Jesse Terry
When We Wander
Wander Recordings

Laid Back and Easy Going Americana With Deceptively Killer Lines and Hooks.

As I’ve said many times over the years; “If I was aimlessly flicking through the racks of a record shop and stumbled on this; the cover alone would grab my attention and lead me to asking the person behind the counter if I could hear a couple of tracks.”
(Remember those days kids?)
The cool pic of a handsome young man in a Rough Rider jacket, looking straight at you, effortlessly leads you into the the laid back and easy going songs that follow …….. but; in the best TV Detective manner; there’s a glint in them there eyes that hides the fact that he’s more than capable of delivering a killer line or couplet when you’re least expecting it.
To begin with, the title track When We Wander gently squeezes your heart until you can’t breathe for fear of missing a note or sepia tinged image …… phwoar!
Jesse Terry has a such a lovely and yet deceptive voice that you would be forgiven for putting this album on as ‘background music’ ….. but; trust me here …… something will catch your ear and you won’t be able to stop yourself jumping up and taking said song back to the beginning; be it the sumptuously reflective Hymn of a Summer Night, the Honky Tonk delights of Pretty Good Hand or even the bittersweet love song, In Spite of You; all have something that will pique your interest and maybe even look back on your own life.
Seven albums in and 150+ shows a year don’t necessarily make for an apprenticeship that makes a songwriter this good; but Jesse Terry uses every single experience in his life to create his Art; and in many ways his songs are Art.
Our new friend Neilson Hubbard’s gentle production gives this a bit of a West Coast/Laurel Canyon vibe; with Ghost Stories and the punchy Little Fires sounding as if Terry had overdosed on Jackson Browne and David Gates for 72 hours solid and wanted to tip his hat in that direction; and the world is a better place for it.
While a wholly gorgeous and slightly edgy album from start to finish; on any other album the title track would be my Favourite Track; no question but such is the quality and class on offer it doesn’t even make the Top 3!
Little Fires, with its searing pedal-steel spine, has an easy going melody that lulls you in until the story unravels and you find you unconsciously have a tear in the corner of each eye and your bottom lip is puffed up ….. yup; it’s a bonafide heartbreaker.
Jesse Terry can also Rock It Up when he wants to too; and the powerful Hanging the Stars effortlessly straddles Classic Country Rock and the new fangled Alt. Country with ease and is just perfect for the radio on a hot and stifling Saturday night.
Then, there is the overall winner …….. cue drum roll …… the Springsteen inspired Strangers In Our Town.
Like all great songs it will appeal to listeners on different levels; but to me this claustrophobic love song had me looking at Mrs. Magpie and thinking; ‘come on ……. let’s us be strangers in our town‘ i.e. let’s look at our lives from a whole new angle … we’re never too old to Rock & Roll; are we?
All that’s left for me to say is to tell you about the Press Release; as is my won’t I skimmed down to see if my name was included (it isn’t) and then I saw a quote from a radio DJ.
Mercifully for once it wasn’t Bob Harris; but someone you’ve never heard of but has been a huge influence on my listening taste and hopefully broadcasting skills over the las 50 years ……. one Paddy MacDee from my local BBC Radio Newcastle.
At one stage Paddy had three very different shows running 7 days a week and wholeheartedly supported ‘proper music’ and especially the local scene, not just on radio but turning up to gigs on his nights off too.
So; if Jesse Terry is good enough for Paddy MacDee, he’s certainly good enough for the likes of me and you!!

Released May 14th 2021


Dr Lonnie Smith Ft Iggy Pop BREATHE

Dr Lonnie Smith ft Iggy Pop
Blue Note

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

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

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


James Holvay
Sweet Soul Song
Mob Town Records

A Delightful Homage to the Golden Era of Sweet S.O.U.L Music.

