Rick Berthod TRIBUTE TO PETER GREEN (The Fleetwood Mac Years)

Rick Berthod
Tribute to Peter Green (The Fleetwood Mac Years)
Self Release

A Beautiful and Thoughtful Homage to a Forgotten Master Blues Guitarist.

Rick Berthod appears to have been around the American Blues scene forever, playing alongside and/or supporting most of the Legends in a career that has also produced 8 previous albums; and today he finds himself fronting the house band at The House of Blues in Las Vegas.
A couple of nights ago I was out with some ex-colleagues; all younger than me and mostly music fans. After a couple of pints I got mischievous; asking “who was the guitarist in Fleetwood Mac?”
To a man they agreed on Lindsay Buckingham; and when I asked the follow up; “Not Peter Green?” Their faces were left scrunched up, as they didn’t know who I was talking about …. although they had heard (of) Albatross.
Which is why this album is a) an oddity and b) essential listening for the younger generation.
OK there probably is a version of the legendary Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits floating around e-Bay; but Rick Berthod’s song selection and beautiful homage to a Master Guitarist is well worth checking out; and/or giving as a Christmas present.
Although the opening track, If You Be My Baby isn’t one of the better known tracks from this period; but the guitar playing is simply ‘liquid gold’ …. no; scrub that ….. ‘liquid platinum’ and it never leaves that trajectory all the way through to the finale Loved Another Woman.
The other thing about that opening song; is Berthod’s voice; beautiful yet melancholic and simply aching with the longing that these songs all conjure up.
When I was at senior school in the 70’s selecting and then defending your selection of Favourite Guitarist was a key part of the day; and while I was always a Rory Gallagher fan; Peter Green was always a great back up.
Coming back to the album and it’s contents; when I first scanned the track list my first thoughts were “does the world need another version of Black Magic Woman?”
Well; in this case … yes. Berthod slows it down to a feisty shuffle and after a minute or so you forget that Carlos Santana ever recorded his version; as this is short, sharp and timeless; with a vocal performance worthy of a Chicago speakeasy in the mid 60’s.
There a few songs here that I either can’t remember or have not heard before; but the sting in the tail that Rattlesnake Shake left me was staggering; and if I’d heard Stop Messing Around in a ‘blind tasting’ I’d have sworn it was from John Mayall’s ‘Beano’ album, featuring the best guitar playing Eric Clapton ever managed.
The Peter Green Classics are all here of course; and are all played with loving care and not a note out of place; most notably on the sublime Need Your Love So Bad (with additional Prof Longhairesue piano interludes) and Oh Well; which both benefit from Berthod’s distinctive world weary vocals; which puts a new spin on them; as they now sound like the original youngster, looking back on life in 2022.
Albatross is …. well…. Albatross; spellbinding of course; and had to be included, but no one is ever, ever going to compete with Green on his Masterwork, will there?
On an album like this I always look for something unexpected as a Favourite Track; and here there are another two songs that I have no memory of and both stopped me dead in my tracks as I tried to do some paperwork.
Jumpin’ At Shadows is heartbreakingly beautiful and with hindsight; sounds as if it was written many years after Green left The Mac, as it sounds like a love story to the man himself; and there are times the guitar playing brought tears to my eyes the first time I played it.
The other, in the tie; is the majestic Driftin’ … which fits in somewhere between Hank B Marvin, Clapton and Joe Bonamassa in the guitar stakes (remember what I said about ‘liquid platinum’ …. but here it’s the actual song; Blues so dark it’s almost black that I’ve fallen in love with!
It’s a Peter Green ‘original’ but I’m pretty damn sure he was immersing himself in BB Kings older albums before writing it.
So; my overall thoughts? I like it …. a lot; mostly because of Berthold’s lovely and ‘lived in’ vocals sufficiently different from Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’s ‘originals’ to make it well worth recommending … esp if you know a young person (under 50 hahaha) who doesn’t know who Peter Green was.

