RMHQ Radio Show Episode:43 Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Sunday 26th March 2023
Where does the time go? It only seems 5 minutes since last Sunday’s show. This week is another heady and eclectic mix of all things Roots Music; with an assortment of old and new Country Music mixed in with some wonderful and occasionally odd Blues Music with a couple of Folk songs in to keep your attention. I sometimes worry that the music I select is too eclectic; but these selections are all to my taste and reflect the reviews we do …. so there’s not a lot I can or want to do to change the format too much.
Top Quality and Relaxing Soulful Americana Straight Outta the Welsh Hill Country.
I have taken on too much recently, so when this album dropped from RMHQ it was touch and go whether time would be on my side to give it my fair attention. Then I gave it a quick spin; and never before has an album so spectacularly hit the mark at the MOST perfect moment in my life! A couple of listens in, it has now become the soundtrack to my day: 12 intimate, timelessly soothing growers by a duo who seem to hold your hand throughout the entire album.
I’m not surprised to learn that this collaboration is born out of a friendship, one between Wales based American roots singer songwriter Jeb Loy Nichols and Clovis Phillips, who accompanies with an array of instruments including guitar and mandolin. Their unity is evident, the instruments effortlessly compliment the vocals and vice versa. What’s more the pair recorded, produced and mixed the album together in deepest Wales at Clovis’s Add a Band studios. Both being new artists to me, I am struck by the charming juxtaposition of a vintage country/bluegrass/folk blend teamed with irresistibly soulfully smooth, tender-rich vocals that are on a par with the likes of George Benson, Seal and even dare I say Bruno Mars, staking this album firmly in the here and now.
‘Rain Falling on The Roof At Night’ lusciously opens the album with a pitter patter tempo ‘drip dropping’ us through the song. It’s powerfully simplistic, a collection of memories sparked by the sound of the rain, the one thing that remains unchanged. We are staring into puddles of reflections, from the perspective of a distant lover, a homeless man recollecting childhood memories and through to an aging lady in the back of a limo recollecting her youth.
A commanding start, but this is just the beginning….. Jeb Loy Nichols demonstrates he is the mature, accomplished songwriter (that his CV of 15 or so releases since 1997 would suggest!) with a bunch of clever love songs told from hugely original angles, forming the back bone of this new release.
‘Let Me Love You In My Own Way’ is a jauntily acoustic, confessional strum through the ups and downs of being in a relationship and houses one of the sunniest vocal performances on the album for me. My eyes tight shut, I’m imagining picnicking in the Countryside with that special person:
‘I’ll bring you blackberries and pumpkin seeds, I’ll make you soup from nettles leaves A whole life long I’ll do my best but get it wrong On that I think that we both agree Let me love you in my own way.”
There’s more than a hint of bluegrass blowin’ in the Welsh hills, circling around the happy break up song ‘That’s What It Sounds Like’. We witness a couple discussing their non- existent relationship against the backdrop of retro Wurlitzer keys filling in with a catchy chorus complete with ‘Sha La La’s’, giving an old-time singalong feel. Discovering that this singer songwriter spent most of his childhood listening to classic soul songs on the radio from greats such as Al Green and Curtis Mayfield, now makes sense of all the musical influences seeping through. This album is as nostalgic as it is new: a winning combo for the likes of me.
In a similar vein, ‘It’s Terrible To Be In Love’ gently spills bitter sweet nuances, with a backdrop of soft harmonies that hint it’s all worth the pain in the end.
Talking of which, ‘Start Hurtin’ Again’ ventures into laid back Country territory, musing on the necessity for taking that first step to find love again, despite the risk of another broken heart. Phillips’s playing is exquisite throughout the album and buried at the half way point here is a solo shimmering with a waterfall of acoustic notes. More country tales with the single and title track ‘Three Fools’ which breezily describes a man’s life journey, a tale of yearning for a lost love, coupled with honest observations about humankind.
The only cover song on the album is the folky ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend’ which is a little-known track by the American songwriter Donnie Fritts who passed away in 2019. It’s a touching tribute and sits well to wrap up the album.
Choosing a favourite was always between two tracks that both highlight the need to take a chill out from the demands of everyday life….. oh yes please! Runner up ‘Number Four’ swings in with a melodic, hypnotic Latin groove, describing a blissful day filled with gentle activities designed to bring joy:
‘There’s an apple blossom tree that I wanna see There are gravel roads I want to explore I’ve got three things on my list to do today And no working, working, working is number four’
The top slot goes to a song which takes this chillin’ mood one step further, describing a day of doing absolutely nothing at all. The ballad lullaby ‘All I Want To do Is Sleep’, complete with Jeb Loy’s deeper, entrancing vocals, spells out the ultimate pyjama day:
‘Don’t come around here with any big plans Making plans is what got me in this mess Plans lead to doing and too much doing leads to ruin So go away, go away I need a rest.’
