Lainey Wilson Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ BMG/BBR Music Group
Good Time Friday Night Southern Country Music
Louisiana native Lainey Wilson’s broad Southern Twang is the clearest take from the opening thumping rocky track of this new studio album, Neon Diamond. Therein lies the essential core to how you’re probably going to respond to this – on the one hand, there’s an edgy vocal “authenticity” (whatever that is) that will appeal to some, but to some others it might (unfortunately) not fit their comfortable radio-friendly world-view, especially in non-US territories. Style-wise, it’s further Southern Boogie on second track “Sunday best” – pure Roadhouse music to its core. “Things a Man Oughta Know” nudges things down a few notches with some nicely picked rhythm mandolin in its straightforward challenging of gender stereotypes. Next up. “Small Town, Girl” is a funky Blues shuffle through parochialism in an idealised America. Oddly, things take a Euro-disco turn on the very radio friendly “LA,” which will likely appeal to the Nashville bachelorette crowd as they drive down Broadway in those open-sided party buses. “Dirty Looks” takes a more reflective turn and style-wise would have fitted nicely on Taylor Swift’s eponymous first album, before it’s back to the singalong choruses of “Pipe;” which features idiolectic grammar and the best use of “Y’all” you’re likely to hear this year. Lyrically it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek and this cartoonish approach suits the good time feel of the song. “Keeping Bars in Business” takes a more serious tack, although its observation that the shittiness and rollercoaster emotions of life is good news for the brewery industry, might not find approval in all quarters! “Straight Up Sideways” boogies its way towards a more hedonistic carpe diem approach to the imbibing of alcohol, although she sings, “there’s more than one way to get straight up sideways” – other forms of inebriation are clearly available. The acronym titled “WWDD” – “What Would Dolly Do?” is not actually very Parton-esque in musical style, favouring a mid-tempo almost Glitter Band kick drum rhythm; but offers a fair enough way of dealing with life’s issues. Things change again with a return to mandolin on “Rolling Stone” and the more acoustic rootsy sound makes a good vehicle for Wilson’s voice and also features some lovely twangy Calexicoesque guitar on the fade. The album ends on the title track Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin,’ with its gentle brushed train beat, taking things to a more confessional conclusion. Sitting here in a semi-detached house in Stoke-on-Trent writing this review, Lainey Wilson’s life experience could hardly be further away from my own; and of her targets demographic; so at times that gulf is a bit much for me to leap, but there’s a lot to enjoy in the humour, vocal timbre and philosophical hedonism on display in this showcase album.
A Many-Headed, Dreamy Garage-Pop; Soul-Fired Americana Tune-Fest.
Although it’s been out since late last year for the lucky folks on the other side of the pond, Beth Lee’s “Waiting on You Tonight” reaches these UK shores in early February 2021. Delayed gratification is the best kind though; and this Mission Express-laced release (Vicente Rodriguez produces and performs and James DePrato is on board too – as well as multi-instrumentalist on loan from Ani DiFranco, Julie Wolf) is worth waiting for. Imagine Hope Sandoval after a few coffees fronting a Stonesy sixties garage band; and you’ve got some idea of what’s going on here. Opening title track “Waiting on You Tonight” chugs in from both sides of the stereo field and tells a timeless tale of thwarted realistic hopes and expectations. “Yale St and 45” takes a pretty Tom Petty-ish turn before the sixties stoner-soul of “Playing Along” hustles into view. “I Won’t Give In” matches Green on Red guitar in determined sentiment, whereas “Birthday Song” adds sixties Crystals-like xylophone to a story of unexpected gifts – great hand-claps too. “Pens and Needles” rattles along with rumbling Powerpop chant-along choruses and soulful guitar stabs; and even more than a nod to Johnny Thunders guitar wailing; most excellent indeed. “Four Letter Name” and “Understand Me” follow a more melancholy path in the bittersweet way that sixties girl groups once forged. The latter is musically more in that vein, with rhythmic crescendos that Dusty Springfield would have been proud of. ”It was Enough” is a lush sway-along wistful look back to “When I Was Your Girl”. The hybrid of Garage-Soul-Pop continues with “Too Little Too Late,” sounding like post-Supremes Diana Ross fronting early Blondie. I. For. One. I have fantasised about such things, in my head for many years, so am very happy indeed. You’re welcome. Matters are drawn to a close with “All the Way,” ending things in a dreamy last-dance of the night, sort of way with twang and reverb from Mission Express HQ. Lovely. I imagine that Beth Lee has a really cool record collection (it would be records of course – not CD’s) because osmosis has done its work here, organically creating a many-headed dreamy Garage-Pop and Soul fired Americana tune-fest. I heartily approve of this heady musical hybrid mix.
