The Wandering Hearts

The Wandering Hearts
The Wandering Hearts
Cooking Vinyl

A Flawless Collection, Echoing Summers Past, Yet Promising Memories Still to Be Made.

The Wandering Hearts first burst onto the Americana scene in 2017 with a lot of promise and plenty of critical acclaim. An English 4 piece band, who got together for a chat about their favourite music; who then went on to put some songs on SoundCloud.
Within a month they had a deal with Decca, who released their debut LP, Wild Silence the following year.
After doing the obligatory festival rounds they traveled to the US, appearing at both the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry in the same week; which is mind blowing when you think about; but ‘talent will out’. 
This, their follow-up is eponymously named, and much like the first carries on the harmonious influences of Fleetwood Mac, This Is the Kit , Mamas and the Papas, even echoing the Seekers here and there too.
Now a trio since the departure of Tim Prottey-Jones, the sound remains the same delightful blend of pop, Country and 60’s Laurel Canyon ‘type’ vocal groups; with A.J. Deans baritone vocal contrasting the harmonics of Francesca Whiffin and Tara Wilcox.
Opening the album is Hammer Falls, which has a strong Fleetwood Mac ‘Tusk’  vibe; until it opens up into the ‘ear-worm’ chorus.
Over your Body keeps the mood going and then Build a Fire, explodes with a raucous sing along, clap along melody, which seems to come from the Western end of Country and Western.
I Feel it Too is a gentle Folky tune highlighting the album’s clean and polished production values; which are never over done to the point it becomes product; just crisp enough to present the songs and artists in their best light.
Credit to Simone Felice and David Baron for excellent work here.
Dolores is a heartbreaking love song, about Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan; to some degree in the style of the Cranberries themselves.
Everyone’s fighting a battle you know nothing about
it’s a gentle lament; most tenderly sung.
Dreams is a dark Country Pop number reminiscent of the Everly Brothers or maybe even Richard Hawley; and
A.J. again takes the lead for the densely moody ballad Tell Me When I Wake Up.
As we approach the end, On Our Way Now is another big exuberant number that lifts your heart and makes you long for  Summer Festivals, where this would surely be an end of show belter.
Stardust with the 3 voices blending beautifully is another crowd pleaser which makes me long to see The Wandering Hearts play live.
Eventually Lullaby, gently closes the album; and certainly leaves you wanting more.
Sitting here listening again on a very sunny and sultry day; these songs sound like they belong on a Festival stage sung live and, all in all this will be the soundtrack of the Summer in my house,

Released July 30th 2021
Review by Tom G.

https://www.thewanderinghearts.com/

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Jumpin’ Hot Club COUNTRY CANTINA 2021

Jumpin’ Hot Club
Country Cantina 2021
The Barn
Easington Colliery
Co. Durham

Friday 23rd July 2021

I’ve been a huge supporter and a small cog in the Jumpin’ Hot Club team for decades; yet this was the first of their 6 (or is it 7?) previous Country Cantina Mini-Festivals for work/holiday reasons I’ve managed to attend; and even then I missed the headline act!
At the other end of the afternoon I set off in plenty of time to make the 25 minute journey; yet because of punching the wrong Sat-Nav coordinates into the car and then trying to follow a hand drawn map around the maze that is Easington Colliery (home of Billy Elliott) I actually took 87 minutes to find the site; a derelict farmhouse and barns that have been converted into an outdoors Community Centre; which is actually the perfect setting for a small Country Music Festival.
So; instead of arriving nicely relaxed, I turned up desperate for the toilet near the end of opening act, Shipcote & Friends’ set.
Hey ho – I did get to sit in the glorious sunshine to see and hear the trio perform a beautiful version of one of my favourite of their songs; Lucky Fell then after some debate and audience riposte; a stunning encore song; Amy about; and dedicated to Amy Winehouse who died ten years ago to the day.