This heavenly album has got ‘Do not disturb whilst playing’ stamped all over it. It initially releases with a limited vinyl edition which would sound just perfect on my old ‘70s stereogram; and if I can ever muster up enough energy to go out again, then catching this duo live will make it to the top of my revised to do list.
RMHQ Radio Show Ep:40 ‘Ladies Day Special’ Nova Radio NE| Newcastle
Tuesday 14th March 2023
One man’s illness is another man’s opportunity, a wise man once said …. so with Dave Barker suffering with some unnamed illness I took the opportunity to take his chair for a midweek edition of the RMHQ Radio Show and make it one of our Special Editions; only playing music from The Females of the Roots Species. As it was arranged at short notice it was another ‘seat of the pants’ programme, with me changing the playlist of intended tracks 3 times within the first 15 minutes! Even when I’d settled down I’d be listening to a song, then think “Oh! I know what should come after this!” Then quickly find said song ….. leaving my initially pristine playlist looking like a Venn Diagram! Obviously it was as eclectic as ever, which might have baffled new listeners; bit I am what I am… and this is the music I love; an eclectic mix of Country, Americana and Roots; and I love sharing it with strangers and friends alike.
RMHQ Radio Show Episode:39 Nova Radio NE Newcastle
Sunday 12th March 2023
Not that most people listening will be bothered; but tonight’s show coincided with Newcastle Utd playing a home game that was going out on TV. This caused a dilemma as I had tickets for the match; which I subsequently donated to Son #2 and my Grandson; meaning I could watch the first half then drive to the station; hopefully getting there so Producer Dean could scurry home to see most of the second half after letting me into the building. My Masterplan more or less worked; but trying to follow the match on my phone while setting up the show meant I played the wrong opening song …. and missed a link about ten minutes in! But in showbiz land …. ‘The Show had to go on’ and it did; quite successfully if I’m allowed to blow my own trumpet. As usual we had a heady mix of old and new Americana including a new track from the new Stephen Stills album (recorded in 1971!), Aoife O’Donovan covering Atlantic City from her reworking of Bruce’s Nebraska album and the new single from our latest discovery, Jenny Don’t and The Spurs plus a bunch of other ‘first plays’ and oldies from Tom Waits, Dale Watson and Tony Joe White …. as usual we spoilt you and here’s the proof.
Elles Bailey & Brave Rival Sunderland Fire Station
March 11th 2023
Without naming names I’d not had a particularly good week, gig wise seeing three other acts in 7 days that had me non-plussed on the way out. Nothing wrong with the shows; as 99% of their audiences would testify, they just didn’t appeal to me. Which all put extra pressure on as Mrs Magpie was stepping out with me to see Elles Bailey (who she’d never heard of.) Opening act were Brave Rival; an apparent Blues Rock band; who were playing an acoustic-ish set as the ‘warm up.’ I say acoustic-ish, as they had an electric bass alongside two acoustic guitars and the tiniest drum set up in the world, while fronted by two young ladies with astonishing voices and harmonies. After being introduced to the Sold Out audience by none other than Elles Bailey herself; they slid into opening song Guilty Love which was full of soaring vocals and lush harmonies; as were most of the songs that followed in the next 45 minutes. While I appreciate hearing where songs come from, tonight the singers perhaps lingered on these tales a tad too much? Again; probably that’s just me judging from the smiling faces I could see following all of these intros. I’m not sure what these songs will be like when fleshed out with the full-on band in their electric guise; as I thought the stripped back arrangements really suited the material; not least Run & Hide; about being stalked and For The Ones (I think ) which was written in the early days of lockdown but can also be interpreted as a song about fighting to make relationships work. It appeared that a couple of very personal sounding songs were written by the self-depreciating singer Lindsey Bonnick most noticeably Secrets; about an ex-boyfriend who had cheated on her for three years. As is my won’t, I wasn’t keen on the cabaret style request for the audience to join in on the chorus of What’s Your Name Again; about a ‘one night stand’ that Lindsay had one time. On the other hand; it featured some sweet bottleneck guitar playing and smoky harmonies from Lindsay and Chloe. This was followed by Chloe explaining the story behind the rather fabulous and emotional All I Can Think About (oddly enough … anther sad song about a relationship that ended badly for Lindsay!) I was really surprised by their choice of finale; but today I found out that it was their latest single; Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds Of Silence; which was actually perfect for their individual voices and those delicious harmonies.
