Allison Russell OUTSIDE CHILD

Allison Russell
Outside Child
Fantasy Records

An Album Full of Stark Contrasts, But With a Light That Ultimately Shines Through The Cracks.

For a change, I’m gong to start at the end with this review, as I believe the closing track “Joyful Motherfuckers” holds the oxymoronic key to this release – if ever there was an album which was a cathartic release, this is it.
Allison Russell has seen and experienced a lot of the dark in her life; but her attitude is
If you’ve got love in your heart,
but it’s way down in the dark
You better let it see the sun
– it’s a message of hope that cuts through the centre of everything on this debut Solo Album.
There’s a gratitude for experience that is seen from the off with “Montreal” a jazzy opener that veers between Taylor Swift, Richard Hawley and especially Jane Birkin its delivery.
The last time I saw Allison was alongside husband JT in concert as half of Birds of Chicago was in a tiny pub in Glasgow; and on that occasion she told a lengthy tale of the genetic/spiritual bond that links generations – and “Nightflyer” takes that as its core – again there’s oxymoronic tension in the deep lyrics
I’m a violent lullaby”,
but set this time it comes out as laid-back Gospel-Soul.
“Persephone” takes a more Countryfied vein and is a celebration of salvation through the strength or existence of a sympathetic other
My petals are bruised but I’m still a flower
– placing the past in context and making sense of a person and a time.
“4th Day Prayer” is a really tough listen
Father used me like a wife
Mother turned the blindest eye
Stole my body, spirit, pride
He did he did each night

but even amongst this horror, there’s the preservation of strength and an indefatigable desire to survive despite everything …
One for the hate that loops and loops
Two for the poison at the roots
Three for the children breaking through
Four for the day we’re standing in the sun

– this section is a unified, determined chant, which underscores the sentiment’s absolute strength at its core.
“The Runner” continues this theme and uses Indie-Soul to tell a tale that listener’s to the Velvet Underground’s “Rock’n’Roll” will be familiar with
– the redemptive power of music.
“Hy-Brasil” is another song that deals with the the theme of ancestry, but this time, it’s a deep dive into the mystical, set against a Celtic heartbeat rhythm and distant echoed parallel vocal, all washed in a serving of reverb.
“The Hunters” returns to the dark story of Russell’s abuse by her step-father and is verbalised in childlike, fairy-tale language.
It’s darker side is insidious – you could hear this on Radio 2 or in a high street chain store and it’s radio-friendly soul would wash over you – until you started to listen a little more closely to the lyrics.
“All of the Women”, set against a simple banjo rhythm creates an ode to the universal –
the women who disappeared” from a personal story of connection.
“Poison Arrow” is somewhat of an outlier in the settings of the album in that its starting point is based in the present, rather than a past experience – it’s about dealing with a place that was once painful, but which now offers new hope, seen through the fresh eyes of Russell’s young daughter
Je te souhaîte une deuxième chance” (I wish for you a second chance)”.
Its light Philly Soul reinforces this sense of optimism.
Penultimate track “Little Rebirth” is a musing on our insignificant/significant place in the universe
Chimes in the morning
Feet to the Earth
We’re all transforming
A little Rebirth

– set against a sparse arrangement, it places Russell’s voice to the for; adding extra gravitas to the singers’ sentiments – and her use of the French language throughout (which happens frequently across the whole album) adds a cosmopolitan universality too….and then it’s back to where I started, with ‘that’ powerful closing track “Joyful Motherfuckers”….
There are some albums that are just heard and some that need to be intently listened and then thought about – Alison Russell’s debut solo release is very much the latter – it’s an album of stark thematic lyrical contrasts in which the light ultimately shines through.

Review by Nick Barber

Released May 21st 2021


Dr Lonnie Smith Ft Iggy Pop BREATHE

Dr Lonnie Smith ft Iggy Pop
Blue Note

Often Dark, Brooding and Dreamy. Jazz at It’s Finest?

