RMHQ Radio Show Episode:43 Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Sunday 26th March 2023
Where does the time go? It only seems 5 minutes since last Sunday’s show. This week is another heady and eclectic mix of all things Roots Music; with an assortment of old and new Country Music mixed in with some wonderful and occasionally odd Blues Music with a couple of Folk songs in to keep your attention. I sometimes worry that the music I select is too eclectic; but these selections are all to my taste and reflect the reviews we do …. so there’s not a lot I can or want to do to change the format too much.
A Beautifully Distinctive Voice Singing Heartfelt Contemporary Americana.
I really ‘like’ the cover artwork; and that’s what initially drew me to the album; as I didn’t recognise the singers’ name. Twenty minute and/or four songs later I was scrambling for the Press Release; as Lauren Morrow’s voice had me totally smitten. Who knew; but she was only the singer in The Whiskey Gentry before flying the nest in 2018 to record a solo EP. Now I’ve played PEOPLE TALK 5 or 6 times I’m really impressed with everything here; especially the songwriting; but the arrangements and sensitive production are well worth mentioning in despatches too. Opening track I’m Sorry sounds suspiciously like a ‘Power Ballad’ the first time you hear it; but the way it builds and builds in an intense manner as Lauren’s voice swoops and soars like an Eagle makes this a song surely destined for mainstream radio. I will have to be careful with my descriptions herewith; as we normally like our Americana and Alt. Country a bit more ragged around the edges than the majority of what follows; but the way Lauren (alongside husband Jason) doesn’t shy away from being Commercial and/or Contemporary on these DIY songs; not least Looking For Trouble and the fabulous Family Tree which certainly won’t sound out of place on a DAB radio in the Tesla. It’s fair to say that Lauren Morrow has a distinctive voice; a genuine soprano with a vulnerable vibrato too, makes her sound like no one else I can instantly think of; but of course a ‘voice’ is only half the story …. it’s the songs that will bring people to the music time and time again; which is exactly what will happen when you hear the brittle Birthday and the rockier Only Nice When I’m High; which deals with her lifelong feelings of vulnerability …. and, alongside the anthemic Nobody But Me will become a soundtrack to the lives of many other young women too. The title track, People Talk is a bit of a curve ball; using what sounds like a drum machine ‘tshing and clicking’ in the background (I could be wrong of course) aligned to some ‘radio chatter’ half way through and even a saxophone sliding in and out; but bizarrely … it works and doesn’t ‘jar’ in a way that it should. Choosing a Favourite Song has become a little bit easier than I’d first feared. Like most everyone else, I was drawn to the razor-sharp, slick and toe-tapping Hustle; which turns out to be the true story of how Lauren and Jason have got through the last few years; going from job to job getting enough money to pay the bills and keep something to one side to make this album. But; the all out Country love song It’s You keeps coming back to haunt me. While it sounds like a tearjerker; the powerful words therein swathe you in the feelings of love Lauren sings about; and was just what I needed to hear this week. Personally I’d still file this under ‘Americana’ in a record shop; but it wouldn’t be out of place in the ‘Modern Country’ or ‘Pop Country’ sections either; and I think that latter arena is where it probably belongs and that demographic will hoover these songs up like there’s no tomorrow.
Top Quality and Relaxing Soulful Americana Straight Outta the Welsh Hill Country.
I have taken on too much recently, so when this album dropped from RMHQ it was touch and go whether time would be on my side to give it my fair attention. Then I gave it a quick spin; and never before has an album so spectacularly hit the mark at the MOST perfect moment in my life! A couple of listens in, it has now become the soundtrack to my day: 12 intimate, timelessly soothing growers by a duo who seem to hold your hand throughout the entire album.
I’m not surprised to learn that this collaboration is born out of a friendship, one between Wales based American roots singer songwriter Jeb Loy Nichols and Clovis Phillips, who accompanies with an array of instruments including guitar and mandolin. Their unity is evident, the instruments effortlessly compliment the vocals and vice versa. What’s more the pair recorded, produced and mixed the album together in deepest Wales at Clovis’s Add a Band studios. Both being new artists to me, I am struck by the charming juxtaposition of a vintage country/bluegrass/folk blend teamed with irresistibly soulfully smooth, tender-rich vocals that are on a par with the likes of George Benson, Seal and even dare I say Bruno Mars, staking this album firmly in the here and now.