After the required ‘toilet/smoke’ break there wasn’t an empty seat in the hall when the lights went down and the stage was swathed in red lights as the band and Ms Bailey made their entrance, before they opened up with The Game, which went down well with the appreciative audience. The set was a clever mix of songs from Elle’s latest album SHINING IN THE HALF LIGHT, and her two previous albums plus a couple of fabulous and surprising cover versions towards the end. I particularly liked the second song, which went unnamed and featured some particularly greasy guitar riffs from Joe Wilkins. While it doesn’t make much difference to the audience when an act doesn’t name their songs; but it’s a nightmare for a reviewer! Elles told a heartwarming story about first time motherhood; then went into a gorgeous song supplemented by some atmospheric drumming and bass; but can I find a song of hers with the lyrics I scribbled down! This happened another three or four times; which is a shame for fans who weren’t there tonight. Of the songs I can name; Halfway House was absolutely stunning; and as Elles said in the intro, was meant to be a heartbreaker of the ‘love’ type but ended up being about Brexit!!! This was followed by a song I did recognise; the heavy, heavy rocker Cheats & Liars which I presumed was about ‘men who had done her wrong‘ … but it was actually written following the 2022 Budget which left the self-employed (esp musicians) on their uppers. The next couple of songs have highly excited notes scribbled alongside them and both get three stars each; the first being the soulful Hole In My Pocket, which had a false ending that morphed into a thrash metal ending with requisite light show too. This was followed by the first of her highly surprising choices of songs to cover; John Martyn’s beauteous Over The Hill was a rare treat and had Elles giving it the deference it deserves; and as I noted … “Her voice is perfect for expressing sentiments like these.’ What I haven’t mentioned yet is how important Jonny Henderson’s Hammond playing was to the overall sound in these songs; giving them a bit of a 60’s R&B ‘vibe’ at times. As the time to curfew rattled along, a song Elles wrote in 2017; Help Somebody is still, if not more relevant today in 2023 …. and is well worth hunting out if you haven’t played it in a while. Oh; as Henderson embarked on a keyboard solo, Elles went ‘walkabout’ wandering around the hall, much to the fans delight. Following on from that and closing the show was Beautiful Mess, which was as soulful as it was thoughtful; and the melody swung like a pendulum do; and had Elles skipping and dancing around the stage when her band performed their magic. While it was never in any doubt; the band only had time to count back from 5, before they re-entered the stage for two really special encore songs. The first of which was a really surprising cover; Mary Gauthier’s Mercy Me (which I love too) and while she knelt on the edge of the stage while singing with the lights turned down way low, as the glitterball spun and swathed the audience in little diamonds. Then standing up without the aid of a helper (which impressed out friend Faye!) Elles Bailey and band rocked the bejasus out of this fantastic building with Sunshine City …. and after all the heartbreak that had preceded it; the audience left with a smile on their collective faces.
Martin Stephenson and Gary Dunn Interview March 2023
by Anita Joyce
There is a well known saying ‘you can’t choose your family;’ but for Martin Stephenson this is as close as it gets to family these days, as he stands on the brink of releasing The Daintees 11th studio album ‘You Belong To Blue’, forged with a musical clan that tracks back to the band’s early years. The ‘Band of Brothers’ consist of Gary and Anth Dunn and Charlie Smith, grandson of original Daintees drummer Paul Smith. RM caught up with Martin and Gary recently in Scotland to find out how the album was constructed, some stories behind the tracks and what it has meant working together across so many decades.
For the listener it seems that this new album sits firmly in the Sunshine, with upbeat, smooth, feel-good vibes accompanying us through even the darker stories, so I asked Martin if this feeling was the same for him.
MS ‘Yeah, from the moment we made the record, some of the songs just started coming in and we started thinking we’ve got a little bit of a family here, ironically one song ‘Better Get Sam’ was first written in 1978, but the second verse was written about 5 weeks ago. It’s something I remembered but I must’ve played it to Anth (he remembers everything) as he said “you played that to me in 1980” so I must’ve showed it to him and probably forgotten about again. Creativity is very timeless, it’s like a patient Angel that knows you, so you can start something from 25 years ago and I’ve learnt not to give yourself a hard time if you’re drawing or painting or writing a song, whatever you do, don’t put too much pressure on it being a big hit or everybody liking it, just do it for you and enjoy it. I always think of songs, they put their tracksuits on and turn up for training and they hope their manager’s gonna pick them. Some of them got on Boat To Bolivia, and like Neon Skies, I once played it on stage and apologised to the song ‘cos it turned up with it’s tracksuit on for every album and never got picked!” It eventually got on The Boy’s Heart, but it was probably one of the earliest songs that I ever wrote, when I was 17.’
