SadGirl WATER

SadGirl
Water
Suicide Squeeze Records

The Alchemy Of American Pop in 10 Songs.

Every now and again I likes a bit of music from left of centre; be that Tom Waits, Nouvelle Vague or more recently Mishka Shubaly and my new Favourite Offbeat Pop Combo is SadGirl, a trio from LA who sound like they’ve spent their whole lives only ever listening to the Phil Spector Box-Set and the Best Of Jan & Dean.
Just like those legendary Phil Spector recordings; or if you are as ‘cool’ as me ….. the Joe Meek ones in the UK, opening track The Ocean sounds like it’s recorded live in a tiny studio with a mad man at the controls; with singer Misha Landes voice echoing across the airwaves while something like Farfisa Organ and a miniature drum kit create a spooky backing sound.
This is immediatly followed by a love song of sorts; and if I’m not mistaken it’s more of a Lust Song, as Misha Landes cups the microphone as of every single breath he takes is as important as the words he sings ….. and they possibly are, too.
If I ever see photos of SadGirl I’m going to be devastated if they don’t have ‘pudding-bowl’ haircuts, Clubmasters and are sporting polo neck sweaters under their collarless jackets (thing Paul Revere and/or Sir Douglas Quintet) such are the images Little Queenie, Avalon and the hip surf instrumental Hazelnut Coffee conjure up in my addled brain.
It’ll be all too easy for many reviewers to dismiss this album as some kind of Retro-Hipster take on Americana; but if you/they take the time and trouble to digest Mulholland and perhaps Miss Me you will unearth some clever songwriting and very creative song construction too.
Selecting a Favourite Song is an either/or between the acoustic Water which closes the album and the gloriously bittersweet Breakfast For 2; with the latter taking the accolade as it perfectly sums up why I’ve fallen in love with the whole album.
Perhaps time will show SadGirl are too clever for their own good; but until then I can’t recommend this fabulous pastiche highly enough.

Released 14th June 2019
https://wearesadgirl.com/
https://wearesadgirl.bandcamp.com/album/water



Gary Nicholson THE GREAT DIVIDE

Gary Nicholson
The Great Divide
Blue Corn Music

A Very Powerful and Thought Provoking Album For Our Times.

Unless you are a devotee of the minutiae on albums; especially the ‘songwriter’ slot next to the track title, you may not have heard of Gary Nicholson before; but you almost certainly own some of his songs …… Keb’ Mo’s Don’t Leave Me Here and and most notably Buddy Guy’s The Blues Are Alive and Well to name just two, that will give you a taste of what to expect here to some degree.
The opening track, a duet starring RMHQ Favourite Ruthie Foster, God Help America will alienate 50% of the US population; but needs to be heard by all, as it’s a 21st Century Blues lament that will sting the soul of many who hear it; but just as many will shout “Hallelujah Brother!”
Living across the Atlantic I sit firmly in the latter camp; as I presume most of my liberal leaning readers will do too.
Jump forward a couple of songs and Nicholson gives us the almighty Immigrant Nation; which comes from the same part of his soul; and while written for and about his own country; it mirrors my own thoughts about the UK today, where the Right Wing seem Hell bent on turning away refugees and migrants at the border, without a thought to where we all originally came from anyway …. we too are an Immigrant Nation.
As a talented songwriter Nicholson can get these, and other similar messages across without the need for spitting bile and banging any drums; songs like the title track The Great Divide and The Troubles, will have you nodding along to the tune, before thinking and backtracking; “Did he really say THAT??” Yep, he did! I’m not spoiling anything here, because you ‘need’ to listen carefully and the message will eventually punch you square on the nose.
It breaks my heart that in my own lifetime Gary Nicholson could experience racism like which he describes in Blues in Black & White first hand, as a young touring musician; but sadly history shows that it is 100% accurate, and deeply personal too.
To some intents and purposes, THE GREAT DIVIDE is a Modern Protest Album in the vein of those 60’s classics we all grew up with; and Nicholson carries on that proud tradition with not just style, but grace too; flitting as he does between the Blues end of the spectrum with Trickle Down through to the downright Folky on the spine-tingling Nineteen and touching all points in-between too on Choose Love.
It’s been quite easy selecting the jaunty Soft Spot as my Favourite Song; because it reflects my own Father’s take on life, where as a poorly paid coal miner, he still knew that there were many people out there a lot worse off than us; and that’s something he instilled in me and my brothers and we in turn have past that on to our own children.
This is a very important album, as it asks as many questions of the world we find ourselves in in 2019 as it gives answers; with Gary Nicholson using the skills he’s garnered over half a century in the business to create a very, very powerful album indeed.