‘Rain Falling on The Roof At Night’ lusciously opens the album with a pitter patter tempo ‘drip dropping’ us through the song. It’s powerfully simplistic, a collection of memories sparked by the sound of the rain, the one thing that remains unchanged. We are staring into puddles of reflections, from the perspective of a distant lover, a homeless man recollecting childhood memories and through to an aging lady in the back of a limo recollecting her youth.
A commanding start, but this is just the beginning….. Jeb Loy Nichols demonstrates he is the mature, accomplished songwriter (that his CV of 15 or so releases since 1997 would suggest!) with a bunch of clever love songs told from hugely original angles, forming the back bone of this new release.
‘Let Me Love You In My Own Way’ is a jauntily acoustic, confessional strum through the ups and downs of being in a relationship and houses one of the sunniest vocal performances on the album for me. My eyes tight shut, I’m imagining picnicking in the Countryside with that special person:
‘I’ll bring you blackberries and pumpkin seeds, I’ll make you soup from nettles leaves A whole life long I’ll do my best but get it wrong On that I think that we both agree Let me love you in my own way.”
There’s more than a hint of bluegrass blowin’ in the Welsh hills, circling around the happy break up song ‘That’s What It Sounds Like’. We witness a couple discussing their non- existent relationship against the backdrop of retro Wurlitzer keys filling in with a catchy chorus complete with ‘Sha La La’s’, giving an old-time singalong feel. Discovering that this singer songwriter spent most of his childhood listening to classic soul songs on the radio from greats such as Al Green and Curtis Mayfield, now makes sense of all the musical influences seeping through. This album is as nostalgic as it is new: a winning combo for the likes of me.
In a similar vein, ‘It’s Terrible To Be In Love’ gently spills bitter sweet nuances, with a backdrop of soft harmonies that hint it’s all worth the pain in the end.
Talking of which, ‘Start Hurtin’ Again’ ventures into laid back Country territory, musing on the necessity for taking that first step to find love again, despite the risk of another broken heart. Phillips’s playing is exquisite throughout the album and buried at the half way point here is a solo shimmering with a waterfall of acoustic notes. More country tales with the single and title track ‘Three Fools’ which breezily describes a man’s life journey, a tale of yearning for a lost love, coupled with honest observations about humankind.
The only cover song on the album is the folky ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend’ which is a little-known track by the American songwriter Donnie Fritts who passed away in 2019. It’s a touching tribute and sits well to wrap up the album.
Choosing a favourite was always between two tracks that both highlight the need to take a chill out from the demands of everyday life….. oh yes please! Runner up ‘Number Four’ swings in with a melodic, hypnotic Latin groove, describing a blissful day filled with gentle activities designed to bring joy:
‘There’s an apple blossom tree that I wanna see There are gravel roads I want to explore I’ve got three things on my list to do today And no working, working, working is number four’
The top slot goes to a song which takes this chillin’ mood one step further, describing a day of doing absolutely nothing at all. The ballad lullaby ‘All I Want To do Is Sleep’, complete with Jeb Loy’s deeper, entrancing vocals, spells out the ultimate pyjama day:
‘Don’t come around here with any big plans Making plans is what got me in this mess Plans lead to doing and too much doing leads to ruin So go away, go away I need a rest.’
This heavenly album has got ‘Do not disturb whilst playing’ stamped all over it. It initially releases with a limited vinyl edition which would sound just perfect on my old ‘70s stereogram; and if I can ever muster up enough energy to go out again, then catching this duo live will make it to the top of my revised to do list.
Soft Musical Waves That Wash Over You And Intelligent Stories To Absorb Into Your Consciousness.