I can only apologise for being so late with this review; it certainly arrived in time for the Release Date but …. you know; life just got in the way …. and this needed time and patience; which have both been in short supply recently.
First of all; in some ways this is an odd release, as the middle six tracks are Live Recordings from 2017 when Smith celebrated his 75th birthday; and they are bookended by two tracks with the Bad Boy of Punk, Iggy Pop supplying vocals ….. in itself; something well worthy of my time and patience.
Opening song; the Soul Classic; Why Can’t We Live Together? is quite dreamy; especially the way Smith plays the Hammond and Iggy; much to my surprise adds his part straight down the middle; who knew he could do crooning? Well, he can and the combination must surely beckon a full album in this mode one day?
Then comes Dr Lonnie Smith and his band; guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, drummer Johnathan Blake, as well as an expanded septet featuring John Ellis on tenor saxophone, Jason Marshall on baritone saxophone, Sean Jones on trumpet, and Robin Eubanks on trombone, and they moved me in such a way I thought I might cry like a baby when I first heard track #2 Bright Eyes (no, not ‘that’ one!) ….. it is simply beautiful; Jazz at it’s finest? A matter of opinion of course ….. but hey; the way these cats come together as one?
It’s not that what follows is inferior; far from it but Smith ‘challenges’ the listener at times; ok this isn’t the most dangerous Jazz I’ve ever heard (thankfully) but you have to invest time (and patience) to let the wonders of Too Damn Hot and Epistrophy unravel to get the best from the intricate musicianship from the players …. and it is worth it.
Smith and the compilers have a bit of fun at our expense too; adding Track 9 at #4 in the running order; but this noire instrumental could come at any stage and still send a shudder down your spine.
The album closes with Iggy Pop making his second appearance in the studio; this time on a cool reworking of Donovan’s Sunshine Superman; and KERPOW! It’s absolutely wonderful in a soulful groove; and was an early contender for Favourite Track; but two more fitting other tracks actually scrap for that title.
The 12 minute opus, World Weeps, first appearing in 2014 couldn’t be a more fitting soundtrack for where we are in 2021 after one of the worst years in the world’s history. Dark, brooding and almost ‘Prog’ in the way the piece plays out; with individual musical interludes segueing from one to another to create something that was heart stopping that night in 2017.
This is Jazz; but not as I know it.
The other track; and the one that possibly tips the balance is the only actual song from that night, Pilgrimage, featuring Smith’s daughter Alicia Olatuja on vocals; which with me not reading the bio or notes; came as quite a surprise and a rather lovely one at that, as Smith’s playing already had me mesmerised so when Alicia makes her appearance after a couple of stunning minutes; I actually gasped ……. much to my wife’s amusement; as I was listening on headphones!
Oddly enough; between immersing myself in this recording and now typing up my thoughts, I’ve been part of a playful ‘spat’ on the Twitter regarding Jazz. Much like my friends there, there’s a lot I’ve tried to get my head around over the years; and failed miserably to understand, with too much being the musical equivalent of the Emperors New Clothes; and far too many Jazz Buffs being ‘holier than thou’ when it comes to discussing this style of music; but I’m really, really enjoying and appreciating what I’m receiving these days; and long may it continue.

Released March 26th 2021*/CD/Breathe/6VFJ0WPJ000


Lost Sessions
Cherokee Records

Taking Folk Music and Americana Imagery To the Max.

This is the third 3Hattrio album I have, yet the first I’ve reviewed (and possibly listened to).
Why? You may well ask.
For the benefit of new readers I’m pretty much a One Man Band with the help of a couple of friends who chip in with reviews when time allows. Therefore selecting albums to listen to then actually write about is obviously time consuming; so my selections can be quite arbitrary; and in this case ……. I thought the groups name to be a bit off putting.
No more – no less.
But; several of my peers seem smitten with this trio so I thought ….. why not? I can’t be right all of the time.
So; on a windswept and sunny day last week I sat down and donated three hours to 3Hattrio.
Time well spent?
3Hattrio describe themselves as purveyors of Desert Music; and that is evident straight from opening track; In Or Out. It’s most certainly Americana in essence; but has a hot and dusty ‘feel’ to it, which harks up the imagery photographer Ansel Adams is famous for; stark, interesting and intrinsically beautiful.
Once I had that in my mind; I think I ‘got’ 3Hattrio.
While Miss Tilly, errs on the edges of Folk Music it has an edge to it that most I hear these days fails to manage.
For me though, this album revolves around the moods and senses that the group create; probably starting with Gallus; a bass guitar creating an ever increasing heartbeat as the other instruments enter the fray; giving a feeling of fear and drama that could easily sit behind a video of someone lost in the rocks or mountains.
For just three musicians; Hal Cannon, Eli Wrankle and Greg Istock can really fill the room with acoustic sonic bursts ……… the (almost) Avant Garde Disquieting being a prime example; but Lost In The Woods, Attack of the Shadows and the tightly wrapped Never Going Home are similarly haunting and bring elements of Modern American Classical tones to the story too.
Selecting a Favourite Track is none to easy; as each track is intrinsically different; while combining to create some kind of soundtrack; and this achieve with great musical dexterity.
But; two tracks did stick in my mind over the following days; the finale Pushing You Down; with a rather pained and emotional vocal performance sounds a bit like Robbie Robertson’s early solo offerings with a smidgen of Tom Waits in the lyrics; the other; No In-between sounds like a Modern Jazz/Avant Garde hybrid albeit with a haunting, monastic drone. Confused? You may well be …… but it’s a staggering five and a half minutes of ‘music’.
I have no idea if LOST SESSIONS fits in alongside previous offerings; but in its own rite I’ve grown to not just like it; but be seriously impressed by each and every track; which as I said earlier combine to be some kind of Soundtrack (to an imaginary Western?).
Most of what I review is destined to be played live in a Club of one sort or another; this on the other hand needs to be heard in a Concert Hall with great acoustics to get the best from it.