Released June 7th 2019
https://www.garynicholson.com/





Keb’ Mo’ OKLAHOMA

Keb’ Mo’
Oklahoma
Snakefarm Record

More Sublime and Thought Provoking Songs From a Modern Blues Master.

Quite regularly I listen to albums by artistes that make me think “Why aren’t they more famous?” or others “How they Hell are they famous and filling Wembley?” Then, along comes the likes of Keb’ Mo and I think, “He certainly deserves all of the accolades, awards and riches his talent and hard work deserves.”
While always associated with Delta Blues, there’s always been so much more to his music than just that one tiny genre, and OKLAHOMA is no different; with every song here being accessible to everyone; even music fans who don’t think they ‘like the Blues.’
OOOhhheeee! Opening track I Remember You is a slow hypnotic Blues with some delightful slide hiding in the shadows, that typifies Keb’ Mo’s distinctive ‘style’ and not just sets the tone here. Only because one other track is actually stunningly brilliant, stops it being my Favourite Song.
It was only by reading his Wikipedia page as research that I found out Morris started his musical career in a Calypso band; and that fact makes the beat in This Is My Home make ‘sense’ as this topically ‘political’ song about immigration in one form or another; needs a sweet melody to ‘get the message across’ and it certainly does.
It’s no surprise that this is a collection of songs that bounce off each other until they are a cohesive unit that demands your attention; with the uptempo and thought provoking I Should’ve, Ridin’ on a Train and the lusciously cinematic title track Oklahoma adding ‘light’ to the ‘shade’ of Cold Outside and The Way I, a fascinating song about depression that takes Keb’ Mo’ into a bit of a traditional Folk arena.
Tucked away in the middle is a glorious Ragtime tune, featuring Taj Mahal that is so very poignant in 2019; Don’t Throw It Away; about the amount of plastic waste we use one and dispose of; cluttering the earth, sea and more. Clever, witty and poignant …… expect it to be on a TV Advert some time soon.
I don’t usually ‘criticise’ in my reviews; but I have to say that the single, a duet with Roseanne Cash; Put A Woman in Charge is an over simplistic theory, pandering to the Feminist Movement which is in the ascendancy these days. With all that’s going on in America at the moment, I understand the need for radical change; but having suffered under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and more recently Theresa May I can’t vouch for this theory as necessarily being the right way forward; simply because of gender. Personally, I’m just for the best person for the job; regardless of race, creed or gender.
Back to the good stuff ………..
The Official RMHQ Favourite Track is the finale, Beautiful Music which feature the divine voice of the artiste’s wife, Robbie Brookes Moore on a love song so personal, passionate and damn near perfect it couldn’t be anything other than my Favourite Song here.
While always steeping his albums in Blues Mythology; Keb’ Mo’ has created yet another Cross-Over album that Rock, Soul and even Jazz fans can delight in owning and playing too; while Blues Fans will hail this as one of, if not ‘the’ Album of the Year.

Released June 14th 2019

https://found.ee/KebMo_OK
https://kebmo.com/site

Stuart Smith THE SUN E.P

Stuart Smith
The Sun E.P
706 Union Ave.