The 15 minute break meant I got to say ‘hello’ to a few friends in the audience and also Gem Andrews who was going to be part of the Songwriters’ Circle which was imminent; and the reason I took a day off work.
It soon appeared that there was a delay and it was because Lady Nade, who was making her way to the NE from Bristol 300 miles or more away was delayed; but nearly there.
So it was determined that Gem and another RMHQ Favourite Ver Van Heeringen would start without her.
A slightly nervous Gem introduced herself then opened the first of her first three songs with Letter; a rather beautiful love song; and a lot more Country, courtesy of Gem’s rich voice and new-found ‘Twang’ in it.
With that out of the way she visibly relaxed and followed it with a staple of her concerts pre-2018 pregnancy; Two Lighthouses, Gem’s adaptation of Julia Darlings’ poem ….. and when played in the right key (not the last time today!) was absolutely delightful.
Then; baring in mind where we were, Gem thought it appropriate; and she was correct ….. to include her ode to coal miners; Lungs, which in the shadows of a village that saw some of the most violent clashes in the Miners Strike was listened to in awe and received a noisy round of applause at the end.


Word went around that Lady Nade had arrived; but as she sorted herself out JHC regular, Vera Van Heeringen carried on regardless; starting with telling us the background to Gods; from her latest album which I loved and held the 50 strong crowd in awe.
She followed this with Enough Time; then throwing caution to the wind performed a brand new song; either called Nora Lee or Let The Tears Come Raining Down; which was the heartbreaking chorus; and as uptempo as Vera ever gets.
It was finally time for Lady Nade to make her appearance; and while not quite the London Palladium; she made quite the entrance huge ….. and I mean HUGE beaming smile, short floaty dress and magnificent silver boots. After a short apology she launched into her set with her ‘radio hit’ Willing, which left the majority of the audience open mouthed.
Nade then explained how she got ‘into songwriting’ via writing poems after a close family member died, which evolved into songs and introduced her to Folk Clubs ….. and the song Complicated came from that period.
As I sat on the grassy knoll near the stage I was amazed at how clear and soulful her voice was/is live; and possibly aided by the oddly wonderful acoustics from the outdoor barn setting.
One of the joys of gigs for me is hearing the stories behind songs; and while it was no real surprise, but we all chuckled when Nade explained Call Yourself a Friend was about her ‘best friend’ going out with her ex-boyfriend …….. “never upset a songwriter!”
I know and already love the song; but watching the faces of people hearing it for the first time made my torrid journey well worth while.
It was now back to Gem; who regaled us with Carol; about a friend who got cancer in her 70’s and decided to go out with a bang …… trying all of the Class A drugs she could get her hands on! (Who knew you could see flavours of muffins????)
This was followed by a new and unfinished song Gem had alluded to earlier in the day; her Covid Pop Song (Back To Colour); written in the wake of her Grandfather’s demise from this horrible virus; and made all the more raw and cathartic when we found out one of her uncles died of it the previous Wednesday.
Gem’s finale was another favourite of ours; and several other friends in the very appreciative audience.
I know it doesn’t mean much; but I was just as impressed with Vera’s Adidas SK8 shoes as I was with her songs; and I lover her songs.
Her three in this set were as cool as they were fascinating; none more so than Man With a Gun; which featured some really impressive guitar work to accompany her songs and the darkly passionate You Won’t Be Broken.
For a variety of reasons there hadn’t been much interaction between the three singers; but this changed during Pass the Whiskey; which would normally feature band members doing solos; but today we had Lady Nade adding a scat-trumpet in the middle.
Quite the raconteur Lady Nade really did have the crowd in the palm of her hand during her intro to Last Dance; which she wrote while preparing for her wedding; even though she hasn’t even got a boyfriend!
While most people hadn’t heard her first two albums; she still got a cheer when she introduced the as yet unrecorded One Sided from the proposed third album.
For a finale Lady Nade asked for requests; notably picking on me …… and my mind went totally blank!
Thankfully she decided on the introspective Ain’t One Thing; about being ‘body positive’; which if I hadn’t been so ‘shy’ would have been my choice … honest.
While obviously not Glastonbury; it was cool to see both Lady Nade and Vera (who also had her own brand hot sauce with her) selling a few CD’s and tote bags.


