John Paul White
MY DREAMS HAVE ALL COME TRUE
GOSH! I couldn’t believe my little ears when I first heard this earlier today……with a UK Tour in January being announced today; and tickets going on sale this Friday morning, 16th November @ 9am, he is releasing this beautiful song from a prospective new album soon after.
Sun 27th – Gateshead, Sage
Mon 28th – Manchester, Night & Day
Tues 29th – London, Omeara
Weds 30th – Bristol, The Louisiana
All Hail This Blues Beast From The East!
Wahay! Star of the NYC Blues scene, singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Popa Chubby is celebrating his 30th anniversary with this 15 track retrospective that covers songs that are old, new and even unreleased (but are concerts favourites).
Although I knew his name, I only discovered his music last year via his TOW DOGS album; which I jolly well liked a helluva lot.
Without giving anything away too early; I think it’s fair to say Chubby isn’t afraid to experiment with his music and certainly can’t be pinned down to just one page in the How To Play The Blues Guide Book!
The collection opens with a startling Bluesy/Hip-Hop hybrid with Chubby’s distinctive gruff vocals barely stopping to take a breath as he gives his opinion on struggling through life in the rough part of town.
He follows this with the smouldering Angel On My Shoulder; which sent a tingle down my spine as well as making me ‘wink’ as I acknowledged ‘where he is coming from’…….in another parallel universe Johnny Winter would have taken this song and tried to better it; but failed.
This is followed by what my Generation would probably now refer to as a Blues Standard; as Popa puts his own indelible stamp on Hey Joe; and as a guitarist knows he can’t better the original so concentrates on actually telling the story……with, of course, some molten gold guitar licks too though.
If, like me you are new to the world of Popa Chubby this album feels like a great starting point, with our man showcasing his eclectic talents on the sultry Stop Down Baby and the astonishing and semi-Classical San Catri which comes in at over 8 minutes long; but not a single second is wasted. But, with the greatest of ease he also slides in a red raw Somebody Let The Devil Out and some top quality Blues Rock Deluxe with Dirty Lie, that also showcases his songwriting skills too.
As a man of a delicate disposition; I couldn’t possibly choose Go Fuck Yourself as my Favourite Track here; but it’s a close run thing for sure. Sometimes though the F word just has to be used to get your point across without actually punching someone; and that righteous angers comes across as Popa playing guitar, bass and drums, with the aid of daughter Theodora on violin hisses at The Man in a needle-like manner that needs to be heard by every politician in the world; but I doubt will ever get played on the radio.
Then, rather cleverly he follows this with the other cover version here; and one of my and probably the world’s favourite ever songs, so to some degree a brave choice for a man with Popa Chubby’s reputation as a Rocker; but his heartfelt rendition of St. Leonard’s Hallelujah, with luscious backing vocals and some deceptively subtle keys and guitar make for a gut wrenching and heartbreaking 7 minutes of absolute joy.
Especially because this is a retrospective of a 30 year career it’s proving incredibly difficult to actually pick out a Favourite Track; should I go for another Hip-Hop inspired modern Bluesy; the very perceptive Daddy Played The Guitar (and Mama Was a Disco Queen) which features some of the finest Slide Guitar I’ve heard in decades, or will it be a song I felt sure must be about me; but isn’t…… Grown Man Crying Blues? Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy…….. is this THE Blues or what?
But with so many great, and I don’t use that word lightly, songs here I’m going for one referred to as a Popa Chubby ‘classic’ but something brand new to me…… a scorching live version of Caffeine and Nicotine which just happens to be the type of rocking and rolling Rhythm and Blues I first fell in love with 40 years ago and still sounds fresh and exciting in the magic fingers of Popa Chubby in 2018.
Before I finish I’m contractually obliged to mention the final song; even though it’s still November……but There On Christmas, currently UNRELEASED will be a sure fire hit around the RMHQ dinner table on 25th December. OK, it’s as twee, cheesy and schmaltzy as you’d expect, but hey…..it’s a Christmas song and when you hear our man pleading his love and promising ‘to be there on Christmas’ as the guys in the band virtually Doo-Wop the chorus, there ain’t gonna be a dry eye in the house when he ends his concerts during the Festive Season.