The older I get the more I’m drawn to Americana and Rootsy albums; but my first love as a young teenager was Soul Music; and I guess that’s true of James Holvay too as this delightful homage to the Golden Era certainly proves.
I certainly didn’t know what to expect when I first played this EP last week; especially as the cover shows a grey haired white guy looking a bit like Jeff Goldblum or even Tom Hanks …… so when the dancetastic Working On It came out of the kitchen speakers I couldn’t stop myself shuffling along as I buttered my toast (not a euphemism!). Man …… what a smooth and, cooool voice this cat has; and alongside producer Steve Cohen and engineer Cameron Lew can put together a melody and groove worthy of Stax, Atlantic and Philadelphia International too; with occasional nods to what I know as Northern Soul.
The title track, Sweet Soul Song comes at you like a warm wind a Spring morning; and while Holvay sings about being on the Southside of Chicago ‘dancing till dawn’ in 1963; this is the type of Soul Music I was dancing to in the Black Cat Disco (above an undertakers) in Stanley Co. Durham in 1975/6 …… but it; alongside the other four tracks here are absolutely timeless in my mind.
The only sad thing about this release is that I don’t know where it fits in any more; as all of the Soul Radio stations are ‘Golden Oldie’ based; and in my experience only seem to own one copy of That’s What I Call Soul and play it on random 24 hours a day; and the current resurgence of Modernist/Soul Clubs across the UK seem fixated the other way; unearthing genuine old treasure i.e. songs you never heard first time around …… but if James was to print up a 100 45 RPM copies of Love Has Found A Way with Talkin’ About It as a B-Side; plaster a white label on them and knock them out on E-Bay with subtle hints to them maybe being rare songs by Curtis, Major Lance, Don Covay or in the case of the latter ….. my personal favourites; The Tymes …. the DJ’s would crawl over each other to buy them!
Speaking of The Tymes; that’s who I thought of when I first heard the bum-hugging smoocher, Still The Fool; which made me go weak at the knees. Remember when we used to have a ‘last song of the night’ at Discos? Well; my friend this would have been a nailed on floor-filler; and later when you got home (alone) you’d melt the vinyl playing it over and over again thinking about ‘the one that got away’.
Hence; Still The Fool is by far my Favourite Song here; and as I type I can’t help thinking about …… no ….. you don’t need to know her name….. it was half a century ago …….. sob.
Seriously, obviously coming from a group of musicians etc. who love and loved this type of Soul Music this is a peach of a release; all hits ….. and no sh**!

Released April 16th 2021


Grand Nationals (Bill Meyer) NEW OLD STOCK

Grand Nationals (Bill Meyer)

Second Time Around Songs For Second Time Around Love

Sometimes it takes a couple of plays/listens to ‘get’ a band; and that’s what happened here, with the Grand Nationals re-recording of their back catalogue for the Digital Age.
Obviously I don’t know the original songs, as the band and in particular Bill Meyer reside and play in and around the Bay Area of San Francisco and I live in NE England ….. but good music knows no boundaries and Bill thought I might like what I heard.
He was right.
Opening track, Lucky is a cool as you like, swoonsome love song that comes across as a Bob Seger/Tom Petty hybrid with a chorus and backing singers that many Headline Acts would give their eye-teeth to have in their set list.
To some greater or lesser degree; and I could be wrong here, but most of these songs will really appeal to guys (mostly) back on the *dating scene after a long time out of the ‘game.’
We all grew up listening to Teen Love Songs, and that’s what makes up Classic Rock/Magic/ FM etc; but we move on; but sometimes need a familiar story and groove; and with more mature themes; which is where bands like the Grand Nationals come in on a Monday or Tuesday night; giving second-time around romance, a soundtrack.
Got You In Mind, We Ain’t Giving Up (on Love) and Funny That Way all make perfect sense when you hear them and imagine them in that scenario IMHO.
Meyer’s voice certainly has that ‘world weary’ almost ‘lived in’ sensibility; but while he sounds like has been around the block and had his downfalls; there’s a rasp when he pours his heart into He Would Have Felt The Same and the rather delightful Diamond Dust that tells us he hasn’t given up and will always see light at the end of the tunnel.
Then of course there is the song that stands out above all others; still with a Petty/Seger vibe; but the horns on Heaven Only Knows and the longing in Meyer’s voice sound like a leftover from a Boz Scaggs session that is getting a new lease of life.
Even if you are in a long and loving relationship, like what I am …… or even a lady who appreciates Classy and Classic AOR Music; this little beauty is for you too, as there are plenty of songs here that will suit your discerning tastes too.

