Lungs Are Burning (Single)
With a UK tour just around the corner Canadian Singer-Songwriter Christina Martin returns with a brand new single, ‘Lungs Are Burning’ out June 6.
Triggered by a rising Fentanyl drug crisis killing thousands of Canadians, alongside her and guitarist/producer Dale Murray Christina eloquently and passionately sings about a very personal subject, with a series of stark lyrics lyrics Martin captures the desperation of “chasing the dream” and the horror of living it. Murray’s stately production brings that stark reality home with a bite.
LUNGS ARE BURNING TOUR – UK TOUR DATES
June 24 THE STUDIO-FAT PIGEON LIVE CHESHIRE
June 25 TBD YORK
June 26 KITCHEN GARDEN CAFÉ BIRMINGHAM
June 29 THE DOG AND PARTRIDGE MARCHINGTON
June 30 SONDER FESTIVAL MANCHESTER
July 1 THE BANK EYE, SUFFOLK
July 6 THE LATEST MUSIC BAR BRIGHTON *
July 7 THE SOUND LOUNGE LONDON*
July 8 THE LITTLE RABBIT BARN ESSEX*
LIVE at CARNEGIE HALL (An Acoustic Evening).
Guitar Virtuoso Discovers His Brilliance Knows No Bounds.
Joe Bonamassa probably divides opinion among Blues and Rock fans more than anyone else has for decades. His fans can be like acolytes hoovering up everything he releases and taking any criticism personally; whereas plenty of others dismiss him out of hand as a ‘soulless showman,’ and in my humble opinion both sets are wrong.
Prolific, he’s now released 24ish albums in 17 years and while I’ve only been reviewing them for 5; my own feelings towards him and his music have certainly evolved from being in the latter camp – once describing him as a ’21st Century Alvin Lee – the fastest guitar in the West’ but more recently I’ve come to admire the way he constantly challenges himself and allows himself to evolve in a way I’ve not seen since the cusp of the 1960’s and 70’s.
My biggest criticism of Bonamassa’s earlier albums was that a) his voice was a bit too thin and b) his guitar playing was too fancy and long winded which were both highlighted on his many Live albums.
Both wrongs have been righted in recent years when he has ‘discovered his Roots’ and slowed things down; and LIVE at CARNEGIE HALL (An Acoustic Evening) really showcases the ‘new’ Joe Bonamassa.
The album opens with a ‘bang’ as the band throw everything they have at This Train and the addition of International artists playing a multitude of acoustic instruments make it almost unrecognisable from the album version. With so much going on behind him it should be impossible for Joe to make his own acoustic guitar stand out; but….. boy….does he manage it; and his now slightly worn-in voice sounds wonderful.
As the applause dies down a much gentler almost mystical sound filters from the speakers and again we get a completely updated version of Drive, which is taken into the territory I would normally associate with the legendary John Martyn.
More Classic Bonamassa songs are also turned inside out and come out the other side all the better for this refreshing treatment; never a lover of Dust Bowl I sat transfixed twice as I finally got to listen to the words; and I now I get to revel in some delicious bottle neck playing on the intro to Black Lung Heartache; and song really does become the atmospheric epic it always threatened to be.
As expected on previous live outings everything revolved around Bonamassa’s brilliant and technical electric guitar playing; but even allowing for the fulsome instrumentation included here, the songs are allowed to breathe letting the listener hear the beautiful stories that make up Get Back My Tomorrow and the gentle Mountain Time.
There are a couple of songs here that I wasn’t previously aware of, in particular Song of Yesterday from his Black Country Communion days; and the inclusion of some female backing singers and Bonamassa’s all-powerful acoustic playing had me thinking of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen album; and probably that is as good a reference point for this record as any, especially because of the inclusion of Reese Wynans on piano.
I last heard Hummingbird on the Live at The Greek album and yet again; it is virtually unrecognisable in this beautiful format, and all the better for a ballsy Rootsy/Americana treatment that truly showcases Bonamassa’s skills on an acoustic guitar.
Unlike his previous Live Albums where everything plus the kitchen sink is thrown at the finale; tonight things slow down real, real slow for a beauteous rendition of The Rose which closes the night with more of a sigh than a scream, and works perfectly.
The production throughout is crystal clear with every instrument and voice being heard in it’s right place, behind Joe Bonamassa’s masterful guitar playing and endearing singing.
Favourite track? That’s easy…..How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? An age old tale that is still a soundtrack for 2017 and Joe Bonamassa sings the bones out of it!
