Kris Barras DEATH VALLEY PARADISE

Kris Barras Band
Death Valley Paradise
Mascot Records

British Blues Rocker Embraces His Unrestrained Darker Anthemic Stompers.

No matter that Death Valley Paradise is a much noisier and heavier weighted soundtrack than I would normally be listening to on an average day, but today this is not one of those days.

From Devon, yet perfectly serving up his own brand of American Blues Rock, Kris Barras has added an extra layer of metal around this, his 4th release.
Knowing that the frontman is an ex MMA/cage fighter was foremost in my mind as the sheer energy unleashed right from the outset knocked me sideways.
This for me conjures up an image of a caged tiger who has been pacing for an eternity and suddenly liberated. It’s a tale of surviving Lockdown frustrations and offloading pent up emotions culminating in this moment, a gigantic invitation for us all to get back out there and simply rock out. I’m in.

It makes perfect sense that this album was inspired by a single song; then broken up into fragments to create the 11 tracks, as this LP deserves to be listened to in the traditional way, from start to finish.
Each song adds a different layer to the web of Kris Barras’s confessional tales of struggles, a procession of individually intense anthems adding a massively darker amplified cloak over his Southern Rock heart.

The opener and first single Dead Horses slaps down this band’s re-invention cards firmly on the table.
It’s taken me just a few listens to fully appreciate what an effective start this is.
The new thundering drums of Billy Hammett launches us into a rush of adrenaline with deeply powerful beefed -up guitar riffs a plenty, vocals defiant and boldly telling the bleakest tale of being imprisoned in a broken relationship.

Right on its tail is Long Gone, picking up the same desperate trail of the doomed relationship. With a raucously pleasing bluesy guitar intro riff marrying perfectly with the trademark fist punching drum beat, I am lost in the drama and as for Kris Barras; there is no holding back the anger inside.

The recent single My Parade effortlessly amplifies the theatrics, the simplicity of the confident, defiantly driven killer chant hook: the drum beat begging to be thrashed out to a large crowd. The message is to choose our battle ground and it’s of little consequence if the forceful lyrics ultimately denies a bit of radio play to a song destined to be a live roof raising smash for years to come.

When we arrive at track #7 there is a half time break in the ring; as it were.
The vulnerable, softer version of the frontman oozes out with Wake Me Up When It’s Over.
This track almost made the top slot for me as it sums up, more than any other, the hell in Death Valley Kris Barras has been livin’ in.
A slower pace but still as striking: heartfelt melancholic vocals, laced with angst but breathtakingly emotional and reeling us in by the time we reach another level of playing with an exceptional and highly charged guitar solo:

Are you stuck in this nightmare
Alone in darkness
And Climbing the walls
Someone wake me up when it’s over
Get me off this rollercoaster
Cause right now it seems my eyes can’t see a better life

As it progresses, we are let into many more rounds of dark secrets throughout this album including the anarchic Who Needs Enemies and the more hopeful Devil You Know which examines how to turn this bleak experience into brave choices at the crossroads of life.

My favourite track purely for today has got to be These Voices.
An exquisitely catchy and manically appealing rock anthem, almost retro in feel and sweeter, more mellow vocals that still have the ability to deliver a cruel blow.
It symbolises the whole band as a unit with Kelpie Mackenzie’s thumping bass and Josiah J. Manning layering the rhythms to create a very polished track with the classic rock n roll abrupt full stop ending that leaves us begging for more. It is also poignant and deeply personal, conveying the inner mental struggles that have been overcome to get to this point.
A true fighter emerging victorious.

Timing can sometimes be everything, perhaps what I like most about this album is that it has the ability to whisk us out of our comfort zone and be transported to that live sweaty mosh pit many have been denied for too long.
They are soon to be let loose on a long-awaited UK wide tour, no stopping their advances but the real power of the Kris Barras Band is that they also enable you to close your eyes and be with them in spirit.

Review Courtesy Anita Joyce
Released 4th March 2022
https://www.krisbarrasband.com/

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Wille and The Bandits WHEN THE WORLD STOOD STILL

Wille and The Bandits
When The World Stood Still
Fat Toad Records

Feisty British Blues Rockers Meets Their Classic Rock Counterparts In a Sweaty Club.