Now running slightly behind schedule; Goat Roper Rodeo Band decided to forgo a proper soundcheck and more or less ‘went for it’!
That ‘Rocking and Rolling’ attitude; really won the crowd over and right from the get go the Welsh acoustic trio ‘went for it.’
I’m not really sure where to fit them in; as opening song Space Cowboy (NO! Not that one) was very Flying Burritos in the way they harmonised and used a bouncy melody to get at least two women dancing.
Next up was a smartly constructed Since You Been gone and with barely time to draw breath as they changed lead vocalists for the third time; Honey Bee was what I can only describe as Welsh Grass; and mighty impressive it was too.
Annoyingly I was ‘on the clock’ and nervously checking my watch by the sharp as a tack Latino Ballerino; and grumpily had to leave the Festival at the end of the magnificent slice of Country Rock that was Key Lime Pie!


I genuinely wish I could read maps; then I would have seen all of Shipcote’s session; and despaired at missing the last two acts; but what I did see reignited my love of Live Music after the last two years ……. it’s only Folk and Rock and Roll; but I love it.

Alan

The Barn https://www.thebarnateasington.co.uk/?fbclid=IwAR2JBH0gdDXWfe6PsryFvZDxbeqok3-mSsT4wF5hn9ZiBlrZDCGcFyolj-k

JHC http://www.jumpinhot.com/



Jackson Browne DOWNHILL FROM EVERYWHERE

Jackson Browne
Downhill From Everywhere
Inside Recordings

Still as Relevant and On The Mark Today, As He Was 50 Years Ago.

I can’t really remember when or where I first heard of Jackson Browne; the OGWT I presume; but I have vague memories of long haired A Level students at my school carrying around JACKSON BROWNE and/or LATE FOR THE SKY LP’s under their arms (while I had T Rex and Rod Stewart); so he seems to have ‘always been there’ in my life.
That said, he’s a singer that I’ve never really played a lot of the years; probably losing track long before the Millenium; I guess ……. but that doesn’t mean a ‘hill of beans’ in the grand scheme of things; as he’s been releasing albums relatively ‘under the radar’ and touring nearly non-stop, it appears.
So; with all of that knowledge, I was pretty excited to receive Browne’s latest a few weeks ago. Oddly enough, the first day I went to play it in the car it was a cold and rainy July morning; and it was pretty obvious that I needed some sunshine to get the best from it; and I was correct.
Mmmmmmmmm….. opening track Still Looking For Something is totally fascinating. It is exactly what it says on the tin via the song title; and the only surprise is how astute Browne is with his thoughts on growing older and he manages to capture something of my own anxieties in his words; as I guess you will too.
Even in a ‘blind tasting’ if I’d had three guesses as to who this album was by; I think I may have guessed it was Jackson Browne singing. Previously I wouldn’t have thought he had a distinctive voice; but it turns out he has; and to some extent he’s still using the tried and trusted formula that brought him great success 50 years ago; “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with his clever My Cleveland Heart; which would be a man-made version;
They’re made to take a bashin’
and never lose their passion

Unlike the heady days of the 70’s and 80’s when the great and the good would dive headlong into Jackson Browne’s albums for their own Megahit; I doubt the new generation will with these songs; which is a huge shame as the songwriter still has a lot to say about life, love and the state of the world we find ourselves in; and a very clever and pleasant way of doing it; try the piercing Until Justice is Real, the title track Downhill From Everywhere or the punchy A Human Touch, a duet with co-writer Leslie Mendelson, and grapples with the discrimination that still surrounds same sex relationships; but will have many of us thinking about our own relationships; regardless of orientation.
Browne’s long term followers will undoubtedly love the Carribean-lite deliciousness of Love Is Love and the Jazzy and thought provoking A Song For Barcelona; and no doubt you will too.
As I said earlier there was a time when Megastars would come to Jackson Browne for their next big hit; and 9 times out of 10 he would come good; and here there a few songs that fit that mould; none more so than the Tex-Mex drenched The Dreamer, whose stark message will pass many listeners by, as it has a lovely lilting melody; but the sharp eared among us will hear Browne’s harrowing story through clenched teeth (and fists). For what it’s worth I can picture the likes of Joe Cocker singing this mid-concert to pure silence; but perhaps it is best left to Jackson Browne sings and Los Cenzontles’ Eugene Rodriguez.
We don’t see half the people around us,
But we see enemies who surround us
And the walls that we’ve built between us,
Keep us prisoners of our fear.”

