JD Clayton LONG WAY FROM HOME

JD Clayton
Long Way From Home
Mulberry Records

Blurring the Lines Between The Old South and The New West.

There’s a very blurred line between what we know as Americana and what we really want to believe is Country Music; not the Hard Rock with a Cowboy hat and a pedal-steel version that fills up the airwaves; but the real heartfelt stuff we associate with the Greats from Hank and George to Vince and Brad.
JD Clayton’s debut album comes fully formed and sits very comfortably in both of those camps.
Serving an apprenticeship playing every instrument at one time or another in his father’s church; Clayton comes at you with a clarity and honesty we don’t hear enough these days.
Coming in at less than a minute and a half, the delightful Hello, Good Morning opens the album with Clayton singing along with only his acoustic guitar and some birdsong, and closes with creaking floorboards.
This is followed by the most commercial song here; American Millionaire has JD being ruefully honest about his ambitions within the Country industry; but there’s a pathos in not just his voice but the arrangement too that sets this way, way apart from the gung-ho swagger I hear on Country Radio. Clayton wants success; but knows it will come from sheer hard work …. and not just pot luck.
For a debut album; the songs and even sequencing are fully formed and incredibly well thought out. Clayton’s idea of a ‘love song’ owes more to Townes and Guy than it does to Toby or Tim; he sings from the heart on Cotton Candy Songs and Different Kind of Simple Life, in a way that will genuinely touch the hearts of listeners who will come back time and time again to listen to a song that could have been written about their own lives.
The Press Release states these songs are from the crossroads where ‘The Old South meets the New West’ and I can’t disagree at all; not least the skewed passion in Long Way From Home or Midnight Special which sounds like it was recorded after a drunken night listening to Hank Williams, Little Feet and John Fogerty on heavy rotation; then there’s the album closer Sleepy Night in Nashville where JD slows things back down to a slow waltz beat, as his voice crackles like he’s on a 1950’s radio broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry. Goldmine is a song that will pass by many listeners the first few times that they play LONG WAY FROM HOME, but one day when the stars align, they will find themselves staring blankly at the speakers wondering where this beautiful missive came from.
It’s been a rare pleasure discovering this album; not least because of two very different songs; that I can’t decide between as my actual Favourite.
Beauty Queen sounds like a first take; where the passion and intensity just can’t be replicated and no amount of twiddling in the booth can replicate that release of tension from the singer/songwriter who was probably directing the other band members with no more than eye contact.
The other is Heartaches After Heartache which will send a shiver down your spine if you’ve ever had a love affair that went sour.
For all his music is very special indeed; I get the feeling that JD Clayton is the type of guy who will sit quietly at his table drinking a Lite Beer and shooting the breeze with anyone around him; then get called on stage and blow those very same minds into the stratosphere!

Released January 27th 2023
https://www.jdclaytonofficial.com/

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Emily Scott Robinson JUMPIN’ HOT CLUB, NEWCASTLE

Emily Scott Robinson, Violet Bell & Alisa Amador
Jumpin’ Hot Club
The Globe
Newcastle

