Last Chance Records/At The Helm Records
A Ragged Glory of a Rocking Country Album.
Eric Ambel? Never heard of him? But I guarantee that you have ‘heard him’ as he was the Joan Jett & the Blackhearts guitarist when they were famous, then besides playing on numerous albums as ‘guitar for hire’ he came to my attention first via the Del-Lords and then one of the greatest live bands ever….The Yayhoos with Dan Baird and Keith Christopher.
Oh; he’s a Producer extraordinaire too!
But that’s the past, this is now.
Even though he was busy beyond belief, when his favourite NY bar The Lakeside Lounge closed down he was left with innumerable memories of playing there and also seeing loads of bands, famous, infamous and many long forgotten; but most importantly it gave him the idea to record an album under his own name as a tribute.
Opening track Here Comes My Love, written by his Del-Lords bandmate Scott Tempner sets the scene perfectly, sounding like the type of sloppy Saturday night Honky-Tonker the Lakeside and a million other bars like it was famed for; but listen a second time and you will find there’s not a note out of place and the band have actually perfected the art of making Rock & Roll sound so simple.
I can’t help but smile every time I hear Let’s Play With Fire; obviously the song tips it’s hat to the Johnny Cash song but this witty and razor sharp modern Country Classic from the pens of Jimbo Mathus and Robert Earl Reed is perfect for 2017 in a way the ‘original’ isn’t.
Mathus’s ‘production’ is truly amazing; a mix of super-high-resolution digital sound then mixing it all to analog; and as Ambler says in the liner notes “this is for people who break in their own jeans!”
That motion to perfection comes across perfectly on the multi-layered Don’t Make Me Break You Down and later on the moody Buyback Blues……hear them on headphones and you will never listen to Pink Floyd again!
Ambler has the art of making brand new songs sound like you’ve known them all of your life, which actually makes the two cover versions fit in perfectly. I first heard Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio by a band called Ox and Ambler also gives this already sad song an almost claustrophobic feel; and not for the first time shows Neil Young how a dirty guitar should sound….and he makes it sound scary a couple of times.
The other is the Soul classic Money, which Ambler and friends turn upside down and inside out but keep the dance beat going all the way through 3 and a half glorious rocking and rolling minutes.
Ambler’s trademark guitar licks and Jimbo Mathus’ dangerously observant lyrics are the reason Hey Mr. DJ is by far and away my favourite song here; and one I expect loads of other ex-Bar Bands to pick up and include in their own sets.
LAKESIDE isn’t an attempt to top the Pop Charts or any such; it’s a true labour of love that will find it’s way into loving homes all over the world that will treasure it and whisper about it to like mined music fans in an almost conspiratorial manner……just like when we were all discovering music in our teens.
Released April 28th 2017
Six Shooter Records
Feisty and Spirited Folk-Rock From a Canadian Outpost.
Bizarrely, and for the first time in years I had just played Amelia Curran’s previous album THEY PROMISED YOU MERCY the night before I received this, her latest disc. As my Sage like Father used to say, “God acts in mysterious ways.”
Opening track Move a Mile is a real ‘ear-catcher’ as it has a ‘big production’ but also has an air of spaciousness about it. Confused? You won’t be……this is the type of quality singer-songwriter song that was all pervading in the 70’s and 80’s……think Joni, Alannis and perhaps Mary Chapin Carpenter the way Amelia carefully chooses her words and phrases but adds them to a commercial melody making the song very accessible to the casual listener.
While some of the subject matter is quite deep and occasionally dark; Amelia’s warmly expressive voice and some tightly wrapped guitar throughout pulls you in to songs like Sunday Bride and the bittersweet Act of Human Kindness; a song that really highlights not just Amelia’s writing skills but her vocal range too.
I mentioned the 70’s and 80’s earlier but only because that was probably the ‘watershed’ for singer-songwriters, especially female ones who were finally seen as the equal (and in several cases – the leaders) of the male of the species and like Tapestry, Elite Hotel and Blue there is a timeless quality to these songs, especially Try and the angst ridden No More Quiet which could easily have been on any of those classic LP’s.
This is Amelia Curran’s eighth album and that apprenticeship comes across in the way she effortlessly builds the tension in her stories and keeps you hanging on in there until she has got her message across……and that message is always worth waiting for.
