Stephen Flatt
Cumberland Bones
Flatt Family Music

Using Everything in the Country Music Arsenal to Woo You Into Total Submission

Scanning through my ‘to do’ list the name jumped out me; and sure enough Stephen Flatt actually is related to Lester Flatt, he of Flatt & Scruggs; and yep ……. he’s actually a long lost Great Nephew; but that matters not a jot here, as he is very much his own ‘man’ without ever really drawing on that legacy, no matter how tenuous.
Stephen’s rich and expressive baritone comes at you like a ‘sucker punch’ on opening track Brother. Even the first time you hear this song you will imagine a sepia tinted video with a homestead, a sunset and a beat up old wagon somewhere ‘in shot’; but don’t think that this is Country by Numbers; far, far from it ….. Flatt uses that template exceptionally well; but isn’t afraid to ‘colour outside the lines’ when necessary.
I’m smiling as I type; because to me, this is Good Ole Country Music, the type you want to hear on the car stereo or on a Thursday night at a Roadhouse on the edge of town; before the big hitters come in on the weekend ….. it sure ain’t what you will hear or see on the Awards Programmes.
The pedal-steel cuts through many songs like metaphor for a knife carving out a still beating broken heart; none more so than when Flatt’s voice sounds like it’s on the edge of breaking during Logan Creek; not your ordinary heartbreaker; but one with a delicious twist that slowly unfurls.
Oddly enough, there is a good ole Bluegrass toe-tapper here; White County Shine; and it’s really rather bodacious and I imagine it will come late in the set when played live; as it’s a sure fire floor filler.
The more I’ve played this album; the more I feel that Stephen Flatt sounds and writes a bit like a young Vince Gill; while no doppelganger the Master’s fans are going to love One More Time (based on the moonshine theme, updated to reflect running meth when “the boy’s got a batch cooked” to finance a better life.), Gone Away and the rather swoonsome Hold You Tonight; so if you know a Gill fan …… give them a nudge in this direction.
Like so many of his generation, Stephen has a musical background outside the Country Music world; but he’s finally been drawn into the fold; and to some extent it takes a life of experiences to be able to write a song like Talking Like The Devil and deliver it in a way that makes the listener think …… “We have all been there!!!! “
That song is probably the most commercial here; but I’ve decided to go in a different direction for my actual Favourite Track; it although the judicious use of fiddle and mandolin means El Camino (1965) usually means that the its a Bluegrass tune; which is probably where it started ….. but it builds and builds until it’s nothing short of being a Honky-Tonking, Country and Western song that uses every thing in the arsenal to dance you into total submission ….. and I absolutely love it.
To some greater level; this is a solo album where Stephen Flatt is finding his feet; but none the less it’s a cracker and well worth checking out.

Released April 16th 2021


*A CD and artist download will follow ASAP

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band DANCE SONGS FOR HARD TIMES

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
Dance Songs for Hard Times
Family Owned Records

The Sound of the New Blues – Best Served Live and Loud!

My first encounter with the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band was a few years back at the rear of the Clubhouse Hotel in Kilkenny, where the band were doing a frantic last-minute ‘load in’ after their flights from the US had been severely delayed.
Rather than give up after missing their timetabled slots, they just had their gigs moved and they honoured their responsibilities with a fiery energy that belied their inevitable jetlag.
That same energy is ever-present, on this, their latest release; which follows in a tradition of three piece bands with a big sound; from the Crickets through to ZZ Top and beyond.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band deliver an album of enthusiastic rhythm and, it should be noted …. Blues.
Opener “Ways and Means” has a Howlin’ Wolf meets ZZ Top vibe, underscored by Washboard Breezy’s ‘trademark’ old school washboard.
“Rattle Can” adds a Punk attitude and is reminiscent of a more serious Mojo Nixon, whereas “Dirty Hustlin’” is a much more sedate but still, insistently grinding groove.
As their titles suggest, “I’ll Pick You Up” and “Too Cool to Dance” are both dancefloor pleasers – somewhat ironically in the case of the latter’s lyrical content.
The most laid back and reflective track on the album comes midway in the shape of “No Tellin’ When” which evokes the spirit of early blues in both sentiment and feel.
“Sad Songs” engages gospel-like backing and makes a good case for the Reverend to become the new singer in AC/DC should Brian Johnston decide to hand over the vocal reins.
“Crime to Be Poor” opens with fuzztone harmonica and then stomps its way angrily through an anti-austerity rant.
“Til we die” despite its title is a bouncing slide-led roadhouse blues thumper, as is penultimate track “Nothin’s Easy But You and Me”.
Things end with “Come Down Angels”, which, as its title suggests, is again Gospel-framed musically; and despite a slow start, it soon revs (sic) into high gear and is perfectly constructed for call and response and audience participation in the live arena, where this band really excels.
I’ve heard a few Blues albums recently – which will remain nameless – and among them, I’ve heard a great deal of sloppy, lazy playing that’s been passed off as “authenticity” – no such worries here though – Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band are as tight and energetic as you’d hope for, (and for me) are definitely the Sound of the New Blues, and best served Live and LOUD!