That’s all folks; fifteen ‘Prime Cut’ tracks from a guy who can not just ‘play a mean guitar’ but write a song that stands head and shoulders above a very crowded Blues market these days.
All Hail Popa Chubby!
Released November 13th 2018
As I’ve taken to regularly saying; we receive a lot of new music every week at RMHQ so choosing what to listen to; never mind review can be a headache some days; but when we do discover a new talent the world just seems a better place to live in.
Not that I advocate anyone changing their name just for a review on RMHQ; but Lisa’s surname KOWALSKI was what initially caught my attention, and then I saw the attached message was from her Mum, who is acting as her PR/Manager (driver and Chief Cook and bottle washer too I imagine) before I dug a little deeper and received a lovely surprise, in as much as Lisa has a wonderful smoky and very expressive voice on this heart crushing break up song (never upset a songwriter!)which is also a forerunner for a second EP which is due out in early 2019.
And another thing…….
For a young woman (she’s still only 18) Lisa Kowalski is a grafter; she started out busking on the mean streets of Paisley aged only 14, and then entering every competition a young singer-songwriter can (but mercifully NOT X-Factor) winning some, while gaining lots of valuable experience playing everything from pubs to Celtic Connections, King Tuts Wah Wah Club and even being invited to open a Scottish Music showcase in NYC…..which is the way to do it.
So; back to the song…..it is rather lovely and fingers crossed, bodes well for a career in the wacky world of music.
Released November 14th 2018
Benjamin Folke Thomas
The Missing Articulate Link Between Cohen and Cobain.
A few days ago I got involved in a futile discussion a friend who was really excited at the prospect of a new Mumford & Sons album because in his opinion, ‘the state of music these days is rubbish’ and ‘there being nothing interesting out there these days’.
I got in my car and played this album…… and contritely grinned my way home thinking “you don’t know what you’re missing matey!”
He’s been around for a while now; but Ben Folke Thomas only came to my attention (and most other people”s) with his Copenhagen album last year; and I still chuckle at the thought of his ‘Live’ album earlier this year too.
I won’t go into his back story again; but for a young man born on a remote island off the coast of Sweden he sure can make Folk music that defies musical boundaries and natural boundaries.
First and foremost he’s a story teller masquerading as a singer-songwriter that ploughs his own furrow; regardless of what everyone else is doing around him. And for that; you have to admire him.
Using his full band and blasting through this recording in only two days; you can sense the excitement and even freshness right from the first song, the acutely observant Tasteless & Complacent which has some cool backing singers doing ‘woo hoos’ and a lush melody disguising some very sharp lyrics; which won’t surprise existing fans in the slightest.
Thomas chose to write these songs around a piano, rather than his guitar; and the delicate and spellbinding second track One Day still revolves around that beautiful instrument and will make any other songwriter hearing it sit up and listen; then let out a big sigh as Thomas recalls his early life and dreams playing for free, in a smoky bar.
I rad a lot of bios that list an artistes ‘inspirations’ and usually just shake my head as they try to appear ‘cool’ for the sake of being ‘cool’; but in this instance you can definitely hear the intensiveness of Nirvana coupled to the wordplay of Leonard Cohen weaving their way through Dead Horizon and the punchy poetry of Some People; but it’s that modern twist on Punky-Folk Rock that makes this album special.
Ben’s subject matter is left of centre; yet somehow he reels you into songs like Modern Man with ease; even if you can’t decide if it’s a tale of unrequited love or stalking; but sometimes the difference can be quite blurred, as the narrator finds out.