Released October 29th 2022



Various Artists
The Skippy White Story
Yep Roc Records

1960’s Amazing R&B, Soul and Gospel From Downtown Boston

It’s never been a secret, but I was a Soul Boy in my younger days; not just the Pop stuff; although you simply can’t get better than either of my Motown box-sets; but I still regularly squander hard earned cash on albums by acts in the many sub-genres, sects and totally unknown labels that neither you or I have ever heard of.
So; when this exciting album arrived a month back, the cover pic was enough to make me put it straight into the CD player before I’d even unfolded the Press Release or looked at the track list to see if there was any acts I’d heard of.
Before we go any further; 99% of people who grew up listening to Motown in particular and Stax/Atlantic too won’t give this album a second glance….. but the other 1%? They are in for a rare treat indeed.
The biggest surprise here, and with hindsight it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all; is that this album (and others in the series) was curated by Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed; of course it was! Who else?
Personally, and I’m not an expert anyway, I’d never heard of the ‘Boston scene’ in the 1960’s that these songs; some never released before, come from; but in the Soul World at that time, labels sprung up like mushrooms to promote local musicians and played on radio stations with only city wide/regional wavelengths.
First on the dancefloor is Junior Washington giving it his best ‘Smokey Robinson/Gene Chandler impression on an absolute belter called, coincidentally The Skippy White Theme pt2; named after the record store / label owner who promoted all of these songs.
This is followed by the swoonsome ballad Sleepwalk by Sammy and the Del-Lards, which given a good tail wind and some financial promotion could easily have been a huge National hit if licenced to one of the Major labels; but it wasn’t and like everyone else here has lain gathering dust unto Eli found it and dusted it down.
Even listening to these long lost songs today in my semi-detached house; I still feel that tingle that the acts and their extended families and friends must have felt when these songs came on local radio stations ‘back in the day’ …. not least the spine tingling ballads by The Precisions; I Love What I Found In You and Me & My Girl.
Without wanting to sound even the slightest bit pedantic it’s quite easy to play ‘spot the influence’;’ on songs like Georgia Chain Gang and Evil Woman Blues by the charmingly monikered Guitar Nubbit and The Earl Lett Quartet’s smooth as silk, Now Is The Time and even Lynn Harmonizer’s Gospel drenched, I Was Standing; but that matters not a jot; and doesn’t spoil your listening pleasure for a single second … even enhancing it at times.
It’s actually been interesting to find that the label; and this particular album is so diverse introducing music fans to the Blues and Gospel as well as the Soul tracks themselves.
It’s certainly not been easy selecting a single Favourite song, as many if not all have their merits; not least The Precisions heartbreaker, Treason as it features an amazing brass section, whereas Crayton Singers, Master on High is a wonderfully arranged Gospel-Pop song in the style of Aretha and/or Gladys Knight and boy has this girl; 13 year old Joyce Crayton got a fantastic voice!
Which only leaves The Sons of David with another Soul infused Gospel belter called I’ve Been Lifted out of Sin, which made me go to the volume dial and turn it to the right when I was in the car. HALLELUJAH Brothers and Sisters … send me more like this.
As I said at the beginning, this album is for and dedicated to the 1% and those who unearth it are in for a veritable treat from start to finish
Last but not least; like so many others over the years, I’m not aware of anyone here going on to make a career in the music industry; but what a blast they must have had being a Star for a few weeks or months when these songs and their like even on a local basis; and … think on …. if you live in or around the Boston area and someones Grandma or Grandpa regularly regales the family with tales of Fame and No Fortune when they were Popstars in the 60’s ….. dig deep, they may be on this album.