Review by Nick Barber



Jesse Brewster
The Lonely Pines
Crooked Prairie Records

Full to the Brim with Imaginative, Classy and Personal Country Rockers of All Hues.

Where to start? This album intrigued me as soon as I took it out of the packaging; primarily because of the beautiful painting that makes up the cover; but ‘alas’ it had arrived after the Release Date and the Team and I were beavering away trying to hit future deadlines; so there it sat until last Friday night when I accidentally uploaded it to my IPhone then serendipitously played it on the second half of my constitutional walk on Saturday morning (this after listening to 6 other opening tracks that didn’t appeal).
Some days; that’s how I select albums to review ….. it’s not Rocket Science!
There was something Tom Petty/ John Mellencamp that instantly caught my attention on and during Let’s Run Away …….. power chords, catchy Country Rock melody and slightly edgy lyrics about star crossed lovers ……. come on; that’s all we love about Rock and Roll in four minutes; isn’t it? It certainly did Springsteen no harm.
While Track II Kicking and Screaming doesn’t exactly live up to the title; it’s an intensely brooding and claustrophobic song of rejection that runs parallel to that pot-boiling opener; that’s for sure.
To some greater or lesser degree Brewster’s nomadic childhood and subsequent life ‘on the road’ effects the way he constructs his songs and songwriting; with no two sounding the same; but pulled together create a series of fascinating stories that reflect a life well lived; broken hearts included.
After all these years you’d think there would be nothing left to say about love and said ‘broken hearts’ but Jesse Brewster seems to have taken this as a personal challenge and comes out shining like a beacon with No One To Blame and the delightful Woman In My Mind (does she really exist or is she a fantasy in his mind? Who knows?).
I certainly wasn’t expecting anything as articulate and reflective as Follow It Down, with it’s punchy Folk Rock stylings; but looking back at what comes before it; why not and it fits in perfectly; especially that sublime guitar playing.
Although five albums into a longish career, Jesse Brewster is a new name to me; but a welcome one as my dilemma for selecting a single Favourite Track suggests, with all three sitting slap bang in the middle; coming one after the other like a Summer storm.
There’s a glorious Honky-Tonk/Roadhouse feel to Bitter Pill that reminded me of Scot Daniel Meade a couple of albums ago; but when I listened again a few days later the story unravelled and I was left going “Oh!” …… “Oooohhh!” check it out yourself …. it’s an absolute belter; in an understated manner.
Then there is Southern, which immediatly follows.
The mournful Southern, with the chorus
“Sometimes it’s tough being Southern”
is a lot less Skynard as it is Jason Isbell, American Aquarium and Drive-By Truckers in the way Brewster spells it his love for the much maligned Southern States that have produced so many things that have helped make America Great; but are sadly more known for the darker aspects of the inhabitants behaviour.
Sad but true.
Then; there is Close To Home; one of Brewster’s ‘Covid Songs;’ written and recorded during Lockdown and giving this World Wide Wanderer the time to reflect on what he really has in his life, and that’s the people around him that allows him to be who he is …….. a song many of us can relate to as the New Dawn beckons; making it my actual Favourite Song on an album full to the brim with imaginative, classy and personal songs that will make your pulse race then melt your heart.