There’s next to no chit-chat between songs but if you want that there is also a DVD available too which has the addition of a Behind the Scenes film, with Joe talking about guitars (fancy that!), lots of photos and an extra song, and for audiophile there’s even a 3 x LP release too.
Released 23rd June 2017
TUG OF WAR
Blue Elan Records
Classy, Soul Searching and Heart-Stopping Blues Deluxe.
This album has been hanging around the ‘to do’ box for a few weeks now and a couple of tracks have piqued my attention when the iPhone is set to ‘shuffle’ mode but it was only this morning, when the June weather outside was grim beyond belief that I finally to give it a spin.
Well; as I’ve said before ….”God acts in mysterious ways”; as it’s been the perfect accompaniment for catching up with outstanding internet type matters; and now as I drink strong coffee and eat even stronger ginger biscuits.
Any song called I Don’t Want To Be In Love will catch my eye; and this album opener is an absolute scorcher; as Gina’s deep and rich voice pleads with her man ‘not to make her fall in love’ as she ‘was happy being alone’……and Dave Darling’s sparky guitar behind her makes the song extra special indeed.
This links perfectly well with track #2 Damaging Me which follows; and again Sicilia pours her heart out in song; and the deep dark and very personal mood is set for the next hour.
It turns out that TUG OF WAR is Gina Sicilia’s seventh album and was recorded after a ‘painful and dramatic’ event in her life which necessitated a move to Nashville where it was recorded. While I would never wish ill will on anyone; it’s fair to say a good songwriter; and Gina Sicilia fits that description; should find gold in any type of darkness; and she certainly has with Never Gonna End and the heart-breaking He Called Me Baby.
While filed under ‘Blues’ in most record shops Gina adds a huge dash of Gospel infused Soul on I Cried; a song that Aretha would have been proud to sing in her own glory years and the jaunty album closer Heaven too.
When it comes to choosing the obligatory ‘favourite track’ I’m torn between Gina’s gloriously sorrowful rendition of the Beatles All My Loving and her own razor sharp acoustic Blues tune Abandoned; and probably will have to go for the latter as it had me tapping out the beat and nodding my head to the tightly wrapped melody and deeply private lyric which touched both my heart and my Soul.
Damn right this girl has the Blues and a heart full of Soul; and has a special way of delivering them if you have them too.
Released June 2nd 2017
Big Air Records
Classy Lounge-Rock For a World Without Tears.
One of my ‘favourite surprises’ over the last few years was Greta Gaines’ last album Lighthouse & The Impossible Love way back in 2013; so I was giddy with excitement when I received this new 7 track (mini) album.
The first time I heard it, my eyes actually lit up as the crashing guitars transitioned into Ms. Gaines distinctive voice on the steamy pot-boiler of a title track TUMBLEWEED which opens the album; and by the second chorus I found myself actually mouthing the words too. The bittersweet love song has an edgy Southern-Rock feel to it; and if I was being lazy it would certainly bring back memories of Lucinda Williams albums at the cusp of the new century; although Greta Gaines certainly has her very own finely-textured and distinctive singing style.
Leo For Real, which follows has a rat-a-tat-tat drum beat at its heart and Greta’s voice soars between mournful and hopeful as the song evolves to a doleful and beauteous finale.
Even on the heartbreakingly slow ballads, Only Lonely and Heal Me Greta never sounds down or defeated; she’s a fighter and that comes through not just the lyrics but the way she sings from deep down in the dark recesses of her heart……this lady’s not for turning!
Digging deep into her musical Roots Greta includes an interesting Folk Rocker called Sweet William. I didn’t ‘get it’ at first and thought it jarred with the other six tracks; but by the third time I played TUMBLEWEED it actually fits into the ‘mood’ perfectly.
Tucked away in the middle is the deep, dark Alt-Rocker Begin Again which sounds like the type of song Chrissie Hynde might have recorded had she ever joined Fleetwood Mac! Pounding drums, stinging guitars, a bass from Hades and Greta’s almighty voice……what’s not to like? That’s why it is my favourite song here.
And….when Greta Gaines rocks…..she ROCKS! The less than subtle Light It Up; an ode to legalising marijuana closes the album with not just passion but plenty of pomp too.
While there may only be seven tracks here; that hardly matters as you will have the album on auto-repeat anyway.
Released June 16th 2017
THE WORLD OF MICK (EP)
Prime British R&B.