Catherine Britt Home Truths Beverley Hillbilly Records
Heartbreakers, Tearjerkers and Plenty of Good Ole Fashioned Deluxe Country.
The first night I listened to this album I skimmed through the accompanying Press Release and when I saw ‘first release’ obviously presumed that this was a debut album; and was mightily impressed by every aspect; from songs through melody, and of course Catherine’s magnificently expressive voice. Then two days later I read it more closely ….. DOH! Without going into too much detail; she released her first record in 1999 aged 14 in her native Newcastle; Australia and was eventually ‘discovered’ by Elton John three years later, which necesitated a move across the world to Nashville at 17 as she was given a contract with RCA when they were in their pomp. Subsequently she has won more Awards than Manchester United and played the Opry, while releasing a total of 7 previous albums before this little beauty on her own label. The music! Tell me about the music! Okay…. okay! With nothing to compare or contrast with, opening track I Am a Country Song is the type of Old School Classic Country that ‘they’ say isn’t made any more; but ‘they’ don’t look hard enough, do they? It’s everything; and more you’d expect from a Classy song of that title; a tearjerker, a look back and best of all it’s a good ole Country Love Song; and does music get any better than that? What follows is more or less in that vein; with even more tearjerkers with Catherine squeezing every ounce of pathos out of Hard To Love, the divine Mother and of course the punchy title track itself; Home Truths which will be when the mobile phones get lit up when she’s in concert; and best of all it all sounds like they are done with raw honesty. There was a time when I might have sneered at the likes of Country Fan; a duet with Lee Kernaghan and Fav’rit Song; but the older I get and the more I understand …… I bloody love both and if ever I get see Catherine ‘live’ I will be hollerin’ along with the rest of them. I like to think that after all these years I can put myself into the ‘target demographic’ when I listen to new albums; and today that’s not been easy when you have songs aimed at Young Mothers …… Gonna Be a Mumma , with it’s opening gambit: “Well I cook and I clean Put on the washing machine Make a coffee, drink it cold Hang the whites; they’re dorks to fold Put the dog in the yard Will today be just as hard as yesterday? Hey! Hey!” That sure ain’t aimed at me; but I can imagine my daughter in laws (and wife) thinking ‘someone gets me at last!’ More than just about any other genre Classic Country mines emotional gold better than any other; and CatherineBritt sure can build the tension better than most on the duet with Jim Lauderdale; Hard to Love, Original Sin and the world weary wisdom of New Dawn too; which sit side by side and are sure fire Country Heartbreakers in the Loretta and Reba mould and more recently by Ashley Monroe and Miranda Lambert; but Hell; Catherine Birt can match them all tear for tear. In one way or another everything here will be a ‘crowd pleaser’ in one way or another; but the self-depreciating biographical Me is an absolute highlight and delight too ……. perfect for Country Radio everywhere btw. One of my Favourite Tracks Make a Diamond reads like it’s a similar story; but it’s actually a whole lot darker and will appeal to many of us who have lived similar paths; albeit not as Country Music Stars. The other; and most likely my Favourite Song here is the finale; Long Way Round, yet another Country Heartbreaker, but one that somehow caught me unawares one evening and made me repeat it three or four times; which I’m sure will happen in many homes where this album will eventually reside. A cursory look at Catherine Britt’s biography shows you that for every ‘up’ in her life she’s had her fair share of ‘downs’ too; and she’s a fighter to come out the other side smiling; which all helps make her the Real Deal when writing and singing; which is something of a rarity around these parts.
