill’s “Amanda,” which happened to be the eighth number one country hit for Waylon Jennings back in 1974.
As you might expect, the tempo increases on the cover of Link Wray’s “Albuquerque,” where Alvin himself delivers some fine wah-wah guitar. Obviously, the Blues come to the fore whenever anyone covers a Willie Dixon song, and Dave’s low pitched voice convincingly projects the lyrics of “Peace,” which are just as relevant today as they were when Dixon recorded the original almost 50 years ago.
You make a deaf man hear and a dumb man speak,
but It don’t make sense if you can’t make peace

If I had to choose a favourite track then two contenders jump out.
Firstly, one of Alvin’s own compositions, the third instrumental called “Crazy and Ignatz” which just has Alvin strummin’ his trusty 1934 National Steel Duolian Guitar paired with some superb Dobro from one of his hugely talented Guilty Women, Cindy Cashdollar.
However, just easing it out and into my actual top-spot is a lively version of Mickey Newbury’s “Mobile Blue,” which has one of the weirder starts you’ll ever hear, with Bill Frisell’s backwards guitar intro.

Currently there are some fine new releases by artists recording basic and simple albums, often re-interpreting their Greatest Hits in the comfort of their own home studio.
Modern technology has made this eminently possible for almost everyone. Clearly, not an option chosen by Dave Alvin.
Here’s the puzzler though; if many of these songs were deemed unsuitable for previous albums, then we all should promptly re-visit his esteemed catalogue of work to re-affirm just how marvellous and pleasurable a musician he is.
Thank goodness these beauties have been rescued from the cutting room floor and packaged into a well balanced and extremely entertaining album that I am personally struggling to take off the CD player.

Jack Kidd – “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released on 20th. November 2020
https://www.davealvin.net/
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Doug Schmude MILEPOSTS

Doug Schmude
Mileposts
Self-Release

Charming Alt. Country With a Folk Troubadour’s Insight Into Our World.

One of the biggest dilemmas we face here in Reviewerland is actually remembering all of the albums we’ve reviewed!
I’m pretty good with names; but the music? Hmmm ….. not always.
So when Doug Schmude got in touch a few weeks ago like a long lost friend, his name rang a bell but it took two days for me to find the 2018 album I had raved about, but I had and it was with genuine pleasure that I said ‘yes’ to a copy of his latest EP of Alt. Country-Folk, Mileposts.
The first word that comes to mind now I’ve played it a few times is ‘charming’; and that’s meant in a positive way; especially as many of the albums we hear are ‘worthy’ and ‘angsty’ and very occasionally ‘piss n vinegary’ all of which have a place in my heart; but sometimes I just want to hear happy pleasant music; sung with joy and love.
MILEPOSTS falls into this latter category; starting with Ballad of Early, which took a couple of days to unravel; but when it did I let out a ‘tee hee.’ A genuinely clever song with a neat twist that you sort of expect; but when it does still comes as a surprise.
As someone with not a single musical bone in my body; I’m always impressed when I hear a songwriter take a tired old ‘theme’ like breaking up with a loved one; and putting their own distinctive stamp on it …… which is exactly what Schmude does with Lines on My Face; arguably the type of song Guy Clark may have written on his last couple of records.
The title track Mileposts is a real ole toe-tapper which will appeal to fellow troubadours and people with itchy-feet, who can’t stay in one place too long; never putting down roots and developing grown up relationships …. which is a pretty brave thing to write about, when you think about it.
Let’s skip back to track #2, Crow.
Probably the most charming song here; the Hill Country toe-tapper Crow; and the first time I played it I thought, “is this a John Prine song?” Checked, and obviously it isn’t but sounds as if it’s been heavily influenced by our dear departed friend.

I mention this because the final song here is ……. A World Without John Prine, which will squeeze the tears out of your eyes like very few others as this year develops; and given a fair wind could be picked up by other singers for inclusion on their albums and/or at least House Concerts.
Then there is Maybe I Won’t Go Home.
WOW!
It would have been far too easy to choose the John Prine song as my Favourite; but Schmude’s acutely observed tale Maybe I Won’t Go Home deserves the accolade for the intelligent way Doug tells his sorrowful tale in a clear, succinct and just short of tearful way.
Here the Californian (out of Oklahoma) channels his inner Woody Guthrie and Tom Paxton, as he articulates a tale that will resonate across every town, city and state in the USA but across the whole Western World.
I somehow doubt this song will make him his fortune or win a Grammy; but trust me ……. Doug Schmude can be a very proud man for writing this song.