Not that there should be any doubt; The Dreamer is certainly my Favourite Song here and should be yours too.
There’s a helluva lot to like here; and very little, if anything to dismiss; with this being the type of CD that your kids will buy you as a Birthday present and you will stick it on the (Electric) car stereo and it will still be there a month later with you singing along merrily on the way to and from the weekly ‘big shop.’
It’s a tad odd that we talk about ‘Americana’ music in all its glories; but forget that the likes of Jackson Browne were treading that path long before it was Cool; and I’m perfectly happy sitting this slickly produced album alongside modern day legends like John Prine, Guy Clark, Mary Chapin Carpenter and indeed; Miss Nanci Griffith.

Released July 23rd 2021
https://www.jacksonbrowne.com/

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Alejandro Escovedo La CRUZADA

Alejandro Escovedo
La Cruzada
Yep Roc

A Brave and Successful Spanish Vocal Reworking of 2018’s “The Crossing.”

Originally available as a Record Store Day only release in 2018, the original pressing of Escovedo’s semi-autobiographical tale garnered sufficient interest and sales – reaching the Latin Albums Chart – to merit a full release.
While not exactly a ‘concept album’ La Cruzada/The Crossing:
tells the story of two young immigrants to the U.S., who bond over a mutual love of Punk Rock as they struggle with the racism and discrimination as immigrants, becomes an even more intimate experience.
Although not intended to be autobiographical, the album is, in many ways, the story of Alejandro Escovedo’s own life
.”
Musically and thematically, nothing has changed from the English language release as the original backing tracks have been re-used and overlaid with new Spanish vocals – not all from Escovedo, with the album’s lead vocals mostly delivered by Alex Ruiz (Del Castillo), who recorded Spanish vocals over the original album’s instrumental tracks; plus some guest vocals from Patricia Vonne, Vanessa Del Fierro, and Escovedo himself.
Obviously translating a song from one language to another is never going to be simple; but Alejandro worked with closely withRuiz to keep the original styles and melodies of the songs together.
Vocally, Ruiz’s vocal timbre isn’t too far removed from Escovedo – his slightly deeper, rougher edged tones tend to work well on more the reflective numbers like “Lluvia De Flor De Cerezo” – whereas this reviewer slightly prefers the urgency and energy of Escovedo on the more uptempo numbers like “Sonica USA;” on the English language version of the release.
A favourite vocal performance here though, is the impassioned take on “MC Overload” where Ruiz’s processed vocal complements the stomping “Telegram Sam” rhythms.
Having loved “The Crossing” I found that this release was oddly, both familiar and strange – but then, not being a Spanish speaker, I’m not the primary target audience, I would suspect.
Kudos must go to Escovedo for the bravery in handing over the main vocal chores to Ruiz, making this very much a collaborative project – I can’t speak for Escovedo’s motives in doing this, but by utilising a (presumably) native speaker, this gives the album an artistic credibility both culturally and sonically.
It’s perfectly fitting that an album about cultural crossover and cross-pollination is available in versions that reflect those cultures and their combination.

Review by Nick Barber

Released August 27th 2021
https://www.alejandroescovedo.com/

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Mark Germino MIDNIGHT CARNIVAL

Mark Germino
Midnight Carnival
Red Parlor Records/Proper Records

Everything I Love About Americana Music Wrapped and Rolled In 14 Well Told Stories.

Even if today is the first time you’ve ever encountered our little website, you will surely go from this review to our Home Page; and there you will see why Mark Germino holds a place in not just my heart; but the hearts of all our writers too.
His song Rex Bob Lowenstein has been one of my biggest musical influences; telling me that you can have eclectic musical taste and still be cool.
By the time I actually bought a copy of that CD single in a secondhand store, it was probably 3 or 4 years old; but I still cherish it to this day; and it’s been the first song I’ve played on every radio show/series I’ve done …. as it explains ‘what you are about to receive!’
Anyways; leap forward to today; and finally getting my hands on an album of his has been eye-wateringly exciting after all these years.
My eyes nearly popped out of my head as the accordion rocked my speakers off their stands on opener Travelling Man; and when Mark comes in 30 seconds later I very nearly punched the air ….. yes sir; this is going to be my kinda music!
The song has Friday Night hoedown written all over it; and will give a rye smile when you hear him belting out the chorus;
I met a pretty lady
was the bar room kind
She could hold her liquor
But couldn’t hold mine!”