Like so many other acts; and after building up their reputation on the Live Circuit, Wille & The Bandits were on the cusp of moving up a league or two just as the pandemic struck two years ago; and like so many others who had metaphorically been ‘served lemons;’ used the valuable down-time to ‘make lemonade’ and write these songs and when lockdowns permitted, record their sixth album.
Hailing from Cornwall, the Southernmost county in the UK, and home to a resident carefree Surfer Dude population; it’s been a surprise to find Wille & The Bandits are much more an urban/city tight as a kippers’ bum Rocking and Rolling Bluesy band; who put their songs at the forefront of a road-tight band.
As regular readers know; I put great stead in a captivating opening track; and these cats produce such a thing with the pseudo-political Broken Words; which comes across as a Rolling Stones/Sly and the Family Stone mash up and it kicks ass like a mule on steroids!
Most of what follows is straightforward Blues Rock of one form or another; Wille Edwards & Co. aren’t afraid to take risks and turn musical corners when the mood and need takes them.
Just when you think you’re going to get another tedious Led Zeppelin-lite track with I’m Alive and Stuck In the Middle, the Bandits through in more left turns than a Cornish back-road; especially the former which discusses depression in a way I don’t think I’ve heard before!
At this stage I have no idea what the members of the band look like; but hope Wille Edwards is as skinny as a rake with long hair and wears a hat at a jaunty angle; oh ….. and he comes across as the type of guy who will light a fag halfway through the set; then after a couple of puffs, pin it to a loose guitar string spouting from the headstock!
While he’s lead guitarist and singer; this album is very much a team effort; with Harry Mackaill (bass guitar & synthesizer), Matthew Gallagher (Hammond organ/ Fender Rhodes,/piano and Mellotron and drummer Tom Gilkes al play their individual parts quite brilliantly throughout.
I don’t review many albums of this ilk; as the majority are either far too noisy or too generic; now, while I’m confident Wille and the Bandits will shake the rafters in many a club; on this particular album while they R.O.C.K they aren’t afraid of a melody and a chorus too (Move Too Fast and Daylight spring to mind) and the hook in Good Stuff will reel in many an unsuspecting listener.
Speaking of which tonight; on listening quite closely while writing, In This Together has jumped out at me; fast paced but with Wille’s vocals still high up in the mix as he sounds as angry as Hell thinking about the divisions being caused not just by our politicians; but each other on Social Media.
As the best in this field did before them; there’s as much light as there is shade here; with Good Stuff being pretty much what it says on the tin; and Edwards bottleneck guitar playing will send a shiver down your spine; before things wind down nicely with Refuge (about the perceived lack of respect shown to musicians) and Solid Ground; which
features a guitar solo which weeps and howls as if Peter Green has been transported back to planet earth.’ as Wille himself says.
This has been a Yin and Yang album for me; perfect company on my morning walk around the park and also in the car; when I can comfortably turn the volume up to 7 or 8 without affecting my hearing the following day; which brings me to what is comfortably my Favourite Song; which happens to be the gentlish title track When The World Stood Still, which took me back to (as it’s meant to) the early weeks of Lockdown, when the world around us was damn scary; but when you looked out of the window you saw nature being allowed to thrive around us and that signalled hope to me; and Wille and the Bandits sum that feeling up rather succinctly and; it has to be said …. musically too.
For oldies like me, there are certainly elements of Zep, The Stones, Who and even Kasabian here and there, especially in the vocal department; and the guitar playing flits between the styles of Kossoff and Page with ease; and the rhythm section sit in the shadows creating cornerstones for Edwards to comfortably build on ….. just like the Masters before them.

Released January 28th 2022
https://www.willeandthebandits.com/

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Hollis Brown IN THE AFTERMATH

Hollis Brown
In the Aftermath
Cool Green Recordings

An Energetically Reverent Yet Reinvented Take on the Stones US “Aftermath” Release

Why cover versions?
Well, I suppose there are several reasons, but the main two are probably the two “R”s – reverence (a love for the original) – and reinvention – to build something new .

Hollis Brown’s “In the aftermath” takes a dip into the Rolling Stones’ back catalogue and they cover the complete US release of “Aftermath”.
For UK listeners and some fans outside the US, several of the songs appeared on subsequent releases – and in a different order – but this album follows the order of the US release.

Opener “Paint it Black” errs more towards the “reverence” camp – it’s not a huge shift from the style and tone of the original, but is still a good opening attention grabber.
It reminds me very much of the Chocolate Watch Band in its energetic US take on British R’n’B.

“Stupid Girl” picks up the original tempo but loses some of the keyboards – vocally it’s transposed into a Cheap Trick/Jellyfish pop-rock take; and is a much tighter rhythmic performance than the original -again, there are undercurrents of a 60’s Garage Sound and it gives it a punkier drive.
This is followed by the more laid back version of “Lady Jane”, which has a less staccato guitar riff and a less affected and more soulful vocal than Jagger’s original – it’s a more fully realised (and far better produced) version of the song, but loses some of the quirkiness of the original.

“Under My Thumb” is up next – there’s a great gritty soulful vocal carrying this version along – in terms of backing, the soulful drums are still there, but it doesn’t quite have the Northern Soul feel of the Wayne Gibson early cover of the same song – this one’s very much in Mitch Ryder territory, so not straying too far from the Northern Soul heartlands, however.

“Doncha Bother Me” shares the same Beach Boys “California Girls” groove, but where the production on the Stones’ version showed how it was close in influence to old Blues players, this take is given more of a Texas blues feel – a bit of saturation on the harmonica and vocal adds a bit of welcome dirt too.

