MEET ME AT THE RIVER
Yep Roc Records
Luxurious and Classy Country With a Very Modern Twist.
Dawn Landes is another of those names that I’ve been aware of for years, with friends travelling far and wide to see her; while I’ve been oblivious to her charms.
It was obvious as the delightful Meet Me At The River; which opens proceedings fades to a close why my (knowledgeable) friends would hold her in such high esteem; first and foremost Dawn has a charmingly crystal clear singing voice; and the song itself is unashamedly a modern take on classy, Country Music…. you know, the type that fuddy duddies say isn’t made any more!
Every time I’ve played this album; be it the office, living room or car I’ve always ended up mouthing the lyrics while I tap my toes along to the melodies.
While traditional in format; Dawn Landes actual songs are anything other than ‘old fashioned’; Why They Name Whisky After Men shows acutely sharp perception; while never making it an ‘anti-man’ song; which is a clever tightrope to walk; and later her Gospel flavoured What Is The Colour of Soul of Man; again Ms Landes cleverly avoids being preachy; as she makes you think deeply along with every line.
In a style originally made famous by Kitty Wells and more recently rediscovered by Laura Cantrell; Dawn Landes throws a couple of curve ball with My Church and the ‘call and response’ duet with Bobby Bare, I Don’t Dance; which are both highlights on a wonderful release.
I regularly listen to albums that try to rediscover the magic of Classic Country Music; and very few manage to reach the heights that we hear on the feisty Southern Girl, Travelling and/or Wind and Rain; which both sound like they have their roots in the recordings of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn; but are also songs that are perfect for younger more lyrically astute audiences in 2018.
Because of my current mind set; the accolade of Favourite Track is always going to come from one of the winsome bittersweet love songs tucked away in between the more uptempo tracks; with What Will I Do; being an early contestant and then I lent towards the timeless How To Say “I Love You” but I’m actually sticking my neck out with Old Memories, which is the type of song you’d associate with Nanci Griffith or maybe Reba McIntyre as she looks back on life through ‘rose coloured’ glasses; which is something I’m guilty of doing a lot myself these days; and Ms Landes sounds like she does too.
It’s all a bit embarrassing to say That I have ‘discovered Dawn Landes’ with this album; but I have and I only wish I had done it years ago.
Released September 14th 2018
LOVE, BONES & STARS
Angry Stick Recordings
The Last of The American Troubadours Sings of Love and More.
Nathan Bell pretty much strikes me as the ‘bloke along the street’ who nods and says ‘Hello’ whenever you see him; but you know nothing about him; but presume he works in a factory; or at least something manual.
He may even loan you one of his treasured Power Tools; but would more than likely to come along and do the job himself; refusing payment save for a cup of coffee.
Then another neighbour would tell you he is a singer-songwriter; and you wouldn’t believe them; but that’s what he is……something of The Lone Ranger of the Americana scene.
He is the latest in a long line of blue collar troubadours; singing for and about the common man; who comes in all ages and hues, and his last two albums have been among the angriest I’ve ever heard from a Folk Singer; and just what the world needed; and indeed still needs today. .
Although I was told what to expect; I was still very pleasantly surprised by the intricate sensitivity in Would Be a Blackbird (for Leslie Irene) which opens this album; yet I shouldn’t be as Nathan has proved many times what a clever songwriter he is; so writing and dedicating a song to his wife of 30 years was always destined to be full of rich and dark beauty; wasn’t it?
As with the rest of the songs here; where he neatly blends Folk into Country and Country into Folk; the arrangement is delicately simple (guitar/concertina/harmony vocals) yet the end result is very powerful indeed.
Nathan tells us that there are both old and new songs here; but it’s impossible to tell which have been residing on a shelf gathering dust and which are as fresh as a daisy.
We don’t find out the real story behind the songs; with A Day Like This, Molly Had a Baby and the fascinating My Kid all being too literate not to based in real life happenings; and coincidentally each is dedicated to a named recipient too; so I guess they are, but such is thw way Bell delivers a song you will know someone who fits each sentiment too.
Then there are a couple which come from a heart that truly knows the meaning of love; which is more of a rarity than you’d expect…….Gold Wedding Ring and Whiskey You Win both spring immediately to mind; but Fragile will leave you wondering whether it’s about a break up or possibly even a death; but it’s fair to say it’s one of the finest songs I’ve heard in a long long time.