The 10 new tracks were recorded in a few short days with John Martindale at Blank Studios in Newcastle as Martin explains more:
MS ‘When we did the album, it’s £250 per day in the studio which to some people is peanuts, but for me it’s like this. I’m a product of two factory workers so my mindset is not Alan Sugar, my mindset is just keeping out of debt and in control of my own finances and stuff. Very small level, keeping it minimal. So, I brought the drummer in first: I had some little blips of phone records that were probably unhelpful that I sent to Charlie and he probably thought over a pot of coffee “I’ll just deal with it when he turns up” and he did. We set his drums up in a lovely live room, and there was an old telecaster as part of the studio. So, I tuned it up, it had a set of old strings on it and John recorded my rhythm guitar along with the drums. On Broken Nights and Faded Cities, Charlie would communicate and say ‘I think it’s about 122 Bpm’ and I’d say it’s a little bit slow for me and we’d negotiate and I’d say you know what you were right actually. We’ve got the ability to do that, jam it and after 20 seconds of jamming I said oh you’re on it, you’ve got it. He’s such a young man but I give him old references like Bill Withers, the two of us, not trying to re-write it but he gets the groove of it. We set the click and every fill he does you can tell the difference between good drummers, just put them in the studio. Drummers that sound good in the pub would fall apart. When they take the fill they’ve got to lock everything into that gap, really good drummers can pull and push. He’s 22 and at the height of his powers. I used to put all the old Daintees albums down the same way, it’s like we’ve put all the walls and floors into the house and by 5 o clock he had all his drums done. On the second day Anth came in for the bass and he said “ooh let’s hear this one,” he didn’t even know the songs and he was finished by 3 o clock, he was off home to do the dishes!’
MS ‘On the 3rd day I had good guide vocals, I had good rhythm guitars, excellent drums in perfect time. The songs were structured, with Broken Nights we just liked the length of it and that’s one of the first things Gary did, he had his cup of tea and he had his amplifier through in the big room. He had two guitars, his telecaster and his Les Paul, so he’d sit on a nice chair and give me shit…. I was his personal slave for the day. He loves it, he was just jamming along and I go to John is the red light on? Gary’s no idea, he’s twiddling along and I say that’s lovely, that’s just what we’re after. He finished doing his take and said ‘right I think I’m ready for that, I like this tune Martin’. I say you will do, you’re all over it and by the way you’ve got it! He says ‘what??!’ I say you’ve just played the best guitar I’ve ever heard you play.’
At this point Gary sits in, immediately the banter and warmth that ensues demonstrates first hand why The Daintees have always been a family affair. I mention the sneaky recording episode:
GD (with a smile) ‘ Well that’s the sort of thing he does, there was that one and another where Martin was just pretending he was taking a video and I was just playing and the Red Light was on. Another one I didn’t know, we were setting up with Stu and we were doing Left Us to Burn for the 30th Anniversary, this is the psychology involved: he said let’s see what the acoustic sounds like, it was all set up and I just played it, and nobody said whether they liked it or not. They just said let’s do some electric and I thought I’ll never hear that acoustic guitar again! Then the masters came through and I was like wow that was good and I was really pleased with it and trickin’ us. It’s a good thing, because of the red-light thing, everyone gets a bit of it don’t they.’
MS ‘You’ve got to have the ability, you can’t do that with everybody. If I’ve got Charlie, Gary and Anth you can do a lot with that, they’re so good and intuitive, this is like an old four piece ‘60’s band and the Hammond (courtesy of Liam Fender) is a luxury but it can put a sound in there that’s really groovy.’
GD ‘There’s such a variety on the new album, so many different feels and things going on. I think ‘You Belong To Blue’ is my favourite, it reminds me of Summer.’
MS ‘Gary’s got a really good vocabulary you know, he’s been playing since he was very young, he can talk Phil Specter he can talk The Cure, it’s a real luxury for me as a song writer that he can talk that language, Anna said that about Gary too, he has a massive facility. He gets the melody, so he’s told me as a songwriter that he’s listened to that, it means a lot to me. He’s took the trouble to absorb the song which he can do very quickly.
