Billy Hector ROCK NIGHT in JERSEY

Billy Hector
Rock Night in Jersey
Ghetto Surf Music

Bodacious Blues Rock That Errs on The Side of R.O.C.K …. But is Only a 5 or 6 on The Richter Scale!

I first uncovered Billy Hector two albums ago with his OLD SCHOOL THANG release in 2015; and if pulling them out of the cupboard for accompaniment on long car drives makes me a fan; then …. I’m a fan!
Two things I need to tell you before I go any further; a) Billy used to be Hubert Sumlin’s tour guitarist and b) While this is Blues Rock music that errs on the side of R.O.C.K …. it’s only a 5 or 6 on the Richter Scale; which is all I can cope with these days.
The magnificent I Know How To Party gets the show on the metaphorical road; with Billy and cohorts showing the kids how to ‘do it’ both in deed and music.
This is followed by the slow burning She Don’t Love Him Anymore, which leads into some glorious slide-work from the Maestro that will live in the memory long after the album has been replaced by his next release.
There’s a ‘slick cool’ to many of the songs here; and I’m pleased to tell you that the songs themselves take precedence; and the intricate and even revolutionary at times; fretwork and super-pro backing, take a secondary position; regardless of how good it is …. and it’s Damn Good BTW.
Too many ‘famous’ guitarists these days concentrate on guitar fireworks; forgetting that the words in their songs are just as; if not more important than their technical showing off …. which certainly isn’t the case with Billy’s writing on and in Doctor, Doctor and the funkalicious Lazy Man which has a groove so good, Mrs Magpie looked on in disbelief as I boogied around the kitchen to it one night!
There also two covers here too; and while I didn’t recognise either, the choices really are exemplary; Hector does to Leadbelly’s Poor Howard what the Cream did to Crossroads 50 years ago; and the other is actually one of my favourite songs here; France Chance which features some genuinely sizzling guitar work and industrial style powerhouse backing from Sim Cain and Wilbo Wright was actually written by Mississippi Joe Callicott in 1967 on a long forgotten album of his own, that sounds nothing at all like this. I have no idea how a musician can hear Folk Songs like these; and then turn the words and melody into pumping Rockers ….. it’s witchcraft methinks!
Speaking of Favourite Tracks here, I’ve eventually narrowed it down to three (not including France Chance); with the horn section turned up to 8; the slinky Tell Me What You Want has a big band feel to it, with hints of both BB and Freddie King in there too; then there’s the feisty Ms Martha where Billy not just growls his vocals but makes his Strat growl too!
Which only leaves the actual winner; Rockstar Betty, which I fell in love with the first time I played it. More laid back than most songs here; but the bodacious story and supercool refrain; made it an obvious choice, even though the others ran a very close race.
I hear quite a few albums ‘like this’ every year, but there’s ‘something special’ about Billy Hector’s way with words and geetar playing that appeals to me over many more ‘famous names’ on the circuit these days ….. and I can only hope against hope that he visits NE UK sometime soon …. as the audience is ready and waiting.

Released April 2022
https://billyhector.com/

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Pete Gow LEO

Pete Gow
Leo
Clubhouse Records

A Spectacular Intelligent Lyric Based Brass and String-Driven Epic

Pete Gow first came to my attention in his days with Case Hardin – I only saw them the once, in one of their last shows; but it was a gateway moment in leading towards the Pete Gow solo career.
Since then, Gow’s move to more epic string arrangements has more than held my attention – the albums ‘Here There’s No Sirens‘ and ‘The Fragile Line‘ with their lush string arrangements and intelligent lyricism ticked all the boxes for this fan of the likes of Richard Hawley, John Grant and the Walker Brothers.
So where does Pete Gow after two epic string-laden releases?
Enter the brass section… or should I say; Soul Orchestra?