*This theory came to me because a good friend is a salesman in the fashion trade; and once took on a shirt brand that was very colourful and, at the time had fancy ‘double colours’ ……. Andy couldn’t reason why they were so popular; until a customer explained that the customers buying them were men ‘of a certain age,’ who still felt the need to dress up for a date; unlike the younger men who barely had a shower.
Plus these ‘dates’ were invariably mid-week as both parties would have child care issues on a weekend!

Released 20th January 2021


Karen Matheson STILL TIME

Karen Matheson
Still Time
Vertical Records

Taking Scottish Folk Music To a Whole New Level.

I’ve mostly been in an ‘upbeat mood’ lately and the music I’ve been listening to has echoed that; which is why this ‘Scottish Folk Album;’ by a singer I’ve not heard of; although she was in the wildly succesful Capercaillie, has lain dormant on the ‘to-do’ pile almost gathering dust since it arrived in December.
In my defence I’ve even tried to listen to a couple of tracks in the car; but …. it’s not ‘that type’ of music; no ….. as I found out last night when I arrived home to a cold and empty house (Mrs. Magpie is currently in a bubble with our Grandchildren) and I gave it a go as I ate my dinner and checked through a thousand e-mails.
A day and several plays later I’m not even 100% convinced that this actually is Folk Music; or at least as I recognise it.
Opening track Cassiopeia Coming Through has more of a Dinner-Jazz vibe to my untutored ears; and that’s a good thing btw.
First of all Karen Matheson has not just a delightful voice; but a delicious one too.
The song itself rolls along like a gentle Spring breeze; and let’s be honest when was the last time you heard a piano as lovely as this on a Folk song; and as for the inclusion of a Flugel Horn; well …. it’s a bloody masterstroke!
This song and three others are by James Grant who Karen goes to great length in her sleeve-notes to explain why she loves his writing. The name meant nothing to me; so I Googled him …… he was only the main man in Love & Money in the early years of the century and of whom I possess two albums!
Anyway; back to Karen and her other stunning songs.
Next, The Aragon Mill, written by musician and political activist Si Kahn in the early 1970’s, about the closing of the cotton mill in Aragon, Georgia, USA, transcends the decades and is sadly just as relevant in 2021 as long standing businesses of one sort or another are closing one after another with the various Lockdowns finally taking their toll.
I’ve found it a very pleasant change to find Karen Matheson hasn’t actually written any of these songs; instead she gets to re-interpret and put her very own personality into another’s words; and she weaves her magic across another couple of James Grant’s songs Little Gun and Glory Demon as well; with the latter unravelling like shroud in the wind; and when it finally played out for the third or fourth time I was left totally exhausted but strangely exhilarated too ….. such is the way she conveys this tragic story.
I may have to whisper this, because my Scots friends could well unfriend me on Social Media; but I’ve never liked the poems of Robbie Burns; perhaps it was being force fed them by a rampant Nationalist school teacher in the 1970’s but even when Eddi Reader has failed to convert me over the years; yet ….. and it’s still not complete; but Karen’s crystal clear execution of Lassie with the Lint White Locks has come as close as anyone to makina convert of me; and the simple arrangement on Ae Fond Kiss which closes the album creates a bewitching melancholy that I’ve not heard in this song before.
While no doubt a Folk Song at heart …… the fragile and achingly beautiful Orphan Girl, from the pen of Irish writer Brendan Graham about the tragic tale of thousands of young orphan girls in Ireland in the 1840’s and transported to the New World that was Australia has a theatrical feel to it and I don’t think it would take too much of a stretch to imagine this song being the cornerstone of a Hit Musical.
For my choice of Favourite Track I’m torn between two fabulous songs that have a haunting quality that is just perfect for a cold, wet Winter’s evening ……. the title track Still Time, again sound hints at Musical Theatre, especially the way Karen slides seamlessly from melody to chorus while a saxophone appears like a ghost in the background.
The other, and track I’m erring towards tonight; Laurel to Wreath is a love song of sorts and again a James Grant composition; which fits perfectly around Karen Matheson’s emotional and honeyed voice; which carefully and tentatively takes us towards AOR, but somehow pulls back from the brink.
While not quite a retrospective of her solo career, you wouldn’t guess that these songs were recorded over a 15 year period; which somehow goes to show the quality of Karen Matheson’s singing style but partner Donald Shaw’s guiding hand at the control panel.
There are very lazy comparisons I can make, but that’s unfair on someone with a track record like Ms Matheson already has; but I firmly believe that this album and collection of strangely beautiful songs has the capacity to cross-over into the mainstream; whatever that means these days.

