David Olney EVERMORE (Live in Holland)

David Olney
EVERMORE (Live in Holland)
Strictly Country Records

While We Await a Long Overdue Retrospective This Live Recording will More Than Suffice.

Oh man! It genuinely broke my heart when I heard the news that David Olney had died on stage in early 2020.
I came late to the party; only discovering his immense talent with the WHEN THE DEAL GOES DOWN in 2014; and only ever got to see him play live (alongside Sergio Webb) at a cruelly under attended venue the following year …. but he’s right up there in my Top 10 of singer-songwriters; and ahead of many household names!
One of the key things I love about Olney’s work is that it’s eclectic; which is the best way to introduce this 7th album in a series of 8 live albums recorded in Holland in 2016, by Pieter Groenveld, Founder of Strictly Country Records.
The opening track the captivation Big Top is less a song and more a Talking Blues or even a poem set to music, with delicate bass from Daniel Seymour and a harsh harmonica accompaniment from David as he tells a dark tale that may or may not be a metaphor for the political leanings of the USA around that time ….. or just a plain and simple exotic story of a Circus on tour!
You decide.
As the track fades to a close you hear a few seconds of applause before the first of the ‘real’ songs; Train Wreck kicks in; featuring David pretending to be a train and his relationship being a ‘train wreck’ but he loves her anyway.
The quality of Groeneveld’s production is so sharp you’d be forgiven for not realising that this is actually a ‘Live Recording’ and the lack of applause makes this even more of a ‘keeper’ as usually with live albums the stories between tracks can quickly become boring; although Olney’s stories are/were actually fabulous … but you get my point?
Personally I only recognised a couple of Olney’s songs here; with quite a few being dusted off from his earlier releases; Always a Stranger/I Miss Someone, Thing Of Beauty and a personal favourite of mine; A Dangerous Man, which does start with David eloquently explaining that the song is about T.E Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia; which I don’t think I previously knew.
So it’s been a beautiful few days of discovery with the staggeringly beautiful Take Me With You (When You’re Gone); the prescient Always a Stranger a Refugee and the stunning co-write with RMHQ favourite Kim Richey; Love Is being new to my ears, but now carefully put away for a day when I simply need to hear them again.
As always; David casually drops in some covers to his set; some more obvious than others of course; with no surprises that the set closes with his version of Townes Van Zandt’s For The Sake of The Song; but who among us would expect to hear The Zombie’s 1960’s Hit She’s Not There being seamlessly included inside Stand Tall?
Not many; but it works a whole lot better than it should.
With so many great songs to choose from; I’ve settled on three to find one winner.
I doubt I’ve ever heard a bad rendition of John Prine’s Speed of The Sound of Loneliness; but here David Olney digs deep into the crevices of the heart of the song and squeezes your heartstrings until you can hardly draw breath.
David unleashes his inner Folk Troubadour with Situation/Don’t Try to Fight It and with the cracks in his voice at the fore; this isn’t in any way ‘easy listening’ in any way ….. but I love it anyway.
A lot easier on the ear is Two Bit Hood; a modernish tale not too far away from the Bonnie and Clyde story as if written by Tom Waits; and here David brings it up to date with two unnamed characters living outside the law; a low-rent girl and the Two Bit Hood himself ….. and in my humble opinion one of the finest works he’s ever produced; making it my Favourite Song on a rather exceptional album.

Released May 13th 2022


MARGO CILKER at The Cluny, Newcastle

Margo Cilker
The Cluny
Newcastle Upon Tyne
8th May 2022

After having the pleasure of reviewing Margo Cilker’s ‘Pohorylle’ several months ago, I was delighted to be invited to do a review of her Cluny gig this week.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as the album had the benefit of a superb backing group – a veritable ‘who’s who’ in the American Americana field – whereas her UK tour was as a plain and simple solo act.

After a very well delivered opening set from a young girl who was knew to me, Mauis Mollis, (give her a listen) Margo arrived to announce this would be ‘Pohorylle and a few bits and bobs’ so that was me already happy.

Opening with ‘That River’ any concerns I had about her going solo just disappeared as this was just like the album and delivered with her very soothing vocal. Each track was followed by a very amusing and entertaining footnote about the track or the circumstances around the writing of it.

The vagaries of the USA Health System
‘an ambulance call costs about $20,000
was the background to the true story of ‘Broken Arm in Oregon’ with Margo having been the injured party who then had to ride her horse back home to be treated!