Released 05 March 2021



West of Texas
Heartache, Hangovers & Honky Tonks
Pleasant Valley Ranch Records

Melodic Hardcore Country Music From a Connoisseur of the Genre

An album delayed in the making by around 12 years ; it’s been a long wait but very much worth it for fans of traditional country music.
The attention to detail throughout is sublime, right from the staged narrative photo on the cover, in the tradition of Country album covers from the time periods that these Classic sounds emanate to the thematic and musical diversity and unity heard on every track.
The title is almost a checklist of what to expect – Heartache? It’s here – “Foolin’” “This fool” “Sign of a broken heart” are just three that tick that particular box. “Hangovers”? “My whiskey life” “Whatcha drinkin?’” – yep, all there – and Honky Tonks – well, if that’s not obvious, you’re not paying attention.
Stylistically, this is no punches pulled, straight-ahead hardcore danceable Country Music.
None of that radio pop-rock guff – there’s pedal steel and Twang throughout; there’s even some Cajun rhythmic flavour – although not a Cajun accordion (pedantic Cajun accordion playing reviewer – sorry) on “Bayou Boy” and there’s a flavour of Merle Haggard too; on “Dead End Job Blues” and Western Swing on the aforementioned “Fixin’ to Love You”.
There’s low-down Twang on “You’re Still the One I Dream Of” which strays into early Mavericks territory and there’s a Dale Watson delivery and feel about “12 Steps to Drinkin.’”
Zinn’s vocals are suitably a melodious baritone and at times have something of the Ray Benson about them.
Despite all these influences, this album makes a wonderfully cohesive collection of lively and intelligent Country – and the occasional cussing gives it that extra Honky Tonk grit.
Listening to this album for the first time, the sound took me back to listening to Heybale on a Sunday night at the Continental Club in Austin and in many ways, West of Texas (despite – as their name suggests – being geographically over to the Californian coast) are their spiritual brothers in creating this melodic hardcore country.
All we need now is a bar room and someone to get the Lone Star beers in to complete the picture.

Review by Nick Barber
Released April 16th 2021


Sara Petite RARE BIRD

Sara Petite
Rare Bird
JTM Music

The Benchmark for What Country Rock Should Be About in the Mid-21st Century.

I was 99.9% sure I recognised Sara’s name, so checked through my old reviews ….. nothing; so checked out the hard drive …… nothing ……. then rang Graham Anderson who runs the Jumpin’ Hot Club….. nada; he’d never heard of her either.
But by this stage I was already hooked and had the album on heavy rotation in the RMHQ office and my car too.
Why the fuss when you listen to so much music; you may well ask.
Take a quick listen to opening song Feeling Like an Angel and if this innocent looking young lady from San Diego out of (the other) Washington, doesn’t just break your heart, but win it over like you’re a hormonal teenager again; then you are reading the wrong review.
Sara has a distinctive and very individual set of vocals; which somehow sounds like the offspring of Bobbie Gentry and Tom Petty filtered through Ashley McBryde who was singing Kitty Wells songs at a party hosted in Janis Joplin’s honour.
The song itself; and the haunting backing from her band are as sure to break your heart as kitten video on YouTube will.
As the band kick up some trail dust on the next song Runnin’; the only thing missing is Sarah purring, “Are you ready boys?” as an intro.
Twang guitar? Pedal-Steel? A bass that sounds like the strings are covered in rust and a drummer who can shake the foundations when necessary, but keep time like a Swiss watch at others?
What’s not to like?
Add them to Sara Petite’s introspective, heart-rending and Insurgent Country power-ballads like Missing You Tonight, Floating With the Angels and the hip-hop inspired, tear jerker, Working on a Soul and you have the benchmark for what Country Music should be about in the mid-21st Century.
I’d love to think that I will see Sara blasting out The Misfits and/or Crash, Boom Bang at the CMA’s or the Ryman one night; but will be more than happy to be in a jam-packed Cluny in downtown Newcastle one hot and sweaty Friday night; and you will too.
I’ve got a horrible feeling that Sara Petite will be deemed ‘too Country’ for Country Radio and the CMA’s etc. so with songs like Medicine Man and the sublime Keep Moving On, in her bag, let’s claim her for Americana, Country Rock and/or Alt. Country because she’s a keeper.
When I first played RARE BIRD, the rambunctious and anthemic Scars stood out; not least because of the opening power-chords which are immediatly toned down for Ms Petite to opine;
I’ve got Scars
I wear my tattoos on my heart
Imprinted little lessons like a tortured work of art..
Some are rough and some are faded.