While this is basically an old fashioned album that begs to be listened to as a complete package and not in bite size chunks; a couple of songs really do stand out from the crowd.
Every Woman/Every Man is a delicately fragile work that evokes memories of the early Nanci Griffith albums and, now I think about it Carole King’s Tapestry, but is also a trademark Amelia Curran song.
My other favourite is at the other end of the spectrum Gravity is as catchy and punchy a Folk Rocker as I’ve heard for quite a while and held together by a glorious electric guitar spine, that supports Amelia’s expressive vocal performance.
Maybe there’s nothing on the TV in Canada, leaving a lot of time for developing songwriting skills, but here we have another Canadian taking a traditionally American format (is being a singer-songwriter mostly associated with the USA?) and actually bettering it.
RELEASED April 21st 2017
Just when I was complaining about the lack of interesting and exciting new video singles around another has just arrived at RMHQ; and is perfect for a potentially sunny weekend!
Bodinrocker is a solo project by Anders Bodin from Gothenburg, Sweden. He is known for his straightforward rock, combining tasty guitar riffs with strong melodies. The 1st single is a catchy boogie pop and rock track that will certainly get you in the perfect summer mood…..what’s not to like?????
RELEASED 21st April 2017
TAKE ME BACK (Single)
It’s been a few weeks since we had a video worth posting…..not that there’s no good ones out there, just something that excites me and makes me want to share it.
Brenda Burch is a new name to me and has a gorgeous voice and can write a damn fine Country song too as this new single proves.
Taken from her latest EP Sparks Will Fly (review to follow) it was filmed in her home state of Utah and adds a stunning backdrop to a sharp song about getting your life back together.
Released May 1st 2017
ALL IS WELL
Another Unknown Legend From The Suburbs Delivers a Gem.
I receive music from a variety of sources and countries every week, so prioritising reviews is proving increasingly difficult, especially as I pride myself in listening to everything prior to writing about it.
Thus more and more albums are falling by the wayside; some from bands and singers on biggish record labels and also self-releases by Singers like Roy Peak. Roy did the right thing and contacted me via the website several times earlier this year, but because I was overwhelmed by work and CD’s I didn’t respond…..then two days ago he sent me a snarky/sarcastic Tweet.
I wasn’t in the best frame of mind so this was the wrong place……right time!
OK Fella…..bring it on……show me what you’ve got!
Oh dear……opening track Okolona is bloody good! Peak has the type of interesting and raspy singing voice I love and the slightly sloppy guitars and bass behind him were just what I needed to hear, but didn’t know it.
By day Roy Peak is a bass player (for hire?) in several bands; but with songs like Underhill Rose and the grizzled folk-rocker It’s Better To Be The Bride he deserves to front of house a lot more often.
I like the way Peak takes everyday subjects like life, love and death and give them a quirky left of centre makeover. His writing style on Teach Me and the punchy Black River is like the edgier side of Neil Young and John Martyn, but Peak certainly isn’t a copyist or indeed a one trick pony.
He has an angry Punky streak in him too which comes across in the fiery Mean Girl Blues and the muscular Somewhere in the Distance too.
It’s favourite song time and on an album that has appealed to me on many levels one song stands out above all others; Clear Lake, February 3rd 1959.
One of the greatest songs of all time, American Pie is about the same subject…..the death of Buddy Holly. The difference here is that Roy Peak inhabits the mind of a tired and lonely Holly and re-imagines his last thoughts about his wife Maria Elena.
It’s a genuinely clever and fascinating song that shoe horns in a couple of Buddy’s song titles without ever being cheesy or mawkish, which is quite an achievement.
Apart from the vanity side of listening to albums before anyone else; one of my main reasons for keeping going with The Rocking Magpie is discovering artists like Roy Peak and having the ability to scream their talents from the Internet Rooftops……trust me, this is right up our/your musical street; and it’s cheap too.
Released December 2014.
The Long Ryders
BEAR IN THE WOODS
Who knows where Alt. Country and indeed ‘Americana’ comes from; better scholars than me have debated this conundrum for years and will continue to do so wherever there is a Hip coffee bar or cool pub that sells ‘craft beers’ (what the Hell is ‘craft’ beer????}…..but for many of us there was a time just after Country Rock when the new young bands stopped wearing stone washed denim and growing facial hair (!) for me it was Green on Red and The Long Ryders that turned me on to a whole new world of music.