With a huge backlog of albums to review, something about the cover shot on this EP appealed to me and thrust it to the top of the pile.
Then when I actually played the first track, Fooled By You I knew my ‘senses’ had been proved right yet again.
Mick Wynne has been a session-player and that apprenticeship shines through on every second of this classy mix of British R&B, Pub Rock and Country-Blues……true Roots/Americana but with a hefty splash of British grit. ‘Homesick’ Mick has the type of stylish, yet rough around the edges singing voice I love; coupled with Alison David on harmonies, some chichi piano playing
and red hot guitar combine to create a song that lies somewhere between Dr. Feelgood, Squeeze and even Joe Cocker! All favourites on the RMHQ stereo.
Track #2 Love of My Woman appears to have been recorded live and goes some way to showcase a really cool and rock solid band; the type I would pay good money to see in a hot n sweaty pub on a Friday night.
The three track sampler for an album to be released later in the year comes to a close with a song dedicated to the legendary Peter Green; You Are My Message, where Wynne sounds and plays uncannily like a young Eric Clapton circa Bluesbreakers and his first solo album.
The playing, singing and production here is quite exceptional for a singer/band that I’ve never heard of; but when you see Mick Wynne’s impressive CV it’s no surprise at all; and I can’t wait to hear the full album when it gets released in July.
Released May 31st 2017
River House Records
CBGB’s Punk Rock & Roller Blows The Dust Off Dylan’s Classics.
I can’t stand Bob Dylan’s voice…..never could; but have always appreciated the Genius that created so many musical masterpieces between 62 and 76; so when I heard a whisper that after playing at a party to celebrate Dylan’s 75th birthday last year RMHQ favourite Willie Nile was recording a record of his favourite Dylan songs I was rubbing my hands with glee.
Before we go any further, any boring Dylanophiles will hate this on principal, so should stop reading now. Gone? Good.
What else could Our Willie start the album with but the timeless The Times They Are A-Changing? Nile’s band apply the musical defibrillator and turn this hoary old Folk song into a Modern day anthem that should be played at 100 decibels outside Trump Towers on the hour, every hour!
Without time to take breath the band fire up Rainy Day Women #12 & #35 making it something that the Clash could have played as an encore; but didn’t.
With a 1,000 or more songs to choose from Nile has somehow whittled everything down to just 10; and put his own inimitable Doc Marten stamp on Blowin’ In The Wind, Hard Rain and Subterranean Homesick Blues; but it’s a couple of other inclusions that have tickled my fancy.
Perhaps the aficionados will tell me that Love Minus Zero/No Limit is similar to the original; but Willie Nile’s gives it a nice modern lick of Americana paint; making it very easy on these jaded ears; and it’s a similar story with You Ain’t Going Nowhere, which does sound like the Byrds version I knew from my teens, but with added joie de vivre and a massive shot of NYC adrenaline.
As I stopped being force fed Dylan music when Brother Magpie #3 left the nest in 1976 I’m deliberately not aux fait with his latter works; so the inclusion of Every Grain of Sand and Abandoned Love may (I say ‘may’) make me review my thoughts on Dylan’s latter works; but more than likely I will stick to listening to Willie Nile bringing new/old music to my ears.
After all these years I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve loved this album; thankfully owing as much to Willie Nile’s amazing voice; which brings me to the two songs that tie for the title of RMHQ ‘Favourite’.
One is an oldie that I only vaguely recognised; I Want You, with Willie giving it large on his acoustic guitar while the band roll along behind him now sounds as fresh as a glass of cold home-made lemonade; with just as much tang in the after taste.
The other is a song I’d not heard before; Abandoned Love. Seemingly a very ‘rare’ song; but a majestic choice by Mr. Nile as it perfectly closes the door on a refreshingly dandy set of interpretations of a tiny fraction of Bob Dylan’s back catalogue and Willie sounds like he was having a great time recording them.
The album artwork is pretty damn fine too!
Released June 23rd 2017
LAND OF DOUBT
A Daring Approach From a Brilliant Songwriter Creates a Bold and Beautiful Record.
It’s a challenge for any singer or band with even a modicum of success to have to choose between recording the same songs but with different titles; or do they evolve and develop; making new music that may alienate their fan base.
Thankfully Sam Baker has taken the latter route over 5 albums in 13 years and a combination of masterful storytelling and a very distinctive voice have managed to bring in new fans with every record without ever losing the original fans.