Man o’ Man; this is ‘one of those songs’ that you will come back to years and years in the future, be you man, woman or whatever …… but one lonely night, it will come back and haunt you like a dear departed loved one.
Trust me here; if this song did come on the car radio; you would have to pull over to the side so you could hear it unencumbered then scramble to find a piece of paper to write her name down on …… then missing your appointment drive straight to a Record Store to buy it.
For once I can’t say it any better than a quote on the accompanying Press Release;
Sara is as American as apple pie and Harley Davidson.
She is gritty, she is wild, she is tender with a soul of a child.
I will leave the last words to Sirius Outlaw Country Radio DJ Mojo Nixon …..
Sara Petite can sing a buzzard off of a slop wagon!

Released 26th February 2021.


Lainey Wilson Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’

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.

Review by Nick Barber

Released 19th February 2021


Harry Dean Stanton with The Cheap Dates OCTOBER 1993

Harry Dean Stanton with The Cheap Dates
October 1993
Omnivore Records

The Best Little Bar Band in West Hollywood and Beyond.

More or less, I tend to swerve albums by Actors and/or celebrities for good reason; as, apart from one or two rarities they really shouldn’t ‘give up the day job.’
In Harry Dean Stanton’s defence here, it genuinely appears that he ‘made music’ for the sheer pleasure it gave him; and had no intention of denting the Hit Parade or blagging his way onto Letterman or whatever as an ego trip.
Alongside his long-term friend Jamie James they had been rocking up at Clubs and bars or wherever the mood took them for nigh on 15 years when these songs ended up being recorded. The gig at the Troubadour was booked as the duo, but James suggested calling up some buddies to flesh the sound out; said ‘buddies’ were only Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats) on drums Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (The Doobie Brothers), pedal steel, and Tony Sales (Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Todd Rundgren) bass, no wonder the final product sounds like the best Bar Band you never saw!
This album starts in the studio with Country Balladeer rendition of Dylan’s I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight; and it’s evident right from the outset …. that singer is Harry Dean Stanton!
Not that he’s trying to disguise it; even a casual listener would cock an ear and go …. “Is that? It is …. isn’t it? No …. surely …. but it must be!” And he sounds like he’s having a blast!
The Twang carries on right through the punchy version of Promised Land but the Harry and Friends somehow manage to turn William Bell’s epic tearjerker, You Don’t Miss Your Water into a Cowboy ballad with dark gospel undertones; and boy oh boy Harry’s harmonica will send a shiver down your spine.
In my defence I’d not heard Ry Cooder’s own version of Across The Borderline before today; so I had nothing to compare The Cheap Dates version too; but they play to their strengths and while the guitar playing is superb; it is very much a couple of paces behind Harry’s vocals and the assorted voices on windswept harmonies; making it sound like something Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash would deliver.
Even if these four songs had been released as an EP (Record Store Day?) I’d have been a happy chap; but there is the added bonus of some live tracks from that night at The Troubadour; and that’s when these cats really do come into their own.
They come out of the traps like a cat on a hot tin roof; cranking up the excitement right from the get go with a slinky version of You Never Can Tell with Jamie James’s guitar sounding like the strings were made of platinum!
I don’t know if some songs from that night are missing; but the mood immediatly drops by about 70% with Harry crooning the Hell out of Spanish Harlem as if he was in for the roll of Sinatra singing Raul Malo …. listen in and you’ll hear that I’m not wrong.
Jamie James even gets his moment in the spotlight with a stonking rocking and rolling Miss Froggy, with Harry’s harmonica challenging James’ guitar for Top Billing.
With a set-list as eclectic as this one it’s absolutely no surprise that they include Bright Lights, Big City and play it straight down the middle and I’m quite happy with that.
As I said earlier Harry and the Cheap Dates are the Best Bar Band you never saw, and what they do, they do very well with the only surprise really being that their are no surprises …… until …. the last song.
A little known song (?) from the Paris Texas movie, Canción Mixteca finds Harry singing it in Spanish with plenty of whoops and flourishes that give it an extra dimension and; do you know what? It’s my Favourite Song here; because it’s so different, passionate and so damn good.
I’m not sure how many times you will ever play this album; maybe two or three then put it in the rack; until sometime in the future someone will be looking through your CD’s or LP’s (you can’t do ‘that’ with bloody Spotify!) and judging your musical taste …. we all do it; and they will stumble across this and say, “Is this? Really? It is him …. isn’t it? No …. surely …. but it must be!
and the circle of life will go on.