Friday 27th January 2023

For a variety of (health related) reasons I’m still struggling to leave the house to go to gigs; and tonight I had a real dilemmas as I had the choice of three to go to …. all very different all intriguing in their own ways.
I chose the smaller gig; mostly because I’m in love with Emily Scott Robinson’s album BUILT ON BONES and the Jumpin’ Hot Club’s new favourite venue the Globe pub has great acoustics (and lighting).
The first surprise of the evening was walking through the door on the stroke of 7.30 to find the duo Violet Bell already on stage AND the venue was full.
As the first song closed singer Lizzy Ross introduced herself and the long and convoluted story behind the songs they would be singing; primarily about the mythological; creature Selkie.
The couple flit seamlessly between Folk, Bluegrass and even Americana. It became evident that tonight wasn’t going to a ‘normal gig’ as Violet Bell were soon joined by Emily Scott Robinson for a song at the end of their charming 40 minute set.
Following a short ten minute break, Alisa Amador wound her way through the cramped seats, plugged in her funky looking Guild guitar and then entranced us right from the off with a Country infused version of Johnny Mercer’s PS I Love You; during which she actually mimicked a trumpet solo!
Much like the couple earlier; Alisa never stopped smiling as she told her stories which preceded her ‘Latin, funky, Folky, Jazzy Folk’ songs (her Dads description apparantly).
Somewhere in the middle of her short set she sang a beautiful song called Alone, which at her request featured ‘finger clicks’ from the audience and; do you know what everyone (inc me!) joined in and sounded like a field of crickets alongside Alisa’s soaring vocals.
The introduction is far too long and complicated; but it helped make sense of a young Latino woman from Brooklyn redefining Radiohead’s High and Dry as a weird Mexican infused piece of lo-fi that made me write ‘Swoon’ in my notes.
As the notes were still hanging in the air Lizzy and Emily joined her to add honey drenched harmonies to some beautiful Spanish language songs; only for the other half of Violet Bell, Omar Ruiz-Lopez joined the trio to add fiddle and guitar to the songs. Even if I didn’t know what she was singing about; the audience sat entranced and when they ended the applause was deafening.
That first 90 minutes flew by in the blink of an eye.
Finally it was the time for Emily Scott Robinson to take centre stage and …. well …. she was absolutely wonderful. Her first song was Cheap Seats and was about the night she went to the Ryman to see John Prine AND Bonnie Raitt and could only afford the ‘cheap seats’ but the song itself is a metaphor for life IMHO.
Next song (I think) was Hard Way; which was a series of scenarios from her life and those of friends and family …. and got 4 stars in my notes.
Emily had been excited earlier in the day to find a piano already on the stage; so included a starkly beautiful version of her Let It Burn; which in my mind was ‘one of those songs’ that make the gig going experience ‘special.’
Emily took to her acoustic guitar again for If Trouble Comes a Lookin’ ….. her ‘Country Cheatin’ song’ and it had a magnificent twist that nobody expected …. judging by the smiles I saw littering the back half of the room.
By now I wasn’t totally surprised to see the other three join Emily on stage, with Omar providing fiddle or acoustic guitar while Lizzy and Aliza provided honeyed harmonies.
The last surprise of the evening was Emily introducing a trio of her songs that had a Shakespearean theme to them; and do you know what? When you knew that, they made sense … but all three are just simply cracking songs.#Shakespeariana ?
The evening was meant to end with Men and Moons (my Favourite song on the album btw) but the standing ovation Emily and friends were forced to have a conflab to decide on what next to sing as an encore … which was fun as we got to see Emily actually teaching the trio the chorus live on stage!
The song itself, Travelling Mercies was a fabulous end to a fabulous gig.

https://www.emilyscottrobinson.com/
https://alisaamador.com/
https://violetbell.net/

Jefferson Berry DREAMS OF MODERN LIVING

Jefferson Berry
Dreams of Modern Living
Self Release

Keenly Observed Contemporary Folk Stories From the Shadows in Our Lives

Oddly enough I’d just been reading an article about why ‘breakthrough artists’ are presumed to be Under 30, or even younger … when all ages now release ‘debut albums;’ Jefferson Berry is a case in point; after being a member of a variety of bands for most of his adult life; Berry finally retired from being a teacher in Pennsylvania and is taking the opportunity to become a fully fledged Singer-Songwriter.
I’d never have guessed that he was in that upper age bracket from the way he sings; and indeed writes his acutely observed songs; although with hindsight … you have to have lived a life to have the confidence and ability to write and construct a song like album opener, Locks & Guns. I’ve heard quite a few; too many songs of this ilk coming out of America in the last few years; but there’s something really sharp and honest in the way Berry has constructed his story that makes this really special indeed.
The songs carry on in a similar vein; keenly observed stories from the minutiae of our lives; but stories that many of us miss due to the hurly burly of our own day to day lives.
Berry takes a bit of a Left turn on the pseudo politico Ballad of Sammy Rodriguez; one of those songs about a character is all too familiar in the US and even UK in 2023.
Don’t be underwhelmed by the simplicity of the production here; as we know …. one man and a guitar with songs like these can be louder than a band with with a whole bank of speakers; when that band have nothing worthwhile to say.
Jefferson Berry most certainly has something to say; and ‘say it’ he most certainly does with Sand In My Shoes and Sleeping In Public; where he stands up for the downtrodden that we all too regularly ignore …. but shouldn’t; and if you don’t have a heavy and guilty heart after hearing both; you must have a heart of stone.
Where Mrs Magpie to hear these songs she would sigh and say “There aren’t many laughs, are there.” Which is her way of saying these deceptively simple Folk Songs are serious and even earnest; but we live in a world were someone has to ‘tell it like it is’ don’t we?
When you’re not paying attention, Jefferson slips in a couple of great cover songs too; I totally missed recognising his stark version of the Elton John song Come Down in Time from my favourite album of his, Tumbleweed Connection … and the way he now delivers Bernie Taupin’s sage words will send a shiver down your spine ….
In the quiet silent seconds I turned off the light switch
And I came down to meet you in the half light the moon left
While a cluster of night jars sang some songs out of tune
A mantle of bright light shone down from a room…