Then, of course there has to be a Favourite RMHQ song; and finding a genuine ‘winner’ is very nearly impossible; as you too will find when you hear Lily Is a Gunslinger the first time and the subject matter and the ethereal way Thomas deals with it makes your jaw fall open in awe; then there is the ultimate ‘break up song’ One More Chance with the clever and observational Cohenesque chorus:
“I said Hey Baby
Excuse my inability to dance
That I make you cry more than I make you laugh
That the next beer I drink won’t be my last
Oh come on now
Baby give me one more chance.”
But I’m probably going for a song about Ben meeting Paul Newman in a dream. Nope; I’m not telling you any more about it; as it wouldn’t make sense….. it is a dream after all, but it’s a genuine thing of rare beauty and so articulate it should be used in educational programmes!
Ben Folke Thomas certainly won’t be for everyone that’s for sure; but if you like eloquent, often poetic observational songs about the human condition; but from the left of centre (think Cohen, Dylan, Cobain, Olney, Lucinda and probably even Ryan Adams) that make you ‘think’; then you will eventually learn to love this album every bit as much as I have done.
Released November 9th 2018
The Title Says It All!
In a week when I’ve nearly caught up with my backlog of albums to review I happened upon this one in the box of tricks. Although from my ‘secret source’ in the US of A, who has never let me down in the last 12 months it was actually the Blue Note style album cover that first caught my eye, and when I flipped it over and saw the song titles I thought it might be worth a spin.
Ooh, ooh and thrice OOH!
The first song, Money Makin’ Woman simply sizzles like breakfast bacon, the way it attacks all of your senses at once; and of course makes you salivate at the prospect of what else is to come. A tasty treat it is too with Oscher’s leathery voice sounding like it’s coming from a man with a twinkle in his eye, and his red hot guitar licks plus a couple of swinging sax’s in the background take us back to some late night dive, two alleys back from Bourbon Street, where only the ne’er do wells dare drink.
Next up Oscher slows things down to a late night stroll with Blues and Trouble, and not for the last time on this album he does things with his electric guitar that are still illegal in four states!
Now you are hooked; I can let you into a secret…….Paul Oscher played in Muddy Water’s band from 67 through 76; and even lived in his basement! That’s how good he is.
For a native of LA who has been settled in Austin for a long while; there’s a cool Chicago vibe going on here, with Work That Stuff and Dirty Dealin’ Mama being the type of Blues I’ve dreamt about re-discovering for years now; Oscher blowing a mean ole mouth-harp on the former and on the latter I can only imagine that Miss Lavelle White sings it with one hand on her hip and the other waving in the air as she hisses and purrs the sassy lyrics like a woman who has been wronged; very wronged more than once in her life and gets her mean revenge on Oscher who plays guitar and piano with as much guilt as he can muster.
When I tell you that there’s a poem here; Mississippi Poem don’t despair as it’s a precursor to the Talking Blues, Ain’t That a Man (Dedicated to James Cotton) and the pairing is quite exquisite!
Then; there’s also a Jazz instrumental, On The Edge, and, in this setting it proves that there’s only a sliver of difference between the Blues and Jazz.
Oscher pays homage to Muddy Waters with a cool mid-tempo arrangement of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and if I’m honest, it was an early contender for the Favourite Track title; but that has gone to, not just one song but two, or is it three….or sort of?
The title track Cool Cat makes it’s first appearance with Paul giving a heartfelt and amusing monologue explaining who (or what) Cool Cat was; and it not just made me smile each time I’ve heard it…… but giggle a couple of times too. This is followed by a delightful 4 minute instrumental with Oscher at the piano and nodding in the direction of Booker T and the MG’s. It’s so good that if I still had my radio show I would certainly incorporate it into an intro tune.
Then Cool Cat makes another, but this time epic appearance at the end with 9 and a half minute full on Rhythm and Blues whig out, with Miss Lisa Leuschner sexily purring the words; a la Eartha Kitt in her Catwoman guise “Cool Cat…..Cool Cat” over the end credits; and I can’t think of a better way to close such a cool, classy and occasionally sexy album like this.
