Fred Hostetler WALL OF DREAMS

Fred Hostetler
Wall of Dreams
Mukthiland Records

In a Parallel Universe This Will be The Soundtrack to the Fourth Summer of Love.

It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago that we first played Fred Hostetler’s ‘return to the fold’ album; FORTUNA REDUX, yet it was over a year ago …. and he appears to have spent the intervening time studying late 1960’s Psychedelic Pop Music; of the Beatles/Love/latter day Yardbirds ilk.
That’s actually a very good thing; as Fred has taken the best and most commercial of that genre as his template and breathed 21st Century angst and edge into his songs; starting with the opening track Wall of Dreams, which sets the mood and tone for what is to follow; leaving me nodding my head in time to the grooves and occasionally miming the lyrics …. especially the chorus.
This is neatly followed by the more edgy in construction; You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know which has more of a contemporary feel to the lyrics and even the way Hostetler delivers them.
It wasn’t a huge surprise to find a piece of whimsy tucked away in the middle; and while I’m not altogether sure what Olaf’s Daughter’s Finnish Knee High Leather Boots; although it could be a love song about finding love in the most unpredictable of places; the melody and keys are so catchy this song should have been a hit single on the Buddah Label back in the day.
Dreamer’s Dream again features a sitar as the lead instrument and as the title suggests is an absolutely dreamy four minutes designed to make you kick back and let the music heal your woes ….. if that isn’t too hippy-drippy for you.
The all too short 7 track release closes with River of Hope which is actually a lot more intense than the title would at first suggest; and feels like it will have the ability to spark off into several new arenas when ever played live.
While in every aspect WALL OF DREAMS has been a joy from start to finish; there is one really special song here; True True Love that will make you close your eyes tightly shut so as to let the words and music overwhelm your senses (which is a problem if you are driving!) and the chorus is going to be an earworm for hours afterwards too; by the very way!
Following his return to the West and the music industry in 2018 after spending 17 years in India Hostetler is certainly making up for last time; with each of his three previous releases being as different from each other as this is from Fortuna Redux ……. and in a parallel universe WALL OF DREAMS would be the soundtrack to the Fourth Summer of Love.

Released January 2022



Ann Peebles & The Hi-Rhythm Section
Live in Memphis
Memphis International Records

A Little Ray of Sad and Soulful Sunshine Just For Your Very Own Pleasure.

I was so excited when I received this album; as I was a Soul Boy in my teens/early 20’s and Ann Peebles was a regular on my record player; mostly singles but her I Can’t Stand the Rain LP.
For once I actually read the Press Release before listening to the music; and that only served to whet my appetite even more as this is ‘only known live recording with the Hi Rhythm Section, being recorded at a show in February 1992‘ ….. YOWZA, YOWZA …. YOWZA!
The show starts with a super-smooth ballad If I Can’t See You that sent a tingle down my spine; especially as it was being played quite loud in the living room where I have my best speakers. As is the case in shows like this would have been; Ann slows things down mid-song to introduce herself and try to ‘whup up’ some extra excitement among the audience.
This track (and a couple of others) is only spoilt by the vicious editing at the end ….. no sleek fade …. just a STOP….. then Ann introducing Part Time Love which is even smokier and sultrier than my 7 inch single all those years ago.
There are a couple of songs included that I either can’t remember or just don’t know; but I’m thrilled to be acquainted all these years later with I Didn’t Take Your Man, which is one of those sassy tales of an extra-marital affair; via a one sided ‘telephone call’ that crops up occasionally in Soul Music and sets the pulse racing as you wait for the punchline at the end …. if it ever comes.
Another is the slow and slinky Didn’t We Do It, which borders on Gospel as Ann and the Hi-Lights show why they were and still are Stars of the Soul World.
Without any surprises at all the show includes with her three most famous songs; and each is rearranged enough to give them extra sparkle but not enough for any one to be even a smidgen disappointed; with the torrid tale of the unrequited love of a married man; I Feel Like Breaking Up Someone’s Home and I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse down slowed down to a sweltering and even voluptuous level, leaving you panting for breath hoping for a happy ending …. which never comes.
For a Favourite Track I pretty much should by all reasoning choose I Can’t Stand The Rain; which is as good as ever; and that intro is just ‘so iconic’; but I’m going for a song I hardly know in this format; You Keep Me (Hanging On) …. a minor hit in 1974; and somehow gives Ms Peebles the opportunity to show off her amazing vocal range without ever going too high or too low; and as for the Hi-Rhythm Section; they bring their studio perfection to the concert stage with effortless grace.