Soft Rock Aimed Squarely at Mainstream Country Radio
From the opening lines and bars of this, Logan Mize’s follow up to 2017’s “Come Back Road! , it’s very clear that this is aimed squarely at mainstream country radio – LOUD, brickwall-limited production, slightly vocodered vocals and Soft Rock anthems, like the Mellencamp name-checking “American Livin’” set the template for what is to follow. “I Ain’t Gotta Grow Up” is a tale of hedonistic longevity that probably makes more sense after imbibing the frequently name-checked cold beers….there are two versions on the album – the latter one featuring Willie Jones’ Louisiana Country Hip-Hop artist added to the mix. Track 3 “Who Didn’t” makes a sharp shift from the carpe diem of the two openers and celebrates sepia-tinted working man nostalgia; that also mentions “cold-beer kissing” (which probably isn’t a good idea at the moment tbh….). The slower pace is maintained on “Grew Apart” a straightforward failed relationship tale which uses power-drumming and ‘screamy’ guitar to try and wring some emotion out of a stock situation – there are again two versions on the release – one with Donovan Woods and the other with Alexandra Kay but they’re musically the same apart from the guest vocal interlude. “Gone Goes On and On” is very much in the same vein as its immediate predecessor, both musically and thematically. “Practice Swing” uses sporting metaphor and Soft Rock to tell a tale of the teenage years being relationship practice, basically whereas “Hometown” is classic Heinweh, not just for a place but for a time and a feeling. Again, there’s an idealised nostalgia on display – it’s an everyman tale, which is both its strength for mainstream radio and a possible flaw if the listener finds it too generic. “Get ’em Together” takes a welcome dynamic shift in the duet with Clare Dunn , with keyboards giving the tune a more Euro-pop feel than the Radio Country that precedes it. “Prettiest Girl in the World” – one of two songs on the album that Logan gets a writing credit for – is exactly what you might expect – idealised saccharine and repeated choruses which hammer the message home. “Slow” takes more of a Southern Country Soul feel, which suits its manifesto towards taking life at a steady pace – as advised through the eyes of an old-timer. “Something Just Like This” is a fairly faithful cover of the Chainsmokers/Coldplay track (less fuzzy electro keyboards and more guitars are the main differences). What this album does, quite effectively is it collects a number of single releases into one package – the downside of that is that by collecting a number of tracks that were intended for separate single release into one album, the pacing and dynamic shifts and lack of light and shade (there’s a lot of idealised nostalgia and mid-paced Soft Rock packed close together) make for a less effective listen (especially in one sitting) – but stick the tracks on a shuffled playlist, or catch them on a radio station and they’ll likely be much more effective.
The Rocking Magpie Radio Show Pt3 Top 10 North American Albums of 2020
Well; I’m getting there …… the new fangled faders, knobs and buttons are no longer scaring me in my shiny new Home Studio, so ……. cue drum roll ……… I now plan going ahead with a Weekly RMHQ Podcast, bringing you new tracks from albums we are reviewing and the occasional single that doesn’t get onto the site, alongside a few oldies from across the vast Americana Landscape that tickle my fancy. The one thing that I plan doing every week, will be bringing you ‘Gateway’ tracks and albums that took me away from Pop Music and into a much more grown up and thoughtful world ……. it’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.
This Test episode is Part II of my own personal albums of 2020, this time it’s 11 (I know, I know) eclectic songs from ‘Game Changing’ albums that I can’t recommend highly enough .
On this, his second release Australian Brad Cox has expressed a desire to take his music “to the next level locally and internationally.” With “My Mind’s Projection” he’s developed an accessible yet gritty sound which could help him do just that. Opener “Hold Me Back” is a dobro and banjo Chris Stapletonesque prison ballad stomper, that’s not afraid to throw in the odd naughty swear word, and it places Cox firmly in the soulful loud-guitar-driven side of the Country spectrum. “Drinking Season” a lively rocky tune with some impressive slide and lead breaks, treads well-worn lyrical territory and is aimed squarely at mainstream radio; but ultimately doesn’t really offer much new to Nu-Country’s normal tales of beer, summer, trucks and girls, girls, girls. Track three “Short Lived Love” is one of a few tracks on the album that are very reminiscent of other tunes – in this case, the feel and tone which starts things off is very much in the mode of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, before shifting into epic anthemic Nu-Country mode and back again.