Without reading the Press Release in advance the delightful semi-classical guitar which opens track #1 Summer Wind took me by surprise and then when Sam more narrates than sings the song I sat back with a puzzled expression on my face. The song is even slower than normal and includes a de-tuned (?) guitar and some sweet trumpet playing from Don Mitchell which sent a shiver down my spine. As soon as it finished I pressed ‘repeat’ and the penny immediately dropped; this wasn’t going to be a ‘normal’ album……in some ways it’s a conceptual piece; but by golly it’s staggeringly good!
Only a few songs here; Margaret and Say The Right Words for example, are ‘typical’ Sam Baker songs in as much as they are very literate, deeply personal stories; but even Say The Right Words has Mitchell performing like an Angel on the trumpet again towards the end.
Without spoiling anything for you several tracks are referred to as ‘interludes’ which left me baffled at first’ then halfway through I realised that these short orchestral pieces work perfectly; cleansing the mind ready for the next song.
A brave thing to do; but when Song of Sunrise Birds (interlude) bleeds into The Feast of St. Valentine you know you’re not listening to an ordinary record…….LAND OF DOUBT isn’t ‘ordinary’ at all.
With that in mind, Peace Out can only be described as poetry set to music, with Sam talking through the first voice and even his singing voice hardly picks up the pace; leaving me with a fluttering the stomach and a big smile as it ended.
As a Sam Baker fan of quite a few years I absolutely love this album and salute the man’s courage for trying something different; but the title of ‘favourite song’ must go to an actual ‘traditional’ folk song; but a song that is as good as anything this great songwriter has ever penned. Some Kind of Blue whizzes us back 40 odd years to the Vietnam War as Sam tells the story of “a quiet young man/too shy to get a date.” But young Charlie enlists and before he knows what is happening he is on a jet then “crawling in a tunnel/where the fallen Angels dwell.” The irony of the chorus “Charlie fighting Charlie” isn’t lost on the character nor will it audiences. Eventually Charlie returns home and marries; but……..”crawling through a tunnel/with a loaded .45/was the only time he felt alive.”
Sadly there are thousands of Charlie’s across the Western world feeling the same way 40 years later.
The title track; which closes the record is a singular radical change of mood, with Baker again taking on the role of narrator on a very atmospheric and even claustrophobic song which brings the whole album to a powerful conclusion and owes a debt to to the Beat Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. If I still had my radio show I would play it every single week for a month.
LAND OF DOUBT is quite a departure from what we expect from an Americana/Folk singer; but don’t worry (spoiler alert!) this album is truly exceptional and takes him into the musical territory I associate with Randy Newman, Tom Waits and even the likes of Nick Cave; and Sam Baker is there on Merit.
Released June 16th 2017
High Tone Records
Classy Songstress Delivers Wonderfully Mature and Literate Album.
Opening song The Darkest Stars is a beautifully dark Jazzy-Noir heart-tugging tale; featuring the type of cool trumpet playing and tsch-tsch drumming I would associate with someone like Chet Baker; yet will have even the most casual of listeners tipping their ears towards the speakers and inhaling every word.
That ‘vibe’ stays with us through delicate ventures like Secret Life and the equally brittle Pulling For Romeo; whereas Flake White Heart flirts with a Modern Folk melody but fits in perfectly.
The harmonies and gentle melodic beat on The Broken News and Crack In The Sky could be latter day Cowboy Junkies songs, yet they have a completely timeless quality to them too.
The tempo finally picks up for Real Gone Girl which closes the album; and I’m pretty sure will become even ‘rockier’ (?) when played live; but not quite fast enough to dance to…..this is music to listen to.
One song worth mentioning is the bittersweet Passing Through, a co-write with Marshall Crenshaw and something I wouldn’t be surprised to find picked up by a Major Artist; which would be good for the bank balance but sad too as this song is well worthy of radio airplay.
I have to swing back to track #2 for my absolutely favourite song, Cigarette. Where she compares an unrequited love as being as much a ‘habit’ as smoking a Cigarette and just as short lived. Cleverly written and expertly executed it’s already been put into my ‘favourite sad songs’ playlist on the I-Phone.
Although the record is under Kelly Ryan’s name; this actually feels like a band effort; with Don Dixon’s bass and the drumming from Jim Brock holding everything together like glue while the occasional trumpet playing from Jon Thornton alongside Kelley’s distinctive tones and superior guitar playing all combine to make this album stand out in a very competitive market place.