“Think” – the soulful core of the original is shifted to become more of a psychedelic garage band blues – again, the playing is much tighter than on the original (having seen both the Stones and Hollis Brown I can vouch for how tight a unit the latter are – and the Stones have always been notoriously sloppy as part of their appeal) and there’s a speedier energy which Hollis Brown tap into, but it takes the song subtly to a different sphere of influence than the original.

“Flight 505” is a heads down no-nonsense mindless boogie – the original was lyrically and musically very much out of the Chuck Berry playbook -the Stones gave it a bit more swing, whereas this Hollis Brown take is straighter in its rhythmic timing and the vocals are more polished and dynamic.

“High and Dry” doesn’t have the annoying hi-hat of the Stones’ original but has a great thumping bass and kick drive and in my humble opinion it’s a far better realised version of the song than the original – don’t shoot me – I really like this take! Harmonica and boogie piano are mixed well and there’s a great rhythmic feel to this.

“It’s Not Easy” is the closest that the album comes to a Jagger vocal pastiche, but that’s more in the phrasing than the vocal timbre – imagine if ‘stadium Stones’ had recorded this first time around and this is something like what you’ve got here.
“I Am Waiting;” on the contrary removes Jagger’s mockney/cockney tones and it’s all the better for it to these ears – maybe that’s a class-based UK listener judgement, but Jagger sounded a bit Mary Poppins-Dick Van Dyke on the original in my opinion (stands back and awaits the flack).

Things end, as the original US release did, with “Going Home” – it’s probably the free-est, most swinging cover on the album and it reminded me of prime time Replacements – another band whose looseness and swing was part of their appeal – and there’s a bit of the Faces in the honky tonk piano too.

So- reverence – or reinvention?
There’s definitely some of both here.
Hollis Brown are a tight unit and they understand the spirit and the core of these songs.
Modern production can sometimes lose the timbre of the original recordings, but Hollis Brown make up for that with a precision and energy that adds layers of garage band punkiness and soulful tightness and grit to these songs.

Review by Nick Barber
Release date: February 4 2022
https://www.hollisbrown.com/

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ED Brayshaw RANDOM REPEAT

ED Brayshaw
Random Repeat
Mescal Canyon

Gallus Blues That Owes As Much to The South Side of Glasgow than the South Side of Chicago

Although he’s been in around several British music for donkey’s years; ED Brayshaw only came to our attention two years ago via his collaboration with Friend of RMHQ, Wily Bo Walker; but that long wait has been well worth it.
While I’m bored with artists still telling me that they wrote and arranged their 2021 albums during lockdown; I think it’s actually quite prescient as it allowed writers the time to go back over their work in a way that constant touring probably denied them; meaning many songs and arrangements are less rushed and now fuller and often more ‘professionally’ constructed.
That’s certainly not meant as any form of slight against ED Brayshaw’s previous release; which was chock full of energy and passion ….. but here; I get the feeling that this is more the album that he’s always dreamed of releasing under his own name.
RANDOM REPEAT opens with the glorious Storm Warning; which first appeared on a Wily Bo Walker album years ago; but I hardly recognised it in this guise; and there’s something to be said about Brayshaw’s keen observations that this song is even more ‘on the button’ in 2021 as it was 6 years ago.
While Brayshaw’s warm growl singing style is very much his own; but this song and a few more that follow remind me of Graham Parker and his SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS and ANOTHER GREY AREA albums; a heady mix of anger, passion and divine melodies!
#2 Don’t Change The Way I Feel; a slower acoustic led song; that simmers until it eventually nearly boils over when the squealing electric guitars join the fray; may or may not be a metaphor for the yin and yang we all feel about ourselves; or sadly may be a literal tale of a troubled man whose life is leaving him on the edge.
Even when Brayshaw writes a love song; he doesn’t follow the moon/june route as is apparent from Probably Correct and Just a Night; when Brayshaw sings about and even channels his inner Stevie Ray Vaughan; which both owe more to the South Side of Glasgow than the South Side of Chicago in the the band play in the most swaggering gallus fashion.
I especially like the way Brayshaw uses light and shade across his songs in a musically cohesive manner; one minute he’s singing a gorgeous acoustic Country tinged missive like Tennessee Blues, or the soulfully sweet Take It Away then slinking around the bar on the sleazy and funky Fade Away, and making all sound like blood brothers.
Then, it all comes to a close with the bittersweet instrumental Petite Fleur that closes the disc.
Which also brings me to my choice of Favourite Track.
At first it was obviously going to be the BB/Freddie King influenced Probably Correct which features some sublimely sizzling guitar breaks and a song that many of us will actually correct with; but the more I’ve played the album the more I’ve been drawn to After The Storm, which errs on the side of Americana-Folk in the way Brayshaw takes us on a road trip fraught with danger and fear with his tale that nods towards Steinbeck, Guthrie and Kerouac for content while using a heady Leslie Harvey/Gary Moore guitar hybrid that sounds like a coiled spring to add extra pathos to what is already a stunning song.
From even a cursory listen; it’s all to easy to appreciate why ED Brayshaw has been a go-to guitarist ; but I’m really happy to tell you that he’s been hiding his songwriting skills under a bushel over those years and I love his slow and sultry singing style too.