Although coming from North Carolina; Germino sounds uncannily like Levon Helm; but that’s more likely because he too has a voice that sounds like the man behind it has ‘had a life, well lived’ …. if you know what I mean.
While obviously an acclaimed songwriter in his own rite; Germino also carefully wears his influences on his tattered sleeve; I will leave it for you to guess who I’m talking about on the pathos laden Blessed Are The Ones and The Talking Country-Blues of The Greatest Song Ever Written; which both have the capacity to make your mouth gape wide open the first time you hear them.
#I’d love it for someone to tell me who the female he sings about is; as
She come from the North East Coast of Great Britain
To write the Greatest Song Ever Written
.”
The observations in his songs are extraordinary; Muddy Spoon in a Sugar Bowl mind-blowingly beautiful and Tennessee Trash Disclosure is another Honky-Tonky dance tune that will eventually catch you unawares and the penny will drop.
As a child one of my favourite Favourite TV shows was Casey Jones; and it was nearly 50 years later on Otis Gibbs’ podcast that I found out he was a real person; and Mark uses his Jones here as a metaphor, on Peace Train (John Luther Jones) and I can’t wait to finally see him live so I too can belt out the chorus without fear of being laughed at!
Being such a quality songwriter Germino manages to change the mood and pace brilliantly; courtesy of the sequencing; seamlessly following the Twangfest of Carolina in the Morning with the deceptively complex Finest American Waltz; then hitting you with the sucker punch; Author of My Journey ……. which is a song just crying out to be covered by Kris Kristofferson or Willie Nelson!
Any or all of these songs; and more could or will be my Favourite Track on another day …. but this morning two particular songs have captured my heart, for very different and very personal reasons (which I won’t go into).
The powerful and possibly introspective, Lightning Doesn’t Always Strike The Tallest Tree is one of those songs that has the capacity to make you go “Wow!” then press repeat…. then repeat …… and again, repeat.
The other is the finale; Until The Fat Man Swings; no more and no less than a cracking and indeed crackling, Country Song about a baseball player in ‘the minor leagues’ that again, may or may not be a metaphorical song, but hey; this is everything I love about Americana Music wrapped and rolled in 4 minutes and 19 gloriously observed minutes …… and Andy Leftwich’s fiddle in the background is rather fabulous too!
On the basis of listening to this single album; why oh why isn’t Mark Germino’s name not mentioned in the same breath as Guy, Townes, Rodney and; of course Townes? He can certainly match them note for note and word for word, that’s for sure ……. but hey; sometime we all need a ‘secret love’ don’t we?
Mark Germino just might be new Musical Secret Love!

Released 6th August 2021
https://www.markgermino.com/

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UK https://www.propermusic.com/rdp2101-midnight-carnival.html

Listen here to “Lightning Don’t Always Strike The Tallest Tree” – by Mark Germino 

https://soundcloud.com/red-parlor-records/3-lightning-dont-always-strike





Los Lobos NATIVE SONS

Los Lobos
Native Sons
New West Records

Not Just a Great Covers Album – But It’s a Great Los Lobos Album.