I guess there must be someone I can compare Kelley Ryan’s velvety smooth voice too; but I can’t and in this wacky world of musical genres and sub-genres I find myself being drawn back to the age-old, all encompassing adage of ‘singer-songwriter’ for Kelley Ryan; as her haunting vocal performances and very sophisticated songs straddle several areas without fitting directly into any particular single one.
Released 1st June 2017
New West Records
Quirky and Left of Centre Power Pop From the Renaissance Man of Americana.
After seeing Daniel Romano last year at the Jumping Hot Club and thinking he was a contender for the Prince of Nu-Country title; this is not what I was expecting…..not expecting at all!!
Now I’ve got my head around MODERN PRESSURE and given up on trying a compare and contrast with his previous album MOSEY; I think I like it.
I guess there should have been a clue in opening track being called Ugly Human Heat Pt1 not being a Twangy Country tune. Although recorded in Sweden; this is the type of song (and album) I would normally associate with the artsy New York or London scenes.
Track #4 The Pride of Queens finds Romano sounding uncannily like Marc Bolan on a slow burning helping of Glam-Psychedelia with it’s rolling electric organ, funky bass lines and intensely sloppy guitars…….baaaby.
I don’t begin to understand what Sucking The Old World Dry or Dancing With The Lady in the Moon are on about; but hey kids….this is Pop Music; just go along for the whizz-bang ride and enjoy it for what it is.
Marc Bolan and T Rex are the name that spring to mind on many songs here; but there are plenty of others like the Scouse Rockers Teardrop Explodes and Icicle Works that appear to have been on the stereo during the recording process of I Tried To Hold The World (In My Mouth) and the epic title track MODERN PRESSURE; but I could be wrong of course.
The whimsical Impossible Dream is hippy Folk-Rock at its poetic best; then Romano follows that with a deep and meaningful Jennifer Castle.
Roya, the most obviously commercial ‘rock song’ here is an ode to ‘women everywhere’ and the type of song I would spend hours trying to decipher while listening on huge headphones.
While MODERN PRESSURE is a whole lot different from my normal tastes; I have enjoyed the challenge of reviewing it and the finale What’s To Become Of The Meaning Of Love really captured my imagination this week after two horrific terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. I don’t imagine Daniel Romano had those type of atrocities in mind when he wrote the song; but the astute lyrics and unconventional guitar solos really expressed my feelings in a way I never could.
Released May 19th 2017
Legend Re-Invents His Classic Songs.
I doubt anyone reading this review doesn’t already know the name Albert Hammond a prolific songwriter and hit-maker; and to honour 50 years in the business he has re-recorded 12 of the very best of the best on one amazing record.
Seriously; can you think of a better way to start a record than hearing Hammond’s delightfully silky voice delivering It Never Rains in Southern California with a choir and an orchestra? Me neither; so the coffee pot went on and the biscuits unpacked so I could just sit back and let the rest of the world drift away for an hour (which became two!).
While I instantly recognised songs like To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before and the punchy Nothings Going To Stop Us Now; there are a couple that caught my attention that I knew but had to check the press release to find out who had the hit with them
The beautiful Alejate; sung heart-lingeringly sung here in Spanish was a hit for the billion selling Josh Groban and Don’t Turn Around is totally unrecognisable from the version made famous by British Reggae band Aswad; but slowed down and with a pleading vocal touched me in places I haven’t been touched in a log time.
His one big hit under his own name Free Electric Band gets a new lease of life with a pumping brass band backing and you can hear the happiness in Hammond’s voice as he belts out each and every chorus.
It’s easy to forget that Albert Hammond is technically British (born in Gibraltar) but the version of the Air That I Breathe that coses the album is simply beautiful and has a quintessentially Olde Worlde English feel to the production; with an almost Hovis* style thread from the orchestra end-to-end.
While I normally listen to edgy, modern contemporary singer-songwriters I’ve always had a soft spot for Easy Listening (Andy Williams is a firm favourite at RMHQ) so to hear Hammond singing When I Need You; made famous by Leo Sayer in my teens; as a man of a certain age it now takes on a whole new personal dimension; and for the second time in its incarnation touched me right at the core of my soul; making it my favourite song on a delightful record.
*Hovis is a traditional brown sliced bread made famous by a TV advert set in a sepia tinged English cobble stoned village featuring a cloth capped lad pushing a pedal bike up a hill as a brass band played in the background.
Released 9th June 2017 UK & Europe