It’s not always fair to compare one songwriter with another; but as most of the acts I cover remain unknown to the populace at large I feel obliged to do so; with Nathan Bell’s ‘lived in’ and ‘world weary’ singing style being not unlike Kris Kristofferson or Rodney Crowell; and his songwriting isn’t too far away from them either; but I hear a feminine sensitivity too, with Nanci Griffith and Gretchen Peters too in Metal as well as Faulkner and Four Roses; which is quite some feat.
I don’t know why but historically I tend to steer away from title tracks as my ‘Favourite’ in my reviews; but here LOVE, BONES & STARS, LOVE’S BONES & STARS, of which there are two versions included, is the only contender in a really strong heavyweight division, as the story and complex detail Bell winds and weaves in every line makes this one of those rarities that will make you hold your breath so as not to miss a note; and then press repeat just to confirm the songs is as good as you thought; then you will think it was even better the second time!
LOVE, BONES & STARS is the fourth and last in what he calls his Family Man series; and if it is it’s a beautiful way to close this chapter in his life, before opening a whole other even more exhilarating one too.
#Tucked away at the back of the sleeve notes is a delightful note; that most people will miss; but I think it’s quite appropriate here “No autotune was used in the making of these recordings.”
#There is another new release on his website; the Live Bootleg Er Gwaetha Pawb A Phopeth which was recorded in November 2017 in Newport, Wales and will make an ideal Christmas Present for anyone you know who loves ‘our type’ of music.
Released September 24th 2018
EYE TO EYE
A Glam Piledriver of a Modern Rock Album.
A lot; and possibly too much of the music we listen to at RMHQ is ‘worthy’, ‘deep’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘interesting’, ‘insightful’ even; with not nearly enough being deemed ‘fun’……not ‘Funny’ fun; but music you can listen to that makes you nod your head and tap your feet and even dance to, without worrying whether you are cool enough to be in the same room as the disc.
EYE TO EYE is the second album we have heard by Swede Anders Bodin and his band; and it certainly ticks all the boxes we have for that ‘fun’ category we so crave every so often.
From the crashing Olde School Status Quoian chords that open the album with the heads down, no nonsense boogie of Vacation we both knew we were in for a glorious Rock and Roll Roller Coaster Ride; and Bodin even gives us a song of that title later on and it too fits the bill perfectly well; being exactly what it says on the tin.
There are even a couple of songs here that lurch towards the heavier end of the 70’s Glam scene with Lazy Day and album closer Life Ain’t Fair sounding like they could have been T Rex or Sweet album tracks, if you will; and that is said with a fluttering heart by someone who lived through and embraced that scene as a giddy teenager.
While Status Quo may have faded rather ungracefully into old age becoming a tired shadow of their former selves; Bodinrocker have managed to embrace the melodic powerhouse that they achieved circa Piledriver and Rockin’ All Over The World; especially on That Old Twelve-Bar Blues and Got No Time, which are both perfect for playing real damn loud in the car on the motorway.
As with all of the bands Bodinrocker have drawn their influences from; there is an obligatory and in this case rather good acoustic song included; with Lazy Day being a recent contender for ‘Favourite Song’ status.
As if to demonstrate he isn’t a ‘covers act’ (which he most certainly isn’t btw) Bodin casually slips in a history lesson under the guise of a neat soft-rocker; with New Sweden about a colony of Swedes who settled in North America a couple of centuries ago; and whom our man from Jamtland sounds incredibly proud.
The actual winner of the RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ title goes to Brown Bear; another almost perfect ‘heads down and boogie’ rocker; but the twist here is the song draws on Anders’ family mythology and tells the tale of his Great, Great Grandfather stumbling across a giant Brown Bear in the local woods and after coming EYE TO EYE with it, fighting the beast and eventually killing it with his bare hands……well, I believe it even if you don’t; plus…..you can dance to it too; if you know how to.
‘Timing’ is everything in music; and EYE TO EYE came along just at the perfect time for me to appreciate Bodin’s distinctive singing style alongside his top quality songwriting which somehow manages to make music fun again.
Check them out.
Released 14th September 2018
Benjamin Folke Thomas
TASTELESS & COMPLACENT
It wouldn’t be fair for us here at RMHQ to say we loved one artiste or bands more than any other; so we won’t …..but…..any new release from Benjamin Folke Thomas leaves us giddy with excitement!
Here’s the new single from his next album (which is a doozy btw!)Modern Man, which is to be released on November 9th, the follow up to 2017s Copenhagen and more importantly the (tongue in cheek) Acoustic Classics Live(ish) album.
The Weight Band
WORLD GONE MAD
No Stage Fright From These Big Pink Veterans.