E D Brayshaw on Guitars and Vocals

Philip Brannan on Rhythm Guitar

Nick Bevan on Bass and backing vocals

Paul Baker on Drums

Released 15th October 2021
https://edbrayshaw.com/

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Five Points Gang WANTED

Five Points Gang
Wanted
Lunaria Records

21st Century Progressive Blues Experiment Siphoned Through, London, Texas and Chicago.

As we well know; you can’t please all of the people, all of the time hence our Bluesoligist Extraordinaire Jack Kidd returned this album to base, citing that ‘it was too noisy‘.
I on the other hand pressed ‘play’ one night in the car after a particularly venomous day at work; only to find myself turning the volume to the right three times!
I’ve played it 4 or 5 times now and can certainly see why it might not appeal to Jack; but hey ….. this is the Blues; in fact who or what actually defines what exactly is The Blues anymore?
For me it’s always been a fast moving lava flow adding and subtracting along the way.
Which is where Brit’ trio Five Points Gang come into the equation; they certainly sit in the Blues camp; but on the Heavy; and possibly even what we used to call Progressive Rock (NOT Prog!!!) arena and what they do; they do exceptionally well.
They throw down the metaphorical gauntlet straight away; with How Long; written just after George Floyd was murdered and contains the punchline; ‘How long to equality‘; which sort of takes off from where the legendary Free ended, without ever battering you over the head with any ‘message’ you are left to make your own decisions.
Grizzly yet fluid guitar aligned to drum and bass that are straight out of a British Steel factory and in the exotically monikered singer Joe Pearson; someone who appears to sing as if his very life depends on it.
I’m in for a million!
Apparently they have already released a Live album; but this is their actual debut album; and in my humble opinion they have certainly spent their formative years honing their craft; as all 13 tracks here are fully formed without an ounce of filler anywhere.
I will tell you how good these kids are; as I hadn’t read the Press Release before playing the album I had not a single inkling that they were British; yet when I know that they couldn’t be from anywhere else!
You see they deftly mix up both Chicago and Texas style Blues with ease and dare I say it; grace.
There are slight nods to Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan in All Points Bulletin, Let’s Stay Together and probably The Secret too; but it’;s a homage if anything and certainly not plagiarism, as these songs are purely Five Points Gang deluxe.
Not everything here is of the fire and brimstone ilk; with the band ‘slowing things down and getting funky’ on the rather beautiful All She Said, I See You Now and What Kind of Man which features some of the sweetest Rock guitar licks I’ve heard in a long time; subtle and silvery too.
What I particularly like here is the songwriting; it’s quite mature as it deals with relationships in all their ragged glory (finale I See You Now being a great example); and they still manage to treat their lovers as equals and even betters; thankfully not strutting any kind of macho nonsense we used to hear in Blues Rock; which hasn’t aged well, has it?
The songwriting is imaginative too, using imaginative metaphors to supplement actual memories (I guess and hope) on Love By The Gun and the funky-ass Made Man; which also feature judicious use of a wah-wah pedal ……. Dear Lord that takes me back to my teenage days; getting excited seeing a guitarist fannying about with a series of effects pedals.
As I said earlier Five Points Gang are British to the core; yet are so obviously influenced by America; which sort of brings me around to choosing a Favourite Song here. Like so many albums this decade bands no longer feel the need to write and record a Hit Single; so feel free to just write from the heart and hope someone out there will like the end result; which I obviously do; with two songs that captured my heart and imagination that first fateful night.

Track #2, All in All was the song I turned the dial up to 9 for …… and even if I hadn’t the car would have still been a’ Rockin’ ….. man does this song RAWK! Pearson’s guitar and vocals actually sound as if they are one; and Dinho Barral’s bass playing throughout manages to be both subtle and powerful at the same time; something both Andy Fraser and Jack Bruce would have been proud of; and they are both complemented by drumming from Gaet Allard that is meticulous and ghostly too. Trust me; if you ever hear this track on the radio you will presume it’s a lost Classic from one of your favourite bands; but you can’t remember who.
Even with that great song here; I’m going slightly left of centre for my actual Favourite; starting slow and sleazy then building and building to a crescendo; The Only One; a sad tale of loving, losing and partial redemption (this is a Blues album after all) somehow blends pieces of Free and SRV with Nirvana and Pearl Jam to create a whole new musical experience for this particular listener.
I understand why Jack didn’t like this album; and on a sunny afternoon when I was in a good mood I wouldn’t have either; but I wasn’t and Five Points Gang where just the thing I needed to blast away my own blues and replace them with yer actual Blues of the highest calbre; congratulations all around chaps.

PS I see the band have some gigs and Festivals arranged for October and April; with none being near to me ……. but I see that they are playing the legendary Whistlebinkies and Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on consecutive nights ….. only a cheap train ride away and I can only imagine the sweat running down the walls!