Released 12th February 2021



Anna Lavigne
Angels in Sandshoes

A Cornucopia of Musical Loveliness

While I know Anna Lavigne; as I’ve met her a couple of times; when she’s been with her partner; who is a good friend of mine; I had absolutely no idea she could ‘sing,’; so was surprised when said friend asked if I’d mind having a listen to her new album; which he had produced.
So; out of courtesy I did just that.
Oooooohhhhhhh ….. what a delicious surprise this has been; and nothing like what I’d expected at all.
The opening stanza to Every Kind of Heaven threw a curve ball; as I half expected a reggaeish tune to follow; and what you get is a rather quaint and dreamy pop song that sounds like it falls somewhere between Sandie Shaw and Eddi Reader in her Fairground Attraction days; and the ‘hook’ had me hooked straight away.
Next up; Anna ups the pace on a Twangtastic Country song; Dare to Dream which conjures up memories of Kirsty MacColl at her finest.
Do you get the picture yet? I certainly hope so.
There are no two songs here alike; which is a totally wonderful treat, with the golden thread that is Anna Lavigne’s warm, rich and eloquent songwriting weaving every single element together.
The evocative *duet, Paris in the Rain has a neat Ragtime guitar melody accompanying two voices that were meant to sing together; like a British Folkie Gram and Emmylou; if that’s not too grand.
On Cigarette, we are whisked away to a seedy nightclub; in the exotic part of town where Anna ‘talks’ the story directly to you; as if she’s letting you in on a very dark secret about that woman called; Cigarette.
There’s even a hint of slow, sexy and slightly greasy Rockabilly on the I Love The Way You Move which will have you turning the lights way down low and then shuffling around the kitchen like a teenager on heat.
Speaking of dancing; Dance The Last Goodbye sounds like a great lost ‘Teenage Opera’ from someone like the Shirelles or Shangri-La’s and won’t be out of place on Strictly Come Dancing one Saturday night.
It’s odd how the saxophone has gone out of fashion in recent years; but a judicious use off said instrument at the beginning of A Life of Her Own, which closes the record is a masterstroke as it echoes the darkness in the words and the pathos in Ms Lavigne’s stunning delivery.
Now, dear reader as you will suspect; selecting a Favourite Song has been very difficult indeed; simply because every song here could be a Hit 45, if the music world knew what it was doing.
But; I’ve managed to narrow it down to two; another ‘sexy song’ the Hot Club de Brady Square inspired La Demise de la Bise*; which finds Anna dropping her voice an octave or two as she purrs alternate verses in French and English; which has the capacity to make a man’s heart skip a beat or two.
The other; and initially my first choice, Seashore Roses is an enchanting duet with the man in her life; none other than Martin G Stephenson esq. who knows his place and that’s alongside, if not behind Anna Lavigne’s timeless performance on a song that just cries out to be in a Summertime Blockbuster movie.
I’ve kept Martin’s name to the end; as although he produced the album and co-wrote most of the songs with Anna; this is very much Anna Lavigne’s album and nothing should be allowed to diminish her undoubted talents and …….. rather lovely singing voice.