Released February 12th 2021

Jason Ringenberg RHINESTONED

Jason Ringenberg

Cow-Punk as Spiky As Ever But Now With Added Sparkles.

The first thing this album should make you think is; “Why the Hell does a legend like Jason Ringenberg have to self-release albums?”
Seriously; this guy was, and still is a Country Music trendsetter and game-changer; yet he no longer has a record contract. Shame on you Music Row …… and beyond!
That said; ‘independence’ gives Jason total control over what he wants to write about and when he wants to release the finished article; but still ……. this is ‘the’ Jason Ringenberg we’re talking about.
The opening bars to Before Love and War should be enough to settle any nerves before Ringenberg’s instantly recognisable voice comes in to give us a sharp observational tale about what is going on around us; with a really punchy and tight band supporting him like girders made from Americana Steel.
Jason has never shied away from political and socially sensitive topics over the years; and on Track #2 The Freedom Rides Weren’t Free is as heartfelt as it is a history lesson, which certainly appears to need re-telling in 2021; as Jason virtually spits out the rhetoric.
Another topic that regularly finds its way onto his albums is the fate of Native Americans; and here on Once I Rode With Crazy Horse, he re-imagines what it would have been like to be a close friend of Crazy Horse as the band crank up the atmosphere to 11 and back.
Although certainly not a Jason and the Scorchers album; RHINESTONED still manages to sound like a ‘band effort’ as the singer surrounds himself with some very committed and sensitive players; who really excell throughout; but most noticeably on the delightful You Win Again and Jason’s dabble into Celtic-Folk territory, The Storms Are On The Ocean, when he is joined by daughters Addie and Camille on harmonies.
When I received my copy two days before Christmas I had to look twice when I saw a song called Time Warp; but breathed a sigh of relief when I played it and found it wasn’t that ‘twee party song’ that drunk women seem to love; but instead sounds like Jason channeling the ghosts of George Bradfute’s studio, which was the home basement of 1950s country crooner Jim Reeves.
There’s a real left-of centre oddity tucked away in the middle, with Mr. Ringenberg going all Gospel on Christ The Lord Has Risen Today; and while I probably haven’t listened to it enough to see if there’s anything hidden in the lyrics; but while the band give it big licks and get louder and ‘ornier as it progresses and progresses ……. it actually sounds like a straight as a dye Modern Day Hymn that Charles Wesley would be proud of …… if he had been a Rock and Roller!
The album builds and builds like a good gig should and closes with Jason at his snarling and whirling best on Keep That Promise and the the rather wonderful finale, Window Town.
Which all neatly brings me, one way or another to the two songs I’m torn between as my Favourite Track on an album full of red raw Country Music.
There’s a theme that runs through both, and I wonder if you can guess what it is?
Stoned on Rhinestones is a real toe-tapper as Jason recalls the day he first heard Hank and a lifelong addiction to ‘Real Country Music’ began and continues today; which could and should lead into the magnificently pissy Nashville Without Rhinestones, which ploughs a furrow that many, including my own favourite Dale Watson, where Jason pines the musical changes that are prevalent in today’s Nashville where the singers are more likely to be wearing Camouflage and singing about Guns rather than the Rhinestones and songs about Cadillacs, hogs and picking cotton while a guitarist makes his Telecaster gently weep.
Just like Jason I don’t ‘live in the past’, but there’s still plenty to cherish and explore from the Country history books to explore without throwing the baby out with the bathwater; so I’m going for the latter.
It’s a Jason Ringenberg album; so I’m always going to recommend it to you; but Hell ………. 2021 is going to need as many Rhinestones as it can get …….. so get RHINESTONED!

Released March 5th 2021
(Indiegogo subscribers got theirs early!)


Lee Brice
Hey World
Curb Records

21st Century Country Bravado, Sensitivity and So Much More.