It’s been an absolute pleasure (really) listening to Ann Peebles again after all these years; and this album has been a little ray of sunshine when there’s so much doom and gloom surrounding us these days.

Released 29th April 2022

UK and Europe


Eliza Neals
Badder To The Bone
E-H Records

A Challenging Move On Through the Dark Shadows of The Blues That Hits All The Right Spots

There’s an element of guilt attached to this review; as Eliza promoted its release a couple of days ago; for me to make a sarcastic response as I hadn’t received a copy …. to whit she DM’d me immediately stating she’d posted a CD several weeks previously!
Any hoot; a download arrived within the hour so all’s well, that ends well ….. even if was being a bit huffy.
Was my wait worth it?
Hell yes!
Taking a massive leap forward from the BLACK CROW MOAN album, Eliza spreads her talents far and wide; even challenging herself at times across the Blues gamut here; starting with the Diddleyesque United We Stand; which has the hallmarks of a rocking good ‘protest song’ the likes of which most rockers shy away from; but Ms. Neals always wears her heart on her sleeve and damn the consequences.
This is immediately followed by some low down and bittersweet Soulful Blues with the heartwrenching ballad Queen of the Night; which features the subtle touches of Lance Lopez on geetar and Lynard Skynyrd’s Peter Keys on actual ‘keys’ making for an intense love song that comes in just shy of 7 minutes long; but has your attention for every single second.
There’s plenty of power chords and riffs a’plenty throughout; made all the better by Eliza and her co-writer’s strong storytelling; most astutely on King Kong, the Rustic Rocker that is Fuelling Me Up and the emotionally charged and slowed down retake of Queen of The Nile II, which closes the album and like the best gigs; leaves you wanting ‘more… more …. more!’
In between there are some really adventurous moves from Eliza; Lockdown Love is as sexy as it’s sleazy with the lady switching between purrs and growls like a she-cat on heat; leaving the male of the species listening sweating and a little bit scared!
Heathen takes us on yet another left of centre journey as Ms Neals taps into her S.O.U.L on Heathen which finds her hitting notes I had no idea were in her range; but when she hits them; they know they’ve been hit!
As usual I hadn’t read the Press Release or even the tracklisting when I first played this album; so it was probably a minute or so into it that I recognised Can’t Find My Way Home; the Blind Faith missive which has been a personal favourite for 50 years now ….. and while she plays around with the melody and tempo; plus the addition of Lance Lopez’s trademarked dirty geetar licks; makes for a really special version that will impress fans old and new.
This a Blues album; so it’s no surprise to find at least one ‘cheating’ song on it; and here the toe-tapping Hammond melody and guitar riffs camouflage the fear her man should have from ‘this woman done wronged‘ Got a Gun …… which had me going “Oh! Yikes!” the first time I heard the chorus.
For my selection of Favourite Track I initially made a notation next to Fueling Me Up, as it;s a great song with some mighty powerful musicianship all around that keeps you tuned in so as not to miss a note or syllable; but in the last 48 hours I’ve been drawn to the ‘Power Ballad’ Bucket of Tears ….. for no particularly personal reason; just that it’s a ‘grower’ that took my unawares maybe four plays of the album in ….. which impressed me a lot.
Even though her voice is as distinctive as ever; making this a recognisable Eliza Neals album and pleased to tell you it’s a thrilling move on from her last two albums; and hints at some fantastic gigs in the near future.