Anton Fermhede? Me neither. All I know; and probably all I needed to know is that he is from Gothenburg in Sweden and this; his second album was recorded both there and LA in America. When you ‘know’ that the soundscape he creates on his songs quickly makes sense. There’s a ‘Laurel Canyon feel’ to opening track Paper Lyfe; but there’s an effortless sense of ‘cool’ in there too courtesy his Northern European upbringing; which is something that can’t be faked … trust me. This followed by the quaintly beautiful Wind Song, and I defy anyone playing this album not to stop whatever else they are doing and just kick back and listen to the soft musical waves that wash over you while his intelligent stories absorb into your consciousness. I don’t normally review albums that are already released; but I was compelled to do so on first playing this album. Fermhede’s songwriting is excellent as are the stories he tells; often using poetic metaphors will draw you in like a siren to the rocks; but it’s the musical construction that will grab your attention first. The ‘Laurel Canyon’ musicality and even hints of Cowboy Junkies come at you in a timeless Folk Rock stylee in Lincoln, What If and Flying High too; which remind me of the early Elliott Smith and Bros. Landreth albums …. being outwardly sensitive, but with a tightness to the fashioning of the instruments in the background. The finale here; Post Flight takes us on a most unexpected journey; with some exquisite; possibly even Classical Guitar and Fermhede’s fascinating and simpering voice singing a tragic love song; what a way to end an album! Not for the first time; and certainly not for the last this year; Anton Fermhede makes no attempt at writing and recording a Hit commercial single; his songs are from the heart and aimed squarely at the listener’s heart too; which brings me to my hard earned choice of Favourite Song. For a few days it was going to be; nay … ‘had to be’ The Garden with it’s trembling vocals and intelligent violin/bass/drums in the background; but then again the more I heard Eavesdropper, which simply aches with longing, the more the story appealed to me on a cerebral level …. which doesn’t happen very often. Yet …. cue gentle drum roll ….. the third song on the album; Easy Part simply ticked every box I have for a love song. Anton sings like I still feel after 45 years of marriage …. and I hope love struck teens do too …. “For me you are just what I want For me I knew right from the start You’re like a fallen star You’re the half of my heart ….My heart It doesn’t matter where we are It’s never far … same ceiling, different stars.” It’s not a happy-clappy Spector production; more Ennio Morricone as it builds and builds …. never ever skipping a heart filling beat. I know that may sound soppy to some; but others will smile riley and think like I did; “that could be about us.“ BIG NORTH and Anton Fermhede are unlikely to win Grammy’s or any type of Award, which is a huge shame; but what they will do is make a lot of people happy and treat this album like a close friend, to invite around we need comforting and a musical cuddle.
Steve Dawson Eyes Closed, Dreaming Black Hen Music
Top Quality Canadian Folk and More via Nashville and Beyond
Steve Dawson is a name that regularly crops up here at RMHQ, either as a singer-songwriter in his own rite, as a key band member or more recently as a producer …. and it’s fair to say he never gets involved in anything that could be described as average or ordinary. Even with this release being his third in twelve months; you instantly realise bore opening track Ian Tyson’s Long Time To Get Old, that the quality on offer is going to be sky high; and it is. The melody hints at being ‘old timey’ but the story is a razor sharp contemporary observation of life in a small town; somewhere – anywhere. Plus there’s a majestic female voice supplying harmonies that I felt sure I recognised and sure enough, there in the small print …. Allison Russell! Most of the songs here are collaborations with another RMHQ favourite; Matt Patershuk; and again … the word ‘quality’ springs to mind; not least during A Gift and Hemingway; which follow and grab your attention and heartstrings at the same time; conjuring up imagery worthy of much more famous singer-songwriters. Another from the dynamic duo; The Owl shouldn’t in theory be the type of song that I’d normally like; but could be the finest ‘Folk Song’ I’ve heard in many a year. The song Small Town Talk is something of a cornerstone here; as when you listen to it you more or less here Dawson’s voice over everything else; yet the CD cover tells us 7 people are involved and the instrumentation involves slide, acoustic and electric guitars, drums and percussion, bass, organ, piano, baritone sax, tenor sax and trumpet, yet it all sounds so effortless and simple. Tucked away in the background are two ‘Traditional’ songs re-arranged for modern ears. The first; House Carpenter I’ve not heard before; and is another bespoke Folk Song, using phrasing and intricate guitar play that are absolutely fabulous and deserve our full attention. The other, is a particularly odd choice; an instrumental version of Singing The Blues has an arrangement that I can’t decide is Hawaiian or Ragtime …. or both; and it’s quite delightful. A couple of tracks earlier, Dawson drops in the quirky Waikiki Stonewall Rag; so perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise after all. By this stage I get to thinking about ‘Favourite Songs’ and there are so many to choose from; a very easy on the ear Jack Clement song, Guess Things Happen That Way was an early contender, as was Small Town Talk, a Bobby Charles song, but sounds as if it was written with Dawson in mind …. or at least that’s what I hear. The finale, Let Him Go Mama has Dawson all alone singing and playing his ‘Weissenborn’ guitar …. quite exceptionally, it has to be said; and the result is three minutes of outstanding and beautiful music. Yet there is still one other; and simply because of the title drew me to it before I’d played the whole album and that’s Polaroid. These cameras have held a fascination for me since my teenage years half a century ago; as my remodelling of album covers in my reviews will testify; and it appears Steve Dawson has a similar affection as he describes a single photograph taken of a lover using this medium. Therefore; Polaroid is my Favourite Song here. While there are numerous ‘famous names’ from the Alt. and Americana circuit involved in one way or another; and the Press Release pays great attention to ‘artists contributing their parts from various corners of Nashville, Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver, during the pandemic‘ … that matters not a jot, as this is simply a Steve Dawson album from start to finish and is another ‘keeper’ in our humble opinion.
Entertaining and Educational Blues From a Legendary Songwriter
Where do I start with this review? I’m guessing and presuming most people reading this already know him and his previous releases; if not it’s safe to say that Eric Bibb is and has been one of America’s most important singer-songwriters over the last 50 years. To all intents and purposes he’s a Folk singing troubadour, in the style of Woody Guthrie and all of the black bluesmen going back to time immemorial; writing and singing about the world around not him but those around him and in this case; the downtrodden too. I somehow missed the preceding album Dear America, which apparantly RIDIN’ is the intrinsically linked follow up; but in my experience over the last few weeks it’s not necessary to have heard that album to enjoy this one … as it certainly stands on its own. I’m a white working class man from the North East of England; but my love of Blues and Soul music has led me to several books and documentaries on the history of that music and the horrible trials and tribulations the black community have faced over the last 200 years in America; and are still facing in 2023; so I can truly appreciate Bibb’s songs here; many of which are based on historical stories handed down through the generations. The scene is set from opening song Family; with a melody that could be 100+ years old; and Bibb’s pained vocals and the choral backing come at you like a Louisiana fog; and the way Bibb intertwines the history of the black community with their state of affairs in the 21st Century is staggering. The title track, RIDIN’ follows and sounds timeless, not least because of Bibb’s Acoustic Resonator Guitar and Ola Gustafsson’s Slide which create a strained atmosphere to compliment Bibb’s song that begins with of the Freedom Train, name checks Dr King and Emmett Till too. Blues Funky Like Dat featuring Taj Mahal and Jontavious Willis; is a sizzling modern take on the Classic Juke Joint style, and it’s a toe-tapper of the finest hue. If you are still with us after those three songs; you are in for a rare treat with what follows. Don’t get me wrong; I love Blues songs that are about drinkin’, dancin’ and lovin’ but sometimes we all need something more serious in our lives; dark to follow the light? Eric Bibb supplies that dark like Picasso’s Blue Period …. it’s not always easy on the senses; but when you take the time to study it; your life will be all the better for having it in your heart. There’s a delicate balance between the modern and the old here; and Bibb pulls it off like a Vegas magician on Hold The Line, Free and the striking 500 Miles earlier on. While Eric Bibb has a delightful singing style; you can still hear the pain he feels in every note of the live version of Sinner Man and later People You Love which sounds absolutely phenomenal in and out of this context. First and foremost; Eric Bibb is a storyteller (in song) and that brings me to the songs that are competing to be my Favourite Song on this really special album. Tulsa Town is a great song, even when just playing in the background; but listen more intently and you find a story that you’ve probably never heard of before about the ‘Black Wall Street.‘ Then; there is Free featuring Habib Koite on guitar and vocals; alongside a host of other musicians who come together to sound like a deceptively simple sounding backdrop for a tear inducing and deep song. Last but not least is the Ballad of John Howard Griffin. WOW! Perhaps I’m the last to know; but I doubt it …. but as an experiment, in 1959 Griffin ‘changed his colour‘ for a series of magazine articles and a book. My eyes nearly popped out of my head the first time I heard Bibb’s staggering tale …. and I think yours will too. Like many Folk and Blues songs over the years; they can educate as well as entertain and Eric Bibb manages to do just that with style and class; on all 15 songs in this collection.