Recording began in early 2020 and continued through the interruptions of lockdown which – upon listening to this album – allowed Gow and multi-instrumentalist/producer Joe Bennett to hone the fine details of the music and the narrative/poetic lyrics into something that responds to many, many listens.
In the accompanying lyric sheet, the nine songs on this release aren’t separated with title headings, but rather read as one whole James Joyce-like stream of consciousness that comes over like a British early Springsteen in a world populated by personal reflections, anecdotes, strange characters and relationships. Musically, the epic nature of the sound also draws comparison with Springsteen; not so much in musical style, but in its scope and range.

(RM Ed …. plus there’s many a nod to Celtic Soul Orchestra era Van Morrison too)

Opener “Where Else Would We Be Going” is a lively brass driven rumination on the passage of time and how we spend that time – minor melancholic and melodic shifts as well as triumphant major choruses balance a moment in time
Where would we be going
But some place we’ve never been?
“Say It With Flowers” , which follows, combining swells of brass and strings, morphs into a play for today account of a rowdy relationship – and brushes the edges of Meatloaf in doing so, but with no hackneyed sentiment, just rather well-observed realism.

The wonderfully titled “Side lll of London Calling” is up next and the title itself is a metaphor for the beauty of someone special – unattainable, as it turns out, but isn’t that always the case with the ones you like the most?
Unsurprisingly, the denouement of this night turns out like “Side V of Sandinista”…musically this slice of a musician’s night is framed in a chorus line of brass riffs that echo the inevitability of emotional frustration. (*This is very much the RM’s Favourite Song btw!)

The journey through the night (literally and of the soul) continues with “Casino” a co-write with Jim Maving.
Strings and strummed acoustic lead in and take us towards washes of more gentle brass, telling a tale of a place where
it’s always the night
it’s a late night soulful Memphis groove, rooted in the dark of an English city.

“Both Sides Down” ends the notional first side of the album – shifts of rhythm, stops and starts underscore the uncertainty of the narrative which declares
There’s no telling how this is going to work out
again, the contrast of major/minor musical phrases juxtapose the hope and fear in the moment.

“Leonard’s Bar” takes a Springsteen-esque character who has
“ ‘this’ and ‘that’/ Tattooed across my knuckles
is a tale of a former and now reluctant hitman – which in itself is a metaphor for not being able to face one’s past ….
So he said that ‘I’ll drive
But I’m not going in’
‘guns scare me so much more
Than they once did’
‘I can still take the wheel
But I won’t hold the door anymore’
“.
It’s a chilling tale, in as much as what it doesn’t say – as what it does.

“Eight Long Hours” is another tale of living in the moment and fearing the future
I just want you to want me
While they still say I’m pretty
Before they say I’m still pretty for my age
’.
Musically the flourishing horns give a breath of positivity against the inevitable that’s everywhere else in the darkness.

Penultimate track “This City is a Symphony” is at the core of the album’s tale – the stories.
Hopes, fears, life, love and death that fills a place.
Again there’s a Springsteen-like reflection on the hollowness of dreams – just like the song “The River” with its
Is a dream a lie if It don’t come true
or is it something worse?
”,
Gow echoes that with
Be careful of the things you didn’t wish for
It still hurts when those wishes don’t come true

Joe Bennett throws a touch of Brian Wilson vocal and instrumental shenanigans into the mix before the mantra of disappointed dreams goes round again.

The album ends with a reprise of the opener – here it’s more fragile, less ebullient – time has stripped away youth and yet we go round again – whereas the opener was brash and more confident, washes of organ and distant reverb make this a more reflective coming to terms with the passing of time.

2022 hasn’t been very good in many ways (somewhat of an understatement!) but the one way in which 2022 is delivering is in the quality of music that is entering the world.
Pete Gow’s “LEO” is up there with the very best on offer and places him quite deservedly on the same ledge as the Cohen’s and Springsteen’s of the world.
An absolute essential purchase!