Released December 22nd 2020

*La Demise De La Bise means that  cheek kissing greeting that the French always use – or used to before covid, so in a way quite unexpectedly relevant! The end of the kissing?


George Benson
Weekend in London
Provogue/Mascot Label

Surprises Around Every Corner.

I was pretty damn excited to receive this a few weeks ago, as when I was something of a Soul Boy back in the 1980’s his Livin’ Inside Your Love, In Your Eyes and Give Me The Night LP’s were a major part of my weekend soundtrack; and the relevent singles were bonafide dancefloor fillers at the clubs I haunted too.
Times move on and my music tastes changed; but every now and again these albums or more likely The Collection (now on CD) still get played at Casa Pica Pica; as my wife was and is a big fan too.
Now; as ‘real’ fans know this was only a very short period in George Benson’s career, having started out playing guitar ‘for money’ as an 8 year old and cutting his first discs a year later!
I also re-discovered him via Francis Wolf’s amazing photography book; Blue Note, as the guitarist is there in the mid 1960’s laying down licks on tracks that have become household names!
So; without this turning into a history lesson; let’s leap forward to a ground breaking weekend in 2019 at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in the heart of London.
Although he could probably sell out a month of gigs in Vegas; George pays homage to his beginnings by returning to the scene of one his first ever gigs outside the USA.
Now; ‘spoiler alert’ ….. FAO Soul Boys and girls; what follows is a heady brew of Benson’s hits, misses and more; and while Soulful …….. this is George and Band tripping down their Jazz path; and the arrangements may confuse the casual listener (e.g Mrs Magpie!), but steady your nerves as what comes out of your speakers has the capacity to blow your mind!
The Classic and classy Give Me The Night opens proceedings; and in all of the best Jazz traditions ‘features all of the right notes; just not necessarily in the right order;’ to paraphrase Eric Morecombe esq.
In the liner notes George says that they go out with a set list and some melodies; and the rest is down to the ‘mood of the room’ and that brings out some glorious reworkings of songs that featured heavily in my younger life; Love X Love, Turn Your Love Around, In Your Eyes and of course, the absolutely glorious Feel Like Making Love; which is now tempered in such a way it certainly now suits the elderly among us again.
But; and here’s the real reason you should buy this album, their are surprises around every corner …….. none more so than the way he turns I Hear You Knocking into a late night slice of sexy sleaze; and his guitar playing while as exemplary as you’d expect on every song; but on Love Ballad and Affirmation it’s quite extraordinary at times …… really, really showing why he’s often referred to as a ‘Guitarist’s Guitarist’ …… slinky, intricate and sounding like liquid gold in every note.
Gosh; how on earth am I expected to select a Favourite Song here? But I must; and I’m torn between two absolute belters.
The hit Never Give Up On a Good Thing goes off in 100 different directions during its 4 minutes and 41 seconds but never loses that hypnotic melody and beautiful sentiment.
The other comes from the pen of another; originally written by Donny Hathaway in 1969, was just as relevant 50 years later in the Summer of 2019.
Sad but true.
For me it just sounds the perfect song for George Benson (and band) to play the funk out of inside a tiny Jazz Club as the world around us seemed to be going to Hell in a handcart. Everything about it, from Benson’s feisty guitar playing, the impassioned keyboards, potent drums and nothing more so than the female backing singers’ Gospel singing combine to make for a beautifully intense 6 minutes of raw and soulful Jazz Music for the masses.
The album closes with the delightful Cruise Control, which allows everyone on stage a chance to shine in the spotlight.
As I said at the beginning, WEEKEND IN LONDON will be a ‘considered purchase;’ as it’s not just a re-working of Benson’s Greatest Hits just for the sake of it; this is the guitar player George Benson at his absolute finest and taking some of his most famous songs on a joyous ride at the same time.