On the subject of absorbing songs, I steer the conversation towards the stories and inspiration behind some of the new songs. Martin explains that his 16 year-old self wrote the first verse and chorus of “Better Get Sam” about two older brothers wanting to get their younger brother out of a brothel and the recently added second verse follows on with a tale of a post office robbery. The heartfelt ‘Broken Nights’ is based on Martin’s connection with the homeless:
MS ‘ I know quite a few street people in Newcastle. I tend to gravitate towards them, like on a Friday night if you’re walking around Newcastle, the people who seem normal are the street people “cos they’re trying to survive”. There’s certain people I haven’t seen for awhile who disappear and you worry. There was a girl who used to be in Newcastle, she’s quite a feisty little thing but she was lovely, she just had a really hard time, went through abuse and ended up where she was. But she brought a lot to the streets, she had a great personality, she’d look after the weaker ones. I haven’t seen her for two years, she probably thought nobody thought about her, but there is love.’
And whilst we’re on that subject….
MS ‘There’s a song called Cynthia Rainbowlady which I’m really proud of. It’s when we did the lockdown thing, Cynthia’s husband passed away and she sent me his harmonica. It meant a lot to me, I says look Cynthia I’m gonna write a song. I’m the worst harmonica player in the world, you’ll be better than me, but I could puff a little bit of a tune out of it, harmonicas are great for that ‘cos you can get a spirit from a harmonica so I used her husband’s harmonica and wrote a song for the two of them in paradise. That’s what I love when I have the chance to do things like that.’
With ‘You Belong To Blue’ I can’t help feeling this is THE album to encapsulate the essence of The Daintees past and present so a good time for a little reflection:
MS ‘I owe the lads an apology, in some ways they are very patient and understanding, cos they have spiritual in them. I remember in ‘92 the Universe saying we’re cutting your supply off, that’s it. A two- year readjustment to your true path, disconnect from managers, business etc. So that’s when all the intel comes in, creative power, guidance. The songs we’re getting now, if the machine was there or they had been written in the ‘60’s, we would have had lots of hits. So, I feel a bit guilty for guiding the ship sometimes. I remember being at school with Gary, the teacher brought a painting in and I didn’t realise how significant it was gonna be for us, like a band of brothers when you think of what we had to go through, what we’ve navigated is colossal. The goodness of having brothers in your band, it gives you strength for your little boat. The teacher had brought in a picture of Odysseus, the Greek sailor. His brothers were tied to the mast, they were putting wax in their ears getting prepared to pass the Island of the song of the sirens, that’s the music industry and that was The Daintees, that was us; we were all Odysseus, there was no Jesus, we were all apostles. I noticed a significant thing when Gary came in, he was a grown up, and me and Anth were still a couple of toddlers… I’m personally glad that I made the journey with the brothers. We got through it, still have friendship.’
I ask Gary what it has been like on the journey and how he felt when his son Adrian first stood in for Anth on bass:
GD ‘It’s absolutely amazing, and sometimes when we get up and play, I won’t know the song but I know Martin and how he writes so I know there’ll be something unexpected in there but there are also some things where I know what he’s gonna do here, and you just have to guide your way through it. It’s a Martin Stephenson and The Daintees survival kit. Really,I’m really proud (of Adrian) but I was a bit nervous for him. I just thought this is the experience that’s gonna get him to become a mature musician because you need to just think on your feet to get through it somehow and you might make a little mistake here and there; but then you don’t the next time. It’s like a stand-up comedian has to gauge the audience and you have to navigate through a comment. It’s like that, a new song can come along and you’ve just got to use the tools that you’ve got to get through it. I thought he’s gonna get the same experience that I did in the early years. The first gig I did with Martin was at the Mean Fiddler, we got together at my little flat, Martin had a copy of the pre release of the Boat to Bolivia album, we just had a listen and played through a few things and spent an afternoon working on the songs. Martin said just go away and work on them so I learnt all the songs but it’s a funny thing when you make an album and you put all the parts down, it gets mixed and edited and it comes back and it’s a complete song but as a creator you don’t necessarily remember everything that you’d done. I’d come in and it was fresh to me so I was listening and learning it, not like a Daintees musician, more like you’ve been given this job and you have to do this. So I learnt it exactly like the record and then we got to the gig and everything was completely different! I remember we were doing this little club in Brighton and I remember thinking from the first gig to this one how much the band had really tightened up and developed and how some of the songs went on journeys but we all had a telepathic thing and that’s what I wanted Adrian to get that, to be able to listen and use his ears to how Martin goes on a journey within a song, to know what’s gonna come and that sets you up. You just have to dive in and do it. It’s not like painting by numbers.’
MS ‘I had a vision of you there “Hi I’m Gaz Grills and this is The Daintees survival kit”.’
GD ‘And have a look in the box and there’s nothing in it!’