The other, Ben Arnold’s Puerto Rico I don’t know at all; but imagine Otis Gibbs or Rod Picott singing a Harry Chapin song and you well get the imagery and annunciation Berry employs.
For my Favourite song I’m torn between two songs that sit side by side; Doubting Thomas and Rendezvous With Destiny. Two very different stories and subjects; but two songs that felt like a punch to the jaw.
The latter song comes across like it could be from the back catalogue of one of my heroes; Alan Hull (from the legendary Lindisfarne) who I’m on a course of re-discovery again; but I’m 100% sure Jefferson Berry has never heard of before; but the two are hewn from the same block.
The other; Doubtin’ Thomas is a real punchy heartstring tugger, with punky acoustic guitar and sounds like Berry spoke to my Mother about me the day before putting pen to paper; and I’m sure there will be plenty of others out there think it could be about them too.
Perhaps it’s a case of ‘right place/right time’ when listening to these dark and introspective observational Folk Songs; and a on a sunny day in July I would certainly have passed them by …. but during a cold and dank January and February they make the perfect soundtrack.

Released January 27th 2023
https://www.jeffersonberry.com/

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https://jeffersonberrytheuac.bandcamp.com/

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Hector Gannet THE LAND BELONGS TO US

Hector Gannet
The Land Belongs to Us
Self-Release

Impressive and Delicately Deep Album From North Tyneside and Given To The World.

As I’m out of touch with the bourgeoning local scene of young musicians around the North East these days; so Hector Gannet aka singer-songwriter Aaron Duff from across the water in North Tyneside first came to my attention only a couple of months ago via RMHQ writer William Graham who promoted a couple of his/their gigs.
I was immediatly engrossed with his music on YouTube and even bought his EP, INTO THE DEEP from which I played all four tracks on my radio show on the run up to Christmas.
Not really knowing what to expect this mornings’ first play was really exciting as I both wallowed in the beauty the overall ‘sound’ and trying to dissect his lyrics and stories at the same time.
The album starts with the enigmatic Emmanuel Head, a deep and almost poetic tale that showcased Duff’s beguiling Northern tones, which he barely tries to disguise. For the older generation like myself; there’s more than a hint of latter day Lindisfarne and/or Alan Hull solo work; albeit with much stronger production values and a ‘tighter’ backing band …. and that all flows like the River Tyne at high tide; through the rest of the album.
Younger listeners, of course are unlikely to have heard of either Lindisfarne or Alan Hull; unless they have access to their Grandparents record collection; so Hector Gannet will sound fresh and unlike almost anything else in their circle at the moment.
Duff has a magical way with words; which belies his tender years; City in the Sand and Last of The Buffalo are both intricately beautiful and conjure up imagery that remind me of John Lennon circa Mind Games too.
Hector Gannet is only one part of Aaron Duff’s persona; as he’s more than capable of stripping any or all of these songs back to the sinew as a solo singer and you can hear that raw honesty in The Wailing Wall where it is just a voice and a guitar taking your breath away. It’s no huge surprise to find Duff turning to the Geordie Legend’s back catalogue for a song to cover; but he hasn’t really gone for the obvious by choosing one of Hull’s solo works; the stunning Blue Murder; and the arrangement really, really does the song justice …. and is only a tiny slice of good luck away from being a hit single IMHO.
Much like one of my other favourite local acts; Lake Poets; Aaron Duff doesn’t just ‘write about what he knows’ but delves into stories from family members; which is what I guess he’s done with the powerful Waiting For The Whistle and the tragically beautiful Last of The Buffalo which is such a clever and intricate story (and arrangement) you’d think he had been doing this writing lark for twenty odd years.
I’m probably not invested enough yet to have a single Favourite Song; although I have found myself accidentally singing the chorus to Blue Murder out loud and in public! But, for these purposes I’m going to point you towards a couple of Duff’s own songs; the fabulous Eighth Day which takes us back into the Folk Rock territory of my youth, and Duff’s plaintive vocal sound will squeeze your heartstrings until your eyes bulge.
The other is the final track; and don’t think it’s there by accident as the intensely delicate Water Lilies is one of those songs that songwriters are defined by. It would have been all too easy to go out with something bombastic or even ‘catchy’ ….. but Aaron has kept ‘the best for last.’
I was impressed by that EP I bought last year; but it appears Aaron Duff aka Hector Gannet’ has ‘s songwriting has matured and grown in the intervening months; and a special word of thanks has to go out to whoever did the production and engineering for this album; as it’s rather splendid and brings out tones in Duff’s voice that I don’t expect he knew were there.