Review by Nick Barber
Released 29th April 2022

https://www.petegow.com/

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Markus Rill EVERYTHING WE WANTED

Markus Rill
Everything We Wanted
Label: Rocknrillmusic/Blue Rose Records

A Full on Long Player; With Grown Up Observations and Hit Singles In Every Groove

Our favourite Germanicana exponent Markus Rill has gone and done it again!
25 years after his first release he’s still hitting the heights of songwriting quality in a way many of his peers stopped managing years ago.
As a total non-musician I’m always staggered how songwriters like Rill can still find new things to write about and/or find new ways and twists to describe every aspect of L.O.V.E and he does it with great aplomb on every track here.
Right from the opening titular track Everything We Wanted Markus looks back on his younger self and life without any real melancholy or indeed go down the ‘these days are crap’ track; it’s just a lovely and wistful Country song …..
The air was pure, water was clean … we had everything we wanted till we wanted more” he sings.
Personally I’ve always loved Rill’s singing style, rustic and breathy with his natural German accent making his English intriguing and contemplative; even the mid-tempo rockers that really are his trademark; Heart Up Yet and Tumblin’ Dominoes are perfect examples.
In many ways Markus Rill and the Troublemakers are Blue Collar Country Rockers in the vein of Tom Petty and Bob Seger; telling it ‘like it is’ but never preaching; with Get Paid and Never Trust Forever being the type of songs you dream of accidentally hearing on the car radio ….. but obviously never do any more.
Back to his songwriting; it’s always been the minutiae and observations that I personally love in Markus’s songs; here there are so many lyrics that I could quote but time and space stops me; so I’ll leave it to you to hunt out Flesh & Blood & Bone and the funkalicious Where I Belong to understand where I’m coming from.
For my selection of Favourite Song I’m torn between two very, very different songs, but love both for exactly the same reasons ….. both could be about me!
The intricate solo and acoustic Monochrome is a love song about losing someone close and having to carry on living without them; and it’s something I’ve hardly ever heard before; and the other, Country Town is an articulate tale of loving your roots and where you come from; but know in your heart you have to leave ….. and the way Rill takes us on a rose-coloured visit to the town and people of his youth whose inhabitants
They’re the backdrop for almost any dream of mine
I still see them like it’s 1985

and more poignantly
They might resent me
leaving this old town behind
But they respect me I know
for making it out alive
.”
My parents urged all four of their sons to leave our village and never look back …….
This is a full on Long Player; with potential Hit Singles that are perfect for playing in your car on a sunny day; or even at night when you’re feeling the aches and pains of everyday life.

Released 18th March 2022
https://markusrill.net/

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Howlin Ric CAUTIONARY TALES

Howlin’ Ric and The Rocketeers
Cautionary Tales
Self Release

Equal Amounts of Adrenaline,Damn Hard Work and A Dash of Joy Creates a Sizzling Modern Rock & Roll Cocktail.

Here’s a thing ….. I’ve been playing this album ‘for fun’ since early January, thinking I had loads of time to sit down and write a review; then I somehow managed to miss the bloody release date!
Listening to music ‘for fun;’ especially new music is something of a rarity; as my ears are now specifically tuned into ‘review mode’; which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the albums I review; far from it ….. but there is always an ‘end game’ the first few times I play them.
CAUTIONARY TALES on the other hand has been stupendously addictive; getting played numerous times in the car to either ‘psyche me up’ for work, or ‘help me relax after a particularly shitty shift!’
The cracking Hypocrite’s Smile gets the party started with genuine pazazz and elan. Ric himself has a very distinctive vocal style that is just perfect for this style of Rockabilly/Rock & Roll/R&B; slipping and sliding across various ranges to suit the mood of the particular song; and the moods vary more than an Argos Catalogue.
The Rocketeers have been around for a few years now and are as tight as a whisky barrel; yet as professionally sloppy as you want from good time Rock & Roll, with the likes of One Little Step and Keep Your Hands Off My Drink taking a lot of practice and miles on the road to sound this loose and relaxed …… it’s never been easy to produce music this good.
There’s an delightful swagger and swish in the way these crazy cats not just create music; but the way they write the songs too …… any of Mr Creep, King of His Castle or the titular song Cautionary Tales initially sound like they could have been written and performed any time in the last 60 years; but delve deep into the lyrics and you will find a 21st Century contemporary bite hiding in the grooves.
We all know that Rock & Roll is meant to be fun; but these guys through a few curve balls; none more so than the intense and razor sharp Ignorance is Bliss; which requires several individual sessions before it eventually unravels.
There’s a bit of an oddity in the way the rather fantastic song Blue Devil appears twice in relatively different versions; the slow and sensitive Version II appears first; with Ric channeling his inner Billy Fury on an absolutely, swoonsome love song featuring some of the sexiest saxophone playing I’ve heard in many a year; then a bit later the sizzling guitar, sax and bass are ramped up to the max on Version I, which goes to show that a great song can be played in many different ways and still come out top of the pops.
In another life either the dancetastic One Little Step or the saucy Knock Three Times could, would and should have been my Favourite Track; but on behalf of husbands everywhere how can I possibly look past Can’t Do Right (For Doing Wrong)?
In it’s defence it’s a doozy in its own rite, with Ric and the Rocketeers now channelling Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps on a sure fire showstopper!
For once on a Rocking & Rolling album I doubt these songs can be any better when played live as, there’s equal amounts of adrenaline, joy and sheer professionalism in this album to impress anyone and everyone who ever gets to hear it.