MS ‘With respect to Adrian, there was a gig where he was feeling his way in, you know when you join a classroom and there’s a moment when you’re accepted within yourself, never mind anyone else and we did Wholly Humble Heart and with Rupert and Charlie, they’re all young … and I was like Grandad on stage and all of a sudden him and Charlie took over and he realised he was surrounded by love, lovely to witness that.’
That seems to sum up everything about The Daintees for me, catch them live if you can and as for the new album if you are already onboard with Martin Stephenson then it will delight or else it’s the perfect invitation to join the extended family.
Holy Moly & The Crackers Solid Gold Pink Lane Records
It’s Folk Jim; Just Not as Old People Will Understand, But Will Love!
Here’s a thing! I distinctly remember the first time I encountered Holy Moly & The Crackers; it was on the traditional Home Fries Friday afternoon session at SummerTyne on the banks of the River Tyne (Gateshead side btw). Even though they hadn’t released a single track, they came across as fully formed ….. Folk-Rock albeit with a Punk attitude, they reminded me of the first time I saw The Pogues …. excited hardly covers the way I felt. When they came off stage the main singer that day, Conrad Bird coincidentally sat near me on the grassy knoll. You may not believe this but I’m actually quite shy; but took a deep breath, introduced myself and swiftly arranged an interview for the magazine I was writing for; which would coincidently be published the month before their debut Album would be released. I’ve been a fan ever since. Even though they have constantly evolved over the intervening years I certainly wasn’t prepared for this great leap forward. Well; perhaps I should have been; as the ‘other lead singer’ Ruth Lyon has slowly been creating her own solo career in the background; with a more polished and Poppy manner to some success too. So; when I played the album’s first single Hot Red, I was staggered at how powerful it was with Ruth sounding like a smoky and sultry R&B singer with a punchy band behind her …. surely this couldn’t be Holy Moly & The Crackers? Apparently it was and is. So; back to the beginning; of the album where the title track Solid Gold; with Ruth at the fore, running all of the current stock of female Pop Stars a good ‘un as the song and band blend old school R&B with some smooth mystical beats in the background. Second up; Skyline Drive is a helluva a lot more punchy, with Ruth now sounding angsty amid the angelic backing harmonies and a drum driven melody coupled to some sizzling guitar ….. this is now a million miles away from those rapscallions I saw that first Friday afternoon … and I love it! Personally I doubt any of their ever growing fanbase will be disappointed at this massive change in direction … their musical tastes will have grown with the band too. Whereas 5 or 6 years ago you would have ‘danced as if no one was watching’ to the band at festivals; but here the dance beats are a lot more condensed and targeting the type of swooning and swaying under a massive lightshow; or at least that’s how I feel when I hear songs like those first couple as well as track three Bad Habit. As the songs progress the mood becomes a smidgen more romantic and a smidgen more like the Holy Moly & The Crackers songs we’ve come to love. Come On Down still has a hint of their Folk background to it; as do My Money and the delightful ode to the Kingdom of Northumbria; Give Me a Hammer; but the arrangements and production are very contemporary and; it has to be said; strangely beautiful. Oh; and just when you were wallowing in the mists that these songs conjure up; Ruth’s stunning violin playing flits in and out like a barn owl on the hunt for prey. Angeline closes the album in a punchy fashion and the more I’ve played it; the more I’ve liked it ….. bizarrely reminding me of Curved Air at their finest; which is how it’s in the running for Favourite Track. The other two, My Money and Wide Sky are as different as chalk and cheese, with Conrad singing/purring the former before Ruth slides on on harmonies, then takes over lead in a way that will send a shiver down your spine; on a story that will have many of us rolling our eyes as we imagine the song could be about us. The other and probably my actual Favourite is Wide Sky, another gorgeous song that taps into their back catalogue a tad; but soon bursts out like wild rose in Springtime to become a thing of rare beauty and instantly jumps into my Top 3 Holy Moly & The Crackers songs of all time! The core of this band; Conrad, Ruth, drummer Tommy and Rosie on accordion have been together since Day #1; but they’ve never been afraid to experiment with new formations, additions and formulas over the years (I once saw then upstairs in the tiny Central Bar with a full on brass section!) and this experiment is a huge success here at RMHQ.
Authentic and Heartfelt Insurgent Alt. Country That Rocks.
Candid and authentic, Justin Tipton was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and his music exudes the big-sky Heartworn Highways of of his hometown heroes: Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell. His debut album and title track, Burn These Bridges, a song about how he met his wife, sets the tone for a record about life, love and bouncing back from troubled times.