Fast forward something like 30 years and those crazy kids The Long Ryders are releasing a brand new single BEAR IN THE WOODS…..on the one hand a children’s tale for adults and if you have a vivid imagination an insight into the dark machinations of American Politics…..let you the people decide.
Whatever; it’s a cracking song and I for one can’t wait for the (alleged) follow up album later this year!
Here’s what The Long Ryders have to say about the song :-
“Whenever I hear this 1st new Long Ryders’ song in 30 years it only takes me about half a minute before I have to push back my chair, turn the volume up, and start dancing around the room like a happy fool. A killer Tom Stevens’ song, a strong ensemble performance, a real true thrill to be back in the saddle again, riding high with The Long Ryders, my musical home away from home.” ~ Sid Griffin
The new music comes just before the band’s first CA tour run in 30 years, playing club dates before their 2017 Stagecoach Festival appearance. Shows include The Chapel in San Francisco (4/26), Constellation Room in Santa Ana (4/28) and The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood (4/29).
Songwriter Tom Stevens offers the following about his new tune, “The message is complex. I wrote this song about a bear, a friendly one, approaching it like a children’s song. But what emerged under its surface was different. I likely had the state of politics on my mind. The bear in this song may not be the friendly, all knowing guru that he appears. But in real life, it’s up to us to seek our best hopes and not our worst fears in our gurus. Lately I feel that too many have done the latter”.
Lead guitarist and vocalist Stephen McCarthy explains how the new music came about, “The band played a number of shows in 2016 and we felt it would be worthwhile to try and write and record some new material. Greg flew out to Virginia and we recorded a few new songs at Adrian Olsen’s Montrose Studio. Sid and Tom sent new tunes over and we recorded remotely for the first time.”
Tom continues the story, “30 years on and the band still sounds wonderful, mature, familiar yet new, and all very much The Long Ryders. It’s brand new musical scenery in our long ryde, and we’re all enjoying the view”.
Drummer Greg Sowders agrees, “30 years goes by in the spin of a wig hat. We wanted to give our fans something new for our spring tour. It’s so great to be back in the studio with my favorite rock ‘n’ roll band. We hope you like this new music as much as we do”.
TO THE TOP
It’s Only Rock n Roll and I BLOODY LOVE IT!
New music arrives on my desk from a variety of sources and for a variety of reasons; and only occasionally someone will contact me with a personal note to say “I genuinely think you will like this album.”
Such was the case here when a ‘friend’ mentioned a band a year ago that he’d seen at SXSW then again this year and he ‘knew that I would love them’….subsequently quoting reviews of similar acts.
He wasn’t wrong!
The fuzzy Jeff Beck channelled through Warner E Hodges guitar break that opens first track I’m So Blue had me instantly hooked and then a ‘most Blues-wailing’ harmonica sealed the deal before the singer Matthew Paige had even uttered a note. What can I see boom-boom Ramones style drumming, 60’s British Beat Boom R&B and a singer who thinks he’s Jason Ringenberg…..what’s not to like?
In many ways this album starts with a bang and proceeds to drop musical bombs at every opportunity……I Had a Vision is a soundtrack for anyone with a conscience in this mad political world and will have fans screaming the chorus while manically punching the air at concerts, and I expect the 100 mph stomper I Wanna Be Famous to have a similar effect.
This band will be known for their fantastic Rockers (Everybody’s Watching is as good as life gets!); but like the best before them they will be judged (by me at least) for their ability to slow things down too; and with I’ve Got The Blues, Paige’s sorrowful lament, a mournful harmonica and a Steel-guitar, duh-duh-duh bass and some sublime understated drumming combine to make an raw and authentic Country-Blues record that sounds like it was recorded in a field outside a Juke Joint in rural Alabama in 1947…..and damn good it is too.
Then, just to confuse you Velvet Low Down Blues finds the band harmonising on a gorgeous slow and swinging tune with a fiddle as lead instrument…..and again, it’s damn good.
She Was Mine, which closes the album rocks and shakes like a cat on heat, and Promise to Keep sounds like something the Stones or Faces might have recorded but were frightened to release as it was ‘too Country Rock’ for the times; but those times are right now and the Blackfoot Gypsies are at the forefront.