Released September 24th 2021
https://fivepointsgang.com/

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Rory Gallagher RORY GALLAGHER (50th Anniversary Edition)

Rory Gallagher
RORY GALLAGHER (50th Anniversary Edition)
UMC

Lovingly Revisiting an Album That Not Just Changed Rory’s Life; But Mine Too.

Two things; first of all to Brother Donal and the meticulous way he is keeping Rory’s memory and reputation in such a glorious manner; and secondly …… I can remember the Saturday night my brother Melvyn brought the original LP home; after buying it on the first day of release.
Our elder brother; Brian had been waiting impatiently and the unveiling was akin to the birth of a new baby in the house (seriously). They each handled the LP with meticulous care; poring over every single detail, then ceremoniously playing it on the living room record player (much to the consternation of my father!).
They then sat in complete reverence; playing one side after the other, with no comment, apart from occasional nods and ‘knowing glances’.
Me? I was 13 and sat on the periphery, knowing something important was occuring; but not knowing what.
With 20:20 hindsight, that evening changed my life; as I am now a total Rory Gallagher obsessive and own everything he’s ever released; plus several Live Albums his record companies never knew about *Wink

So; after 50 years where does this album stand in the Irishman’s history?
Very, very high I’d say; Top 3 certainly; with no concert being complete without the inclusion of Laundromat, Sinner Boy, Hands Up and while he went on to a much louder and rocker format towards the end; Just The Smile and Wave Myself Goodbye have never been surpassed by him nor anyone copying him.
Which brings me to this Box Set, celebration ……. which for the first time in recent years, is something of a ‘curates egg’ ….. good in parts; poor in others.
CD 1, the original album is dusted down and given a bit of a polish and still sounds phenomenal in 2021; but as we dive into the other CD’s; which is of course what fans are paying their ‘hard earned’ for ……. CD 2 starts off exceptionally well with the stinging rendition of Muddy Waters’s Gypsy Woman and Otis Rush’s It Takes Time, which were both recorded at the same time as the tracks on the album and previously saw the light of day on a CD re-release; which I somehow missed …… but the wait has been well worth it.
Then; sigh …… we get into ‘Alternate Take’ territory; not always the end of the world as hearing Vincent Crane (from Atomic Rooster) adding piano to Wave Myself Goodbye and I’m Not Surprised, is interesting; but at no stage in the last half century did I ever find myself thinking ……. “do you know what this song needs is some piano” as I’ve been perfectly happy with the versions that have served me; and Rory well in that time.
As regular readers know, we here at RMHQ pride ourselves in actually listening to records several times before putting (metaphorical) pen to paper on your behalf ……. and for the first time ever, listening to Rory Gallagher has proved to be something of a chore ……. does the world really need 4 very similar but ‘Alternative Takes’ on At The Bottom running concurrently and even doubler’s Just The Smile and Wave Myself Goodbye don’t add anything to Rory’s memory.
On CD 3, it’s the same with Hands Up ……. F.I.V.E versions one after the other will test the patience of even the most ardent fan; for God’s Sake …… we aren’t Bob Dylan obsessives forensically dissecting each stanza for the great lost word or note!
Any single ‘Alternate Take’ of a song from the original album could and possibly should have been included on a single album; as a compare and contrast, ‘this is what you could have won’ ….. let’s face it; following the break up of Taste Rory Gallagher was experimenting with music like very few before him and even less afterwards; so I’m not averse to hearing something ‘new’ from this time ….. just not so much with so little or actually, no discernible difference.
Then; of course …… there’s CD 4 ……. and while you may never play those middle two discs ever again; this like the first is very much a ‘keeper’.
It’s actually amusing listening again to In Concert ‘Live Recordings’ from the BBC that I actually listened to as they were broadcast; I say ‘amusing’ and it is; as I would have been lying on my divan bed, with my ear as close to my (monophonic) radio as possible, constantly redialling as the signal came and went ……. then excitedly discussing what I’d heard at school on the following Monday ……..weren’t the 1970’s wonderful?
Today they sound as spectacular as I’d fantasised as a schoolboy; man …….. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; while a phenomenal and inventive guitarist; Rory Gallagher was also a fabulous singer ……. just listen to It Takes Time or Laundromat from the wonderful Sounds of the Seventies; and what a blast it is hearing the ‘posh’ introductions to tracks from the John Peel Sunday Concert series although the announcer actually sounds more like a young Johnnie Walker …… but I could be wrong.
This; obviously is when Rory ‘comes alive;’ and hearing Hands Up, Laundromat and the timeless In Your Town again on these recordings has brought a tear to an old man’s eyes.
Many of us who have been in it for the long haul already know how eclectic Gallagher’s early albums were; and looking back again with that 20:20 hindsight …… I think there’s an argument here for Rory being a forefather of what we know know as AMERICANA!
Discuss?
As always there are numerous formats available, and what I haven’t got is the DVD, which I really must hunt down …. as the idea of seeing as well as hearing Rory perform these songs on a French TV Show will no doubt be a treat I deserve after listening to those interminable ‘Alternate Takes.’
BTW the accompanying book; full of anecdotes and photos is nearly worth the entrance fee alone.