https://hectorgannet.com/
Released 27th January 2023

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https://hectorgannet.bandcamp.com/album/the-land-belongs-to-us



Peach and Quiet BEAUTIFUL THING

Peach and Quiet
Beautiful Thing
Peach and Quiet Music

Gorgeously Crafted Canadian Americana, Sent From a Log Cabin with Love and Aimed Straight for our Hearts.

I was heading for a writer’s brick wall after spinning four new releases that I failed to connect with, but then thankfully RMHQ worked its’ magic and the second album from this Canadian folk and Country rock duo landed!
Despite the odds; this one saved the day (as I have a lifelong phobia with insects) so a gigantic image of an African Peach Moth as cover art is as scary as it gets for me, evoking memories of all those Ray Harryhausen films……but hey that’s my issue!
Whilst I can still appreciate the colours and symbolism, the true beauty of this stunning album for me is the pure talent and dynamics of the partnership between Jonny Miller and Heather Read.
Individually they are great artists but after just a few plays I can appreciate that together they create serene, insanely catchy and sweet melodies to dive into with both voices blending gorgeously, bringing equal amounts of personality and emotions to their 12 songs.
This album is all about the long game: no whirlwind gimmicks here, just songs to tug at your heart, tap along to and destined to keep you in good company and become life-long friends.

The title track and opener ‘Beautiful Thing’ is a killer start with it’s descending hook and a mature upbeat approach.
Jonny Miller’s vocals are full of easy warmth and richness, gently touring us around their world, one foot in a Canadian forest log cabin and the other on the sun- drenched Pacific Highway.
The lyrics stakes out a mood of hope and optimism;

Oh sweet honey won’t you look at me now?
I got waylaid and lost but I figured it out”

‘Calgary Skyline’ carries on with an energetic trip, Miller and Read’s vocals together working their magic and Steve Dawson’s outstanding guitar twang then swapping out for a menacingly dark heavy rock rift: sounds weird but it’s unexpectedly exquisite.

The songs just keep hitting the spot, one after the other: honestly many artists would be doing well to have half this number of divine songs on one album.
‘Behind The Sun’ is a slower hypnotically bluesy, psychedelic rock fuelled song exploring the themes of anguish and destruction that often hides in the shadows of love and light: deep words that drift into a dreamily expansive woozy guitar solo coupled with Hammond sounds which sent me into a reflective trance by the end!
It feels only right for the keys to make such a distinctive contribution to the entire album when we learn that Heather’s dad was playing the Hammond organ well into his ‘80’s so it was a key part of her upbringing.
To follow that we absorb the sweet retro folk based ‘Just Before Dawn’, Heather Read’s voice ringing out like a songbird with an irresistible tale of patiently waiting for the one you love to return, tapping into the vibe of living simply and akin with nature, with the final verse emphasizing that by containing a quote from American naturalist Henry Thoreau:

In that morning hour just west of the sun
The old owl cries, her nightly mourn
I will wait in my bed for my only love
With infinite expectations of the dawn”