Released 26th March 2021


Allen Ginsberg THE HOWL (Reed College First Recording)

Alan Ginsberg
Howl Recordings
Omnivore Records

Still Obscene in 2021? Close Your Eyes and Let the Poetry Fill the Tired Empty Spaces.

Allen Ginsberg is commonly known for two things: being a founding member of the Beat Generation, and the fact that one of his books, Howl and Other Poems, was banned for obscenity.
The Beat Generation consisted of Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Herbert Huncke, and Lucien Carr, all of whom met in 1944. The main theme of the Beat Movement was to push back against the passionless and pointless society around them. Their protests included reimagining the current forms of poetry and narrative, which in their minds did not express the real experiences of the post war generation.
Ginsberg’s Howl – first performed in 1955 – was, like his other poetry, an attempt to free verse from the academy and the forms which had trapped it; and to express truth regardless of the prudish tastes of polite society.
In 1957, San Francisco police arrested the publisher on obscenity charges, ultimately leading to a court decision in favor of the book.

It is the trial that jogged my memory. I had some vague knowledge of it, but to be honest my familiarity with the Beat Poets went no deeper than this; and a passing knowledge of Kerouac.
So, I began listening to this recording without many preconceived notions, other than the idea that at the time, the poems were considered obscene – at least by the San Francisco police department.
From our vantage point on the space time continuum, Ginsberg’s poetry does not seem incredibly shocking, but it was the case against Howl – along with another first amendment obscenity case, Roth v. United States earlier in 1957 – that allows us to be as blasé as we are about artists’ use vulgar language and topics.
Ginsberg frankly discussed sex and used words that were deemed too coarse for public consumption at the time, and for that alone, the modern world owes him.
Howl and Other Poems was one of the shots fired against the gatekeepers of public decorum who felt that some truths were too vulgar for public consumption. And it landed.

I had no knowledge of the poems themselves, although I did a bit more digging into the history of the Beat Poets. Ginsberg’s place in history is reason enough to listen. I suggest reading up a little on the Beat Generation and its adherents, whether before or after listening is up to you, but the context adds depth. While there has been some recent scholarship about the lack of a place for women in the group, it’s still interesting as a watershed moment in the modes and forms of writing, worth digging into as a way of understanding how literature and poetry landed where they are today.
The press release included with the recording is a great place to start. It provides a good deal of background about the Beat Poets, Ginsberg in particular and even the venue for the recording, Reed College, who’s t-shirt motto was Communism. Atheism. Free Love.

And now onto my own interaction with Howl and the shorter poems Ginsberg read at Reed College. The kind of people who listen to and review poetry recordings are foundationally odd.
I mean, right from the start that’s apparent.
I’ll cop to that. Not only is that true of me, the context in which I listened to this recording was peculiar as well and more than likely colors my review. Several nights a week, I have insomnia and I view the world through a hazy veil of sleeplessness.
If you’ve never experienced insomnia you may not quite understand the thin coating of anxiety and despair that colors everything after about 1AM, when you realize you will not be going to sleep, nor might you grasp the twisted resourcefulness that results in attempting to work during the flat, exhausting hours when your body begs your brain to just stop already.