Released October 28th 2022


Matt Andersen @TheCluny Newcastle

Matt Andersen
The Cluny

13th October 2022
I even checked the venue website to confirm ‘doors open’ at 7.30, as I’ve ALREADY missed a couple of support acts this year; and arriving at 7.50 still only managed see local legends Archie Brown and Pat Rafferty’s final two songs!
How did everyone else know to be there for a 7.30 start?
Anyhow; I did get to see the dynamic duo perform the brittle This Town Is King and an elongated The Killer, which allowed Pat to regale us with an accordion solo of almost Pink Floydian worth.
Ten minutes later the support for the full tour Sarah Evans made her appearance, which was to be the first time I’d seen her in concert (which was much to the disgust of my friend and Master Rock Photographer, Adam Kennedy’s surprise … as he’s already seen her in town 5 or 6 times https://akennedyphotographer.com/ )
I missed the titLe of her opening song as I was faffing about with my camera; but the second song, Fire With Fire, from her recent album STATE OF MIND, actually crackled with emotion.
Her set was predominantly songs from this album; albeit stripped down to just her voice and an unnamed acoustic guitarist accompanying her.
This was followed by Laura ‘getting her Country on’ by covering the Chris Stapleton song Arkansas; which actually suited her voice perfectly.
Undoubtedly Laura Evans has a fabulous voice and her stage presence is easy going and chatty, plus she certainly has ‘the songs’; her break up song Fool silenced a fidgety crowd and Never a Good Time to Say Goodbye received a noisy round of applause at its end, as was the (sing-along) finale I’m Alright, which in turn preceded a very busy merch desk.
While I enjoyed this solo (duo?) performance; it’s fair to say (I think) that she was missing her band; and she’s back in the main hall as a (justified) headliner in February, which can’t come a minute too soon.
There was a bit longer break before the headline act bounded onto the stage; allowing me to catch up with a few friends I haven’t seen for a while; and all could be considered to be ‘musical cognoscenti’ which showed what reputation Matt Andersen has in the region; although he hasn’t been back for nine long years.
With next to no introduction he exploded into his first song Take Me Back!
If you’ve never seen him before, there really isn’t any other way of describing his approach to a live Singer-Songwriter performance!
Of course he’s a big lad; but that voice???? Bloody Hell …. it can fill a room better than most bands can …. and his range is truly staggering.
Then of course there’s his intricate dexterity on the acoustic guitar; showcased as early as the second song, I Play The Fool For You; which was intense enough; but his bottleneck playing was extraordinary and totally spellbinding for those of us at the front of the hall.
When I review gigs I scribble down notes or single words and give songs ‘stars out of five’ as a reminder for when I sit down the following day to write it up.
This gig merited 8 songs with 4 or 5 stars …. possibly a local record!
Although a long while ago, I don’t recall Matt being as chatty or as funny between songs; with the intro to his recent fabulous duet with RMHQ Favourite Terra Spencer, The Other Side of Goodbye, telling us this was the first song he’d recorded in his new home studio; and in which he regaled an unknowing audience (apart from ME!) with Terra’s talents as a singer and songwriter; … and we concur Matt.
The songs came and went like shooting stars; some introduced while others were just drifted into on something of a whim.
Highlights? Home Sweet Home; about an old girlfriend and featured some quite demonic guitar playing at times; Coal Mining Blues, of course tugged at my heartstrings as it always does.
A natural baritone, Matt Andersen can also hit notes at the top of the scale you don’t expect at a concert like this; and at least once he dropped down several scales to hit the basement of musical notes too.
There were plenty of other songs that provided surprises by their inclusion, not least the super-Soulful Been My Last and a shiny new song from an album due out in 2023; Only An Island.
Another of the 5 star songs was Matt’s rendition of People Get Ready; ok I liked it on the album; but here solo and ‘with’ that voice and gut wrenching guitar playing? WOW, WOW and thrice WOW!
The pre-encore final song was another that I didn’t know; and was made even better by the long and chuckle inducing intro and story about a couple who attended his regular Thursday evening gig at Kelly’s Bar; which was a bit of a sucker punch before the almost Canadian Gothic; Devil Bride.
Then without any attempt at leaving the stage Matt ended the evening with a sad, slow and sorrowful version of My Friend The Blues; which seemed to be the perfect was to close a fabulous concert.


Simeon Hammond Dallas MAKE IT ROMANTIC

Simeon Hammond Dallas
Make It Romantic
Camden Alive

Smoky, Sensual and Even Angsty British Blues For Broken Hearts Everywhere.

I’ve always made it a rule that I get in early at gigs to see the support act and give them the reverence that their trade deserves.
In my 50 years I’ve seen some household names who went on to Superstardom (Queen and Chris de Burgh), although most are forgettable and never got any bigger than that support slot in a pub; but good on them for having the nerve to get up on stage and sing their own songs.
Last week I went to see Lady Nade in Newcastle who had two support acts; the first was a duo and obviously at the start of their career; but the second was a petite young woman from London Town; with a big smile and even bigger acoustic guitar, called Simeon Hammond Dallas.
To say she blew me and many others ‘away’ would be a huge understatement; and I raced her to the merch desk to buy her second EP (not having enough cash to buy both I’m afraid).
She sang four of these five songs during her all too brief set and here with a very professional production making them sound even more spellbinding than when sung a matter of feet away from me.
The opening gambit; The Blues Is a Game; is as smoky and sexy as you’d hope from the title; and even though I loved it with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment; here it get the full on bass/drums/guitar/piano and trumpet voluntary treatment which forces Ms. Dallas to bring out the very best in his gorgeous voice to not just match this excellent band; but put them in their place too.
I now know the story behind the ‘tongue in cheek‘ feminist anthem (?) A Hundred Lovers; but even if you don’t; it’s still a story that will resonate with many ladies who have ‘kissed a lot of frogs‘ and hopefully sting a lot of said ‘frogs‘ into upping their game when it comes to relationships.
Similarly Simeon regaled us with the story behind the brittle and deeply personal; Betting On You too; but you don’t really need that information when you have the opening line:
I fell in love with two dozen white boys playing sad songs on guitars”
to know where the song and story is going. It’s a tale well told; and one still all to present in the music industry I’m afraid.
This is followed by the non-radio friendly angsty Blues Rocker, F*CKING HER; which is a heart wrenching tale of a lover with a wandering eye; who she loves with all her heart; but ….. it’s not requited.
The finale and titular Make It Romantic, is another late night smoky ballad that is my Favourite here and was on Thursday night too; telling another story of love that isn’t quite as good (?) as at least match the love she has for her lover.
Simeon doesn’t just ask; but tearfully begs:
I’m alive and I’m free
The wild flowers in bloom ain’t got nothing on me
Sing of the girl always running
Trying to find some truth
Make it romantic
Don’t let them know that
I’m out of my mind
Here the song is a Bluesy heartbreaker with jazzy undertones; but on stage was as raw as an open wound and I love both equally.
Don’t let Simeon Hammond Dallas’s stature or disarming smile fool you ….. this young woman has talent unbounded and won’t stay on the support ladder for much longer; she has STAR written across every single song; and it ain’t gonna take much to be headlining much bigger venues than the Globe in Newcastle.