Intimate venues like The Cluny can often disappoint when the act doesn’t get the audience on side early in the set, but there was no chance of that here as Margo just drifted from track to story to track like a seasoned performer.

She delivered what she referred to as ‘the breakfast trio’ which dealt with songs about food in general in various States and breakfast in particular – it doesn’t sound very amusing but here, it drew several laughs from an attentive audience as Margo had them ‘eating out of her hands’.

Highlights to me were ‘Tehachapi’ and ‘Brother, Taxman, Preacher’ as much for the linked stories as for the actual album tracks.

60 plus minutes that seemed to fly over before several joined the queue for merchandise with everyone getting the opportunity to chat to her for a few minutes.

After spells in the UK and The Basque Country (not to be confused with Spain!!) she was clearly enjoying her UK Tour and I would guess she might be back soon once her next album is released.

What we would refer to in North East parlance as a ‘proper canny night’.

Review by the Legendary Bill Redhead

Benjamin Adair Murphy OLD CHORDS

Benjamin Adair Murphy
Old Chords
Self Release

Straight Up Sparse Lo-Fi Americana/Folk-Rock That’s Full of Smart Melodies and a Desperado Guitar.

Not as dangerous as his earlier release, Let’s Make a King, yet recorded during the same sessions, the six songs that make up the EP Old Chords are straight up Americana/Folk-Rock full of smart melodies and tight, sparse arrangements.
Recorded in studios as varied as Tel Aviv, Brooklyn, and New Mexico, the production by Israeli-American musician Roy Gurel, serves the songs well with lap steel, guitar, organ, and a deep dark bass guitar.
Murphy himself is in fine voice throughout these tunes, and he sounds as if he’s having fun letting loose from the seriousness of Let’s Make a King.
The title track, “Old Chords,” one of the two songs voiced by Allison Langerak, who played with Murphy in the band Blue Eighty-Eights, is a Country ballad where the narrator seems to be looking for peace in the familiar, even though it’s repeating the past that keeps one’s heart broken.
Spacious layers of lap steel, add to the unsettled-ness of the song.
“That Ain’t Nothin'” brings together a desperado guitar and some sparse percussion to tell the story of someone just glad to have gotten by this far, despite the hardships they’ve faced.
Some days we focus on the things we want,
more than the things we have,
while the lap steel and the organ give a sense of triumph.
“The One I’m Waiting On” is a bit swampier and mournful, the busy bass adding to the restlessness of the narrator.
“Get Out of Here” Is the album closer, but would also have made a great opener with it’s story of woe and hopefulness, the combination of guitar and bass conveying the feel of a man walking away from everything bad that ever happened to him, and not sure what’s next.
This EP by Murphy and friends is a sweet Country sidestep from his last album.
Maybe he can mix it up on the next one?
A bit of danger, mixed with a dab of honey could be a good thing.

Review by the Legendary Roy Peak


Martin Stephenson & The Goodwill Trio LIVE IN MIDDLESBROUGH.

Martin Stephenson and The Goodwill Trio
Westgarth Social Club
Saturday 30th April 2022

I have to confess that I’m not normally crazy enough to undertake a 5 hour drive for a gig these days, but this is no ordinary night.
In the oasis of a North Eastern Social Club’s retro stage room, making its mark over the past few years for live music, I am settling in to my maiden visit to Middlesbrough and the very first time seeing The Goodwill Trio perform together.
If you have read the RMHQ review of their Goodwill Factory album then you’ll be one step ahead to understanding why I’m here: this ensemble has an irresistible fun undercurrent driving their obvious musical talents.
So, despite seeing Mr Stephenson numerous times both solo and with The Daintees, my gut feeling is that it’s gonna be worth the miles to catch this one too.

First up is a sturdy support slot by the London based guitar driven Indie Americana band Modern Hinterland. Fair play, the audience were seated bang on time; as the band launch into their set.
Happy to be playing live again, frontman and guitarist Chris Hornsby eases in, this gig has been in the pipeline for two years: a clear reminder that for artists & audiences alike, things are only just returning to “normal”.
Joined on stage by Simon Shippey who seems to effortlessly flit between keys, guitar and B/V’s (and operate a vast array of pedals!) plus Tim Thackray on bass and B/V’s, for me some of the best moments are when they are all harmonizing together, along with the thundering drumming of John Singh. Standout tracks are No Escape from their 2021 album Diving Bell, with it’s bright, anthemic guitar riff mixed with a hooky chorus and Where Do You Go which combines punkier influences with the aforementioned vocals sprinkling some Californian sunshine around the room.