Released October 19th 2018
Small Town, Kitchen Sink Dramas Never Sounded So Good.
I actually remember the day that I ‘discovered’ The Pistol Annies. It was in early 2012 and someone had requested Hell On Heels for my then radio show, so I checked them out on YouTube and within a minute I was so excited I did a little jig! Ten minutes later I had bought a download of the album and I think I played every track over the next few months.
Subsequently I’ve reviewed solo albums by Angaleena and Ashley; but had to actually part with hard cash for Miranda’s so it didn’t get featured on RMHQ!
Of the two of us here, I think it’s fair to say that Mrs. Magpie plays their albums more than I do; and Ashley Monroe’s SPARROW CD was on her car stereo only last week……serendipity, huh?
These days a new Pistol Annies album is a big deal not just here at RMHQ but across the whole Country Music world it appears, so I guess my thoughts won’t really make a huge difference to their bank balance; but here goes……….
Some rather neat Country guitar picking opens Interstate Prelude before the trio burst forth with some luscious harmonies on a short and sweet tune with just a hint of Gospel to it.
With so much of Country Music these days either being saccharine or Heavy Metal with a pedal-steel, it’s nice to find the Pistol Annies are still slightly edgy small town Country Girls at heart, starting with the kitchen sink dramas of Stop Drop and Roll One and the heart breaking When I Was His Wife showing that there’s still fire in their belly’s after all these years; and the opening lines to Got My Name Changed Back will surely touch the hearts of many in their fan-base;
“It takes a judge to get married
It takes a judge to get divorced
Spent the couple years in court
I got my name changed back!”
It’s an absolute firecracker and will have the ladies high-fiving each other as they dance like crazy at a concert; but when they hear Cheyenne, they will hug each and cry real tears as they slowly waltz around the edges of the dancefloor .
Obviously all three songwriters are skilled beyond belief and somehow they manage to collude quite spectacularly on all of the co-writes; with each drawing on their past or possibly present to write and deliver songs like Leavers Lullaby and Best Years Of My Life making them ‘believable’ for the listener at home.
As I alluded to earlier Country Music has moved on leaps and bounds since the days when Dolly and Loretta topped the charts; but Pistol Annies somehow still hark back to the ‘good old days’ in 5 Acres of Turnips and Milkman; but still make them contemporary enough to have some woman somewhere thinking “That could be about me!!”
The title track, INTERSTATE GOSPEL when it finally comes in all its glory is a real toe-tapper, clap-along tune that could easily be from Dolly’s Glory Years, as it’s got a fabulous beat and some death defying finger picking guitar too, and is surely destined for the radio.
There are already two singles here, Got My Name Changed Back and Sugar Daddy and I like them both a lot; but I’m going a bit left of centre for my own Favourite Song This Too Shall Pass which is from the darker end of the Love Song book and not really indicative of the rest of the songs here; but can only come from the heart of someone who is in a long and stable relationship that has sailed way past the lovey-dovey, hand holding phase but still love each other deeply.
Hmmmmm…..why would I like that best?
Now I’m on my second day with INTERSTATE GOSPEL I think Angaleena, Miranda and Ashley have found a delicate balance between the overall sound and choice of songs here; without compromising any of their individual ‘styles’; baring in mind all three singer-songwriters have now sparked off into reasonably different solo directions.
I’m also pleased to say the album is far from ‘over produced’; keeping it the right side of slick which allows the songs and stories to live and breathe without being swamped in copious string sections…..which was a bit of a fear in advance.
Released November 2nd 2018
Jesse Jo Stark
Remember Jesse Jo Stark’s single DEADLY DOLL from last year which we loved? Well, with the haunting lilt of Marianne Faithful still in our subconscious her latest slice of Gothic-Americana similarly captured my attention an hour ago and just like those heady teenage nights when I was locked in my bedroom; and with Mrs Magpie out of the house, I can’t take it off the office turntable!