Released February 25th 2022
https://www.howlinric.com/

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https://howlinricandtherocketeers.bandcamp.com/



Mike Zito BLUES FOR THE SOUTHSIDE

Mike Zito
Blues For the Southside
Gulf Coast Records

A Mastercraftsman Proving That The Blues is Alive and Well and In Safe Hands.

I’ve only been a fan of Mike Zito for 5 or 6 years, when I saw him in The Royal Southern Brotherhood; but I’m pretty sure this Live Album has been a long time coming for his Fans; 11 years to be precise; and without spoiling anything ….. the wait was well worth it.
The first thing that made me fall in love with this Double Album recorded in his hometown of not just St. Louis but SOUTH St Louis is the old fashioned Intro, to the band which even namechecks his old High School!
Zito and band come out of the traps at a gallop with Mississippi Nights; and he doesn’t hold anything back with the way he makes his guitar twist and shout, right from the get go!
Primarily known as a guitar-slinger and Ace Producer, I really, really like his singing voice, which is embroiled in passion and poignancy in every note he sings.
Quite early on Zito drops in one of slower musical stun bombs; emphatically playing to crowd with the beautiful instrumental Blues For The Southside. It’s tracks like this I use when friends and colleagues are stuck in the past decrying modern guitarists as ‘nothing like ‘Clapton, Hendrix or Allman D’ …… si I fruitlessly namecheck Mike Zito and urge them to listen to Masterworks like this, Dying Day and perhaps the majestic Life is Hard to hear a guitarist who has listened intently and learnt from the Masters; then put his very own stamp on the mode.
With so many of his own songs to choose from I was surprised, but elated to hear a few covers on here; but it’s a Live Album after all and that gives him the opportunity to let rip on his own Favourites doesn’t it?
Originally written by Larry Davis, but re-invented by Stevie Ray Vaughan; Zito bravely breathes new life into Texas Flood; and later he takes another brave mood by including his very own rendition of Voodoo Chile; which sent a shiver down my back as alongside Eric Gales they slow it down several notches until it enters Wolf territory; which apparantly it was always meant to sound like.
Who knew?
Just like in my teenage years, no (Blues) Rock gig would be worthy of the name without a Chuck Berry song as an encore; and not long after releasing his own album of Berry songs …… Zito and band shake the rafters here with arguably the greatest song in the history of Rock and Roll ….. Johnny B Goode!
Selecting my obligatory Favourite Track has been nigh on impossible; as every song here is like a diamond in an engagement ring; every small piece adding up to create a lustrous and beautiful entity; but a couple of songs I didn’t recognise really caught my attention and have had me delving back inti the singer’s back catalogue.
Back Problems, from First Class Life caught my attention as I’m a sufferer; but obviously this low down and sultry Blues song has nothing to do with my ailments; but rather a romantic liaison gone wrong.
That title track First Class Life came close to being a Favourite too btw.
Then, there’s the sublime Dying Day, which proves Mike Zito is a Master Craftsman guitarist in the vein of BB, Albert and Buddy and his singing style is not just distinctive; but well worth the entry fee alone.
But, there’s also a song here that is not just mind blowing in it’s very own rights; but also still sadly prescient for the times we live in; Make Blues Not War ….. is a heartbreaker and soul shaker in equal measures; and fully deserves the accolade of Favourite Song.
There’s not a lot else to say; the recording quality is A+ and while a few songs stray past the 7 and even 10 minute barrier, they are still worthy of repeated listens, which isn’t always true of Live Blues recordings; and if you are already a Mike Zito fan you will buy this anyway; but if you’re feeling flush buy a second copy for someone stuck in the past believing ‘great Blues died with BB King’ ….. they will love you forever.