Fellow countryman Adam Eckersley joins Brad on vocals on “Remedy”, with a largely spare arrangement that shows off both voices well in a swelling ballad that draws in instruments one at a time as the song builds into a Prince-flavoured grandiose love ballad. Title track “My Mind’s Projection” develops from a mid-paced handclap opening, into a Memphis horn soul stomper and shares musical territory with the likes of Nathaniel Rateliff – a few of the tracks on the album also use horns and do it rather well. As mentioned earlier, there are a few tracks that are quite reminiscent in part to other songs – “Wasted Time” has an acoustic guitar chord sequence running through it that is very Paul Kelly/Oasis (and several others) , it’s one of the less bombastic tunes on the album and is definitely one of the catchiest and a personal favourite for those reasons. I dare anyone to listen to “Thought I Knew Love” and not see its clear musical kinship to Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” – from the rimshot snare to the organ swells, they’re clearly kissing cousins. Lyrically, Cox isn’t in the Springsteen league though and generic tales of rambling, bars and loud guitars unfortunately eventually sound rather bland. “Give Me Tonight” is more inoffensive, but largely unremarkable stadium singalong AOR. “I Keep Driving” is a stock road and rambling life of a musician song – nicely performed and delivered as a chug-and-singalong stop-starter, but again it’s a path (pardon the parallel metaphor) that’s been well-travelled. The more intriguingly titled “Caught In a Noose by a Stranger” musically is a skulking, sinister swampy vocal and guitar tour-de-force, that although suffering from some cliched lyrical rhyming couplets, shows some glimpses of a darker poetic side that is most welcome. “I Still Want More” is a brave title to end the album on, and in its mixture of Southern Soul horns and vocal restraint from hitting the big chorus until it’s really needed – it ties things up in a way that does Brad Cox a lot of favours. In mining the quieter, Southern Country-Soul vein his musical voice rings out more truly. Finding the balance between popular appeal and maintaining a streak of rootsy uniqueness is a tricky one. On this album, there’s a lyrical naivete that doesn’t quite live up to the same level as the superb playing and vocals. Brad’s only a young man – on the basis of this release, with a few more years of heartbreak and developing his lyrical craft, he’s going to be one to watch out for.
I suppose it’s only fair to state that prior to his 2019 ‘The Dream and The Dreamer’ I wasn’t exactly an expert on his work apart from knowing his involvement (musically) with Margo Price, but it was so enjoyable that I looked into his career etc in more detail – the internet can be very useful! Margo Price (his wife) has produced this new album and on this occasion Jeremy wrote the words first, with the actual music initially a secondary consideration. The result is an album that reminds me in many ways of John Stewart/Buffy Ford associations – as a Stewart fan the link (in my mind) is a major plus factor. But you just ‘hear’ Dylan on several tracks, whether this is intentional or not I will leave to more expert aficionados than myself. The single and the accompanying 6 minute video of ‘Someone Else’s Problems’ from the album deals with the attitude of many businesses/individuals meandering through life without any concerns for the situation of others. In the video; each time he comes out of a lift he finds himself in a different (but the same ) environment with each being worse than the place he has just left. This was written over 12 months ago before the pandemic and Jeremy then found himself ill for a number of months and the grim reality of his situation plays out in the album ‘dealing with his own mortality changing his outlook on life’. The opener, ‘Tomorrow People’ questions if those in the future are ‘in a movie where you already know the end’. Delivered in a Dylan like drawl his voice is ideally suited to the query behind the future. A taste of his sharp humour? The album is released on Anti- Records, a label that have been referred as ‘leaning slightly towards punk’ and they are probably a perfect fit for an artist coming out of the shadows ( in a nice way) of his previous work with his wife and at the same time maintaining their team ethic. He admits that he tried to be political; but in an evenly balanced manner and this comes through in ‘Things Could Get Much Worse’ after a brief harmonica opening he bemoans how he is ‘stuck in a hole where the only way out is a hearse’ while on ‘Loser Town’ he is back on the Dylan like poetic verse treatment of finding himself living in a town where their ‘soul is sold for rock and roll’. A really catchy little track. ‘Movies’ is a great little softly delivered track about ‘movies not being like they used to/ so no more heroes made of celluloid.’ I can picture him sitting in a Nashville cinema with a pen and paper and scratching down lyrics as the film goes on in the background. They just don’t write stories like they used to! ‘Hands Down In Your Pockets’ is another hard hitting tome that races along before slowing down and dealing with ‘the golden rule turning into dust’. People having to live in tented villages below the Motorways will sadly become the norm in a downbeat dystopian future of Ivey. Probably a scenario he has seen all too often already, within Nashville. ‘White Shadow’ asks how folks can manage when even the devil doesn’t want their soul – Ivey’s poser after the storms that shattered his home town of Nashville as ‘the repo man came to call but there is nothing to move.’ The problems of business disregarding the situation of those in distress in ‘What’s The Matter Esther’ maintains Ivey’s pop at the economic situation, where so many are not even treated in a correct or decent manner. ‘What’s tearing You up Esther?’ The final track deals with inequality as ‘half are in jail while half have the keys;’ so you are basically identified from birth into one of the defined categories – rich or poor. He name checks Neil Armstrong, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol among others but ‘that’s how it goes /that’s how its meant to be.’ In a way this is a sort of protest album but delivered in a way that doesn’t have you reaching for the ‘off’ button. Instead, it’s very thoughtful and the listener probably doesn’t pick up on its questions until a few hearings. And it is an album that certainly deserves a few hearings. Americana? Indie? Alt. Country? Rock? You could offer any or all as a genre; but let’s just accept this is a well written and produced album from an artist seasoned in his trade and opening up his options on a very good second album. Very different to his 2019 album it demonstrates that Jeremy Ivey does warrant some time up front; with Margo slipping into the background for a period in a more supportive role. Nashville storms, COVID 19 infections – out of distress comes a triumph with this album.
Bonnie Whitmore Last Will and Testament Aviatrix Records
A Rewarding and Accomplished Journey Across the Heart and Soul of American Roots.
I first came across Bonnie Whitmore on her prior *release “Fuck With Sad Girls” which signalled a confident world and musical view, born out of getting out there, playing and doing. That confidence is clear from the start with the opening title track “Last Will and Testament” which could easily fit on Richard Hawley’s “Further” album; being a Glam Rock classic stomper but embellished with luscious strings. Then, the beautiful and charismatic “None of My Business” which follows, taking a sideways swerve into classic anthemic Soul. “Right/Wrong” takes on one of the many ‘big issues’ tackled by the album, the state of America today and it does so with classic American Petty and Spectoresque forms – the focus shifts on “Fine” to the cyclical nature of personal relationships, where Bonnie even manages to out-Springsteen’s Springsteen! Things are kept uptempo and angry on “Asked For It” which tackles systemic attitudes towards rape culture and fittingly resolves itself with “she didn’t ask for it!” The tempo is slightly eased in mid album where “Time to Shoot” is underscored with a ticking metronomic clock and builds up into a crescendo of swirling strings and asks “is it worth it?” – a recurring feature of the lyricism is the use of direct address wrapped in a pop sensibility that can’t help but put the listener on the spot, emotionally and philosophically. “Love Worth Remembering” moves back into more personal territory, with its confessional feelgood organ accompanied deep Soul. There’s even more variety on “Imaginary” which has echoes of a European folk ballad stretched over Tom Waits carney-style percussion and accordion keys. Despite the lyrical themes of uncertain inspiration and fulfilment, it’s a song rich in imagination. “Flashes and Cables” uses a retro-processed vocal as an intro before exploding into the request and hope that “won’t someone please save us” because “nobody told us that the bastards were here” – a cry against the all-pervading technology that observes and infiltrates our lives these days. To end the album, “George’s Lullaby” unsurprisingly takes things down a notch or two, with tinkling piano, brushed drums and chamber strings to frame a reassuring tale of love found. It’s a good sign that after these ten tracks, the listener is left wanting more – this being a rewarding, varied album which covers a range of musical and lyrical bases, but which is united by Bonnie Whitmore’s distinctive vocal and lyrical presence across all tracks. There’s cross-over appeal, passionate feeling and creative edge – all at the same time – and you can’t ask for much more than that; can you?
Just like London busses; you wait ages for a new Drive-By Truckers album to come along and just as the first one arrives, a new one comes hurtling around the corner!
This single; which is also the title track from a shiny new Album arrived late yesterday; and the album (download) was waiting on the laptop first thing this morning ……. so guess what I will be playing on the way too and from work?