Do I go for the Diddley-Rocker Gypsy Queen, with Paige imitating everyone who has ever imitated Mick Jagger, for the title of ‘Favourite Track’ or the mellow and borderline sexy Woman Woman? Today it’s the latter, but last night with the car stereo cranked up to 11 it was the former, TO THE TOP is that kind of album, it has suited and created every mood I’ve been in or needed to be in all week.
Thank you Cary and thank you Blackfoot Gypsies, you know me better than I know myself.
It’s only Rock n Roll…….and I bloody love it!
Released April 14th 2017
KNOCK A HOLE IN IT
Funkin’ Up The Blues With a Huge Spoon Full Of Soul.
This came so far out of left field opening track Knock a Hole In It hit me like a Side-Winder missile!
Mr. Sipp aka The Mississippi Blues Child but born Castro Coleman’s guitar growls and squeals like a tigress on heat while the really tight rhythm section pull out all of the stops to make the casual listener’s eyes pop out of their head on a truly cool Blues song.
Start as you mean to go on? Hell yeah!
Track 2 Bad Feeling slows things down a little bit; but only a touch as Mr. Sipp tells us about the woman in his life who is ‘driving him insane’…….’because you got another man.’ OK the sentiment is as old as time; but Coleman’s guitar strings must be made out of razor wire the way he fires notes out of the speakers and somehow makes his sweet voice sound as if his throat is full of flames.
Apparently Mr. Sipp is a best renowned Gospel singer; but you wouldn’t know it from what you hear here……this IS the Blues baby; but the type your Mother told you not to listen to.
There are elements of Johnny Winter and Buddy Guy here; but there’s also hefty aroma of Larry ‘Guitar’ Watson and Sly Stone too on tracks like Turn Up and Stalking Me.
Then Love Yourself is straight outta the George Benson Singer-Guitarist High School……slow, sweet and sexy…..mm..mmm….mmmmm.
Two titles will be very familiar to RM readers; with Little Wing being a sexy, slow and very emotional midnight ride with Mr. Sipp’s guitar playing sounding like liquid gold on a song that tips it’s hat at Hendrix’s words but going in a completely new direction; although the note perfect rendition of Star Spangled Banner that it morphs into is straight from the Maestro himself and closes the album perfectly.
On the other hand Love Don’t Live Here Anymore draws on his Gospel background with Sipp using his amazing voice as in instrument in it’s own rite; as the guitar is slowly strummed and the strings section take pride of place in the background.
Choosing a favourite song for you hasn’t been easy; but even though I keep going back to that amazing title track Knock a Hole In It, there’s a real gem tucked away in the middle too….Juke Joint really conveys everything I love about this type of music; combining old-school R&B with some red hot 70’s style guitar playing and a sassy horn section coming and going like the breeze behind that stunning and expressive voice.
Some days I love my job; especially when I discover albums like this and I hope you delve in and fall in love with Mr. Sipp too.
Released April 7th 2017
Yep Roc Records
Set the Controls For The Heart of a Space Oddity!!!
I’ve not heard much of Robyn Hitchcock’s’ back catalogue and once walked out one of his gigs……seriously!
So, I was a bit nonplussed when I received his latest and 21st recorded work. It sat on the desk for a couple of weeks until intrigue got the better of me……WAHAY!
I couldn’t believe my ears when the 60’s meets 70’s Glam of opening song I Want To Tell You About What I Want crashed out of the speakers!!!!!!
A heady mix of early Pink Floyd, late Small Faces and a smattering of Bowie’s flat Mockney enunciation make for an amazing start to an amazing album.
This is followed by a PsYch-Glam ode to the original ‘feminist’ Lady Writers….. Virginia Wolf. Whip smart guitars, funky bass and Hitchcock’s insightful lyrics make for a very intriguing three minutes.
In keeping with the heady mix of 60’s Psychedelia and 70’s Glam Rock, there’s an almost poetic feel to many of the songs……Sayonara Judge and Autumn Sunglasses being perfect examples of a songwriter having fun with words and music; and defying you to decipher any (if any) hidden messages.
Who cares if songs like the Country crossover of 1970 in Aspic and Mad Shelley’s Letterbox don’t exactly ‘make sense’……but when did Pop Music have to make sense? Just stick the headphones on and crank the level to eleven!!!! Enjoy the moment…. just enjoy the moment.