Released September 2022



Rory Block
Ain’t Nobody Worried
Stony Plain Records

Contemporary Soul and Blues Songs Stripped Back to Bone and Gristle.

I’m not sure what’s left to say about multi-Award winning Rory Block; apart from she should be a much bigger ‘Star’ than she is.
There are plenty of other female singer-songwriters and guitarists in the Blues World these days; but I can’t think of another who features the acoustic guitar; and for that matter one who plays it half as good as Ms Block does.
Like so many others, the pandemic lockdown forced Rory Block to find new ways of earning a living from her music; so did two ‘home concerts’ a week playing and singing Classic Blues songs to an adoring internet audience; which went on to beget two albums of songs associated with the First Ladies of the Blues; and now when a third in the series was mooted; she felt she’d used up all the ‘good songs’ then someone suggested that the Blues and Soul songs she/we listened to on the radio in the -60’s and 70’s are now 50 years old (seriously! Half a century+) so she set about rearranging some modern classics; and this is the result.
With so much to choose from, Rory has selected her passion infused cover of the Staple Singers’ I’ll Take You There to open the album; and it works a treat; now sounding (like so many others that follow) as if this was the way it was originally intended to be sung ….and that slide guitar???? YOWZA YOWZA YOWZA!
This is followed by Midnight Train to Georgia; a song so popular I think we may take it for-granted these days; but in Ms. Block’s hands becomes the cerebral heartbreaker it originally was 50 years ago!
I can pretty much say the same of nearly every song here ….. stripped back to bone and gristle, these Soul/Pop songs all get new life breathed into them and they take on a whole new quality of the finest hue.
As a for instance; Bonnie Raitt’s Love Has No Pride is virtually unrecognisable here; and knocked me sideways when I realised which song it was Rory was pouring her heart into.
I forget who said it; but in my memory bank someone famous once said; “You can only tell the quality of a song if it’s equally as good played on an acoustic guitar as it is in a band format.”
Or something like that.
Rory picks up the pace somewhat on her fabulous re-interpretation of Dancing In The Street (even including backing singers) but it still sounds 100 miles away from the original; or better still Mick and David’s abomination!
There are also a couple of more ‘obvious’ inclusions here, that neither add or subtract from the originals; but there’s nothing wrong on either Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, or Rory’s glorious take on I’d Rather Go Blind; and finding James Taylor (and written by Carole King of course) You’ve Got a Friend included was a smile inducing surprise and all three are worthy of their inclusion.
Selecting a single Favourite Song is virtually impossible; as this is ‘all killer – no filler’ with not a single dud to be found anywhere.
It’s an album full to the brim with surprises of the pleasant variety; no more than hearing the jaunty variations on My Guy and Freight Train (Elizabeth Cotton) certainly capture my attention each time I play this CD; so they had to be considered; but at the end of the day it’s been a coin toss between a song I’ve loved forever; Koko Taylor’s version of Cried Like a Baby, now becomes a grizzled old ‘field song’ from a Friday night Juke Joint in this incarnation; and a song I’d never heard before; Lovin’ Whiskey …. apparently written by the singer herself many, many years ago…. which is simply fabulous, so I’m tipping my hat in that direction.
I’ve always been a lover of a good cover version; and Rory Block’s arrangements here are magnificent; at the very least breathing new life into some Classic Pop songs; but also re-introducing us to a bunch of other songs here by adding her very own ‘guitar playing style’ and ‘husky voice’; making them her own.