I feel compelled to let the reader know most nights I listened to the Reed College recordings, it was during the blunted dreamless hours after 1AM and further into the night.
And during this time, I found Ginsberg’s voice rhythmic and palliative. Neither Ginsberg’s poems nor his voice ever reach a fever pitch in this recording, particularly in the short poems preceding Howl like Epithalamion, or Wild Orphan. Although, Kerouac might disagree with me – he’s quoted as saying that Ginsberg “wailed his poem, Wail, drunk with arms outspread”.
Maybe Kerouac and I differ as to what constitutes wailing. For me however, even when Ginsberg expresses emotion, Howl being the piece in which his voice carries the most passion, his voice is too precise and rhythmic to break me out of the flow, and it’s the feeling of being carried along on the current of the poem, perhaps, that soothes me.

Ginsberg has a real voice too, the voice of a person you might overhear in a restaurant or on the street. It’s not a voice for the theatre.
Not a voice for ringing oratories.
The voice itself does not compel
It delivers the words of the man who wrote them and it’s the words that are important; the voice does not overpower them or give them meaning in expression they would not otherwise carry. Ginsberg’s words have a feeling of viridity because of the ordinary quality of his voice.

The poems themselves are beautifully made.
There is irony.
There is humor.
There are observations that are at once distilled into discrete moments and yet there is a vaguely narrative quality as the images follow each other, as in A Supermarket in California in which he describes a night trip to the grocery store. Over Kansas was another with vivid images that seemed to form themselves into recognizable, almost but not quite, story-like patterns.
And so, as I listened late into night and into the wee hours of the morning, I found the rhythms of the poetry and his well-modulated voice took the place of dreams and I could close my eyes and let the poetry fill the tired empty spaces in my head.

My personal conclusion?
Ginsberg is now one of the companions of my sleepless nights, an alternative to dreaming. I will keep this on my playlist.
Whether or not you ultimately feel as at home in Ginsberg’s poetry as I did, is up to you, but the history is compelling enough a reason to give this a listen and see what you think.

By Julie Carpenter *Editor at Sacred Chickens website


The 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco DON’T GO ANYWHERE

The 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco
Don’t Go Anywhere
Bandcamp Inc.

Contemporary All-American, Grown Up Pop Music From a Sleeper Unit Based in Essex.

The 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco are riddled with many and various secrets ….. some I am privy too; and others that are part of an elaborate FBI plot to plant American ex-popstar sleeper units deep into the UK countryside; and when the time is right, will send them a codeword (‘Lockdown’ ?) so they can spread jollity and happiness across the airwaves.
Or not ….. depending on your imagination.
It’s got to be something like that; or why else would this 100% American belter; made in Essex sound so almost perfect and fully formed; if the Tail Fins hadn’t previously spent the the last 20+ years touring the Western Hemisphere and releasing Grammy Winning albums?
It all starts with the Reno’s Electric Stairs; funky Contemporary All-American Pop Music in all its fabulous multi-layered glory ….. What’s not to like?
Sadly most of the descriptive prose I want to use may likely put you off; and that would be a damn shame; as these songs; one and all, are perfect slices of intellectual, articulate and melodious slices of Grown Up Pop Music in the same vein as RMHQ favourites Barenaked Ladies and most of all; a band I fell in love with by accident when I once bought the wrong LP ……. Steely Dan!
While I don’t normally get lost in the rabbit hole that is full of vinyl fetishists; but these songs like Best Bitters, 1909 GTC and Here All Week are chock full of hidden musical chambers that you simply must take the time to listen either on headphones or most likely damn good (and balanced) hi-fi speakers to get the best out of the them.
If we use their new FBI names, 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco are; more or less, the brainchild of David Myers and Malcolm Moore who have proper day jobs; meaning these songs and their intensely clever and intricate arrangements are, to all intents and purposes …. a hobby!
Hence my FBI ‘Witness Protection’ theory ….. surely, Heligan Begin Again and J is For Genius (with that funky as Hell bass line!) can only be from musicians who studied at Harvard Tango University?
Also; I can only dream/fantacise about hearing Open Your Windows & Doors in all it’s Sgt. Pepper filtered through Pet Sounds glory at Sage Gateshead or even Newcastle City Hall with its majestic acoustics; but more than likely it will be at the Fox and Hounds on a Thursday night in the Latin Quarter of Chigwell; which is such a shame.
Even though I loved their last album HARVARD TANGO and was privy to a secret single a few weeks ago; nothing has really prepared me for the leaps and bounds Myers and Moore have made in the interim; which has made choosing a Favourite Track nigh on impossible; just about every song merits its place here …….’all killer – no filler’, but I’ve concentrated this morning and narrowed it down to three ……. the quirky Sparks-a-like Banana Beer and Other Cults; the self-depreciating Silverback and the slow and sultry Best Bitters; which really and truly sounds like it was the ‘secret track’ in the run off to first edition CD’s of Steely Dan’s Aja or Gaucho!
Seriously; and I know I am capable of excessive hyperbole some days but this album is a MUST BUY if you like any of the bands I’ve name checked above; or you just like Classy Music.