When I first received this last week I knew I had a dilemma.
I played it while doing some chores, and thoroughly enjoyed it so played it again in the car with Mrs Magpie tapping her hands on her thighs along to the melodies …. which is a good sign with Country Music. We are both fans of Toby Keith and Tim McGraw as well as Jason Isbell and Johnny Cash, which shouldn’t come as a surprise should it?
Then I read the Press Release, only to find Lee Brice is already something of a Star in the modern Country scene with numbers in his streaming stats that are totally mind-boggling.
So; my dilemma was would a review on RMHQ make a ha’peth of difference to his sales/streams, when I have a box of CD’s from Indie acts that do depend on sites like ours for getting their music across to the populace?
Well; it was during the drive to work one afternoon with these Brice’s anthems blasting out of the speakers when the lyrics in a chorus caught my attention …… YIKES!
Baring in mind this was the days after the US Election, I was actually caught off guard and …… actually quite shocked at what I heard ….. hence my second dilemma.
But; perhaps arrogantly I think I need to put my thoughts ‘out there’ and see what the reaction is.
One of the main reasons I kept getting drawn back is opening track Atta Boy. A doozy anthem of a Nu-Country song where our natator sees good things around him that normally go unnoticed; but need praising and all played out alongside some searing guitar and pneumatic bass n drums too.
Next up is the delightful One of Those Girls; a single that has garnered many of those mind boggling stats; and you can easily hear why. A punchy Country beat and a singer pouring his heart out to the unrequited love of his life …….. we’ve all been there.
So far so good; and much of what follows touches these lofty heights too; none more so than the laid back vibes on Do Not Disturb and the enigmatic heartfelt Lies too, which go to show what a delightful sensitive side Lee Brice has and uses to great effect on an album full of light and shade.
What appears to have been tagged on at the end is the CMA nominated humungous Hit Single alongside Carley Pearce, Hope You’re Happy Now. Very good it is too and I understand why it’s been so popular on the radio (Mrs Magpie loves it btw); but ten minutes later; I can’t remember it …… sorry.
To some degree a song with the title Good Ole Boys should have sent up some smoke signals; but it’s actually nowhere near as ‘frightening’ as I’d feared; being a lot more Dukes of Hazard than Proud Boys, that’s for sure!
In a similar vein; Memory I Don’t Mess With, with it’s reference to ‘Springsteen on the speakers/girl I’m on fire
and Country Knows are perhaps the biggest and best surprises here as Brice paints delightful pictures, namechecking ‘the Haggard songs my Daddy played’ on a song that touches on the darker side of life that only Country Music can cure – clever and sing-along too.
Before I come to My Favourite song, I have to discuss two, maybe three songs that have left me feeling uncomfortable.
While an incredibly ‘clever’ and thoughtful song, Save The Roses which takes on the narrative of someone dying, or is it the narrator taking on the role of the young man in the coffin; telling everyone to live life to the fill, before it’s too late; but there’s a line in the chorus where I shuddered;
Save my truck
Save my guns
And when their old enough
Give them to my sons …. “

I don’t come from such a culture where that’s second nature; but I’m sadly sure it’s going to play out well with many in the Red States.
The other song is even more blatant, as the opening verse finding Lee Brice hollering;
If you don’t like our drinkin’
If you don’t like our trucks
If you don’t like our rifles
Buddy ….. we don’t give a fuck!

The song then gets even more defiant and has left a sour taste in my mouth; but I do know it’s going to make Lee Brice a legend in bars and Honky-Tonks where I would be frightened to order a beer in a straight glass.
Now that’s out of the way; on an album full of cracking and crackling good Country songs, two in particular stand out from the crowd; and they couldn’t be more different, making my choice of actual Favourite Song left to the toss of a coin.
The first few times I played track #3, More Beer I smiled and inadvertently nodded my head along to this pumping party anthem.
OK, I’m far too old to be part of the video; but hey …… I too was young once and can still ‘romantically’ visualise the teenage me sitting on the back of a semi-truck waving my beer in the air as both the speakers and the girls rock and indeed roll.
The other; and probably the very best song here is Sons & Daughters; which is just a massive surprise as Brice sings about the juxtapositions that surround him and us in life, starting with;
Right now there’s a redneck boy
On a tractor
Sweating Seven days a week
So you and m can drive five minutes in the AC
To get the groceries ………..
So quick to judge them, aren’t we?

Hopefully this is the song that Lee Brice will be remembered for in decades to come; but I have my doubts and the less said about that; the better.