The half time bell and on the move it’s downright impossible not to get caught up in the current of the friendly, family vibe buzzing around the place, whether it’s a trip to the facilities or the bar, it seems that everyone wants a chat including the trio as they take to the stage: Martin Stephenson’s well-renowned humorous banter kicks off the main event, immediately and delightfully bouncing off his co-players, guitarist Rupert Hughes and on fiddle Niles Krieger.
Everyone totally relaxed on and off the stage in a millisecond it seems, Martin opens the set with Long Forgotten, a fine track from Beyond The Leap, Beyond The Law. I should always remember to remember (!) that without any warning this artist has the ability to sweep you from belly laughing to tugging at any manner of deeply rooted emotions in a hair’s breadth by the power of his songs.
The rich bright sound from just the three instruments echo round the room, as Niles’s fiddle swoops and blissfully dances with the guitars, I glance round to note that everyone is paying attention.
It’s a song I know very well and this has to be one of the best versions of it to date.

It is followed closely by the seriously heart-tugging track, The Sad Tale Of Joe McCue written about a local boy who committed suicide age 19.
Although penned when only aged 14, it took until Martin turned 30 to be in the right space to finally record it; and when performed, just like tonight, it always demonstrates why he is a master of emotional storytelling.

There is a very endearing impromptu feel to the set, customary at Martin’s solo gigs given the huge back catalogue at his fingertips, and tonight the mischievous banter between the trio just adds to the entertainment as it seems that Rupert and Niles, just like us, have no idea what is coming next.
It happens to be one from their album, the riotous punky track New Wave Dave.
A whole heap of frenzied fun live, it has to be one of my favourite moments of the evening with raucous B/V’s, and Niles creating a new genre of anarchic bluegrass fiddle.
As Martin reminds us “Nice is the new nasty!”

Next is a flurry of crowd-pleasing classics, The Daintees anti-Thatcher song Left Us To Burn contains a humorous musical answer & response between Martin and Niles and a really funked up version of The Lilac Tree, complete with a rousing harmonica solo by Rupert, gets me trying to perfect my “sitting down but still trying to dance” technique.

The highlights of the evening?
Home, a moving tribute to Martin’s late Mother, is always one to get emotions running high but tonight with Niles’s contribution, the fiddle adds even more nostalgic layers to the song.
The Little Red Bottle is always up there for me too but tonight I was really moved by the wondrously serene Map Of The World, Martin’s soulful vocals accompanied with a shimmering fingerpicking solo from Rupert.

Almost at the finish line and the Goodwill feeling ripples even more from the stage to the audience with singing participation duties on Time for Jesus and an off-piste walkabout to Cannonball Rag.
By this point in the evening, Martin has transformed the room into one full of old friends, such is his gift of connectivity.

To close the show, his partner singer-songwriter Anna Lavigne is invited to join them on stage.
Her last album Roses For The Ride was much loved by The Rocking Magpie and tonight they sing Signposts To Heaven, an exceptional, reflective song from the album Thomasina.
It brings the whole band together, the fiddle, guitars and the two vocals blended gorgeously singing “The heart is where the wisdom can be found.”

Yes, before you ask me, it was worth every mile……knowing that Rupert and Niles are also busy with their folk & bluegrass group The Often Herd; and Martin with the much loved Daintees, all I can advise is that if The Goodwill Trio happen to pop up at a venue nearby, catch them whilst you can.

Review by Anita Joyce


Ian Siegal
Stone By Stone
Grow Vision Records

Digging Deep and Colouring Outside the Edges on a Modern Blues Classic.