Mike Zito (guitar and vocals)
Matthew Johnson – vocals/drums;
Lewis Stephens – piano/organ;
Doug Byrkit – vocals/ bass,
Special guests Tony Campanella and Dave Kalz, plus Eric Gales.   

Released February 18th 2022
https://www.mikezito.com/

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2021 RMHQ Albums of the Year

We’ve had steady growth with both daily readers and associated ‘followers’ over the last few years which has been very flattering; but 2021 has been an oddity, but while our profile appears to have risen, judging by the amount of new albums we get offered and from ‘where (!!!!) but our overall readership has actually dropped back to 2017 levels, which has been worrying …. but while we’ve reviewed another wonderful and eclectic selection of albums; there’s hardly been any individual ‘big hitters,’ which might account for the drop.
Who knows; but with the edition of Tom and Bill to the existing writing team of myself, Nick, Roy and Bill it’s a case of Carry On Regardless whether you like it or not! (PS we are always on the lookout for new and aspiring writer/reviewers of any age, creed or colour …. editing done as a matter of course)
Anyway after a few false starts I’ve finally collated my very own Top 20 Albums of 2021 ….. as eclectic as you’d expect, with some great Blues and Soul releases mixing in with Folk and every shade of Country known to man; which is how I like it; and probably baring nothing in common with No Depression, Rolling Stone or Americana UK ….. which I think is a good thing.
There are albums from new artists to us and old friends too; with the criteria being that the individual albums had to surprise and please me in equal measures ….. which these all did (and a dozen more!)

20 Carolyn Wonderland TEMPTING FATE (October)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/10/08/carolyn-wonderland-tempting-fate/
19 Bobbo Byrnes SO MANY BARS, SO MANY SATURDAY NIGHTS (May)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/08/18/bobbo-byrnes-so-many-bars-so-many-saturday-nights/
18 Vincent Neil Emerson VINCENT NEIL EMERSON (May)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/05/27/vincent-neil-emerson-self-titled/
17 Matt Hill aka Quiet Loner RETURN OF THE IDLE DRONES (Greedy Magicians Vol II ) October)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/09/28/matt-hill-return-of-the-idle-drones-greedy-magicians-ii/
16 Brandi Vezina #DONTSETTLE (December)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/12/06/brandi-vezina-dontsettle/
15 Shipcote POP PICKERS (August)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/08/30/shipcote-friends-pop-pickers/
14 Nathan Bell RED, WHITE and AMERICAN BLUES (It Couldn’t Happen Here) (October)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/10/01/nathan-bell-red-white-and-american-blues-it-couldnt-happen-here/
13 James Holvay SWEET SOUL SONG E.P (April)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/04/12/james-holvay-sweet-soul-song/
12 Jason Ringenberg RHINESTONED (January and March)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/jason-ringenberg-rhinestoned/
11 Joanne Shaw Taylor THE BLUES ALBUM (September)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/09/27/joanne-shaw-taylor-the-blues-album/
10 Robbin Kapsalis and Vintage #18 SOUL SHAKERS (October)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/10/14/robbin-kapsalis-vintage18-soul-shaker/
09 Curse of Lono PEOPLE IN CARS (December)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/11/22/curse-of-lono-people-in-cars/
08 Heath Cullen SPRINGTIME IN THE HEART (April)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/04/19/heath-cullen-sprngtime-in-the-heart/
07 Tito Jackson UNDER YOUR SPELL (August)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/08/06/tito-jackson-under-your-spell/
06 Tommy Atkins TOMMY ATKINS (August)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/09/29/tommy-atkins-truth-be-told/
05 Steve Earle JT
(January)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/steve-earle-and-the-dukes-jt/
04 Mary Hott DEVIL IN THE HILLS
(May)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/05/31/mary-hott-devil-in-the-hills/
03 Ward Hayden and the Outliers FREE COUNTRY (August)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/08/17/ward-hayden-and-the-outliers-free-country/
02 Malcolm Holcombe TRICKS OF THE TRADE (August)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/08/09/malcolm-holcombe-tricks-of-the-trade/
01 Garrison Starr GIRL I USED TO BE (March)
https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/2021/03/05/garrison-starr-girl-i-used-to-be/