Released 23rd April 2022



The Family Shiloh
At The Cold Copper Ranch

Good Ole Family Friendly Country Music Like What You Thought They Didn’t Make Anymore.

It’s a bit odd to describe an old fashioned Country Recording as ‘Alternative’ …. but that’s exactly what this band and album are; as they are the polar opposite of anything you will see on the CMA’s or hear on Country Radio these days ….. because; and this couldn’t be any simpler; The Family Shiloh are exactly what you’d expect from their moniker; a multi-generation Family Review that play Good Ole Fashioned Country Music, like Grandma used to love.
Before we go any further I will introduce the band; While Colby and Kimberly Pennington have been matrimonially and musically active together since 1997, the band has evolved from a husband-and-wife duo to a full-fledged family affair, with all five children, one daughter-in-law, and several in-laws and siblings participating in the effort. Jonah Pennington, 19, brings the excellent musicianship to the table, adding a versatile list of instrumentation to the mix, while Chloe, 17, contributes fiddle, piano, songwriting and an amazing voice that consistently turns heads in their live performances. Adeline, 15, adds beautiful harmonies and fiddle while Patience, 12 and Amelie, 10 provide excellent vocal support as they grow on their own instruments of choice.
After playing hundreds of shows in various guises over the years Colby discovered a ranch in Burnet County, Texas called the Cold Copper Cattle Co. which he felt was the perfect setting to write, record and take inspiration from for this their fourth LP.
Without scaring you; even though every song here is about the 4C in one way or another, that doesn’t really make this a Concept Album ….. but it might be.
The swoonsome Cold Copper Theme opens proceedings in the sweetest manner, introducing the listener to what is more or less to follow; with Cody spending the end of the day ‘putting in a pole at the old fishing hole‘ as the world passes him by, while his laid back mood is further enhanced by some ultra-sweet steel guitar and a shuffling drum beat, before the ladies harmonies glide seamlessly into angelic yodelling at the end.
Now, I realise that this album isn’t going to be for all the Cool Cats out there; but if you get past that first song you are in for 45 minutes of divine Country Music; the type old grumps claim ‘isn’t made anymore.’
As someone who lives in NE England; my first thoughts were that there were too many songs referencing cattle; but hey ….. The Family Shiloh’s demographic will probably appreciate, understand and love the minutiae that makes Dunn Lucky Dice, Cold Copper Call, Look At All Them Cows and It’s Gonna Be a Longhorn Day different from each other …. and in all honesty I love all of these anyway.
In many ways these songs and band are what I dream of stumbling upon at a Country Fair one day; with Cody taking centre stage in a Porter Waggoner/Don Messer fashion; and when the song needs a different style invites a ‘little lady’ (Chloe and/or Kimberley) to the front to sing the fizzing Sunshine Soul or Kansas before taking over proceedings himself.
A few weeks ago I was actually discussing the lack of Cowboy songs (and train driving too) in Country Music; but the Family Shiloh have filled that gap with style.
With 15 very different songs to choose from it’s been a bit of a chore trying to find one single track as a sole Favourite with Delta Lucky Ace leading the field a few days ago; then one afternoon the dramatic The Last Herd caught my attention; combining an aging Cowboy and the real life pathos a character like this can provide ….. expect ‘dust in the eye’ as it plays out btw.
Then I narrowed it down to two ballads; Chloe’s delightful Come With Me, which sounds not a million miles off Linda Ronstadt in style and range as she soars and glides on a Country Heartbreaker; whereas the other is Cody digging deep on In Lieu of You which features some really soulful harmonica and fiddle playing behind a tearful vocalist retracing the mistakes he’s made working so much over the years, to the detriment of his marriage …… which is perfect Country material; but not always has heartfelt as this particular song.
The album closes with Cold Copper Reprise; and it is a retrospective of what we’ve heard previously; and in the event of the Family Shiloh recreating this album on stage ….. it really is the perfect ending.
Don’t shoot me; but the album I think that this closest resembles is Springsteen’s WESTERN SKIES, certainly the mood is of a similar vein; but the construction of each individual song tells a single story; but added together creates a spellbinding narrative that you will keep coming back to as the years go by.