Released October 7th 2022


Kaz Hawkins MY LIFE & I

Kaz Hawkins
My Life & I
Dixie Frog
All Killer, No Filler N’orn Irish Powerhouse R&B Belters and Ballads

I first encountered Kaz Hawkins way back in 2013 at the inaugural Belfast Skyline Americana Festival; when in the middle of the afternoon she made a short and sharp appearance, which garnered this in my review …
The stage was cleared and refilled with military precision for the fulsome figured Blues ‘belter’, Kaz Hawkins, who immediately cranked the party up a couple of notches with her raucous Honky Tonk songs, and I feel I really must mention the outstanding Lipstick and Cocaine from her forthcoming album in September, which was a real pot-boiler.”
I reviewed her subsequent debut album, but while tenuously following her career on Social Media; I never received anything else until two weeks ago when this retrospective arrived.
After a couple of plays; I began regretting calling her a ‘Blues Belter’ back in ’13; as she is much much more than that; starting with the pure Gospel of opening song Pray, which is full of nuance, subtlety and passion; and will blow your socks off so hard you may never find the left one!
This is followed by the wistful and simpering heartbreaker; Because You Love Me with Sam York’s gentle and evocative piano playing hatching thoughts of this being sung late at night in the Bada Bing! nightclub, with Tony Soprano crying his eyes out in the corner.
Later there’s a song called Surviving which uses a similar template; but listen very carefully two or three songs and you will hear a woman unburdening herself of a time in her life that needs putting out of harms way; in a way I’ve rarely heard in 50 years of buying music.
There are 17 tracks here and I can’t possibly tell you about each and every one; life’s too short, so if I miss anything out it’s not because it’s a ‘duffer’ …. it’s not – there ain’t any filler here – it’s definitely all KILLER!
Kaz covers a couple of Classic Blues tunes; and certainly puts her own inimitable spin on them; starting with Feelin’ Good; which sounds as if it was written with her in mind as she uses her voice like a sonic missile at times.
The two Etta James covers: ‘Something’s Gotta Hold On Me’ and ‘At Last’, show new listeners where she’s coming from; but Kas sure ain’t looking back here; she shines them up for 21st Century cosmopolitan listeners; and the results are absolutely glorious.
The other ‘cover’ is/would be a song that she would be contractually obliged to include in every set of hers growing up in the bars and clubs in and around Belfast; and that’s her funky big band rendition of Van’s Full Force Gale which more or less stands head and shoulders beside the Master’s original …. honest!
Of the others, Hallelujah Happy People! is every syllable as exciting and tragically beautiful as it was that first afternoon 9 years ago; and Drink With The Devil tells it’s very own story that will have many of us smirking at the memory.
I’m pleased to report that there is plenty of light and shade here; with Kaz showing what a truly wonderful ‘singer’ she is on Don’t You Know, Believe With Me and the gut wrenching ballad; Surviving when the arrangements allow her to take us on an emotional rollercoaster that will leave even the average music fan a tear stained wreck the first time they hear them.
For my choice of Favourite Song I’ve managed to narrow the field down to three songs that all could and should be Classics of the genre if only the world was a fair place.
The album closes with Shake which lets Kaz finally loose her stays and give it some welly! Boy is it a way to leave the listener wanting more.
The River That Sings is one of those beautifully maudlin songs that; perhaps I’ve got this wrong; but will resonate with anyone who has moved away from the family home to seek their fortune; and even only mentally, this song draws them back like a magnet.
The other is from her Live album; and is the song that captured my heart that weekend in Belfast when I first saw Kaz Hawkins …. Lipstick and Cocaine. If you already know this song … you know it is a heartbreaker par excellence and if you haven’t …well…. you’re in for a very rare treat. While I’ve found numerous songs here that have knocked me sideways; Lipstick and Cocaine is a diamond in a pile of ruby’s and topaz ….. it shines like no other.
It’s still not too late for Kaz Hawkins to get the reward that her talent so deserves; and that talent deserves nights singing these songs at the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonie de Paris in her adopted homeland and of course the Waterfront in the heart of Belfast.

Released September 23rd 2022.



Jimmy Carpenter
The Louisiana Record
Gulf Coast Records

Classy Re-Workings of Louisiana’s Finest Songs.