Released September 3rd 2021
https://rorygallagher.com/

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Brinsley Schwarz TANGLED

BRINSLEY SCHWARZ
Tangled
Fretsore Records

The Original Pub Rocker Proves That Talent Is No Ordinary Word.

Brinsley Schwarz, the man, the myth, the musician; is not just a band but someone that conjures up memories from half a century ago.
Surely, it’s not only people of my age that were nerdily into the minutiae of artists from their puberty right up to today who can still, perhaps recall and relate to where this particular musician sits within UK music history?
I didn’t have to Google his early days at Woodbridge School with Nick Lowe, or that he formed Kippington Lodge which morphed into the innovative Pub Rockers that carried his own unique name.
After recording 6 albums in 4 years the actual band, Brinsley Schwarz ceased in the mid 1970’s leading to Brinsley‘s involvement with Graham Parker and The Rumour. Further success followed with a myriad of well regarded artists plus an ever constant association with Graham Parker that has continued right up to today.

Whilst I didn’t really have a saudade to bring his music into my 21st. century library, I was still somewhat surprised to discover that this was only his 2nd. ever solo album (the first being 2016’s ‘Unexpected’).
Producer James Hallawell is the common denominator, persuading Brinsley into the studio and turning the numerous home written compositions into that album from 5 years ago and now Tangled follows the same path.
Of the 10 tracks, 9 were written by Brinsley with a bonus 10th, covering one of his (and the Rocking Magpie’s) favourite Graham Parker tunes.

“He Takes Your Breath Away” kicks off the album with a distinctive melodic guitar riff, followed by the song that was released as a single back in June; “You Drive Me to Drink” which tells the familiar tale of love gone wrong.
Another gentle, brokenhearted theme hits you with the sombre “Stranded” which again features some thoughtful, tender guitar breaks. Mr. Parker’s composition “Love Gets You Twisted;” continues with the sadness but it’s a superb rendition of a terrific song that, if you analyse it, has only 2 verses of quite poetic beauty, the second of which I assume actually provides the inspiration for the albums title :-

Love gets you twisted Love gets you twisted inside out
I knew that it existed I knew that it existed I had no doubt
When she’s in my arms I get tangled up it’s true
I can’t see the other point of view

Just when you think this is a rather maudlin set of songs “Storm in the Hills” transforms you back to the 1970’s and legendary live musical haunts such as The Hope and Anchor in Islington or The Dublin Castle in Camden Town.
Classic pub-rock, plain and simple.
Perhaps my favourite track could be the observational, uplifting ballad “Crazy World” (written during lockdown) with its subtle piano intro and ultra sensitive, caring lyrics.
The tempo picks up again with “Game On” featuring a motivational theme advising a female friend to :-

“Put on your short back dress,
tie your hair up and all the rest,
Put on your short black dress,
because it’s game on, you know it’s game on.”

Whilst Brinsley’s previous album was entitled Unexpected we also have a track on this one, called “Unexpected;” which is another song all about emotions and feelings, followed by jaunty ecological observations in “You Can’t Take it Back” having the added benefit of some exquisite acoustic guitar.
Finally, the intriguing closing track “All Day” starts off as a gentle love song but with a surprising twist, at 1min:28sec the acoustic backing ceases and the song transforms into a much more livelier electric tune; with majestic, precise guitar picking plus a Honky-Tonk type piano fading out into the distant horizon.

Some artists keep on ploughing the same old boring furrow and sadly exceed their sell-by date. However, here we have real talent that confirms the old adage of “you never lose it, do you?”
Brinsley Schwarz has paid his dues, he has hung on in there and he maybe is in the twilight of his life, but musically he illustrates that he can still write a good song, still play guitar with supreme touch and tone, likewise with his skills on the keyboard, all added together to deliver an absolute belter of an album that has brought tears of joy to the eyes of this old music loving nerd.

Released on 3rd. September 2021
Jack Kidd – “Messin’ with the Kid” Radio Lionheart.

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https://brinsleyschwarz.bandcamp.com/album/tangled

The Cold Stares HEAVY SHOES

The Cold Stares
Heavy Shoes
Mascot Record

Cocksure Blues Rock Meets Southern Rock at a City Centre Crossroads.