Born in LA with a penchant for Horror B-Movies and Elvira, Jesse Jo Stark has bizarrely managed to evoke memories of Nouvelle Vague and Marilyn Monroe albums in my collection and of course images of Bettie Paige and the sexy starlet of so many Hammer Films, the delightful Fanella Fielding who sadly passed in September this year.
I’m loving it!
Released 1st November 2018
Classic Rock Meets Americana in a Sweaty Club.
While not quite a Supergroup; the four constituent parts of London based band Jawbone most certainly have very enviable CV’s after playing alongside Rock Royalty like Robert Plant, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and Tom Jones to name but four over the years.
With that in mind it was the name Marcus Bonafanti that jumped out for me, even though I don’t actually any of his solo albums…..I know he’s a quality guitarist with a capital Q!
So; I was taken aback by the almost laid back Country Rock and Americana feel to opening song Leave No Traces, which just goes to show you should never pre-judge these things.
Still reeling I was, and still am impressed by the harmonies Bonafanti and keyboardist Paddy Milner create in between taking alternate lines on haunting and clever song about ‘being lost’ in both life and love……which is something many of us can associate with.
This is one of those albums that work in many settings; but for me having it on the car stereo was when it really and truly came to life.
While Jawbone are probably ‘Rockers’ at heart; songs like the cleverly constructed and deeply personal Family Man, Rolling on the Underground and Sit Around The Table show a mellower and occasionally more playful side than full on Blues Rock would ever allow.
I’m sure when they play live many of these songs will take on a whole new life; as indicated by the neatly restrained powerhouse Big Old Smoke and possibly even the rolling and smouldering Get What You Deserve….. but I could be wrong of course.
To some greater or lesser degree the complex arrangements and the way they revolve around Milner on the piano with Bonafanti playing in the shadows, means that Bet On Yesterday and the song that closes events The Years Used To Mean So Much owe a helluva lot to the master-works of Elton John; and that is meant to be a huge compliment.
There are plenty of songs here that are perfect for the radio; but one in particular has all the hallmarks of being a crossover hit, making the wonderful Rock Ballad When Your Gun Is Loaded easily my favourite song here; especially the chorus,
‘When your gun is loaded
Don’t point it at your feet
I never make the same mistakes
I make new ones every day’
Come on; who among us doesn’t think that applies to them? I certainly think it could be about me, and me alone.
There’s a lot going on here, with the intensity of someone U2 in their early days sitting alongside the harmonies of CSN&Y, while, honestly some of the sweeping flourishes could be Queen without the pomposity and bizarrely there are also tiny echoes of Little Feet and the Band too at times.
This have been an amazing journey of discovery and in Marcus Bonafanti and Paddy Milner Jawbone have two very diverse yet complimentary singers; and each of the four bring an individual set of musical skills that add together to create an extraordinary debut album, that has the potential to lay the groundwork for a very special next few years.
Released 9th November 2018
Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson
CHUG IT DOWN AND GO.
Blind Chihuahua Records
A Little Taste of What Makes Americana Great.
In all honesty this album has been a bit of a challenge for me; not that I didn’t like it from the get go; but simply because there’s just so much going on it’s been damn difficult to get a handle on what to file it under!
Many moons ago I reviewed a Mark Robinson *album for a prestigious UK magazine and I once saw Daniel Seymour play bass alongside David Olney; and it appears that the dynamic duo have either supplied songs for or produced albums by many of RMHQ’s favourite Alt. Country acts over the years; but none of that prepared me for ‘this’ mish-mash of Rootsy Americana.
The rambunctious and stomping title track Chug It Down and Go opens the album in the finest of fashions, with Robinson on Resonator, Seymour slapping the living daylights out of an upright bass and Mr David Olney supplying sublime harmonica….what’s not to like.
This followed by the Cajun flavoured and accordion driven One Eyed Blue which will bring even a wooden leg back to life; as will the delightful guitar rag that is 19th Street Ramble and the charming Dixie Waltz which closes the album; and is every inch as delightful as the song’s title would suggest.