Rod Stewart THE TEARS OF HERCULES

Rod Stewart
The Tears of Hercules
Warner Records

The Kid is Back on Form With By Far His Best Album for Decades!!

In the last few weeks I’ve received ‘review albums’ for release as far away as March 2022; but when Superstars like Sir Rod Stewart release an album the best we can hope for is usually a ‘stream’ 24 hours in advance; so receiving an actual CD on the day of release is looked on as a ‘result.’
So, I’m actually going to review this in the modern ‘hipster’ style …. i.e writing as I listen the very first time I hear the songs.
I’ve criticised Rod’s last few albums for being ‘over produced’, but that’s certainly not the case with opening track One More Time which opens with Rod and a banjo, before building into a classic tale of lust, love and leaving, which reminds me of Rod circa Atlantic Crossing; which has to be a good thing; doesn’t it?
This is followed by Gabriella; a bouncy and eminently danceable guitar rocking and Caribbean flavoured love song; the type of which Rodders historically has done better than absolutely everyone else over the years.
Two songs in and I’m tempted to agree with the singers’ liner notes when he says that this is ‘by far his best album for years‘ ….. but can he keep up the tempo and quality?
Basically …… yes and yes; as a funky Mexicali song; All My Days follows which is certainly one of the songs that will be included in the forthcoming Tour, as it will have everyone on their feet and allows the band to ‘go off on one’ as the singer dances around the stage with a variety of backing singers.
Without having the CD next to me, I still instantly recognised the opening salvo on Track #4; the majestic Some Kind of Wonderful; originally a US hit for Grand Funk Railroad and a host of others over the years; but to Mods like Rod and me ….. it was always the theme tune for Q Tips (with a young Paul Young on vocals); here Rod plays around with the melody and even drops in a few lines from Can I Get a Witness when nobody’s looking; which bodes well for said UK Tour, as Rod has a huge back-catalogue of similar songs he can add in a verse or two from.
Speaking of intros; my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I heard Born to Boogie ( A Tribute to Marc Bolan) as it is 100% T Rex; and the song goes on to be a love song to Bolan himself in the style of T Rex; referencing Bolan’s clothes and songs and whole lot more ……. who knew Rod was a fanboy like me?
While far from being a bad song; the rather risque Kookooaramabama gets a little bit lost in the Big Band R&B arrangement; but it’s fair to say he’s recorded a lot worse in the last twenty years!
But; he’s back on form with I Can’t Imagine which is a bit of an oddity as the previous song was all about being a Lothario and this beautiful ballad is all about contentment in a monogamous relationship (and parts of the melody might be nicked from The Killing of Georgie btw).
The pace drops dramatically on The Tears of Hercules, with Rod crooning over a gentle piano and occasional violin interludes; as he revisits the style of American Songbook that made him an absolute fortune, and you can hear why as this style really does suit his voice; the song itself was written recently alongside Kevin Sagar and Emmerson Swinford who also play on every track and had a hand in most of the other songs on the album too.
Pretty much keeping to that gentle tempo Hold On is another song that could easily have come from the Atlantic Crossing sessions as Rod sings about the turmoil that surrounds many of us in a way I’d have thought he’d totally forgot about; but her certainly hasn’t and as I play it for the third time in succession, making it an obvious contender for Favourite Track status; not least for the deeper than usual lyrics …..
” A change is gonna come
Sam Cooke once sung,
Oh lay down that burden of hate
Cities divided
The homeless crying
Equality for all ….. so late
Keep your loved ones safe
Keep your family close
Keep your children by your side
Hold on, hold on, hold on to what you got
.”
Seriously I’m a huge fan; and I haven’t heard Rod sing a song as sharply observed as this in thirty or forty years!
As you wipe the tears from your eyes, Rod goes for your heartstrings again with Precious Memories; another brand new song; but in the style of Sam Cooke or maybe Otis Redding …… but always Rod Stewart.
Now, if you have bought any or all of Rod’s last dozen or so albums you will know that he always sneeks in a Celtic/Scots themed song and here it’s These Are My People; which is pretty much Rod Stewart By Numbers; not necessarily a bad song at all, but he has covered this ground a lot over the years.
Then it all comes to close with a Tearjerker Deluxe; Touchline …….. where Rod sings about his Dad’s love of football; but particularly him watching his sons play schoolboy football and offering advice mid-game.
If there’s a dry eye in the house as the story drifts into his last days and passing ….. you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an album like this…. you don’t deserve it!!
I’m genuinely stumped for what to choose as my Favourite Track; Touchline is certainly up there as is Hold On …… but I’ve just gone and made a cup of coffee; and the song still buzzing in my head was Born to Boogie ( A Tribute to Marc Bolan); and as I’m playing it again it’s actually far deeper than you’d expect from the Pop-Rock song that you think it is ……. so it’s my Favourite.
What more can I say?
I’m absolutely staggered ….. and not a little bit surprised; as after 30 previous albums; the kid is back on form with, easily his best album this century by a country mile (and a bit).
So, when you buy this for your Mum or Dad’s Xmas present; sneakily have a listen yourself ….. you won’t regret it!