RMHQ Radio Show Ep:40 ‘Ladies Day Special’ Nova Radio NE| Newcastle
Tuesday 14th March 2023
One man’s illness is another man’s opportunity, a wise man once said …. so with Dave Barker suffering with some unnamed illness I took the opportunity to take his chair for a midweek edition of the RMHQ Radio Show and make it one of our Special Editions; only playing music from The Females of the Roots Species. As it was arranged at short notice it was another ‘seat of the pants’ programme, with me changing the playlist of intended tracks 3 times within the first 15 minutes! Even when I’d settled down I’d be listening to a song, then think “Oh! I know what should come after this!” Then quickly find said song ….. leaving my initially pristine playlist looking like a Venn Diagram! Obviously it was as eclectic as ever, which might have baffled new listeners; bit I am what I am… and this is the music I love; an eclectic mix of Country, Americana and Roots; and I love sharing it with strangers and friends alike.
RMHQ Radio Show Episode:39 Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Sunday 12th March 2023
Not that most people listening will be bothered; but tonight’s show coincided with Newcastle Utd playing a home game that was going out on TV. This caused a dilemma as I had tickets for the match; which I subsequently donated to Son #2 and my Grandson; meaning I could watch the first half then drive to the station; hopefully getting there so Producer Dean could scurry home to see most of the second half after letting me into the building. My Masterplan more or less worked; but trying to follow the match on my phone while setting up the show meant I played the wrong opening song …. and missed a link about ten minutes in! But in showbiz land …. ‘The Show had to go on’ and it did; quite successfully if I’m allowed to blow my own trumpet. As usual we had a heady mix of old and new Americana including a new track from the new Stephen Stills album (recorded in 1971!), Aoife O’Donovan covering Atlantic City from her reworking of Bruce’s Nebraska album and the new single from our latest discovery, Jenny Don’t and The Spurs plus a bunch of other ‘first plays’ and oldies from Tom Waits, Dale Watson and Tony Joe White …. as usual we spoilt you and here’s the proof.
Elles Bailey & Brave Rival Sunderland Fire Station
March 11th 2023
Without naming names I’d not had a particularly good week, gig wise seeing three other acts in 7 days that had me non-plussed on the way out. Nothing wrong with the shows; as 99% of their audiences would testify, they just didn’t appeal to me. Which all put extra pressure on as Mrs Magpie was stepping out with me to see Elles Bailey (who she’d never heard of.) Opening act were Brave Rival; an apparent Blues Rock band; who were playing an acoustic-ish set as the ‘warm up.’ I say acoustic-ish, as they had an electric bass alongside two acoustic guitars and the tiniest drum set up in the world, while fronted by two young ladies with astonishing voices and harmonies. After being introduced to the Sold Out audience by none other than Elles Bailey herself; they slid into opening song Guilty Love which was full of soaring vocals and lush harmonies; as were most of the songs that followed in the next 45 minutes. While I appreciate hearing where songs come from, tonight the singers perhaps lingered on these tales a tad too much? Again; probably that’s just me judging from the smiling faces I could see following all of these intros. I’m not sure what these songs will be like when fleshed out with the full-on band in their electric guise; as I thought the stripped back arrangements really suited the material; not least Run & Hide; about being stalked and For The Ones (I think ) which was written in the early days of lockdown but can also be interpreted as a song about fighting to make relationships work. It appeared that a couple of very personal sounding songs were written by the self-depreciating singer Lindsey Bonnick most noticeably Secrets; about an ex-boyfriend who had cheated on her for three years. As is my won’t, I wasn’t keen on the cabaret style request for the audience to join in on the chorus of What’s Your Name Again; about a ‘one night stand’ that Lindsay had one time. On the other hand; it featured some sweet bottleneck guitar playing and smoky harmonies from Lindsay and Chloe. This was followed by Chloe explaining the story behind the rather fabulous and emotional All I Can Think About (oddly enough … anther sad song about a relationship that ended badly for Lindsay!) I was really surprised by their choice of finale; but today I found out that it was their latest single; Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds Of Silence; which was actually perfect for their individual voices and those delicious harmonies.