For me, on an album of 10 delights there are two real highlights; I Pray When I’m Drunk which is a real British Pub Rocker of a toe-tapping hoe-down of a tune and the one song that probably is a ‘true story’ of sorts; Raymond and The Wires.
Here Robyn takes us back to simpler times in 1964 when a young lad takes a trip into the big city with his Dad and takes an exciting ride on an electric trolley-bus. The detail and the sentiment throughout is razor sharp and heart-warming; plus it reminded me of my first ever trip into Newcastle with my Mother in December 1963…..which stays with me today.
Robyn is a touch older than me, but we both come from the same generation when buying an LP or even a single was a ‘considered decision’; meaning I discovered only Pink Floyd in 1973 or 4 via a 99p compilation called Relics about the same time I was hidden away in my bedroom listening to Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hunky Dory, Ziggy and the White Album…….all of which I suspect Robyn Hitchcock did when putting together these glorious songs.
INTRODUCING has been a complete surprise for me and I guess you too; but should and indeed will appeal to us music fans of ‘a special vintage’ but could also find its way into the collection of those cool kids with beards and tattoos that have recently discovered the delights of Robyn Hitchcock’s influences too.
RELEASED April 21st 2017
Mining Lite/Thirty Tigers
The Feistiest Country Album of the Last 10 Years!
We absolutely loved Angaleena Presley’s debut album AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS and it’s still firmly ensconced in the company car for those long road trips through the Heartlands of NE England.
After such a strong record it’s wise to be cautious of any follow up but…….right from the sigh that opens the raw and heartfelt Dreams Don’t Come True you know we are still in the same Blue Collar/Friday Night Lights small town America territory. In fairness the sentiment of kids struggling to emulate their parents ‘successes’ that scratches your heart on this song are true of youngsters all over the world; and the weary tune and Angaleena’s breathy vocals set the scene very nicely indeed.
Who knows where Traditional Country Music ends and Alt. Country begins; but Ms. Presley straddles both genres with ease on songs like Only Blood and Good Girl Down among many others here. This song also happens to be the first time that Angaleena and her friends and Pistol Annies Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe have written together for a long while; and….their class shows.
While Angaleena is very much her own woman and pretty much has her own distinctive ‘sound’ her subject matter and the punchy way she gets her message across on Outlaw, Bless My Heart and the title track WRANGLED evokes memories of Loretta Lynn, Bobbie Gentry and more recently Elizabeth Cook. I don’t know if this is ‘feminist’ writing or whatever; but the women in Presley’s songs are all as tough as old rope but with hearts the size of Texas…..but don’t mess with them.
As is my won’t I played the album 2 or 3 times before reading the accompanying notes; so went “AHA!” when I read that the grizzled voice that opens Cheer Up Little Darling is none other than Guy Clark, who actually co-wrote this beautiful ode with Angaleena and features his self-made guitar and mandola played by Shawn Camp in the Great Man’s style; adding extra pathos to an already tearjerker of a song.
Angaleena co-wrote all 12 tracks and the depth of material shows what an exceptional talent she is; especially our two favourite songs.
Mrs. Magpie insists that High School is as good as anything she’s ever heard, as it details those ‘secrets’ that schools and towns have and try to keep; but never do. The first character attempts to hide her pregnancy and there’s a sports-jock popping pills to try and emulate his hero, father. Sadly, a sign of the times, but the way Angaleena turns this soap opera into a song is extraordinary.
I’m not 100% certain why; but I love the spirited way Angaleena cranks up the tension on Mama I Tried. Electric guitars instead of acoustic help get the message across as she sounds like she’s so angry phlegm is coming out with the words……powerful stuff indeed.
There’s only one flaw on the album; but it’s a biggie. Half way through there’s a rocker called Country; what’s wrong with that you ask? Well for some reason it’s a collaboration with a Hippity-Hoppitty Rapper called Yelawolf and….well…..his part really, really jars with everything else here. The song don’t need him….it will be a showstopper anyways; but…..hey….kids today; what can you tell them?
That apart, WRANGLED will certainly feature in our Top 10 Albums of 2017……in it’s own way it’s as groundbreaking as Elizabeth Cook’s Balls album and could and should mark the next big step in Angaleena Presley’s burgeoning career.
Released April 21st 2017