Released November 12th 2021
https://www.rodstewart.com/

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Brian Setzer GOTTA HAVE THE RUMBLE

Brian Setzer
Gotta Have the Rumble
Surfdog

Whole lotta Shakin’ Going On From This This Cool Cat

While I’ve liked them for aeons; I’ve still always been surprised by how ‘big’ and popular the Stray Cats and their various offshoots actually are around the world; none more so than singer Brian Setzer who is a Major Star everywhere in the English speaking world (and Japan!).
Neatly moving back to the tried and tested Rockabilly/Rock & Roll formula that first found him fame; this party gets of to a kickin’ start with Chequered Flag; a nitro fuelled love song that wouldn’t be out of place in a modern adaptation of West Side Story.
It’s all too easy for naysayers to dismiss Rockabilly; but done right …… and not many do it better than Setzer; it’s as exciting as popular music gets IMHO.
Like all good professionals, Setzer and producer Julian Raymond make these songs sound ever so simple; but listen closely and there’s a Hell of a lot going on in the background behind the singer on Stack My Money, The Cat With 9 Lives and the stupendously danceable Rockabilly Riot too.
While there’s an obvious Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent ‘feel’ to the overall album; but Setzer sneaks in a ‘Sun era’ Elvis ‘lip curl’ or two into The Wrong Side of the Tracks and the slip-slap bass driven Off Your Rocker; which is no bad thIng at all and just shows how much fun Brian Setzer is still having after all these years.
My copy doesn’t say who plays what here; but I certainly tip my cap to Twangtastic Duane Eddy influenced guitarist on Smash Up on Highway; which sounds like there are sparks and oil coming out of the speakers as the song builds and builds until ……… (I’m not saying!).
Another high octane belter here; One Bad Habit sounds like the lynch pin to the whole album as Setzer sounds like he’s shaking his hips along to the bouncy beat as he sings his cotton picking heart out.
All in all this is a blast of an album; which makes selecting a single Favourite Song a nightmare; but I’ve eventually narrowed it down to two songs; the first actually sounds out of place to some degree; but also autobiographical as Setzer adds contemporary Country fizz to Rockabilly Banjo; and I can only imagine how much fun it’s going to be in concert.
The other; and probably my personal Favourite is the feisty love song Turn You On, Turn Me On which again has a Country edge to the kick-ass Rockabilly melody and even feistier electric guitar solos throughout; and even though this version is 90mph; I guess in concert it goes past the ton!
Also; name dropping Ballroom Blitz does it no harm at all here at RMHQ.
It’s fair to say Setzer’s fans are going to love this as it never really strays too far from the tried and tested Stray Cats formula; although there are certainly bits and pieces that have the potential to get him play on Rock Radio and therefore a whole new younger audience beckons.