Released 20th November 2020!/


DAVE ALVIN From an Old Guitar (Unreleased Recordings).

From an Old Guitar (Unreleased Recordings).
Yep Roc Records

Long Lost Americana Gems Rescued For Posterity.

It’s over 40 years since The Blasters first propelled the Alvin Brothers onto the world stage; predominantly revolving around elder brother Phil the main vocalist and brother and lead guitarist, Dave. The brother’s explosive relationship is well documented; and eventually the younger sibling eventually split from the band in 1986 to pursue his own more singular career.
Since then Dave Alvin has provided a plethora of musical options for his fans and thankfully the two things that have remained constant, over the decades, is the quality of the music and that wonderful deep, dark baritone voice.

As a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and a more than willing collaborator he has few equals.
So, in 2020, with the world in the depths of a weird and scary pandemic, filling recording studios with human players and knob twiddlers has become nigh on impossible.
What’s a creative boy to do?
Well, if you’re Dave Alvin you have a look at your library of past recordings that, for one reason or another, were left off previous releases; and you also consider tracks that furnished various tributes etc. and then pull them together into a mighty fine 16 track album.
It’s no-where near a potentially unbalanced hotchpotch, it’s not even an incongruous collection, it just bloomin’ well works as a ‘complete ALBUM’ in its own rite.
If you know anything about Dave Alvin then his humble, self-deprecating approach to life and especially to his music has always been with his feet firmly on the ground, remaining staunchly modest whilst delivering continual, persistent, high-grade, end product.

From an old Guitar and Unreleased Recordings has 13 sublime cover versions and 3 self-penned numbers, cutting across various genres. Additionally, there’s an unbelievable array of guest contributors, including some much loved friends who are sadly no longer with us.
The lead track sets the tone with a Chris Smither cover, “Link of Chain” followed by Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” which had been a pre-release teaser single.
Lil’ Hardin Armstrong’s “Perido Street Blues” and Earl Hooker’s “Variations on Earl Hooker’s Guitar Rhumba” are both absolutely first class, rousing instrumentals and well worthy of inclusion.
On My Way Downtown,” from the pen of Peter & Joshua Case features two of the unfortunately departed, with Amy Farris’ violin and Chris Gaffney’s accordion helping provide a somewhat Celtic sound, which you don’t normally associate with Dave Alvin.

Wyman Reese adds a beautiful, restrained piano on the cover of Bill Morrisey’s “Inside,” whilst Gaffney tinkles the ivories, as well as adding accordion, on the prolific Bob McDill’s “Amanda,” which happened to be the eighth number one country hit for Waylon Jennings back in 1974.
As you might expect, the tempo increases on the cover of Link Wray’s “Albuquerque,” where Alvin himself delivers some fine wah-wah guitar. Obviously, the Blues come to the fore whenever anyone covers a Willie Dixon song, and Dave’s low pitched voice convincingly projects the lyrics of “Peace,” which are just as relevant today as they were when Dixon recorded the original almost 50 years ago.
You make a deaf man hear and a dumb man speak,
but It don’t make sense if you can’t make peace

If I had to choose a favourite track then two contenders jump out.
Firstly, one of Alvin’s own compositions, the third instrumental called “Crazy and Ignatz” which just has Alvin strummin’ his trusty 1934 National Steel Duolian Guitar paired with some superb Dobro from one of his hugely talented Guilty Women, Cindy Cashdollar.
However, just easing it out and into my actual top-spot is a lively version of Mickey Newbury’s “Mobile Blue,” which has one of the weirder starts you’ll ever hear, with Bill Frisell’s backwards guitar intro.

Currently there are some fine new releases by artists recording basic and simple albums, often re-interpreting their Greatest Hits in the comfort of their own home studio.
Modern technology has made this eminently possible for almost everyone. Clearly, not an option chosen by Dave Alvin.
Here’s the puzzler though; if many of these songs were deemed unsuitable for previous albums, then we all should promptly re-visit his esteemed catalogue of work to re-affirm just how marvellous and pleasurable a musician he is.
Thank goodness these beauties have been rescued from the cutting room floor and packaged into a well balanced and extremely entertaining album that I am personally struggling to take off the CD player.

Jack Kidd – “Messin’ with the Kidd” on

Released on 20th. November 2020