Normally I have a pathologic hatred of looky-likey bands; so even though the Press Release was a bit vague I still approached this release with appropriate caution.
But (*Spoiler Alert) the end result is just fine and dandy; as The Weight Band, who are made up of musicians from the Band’s latter touring version pay homage to the forefathers of Americana AND Alt. Country in the finest way without resorting to lazy cover versions of the Hits; but carefully selecting a couple of rarities and a Jerry Garcia cover to compliment 8 of their own songs; which sound pretty damn authentic.
Obviously for fiscal reasons The Weight Band sound uncannily like The Band; and the title track World Gone Mad sounds just perfect in that context; blending a little bit of old-school hippy wisdom with 21st Century cynicism; which is why the originals music still stands tall today.
Once I’d put my original reservations to one side I quickly fell in love with the raunchy You’re Never Too Old to Rock and Roll, which will be included on the mythical RMHQ Soundtrack album.
This is immediately followed by Big Legged Sadie (from Saskatoon) which genuinely sounds like the Band in all their finery having a ball on a cheeky love song.
I’m sorry if I keep ‘comparing and contrasting’ but it’s difficult not too, as we have three singers here who all sound very similar to Levon, Robbie and Garth; and their instrumentation and playing is as razor sharp as you’d expect too.
With that in mind; I’ve sort of treat this album as ‘the album the Band never made’ and in that context Every Step of The Way and Fire in The Hole work perfectly well; and the beautiful I Wish You Were Here Tonight sounds even better and could easily have been an out take from Cahoots.
But; then again Heat of the Moment and Bob Dylan’s 1998 Day of the Locusts, while fitting the format perfectly well somehow manage to take the music in a whole new. exciting direction.
There is also one song here that straddles both of those formats and that’s the blue collar bodacious Country rocker, Common Man which is easily my favourite song here and sets the course for whatever The Weight Band choose to release next.
As they are first and foremost a touring band; the album closes with a Live track The Remedy, which truly showcases what this band are all about and manages to whet my appetite for any future UK Tour.
Released 14th September 2018
DEAN WAREHAM & CHEVAL SOMBRE
If I Could Only Fly
Double Feature Records
In the wake of a new Bio-pic about his life, I read a fascinating article about Blaze Foley only a couple of weeks ago and made a mental note to check out his work.
Then the fates have got involved and I’ve just received this wonderful take on one of his songs by Bean Wareham from Galaxie 500 and Cheval Sombre (neither of whom I’d ever heard of) and the result is quite staggering!
“The album will be released October 26 and they’ve just shared their take on Blaze Foley’s “If I Could Only Fly” by way of a Dan Huiting directed video. Of the single Wareham notes, “Cheval suggested this haunting Blaze Foley song that was something of a hit for Merle Haggard. It might be Foley’s best song but is not included in the new biopic. Our version is closer to post-punk Manchester than to Texas country.”
“Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre is comprised of 10 tracks that were first released or made popular in the 60’s and 70’s. Blaze Foley released “If I could Only Fly” in 1979. He is the subject of a just-released film directed by Ethan Hawke entitled Blaze.”
album Released October 26th 2018
Real Deal Americana With Added Gallic Flair.
Can it really be two whole years since Martha Fields last release SOUTHERN WHITE LIES? Where does the time go?
Before I talk about the actual songs here; can I mention that I’ve been listening to this album on and off for a couple of weeks now, but I’m writing the review in the aftermath of the Americana Awards 2018; and I’m confused as to what constitutes ‘Americana’ music these days; as Martha Fields is the corner stone of what I think of as Americana Music; but she doesn’t sound like many of the those recipients last night (Jason Isbell excluded!)
Opening track Sukey is a sultry and even swampy slice of ‘Americana’ and certainly sounds like it has its roots in Martha’s Southern White Lies album;as does the Gothic sounding Demona which follows on down the line, with both having more edge than a Bowie knife.
I’ve been a fan for a few years now; and love the way Ms Fields uses her smoky voice to tell a tale; almost inhabiting her characters in Forbidden Fruit and the bubbly Fare Thee Well Blues; yet also becoming the third party storyteller on Maxine; which has more than a smidgen of Bobbie Gentry in it by the way.
Fans will already know Martha is based in rural France now; which makes her songs Oklahoma and West Virginia In My Bones all the more wistful; and the gentle Paris to Austin somehow manages to tug at the listeners heartstrings with both hands until you can hardly breathe. Exile; when you listen carefully has a slight socio-political backbone to it; and yet written from afar will resonate with how many Americans feel about the country that they live in.