Imaginative Americana That’s Full of Thoughtful Charm.

I don’t know an awful lot about singer-songwriter Stuart Smith apart from he comes from Illinois and this is his second release and it was his life long dream to record at Sam Phillips’ iconic Sun Studios.
In a busy month, being recorded at Sun Studios was enough to pique my interest; but there was going to have to be something special to get me to listen fully and then find the time to write about the contents; especially with such a limited Press Release.
Well, dear reader; the opening verse of Inches From Your Heart not just caught my attention; but told me that this song was going to be my Favourite Track regardless of whatever followed.

“I had a dream last night
You were only 23
A natural blonde singing Born to Run
In my car painted British Racing Green”

That spooks me because I love Brice’s Born to Run and I have a life long fascination with sports cars ‘painted British Racing Green!!
Stuart Smith? You’ll do for me matey.
The song itself then takes us on a harrowing journey into the heart of love lorn Americana territory; without ever losing the listeners attention.
Smith fills his songs with both strength and wisdom; with the wired Shadows sounding quite stark by comparison to the opening track that precedes it; but with Smith’s voice getting ever more passionate as the story develops you know you are listening to something really special indeed.
Labor Day is a thematic love song that dabbles its toes in the Countrier end of Americana, but the claustrophobic production and multi-layered instruments behind Smith and his acoustic guitar make for a very memorable and thought provoking few minutes; and a song you will want to come back to again and again.
Smith’s voice finds ever more pathos to it on the heart-tugging Rattle The Locks (on my heart), which fires passionate love bullets with each and every note and word.
Perhaps it was the opening harmonica but Promised Land and the way Stuart wheezes his way through this enigmatic tale; but my first thoughts (and again today) I couldn’t help thinking of Springsteen’s Tom Joad era; and while never copying The Boss there’s more than a nod in his direction on this beguiling song.
The all too short EP closes with another windswept blue-collar, ‘deep and meaningful’ Americana tale, We Are Nowhere which will make you put down the newspaper or book you are reading to catch every last word.
It’s fair to say that I’ve been very impressed by this second outing from Stuart Smith; and I don’t know if recording these oft winding and clever songs in Sun Studios made an iota of difference; as they are good enough anyway; or just knowing where he was made Smith ‘up his game’ during the recording process but either or both theories make good sense.
What else do you need to know before parting with your hard-earned pocket money?
He has a world weary, slightly worn around the edges singing voice that just oozes rustic charm; and can not just write a song that will touch the heart of everyone who hears them; but his guitar playing is both understated and somehow manages to combine the subtleties of John Martyn with the passion of someone like British Folk legend Bert Jansch too.

Released 7th June 2019
https://www.stuartsmithmusic.org/the-sun-ep


Hollis Brown OZONE PARK

Hollis Brown
Ozone Park
Cool Green Recordings/Mascot Label Group. 

Radio Friendly Celebration of Modern Rock & Soul.