After the required ‘toilet/smoke’ break there wasn’t an empty seat in the hall when the lights went down and the stage was swathed in red lights as the band and Ms Bailey made their entrance, before they opened up with The Game, which went down well with the appreciative audience. The set was a clever mix of songs from Elle’s latest album SHINING IN THE HALF LIGHT, and her two previous albums plus a couple of fabulous and surprising cover versions towards the end. I particularly liked the second song, which went unnamed and featured some particularly greasy guitar riffs from Joe Wilkins. While it doesn’t make much difference to the audience when an act doesn’t name their songs; but it’s a nightmare for a reviewer! Elles told a heartwarming story about first time motherhood; then went into a gorgeous song supplemented by some atmospheric drumming and bass; but can I find a song of hers with the lyrics I scribbled down! This happened another three or four times; which is a shame for fans who weren’t there tonight. Of the songs I can name; Halfway House was absolutely stunning; and as Elles said in the intro, was meant to be a heartbreaker of the ‘love’ type but ended up being about Brexit!!! This was followed by a song I did recognise; the heavy, heavy rocker Cheats & Liars which I presumed was about ‘men who had done her wrong‘ … but it was actually written following the 2022 Budget which left the self-employed (esp musicians) on their uppers. The next couple of songs have highly excited notes scribbled alongside them and both get three stars each; the first being the soulful Hole In My Pocket, which had a false ending that morphed into a thrash metal ending with requisite light show too. This was followed by the first of her highly surprising choices of songs to cover; John Martyn’s beauteous Over The Hill was a rare treat and had Elles giving it the deference it deserves; and as I noted … “Her voice is perfect for expressing sentiments like these.’ What I haven’t mentioned yet is how important Jonny Henderson’s Hammond playing was to the overall sound in these songs; giving them a bit of a 60’s R&B ‘vibe’ at times. As the time to curfew rattled along, a song Elles wrote in 2017; Help Somebody is still, if not more relevant today in 2023 …. and is well worth hunting out if you haven’t played it in a while. Oh; as Henderson embarked on a keyboard solo, Elles went ‘walkabout’ wandering around the hall, much to the fans delight. Following on from that and closing the show was Beautiful Mess, which was as soulful as it was thoughtful; and the melody swung like a pendulum do; and had Elles skipping and dancing around the stage when her band performed their magic. While it was never in any doubt; the band only had time to count back from 5, before they re-entered the stage for two really special encore songs. The first of which was a really surprising cover; Mary Gauthier’s Mercy Me (which I love too) and while she knelt on the edge of the stage while singing with the lights turned down way low, as the glitterball spun and swathed the audience in little diamonds. Then standing up without the aid of a helper (which impressed out friend Faye!) Elles Bailey and band rocked the bejasus out of this fantastic building with Sunshine City …. and after all the heartbreak that had preceded it; the audience left with a smile on their collective faces.