Released April 29th 2022


Lew Jetton & 61 South DEJA HOODOO

Lew Jetton & 61 South
Deja Hoodoo
Endless Blues Records

Smooth and Silky Classic Blues With a Razor Sharp Contemporary Edge.

Without RMHQ I doubt that I would ever have heard of Lew Jetton & 61 South; but I’ve now got three albums by him/them and my world is all the better for discovering them.
While one of my closest friends instantly dismissed this album after three tracks as being ‘nothing new’ ….. which isn’t too far from the truth; but that’s not the point is it?
What Lew Jetton and compadres do, is take the Classic Chicago Blues/R&B format and rub it down and then apply their own glossy varnish to create contemporary songs that will appeal to Blues fans of all hues and ages.
Starting with the slick and greasy Two Lane Road, Jetton throws down a marker; defying you not to ‘get on down’ with his bodacious take on the classic formula ….. and comes out on top.
Track #2, Mexico, with its Rolling Stones ‘riff’; troubles me somewhat; as it’s a Blue Collar tale from the Rust Belt; where the tired and beat down character bemoans his life, now ‘his job has gone down to Mexico and he’s now ‘living off the Government.’
But ….. there are many folk out there that will associate these words with their own lives; in fact I can too ….. as my 25 year career as a succesful Salesman; while ‘not going to Mexico’ …. actually ‘went to the internet‘ as stores across the country disappeared and were replaced by websites with limited overheads.
There is also plenty of ‘lightness’ here that counteracts any shade; none more so than Homegrown Tomatoes which has a great ‘chunky’ beat and some fiery harmonica courtesy an original member of 61
South; JD Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers, who appears again on five more tracks; making each one ever more exciting than if he wasn’t there!
While not the most prolific of recording artists Jetton has nevertheless been on the gig circuit for 30 years; and that shows in the way he and the band gel on the broody Nighttime Into Daytime and Drinking Again; which could have become parodies in lesser hands.
There’s occasionally a smoothness to Jetton’s songwriting that belies his lack of releases over the years; with Keeping Me Awake and Will I Go To Hell both sounding like they’ve been lifted from Grammy Winning albums and superimposed here ….. they’re not; they’re all Lew Jetton originals even the timeless stroll of Sandy Lee!
As with all Blues album there’s an abundance of heartbreakers and ‘lost love’ songs here; and again Jetton digs deeper than most to keep your attention on the fabulous I Been Cheated and Waffle House Woman both of which which will leave you with tingles down your back!
While there’s some darkness in the actual songs; it’s fair to say that DEJA HOODOO is a fun album from start to finish; when inadvertently you will have a smile in your face; which brings me to the two songs that I’m struggling to decide between for the accolade of Favourite Song; first out of the traps is Who’s Texting You; a very contemporary twist on the age old story of ‘cheating’ in the Blues idiom and something I’m happy to play over and over again; such is the quality on show; which is a similar description of the slow and sultry Tattoo Blues; which comes from the Muddy Waters school of Blues via the Pinetop Perkins Academy; with plenty of emphasis on the barrelhouse piano and JD Wilkes’ amazing harmonica playing, as there is on Jetton’s raspy vocals.
I’ve always found it tiresome when friends who wear T-Shirts bearing the image of the Blues Greats try to tell me that “there’s no good music anymore” ….. and dismiss me with a wave of the hand when I mention albums like this peach ….. if only they’d get their collective heads out of the sand and listen Lew Jetton I’m 99.9% sure they’d then buy a T-Shirt to prove their unbounded loyalty!

Released April 29th 2022



Ian Siegal
Stone By Stone
Grow Vision Records

Digging Deep and Colouring Outside the Edges on a Modern Blues Classic.