Released November 6th 2020
http://www.dougschmude.net/

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Andrew Grimm A LITTLE HEAT

Andrew Grimm
A Little Heat
Whistle Pig Records

Alt. Country Full Of Electric Tension and Bedazzling Lyrics.

If I’m totally honest, this album very nearly passed me by. As I keep whining RMHQ is becoming inundated with new releases and while that’s satisfying my ego; even with the aid of our new writers it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up; and I’m sure some diamonds are falling by the wayside.
Thankfully the Press Agent dropped me a ‘reminder’ and I played this late one night travelling home from work …… and by track #6 the volume had been cranked up to 9!
Not that this is a RAWK album by any means; but the songs just seemed to need to be played LOUD, which may be partly due to Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel’s mighty fine production.
The opening ‘noise’ to first song Out of Control certainly captures the attention; then the following dark and eerie and coldly atmospheric Alt. Country tone setter, with it’s militaristic drum beat feels like an upper cut to the jaw; not quite enough to knock you out ….. but so powerful your legs will wobble.
But, it’s as a wordsmith that Andrew Grimm really shines:
The boiling point has been reached
and this snake must stop swallowing its own tail
.”
Next track, Uh Huh sounds slightly more up-tempo; but when it finally unravels (for me the third time I heard it) it too is a dark tale; and like the majority of what follows is a story taken from what Grimm has seen around him in America during 2020; and therefore precludes happy/clappy dance tunes!
An electric tension sparks right throughout Lie Until It’s True; which is an insightful view of the current President of the USA (as of October 30th!) (*and the Prime Minister of the UK btw) ……. echoes of Neil Young and Crazy Horse abound in every chord and word.
Remember I said he was a ‘wordsmith’?
Check these lines out …
Desperation fuels defiance
and the first act of revolution is naming the transgression,
so there is no mistaking mistake
when you are offered a lie as a truth
.”
I pray that there’s a DJ out there somewhere that has the testicles to play Money Is a Motherfucker one night! Again it sounds like something Neil would have recorded around Zuma; and sadly the sentiment herein was just as apt then as it is in 2020.
Andrew can play a mean acoustic too; which compliments the intensity of The Machine in a rather bedazzling manner; even if I do say so, and the slower pace allows Grimm’s words to seep into your subconscious like a melodic fog.
Although not evident the first time you play the title track, A Little Heat, subsequently you will find that the writer does believe that there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’; just it’s a very long tunnel.
I’m sticking this in the Alt. Country file; as it’s probably too dark and broody for yer normal Rock fans; especially the two tracks that I’m deciding between for the title of Favourite Song.
The finale; Take Me To the Light; pays a homage to Lou Reed, as these words were the last he spoke; and while not exactly straying from his own ‘formula’ captures the spirit of Lou on this rather amazing and starkly beautiful song.
The other; and song I’m probably erring towards is Don’t Die For Their Money as it really is a song for our times; and sadly a timeless one at that. Grimm somehow manages to capture the current zeitgeist in his prose; and yet again his poetic words are shrouded inside a very intense sound, that will send a shiver down the back of the unwary listener; as will the words when you take them out of their natural context;
Don’t die for their money, you’re better than that
Tear down their temples, nothing burns like cash
The way you’ve been talking, sounds like truth
You light the match, and I’ll hold the fuse
.”
If you’ve lasted until the very end; and many won’t; you will be the type of music fan; like me who will subsequently be shouting Andrew Grimm’s name from the rooftop at every opportunity …… and that’s to the benefit of everyone who hears us.

*Andrew Grimm is the singer-songwriter behind the long-running Baltimore, Maryland band, June Star. The group formed in 1998, and over the last 20 years, he has been blurring country and rock and roll sounds while writing songs about love.
Grimm is an English professor at McDaniel College (Westminster, MD), where he trains freshmen how to dig deeply into a text, pull it apart, understand it, and ultimately respond.

Released October 30th 2020
https://www.junestar.com/band

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