Mike Farris at Jumpin' Hot Club, Newcastle

Mike Farris
Jumpin’ Hot Club
Live Theatre
Thursday 16th January 2020

For a variety of reasons; (both work and health) my Gig Going Mojo left me in late 2017; meaning I’ve only been to a handful in those last two years.
This made tonight a ‘big deal’; as even though I implicitly trust promoters Jumpin’ Hot Club, I’d never heard a note from Mike Farris until Thursday morning when I checked him out on You Tube.
Plus; the gig; in the larger theatre room at Live Theatre had completely Sold Out two weeks previously and there was a waiting list for ‘returns’ …… so an expedition was in order.
The support act was being introduced as I chatted to some friends and my ears immediatly pricked up; did they just say ‘Martin Fletcher’? Oh yes Shipcote did!
FYI many years ago Martin was the harmonica player in a local band called the Blues Burglars who were as good a live band as I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen some megastars!
Tonight Martin was accompanied by singer-songwriter Chris James and the duo regaled us with 40 minutes of ‘Bastardised Blues Classics’ plus a couple of Chris’s own compositions.
The first of these own compositions, was the duo’s ‘Internet Hit’ (147,000 views and counting on FB) Simple Man, which was from the Folkier side of the Blues and I easily realised why so many people would like it; even though Chris forgot the words halfway through!
The set flew by; with Fletcher sounding every bit as brilliant as I’d remembered, with his assortment of harmonicas plus he even got to sing a rather racy Charlie Musselwhite song; but the night really belonged to the languid Chris James and his intricate guitar picking and super-smooth vocals.

Well; I said the ‘night belonged to Chris James’ ……. that was before I saw Mike Farris!
There was a genuine air of excitement in the hall as the band filtered on stage and ‘got a groove going’ and I ain’t heard a roar like it at a gig for years; when Farris made his appearance!
Looking every inch the Rock Star with his jet-black quiff; shades, split knee jeans, biker boots and a sporty leather jacket, he immediatly strapped on a big ole black Gibson with an obligatory Bigsby and blasted into *Message of Love, which his adoring fans instantly recognised.
On the next song he dispensed with the geetar and stalked the stage dragging the mic stand behind him, like many of the Great Soul singers that have obviously influenced him over the years.
The influences didn’t stop there; as while Mike Farris can write a cracking song, certainly has a fabulously distinctive voice and singing style; his choice of covers at the end of the gig were outstanding; a Tom Petty song then Jimmie Rodgers T for Texas and Mary Gauthier’s A Little Mercy Now bringing the house down; and the encore of Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain being not just a surprise but a highlight too.
In between Farris and band rocked the joint like it was their birth-rite; using the ubiquitous ‘call and response’ several times, much to the delight of the hordes of people who had made their way South from the quaint fishing village of Ashington in Northumberland; who had seen him play locally the year before and seemed very excited and excitable all evening; especially when Mike mentioned the difference in local dialects. (Cos they talk right funny up there!)
I was won over very early on; but during his acoustic set in the middle realised I was watching a very clever and professional act that could adapt at will.
One of the joys of Live Music is seeing something no one else will ever see, as every gig is different. Tonight; one of the highlights was when Mike told a story of playing a Charity Gig in Guildford, Southern England earlier in the week and seeing and meeting one of his childhood heroes, Rod Argent and discovering the delights of Andy Fairweather-Low ……… I love the fact that Farris can still get excited about discovering new music at this stage of his own career.
If there was one of his songs that stood out for me, it was Tennessee Girl, a genuine love song written for and about hid delightful wife who was standing at the back watching her husband perform; with a smile on her face all night long.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, for a boy from Tennessee; but this was a clever and very impressive mix of Blues, Gospel, Soul, Country and a hefty dose of Southern Rock that combined to create Mike Farris’s very own, and very enjoyable ‘style’.
Now to find a couple of his albums.

*Message of Love? As I didn’t actually know any of the songs I just picked up on the main lines of the choruses!