In 2006, former Blaster Dave Alvin put out an album called “West of the West” which saw him cover a selection of Californian acts and helped make him the legend he is today; leap forward 15 years and Los Lobos’ “Native Sons” follows very much in that vein and there’s even a direct connection with Alvin in Los Lobos’ cover of The Blasters’ “Flat Top Joint” thrown in for good measure.
Steve Berlin of Los Lobos was in The Blasters too, with both the Alvins, Dave and Phil.
Los Lobos’ selection focuses on Los Angeles, rather than the entire state however – quite fitting as they once described themselves with great modesty as “Just another band from east LA” on a collection of their work.
The selection of songs on this release is as varied and eclectic as you could ever imagine – opener “Love Special Delivery,” originally by Thee Midniters, a 60’s band who sprung from similar cultural roots to Los Lobos, is a 100mph Northern Soul stomper that adds a bit more beef and finesse to the original; without losing any of its urgency – and It gets things off to a flying start.
Track 2, “Misery” a Barrett Strong cover, continues the uptempo soulful mood (The LA connection is that the song’s author, Don Juan Mancha was based in California around ’62) and gets to its spookily emotional core.
Next up, there’s a mini-medley of two Buffalo Springfield tracks – “Bluebird” and “For What it’s Worth” (in reverse order to their original single release order!) – both songs are treated faithfully, but with the Latino soulful sheen that Los Lobos are renowned for – the playing, love and feel of both these songs is clear throughout.
“Los Chucos Sauves” delves further back into history for a swinging take on this song by Lalo Guerrero – the modern treatment builds on the core of the original, adding more percussive emphasis to the smooth rhythm of the song, now adding creamy saxophone and leaving out the annoying shaker that goes throughout the original!
From one extreme to another, a decidedly west coast Laurel Canyon sound is recreated on their version of Jackson Browne’s “Jamaica Say You Will”, with Los Lobos’ take pulling back the prominence of the piano at the expense of vocals and harmony.
Percy Mayfield’s “Never No More” follows and is a slice of jazzy old school R&B that mixes up the original horn arrangements but slides along gloriously.
Title track “Native Son” lands just after halfway and is the only original on the album – but it fits beautifully into the stylistic melting pot, being a New Orleans swamp pop heartbreaker with rolling drum triplets.
The much covered frat rock classic “Farmer John” is given a rhythmic overhaul here – it’s a song which is so simple that it can often become a sludgy grind, but Los Lobos have used its framework to create a series of insistent, rattling dance provoking rhythms …..almost Rockabilly at times.
It’s back to the Spanish language on “Dichoso” a Willie Bobo cover – the Los Lobos version is a much more smoother arrangement using horns as underscored pads, which wouldn’t have been out of place on the recent Mavericks “En Espanol” album.
Probably the most well known cover on the album is the version of The Beach Boys’ “Sail on Sailor” itself a bit of an oddity in the Beach Boys’ catalogue; in that it was a rare Blondie Chaplin vocal – this reading is a faithful one, with – dare I say it – the vocals actually sounding smoother than on the original and the tempo upped slightly?
War’s “The World is a Ghetto” makes the listener take another right angle turn, stylistically into Soulful Funk – Los Lobos take this at times into Steely Dan territory, but it’s a lean dynamically and a cleverly arranged take that ties the soft and loud sections together well.
The Steve Berlin Blasters/Los Lobos connection finds its meeting place on “Flat Top Joint” with the tempo pegged back slightly, but compensated for with horns and grungy guitar easily making up any perceived slack.
Final track “Where Lovers Go”, originally by The Jaguars is an instrumental cover of the chicano-surf combo’s song which has a late summer “Sleepwalk” feel to it; and the Los Lobos guitars are mouth-wateringly even twangier than the original.
I must admit, I’m a sucker for a good cover versions album – and this is a very good cover versions album, in that it serves the classic mixtape purpose of introducing the listener to all sorts of new and old sounds, as well as offering insight into the band doing the covering.
It’s not just a great covers album – it’s a great Los Lobos album.

Review by Nick Barber

Released 30th July 2021
http://www.loslobos.org/site/

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Mark Harrison Band THE ROAD TO LIBERTY

Mark Harrison Band
The Road to Liberty
Self-Release

Universally Observational Roots and Troubadour Songs Straight Outta Coventry!