While he’s previously released 13 other albums, I hope it’s fair to say that Ian Siegal is probably better known for his brilliant and passionate live shows; from pub backrooms through the main stage of International Festivals; that have gone down in history over the last 20+ years.
That said; the four albums I own ain’t got nothing wrong with them at all; and each one has managed to entertain me in the car or office many times over the years ….. and (Spoiler Alert!) this one will too.
STONE BY STONE starts with the ramshackle, Gospel tinged Working On a Building which sounds like it’s ‘Live Cut’ and will certainly catch your attention; especially that razor sharp geetar in the background.
Siegal’s ‘type of Blues’ straddles many formulas and he brings a freshness to each and every song that you probably weren’t expecting …… and I’m thinking especially of the Country-Blues infused The Fear as well as his pained rendition of Psycho (that I first heard by Elvis Costello on Almost Blue) and especially This Heart which sounds like Ian had been listening to a lot of Robert Johnson on the build up to recording day.
Fans like me fawn over Siegal’s exquisite guitar picking; yet the ‘experts’ in the mainstream sort of ignore him …… which is their loss and our gain; when you dissect the intimate and raw K.K’s Blues and Holler which are both very good songs made great by the inclusion of the the stupendous yet understated guitar in the background.
As we would normally expect from an Ian Siegal; there’s a lot of heartbreak in his songs; and he describes it in a manner multi-award winning songwriters and singers can only dream of on Gathering Deep and Onwards and Upwards, which closes the record in a jaunty manner.
Not for the first time and no doubt, not the last I’m torn between two fabulous and fabulously different songs for my selection of Favourite Song.
I’m The Shit, sounds like something Tom Waits could have written; but didn’t and while slightly tongue in cheek; Ian Siegal digs deep and colours outside the edges on a song about living on the edge and in the shadows.
Then there is Hand In Hand, which just may be one of the finest songs that Ian has ever recorded; not least because of the lyrics but the duet with the mighty Shemekia Copeland who takes on the guise of Aretha in her ‘Gospel mode’ and the result is absolutely stupendous …. and far too good to be ignored by national radio.
It’s not just Ian Siegal’s distinctive voice and/or guitar playing that makes this album a winner; but the crisp production actually makes him sound ‘as live’ and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the sequencing is almost perfect; easing us through a gentle rollercoaster of adult emotions; the likes of which we rarely hear.

Released April 29th 2022


Sarah Jane Nelson SHELBY PARK

Sarah Jane Nelson
Shelby Park
Self Released

Deep, Dark Classic Country Tales With a Biting Contemporary Americana Edge.

I remember playing Sarah Jane Nelson’s last album I’M NOT BROKEN and being so excited about it I actually sent Mrs Magpie a text at work, to prime her for what I would be playing these Countrytastic tales of woe, break-up’s and cheatin’ for her when she arrived home ….. I’m a romantic like that.
It appears not a lot has changed in Ms Nelson’s life in the intervening months; although some of the subject matter this time is even deeper and darker yet still played out to some fantastic Country melodies and tunes.
Sarah lulls you into a false sense of security with opening track Drive; although the mood setting is on the sombre side; that still doesn’t really prepare you for the story that unfolds like a rose in late Springtime; no doubt leaving you open mouthed as the story plays out.
That’s the joy of Sarah Jane Nelson’s songwriting; in many ways, she’s ‘old school’ Country as she actually tells a full story in under five minutes; just like the singers she grew up listening to and learning from …. Dolly, Loretta, Wynonna, and Mary Chapin Carpenter too. 
As I’m prone to saying; “There’s not many laughs here” …. but that’s not the point, is it? These are the opposite of Blue Collar Working Man songs; Sarah writes about and for that guy’s wife and/or girlfriend …… with the Twangtastic Cuddle Up being about the problems ladies have finding lurve the second (or third ) time around; while Worth The Wait could be the same woman a year or so later; knocked down …. but never knocked out.
Just like her idols before her in Country Music; Sarah Jane really can cut to the quick in her songs; bringing a stark honesty to I Wish I Missed You More and the powerful Tired in a way that you probably don’t hear on Country Radio anymore; but should.
This might sound a touch odd on a Country album; but the beautifully tragic Boat on The Shore is made even sadder by the inclusion of some really plaintiff and funereal Celtic fiddle that alone will send a shiver down your spine; and that’s without Sarah’s voice which simply oozes heartbreak as she sings about what many of us feel, not living out our dreams.
The album is rounded off with a little ray of sunshine; via Mama Loves You; an adage we should all remember regardless of how far we push them …… they are always waiting in the shadows to save you when you fall.
Then of course there is my selection of a Favourite Song.
For the last four days it was going to be the title track Shelby Park; probably more Alt. than everything else here; as it owes more to the contemporary writing of Beth Neilsen Chapman, Gretchen Peters or (my personal favourite) Eve Selis; than the writers of old.
But tonight; I’m going to be as brave as Sarah for writing the song and all the brave females of all ages and creeds that have suffered like the character in the harrowing Smile Pretty.
Honestly, I listen to 6 or 7 new albums every single week of the year and just when I thought that I’d ‘heard it all’ along comes this tale …. phew …… the intensity of the music hardly masks the compelling and dynamic story of sexual abuse; that is far too common yet still hidden from public view because of the shame too many women and girls think they have brought on themselves.
I love the way Sarah Jane Nelson has used the Classic Country template to tell her stories; and added a razor sharp Contemporary Alt./Americana edge to bring them right up to date; and that’s one mighty big trick to pull off …. but she’s done it with consummate ease … and grace too.