While he’s previously released 13 other albums, I hope it’s fair to say that Ian Siegal is probably better known for his brilliant and passionate live shows; from pub backrooms through the main stage of International Festivals; that have gone down in history over the last 20+ years.
That said; the four albums I own ain’t got nothing wrong with them at all; and each one has managed to entertain me in the car or office many times over the years ….. and (Spoiler Alert!) this one will too.
STONE BY STONE starts with the ramshackle, Gospel tinged Working On a Building which sounds like it’s ‘Live Cut’ and will certainly catch your attention; especially that razor sharp geetar in the background.
Siegal’s ‘type of Blues’ straddles many formulas and he brings a freshness to each and every song that you probably weren’t expecting …… and I’m thinking especially of the Country-Blues infused The Fear as well as his pained rendition of Psycho (that I first heard by Elvis Costello on Almost Blue) and especially This Heart which sounds like Ian had been listening to a lot of Robert Johnson on the build up to recording day.
Fans like me fawn over Siegal’s exquisite guitar picking; yet the ‘experts’ in the mainstream sort of ignore him …… which is their loss and our gain; when you dissect the intimate and raw K.K’s Blues and Holler which are both very good songs made great by the inclusion of the the stupendous yet understated guitar in the background.
As we would normally expect from an Ian Siegal; there’s a lot of heartbreak in his songs; and he describes it in a manner multi-award winning songwriters and singers can only dream of on Gathering Deep and Onwards and Upwards, which closes the record in a jaunty manner.
Not for the first time and no doubt, not the last I’m torn between two fabulous and fabulously different songs for my selection of Favourite Song.
I’m The Shit, sounds like something Tom Waits could have written; but didn’t and while slightly tongue in cheek; Ian Siegal digs deep and colours outside the edges on a song about living on the edge and in the shadows.
Then there is Hand In Hand, which just may be one of the finest songs that Ian has ever recorded; not least because of the lyrics but the duet with the mighty Shemekia Copeland who takes on the guise of Aretha in her ‘Gospel mode’ and the result is absolutely stupendous …. and far too good to be ignored by national radio.
It’s not just Ian Siegal’s distinctive voice and/or guitar playing that makes this album a winner; but the crisp production actually makes him sound ‘as live’ and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the sequencing is almost perfect; easing us through a gentle rollercoaster of adult emotions; the likes of which we rarely hear.

Released April 29th 2022



Dana Fuchs
Borrowed Time
Ruf Records

Got ‘Em Brand New Southern Kozmic Blues

Because she’s been around the Blues scene for 20 years or so; I kind of think of Dana Fuchs as ‘Godmother’ of the female Blues scene.
OK, I shouldn’t seperate the ladies from the gentlemen these days; but I can’t help myself …. sorry.
Then again; because she’s trod such a varied path with her albums over the years; perhaps I should be comparing and contrasting with the males members of the species?
Or I could just tell you about the fabulous music contained within this; her 10th full length album.
Normally less dependent on the electric guitar than her contemporaries; Dana kick starts BORROWED TIME with the raunchy Double Down on Wrong; which is full of fizzy electric guitar ….. just to prove my memory wrong! Though the production always keeps her distinctive throaty vocals to the front of the mix …. which is how it should be.
Not for the first time; Dana takes us on an emotional rollercoaster; using electric guitars on the uptempo Blues Rockers that will shake your soul; like the funky-ass Star and the full-on righteous Last To Know ; which owes a nod to the guitar playing of the late Johnny Winter if I’m not wrong; although the song is deeply personal to Ms. Fuchs herself.
Speaking of ‘personal’ Dana delves really deep into her imagination for the slower and more emotional Blue Mist Road and Nothing You Own; which was ‘inspired by a report about impoverished South Africans in a Cape Town Slum‘ and will bring a tear to a glass eye.
Long term fans of hers; and there are plenty, will love the new direction Dana’s writing takes with Curtain Close and Not Another Second, which sort of dabble into the Southern Rock territory I associate with Molly Hatchet and even Black Oak Arkansas if my aged memory doesn’t deceive me.
When I first received the album I ‘presumed’ it was going to be a ‘pedal to the metal’ full on ‘rocker’ ….. but Dana really shows her class by following the beautifully gentle Call Me Name, which again shows the diversity in Ms Fuch’s writing for this album; as this tale of two women riding out the Liberian War in a refugee camp, becomes a universal story about love and companionship with the intensely feisty Save Me which is going to be a sure fire winner when played live.
I’ve been torn between another Southern Rocker Hard Road and the heartfelt Country Blues of Lonely Lie for my actual Favourite Song; not least because of the harmonica intro and occasional haunting salvos on said instrument as Dana channels both, her inner John Prine AND Bonnie Raitt…. which is why it gets my casting vote.
I’m no expert regarding Dana Fuchs’ career so I’m not sure where her fan base will place this in her Top 10 releases; but I will be surprised if history will show it’s in the Top 3 ….. and for me; as the proud owner of only two other of her releases, it’s my Favourite as there’s more than enough to keep me coming back time and time again.