First of all Mark Harrison is no relation at all; in fact I’m not even aware of a family member called Mark; plus in the original e-mail; I was addressed as Dear Rocking Magpie ….. so no conflict of interests here.
In theory I should have been aghast at the prospect of a Double Album full of Folk and/or Folk Rock music; but there was something intriguing about the album Cover that intrigued me and drew me in.
In no small way, the intricate steel-guitar picking and militaristic drumming at the start of opener Tribulation Time was another reason that I carried on listening. The song itself; and the Guthriesque way Mark delivers it is very much a timeless song ‘of our times’ if that isn’t too much of a contradiction; as with hindsight is the dark Better Days too.
Obviously there was the fear that the band could have peaked early; but the next song; Everybody Knows is a definite ‘keeper’; a rather delightful Americana/Bluegrass love song Straight Outta Coventry!
Being his sixth release; Mark writes some very mature and clever songs that will pique the interest of listeners like myself; Club of Lost Souls is a quintessentially British tale; but the writer still finds something universal and full of songwriting pathos in his words and observations; Wheels Going Round shouldn’t really work; but fans of the likes of Tom Paxton and Tom Rush will recognise a kindred spirit at play; and Curl Your Toes is an expression that I haven’t heard in years; but somehow Mark makes it the perfect title for a tale of unrequited love.
Even with those five previous albums to pick from; I’d have no problems at all turning up and finding Mark and Friends playing this album in all it’s glory from start to finish; especially All Rise which sounds like it could be from the American Civil War; but isn’t; and the fabulous Lowlife Avenue; also from the second album.
As someone with no discernable musical talent; I never fail to be impressed by songwriters of all ilks; but when someone like Mark Harrison can sit in the shadows unnoticed then turn out quality songs like the red raw observational Toolmaker’s Blues, Hard Life and/or I’m Damned with no publicity machine behind them; so they are quite simply part of his repertoire for Fans Only.
While I was expecting a raucous sing-along with Last Bus Home; what we actually receive is a delightful and Summery instrumental that has me smiling every time I play it.
With so much to choose from; and the quality being so high from start to finish; any Favourite Track will have to be very special; won’t it?
Well, substitute they for it; and you will find my choice is a tie between the gentle and articulate Passing Through; which has a melody not a million miles away from Greensleeves btw; and Don’t Let The Crazy Out The Bag (Too Soon) which could just as easily be a political statement or break-up song; who knows …… but it certainly shows what a rare talent Mark Harrison is!!
Apparently; and this will come as no great surprise but the Mark Harrison Band is something of an ever evolving beast; occasionally a 3 or 4 piece ensemble; usually a duo and when necessary Mark Harrison himself; and that sort of comes across on these songs at various times….. yet all combining to create a very listenable hour and a bit.
Perhaps I did Mark a disservice describing his music as Folk; because it’s so much more than ‘just that’ ….. in today’s parlance; his canny mix of Folk and Blues is Roots Music I suppose; and where he and the band from the States would undoubtedly fit into the Americana field of play.
So; if the Mark Harrison Band come to a town near you or ever play a Festival you are at; take a chance …… you won’t be disappointed; and tell him Uncle Alan sent you. (#Joke)

Released July 25th 2021
http://www.markharrisonrootsmusic.com/about.php

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David Starr MAGNOLIA (Single)

David Starr
Magnolia
Self-Release

We are kind of avoiding singles these days; primarily because there are so many being released these days and we can’t keep up.
But; occasionally ones arrives that piques the attention and you are left going “PHEW!”
Which is what happened here with David Starr’s latest release in his Touchstones covers project.
So far he’s released a new digital single every month for the last eight months; “Cabo San Lucas,” “Drive” (The Cars), “Angel From Montgomery” (John Prine), “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” (Gladys Knight), “Someone Like You” (Van Morrison), “These Days” (Jackson Browne), “Gotta Serve Somebody” (Bob Dylan), and “Every Kind of People” (Robert Palmer); but this version of JJ Cale’s Magnolia; which features the legendary John Oates too, really took my breath away; most especially his vocals; breathing new life into this beautiful classic; and I told his record company so ….. and here is an RMHQ Exclusive first play of the accompanying video.

Released July 15th 2021
https://www.davidstarrmusic.com/

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Tyler and the Train Robbers NON TYPICAL FIND

Tyler and the Train Robbers
Non Typical Find
Self-Release

A Warm and Almost Casual Feel, Belying the Depth of the Lyrics and Quality of the Playing.