Val Starr & The Blues Rockets LIGHTER SIDE OF THE BLUES

Val Starr & The Blues Rockets
Sandwich Factory Records

Genre-Straddling Rocking Blues with a Heart Full O’ Soul

This little gem very nearly got missed because it arrived very late; because of the ‘Christmas Post’ and; cough …….. the actual cover artwork isn’t too inspiring, so it kept getting passed over.
But; and again it’s only thanks to my trusty I-Phone ‘shuffle’ that it came to light last week on a cold and windswept midnight drive home from work.
I will come to the song that caught my attention later, as it’s now a contender for Favourite Song status; which is quite something on this quite eclectic bunch of self-penned songs from California’s Valerie Starr Ellis and Company.
As we all know, ‘The Blues’ comes in many hues and now I’ve played this album half a dozen times, Val Starr doesn’t just blur the Blues lines but injects more than a smidgen of Soulful Jazz too in several of the arrangements; starting with opening track Say Goodbye to The Blues (Like You Mean It); which sweeps, swoops and swings like Dinah Washington or perhaps Koko Taylor fronting the Stax House Band on a steamy Friday night!
The guitar intro to the next song, Sactown Heat is so cool I got a shiver down my back the first time I heard it; and when Val smoothly joins the ‘beat’ you know you are not just listening to a ‘special song’ but a Special singer and band too.
I don’t get to hear as many albums as you’d expect where the band can crank up the tempo at will and never sound like they are trying to outshine the vocalist’ and The Blues Rocket manage that with great aplomb; most memorably on the sultry Can’t Get Sad Tonight and the track that initially caught my attention; 24 Hour Blues; which adds a nice touch of Spector-lite pop to the melody as Val drops a few musical time-bombs in her lyrics.
There are plenty of songs here that deserve a big video to run alongside them; with All or Nuthin’ Man being set in a sleazy nightclub at closing time; and for the crunchy and contemporary Shame on You it should be a parody of Some Like it Hot, with Val playing Marilyn of course.
While The Blues Rocket seamlessly play about with genre-defying melodies The Blues in every shape and form are never far away; as the titles make clear; Lighter Side Of The Blues and The Blues Don’t Pick or Choose with it’s soul piercing sax solo are both as timeless as their titles suggest; but don’t particularly sound like any songs I can think of.
As well as 24 Hour Blues; two other songs really stand out from a fascinating bunch of songs; Big Boss Man (#MeToo) find’s Val Starr bringing this Classic song right up to date with a very clever; and literal 21st Century twist to it; but my actual Favourite Song (by a whisker) is If She Can Get a Man (Anyone Can); which is a good ole stomper but with added spice and sass in the style of both Denise LaSalle or Barbara Carr; whom I adore.
So; there we have it ……… another little musical gem that I’ve found for you ….. enjoy and buy …. don’t Spotify!

Released January 2nd 2020

Waylon Thibodeaux HERE WE GO AGAIN

Waylon Thibodeaux
Rabadash Records

South Louisiana Swamp Rock With Some Bodacious Fiddle Playing.

I don’t know if this is going to be ‘thing’ in 2020 but this album is the second one of the year claiming to be ‘the sound of South Louisiana’ and while both are as disparate as is possible; both have the same ‘Musical Gumbo’ at their hearts,
The title track Here We Go Again opens proceedings, and the hirsute Louisiana fiddle player extraordinaire and singer throws down a marker that shows he means business. For the uninitiated (like me) this song; and the rest that follow is a veritable musical hybrid that sounds a bit Charlie Daniels Band, a bit ZZ Top and a big bit Bob Wills all with a sprinkling of Dr John and eventually filtered through the Meters!
While the lyrics can be a bit edgy and topical; Thibodeaux certainly knows how to show us a good time on Fail, Fail, Fail and Way Down South; both of which will have you swiggin’ your beer down so you can get on the dancefloor.
While I can sense that there is a Bluesy core to I’m Stuck With The Blues Again and Our Life’s another Blues Song; it would have to be the type of Blues you hear; or ‘dream of hearing’ on Beale Street or Bourbon Street when the covers bands have gone home.
It appears that Waylon Thibodeaux has been around for a good few years now; and that comes across in not just the professionalism that oozes out of every groove and line; but in the way he is making music that appeals to him and not the guys in grey suits that determine what gets played on the radio; not that these songs don’t deserve airplay ….. they do; and that’s the problem.
Even this early in the year I can get a bit jaded by playing albums that are formulaic; but this album is the antidote!
How can anyone not tap their toes to Riverboat song and smile when the fiddle emulates the steamboat whistle? And it’s not too shabby a love song either.
Speaking of which When Love Comes Back is an absolute sizzler of a Southern Rock love song; and will have crowds of all sizes dancing and waving their arms in the air whenever they play it live.
Even though I adore Smoke Signals; I’m going a bit left of centre with my selection for Favourite Track, Don’t You Make Me Put My Fiddle Down; as it’s a sad ole love ballad and features some of the most haunting vocals and fiddle playing I’ve heard in many a year; and I’m not particularly a fiddle lover.
I hope Waylon Thibodeaux is the Sound of South Louisiana; because that means there are more down there just like him……. and the world will be a better place for that..