At the age of 3, rumor has it that Justin picked up a toy guitar and banged out his first tune. In August of 2009, Justin’s Dad took him out to a local Dallas club to see his first live concert, Band of Heathens, where Justin says “I felt like I was watching an episode of a TV show of my life and how I wanted it to be.” That night a switch was flipped, the lights went on, and a prolific, dreamy-blue-eyed singer-songwriter was born.
Drawing on his admiration for country, rock, blues and folk music, Justin leans into a John Prine style of confession and lyrical revelation with grit and humor and perhaps an ounce or two of regret. Back to Being Me, a straight up rock song is about a break up. Don’t Make Me Sleep Alone is a heartfelt duet with local Dallas singer Frankie Leonie about loneliness, compassion and compromise. Some Days, written during Covid and finished in the studio with his band The Troublemakers, is a brilliant lyrical coping strategy for the 21st century love-lorn, while Gimme Back What’s Mine reveals Tipton’s need to carve out his own unmistakable path.
Your Momma Don’t Like Me tugs on JT’s affinity for pure pop music; and sails on the cool blue seas of Mr. Tom Petty and that’s a perfectly beautiful place to be. Two minutes and forty five seconds of jukebox power makes this song a radio ready gem that will no doubt be blasting from every truck and hotted up car this Spring. Mark me on that one.
Produced & Mixed by John Pedigo at Modern Electric in Dallas, Tx and mastered by Fred Kevorkian in Brooklyn, NYC, Justin Tipton & The Troublemakers bring the primal push and drive of true Southern Rock. With a collection of distinctive songs that pack a serious punch, and a voice that oozes heartbreak and desire, Justin Tipton fronts a well oiled machine of a band featuring Sawyer McGee on drums, Josh Vaughn slinging guitar, Jesse Thompson on bass and background vocals, Chris Watson and Chad Stockslager sharing duties on all things keyboard.
Burn These Bridges by Justin Tipton & The Troublemakers is a record that “lights the fuse,” to a powder-keg of musical TNT that’s fixin’ to explode on the music scene and well beyond the confines of the Lonestar State. Do yourself a big favor and buy this record and see. All KILLER, No Filler….this record and this artist is a hot contender for New Discovery of The Year. Mark my words ….. yet again.
Courtney Marie Andrews/ Robert Ellis St Luke’s Glasgow 4th March 2023
I don’t make too many trips across Hadrian’s Wall from deepest North Staffordshire, but when I do, it’s usually for something special – and the prospect of Seeing Courtney Marie Andrews supported by Robert Ellis, was too good to pass up. (To be honest, I’d seen them the night before in Manchester, as I’m greedy – but our friends at Americana UK are reviewing that one!)
On the previous occasion that I’d attended a gig at St Luke’s – a converted church just a few yards up the road from the legendary Barrowlands – my hotel room was broken into and I’d had a bunch of stuff stolen while I was at the gig, so I was looking for somewhat of a bad memory exorcism on this return too.
The last time I’d seen the support, Robert Ellis, was when he was touring the excellent “Texas Piano Man” album and he’d been dressed up in a sparkling white tail-suit and hat, so it was a marked contrast to see him perched on a barstool, guitar in hand, with a thick thermal coat on to protect himself from the Scottish climate. He only had a short half hour set, but began on guitar with a couple of new songs including one to his son, entitled “Gene” and his recently released “Yesterday’s News”. There wasn’t the humorous glitz of the previous album, but a more reflective, jazzy influenced sound to his playing and writing. Over on the piano, he punctuated the set with the crowd-pleasing “Fucking Crazy” before ending things with a ferocious note-perfect take on Richard Thompson’s “52 Vincent Black Lightning” – Mr Ellis is a seriously under-appreciated musical polymath – the new songs aren’t as immediate as on “Texas Piano Man” based on this short taster, but they promise to offer a lot of musical and lyrical detail.
It’s the second time that Courtney had visited the UK with this line-up – Ole Kirkeng on bass, Dom Billett on drums and Jerry Bernhardt on guitar/keyboards; but last time it was a much shorter visit. There’s noticeably a real feel for the songs from this group of musicians – it’s no surprise that musicians like Andrew Combs and Erin Rae have brought Jerry and Dom over too in recent years, as they are able to breathe life and musical and emotional understanding into someone else’s songs – every band needs good musical empaths. “Loose Future” the set opener is gloriously trippy and “angular” in a way that the ghosts of Orange Juice and Josef K from these parts would have nodded knowingly in appreciation to. “How Quickly Your Heart Mends” has been given a rhythmic make-over and whereas before it was more philosophical in tone, now it is a vibrant assertion of emotionally starting again. Personal highlights included a beautiful delivery of “Burlap String” and the smooth harmonies of “Break the Spell”. There’s an untitled new song mid-set too – Courtney explaining that she’s currently being visited by the muse big-style (pleased about that) and songs are pouring out of her. The final three songs of the main set – “Old Flowers”, “Carnival Dream” and “Me & Jerry” see Courtney at the keyboards and it’s a perfect climax before an all too short two song encore and we’re off into the Glasgow night, beating the metal crowds at Barrowlands back into town.