The remarkable Hollis Brown have only ever flitted onto my radar once; a gig at Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle s far back as 2014, when there were nearly as many people on stage as there were in the audience; but apart from enjoying the gig my most visible memory was of two guys standing front and centre shouting out requests all night; and each one; being played meticulously and gratefully.
So; this is now the first of their albums I’ve ever heard; and it sounds not a lot like what I remember from that night in downtown Newcastle!
The remarkable Blood From a Stone opens in the album; and alongside Stubborn Man which follows has a rocky ‘edge’ to it but singer Mike Montali sounds uncannily like Mick Hucknall circa the first Simply Red album ……. which is no bad thing at all; as Montali sounds like he’s trying to sing not just his heart out but his Blue Eyes and Soul too!
I somehow always manage to sound a bit embarrassed when I talk about bands using ‘radio friendly melodies’ these days; but it’s such a rarity it should be celebrated, not derided and boy can Hollis Brown construct a tight melody to wrap around their clever and intricate songs.
Many, if not all of the songs here are indeed ‘radio friendly’ (if you can find a station that isn’t Greatest Hits orientated) with The Way She Does It and Do Me Right sounding like the perfect accompaniment for driving along a winding coast road and/or doing the ironing.
Many, if not all of the songs here are indeed ‘radio friendly’ (if you can find a station that isn’t Greatest Hits orientated) with The Way She Does It and Do Me Right sounding like the perfect accompaniment for driving along a winding coast road in the blazing sun or doing the ironing.
There is also judicious use of ‘power chords’ which is something I haven’t heard, or enjoyed in decades and guitarist Jonathan Bonilla alongside keyboardist Adam Bock should be hailed from the rooftops for what they do on Go For It and the stompin’ Bad Mistakes, where Montali also somehow uses his vocal range in quite a stupendous manner too.
Without being disparaging there’s a distinctive 80’s vibe to a lot of the songs here; but with modern twists of light and shade with After The Fire and the acoustic led She Don’t Love Me Now being a real showstopper, if ever I’ve heard one.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this album as its Rock & Roll chic has perfectly fitted my mood this week, with the brooding Forever In Me and the album finale Go For It, with the chicka-chicka guitar licks and Booker T lite keyboards combining to lift Monali’s voice up into the pantheon of the Gods on a song that is now my Favourite Song by a smidgen.
Baring in mind my memories of a good ole Alt.Rock Band and the premier Blues Rock label that sent this to me, Ozone Park has been a mind-twist; but a very pleasant one as it’s been surprise after Rock & Soul surprise and is now a ‘keeper’ in the Mag Mobile!

Released 7th June 2019
https://www.hollisbrown.com/

Dylan LeBlanc RENEGADE

Dylan LeBlanc
Renegade
ATO Records

An Emotional Alt. Country Rollercoaster.

Three years ago I described Dylan LeBlanc’s CAUTIONARY TALE album as a ‘Lo-Fi sensory overload’ …….. well, things have certainly moved on; but this is still an emotional and sensory journey right from the opening track Renegade. Only this time the band have cranked the amps up to 7 and added some windswept and interesting orchestral touches to the mix too.
Somewhere along the road Dylan sounds like he’s immersed himself in a lot of Classic Alt. Country; and the result is quite outstanding, in a rather crowded market; with the breathy Domino and Lone Rider taking us on dusty love lorn road trips with an occasional rest stop at the heartfelt acoustic Magenta; with all three gently tugging at the heartstrings.
Maybe at this stage I have to talk about Dylan LeBlanc’s distinctive vocals; and ‘distinctive’ is the only way to describe this amazing Roy Orbison/Bob Dylan/Joni Mitchell hybrid. It’s probably not for everyone (Mrs. Magpie isn’t ‘sure’ if she likes it or not); but for the more open minded among us, it’s multi-layered and simply gorgeous.
Then there’s his skilled and articulate song writing, which can be both evocative and gently thrilling at times; Damned and Bang Bang Bang both spring to mind; with the finale Honor Among Thieves a rather fine Country song that transcends the Alt. moniker.
Finding an individual song to select as a Favourite Track hasn’t been easy, as this is an album to play from start to finish and just let yourself drift away into LeBlancland and cleanse your Soul and mind; but two songs have really captured my heart; I See It In Your Eyes something akin to a poem being set to a Country Rock melody and the song that I will actually select as my Favourite, Born Again which will take you by surprise and make you think ‘is he singing about me’ ….. or perhaps that was just me!
There’s a lot to love here, not just LeBlanc’s fabulous voice and writing skills; but the ‘big production’ of some songs juxtaposed against the simplicity of the deeply personal acoustic missives will take you on another emotional and sensory roller-coaster.