Released January 17th 2019

Margo Price STONE ME (Single)

Margo Price
Stone Me (Single)
Lorna Vista Recordings

Just like you, I guess …… I had no idea a new single or album was even in the offing, so this was a pretty damn exciting find earlier today in my ‘in box’.

Margo performed the song on Wednesday night on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, capping a special episode of the show with the bold proclamation:

Love me, hate me
Desecrate me
Call me a bitch
then call me baby
You don’t know me
You don’t own me
Yeah that’s no way
To stone me

Margo says, “After what feels like an eternity, I’m releasing a new song into the wild today. It’s been hard to keep everything I’ve been working on for the last year to myself and I’m so excited to share it.”

Rory Gallagher CHECK SHIRT WIZARD (Live in '77)

Rory Gallagher
Check Shirt Wizard (Live in ’77)

Available on 2CD / 3LP / Digital HD / Digital Standard

Pre-Order the album from https://RoryGallagher.lnk.to/CSW

Following on from the highly successful ‘BLUES’ album, Chess/UMC are proud to be releasing ‘Check Shirt Wizard- Live In ‘77’. The album is available to pre-order from https://RoryGallagher.lnk.to/CSW.

This 20-song, previously unreleased, set is culled from four shows (London, Brighton, Sheffield and Newcastle) during an early 1977 tour across the UK in support of Rory’s then latest album ‘Calling Card’. Featuring fantastic live versions of tracks from that album as well as songs from the 1975 ‘Against The Grain’ album and other live favourites.

This new album has been mixed from the original multi track tapes from the Rory archive, which were recorded by the Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull’s mobile studios and mastered at Abbey Road.

Rory Gallagher’s most popular albums have always been his live ones, such as ‘Live! In Europe’, ‘Irish Tour ’74’ and Stage Struck. He was an artist that came alive when onstage and this album covers a previously undocumented live period. “The whole concert was taped on the Jethro Tull Maison Rouge mobile by the way, and from where I was standing that concert on record would surpass the classic “Live in Europe” album. And that’s saying a lot.” Brian Harrigan Melody Maker – 1977, Hammersmith Odeon, London.

The cover painting is by a young Irish graffiti artist Vincent Zara who has stencilled Rory’s image across his home country.

If ever there was a “musician’s musician” then that accolade surely belongs to Rory Gallagher. Renowned for his blistering live performances and highly respected for his dedication to his craft, he died in 1995, aged just 47, yet his reputation has continued to flourish in the years since. Indeed, some of rock’s most seminal figures, from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton, Queen’s Brian May to The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, have cited him as an influence. Rory remains a touchstone for all would-be guitar heroes in the 21st Century.

Track List

1. Do You Read Me (Live From The Brighton Dome, 21st January 1977)
2. Moonchild (Live From The Brighton Dome, 21st January 1977)
3. Bought And Sold (Live From Sheffield City Hall, 17th February 1977)
4. Calling Card (Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, 18th January 1977)
5. Secret Agent (Live From Sheffield City Hall, 17th February 1977)
6. Tattoo’d Lady (Live From The Brighton Dome, 21st January 1977)
7. A Million Miles Away (Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, 18th January 1977)
8. I Take What I Want (Live From Sheffield City Hall, 17th February 1977)
9. Walk On Hot Coals (Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, 18th January 1977)
10. Out On The Western Plain (Live From Sheffield City Hall, 17th February 1977)
11. Barley & Grape Rag (Live From Sheffield City Hall, 17th February 1977)
12. Pistol Slapper Blues (Live From Sheffield City Hall, 17th February 1977)
13. Too Much Alcohol (Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, 18th January 1977)
14. Going To My Hometown (Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, 18th January 1977)
15. Edged In Blue (Live At Newcastle City Hall, 18th February 1977)
16. Jack-Knife Beat (Live At The Hammersmith Odeon, 18th January 1977)
17. Souped-Up Ford (Live From The Brighton Dome, 21st January 1977)
18. Bullfrog Blues (Live From The Brighton Dome, 21st January 1977)
19. Used To Be (Live At Newcastle City Hall, 18th February 1977)
20. Country Mile (Live At Newcastle City Hall, 18th February 1977)



Robert Vincent
In This Town You’re Owned
Thirty Tigers

An Atlantic Crossing Beckons For Our Favourite Liverpudlian.