As you will hear; the single is chock full of sharp, incisive and biting lyrics about the times we find ourselves in; all set to a summery beat and Beach Boysesque harmonies; which are hopefully destined to fool radio producers.
I will leave it to Patterson to tell you about the album; and why it’s being ‘rush released’ ………..
Drive-By Truckers’ 13th studio album ‘The New OK’ arrives mere months after the release of the band’s highly acclaimed ‘The Unraveling’. Originally conceived as a quarantine EP collecting material recorded in Memphis during sessions for ‘The Unraveling’, the project quickly grew to include provocative new songs written and recorded over what Drive-By Truckers co-founder Patterson Hood calls “this endless summer of protests, riots, political shenanigans and pandemic horrors.” Tracks such as Hood’s “Watching The Orange Clouds” – inspired by the protests which followed George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police – and a fiery cover of The Ramones’ classic ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ (vocals by bassist Matt Patton) were exchanged between Hood, co-founding singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Cooley, bassist Patton, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez, drummer Brad Morgan and then mixed by longtime DBT producer David Barbe. The result, says Hood, is “a full album that hopefully balances out the darkness of our current situation with a hope for better days and nights ahead.”
“To call these past few months trying would be a dramatic understatement.” Hood continues; “Our lives are intertwined with our work in ways that give us our best songs and performances. It is a life that has often rewarded us beyond our wildest dreams. Speaking for myself, I don’t have hobbies, I have this thing I do. To be sidelined with a brand new album and have to sit idly while so much that I love and hold dear falls apart before my very eyes has been intense, heartbreaking, anger provoking and very depressing. It has gone to the very heart of our livelihoods and threatened near everything that we have spent our lives trying to build. Here’s to the hope that we can make 2021 a better year than this one has been. In the meantime, here’s to THE NEW OK!”
TRACK LISTING: The New OK Tough To Let Go The Unraveling The Perilous Night Sarah’s Flame Sea Island Lonely The Distance Watching The Orange Clouds The KKK Took My Baby Away
Single – Released October 1st 2020 Album – Released October 2nd 2020
Radio-Friendly Country-Pop with Some Big Ole Choruses.
Tyler Filmore’s press release states that he “blends Country Music sensibilities with pop and electronic elements”. Listening to the album I probably wouldn’t put those influences in that order – in fact I’d have them totally the other way round. This is a pop album that utilises various country tropes, without ever really being “Country” as we know it – that’s not a criticism – I just think it does his music a disservice to label it thus. If your expectation of “Country Music” is shaped by US (and to a certain extent) UK mainstream Country Music radio and you’re a fan of the kind of mass-appeal headliners at C2C , then this album fits right in. If you’re a traditionalist, like most of us at RMHQ then maybe not so much. Opener “New to This” is pure modern pop with vocoded vocals and brickwall-limited instrumentation, that does the loud-soft trick to stress the singalong and rapping elements. Streaming success “Slower” has a banjo on it, but it’s not Country – more singalong ‘take your brain out’ hedonistic pop drinking music. “Country Song” actually isn’t a Country song, but expresses a love of a somewhat stereotyped poppy version of the medium. “W.I.L.D” which precedes the title track also has a banjo – or maybe banjitar – but it’s modern pop AOR with an Aerosmith style guitar solo. Title track “State I’m In” is glossy uptempo location naming pop whereas “Heart’s Having a Hard Time” is a glossy, trembly voice ballad; as is the subsequent slightly more rap-influenced “Blue Skies.” With 18 tracks in total, Filmore takes the attitude that ‘if you don’t like this song; then there’s another one along in two to three minutes.’
Of the remainder, “Other Girl” is a classic doting love-song pop song and “Me Lately” has definite last dance potential.
“London” which had a video shot in the capital, in anticipation of a C2C appearance name-checks a bunch of British cliches that might go down OK as a beery Festival singalong, but sounds rather cheesy to a discerning UK audience when laid bare in the recorded form. All in all, there’s plenty of value here for fans of ‘modern pop’ with infinite choruses, chants and even …….. rapping, a loud modern production made for streaming and lots of relatable relationship subject matter.
Released September 25th 2020 Courtesy Nick Barber.