Released 7th June 2019
http://www.dylanleblanc.com/
https://atorecords.shop.musictoday.com/product/ATDD287/dylan-leblanc-renegade-digital-download?cp=126_68335_104859



Dave Arcari BREXIT BLUES

Dave Arcari
Brexit Blues (Single)
Buzz Records

Our mate and Bluesman Extraordinaire has gone a bit political on his latest and very mindful and accurate new single BREXIT BLUES.
There’s not a lot to say except ….. he hits the nail squarely on the heid and I love it!

Arcari tours Estonia and Finland at the end of this month (May) before embarking on the first of two USA tours in July. The five-week tour kicks off in California where he launches National Reso-Phonic Guitars’ “Dave Arcari signature” model guitar which is not only a unique design, but incorporates some brand new ideas alongside Arcari’s standard custom features. The tour then takes him to the mid-West and back.
“I’m incredibly excited about the signature guitar,” says Arcari. “To be asked to develop a signature model instrument with such an iconic brand is a huge honour – especially for a grass-roots artist from Scotland.”
He adds: “Ironically, this new single wasn’t recorded on a National guitar…but it will be performed on one when played live – and another forthcoming release has been composed on – and will be recorded and performed on – a National guitar.”

National Reso-Phonic guitars are synonymous with blues music from the birth of the pre-war Delta blues styles through to the current day.
Arcari returns to the USA in October for a series of East Coast dates and looks forward to Scottish shows in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen in November.
Arcari has recently been taken onboard by Reunion Blues Gig Bags as an official artist, a partnership which sees the premium instrument case manufacturer join Arcari’s list of endorsees alongside National Reso-Phonic Guitars, Newtone Strings, G7th Capos and Diamond Bottlenecks.
“Dave plays like he got his skin turned inside out and pretty soon my skin was inside out too listening and it was all good. That boy bleeds for you – he a real down deep player and a soul man…” SEASICK STEVE

Released 7th June 2019
https://davearcari.com/


Tanya Tucker THE WHEELS OF LAREDO (Single)

Tanya Tucker
The Wheels of Laredo
Fantasy Records

Y’all want some truly authentic Country Music? Look no further; Miss Tanya Tucker is releasing this fabulousLY dusty and beautiful single as a taster for a forthcoming album, WHILE I’M LIVING in August.

“Country legend and original female outlaw Tanya Tucker returns after 17 years. Tucker’s new album, While I’m Livin’, is set for release on August 23RD, 2019 via Fantasy Records. Produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, the album marks Tucker’s first for the label and her first new material since 2002’s Tanya. “
While I’m Livin’ is largely comprised of songs written by Carlile, the twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth and Tucker. “It’s a musical biography of sorts,” said Carlile, “about Tanya’s real life and the places she’s seen, and it’s narrated by the greatest country and western singer this side of Johnny Cash.”


Pre-order here – https://smarturl.it/TTwhileimlivin

WHILE I’M LIVIN TRACKLIST:

1. “Mustang Ridge” (Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth)

2. “The Wheels Of Laredo” (Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth)

3. “I Don’t Owe You Anything” (Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth)

4. “The Day My Heart Goes Still” (Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth)

5. “High Ridin’ Heroes” (David Lynn Jones)

6. “The House That Built Me” (Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin)

7. “Hard Luck” (John C. “Pete” Bailey, David Lee Mitchell, Raymond L. Turner and Jerry Ontiberoz)

8. “Rich” (Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth)

9. “Seminole Wind Calling” (Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth)

10. “Bring My Flowers Now” (Tanya Tucker, Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth)


Savoy Brown CITY NIGHT

Savoy Brown
City Night
Quarto Valley Records

The British Blues Boom is Still Alive and Well.