The much-anticipated new album from Mr Vincent starts with the gentle-paced single “This Town”, easily bearing the ear for melody and sympathetic accompaniment that he’s displayed on earlier releases.
Following this, another single, “My Neighbour’s Ghost” lifts the tempo with echoes of Bo Diddley and Buffalo Springfield on display to create something of a toe-tapper from the Liverpudlian.
“The Kids Don’t Dig God Anymore” might alienate the Bible Belt, because its impassioned low-key gospel energetically spits plenty of fire and fury, as sparse instrumentation – mainly kick and snare with sympathetic fills push the vocal to the fore with a Memphis country soul feel.
Track 4 is “The Ending” – it’s not, but that’s its title – again, the tempo is chilled and there’s a Latin lilt to matters with accordion and shakers – the message is one of uncertainty, but it’s neither optimistic or pessimistic; hence …… “Nobody knows the ending”.
Second single “Conundrum” also tackles the issue of the effects of love and our lasting influence and strikes a note of hope about the world “leave it better off when you go”.
“Husk of a soul” again pares the backing away to move the vocal to the fore and push a narrative about individual strength and is followed by “I Was Hurt Today But I’m Alright Now” another song about emotional resilience and independence.
A further song about endings – “End of the war” brings in the motif of hope after bad times that permeates the album.
“If You Were You” is an ode to self-revelation and being honest to one’s self and a partner and explores the ache for honest emotional connection in a way very few of Vincent’s peers can dream of matching.
The album ends with “Cuckoo” – “forgiveness works in strange ways” – a postulation about the nature of repairing things that have gone wrong. Such almost – dare I say it – religious – themes are laced throughout this album; hope, loss, forgiveness and other matters spiritual, whether linked to a fixed deity or not.
Mature, intelligent writing and playing are on display throughout with a gentle southern country-soul feel that enhances the strong melodies and lyrics that are Robert Vincent’s trademarks. Such quality deserves an audience – the issue – as ever – is going to be putting this music in front of those who will appreciate it in both the UK and; if I’m not mistaken …… the USA too.
Success is almost guaranteed in the UK with this release; but if someone could get RV a USA support tour with the likes of Elvis Costello, John Prine or even Mark Knopfler, he could yet “Do a Yola” across the Atlantic too.

Released UK & USA 14th February
Guest Review by Nick Barber aka EFSB

Lisa Kowalski NO MORE TIME (Single)

Lisa Kowalski

Scottish singer-songwriter Lisa Kowalski came onto our radar with her single I DO in November 2018 and we sat all excited like; waiting for the follow up or; better still a new album.
Sadly things didn’t work out too well in her ‘real life’ and she lost the desire to write or record.
But, you can’t keep a songwriter down for too long …… and, more importantly ……. never upset a songwriter!
Sit back, open your ears …… and your heart; and really listen to this wonderful and powerful song.

Released 31st January 2020


Bruce Springsteen
’18 TRACKS’ 
Columbia/Legacy Recordings

On 21st February, five Bruce Springsteen albums will be released on vinyl for the first time in over a decade by Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings. Together, these releases comprise the vast majority of Bruce Springsteen’s recorded output from the beginning of the millennium – a triumphant period which saw the long-awaited reunion of the E Street Band.
Each album has been transferred from the original source masters, allowing for the highest quality pressings possible. 
* ‘The Rising’ (2002) will be reissued on 2LP vinyl for the first time in over 15 years. The album offered messages of healing and redemption in the wake of the devastating attacks on 9/11, and saw The E Street Band re-unite in the studio for the first time in nearly a decade. 
* ‘Devils & Dust’ (2005) comes to vinyl for the first time since its original release on the format. The 2LP set remains one of Springsteen’s starkest studio albums, recalling ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ a decade earlier. 
*  ‘Live In New York City’ (2001) arrives on 3LPs for the first time since its original pressing. The set chronicles Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band’s much-anticipated reunion tour, recorded over two nights at Madison Square Garden in the summer of 2000.
* ‘Live In Dublin’ (2007) will be released on vinyl for the first time ever, a 2LP snapshot of Bruce Springsteen’s work with The Sessions Band, including classic folk songs popularized by Pete Seeger and radically rearranged versions of Bruce Springsteen favourites. 
* ’18 Tracks’ (1999) is coming to vinyl for the first time in over 20 years. The 2LP set features rarities like the original ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ demo and exclusive songs ‘Trouble River,’ a 1999 re-recording of ‘The Promise’ and Springsteen’s original version of ‘The Fever,’ made famous by Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes. 