Sax player Jimmy Carpenter?
Never heard of him …… but when I saw that this was being released on Mike Zito’s Gulf Coast Records; and Zito himself pitched the idea of resurrecting a bunch of Louisiana themed songs to Jimmy Carpenter I was intrigued; and then a cursory look at the track list had me instantly reaching for the ‘on switch’ on the office hi-fi!
The result is a total blast from start to finish with some old standards getting a shiny overhaul, a couple of long forgotten belters brought to life for a new generation and even a couple of songs I’d never heard before quickly becoming family favourites – what’s not to like?
The ‘party‘ or should I say; ‘Fish Fry‘ starts with a sultry rendition of I Hear You Knocking; which I predominantly know as the Hit single for Dave Edmunds in my teenage years; but here Carpenter takes it right back to its roots with some honkin’ sax playing and gorgeous piano playing courtesy John Gros.
This is followed by a truly stompin’ and dancelicious I Got Loaded, which I didn’t recognise at all, but still couldn’t stop myself shuffling my hips and then my feet, the first time I played it; as I pretended I was in a steamy dive bar somewhere South of Baton Rouge, instead of a cold kitchen in NE England as the rain fell outside.
To me, even though I didn’t necessarily know that these songs were of Louisiana extraction; the selection is quite impeccable and while being all eminently danceable; several are thought provoking too in one way or another.
I’m particularly thinking about Pouring Water on a Drowning Man and Travellin’ Mood which I knew previously, but in these versions made me think about the shadows in the lyrics that I hadn’t previously noticed before.
This also applies to one of the songs I didn’t previously know; Something You Got which is a real ‘bum hugger’ of a slow burning and danceable love song that could easily be rearranged for guitars and pedal-steel instead of sax and piano to be a Country Heartbreaker; if I’m not mistaken.
In these edgy times; it’s been a real emotional release to hear the honky-tonkin’ and reelin’ and a rockin’ Barefootin’ again. These cats really get in a groove on a song I first discovered many moons ago when Robert Parker’s original version was featured on a cassette given away with NME magazine, and became a staple on my mixtapes for years afterwards.
I didn’t recognise the title of All These Things; but as soon as I heard the longing in Carpenters’ voice on the Allen Toussaint standard, I had to kick back and just wallow in the sound all concerned have created just for us.
Somewhere in my collection I’ve certainly got another version of Lonely Lonely Nights; and I think it’s a little bit faster than this tear-jerking version; but I can’t be bothered to look for it as I’ve taken this glorious version to heart.
As I sit listening and typing this morning, two albums from my teenage years suddenly sprung to mind; as to some degree both Bryan Ferry’s THESE FOOLISH THINGS and Harry Nilsson’s A LITTLE TOUCH OF SCHMILSSON IN THE NIGHT changed the way I listened to music; and certainly influenced the eclectic collection I now own; while also introducing me to songs and singers I’d never have found any other way.
Which brings me to the difficult choice of a single Favourite Track on an album that needs to be listened to as a complete package rather than dipping in and out of; a little part of me wants to choose the swinging instrumental Rockin’ At Cosimo’s which closes the album; but Carpenter and Crew’s steamy and sensual reworking of Sam Cooke’s Bring It on Home To Me had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end; so it had to be a contender too.
But I’m giving the accolade to a song I’d never heard before hearing it hear; and it’s one that Carpenter’s voice really shines on ….. Cry To Me, a timeless ballad that just oozes class in every note and stanza from start to finish.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first received this album; but it very quickly got put next to the hi-fi as a ‘palette cleanser’ at the end of the day; and it’s been a welcome companion in the car too ….. if only there was a Saturday night fish-fry I could take it to, too.

Released September 16th 2022


Emanuel Casablanca BLOOD ON MY HANDS

Emanuel Casablanca
Blood on my Hands 
Kings County Records

Bloody Hell! A Lavish Debut From a Most Talented, Generous, Prolific and Sanguinic New Bluesman

The late great Townes Van Zandt once said, “There are two kinds of music. The Blues, and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Emmanuel Casablanca’s debut LP, Blood on my Hands, sure as hell ain’t the latter.  

Brooklyn NY-based guitarist, singer & songwriter Casablanca brandishes his formidable talents for the first time as a front man, solo artist and bandleader with this impressive 16-track collection that draws sustenance from the thirsty roots of the fertile, rich soil of American Music.

At first glance, Blood on my Hands is literally drenched in blood. 
Tracks titled “Afraid of Blood,” “In Blood,” “Blood on my Hands,” “Bloodshot Eyes,” “Thicker Than Blood,” “Devil’s Blood” and “Blood Money” all penetrate to the core.
All heart.
The source. It is, at once, obvious that this record is ALIVE. 

Ancestry, lineage, line, bloodline, descent, parentage, family, house, dynasty, birth, extraction, derivation, origin, genealogy, heritage, breeding, stock, strain, pedigree, roots, kinship……All synonyms for BLOOD. Literally, life. The perfect metaphor for The Blues.

Steeped in tradition and flowing through deep layers of emotion, The Blues is a pulse.
A rhythm.
“Like A Pulse,” the fourth track on the record is the most organic, acoustic feeling in the collection.  This song reminds us that Emmanuel Casablanca can change up the feel but still remain in a groove that evokes profound feelings of loss and impassioned turmoil thanks to the intense, earnest guest vocals of Kat Riggins.

“Sunday Talks” grabbed me by the throat and held on. 
It feels like Jimi and highlights a less traditional blues groove while touching on the repetition of a gospel hymn with lush B3 organ and fuzz guitar, conjuring a psychedelic spell and pushing the listener head-on into an oncoming train with the next track, “Thicker Than Blood.” 
A wide-open refrain and guitar hook that wraps itself around your ears with throbbing, kick-ass drums.