Perhaps it is because she no longer lives in the US of A that these songs have a romantic thread to them; which can be missing on some home grown albums……absence makes the heart grow fonder?
I can’t help mentioning too, that the band are all born and bred French men; which makes their collective delicate touches and flourishes on Said And Done, Desert Flower and the majestic Lone Wolf Waltz all the more intriguing; but then again…….Americana is really a state of mind, in my opinion.
With so much to choose from I was going to close my eyes and just point my finger at the track listing to select a favourite; then the rip snorting Hillbilly Bop came sizzling out of the office speakers and the deal was done. What’s not to like about a hummable and danceable tune that’s a lot more ‘Country’ than most anything you will hear on your Nashville radio these day, y’all.
Sadly Martha Fields will most likely not be attending any Awards Galas in the near future; but then again nor will 99.9% of the acts we cover here at RMHQ; so just sit back and enjoy; knowing you know something the other kids don’t; Marty Fields is the Real Deal.
Released September 14th 2018
ANYTIME YOU NEED ME
Taking The Blues Down a Silky Road.
Five or six years ago I was inundated with debut albums from a glut of British Blues singer-guitarists and it’s fair to say each was quite exceptional in their own rite; with flair and note strangulation very much the order of the day.
Now; by 2018 the majority have mellowed down considerably; pretty much letting their singing and songwriting take the lead with the guitar playing being a wonderful background sound.
Which brings me to Ben Poole who has spent the last couple of years touring his ‘game changing’ album TIME HAS COME and the result is a new found maturity but still with a youthful swagger; and one eye firmly set on the American market.
The silky smooth title track ANYTIME YOU NEED ME opens proceedings and slinks out of the speakers like a Big Cat stalking its prey; and as the perfectly balanced four minutes draw to a close you are already in Ben’s tight grip and he ain’t gonna let go as the bass is turned up high on the next song; the low down Take It No More; a sad break-up tale set to a really groovy riff or two.
Poole shows his new found song writing maturity in a couple of really edgy and finely crafted songs; Found Out The Hard Way which keeps threatening to break it’s Funk out; but because of the luscious harmonies, always stays within the very Soulful confines you’d expect from bands like Steely Dan or the Doobie Brothers. The other in this ilk is the ultra-cool, yet sleazy Dirty Laundry which shows more than a nod in the direction of The Eagles or more to the point, Don Henley’s solo work; so don’t be surprised if this song turns up on some Blockbuster movie soundtrack; and it will be there on merit.
While Mrs Magpie loves these smooth tunes; I much prefer the raunch of Start The Car and the love song Let Me Be; where Poole’s guitar gently weeps and wails over some very astute lyrics.
The album closer Holding On will certainly be a crowd pleaser Poole finally lets loose on the guitar as he plumbs the depth of his soul on this ode to hope.
I’m not altogether sure what it reminds me of; (Bryan Adams singing an Allman’s song?) but this Power Ballad You Could Say is very much my Favourite Song on this fabulous album as the funky guitar licks and Poole’s warm and distinctive voice combine to great effect on a song surely destined for radios across the world.
Don’t worry; Ben’s guitar first-class and often inventive guitar playing is here there and everywhere, weaving everything together like a golden thread, as the songs on this album follow firmly in the footsteps of greats like Boz Scaggs, Freddie King and Buddy Guy.
Released September 14th September 2018
COME HELL OR HIGH WATER
Gypsy Eyes Music
A Masterclass From a Modern Americana and Folk Legend.
Here we have Malcolm’s 12th album (I think) and not only are legendary songwriters lining up to sing his praises on the accompanying Press Release but this could easily be labelled as a Duets album as Iris Dement sings alongside him on just about every song.
From the opening chords of Left Alone through to the final wheezes and notes of Torn and Wrinkled I’ve sat mesmerised several times over the last few days as I’ve listened ever more to this album.
Opening track Left Alone; featuring Miss Iris DeMent on whispered harmonies as as powerful song as Malcolm may ever have written; as he recounts the tale of an ageing Vietnam Veteran, who is now ‘left alone to die/with a burnt out mind;’ but sadly the sentiment can apply to many of the men and women across the world who have proudly fought for their respective countries in the intervening half century but are later left on the scrapheap.
Many of the songs here are just as challenging to the listener; not for the first time Malcolm unloads his tightly wrapped wrath on Big Business and the Banks with Legal Tender and on New Damnation Alley he kind of speaks for many of us as he ponders “Feeling my age/Feeling cynical and wrong/Too scared to believe any more.”