As regular readers will know we have very eclectic tastes here at RMHQ; none more so than my good self. Recently I’ve been dabbling in the Jazz pond, alongside my normal Americana/Roots listening; but one of my Guilty Pleasures has always been good old Blues Rock, which stems from my teenage years half a century ago.
As the acts I loved got Heavier I moved on to more melodic music; but still like to raise the roof every now and again; which is where The Cold Stares entered my life last week.
The album had been sitting around unplayed; simply because I was 99% sure what the contents would be …. and I was correct; but in a case of ‘right place/right time’ it went into the player on Monday morning and was still rocking the office at tea-time!
Unlike most of their contempories; Kentuckians,The Cold Stares actually manage to sound Bluesy, while ‘turning it up to 11’ and allow singer singer Chris Tapp to actually ‘sing’ instead of scream.
Obviously it was the opening track Heavy Shoes which initially caught my attention. POWERFUL hardly covers it; but there was cool guitar riff that runs all the way through; and Tapp reminded me of Paul Rogers in his full majesty (which covers both Free and Bad Co.) and to some degree Brian Mullins could well have took lessons from Paul Kossoff at times; on a song that makes Whitesnake sound like a Pop Combo!
I’d be nervous of playing this album through headphones, as my ears are in a ragged state anyway; but these songs do need to be played loud(ish) to get the best from; mostly because you can actually feel the bass/drums combo in your chest at times; but for once that doesn’t detract from the songs; with Save You From You, Strange Light and 40 Dead Men being prime examples of a band who have served a long and tough apprenticeship; never wavering from their goal ….. and now actually living out their combined dreams; doing what they want for an ever appreciative fan base.
As I say; Heavy Blues/Rock isn’t my normal ‘go to’ genre; but occasionally bands like The Cold Stares come out of the shadows, and while frightening me at first; have something special in their armoury (You Wanted Love? Take This Body From Me?) that are significantly different from the norm, to catch my attention, but then grow to appreciate the classy playing and surprisingly intricate production values that combine to give us some quite Classic Contemporary Rock.
As you’d expect from a Heavy Blues style album there’s an all purveying darkness from start to finish; but The Cold Stares carry this off with not just class but panache too; none none so than the funky-ass Gothic sounding In The Night Time, which straddles Southern Rock and British Blues with swagger and style.
Which brings me to my Favourite Track here.
Not necessarily an easy task as there isn’t anything here that I would say could be a Commercial/crossover Hit; although there is certainly a lot to like and admire; but one song seems to stand out above the rest and will sound great on both Rock Radio in the car and in a sweaty club at 11.15 on a Friday night; and that’s Hard Times, with it’s Jack Bruce a-like bass lines and cocksure vocal performance on a song that will resonate with just about everyone who is living on the back foot these days.
While I certainly don’t want to be inundated with similar releases over the next six months; The Cold Stares have been a revelation for me; and a bit of an adventure too.

Released August 13th 2021
https://www.thecoldstares.com/

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Dave Kelly 40 YEARS ON

DAVE KELLY
40 years On-A Recollection
Repertoire

A Cornerstone of the Original British Blues Scene Gets To Be Stage Centre Again.

Loving music, collecting records and going to gigs has been a big part of my life for ……. a long, long time; and it comes as no real surprise that I’ve been aware of Dave Kelly since the late 1960’s (starting with him and his sister Jo-Anne around that time too!), as well as him being part of The John Dummer Blues Band and an original member of The Blues Band, I even bought their debut album when it came out in 1980, plus their 3rd; “Itchy Feet;” in fact I’m sure I saw them live at one time.
So how come Dave Kelly faded into the background of my personal library.
Folks, it’s a complete mystery.

So this retrospective is not just extremely welcome, it is a revelation (to me).
Repertoire Records have scoured through Kelly’s work over 4 decades and filled 3 CD’s with 55 re-mastered recordings, 23 of which have never been available before. It’s a comprehensive catalogue in the form of a quality Box-Set that also has the added bonus of a 40 page nostalgic booklet, with liner notes from Repertoire’s very own Chris Welch. Add to that, a forward by long-time Kelly fan Roy Bainton and an in-depth interview with the man himself.

As for the music, well, logically each CD has a theme; CD1 is entitled ‘All My Own Work’ and understandably features 19 tracks that Kelly co-wrote with Tom McGuiness. CD2 has the headline of ‘Between the Covers’ featuring 21 of Kelly’s favourite songs through the years, where he applies his own take on some Classics, interestingly not necessarily all of the Blues persuasion. Completing the set, CD3’s moniker is ‘Alive and Kicking’ providing us with 15 live tracks that were recorded during various European Tours.

Nostalgia may well be a thing of the past, gone but certainly not forgotten. T
he music on these 3 CD’s is top notch. Off the first CD my favourite tracks are the ones where Dave displays his undoubted talent on slide guitar like “Straight Line (To My Heart)”; “Ungrateful” and “Mr. Estes Said” although I couldn’t help sing along to “Waiting For Bessie” too.
On the covers album there are tons of pleasant surprises, but I particularly loved the rocking version of Delbert McClintons “Two More Bottles of Wine”, the raucous “Return to Sender” plus the bouncy interpretation of Goffin & Kings “I’m Into Something Good”.
However, TVZ’s “Pancho & Lefty”, Guy’s “Anyhow I Love You” and Steve Goodman’s classic “City of New Orleans” are real eye-openers, as is Dave’s beautiful instrumental version of Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine”.