Released November 13th 2020



Jimmy The Dog
Shuffle ‘n Swing
Self-Release/Studio Dawg

Contemporary Jumpin’ Jive with Plenty of Saturday Night Swing Too.

One of the best nights out I ever had was seeing Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive at Newcastle Mayfair.
I even wore a tuxedo jacket and bow-tie, and if I remember correctly and the album it came from was a staple on the stereo for months; alongside Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway and a rake of VA LP’s I bought in the same vein too.
Leap forward near 40 years and on the day that “We the cats ‘ll Hep ya” popped into my head; this charming re-release from Jimmy The Dog arrived.
With everything going on in the world during Autumn 2020 this just may be the album I’ve been willing someone to record; or in the case of Jim Ferrie aka Jimmy The Dog; re-release after a polish up and dust down.
While very much in the style of those Swinging Cats opening track Betty Boo has a contemporary ‘rocky’ edge to it; but that more likely due to Ferrie’s Gallus Scot’s brogue than anything else; the song itself is both danceable and fun, fun, fun.
What follows is generally in that style too; especially Time of My Life and while the band are much smaller than the orchestras you associate with Swing/Jazz but nor does it sound like it was recorded on a budget; as there’s no doubting the pedigree when you hear Playin’ in the Key of Relaxation, Angelina and/or Supposin’; but then again when the band consists of key members from Ronnie Scott’s house band; Dominic Thatcher, Max Fagandini and Louisa Minas class, sophistication and style are always going to be at the forefront; aren’t they?
Originally available as a download; for this CD Ferrie has included a splendiferous Christmas duet with Louisa; sounding uncannily like the double acts of my youth.
For a Favourite Track I’m torn.
Do I go for the Uber-Cool Swing-Noir duet that closes the album; Let’s Do It Anyway, which just oozes charm and sass; or my original choice of Workin’ On a Dream?
Probably the latter, with Ferrie crooning in a way that Alex Harvey would have been proud of; and not for the first or last time; the arrangement swings like those couples did in the 1970’s!
Shuffle ‘n Swing has been a total joy this week; a veritable Jazz-Swing antidote to both Coronavirus AND the USA Elections, which is quite some feet for what was originally a bit of fun in the studio.

Released November 1st 2020

John Jenkins GROWING OLD (Songs From the Porch)

John Jenkins
GROWING OLD (Songs From the Porch)

Destined to Linger Long in The Memory

One of the biggest problems at RMHQ is trying to keep up to date with all of the new releases that find their way to our little Nissen Hut in the North of England (South of Heaven!) and inadvertently some beauties fall by the wayside; which is what happened here; until my trusty IPhone re-discovered it last week on a car journey around the Yorkshire Dales.
The song in question was the opening track, Growing Old which was the perfect soundtrack to the day in question.
Very easy on the ear and with a ‘warm’ production and in Jenkins we have a singer cut from the same cloth as such disparate singers as Roger Whitaker, Graham Nash, Chris Difford and; dare I say it John Lennon?
While coming from Merseyside like Lennon, John Jenkins also has a soft enunciation to his words that owes more to the South side of the River Mersey than the North.
Jenkins appears to have ‘been around a bit’ and that comes across in his mature songwriting style and, just like the opener; in the subject matter he sings about.
Erring on the Americana side of Folk; This Mountain Between Us, I’m Almost Over You and, more especially the tender A Mother’s Devotion are all stateless in such a way the listener has no idea as to where the singer is singing about; be it Merseyside or deepest Arkansas; it matters not ……. all are wonderful songs from an all encompassing idiom.
There’s even a gentle Celtic lilt to Heartlands; a song that isn’t especially Irish but certainly Irish in it’s deep sensibilities and harmonies too.
The album title says it all really; this is a collection of laid-back and Grown Up observational tales that are generally very well constructed; all though one or two songs could do with a bit of editing, maybe losing one or two words in the stanzas?
This is music after all and not a bodice ripper novel.
Which brings us to my choice of Favourite Song; which hasn’t been easy; as the title track is very easy on the ear and heart too; as is A Wiser Man Than Me which just aches with longing.
Then there is Daniel White; a tragically beautiful epic condensed into two and a half melancholic minutes; and then the song that I’m making my actual Favourite Song; Jackson’s Farm which starts with a clap of thunder and Jenkins’ acoustic guitar is accompanied by a rainstorm for the next couple of minutes on a heart crushing song of lost love.
Sometimes I have to look back, to see that I haven’t missed anything of great importance and I’m glad I did this time; as while this album probably won’t win any National Awards it will linger long in the memory of all who buy it.