I always think it’s lazy to compare Malcolm Holcombe to Townes Van Zandt; even if they do occasionally sound alike and write of similar subjects but I’ve often thought there was more than a hint of Leonard Cohen or even Randy Newman in his writing; and more than ever that comes to the fore on Brother’s Keeper and the magnificent It Is What It Is, which would surely have been included on Cash’s American series had he still been alive today.
Many years ago I remember Rod Stewart’s voice being described as an ‘instrument’ and now more than ever, that adage applies to Mr Holcombe as his distinctive growls, wheezes and snarls make songs like In The Winter and more especially October Morning transcend both the traditional Folk and Country formats and become quite extraordinary in the way he expresses his guttural feelings.
If I still had my radio show I could pick any of these songs for late night playing; but there’s nothing here that would fit into day time or even national broadcasting…….Hit Singles are as far away from Malcolm Holcombe’s thinking as is World Peace; but I will point you towards my Favourite Song; Black Bitter Moon which features some rather sweet and intricate guitar picking as Malcolm and Iris lift the mood from despair to hope; in the blink of an eye.
There’s one more song here that needs an honourable mention; even if it is only September; but Merry Christmas is one of those bleak memory songs that I adore at that time of year; and will go onto my Christmas Eve playlist between Steve Earle and John Prine; but before Willie Nelson!
I appreciate it’s not easy to ‘get into’ Malcolm Holcombe’s music; not least because he ain’t no ‘pretty boy’ Country Star in a Trucker Cap and his voice sounds like he found it in a dumpster behind a car parts unit; meaning he wouldn’t even get past the pre-TV stage of X Factor; but those songs……phew……they all have the REAL X Factor; and are well worth the effort you initially put in; as you are rewarded five fold in every verse and stanza of every story.
Malcolm Holcombe is the ‘real deal’ combining Folk, Country and even Blues in a most eloquent and engaging manner…… trust me.
Released USA September 14th 2018
Released UK October 12th 2018
149 DELTA AVE.
Endless Blues Records
Free Range Blues For The Discerning Music Fan.
I’m not sure my ample frame would do justice to a T-Shirt baring the name of ‘Mississippi’ Mike Kolassa and the Taylor Made Blues Band; but after listening to this their latest release I’d be more than happy to give it a go!
Proceedings start with the classic stomp of I Can’t Slow Down which is an autobiographical look at the handsome silver foxes’ Rock n Roll lifestyle; and features some razor sharp guitar licks from David Dunavent and some of the honkiest and tonkiest piano playing from Chris Stephenson than I’ve heard in months. Not a bad start at all.
Like all Blues singers and bands; Kolassa isn’t afraid to include a cover or two in his itinerary and his choices here are quite exemplary with I Don’t Need No Doctor going right back to it’s N’Orleans roots and sounding nothing like the version that I have from Humble Pie!
Although I didn’t recognise it; the swinging and sassy Miss Boss was written by his friend Larry Garner and is a mainstay of Kolassa’s live sets; and it’s easy to hear why; it’s a doozy.
But first and foremost this album not just highlights Mick’s own writing skills but his authentic singing voice; this guy squeezes the pips out of the emotion on 35 Miles to Empty and Pullin’ Me Down; while also being able to dig right back into the heart of the Blues with the anthemic Cotton Road and then rocking the rafters of the Juke Joint on the road song US12 to Highway 49 with consummate ease.
The third of the three covers closes the disc and yet again I’d not heard it before; but Jazzy The Viper is very much a challenger for Favourite Track and would easily have won the title if it hadn’t been for the inclusion of two versions of the sassy Alternative Man; which are as good as each other and designed to make the ladies think “I wish he was my Alternative Man” and the men think; “I wish I could be her Alternative Man!” The Blues comes in many shades, but I love this raggedy and dirty version best of all *wink*.
What’s left to say? I just wish that there was a better and bigger shop window for super albums like this than RMHQ; but until there is……tell your friends, ‘Lock up your wives and daughters, Mick Kolassa is coming to town!’
# My ‘secret source’ in America keeps coming up trumps with the Blues albums he sends me……every single one hits the RMHQ ‘spot;’ and often keeps imminent releases from more famous acts offa the turntable. More often than not these acts wouldn’t get recognised in the street from outside a 50 mile radius of their home towns but their music is universal and deserves to be heard across the Blues World.
Released September 1st 2018