Finally, the 15 live tracks illustrate just how good Kelly and his Band truly were, but more importantly highlighting what a superb guitarist Dave is, whether it be acoustic, electric or slide.
In fact his attempt at Steve Earle’s “My Old Friend The Blues” is very Cooderesque, and his take on Muddy’s “I Can’t be Satisfied” and also “That Same Thing” both have spine tingling intros, even by Kelly’s standards.
Even without a horn section his guitar led “Barnyard Boogie” from the Louis Jordan catalogue is full of raw energy.
The Clovers had a massive hit in 1954 with “Lovey Dovey” and it has subsequently been covered by many more over the years, but Dave’s sprightly attempt shows precisely how good his vocal skills are too.
However, my Favourite Track, not just on CD3 but on the entire Box-Set is “Rolling Log”, with some tasty accordion, as well as a stentorian, Quo like back beat, it’s another track where I dare you not to sing along to the infectious chorus.

Congratulations to all at Repertoire Records, this is a splendid shop window for what Dave Kelly has consistently delivered over these selected years.
Enhanced by the re-mastering we have a clear and concise record of great music from one of the cornerstones of the British Blues scene.
It has certainly elevated Dave Kelly out of that faded background in my personal library and quite rightly placed him at centre stage. It ought to do the same for you.


Released on 30th. July 2021
Review by Jack KiddMessin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

https://www.thebluesband.net/bio/DaveKelly.html

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https://www.repertoirerecords.com/artists/dave-kelly/dave-kelly-40-years-on-a-recollection/

Mick Pini BACKTRACK

Mick Pini
Backtrack
Self-Release/Bandcamp

A New Lick of Paint and More For a British Blues Stalwart’s Back Catalogue.

I guess that Mick Pini’s name is one of those that merits a furrowed eyebrow and a bit of thought. While not a Premier League guitarist; Pini (from Leicester but now based in Germany) has been a stalwart of the European Blues Scene for decades; regularly touring these shores and playing all of the top Festivals.
With a 25 album catalogue and no discernable hits in his 55 year musical career; it’s perhaps a brave decision to re-record and recreate some of his favourite tracks as a Bonafide Retrospective; but for the likes of me (and you?) it’s actually a perfect way of introducing us to the man Eric Clapton once dubbed ‘the new Peter Green.’
The album comes to life immediately with Jumping Blues; a simmering big band swinger; the likes of which Freddie or even Albert King would have been proud of; not least because of Pini’s languid guitar playing; but his velvety vocals too.
The Peter Green connection comes to the fore on track #2 the beautiful instrumental Blues For Peter Green; which obviously has a faint hint of Albatros to it; but not enough for anyone to worry about ….. in fact; in another dimension it could easily be the theme tune for a RTV Detective Show …… the noir kind with lots of comings and goings in the shadows.
Obviously over 25 previous albums Mick Pini has diverted a few times from the normal Blues path; and when he does veritable sparks can fly ….. growling the Blues is Cheap is steeped in dark N’Orleans Voodoo, whereas Snowy Wood is primarily a Honky-Tonk piano piece with with extra guitar licks thrown in at no extra cost.
While Pini and Producer Craig Marshall have apparantly dusted down, polished and refurbed all of these tracks from their original format; it sounds to me more like they have added a certain ‘something’ that the studios wouldn’t have had ‘back in the day’; which gives a diamond lustre to the smoky and indeed; ‘smoking’ One Glass of Water which features some organ playing worthy of Booker T in the background while Pini goes full-on Eric/Albert on the guitar too!
While looking for a Favourite Track I stumbled on Shadows; another song with Pini’s bewitching voice oozing class as the piano and guitar interplay alongside a haunting trumpet, makes this sound like something that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Blue Note Sampler.
But; there’s also Standing In The Rain and Got It Bad; both of which are absolutely outstanding. While Pini’s music is totally steeped in the Golden Age of 1960’s Blues; both British and American these two tracks in particular are simply timeless as well as being outstanding.
With tracks spanning the majority of his 55 year career one of the absolute highlights is a humdinger of an instrumental, Snowy Wood again featuring Pini’s effortlessly brilliant guitar playing duelling with a piano and which comes from his most recent release, INTO THE DISTANCE.
The first time I played Standing In The Rain I was 99% sure I already knew the song; but didn’t …… which is one of those tricks many acts try but most fail at; and the claustrophobic Got It Bad is a similar story for me; and sounds like the song that Eric Clapton tried 20 years to create and always failed; a smooth and laid back love song full of delicate and relaxed guitar licks and a heart stopping piano solo; that highlights a lived in and world weary vocal performance on a story too many of us can relate too…… making it my Favourite Track here by the blink of an eye.
What more can I say? In a world full of Blues Music of all hues; it’s been a wonderful few days discovering the work of Mick Pini; and who’s to say that this release won’t make him a Overnight Success after 55 hard worked years!

Released July 1st 2021
https://www.mickpini.com/

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https://audio54.bandcamp.com/releases