Released 29th April



Lynne Hanson
Ice Cream in November
Panda Cave Records

Ottawa Singer-Songwriter Expands Her Musical Vocabulary to Fine Effect

No stranger to the UK Americana touring circuit, Canadian Lynne Hanson has recently brought this album to these shores along with multi-instrumentalist Blair Michael Hogan – and it’s that partnership which dominates this, her (checks fingers) eighth release since 2006.
In the live setting, Hanson’s guitar and vocals have been abetted by Logan’s guitar pyrotechnics and sampled, foot-controlled sounds and drums, which flesh the sound out to something way beyond your normal expectations of a duo – on record, technology also plays its part in this largely home-recorded opus to create a hugely rewarding cornucopia of textures and Twang …. with a capital T.

Opener “Shadowland” is a rabble-rousing fast Twangy shuffle that features towards the end of the current live set – and no surprise – it’s one of those energetic Jesse Dayton-esque Twangers that’s a perfect top or tailer with it’s
Jump! How High? Jump! How low?” audience participatory chorus.
“Hip like Cohen” uses dry humour
I was such a great dancer – when I was three…
to demarcate the desire to keep creating in pursuit of an ideal, whereas the title track “Ice Cream in November” which follows, takes a more melancholy reflective path with its reverb-washed guitar and electronic rhythm figures, framing a delicate, soulful melody.

“Hundred Mile Wind” drifts nicely into Spaghetti Western territory and would fit perfectly on a playlist with anything off the current Dean Owens’ “Sinner’s Shrine”.
“Orion’s Belt”, however, takes a swerve into confessional ballad territory before “Birds Without a Feather” evokes a bluesy chain gang groove with its gritty saturated vocal, thumping kick drum and distorted harmonica.
“Dominoes” heads back down South into Mexican musical territory with its Twang, stirring strings and sentiment that
Hearts like dominoes/lined up in a row/all fall down”.

Lynne Hanson declared, in the accompanying bio that she was looking to spread her musical wings on this release – and that pursuit is furthered on “In On a Wing” which hangs out in moments of 80’s Indie territory, with swirly synths and some “? and the Mysterians” keys too.
It’s not a heavy-handed “look at my new instruments” moment though – the arrangements and production add interesting variety and dynamics to both the song and the album.
“One of Those Days” takes this a step or two further still – imagine if Electronica/New Order had grown up in Ottawa instead of North Cheshire and they’d probably have come up with something like this.

“Puzzle Pieces” which follows, drops back into ballad-esque twang-land and lovely it is too.
“Le Bon Moment”, sung entirely in French musically sounds like something that Serge Gainsbourg would have gifted to one of his gamine objects of desire – I’ve no idea if lyrically that’s the case, but it’s got that sort of sultry feel from the vocal and arrangement – which is fine by me.
Closing track “This Heart of Mine” mixes several of the album’s musical influences – shifting major/minor chord figures help to create a 70’s Country-Soul feel that delivers a gentle lead-off to things.

“Ice Cream in November” does indeed take Lynne Hanson into newer musical areas and very successfully too – at its core, the music and sentiments stand up as a coherent whole, with the choices of musical accompaniment being both impactful yet sensitive to the songs.
If you missed her recent UK tour, more fool you – this is a performer very much on a creative upsurge.

Review by Nick Barber
Released April 22nd 2022


Paul J Bolger HARD TRUTH

Paul J Bolger
Hard Truth

Celtic Rock Meets Indie in a Newry Honky Tonk.