In between though there’s the world weary Slow Moving Train which sounds like either an out-take from the Band’s debut album, or something Levon Helm may have recorded many years later; yet Gypsy Moon and First Fool both take us back to the crooning Country we associate with the 20’s and 30’s but Take On Me Down The Road somehow manages to incorporate Jug Band Music and the type of Field Workers Blues that John Hammond Sr first discovered and all those white English boys turned into Rock & Roll in the late 1960’s!
With that last description in mind I’m pointing you to Bare Foot Gal featuring young David Olney again on a root’n and toot’n harmonica while the other two strum a banjo and blow a kazoo for extra authenticity.
Just like the rest of the album; it will leave you with a warm smile on your face.
As a stand alone album this isn’t always a cohesive listen; but I’m sure that if you were to see Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson in a downtown bar or more likely at a Folk Festival somewhere you would find yourself desperate for something to take home; and in that setting this collection of songs will make complete sense.
Released November 9th 2018
*PS….. Sue from the PR Company has just sent me a copy of that original review from 2010!
MILES TO GO
True North Records
The Perfect Accompaniment After Midnight.
My ‘relationship’ with Colin James is quite limited; as I only ‘discovered’ him in 2016 when he supported Beth Hart; and my initial reaction was “Wow! This kid will go far!” Which was funny; as by then he was already turned 50, had released 15 albums and won numerous Awards in his native Canada!
Then, a week later I received a copy of his Blue Highways album and straight off realised why he already had a successful career on the other side of the Atlantic – not only can he play the electric guitar as well as the best of them, he has a wonderful singing voice too.
MILES TO GO is not just the follow up to that career defining ‘covers album’ but a sequel as James delves even deeper into his record collection; putting his own distinctive stamp on 10 Classic (and/or occasionally rare) Blues standards while seamlessly sliding in two of his own; written especially for the project.
I wasn’t aux fait with the Otis Grand tune One More Mile before having my breath taken away by James’ scintillating version; which I guess pays homage to the original with a blues-wailing harmonica; groovy organ and swinging horn section in the background; but first and foremost James sounds like he ‘believes’ every single word he is singing as he oozes class on his electric guitar.
Some songs here I did know; but mostly the songs are brand new to me and even Need Your Love So Bad and See That My Grave Is Kept Clean are virtually unrecognisable in the way Colin James has deconstructed them and made them both sound very contemporary indeed; especially the former.
James’ own songs, the soulful I Will Remain and the unrequited-Love Song 40 Light Years with it’s uber-cool chorus and Steve Marriner’s superb harmonica solos both fit in extraordinarily well; and either could easily have come from Muddy or maybe John Mayall’s back catalogue if you didn’t know any better.
James and gang manage the near impossible here; creating a timeless Blues album that is also fresh, exciting and very contemporary with Still a Fool coming out of Chess Studios in 1951, but now evoking memories of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and also bits of Joe Bonamassa’s recent works; and it’s a similar feel to Howlin’ Wolf’s Ooh Baby Hold Me; which now sounds like the best song Eric Clapton never recorded in the 70’s!
This is one of those albums when you can close your eyes and stick a pin into the cover to find your Favourite Track; as yesterday it was going to be the funky foot-stomper Soul of a Man, but tonight I’m going for Black Night; no not the Deep Purple song! But something from 1950, originally by someone called Charles Brown and subsequently covered by Buddy Guy and Joe Bonamassa, but whatever, James turns it into the type of late night Blues where you come home from work, loosen the tie, pour something long, cold and strong and kick back and wallow in the lush magic coming from the speakers in a darkened room.
Obviously it’s a case of ‘each to their own’ when it comes to the Blues; and I personally grew out of interminable and loud for the sake of being loud guitar solos a quarter of a century ago; so I absolutely love this type of smooth and grown up Blues performed by a singer-guitarist and assorted high-quality musicians who appreciate the songs and music as much as the end recipient, the listener will do as well.
Released UK November 9th 2018
Released North America 21st September 2018