Released 25th March 2021



Hasaan Ibn Ali
Omnivore Records

Modernism From 1965 Still Sounds Fresh and Exciting in The 21st Century.

As the name of the website implies; I’ve always been a bit of a Magpie where music is involved; and while I’ve tried several times over the years to sit among the Cool Kids and ‘like’ Jazz; it’s always been hard work.
Bits and pieces have certainly took my fancy; but in general too much I’ve listened to has been high brow for the likes of me, and I tend to go back to what I know.
Then along came Omnivore Records last year with a couple of releases that I became fascinated with and now, there’s this ‘great lost album’ from Hasaan Ibn Ali.
Being totally honest, the name didn’t mean a thing; but I trust the source implicitly and played it one night as I was reading a long form article in GQ Magazine …… and it was the perfect accompaniment.
With that under my belt; I’ve now played METAPHYSICS: THE LOST ATLANTIC ALBUM six times and each time enjoyed it more than the last.
Recorded in August/September 1965 in New York the album was shelved by the label (Atlantic) because Ali was in jail on drugs charges! Different times indeed.
Subsequently the original tapes were lost in a warehouse fire; but a second copy mysteriously turned up a couple of years ago and …. here ’tis.
Not being any form of expert it’s always going to be difficult reviewing an instrumental Jazz album; but opening track Atlantic Ones simply oozes Class, with a capital C. Ali’s piano playing is breath-taking; but first and foremost, Odean Pope’s tenor sax playing simply sizzles in a way I’ve never heard before.
While I wasn’t wrong using this as ‘background music’ that night; but heard on headphones; or my favourite …. late at night in the car (a very early foggy morning was pretty fine too)…… WOW!
The darkly brooding El Hasaan could be from a Hitchcock soundtrack and the 11 minutes plus of True Train have held me totally transfixed twice; as the music smothered me like a warm blanket.
To my untutored ears, this is as close to Classical Music as I’m ever going to get and the interplay between Ali on piano and Pope, Saxophone on Viceroy and the majestic Epitome while Art Davis, bass; and Kalil Madi on drums hold the whole thing together like velvet covered steel, allowing the virtuosos the time and space to make their magic happen.
I may not understand the actual title, but the intricately beautiful ‘Richard May Love Give Powell’ gives the title track Metaphysics a run for its money in the Favourite Track Stakes; but for no real other reason than it is just plain brilliant; with the latter taking the title by a short head.
The three additional tracks are the obligatory ‘alternate takes’ and there’s nothing wrong with them at all; but phew the playing and energy earlier is truly spellbinding; and well worth discovering if you are only vaguely interested in this style of music; as I am.

Released April 23rd 2021


Lorenzo Wolff – Down Where the Valleys Are Low: Another Otherworld for Judee Sill

Lorenzo Wolff
Down Where the Valleys Are Low: Another Otherworld for Judee Sill
StorySound Records

Avant-Garde Interpretations of Bedsit Heartbreakers.