I’ve been doing this reviewing malarkey for about 15 years now; and each and every year I think ‘it doesn’t get better than this’ for releases; yet when the following year gets going ….. it just gets better and better!
Regular readers already know that we still get excited about new music from acts we’ve not heard of before …. and that’s where this album by Irish filmmaker, artist, writer and musician Paul J Bolger comes in to the equation.
Personally I actually feel sorry for friends and family who claim to be ‘music fans’ but never look beyond Gold/Hits Radio and looky-likey covers bands; with a once a year trip to an Arena or a big field to see acts that they grew up listening to in their teenage years.
They are missing out on some fabulous new music from acts like Paul J Bolger.
I was hooked right from opening track The Start of It; slightly Wellerish in construction this bouncy song about a misfiring new relationship has ‘Hit’ writ large on it; had this been the 1990’s!
Be under no illusions though; Bolger isn’t living in the past at all; just that song and a couple of others later on (Testify and Different Sky?) have a cutting Indie edge to them; but the slight warble in the singer’s voice means the exact same songs wouldn’t be out of place in an Austin Bar on a Saturday night as well as a concert hall in the city nearest you too.
Speaking of the punchy Testify; the opening verse is an absolute belter!
As the crunchy electric guitar tries to ‘blow the speakers’ Bolger growls …….
Heading down the highway
I’m a living cliche
You’d think I’d know better
Now my hair’s gone grey
Ain’t that the way of the world for me and you?
There’s a freshness to Bolger’s songs and the production here that makes the album perfect driving music; or when Summer finally arrives, a soundtrack to a party in the back garden.
I can’t think of a better way to listen to Godforsaken and/or Different Sky than driving along with the top down (or actually the car windows down!), sunny’s on and the wind in my hair … imagine The Doobie Brothers if they’d been from Waterford instead of San Jose!
Bolger certainly isn’t afraid of a melody or a chorus; as those songs prove ….. but he’s also well capable of drawing on his Irish background to go all deep, mysterious and darkly romantic on the title track HARD TRUTH, the totally beauteous Lady Love & The Cavalier, as well as See Love Shine and Believe You Me; which all tap into the romantic Celtic Rock made famous by Horslips and even Phillip Lynott many moons ago.
While the whole album is aimed at the ‘everyman’ in us all; a couple of songs hit me in the heart like silver bullets the first time I heard them; album closer Not Too Long a Walk; again has a hint of Weller circa Stanley Road and Bolger’s words and construction build the tension like a coiled spring; and the ghostly female harmonies on the chorus have to be heard to be believed!
The other, is a love song; the likes of which I’ve not really heard for a long time; as it’s directed to the woman who actually shares his bed …… not an unrequited love, not a bittersweet love; not a breakup song; just your age old boy meets girl, falls in love ….. stay together kind of love song; and the guitar/bass interplay alongside some mighty impressive drumming make this a definite ‘keeper’ and my absolute Favourite Track here is ight Of My Life.
It’s difficult to pinpoint Paul J Bolger’s ‘style’ or more importantly where a record shop would place this in their racks.
If he wasn’t Irish and the album recorded in Northern Ireland with only Irish musicians; it would probably slip into the Americana section; and the inclusion of a banjo here and there means it wouldn’t really be out of place in Alt. Country too; but that all pervading Indie sensibility that runs through like a gold thread can’t be ignored …. so does that make it Alt. Indie? Indie Country? Indie Celtic? Rustic Indie?
That no longer matters though; does it these days?
In my collection, it’s going to sit on the shelf with Paul Weller, Bryan Adams and Lucinda Williams …. and I think it will be very comfortable there.

Released April 29th 2022




Alice DiMicele
Every Seed We Plant
Alice Otter Music

Distinctly Americana and Folk at Heart But Intricately Swathed in Honeyed Soul Too.