A couple of tours back, I part expected Courtney to be moving to even bigger venues – COVID might have put the brakes on that for the time being, but I’m selfishly glad that she (as of yet) hasn’t, as there’s a special delight in an intimate Courtney Marie Andrews show in a good sounding and pretty venue – St Luke’s ticked all those boxes.
The Long Ryders September November Sometime Cherry Red Records
Reinventing the Alt. Country Template That They Helped Create.
Just as I was making a list of Alt. Country pioneers for a future episode of the RMHQ Radio Show, an e-mail hailing the new album from The Long Ryders arrived in my ‘in box’ …. yet again serendipity is playing around with my brain! Country Rock and Southern Rock had both morphed into Corporate Rock and a set of music fans like me where left waiting to sate out appetite and along came; what seems like a lifetime ago, The Long Ryders alongside The Good Sons and Grand Drive arrived out of nowhere and helped change our perception of what Country Music should and could sound like in the mid 1980’s. Leap forward nigh on 40 years and the band is back together again (for the umpteenth time) with a handful of original and key members with a brand new angle on their distinctive ‘Psychedelic Country Rock’ signature. The title track September November Sometime comes at you like a half starved wild cat; there’s no time to get comfortable as the Ryders attack your senses with a feisty and punchy Urban tale full of passion and violin playing that’s worthy of Jerry Goodman after a night on mescal!
This is immediatly followed by Seasons Change; which sounds quite Byrdsian (no surprise there) but something that The Byrds may have thought too extreme for Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde …. if that makes sense; and hopefully will, when you hear it. What’s key to the arrangements here is the tightness of every track; this is the antithesis of all those fat and hirsute Truckers and Cowboys that litter Country Radio these days; there are melodies a ‘plenty, that’s for sure but a sense of ‘relationship claustrophobia’ too …. this ain’t Friday night drunk-dancing music; songs like Hand of Fate, To The Manor Born and/or Flying Down are contemporary, grown up songs with mature themes that need to be listened to (preferably in the car IMHO) that will have you pursing your lips as you tap your toes while making sure that the grandkids aren’t destroying the house. Obviously I’m of an age when I can appreciate clever stories like the magnificent Tom Tom and the polar opposite and rocktastic Seasons Change without worrying if they’re ‘cool enough’ to discuss in public …. they are; but that’s not the point; I know what I like and it’s songs and albums like these; and who care what the man in the newspaper thinks? I’ll tell you what makes this album and these songs so different and more grown up than most everything that’s coming out of Nashville these days; it’s the inclusion of Song For Ukraine. An instrumental with soft Classical undertones and a melody; vis the violin that hints at Ukrainian Folk Music …. The Long Ryders probably don’t care if you like it or not (trust me you will) but it’s something that their socialist hearts felt had to be done. Just when you were least expecting it, The Long Ryders drop in a soulful Jug Band mash-up with Country Blues (Kitchen) and our little world is all the better for hearing it …. especially the harmonica solos. I’m pretty sure my choice of Favourite Song will change most every time I play this album; but while checking my notes from last week when I played it for the first time; I concur with my original thoughts that Elmer Gantry Is Alive and Well, the gentle Until God Takes Me Away and the effervescent shuffle of That’s What They Say About Love are all up there with not just the best of the Long Ryders back catalogue; but any or all of the cross-genres that make up Roots Music these days; and I’m singling out the jumping and hot That’s What They Say About Love which is everything I love about Cowtown Music all wrapped up in 2 minutes and 37 seconds. The album closes with a fabulous dose of Country melancholia and coiled tension via Flying Out Of London which may or may not be a metaphor for a relationship break up; but regardless it’s still a stunning piece of music. Due to the unexpected passing of bassist Tom Stevens, bass duties on the new album were shared here by Murry Hammond of Americana stalwarts the Old 97s and the Long Ryders’ own Stephen McCarthy. There’s a helluva lot to like here and absolutely nothing to dislike; regardless of the way the songs change direction on a whim without ever challenging the listeners sensibilities or taste.
PS The Long Ryders received the International Trailblazers Award from the Americana Music Association UK in January 2022. Nine months later, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville honored the Long Ryders by including the band in a new exhibition titled “Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock.”