Coming out of Boise Idaho this family-based band, like the rest of us, had their plans turned upside down by the pandemic. Having made a living touring and playing live, the Train Robbers; Tyler Ketchum on guitars and lead vocals, his brother Jason Bushman on bass and Johnny “Shoes” Pisano on guitars, found themselves with time on their hands….. lots of it.
When life hands you lemons?
So, Tyler and the Train Robbers took the time to record their third album; only this time, working with songs never tested live; and with the name Tyler and The Train Robbers, you might expect Outlaw Country of the guns, drinking, and chasing ladies kind, however, this LP is closer to Townes Van Zandt and early Steve Earle.
This is Blue-Collar Country, reflective and thoughtful, rather than raucous and rebellious.
From the opening track, the theme is one of change and what it might bring, reflecting the circumstances this LP was created under. 
Equation of Life is a fine opening track with some gorgeous sibling harmonies.
This Town rocking along a straight country line followed by Jenny Lynn, a gentle love song written for Tyler’s wife Jennifer.
Non-typical Find, the title track, is one of those story songs which is based on a true story. A body that was found while out hunting; and the speculation that it was connected to an auto accident months before.
Tyler’s take is again a reflection on choices and circumstances, beautifully rendered with empathy for the victims.  Lemonade, with a banjo break and a slight Bluegrass feel, tells of prison and regret.
Like most of the songs on this LP it’s an optimistic take;
“Stuck here doing time until time can only tell
I’ll throw my worries to the wintertime until wintertime is gone
Then I’ll find some sweetened water for to pour these lemons on.”

The aforementioned Jennifer joins the band for These Eyes,  adding harmonies and the track has a ‘jam’ feel, with licks and solos scattered through as the whole thing comes together.
The final track, Silver Line is the most directly about the ‘new normal, learning to find new ways to do old things’.

One can always find a silver line
sometimes it takes a second look
You can sync your mind into a better life
Bait your hook or cast out your best plug
Sit there and ponder on why
They might bite better if you use a fly |
Try not to think about when
Or if things will ever get back to the way they’ve been.”


Good advice indeed. 

Non-Typical Find is one of those albums that grows with each listen; its warm and almost casual feel belying the depth of the lyrics and quality of the playing. 

Review by Tom Gleeson aka Rathmacan https://thatgotmethinkingblog.wordpress.com/

Released July 9th 2021
https://www.tylorandthetrainrobbers.com/

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Jon Byrd ME AND PAUL

Jon Byrd
Me and Paul
Self Released

In a Parallel Universe These Songs Would Fit Perfectly on Late Night AM radio (A World Away From Now)

Jon Byrd has previously released four acclaimed solo albums of heartfelt country music in the twenty years since he moved to Nashville, and in a city full of pedal steel players Paul Niehaus is a ‘go to’ pedal steel player who’s made his mark playing with Iris DeMent, Calexico, Justin Townes Earle, as well as countless others.
These two played Nashville dive bars together for three years before deciding to record an EP of songs during the pandemic, because—”What else you gonna do?”
A mix of originals and covers, this EP is all Jon and Paul, much like you would hear from one of their bar gigs in downtown Nashville. No bass and drums, no lead guitar, no piano or backing vocals, just deft acoustic guitar and some wonderful pedal steel to add color.
Byrd prides himself on playing “what they used to call Country Music,” and he ain’t wrong. These songs are tried and true Olde Time Country—sadder than sad, soaked in whiskey, peopled by folks we all know.
In a parallel universe Byrd’s choice of songs here fit perfectly on late night 1960’s AM radio, a world away from now, yet nearly lost forever.
“I’ll Be Her Only One” opens the door here. The song that draws you in, forces you to sit up and listen closely. A story of a love that’s wanting, hopeful.
“Jr. and Lloyd” is pure songwriting storytelling ala “Pancho and Lefty. This is a story of an old time homemade Tennessee distillery and stock car racing too.
A tale of two friends, bound together through time.
“Cash On the Barrelhead” is a fun, rousing cover of the Louvin Brothers classic, the pedal steel soaring through the turnarounds will just make you swoon.
“Why Must You Think of Leaving” is my favorite here, a co-write with songwriter Shannon Wright. This is modern blues amped up to widescreen cinematic proportions.
Why must you think of leaving?
When you know you wanna stay?
Byrd intones, and the pedal steel clarifies, but knows best not to fully answer.
Another cover ends the album: J.J. Cale’s “Don’t Go To Strangers,” which really works here as a dark blues with Byrd’s finger-picked gut-string acoustic and the atmosphere which Niehaus’ moody and storm-driven pedal steel brings to the song.
This is a wonderfully moody group of songs, a great listen.
Thank you, Jon and thank you Paul.

Review courtesy Roy Peak

Released July 16th 2021
https://jonbyrd.com/

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