“Anna Lee” is a welcome friend in the middle of the record that demonstrates Emmanuel’s ability to drip honey from his voice and tip his hat to his elders. The addition of the saxophone by Jimmy Carpenter swings this tune into a super-sweet and sonic space.

“Testify” jumps like a demon and “Devils Blood” drives like an angry hammer too.  Both songs are excellent examples of Casablanca’s abilities to musically convey hunger and yearning. 

“Blood Money” feels straight from the 70’s and packs a punch in a way that I might envision a more “metal” vibe to a Curtis Mayfield tune, which I must say, feels exciting. 

The last four tracks are less traditional and weave more texture via guitar distortion culminating in the heavy, driving vibe of “Rotten Pockets.” 
This track drags us through the mud and ends the record with the sound of thunder, the same way the record begins, signaling to the listener that Emmanuel Casablanca is about to take us on a journey through a storm.
An explosive  torrent and outpouring of musical cloudburst that runs in his veins and pours from his heart on this lavish debut from a most talented, generous, prolific and sanguinic new artist. 

*Emily and I agree that this is very much Emmanuel Casablanca’s album; but as you will see there are some stunning guests on here too …….

  1. Afraid of Blood
  2. In Blood (featuring Paul Gilbert)
  3. Blood On My Hands (featuring Eric Gales)
  4. Like A Pulse (featuring Kat Riggins & Sanga of The Valley)
  5. Bloodshot Eyes (featuring Albert Castiglia)
  6. Nashville (featuring Felix Slim)
  7. Sunday Talks
  8. Thicker Than Blood
  9. Anna Lee (featuring Jimmy Carpenter)
  10. Testify (featuring Brother Dave)
  11. Devil’s Blood (featuring Felix Slim)
  12. Blood Money
  13. Fantasies 
  14. My Nerves
  15. Shaky Tables
  16. Rottenpockets

Review by Emily Duff
Released 19th August 2022

Shemekia Copeland DONE COME TOO FAR

Shemekia Copeland
Done Come Too Far
Alligator Records

Songs From the Suburban Streets of America That Will Stun and Shock In Equal Measure

It took me a long time to get on the Alligator Records mailing list; and I think the tipping point for them was my review of Shemekia Copeland’s UNCIVIL WAR in 2020 which Jack Kidd described as “A Compelling and Enjoyable Album that Spotlights A Brilliant Voice.
I loved the album too and certainly can’t disagree with any of those words so was feverishly excited the morning I played this for the first time.
To be perfectly honest I wasn’t expecting the opening track, Too Far To Be Gone to be so LOUD ….. feisty even …. bordering on Blues Rock; but Ms. Copeland’s powerful voice, guest guitarist Sonny Landreth and drumming that would make Charlie Watts proud, make the perfect pairing for this heart stopping tale that starts with
A small thing like a seat on the bus
changed life for the rest of us
a tiny woman that you never met
put us on the road
but we ain’t there yet!

and goes on to name a couple of other Civil Rights cornerstones; but the chorus of “we come too far to be gone!” I’ve heard a lot of songs on this subject over the years; but very few; if in fact any come close to the fury generated in this particular song ….. and what a way to start an album!
This is followed by Pink Turns to Red which is just as loud and again, has to be get the message across … with Shemekia singing about a mass shooting …… and she doesn’t hold back at all; and I just wish all those ‘Good Ole Boys’ on the Country scene could hear this song and perhaps they’d give some grown up thinking to their glorification of guns in their songs.
If you are still holding strong after that; track three; The Talk about a mother of colour having to ‘have the Talk’ about staying safe ‘out there’ with her child, is a gut wrenching ballad that will have even the hardest of hearts breaking; and again the instrumentation and arrangement, which builds and builds until it reaches a crescendo, is quite ‘rocky’ by normal standards; and when Shemekia goes for those high notes she doesn’t just hits them … but shatters them.
By now you should get the message that this album is the antithesis of ‘Easy Listen’ and as far removed from ‘cool and danceable’ music as you can get! Yet at the same time, it’s totally engrossing … even for me as a 60+ year old white man in Northern England.
The mood only lightens a tad as the album moves on; but don’t expect any happy clappy songs …. Shemekia Copeland is angry …. damn angry; and is using this medium to get her message across to the wider public.
Why, Why, Why is as smooth as a Georgia peach; until you get caught unawares and realise it’s a break-up song sung to a Gospel melody and you will find yourself drained by its ending.
There is plenty of light to balance the shade of the earlier songs with the fabulous Fried Catfish and Bibles; and when the daughter pays homage to the father when Shemekia covers her father Johnny’s passionate love song, Nobody But You to close the album the cycle sort of comes full circle.
It wasn’t until I read the notes that I realised that Barefoot in Heaven is actually a Ray Wylie Hubbard song ; simply because the arrangement is so far removed from the original as to make it unrecognisable …. but perfect for inclusion here.
If we nip back to the beginning; Shemekia drops in a ‘Field Song’ when you least expect it; straight after the contemporary The Talk we are whisked back 100 or more years with Gullah Geechee, a song we all need to hear and our children too.
While I firmly believe every song here should be on the school curriculum, it’s highly unlikely you will hear any of them on public radio (apart from my very own weekly broadcast!) as the songs are too raw and honest for the average Disc Jockey whose salary depends on advertising revenue.
That said; my two Favourite Songs here, like the rest of the album will make discerning music fans of all hues and persuasions happily part with their cash and keep this album in whatever close at hand.
The first of my Favourites are the title track Done Come Too Far, which features Cedric Burnside on an ebony dark tale of how it feels to be black in the 21sy Century ……
“down there in the basement of Hell
the children cried
the women yelled
could hardly move and screamin’ in pain
all still tryin’ to break those chains
almost died in those boats
all these years later
still tryin’ to take our votes
come to far to be gone!”