Released August 27th 2021
https://briansetzer.com/

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The Cold Stares HEAVY SHOES

The Cold Stares
Heavy Shoes
Mascot Record

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

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

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

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Willie Nile THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

Willie Nile
The Day The Earth Stood Still
River House Records

The Elder Statesman of NY Rock & Roll Continues His Creative Roll with Emotive and Catchy Lockdown Tales

Willie Nile is on a roll, after the well-received “New York at Night” comes “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, which in effect is a lockdown record, inspired by Nile’s personal response to the empty streets of New York during 2020’s COVID times.
The opening title track, The Day The Earth Stood Still, is Dylan-esque in its chord progression but like Tom Petty on steroids – it also quotes from the cult 50’s science-fiction film of the same name and is a hook-laden delight.
“Sanctuary”, which follows, starts with a spooky church organ before hitting a Springsteen/Blondie groove with bouncing double-drum beat rhythms – and is yet another total earworm.
“Where There’s Willie, There’s a Way” is a jokily self-promoting Ramonesesque stomp, and the double-entendres seem to be fully intentional, when Willie sings – amongst other things that “The crown jewels are on display”.
Nile’s neighbour Steve Earle pops up on the AC/DC chug-along, “Blood On Your Hands” which takes a lyrical swerve from the humour of the preceding track to demonstrate a social critique an and commentary on those in power – it’s angry ……
Hell will remember all the times you’ve lied
and it’s delivered with the right amount of rage by both Earle and Nile in sympatico.
“The Justice Bell” (For John Lewis)” takes a musical step back into gentler territory but still presents a defiant face of a wish to carry on the work of John Lewis in the eternal quest for truth and justice –
The justice bell will not be stilled/Hear it ring”.
“Expect Change” is reminiscent in feel to Blondie’s “Rapture” and is another paean to the one certainty in life; and the repeated refrain of “it’s coming” underscores the Ozymandias like message that “great” things are but transient.
“I Don’t Remember You” takes a more personal lyrical path and is another in the fine tradition of Nile’s New York character/relationship vignettes. T
here’s an upping in pace again with the joie de vivre of “Off My Medication” and it’s almost stream of consciousness hyperactive lyrical delivery suits the humorously confessional tale of life released from its shackles, with the narrator stating that
“…now I’m running naked with a Bible round the block
(Upon hearing that for the first time, I was expecting a different word that rhymes with “block” to be honest, but this is just as funny) – great handclaps and singalong title too!
Juxtaposed with this is the gently picked expression of romantic solidarity “I Will Stand.”
Penultimate track “Time to Be Great” slips back into funkier territory and is a positive call to arms in times of uncertainty – no better time than now to do what the hell you need to do!
Album closer “Way Of The Heart” is another Springsteenesque power ballad about the redemptive power of love, community and communion
“remember when you’re all alone, you’re not the only one
it’s an infectious optimism in the face of inevitable change and momentary hardship that pervades this album.

Yet again, Willie Nile pulls one out of the top drawer and his fire continues to burn strong and brightly.
As I said at the start of this review – Mr Nile is very much on a creative roll – keep it coming!

Review by Nick Barber

Released August 13th 2021
http://www.willienile.com/

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