This has been a bit of a challenge on several levels. Firstly I thought I knew Judee Sill’s work; but apparantly don’t and have never owned a single record of hers; and neither did my brothers, then I thought I saw her once as a ‘support act’ ….. again, this drew a blank ….. but I did recognise the recording she did for OGWT of Jesus Was a Crossmaker.
Then, Producer Lorenzo Wolf’s reimaginings of Judee Sill’s songs have; on occasion stretched my own imagination; but I’ve clung on in there just for you.
With all that in mind this isn’t going to be a ‘compare and contrast’ with the originals, that’s for sure.
Hmmmm; the slightly electro-psychedelic opening to first song Down Where The Valleys are low, made my teeth itch; but Mary Elaine Jenkins’ soulful voice carries a rather dark and lovely song way past where the Electronica backdrop deserves.
This is followed by a contemporary Blues-Rock version of The Pearl, with Batrees Strange (a man btw) sounding like he’s actually living every word and stanza in a Ty Taylor aka Vintage Trouble kinda way; making this a bit of a Soulful Belter.
Only two songs in and you see my dilemma as a Casual Listener; it’s a thematic Various Artist album with each version being entirely different from each other.
That said; there are a couple of absolute beauty’s among these seven songs ……. Emily Holden’s ethereal adaptation of The Kiss feels like something you’d expect from Kate Bush, but Emily’s golden voice is far, far easier on the ear.
Bobby Hawk and Kate Ferber take The Phoenix on a cluttered Alt. Country journey that I certainly wasn’t expecting; but have come back to a couple of times.
Weirdly, I’ve also been drawn to Crayon Angels and technically I shouldn’t as the Avant-Garde and slightly overwhelming backing detracts from Grace McLean’s gorgeous voice …… challenging? You bet!
That leaves two songs; obviously Ms Sill’s epic Jesus Was a Crossmaker is here; and it’s fair to say Michael Cerveris does it justice, but producer Lorenzo Wolff still gets carried away with the electronics; attempting some kind of sub-Krautrock tempo and commotion behind a very passionate singer and song.
Then; there is There’s a Rugged Road …… phew; still sounding nearer to Post-Punk than Bedsit singer-songwriter, this adaptation using Osei Esed’s rich baritone is by far and away the best and most memorable song here; making it my Favourite.
Even now three days and five attempts at playing it all the way through; I’m not sure what Lorenzo Wolff’s intentions are; as I doubt this will appeal to Judee Sill fans and/or casual music fans like my good self. The good thing though is I think I’ve discovered some really interesting sings …… so some good has come out of this.

Released March 12th 2021



Philip Kane
Book of Broken Things

Blue Eyed Soul at its Thoughtful Best

I have to admit that my knowledge of Philip Kane was limited to liking a couple of tracks on the ‘Flowers and Ledges’ album about 4/5 years ago, after a recommendation from a friend who was really into his ‘Soul’ music but that was as far as it went at that stage.
After 5 years of relative silence, it was interesting to be approached about the latest release so I’ve given it a lot of listening and attention over their last few days. A very small review in MOJO also got me keen to review this.
You don’t have to listen for long before you realise that Philip Kane has a stunning voice – it just hammers you from the opening track and immediately; I was racking my brains to recall which artist I was reminded of. The very discreet backing is slightly gospel, but the guitar solo smoothly takes over the middle bars. His half sung, half spoken technique suits this perfectly.
‘Here Comes The Avalanche’ is a much softer track in terms of vocal and backing band allowing him to show off even more his gentler side;
you are my sunshine even in a total eclipse
in a tale of a broken relationship. I was really getting into this now.
Among the artists contributing on the album include Ed Harcourt, Emma Pollock, Fiona Brice and Steve Pollock together with his group, The Expendables (whom he has been with 23 years and recorded three previous albums) and that probably shows the regard in which this Art-Rock singer is held. That probably pales alongside his writing endeavours that include articles that have been translated into about a dozen separate languages.
Now in his fifties, Philip has clearly not lost any of his obvious love of music and the need to use it to keep his personal views of his own mortality after the death of several close friends and his superb soulful voice allows him to move through an array of varied tracks without missing a beat.
For older readers there is a hint of Scott Walker (and Leonard Cohen) on several songs, as he moves from the catchy ‘Radio Friendly Death’ and its great chorus, to the oh so gentle ‘Willow On The Hill’ and the strings on ‘The Death Of A Librarian’ – a sad tale of someone who has seen life through the words of others as ‘his life was an abstraction.’
A great voice and an equally good wordsmith combine to produce an album that surprised me in a really good way. Maybe that friend’s tip of 5 years ago should have made me pay more attention.
A singer who is still ‘finding himself’?
Absolutely not – this is a guy who knows where he has been and where he is going.
Definitely a very different album to many that I find myself listening to these days, but one that has certainly earned my respect.