This is crazy; I couldn’t believe Savoy Brown were still going when this turned up a month ago; formed in 1965 I saw them several times in the 70’s supporting the great and the good at Newcastle City Hall; yet I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a single track off any of their previous 40 (FORTY) albums.
What the Hell!
That’s obviously my loss, not their’s as I’ve loved every note on CITY NIGHT every time I’ve played it, be it in the car, the office or the bus.
The growling and rumbling Blues Rocker Walking on Hot Stones throws down a marker, like the guy with the flag at the start of a Street Drag Race; you know what’s coming……. but the brute force that Savoy Brown supplies will still blow you away.
To all intents and purposes this is the barn storming, foot stompin’ Blues that I grew up listening to in the early 1970’s with very few bells, whistles or trinkets added for effect, and it’s all the better for that rawness and ‘authenticity’.
Everything from the song writing and vocals plus some rather amazing guitar playing revolves around band founder Kim Simmonds, and boy can he write a timeless Blues Rocker ……….. Red Light Mama is a belter and features some really dirty Gibson Les Paul playing; and the title track City Night takes us on a midnight stroll through the part of town your Mother warned you against visiting; then the band really let rip in a fashion I’ve not heard in decades on the sultry Neighbourhood Blues.
What’s not to like?
Well supported by Garnett Grimm on drums and Pat DeSalvo on bass; Simmonds and his worn around the edges, world weary voice really, really prove that the Blues is still very much alive and well on all 12 songs here; but special mentions must go to the magnificent Don’t Hang Me Out To Dry, Ain’t Gonna Worry and especially Selfish World which are all from different parts of the Blues spectrum but prove that the ‘old guys’ still have something to say that is worth listening to and is very relevent in 2019.
I’m still not sure what to select for a Favourite Track; possibly the low down and sexy Superstitious Woman but most likely I’m being drawn to the tip of the hat to Diddley Daddy ……. Hang In Tough, which precedes it and shows that there’s more life in these old geezers than there is in the majority of the younger, cooler kids who think The Blues is all about your prowess on the guitar; when the Blues is more about words and feelings; and Savoy Brown combine all three better than most out there today.
Currently a trio, Savoy Brown and especially frontman Kit Simmonds have delivered a record here that is full of fire, passion and excitement and is a bit of a keeper.

PS. Just out of interest I checked out Savoy Brown’s Wikipedia page and had my mind blown by all the musicians who have been in the band at one time or another; and then gone on to play in some of the worlds biggest Rock Bands …….. I’d love to see Pete Frame do a Rock Family tree one day.

Released June 7th 2019
https://www.savoybrown.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoy_Brown

Dean Maywood EP

Dean Maywood
EP
Stereo 85

Insightful Americana From The Irish Heartlands.

While ‘billed’ as an Irish singer-songwriter, our friend Dean Maywood has a truly ‘International’ feel to his songs and the way he sings ’em.
While Ireland is noted for its love of Country Music, Maywood skirts the Americana and more cerebral singer-songwriter edges rather than the twiddly-dee, check shirt wearing music we normally associate with the Emerald Isle.
Dean first came to my attention via opening track Jane, when it was a single back in January. This haunting and atmospheric song, with sumptuous harmonies supplied by Siobhan McShane, conjures up images of running away and driving down Ventura Highway, rather than the M1 from Dublin to Belfast…… it’s that kind of cinematic and romantic bittersweet love song we love here at RMHQ.
From listening to this EP and some of Dean’s much earlier work I don’t think his singing style is ‘effected’ in anyway, it’s just the way he sings and when you add a steel-guitar and warm harmonies ( Patsy Gallagher this time) the imagery he creates on Louisiana defies listeners not top presume he comes from East Nashville or downtown Oklahoma City and not the North of Southern Ireland; and it’s similar in many ways with the starker and more haunting The Silver Dollar.
If anything, the only disappointment here is the actual brevity of the disc, as its only 5 songs long; but Maywood certainly throws down his marker as a talented storyteller with the final song here Lay You Down and the song that is the RMHQ Favourite Track, Knowing & Lying which really does criss-cross the intelligent writing of John Martyn, John Prine and perhaps even John Lennon in the way he details the minutiae of a heartbreaking relationship but somehow making it sound of operatic proportions.

Released June 7th 2019
https://www.facebook.com/deanmaywood/