Released April 29th 2022



Aaron Skiles
Wreckage From The Fire

Indie Alt-Country For The Truck Ride to Catch the Glistenin’ Californian Surf

New to me and drawn in by the atmospheric front cover, I was bracing myself for a dark, moody, broody cluster of songs.
How ecstatic I am to be proved spectacularly wrong!
One seriously uplifting release: here we have Californian surf-infused Indie ‘90s Rock with a high tide of Punk lapping in.
It’s different, intriguing and gets deeper under your skin with each spin.
The album bursts open with the surging instrumental ‘Quarendream’: crashing drums, rocky-powered guitar fingers and cool harmonies of oohs and ahhs to layer the track with a surreal ocean breeze. With an abrupt ending worthy of any riotous punk single, this track replicates the overtures of yesteryear, communicating in less than 2 minutes exactly what we can expect from this second solo release.
It neatly leads into ‘Come With Me’, a request to follow Aaron Skiles on his new post-pandemic path. Formerly part of San Francisco’s indie alt-country band Bourbon Therapy, the fact that they have called time for the moment by no way means this artist has isolated himself.
A massive influence has come from joining forces with Drive-By Trucker’s Matt Patton.
This track, with ‘70s rock style power strum riffs, deftly and blistering at times belted out by Taylor Hollingworth (Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band, Dead Fingers), almost gravitates towards Deep Purple/Steppenwolf territory but vocals full of indie attitude divert it to an altogether different place.

And then we have ‘A Triumph Of Three Chords’, energetically stamping all that is fabulous about this album in one fell swoop. Despite the title, I can only imagine a huge bucketful of cleverness to engineer such a perfectly catchy, up-tempo, ripples-of-fun pop song. It gives you the sweetly naïve ‘60’s beach vibe vocals with the added brilliance of Drive-By Trucker bandmate Jay Gonzalez’s standout piano work that skips on the swell and fills out the song delightfully. It’s full of joy and hope for better times:

I want to sing for all my friends
Melodies for brightenin’ up their day
Hope that things are gonna change
Dawn on darkness fallen in the way”

False endings, playfully teasing in a live environment, are too few and far between on recordings for my liking. Oh boy this one builds up to a tidal wave of rousing piano and guitar in unison, making this my joint favourite track on the album.
At the midway stage, the mood gets intimate and ‘Before You Go’ lays the artist bare, grounding us with a deeply personal song. Although the subject matter is hard hitting, recounting the loss of a friend to suicide way back at Military College, there is an optimism too: a sense of emotional processing and healing, especially when we learn that after trying to write about it for 10 years, the Pandemic was the catalyst to enable Mr Skiles to finally put pen-to-paper.
It’s gently paced, words belted out with raw emotions and you can hear the cracks in the vocals making it even more touching; especially when accompanied by an atmospheric drum march beat which escorts us through his story:

‘’Feeling like my failing’s why you’re not here
But we all know you made your mind to go
It’s hard to keep perspective, so young and self-reflective Razing peaks down to valleys, hitting low
I can see that you’re crying out for something Wish it was a something that I hold
Many steps of those flights make up the staircase I’m offering my hand before you go”

The rollercoaster pace of this album means next we are flung right back into another feel-good hook-driven stomper, the first single ‘Love And Guilt’.
Plotting the tricky path of a long-term relationship, it contains another one of those aforementioned surprises…… an Alt-Country rock guitar teamed with spacey synthesised keys to add an altogether galactic dimension.
With endearing vocals, it gets inside my head after just one play and deservedly bags the joint top slot. The album plays out with a couple of rawer surf punk songs, ‘On My Own’ features drummer and engineer Bronson Tew playing lead guitar after apparently recording a demo late at night to show Taylor. Liked so much by all, it was concluded pointless to re-record. This shows the collaboration and respect between the players, instrumental to the feel of the album. Aaron Skiles has emerged from his own traumas, surrounded himself with fresh support and inspiration and salvaged something really positive and original.
A good time to jump onboard as he embraces this new adventure.

Review by Anita Joyce
Released April 22nd 2022


Sarah Jane Nelson SHELBY PARK

Sarah Jane Nelson
Shelby Park
Self Released

Deep, Dark Classic Country Tales With a Biting Contemporary Americana Edge.

I remember playing Sarah Jane Nelson’s last album I’M NOT BROKEN and being so excited about it I actually sent Mrs Magpie a text at work, to prime her for what I would be playing these Countrytastic tales of woe, break-up’s and cheatin’ for her when she arrived home ….. I’m a romantic like that.
It appears not a lot has changed in Ms Nelson’s life in the intervening months; although some of the subject matter this time is even deeper and darker yet still played out to some fantastic Country melodies and tunes.
Sarah lulls you into a false sense of security with opening track Drive; although the mood setting is on the sombre side; that still doesn’t really prepare you for the story that unfolds like a rose in late Springtime; no doubt leaving you open mouthed as the story plays out.
That’s the joy of Sarah Jane Nelson’s songwriting; in many ways, she’s ‘old school’ Country as she actually tells a full story in under five minutes; just like the singers she grew up listening to and learning from …. Dolly, Loretta, Wynonna, and Mary Chapin Carpenter too. 
As I’m prone to saying; “There’s not many laughs here” …. but that’s not the point, is it? These are the opposite of Blue Collar Working Man songs; Sarah writes about and for that guy’s wife and/or girlfriend …… with the Twangtastic Cuddle Up being about the problems ladies have finding lurve the second (or third ) time around; while Worth The Wait could be the same woman a year or so later; knocked down …. but never knocked out.
Just like her idols before her in Country Music; Sarah Jane really can cut to the quick in her songs; bringing a stark honesty to I Wish I Missed You More and the powerful Tired in a way that you probably don’t hear on Country Radio anymore; but should.
This might sound a touch odd on a Country album; but the beautifully tragic Boat on The Shore is made even sadder by the inclusion of some really plaintiff and funereal Celtic fiddle that alone will send a shiver down your spine; and that’s without Sarah’s voice which simply oozes heartbreak as she sings about what many of us feel, not living out our dreams.
The album is rounded off with a little ray of sunshine; via Mama Loves You; an adage we should all remember regardless of how far we push them …… they are always waiting in the shadows to save you when you fall.
Then of course there is my selection of a Favourite Song.
For the last four days it was going to be the title track Shelby Park; probably more Alt. than everything else here; as it owes more to the contemporary writing of Beth Neilsen Chapman, Gretchen Peters or (my personal favourite) Eve Selis; than the writers of old.
But tonight; I’m going to be as brave as Sarah for writing the song and all the brave females of all ages and creeds that have suffered like the character in the harrowing Smile Pretty.
Honestly, I listen to 6 or 7 new albums every single week of the year and just when I thought that I’d ‘heard it all’ along comes this tale …. phew …… the intensity of the music hardly masks the compelling and dynamic story of sexual abuse; that is far too common yet still hidden from public view because of the shame too many women and girls think they have brought on themselves.
I love the way Sarah Jane Nelson has used the Classic Country template to tell her stories; and added a razor sharp Contemporary Alt./Americana edge to bring them right up to date; and that’s one mighty big trick to pull off …. but she’s done it with consummate ease … and grace too.