Released June 2020
Buy Don’t Spotify


Living on Mercy
The Last Music Company

Laid Back, Smooth Grown-Up Music Full of Southern Soul.

After writing so many smash hits in the 1960/70’s you’d be excused for resting on your laurels, simply sitting back and living off the royalties.
But, if your name is Dan Penn and even when you’re 78 years old then that kinda thinking just still doesn’t enter your head.
Never did.
No sirree.
The man has kept pushing forward since Conway Twitty successfully recorded “Is a Bluebird Blue” some sixty years ago. Here is a person who once turned down $40 a week working in a factory with his Dad, in favour of taking a punt with song-writing.

Surprisingly, he has only ever recorded sporadically over the years, just a couple of studio albums since 1973 plus a compilation of unreleased songs from his time at FAME Studios. Then there is one of my favourite live recordings that Dan made with Spooner Oldham, “Moments from the Theatre” from 1999.
Throughout his writing career, he has mostly co-written with some heavy hitters and this is no exception. Not just the aforementioned Spooner Oldham, but Gary Nicholson, Carson Whitsett, Will McFarlane, Bucky Lindsey, Buzz Cason, and the Cate Brothers; all trusted collaborators ensuring no short cuts are taken.

Recording sessions for “Living on Mercy” occurred in both Nashville and Muscle Shoals with the likes of Milton Sledge (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Will McFarlane (guitar) and Clayton Ivey (keyboards), along with a full horn section, ensuring the necessary musicianship was also of the highest calibre.
The title track is first off with Penn’s distinctive, Southern Soulful voice delivering a luscious and laid back, mid tempo, love song.
On Spooner Oldham’s “I Do”, he has resurrected one from their back catalogue, originally a demo in the mid 1960’s, it proves well worth the effort to bring it up-to date.
Asking for a “Clean Slate” brings the tempo back to half-pace, imploring for;
Just give me a clean slate
let me wipe away all the mistakes,
all I need is a new start,
to find my way back into your heart”.

Those who know me will confirm that I like to have all the detail, not just of the musicians on each track, but who wrote or co-wrote the songs (OCD, Mmmm… well slightly).
Sadly, neither where available to me for this review.
However, if I had to guess then “I Didn’t Hear it Coming” has all the hall marks of top Texas song-writer Gary Nicholson.
Clayton Ivey brings the keys to the front of the mix on “Down on Music Row” with a typical Penn melody emphasising a hard luck story of his life-long, chosen career.
Edge of Love” tells it like it is and thankfully has a horn section adding some much needed funkiness.

Nevertheless, “Leave it Like You Found It” and a cover of the 1997 Cate Brothers’ “Blue Motel” (which Penn co-wrote) slow things back to what generally constitutes Dan’s distinctive and highly recognisable blue-eyed Soul ballads.
The penultimate track (of 13) explains that “Things Happen
things happen when you least expect it
smooth sailing turns fifty”,
some Deep South philosophy, if you ever needed it.
If pushed then my Favourite Number was “Soul Connection” with Will McFarlane’s sweet guitar fronting the superb up-tempo rhythm section of Sledge & Rhodes.

In summary, it’s smooth, laid back, Southern, grown-up music that exemplifies the simple, soulful approach that Dan Penn has always provided in his wonderful songs.

Released August 28th 2020

(Please Note: the limited edition Vinyl will be available October 23rd.)

Review courtesy:

Jack KiddMessin’ with the Kidd”