JP Harris, John R Miller & Chloe Edmondson Jumpin’ Hot Club The Cluny II Newcastle
Friday 10th March 2023
I’ve mentioned it before but in the year before the Pandemic and it’s assorted ‘lockdowns’ I, sort of, fell out of love with ‘gig going’. I can’t really explain it; but it all lost its ‘magic’ and subsequently now things are being restored I’m fighting that feeling with all my heart; which is why this week I’m going to four gigs in 8 days. Sadly the first two (who shall remain nameless) didn’t ‘cut the mustard’ even though both were best part ‘sold out’ and received well by everyone else; but did nothing for me. Which brings me to Friday night and my heart sinking on walking into Cluny II and seeing a guitar rack with FOUR banjos in it! I scanned the stage for any hidden accordions, but thankfully there weren’t any, just two acoustic guitars and two fiddles. The next surprise was at 8pm when fiddle player Chloe Edmondson walked on stage with someone who looked remarkably like headline act, JP Harris … who went on to introduce himself as … JP Harris! As JP was tuning up the largest of the banjos; Chloe was nearly shaking with the cold and both blowing on her hands and rubbing them along her thighs to warm them up; which was a thankless task as she was still doing that 90 minutes later! Had I known what was to follow I doubt I’d have come tonight; but once ensconced in my seat I decided to make the best of it; and … do you know what …. I actually enjoyed this evening of Appalachian ‘Old Time Music’ …. which JP went to great lengths to explain ‘was not’ Bluegrass …. “Big Difference” apparantly. Even though Harris never mentioned any song titles in his intros he did paint some lovely pictures when he recounted who taught him each song. If my notes are correct they started with something called Marry a Kings Daughter, followed by a Doc Boggs song which I couldn’t guess at the title. With very little for me to go on, my notes were limited so for once I just sat back and enjoyed the music; not least Harris’s deep baritone and delicate playing of his banjo’s alongside Chloe’s exquisite fiddle playing. There’s a good chance a song possibly called Mole In The Ground was about a ‘human in an animals body AND vampires’ and my notes say that ‘the harmonies were warmer than Chloe’s fingers!’ Which was followed by Dance Boatman Dance (?) which I gave two stars to. JP eventually got around to telling us that he’d just recorded an album in this style and the finale ‘a shoot ’em up song’ (unnamed) was about boys getting drunk and ‘shooting each other’…..”nothing changes, does it?” the song itself started out with the duo harmonising a Capella before seamlessly bringing in the fiddle and gentle banjo playing to the fray. Following a short break Chloe Edmondson, still not warmed up, took her seat on stage again alongside someone who wasn’t JP Harris; one John R Miller; thankfully with guitar in hand. My notes say their first song was Muddy Waters, but the set-list (which I snaffled) says Red Eyes …. whichever the combination of rolling guitar and gentle fiddle made for a lovely song. Again the introductions were very limited; but the second song the biographical Outset (?) featured the line “trapping possums for local restaurants” which has to be a first for RMHQ!!! Shenandoah, on the other hand was incredibly tense and stark, with the fiddle playing it’s part in setting that mood. There ‘weren’t many laughs’ in the songs in this set either, with most being introspective in one shape or another but the quality of playing and singing certainly made up for anything like that. At this stage my notes are nearly incomprehensive; but I have given Nobody Has to Know Your Mind three stars, and something that looks like ‘stunning’. Just before the smouldering Looking Over My Shoulder Miller asked for JP Harris to join them on stage; only for nothing to happen; as JP told us when he did materialise for the next song he ‘had been outside having a cigarette and drinking, totally forgetting he was needed on stage!” The trio’s first song might have been called What Else Coulda Happened’ and had a joyous chorus “Nobody’s Angel/Nobody’s Star.” Perhaps it was the added guitar and Harris’s voice; but this created a ‘larger dimension’ to the songs that followed; not least Truck Stop Angel (?) which was a highlight of the evening.|
At this stage JP started chatting about the tour and ‘this form of music’ which was what he grew up playing, before discovering Rock n Roll; and was grateful for the opportunity for sharing it around Europe. Following a less than subtle ‘leaving the stage at the end’ the trio turned back for a well deserved encore; which for once actually came from a short discussion between the three; choosing a Carter Family song I Ain’t Gonna Walk Tomorrow which left an appreciative audience with smiles on their faces as they converged on the merch desk like musical locust’s.