Yes, it’s painful listening ….. but essential listening too.
The other is a lot more contemporary; but aimed at and about young people; especially young women who’s career trajectory is simply to be famous …. regardless of how intelligent they really are …. and the exasperation in Shemekia’s voice as she sings Dumb It Down is palpable …. and mirrors my very own feelings on this subject; especially as my own 9 year old Grandson aspires to be a YouTube ‘influencer’ !
This album stunned and shocked me in equal measure; but that’s surely the point ….. try it, buy it and pass it on to people you know who need; and I stress NEED to hear these songs.

Released August 19th 2022


Miraculous Mule OLD BONES, NEW FIRE

Miraculous Mule
Old Bones/New Fire 

People Get Ready to Have Your Lives Changed

It’s no secret that I was raised up by the Staples Singers in glorious, tremulous, soul-stirring passion for humble guitar, spirited vocals and The Word from both above and below. 
My powerful love for Gospel and Sanctified Soul lives deep in my heart and burns in my bones; so, it was a potent surprise when my first listen to Old Bones, New Fire by Miraculous Mule resounded like a welcome home party from Hell!

Opening with the a cappella “I Know I’ve Been Changed” is the perfect setup for this collection of 9 newly inspired interpretations of traditional Gospel songs, plus one original composition, “We Get What We Deserve” by these “Anglo-Irish Londoners who mix Blues, Punk, Gospel, Stoner and Psychedelia Garage Rock.” 

Dark, brooding reverence with just the right amount of sinful disdain keeps this powerful collection both modern and miraculous in tone and purpose. 
The band can feel like a low-fi 60’s Garage combo on “Nobody/Nothing” channeling Grace Slick & The Great Society and with equal measure go full Pops Staples and Family on “City of Refuge.” 

“We Get What We Deserve,” written by Miraculous Mule, hangs perfectly with the rest of the tunes and summons Dave Mason’s classic “Feelin’ Alright.”
It’s a darkly optimistic number that eases the mind and disturbs the spirit just enough to shake the dust off the complacent 21st century modern mind set. 

“O Death,” sung by Alex Louise Petty, is as haunting as you need it be as a midpoint that snaps us back to reality and returns us to the a cappella treatment of voices that express essential and elemental vulnerability.
Trailing off in a ghostly fade out that feels like a gut punch, leaves the listener weeping for the loss of the sound of the singer’s lamentable and pleading voice.
That fade out reads like the death of a good friend and it was more emotional than I expected it to be. 

Many versions of “John The Revelator” have I. 
But in all honesty, this one swings in a way that transforms the story into a JJ Cale style biblical blues that feels framed like a John Ford film.
It’s super groovy and almost sexy (whispering background vocals).
There’s a secret happening here.
A mystery wrapped in a mystery, shrouded in bluesy, honey-dripping licks, organ and percussive rattle to spark a sensual curiosity that I have not associated with this song before.

“Butcher Boy” is where you can hear the “English Folk” influence in the nylon string guitar and the vocal arrangement.
A hint of Sergio Leone lurks in the electric guitars, banjo and percussion.
A strong interpretation with a psychedelic High-Plains Drifter feel. 

Every song and each word touched me.
“How can I be quiet when there’s fire down in my bones…” 
Is the lyric and the question that jumps out in “Fire in my Bones” that I have been asking myself ever since the world turned upside down in 2020.
As I have always known, vital and significant music has a miraculous way of finding its path to whomever needs to receive it.
My “Old Bones” gratefully accept this “New Fire” and thank you, thank you …… thank you Miraculous Mule for transporting me to this sonic, spiritual haven in a heartless world.  

Released 12th August 2022
Review by Emily Duff