For a musician with a 30 year career, 14 albums and a further 5 compilations, I’m embarrassed to tell you I have only heard one before; SWIM which I favourably reviewed in 2015.
In my defence that probably makes me the ideal candidate to review; this …. her latest release as I have no (or not many) preconceived opinions.
There’s a deceptive depth to the fabulous opening track, the love song For Granted; which sounds not unlike Dusty Springfield fronting R.E.M …. as it’s distinctly Americana at heart but swathed in honeyed Soul, which is most likely set to make even the toughest of tough guys and gals, simply swoon when they hear it for the first time.
That’s one of the many joys you will get from this particular record; songs with melodies that will please you, surprise you and most definitely make you think about the actual content of Alice’s words and articulate stories.
There’s an unequivocal maturity to the writing in songs like Free, the heartbreaking Sweet Elaine and the gentle acoustic sounds of Communication too; with the listener being taken deep into the hearts of the characters involved.
While there’s a variety of light and shade across this group of songs; there’s also a melancholia in the punchy and biographical Jersey and; earlier the intricate Long Dry Winter that’s actually worthy of Leonard Cohen at his most intimate and poetic … seriously.
I’ve only played EVERY SEED WE PLANT four or five times now; and (especially on headphones) I’m still discovering new things hidden in the grooves and regularly masked by winding melodies; with the delightful Sunrise and with Communication; I can’t help but think it could easily be a Springsteen song circa Nebraska ….. such is the quality of Alice DiMicele’s songwriting not just on this one song; but all of the others too.
Selecting one song out of these 11 was never going to an easy task; though the title track Every Seed is absolutely stunning and a ‘song of our times’ in many ways; plus when you know the backstory you will surely listen with moist eyes; as Alice wrote it on the way to a memorial for her mentor, dear friend and elder of the Takelma Tribe, Agnes Pilgrim Baker.
 “It was written on the way to Grandma Aggie’s memorial. The song overtook me, flowed out of me like Grandma was there guiding me. I wrote it, played it once, then sang it that day for her family and friends.”
It’s purely personal and another one of those songs that come along ‘right time/right place’ to grab you by the heartstrings and leave you sitting in awe of such a magnificent talent; and that song is Rise; which again thinking of Leonard Cohen as it again in the half light.
I have no idea where this album fits in Alice’s pantheon of work; as I know so little about her past releases …. but if there’s even one better than this someone please tell me; because I need to hear it ASAP!!

Released April 22nd 2022


Susan Cattaneo ALL IS QUIET

Susan Cattaneo
All Is Quiet
Continental Song City

A Warm and Gentle Boston Voice with a Loud Message

Boston’s Susan Cattaneo ( Pronounced kah-TAH-nay-oh – thanks press release!) is new to this reviewer so I approached this album with no preconceptions or expectations whatsoever.
Much lauded in her home state and city, it’s not difficult to hear why that’s the case.
These nine new songs, birthed at the start of the pandemic, reveal a thoughtful and literate voice.

The title track kicks things off – “inhibition’s become my new religion” there’s a musing on the enforced isolation of pandemic times, which in turn is a metaphor for any solitary life and its purpose and function. Musically, it’s all very tasteful arranged around beautifully produced acoustic and electric guitar.
“Time + Love + Gravity” which follows ruminates about the “emptiness between you and me” and the effect of time and experience on relationships.
Staccato guitar rhythm throughout is like the ticking of a clock which incessantly moves things onwards.

“Borrowed Blue” drops the tempo down into finger-picking territory; and is a consideration of the effect of the maternal gene line of mothers and daughters, especially in terms of the continuation of melancholy down the family line.
Alliteratively, “Blackbirds” follows and lyrically is less direct, combining dream, metaphor and fable into a mystical exploration of relationships.

“Broken Things” (lots of tracks start with “B”!) takes pastoral imagery to explore “the beauty in broken things” – whether that is the natural world, or the beauty in a relationship that has had its rough moments – it’s a lyrical/musical version of that scene in the film “American Beauty” where the camera follows a carrier bag tossed by the wind.

“Diamond Days” also explores the inherent duality of roughness and value/beauty and how the growth of worth and beauty is a slow process through the central metaphor of the formation of a diamond. Jangling, warm production again fleshes out the gentle vocal.

There’s a bit more of a minor musical shift on “No Hearts Here” which explores emotional emptiness and the illusion of feeling, whereas “Hold Onto Hope” takes a more optimistic and gentle path, despite life’s peaks and troughs – it’s one of the quieter tracks to begin with, but swells into more celebratory areas in the life-reaffirming mantra of the chorus – it’s positive, radio-friendly and balances uncertainty and strength, especially in the vocal delivery.

“Follow”, which draws things to a conclusion starts with tick-tock picking high up the frets and, interspersed with sharp strums and warm picking and provides a note of hope and resolution.

Susan Cattaneo’s gentle and warm songs reach out on this album to the experiences of many, way beyond her geographical hub – she deserves to be heard more widely and hopefully “All Is quiet” will do the trick.

Review by Nick Barber
Released 8th April 2022