Pre-order all five Springsteen titles on vinyl here: https://brucespringsteen.lnk.to/Vinyl-LPs

Ibrahim Ferrer VEN CONMIGO GUAJIRA (Single)

Ibrahim Ferrer
World Circuit Rcords

What a day today is proving to be music wise!
I came home from work to find three exciting/interesting CD’s waiting for me; then I opened my e-mails to find another three Album downloads of which one will most certainly find itself in my end of year Top 10 …. and I haven’t even heard it yet! But the band are one of my favourites of all time and have never, ever disappointed.
Then ……. I saw this rascal half way down the page and couldn’t believe my eyes …… yep; it is a previously ‘unheard track’ from the 2003 ‘Buenos Hermanos’ album sessions by Bueno Vista Social Club singer Ibrahim Ferrer and it’s the lead single from a brand new re-mixed and re-modelled album of the same name, by ……. the one and only Ry Cooder!

Here’s the accompanying Press Release :-

World Circuit will release a very special edition of Buena Vista vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer’s Grammy-winning second solo album ‘Buenos Hermanos’ on 28th February. 
Originally released in 2003, ‘Buenos Hermanos’ was acclaimed as an audacious and assured album firmly rooted in tradition, whilst expanding the horizons of 21st Century Cuban music with its varied repertoire and modern sound.
Producer Ry Cooder has now gone back to the original tapes to re-mix the whole album, adding four previously unheard tracks from the original album sessions to a brand new sequence, creating a completely re-imagined ‘Buenos Hermanos’. 
“It’s better than ever, if I may say,” comments Ry on the new mixes. “We went back into the session tapes and found songs that were overlooked for some reason, and you’re going to be as thrilled as I am. We’ve really polished it up and improved it and expanded it, it sounds almost brand new. There’s one thing for sure: we need something good, something beautiful in these days and times.” 
The first newly released track ‘Ven Conmigo Guajira’ is a lively interpretation of a classic Cuban country song in the romantic dance hall style. Available to listen to now, the song was originally penned by the renowned composer & bandleader Francisco ‘Machito’ Grillo (who died while performing at Ronnie Scott’s in 1984).
“We must have been crazy to leave that out,” says Ry of the track, “That’s the best version of that song I’ve ever heard.” The re-imagined version of the album also features refreshed cover artwork, featuring an alternative photograph from the original album shoot by Christien Jaspars.
As well as digital formats, the release will be available as a CD case-bound book and 180g heavyweight double vinyl, with both packages including English and Spanish lyrics, and a new foreword from Ry Cooder. 
Having retired from nearly 40 years of performing, Ibrahim Ferrer was shining shoes in 1996 when he was approached by Afro-Cuban All Stars’ band-leader Juan de Marcos González to sing on the sessions that would become the original Buena Vista Social Club album.
The record was released to phenomenal reception the following year, going on to sell over 8 million copies and catapulting Ferrer and his fellow musicians to international fame. 
‘Buenos Hermanos’ followed Ferrer’s first solo album ‘Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer’ and was hailed at the time as a selection of fresh takes on classic songs and thrilling examples of the romantic ballads and boleros for which Ferrer was justly famed.
It won the Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album that year. 
The handpicked core band is an unusual ensemble that combines the Cubans Orlando ‘Cachaíto’ López (bass) and Manuel Galbán (electric guitar, piano and organ), Ry Cooder (guitars), the esteemed Chucho Valdés (piano) and Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz (congas). Additional inspired flavouring comes courtesy of accordionist Flaco Jimenez, the gospel-charged voices of the Blind Boys of Alabama and the ambient trumpet of Jon Hassell. 
Ferrer brings to these songs not only his ripe and long-standing vocal mastery, but a confidence and self-assurance that, according to Cooder, puts him up there alongside such all-time giants of Cuban music as Ferrer’s own personal hero, Beny Moré. 
“These are songs that make me feel younger,” said Ferrer at the time. “I have put my deepest feelings into them and it’s my way of giving something back to my listeners and thanking them for their support. I enjoy feeling there is something inside what I am singing.” 
‘Buenos Hermanos [Special Edition]’ 
1. Boquiñeñe
2. Música Cubana
3. Boliviana
4. Me Voy Pa’ Sibanicú*
5. Buenos Hermanos
6. Mil Congojas
7. Ojo Malvados*
8. Guaguancó Callejero
9. Hay Que Entrarle a Palos a Ése
10. Perfume De Gardenias
11. Como El Arrullo De Palma
12. Mujer *
13. No Tiene Telaraña
14. Ven Conmigo Guajira*
15. Naufragio
16. Fuiste Cruel
17. Oye El Consejo
 * previously unreleased tracks from original album sessions