Review Bill Redhead
Released 19th March 2021

Elliott Smith EVERYBODY CARES VA Charity Compilation

Out today; Everybody Cares: An Elliott Smith Compilation which has been put together by Francis Lung (ex-WU LYF), La Blogotheque and My Favourite Elliott Smith Song (a fan podcast) – the compilation of Elliott Smith covers with 100% of the proceeds going towards LGBTQ+ right charities (AKT, The Audre Lorde Project and GIRES).
The charity compilation was put together in June 2020 as a live show via La Blogotheque’s Instagram, raising over £1500 for the aforementioned charities – now, in an effort to keep supporting, they are releasing the compilation via Bandcamp.
Cover versions come from Christian Lee Hutson, Francis Lung, Oceanator, Keep Dancing Inc., Blaenavon, Marissa Nadler, Martin Courtney (Real Estate) and more.

Released 15th February 2021
Bandcamp link:

Here’s where your money goes:
The Audre Lorde Project


Maximo Park
Prolifica Inc.

Plenty of Driving Guitars and Well Crafted Vocals; Now That’s Entertainment!

I suppose that I need to own up to the fact that although I’ve never felt let down by a live Maximo gig, but I haven’t always felt the same about all of their album releases.
Not that they have been bad – it’s just that they haven’t come up to the same exciting standards live.
As a result I was really looking forward to ‘Nature Always Wins,’ especially as we are dealing with a local band that have done well in their years on the national stage; and I had also planned to see their forthcoming local gig (not likely to happen now).
It is an achievement that this has even come out at all in 2021, when we consider the effects of COVID 19 and the various lockdowns that have impacted on the music scene in general; and this album in particular.
Producer Ben Allen and the band had to complete the album with them in the UK and Ben in Atlanta – the wonders of modern technology.
Paul Smith must have one of the most distinctive voices of current front men and the opener, ‘Partly Of My Making’ suits him down to the ground, quite catchy with a very subtle change of emphasis mid song.
A real ‘indie rock’ track.
A very gentle intro takes them into ‘Versions Of You;’
I can hardly comprehend these versions of you
with Smith at his best as the vocals rise and falls on a smashing track.
An acknowledgement within a relationship of how many impressions (versions)  a person can give of themselves.
‘Baby Sleep’ is Maximo at their best, with driving guitars and well crafted vocals and we then race into ‘Placeholder’, a song about relationships and coping within the confines of such a duo delivered at full pace. An excellent selection as their recent single.
One aspect of their music has always been their ability to spend time on their lyrics; and the meaning behind them and ‘All Of Me’ is, for me, the highlight of the first half of the album, a real toe tapper and a sing along at gigs (remember them?).
The band at their best vocally and musically too.
The second half starts with ‘Meeting Up’, another song about the vagaries of thinking how each party believes the other will be thinking; or imagining it’s progress.
In ‘Why Must A Building Burn’ they consider why matters have to go so sour before both parties realise that isn’t what they needed in the first place.
The pace never drops as we move into the last 3 or 4 tracks and this is where the band are at their very best, keeping a high tempo and not allowing the listener a chance to consider moving onto a new track.
As we get towards the end of the album I realised that I hadn’t really been aware of it coming to an end – always a good sign for me; but I will know better on a couple of extra listenings in coming weeks.
Possibly the softest song on the set is track 11, the penultimate track; ‘Feelings I’m Supposed To Feel’ but it isn’t out of place, as it gives Smith the perfect opportunity to run through his full range and I reckon this would be a cracker at a live gig, the spoken section getting the crowd ‘cranked up’ for the finale.
‘Child Of The Flatlands’ has a pensive Smith looking into a bleak future as the world changes; but he yearns for being back in the days when he was a kid.
Not my favourite track and one which I feel doesn’t sit comfortably as an end to an album.
Personally, I would have preferred this to have been slotted somewhere in the middle of the set.
Going back to my opening comments I’ve now listened to the album again; and although I feel it is better than their last couple of albums, I am still of the opinion that they are a better band live.
I also have to admit that as a regular gig goer I much prefer to be ‘entertained’ more at the gig, than when I am listening to a CD or vinyl at home; or on my headphones while out walking.
It’s an album I’ve genuinely enjoyed; (and Maximo Park fans certainly will) and that’s all that really matters – we all need an occasional uplift; especially as this year is unfolding; and the album will do that.
Maximo Park were scheduled to play this album at a number of socially distanced gigs in February but these have already been cancelled and replaced by a July Tour; fingers crossed things will get closer to normality by then!

Review by Bill Redhead.
Released February 26th 2021