Released 29th April



Lynne Hanson
Ice Cream in November
Panda Cave Records

Ottawa Singer-Songwriter Expands Her Musical Vocabulary to Fine Effect

No stranger to the UK Americana touring circuit, Canadian Lynne Hanson has recently brought this album to these shores along with multi-instrumentalist Blair Michael Hogan – and it’s that partnership which dominates this, her (checks fingers) eighth release since 2006.
In the live setting, Hanson’s guitar and vocals have been abetted by Logan’s guitar pyrotechnics and sampled, foot-controlled sounds and drums, which flesh the sound out to something way beyond your normal expectations of a duo – on record, technology also plays its part in this largely home-recorded opus to create a hugely rewarding cornucopia of textures and Twang …. with a capital T.

Opener “Shadowland” is a rabble-rousing fast Twangy shuffle that features towards the end of the current live set – and no surprise – it’s one of those energetic Jesse Dayton-esque Twangers that’s a perfect top or tailer with it’s
Jump! How High? Jump! How low?” audience participatory chorus.
“Hip like Cohen” uses dry humour
I was such a great dancer – when I was three…
to demarcate the desire to keep creating in pursuit of an ideal, whereas the title track “Ice Cream in November” which follows, takes a more melancholy reflective path with its reverb-washed guitar and electronic rhythm figures, framing a delicate, soulful melody.

“Hundred Mile Wind” drifts nicely into Spaghetti Western territory and would fit perfectly on a playlist with anything off the current Dean Owens’ “Sinner’s Shrine”.
“Orion’s Belt”, however, takes a swerve into confessional ballad territory before “Birds Without a Feather” evokes a bluesy chain gang groove with its gritty saturated vocal, thumping kick drum and distorted harmonica.
“Dominoes” heads back down South into Mexican musical territory with its Twang, stirring strings and sentiment that
Hearts like dominoes/lined up in a row/all fall down”.

Lynne Hanson declared, in the accompanying bio that she was looking to spread her musical wings on this release – and that pursuit is furthered on “In On a Wing” which hangs out in moments of 80’s Indie territory, with swirly synths and some “? and the Mysterians” keys too.
It’s not a heavy-handed “look at my new instruments” moment though – the arrangements and production add interesting variety and dynamics to both the song and the album.
“One of Those Days” takes this a step or two further still – imagine if Electronica/New Order had grown up in Ottawa instead of North Cheshire and they’d probably have come up with something like this.

“Puzzle Pieces” which follows, drops back into ballad-esque twang-land and lovely it is too.
“Le Bon Moment”, sung entirely in French musically sounds like something that Serge Gainsbourg would have gifted to one of his gamine objects of desire – I’ve no idea if lyrically that’s the case, but it’s got that sort of sultry feel from the vocal and arrangement – which is fine by me.
Closing track “This Heart of Mine” mixes several of the album’s musical influences – shifting major/minor chord figures help to create a 70’s Country-Soul feel that delivers a gentle lead-off to things.

“Ice Cream in November” does indeed take Lynne Hanson into newer musical areas and very successfully too – at its core, the music and sentiments stand up as a coherent whole, with the choices of musical accompaniment being both impactful yet sensitive to the songs.
If you missed her recent UK tour, more fool you – this is a performer very much on a creative upsurge.

Review by Nick Barber
Released April 22nd 2022