The scales are now balanced as two travelling songs are soaked with Miller’s heritage of being raised by his DJ dad and exposed to Reggae and Californian rock as a boy: the chilled out, brilliantly cool, catchy Country reggae beat of ‘Horse and Saddle’ with it’s story of journeying back to a loved one, treads a path steeped in extra gravel from Miller’s expressive vocals.
The other is an Americana tale: ‘Oklahoma or Arkansas’, an absorbing adventure of leaving home, hiding from the world to find oneself again, then building up to a cinematic image of lovers reunited:

Wait for my letter, when the spring arrives
Buy a Greyhound ticket, and a dress that’s white
I’ll be standing in my Sunday suit,
A Panama hat, and my daddy’s boots”

Narrowing down favourites is as tricky as it gets with this release.
By a tiny margin ‘This Time’ and ‘Save Me Tonight’ miss out.
The former is a sumptuous love story about learning from the past and ‘getting it right’. Heather’s vocals are smoulderingly triumphant and when Jonny’s B/V’s join in there is no doubt that this pair are the real deal both emotionally and musically. ‘Save Me Tonight’ is a bluesy tale of a hard life on the road, the choppy keys team with a shimmering guitar solo to energize the track with the hope of love and happiness.

The top slot has gone to a song which totally gripped me on first listen: Heather powerfully and vulnerably belts out a story of domestic abuse as if she has lived out every sad detail; that I don’t know but the grey areas of lingering sorrow despite escaping everything are thought provoking, the lyrics explore the instinct to blame yourself a little when things go badly wrong:

Why couldn’t I see it
I was blind to all the signs
I didn’t want to believe it
So now I’m the woman with the empty house
No honey and a big black eye”

Then; there is Pockets Empty, which is something of a cornerstone for these 12 songs. Exceptionally well observed, written and sung; in another life time it could easily have been a Power Ballad; but here Steve Dawson; alongside Miller and Read rein it in just enough for it for this deep break-up song to become my Favourite Song by a Country mile.

It’s incredible to think these two only teamed up in 2019, the songs feel so naturally evolved and perfected.
I’m very relieved to have faced my fears with the aforementioned cover because the appeal of this duo definitely lies deep within their passionate melodies and togetherness.
I’ll be playing these songs long after the ‘review pen’ has been put away.

Review by Anita Joyce
Released 20th January 2023
https://www.peachandquietmusic.com/

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https://peachandquiet.bandcamp.com/

RMHQ Radio Show READERS TOP 25 Christmas Day 2022 @NovaRadioNE

RMHQ Radio Show
READERS TOP 25
Christmas Day
December 25th 2022
@NovaRadioNE

Another year over and therefore another RMHQ Readers Top 25 albums; not exactly ‘voted for’ but selected because they were the most popular reviews statistically.
In many ways this eclectic collection of albums sums up what we do on the website; with debut albums mixing it up with releases from established acts and even a 50th Anniversary of a Classic LP in there too.

2022ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
Steve EarleChristmas in Washington Square
25Charlie MusselwhiteMy Road Lies in DarknessMississippi Son
24Hannah WhiteCar CrashAbout Time
23Rod PicottDirty T-ShirtPaper Hearts and Broken Arrows
22Julian TaylorMurder 13Beyond the Reservoir
21Canyons & HighlandsDown From the MountainCanyons & Highlands
20Anna AshPopularitySleeper
19Ricky RossSpanish ShoesShort Stories Vol 1
18Lew JettonWho’s Texting Who?Deja Hoodoo
17Dean OwensAfter The RainSinners Shrine
16Skinny DyckIn on the upswingPalace Waiting
15The 2,19Black Dog MoanRevelator
14Bros LandrethShameCome Morning
13Daintees8.30 Mowbray MorningThe Boy’s Heart
12Anna LavigneI Love The Way You MoveAngels in Sandshoes
11Daniel MeadeWhen will I be famous?Down You Go(Bros)
10Foreday RidersThe PeeperDurn Tootin’
9Trashy AnnieKnock KnockNashville Sessions
8Martin StephensonSweet LadyGood Will Factory
7Julie ChristensenGlory Land11 Songs from Kevin Gordon
6Grey DeLisleAnother Brick in the WallBorrowed
5Massy FergusonFire of LifeJoe’s Meat and Grocery
4Ian SiegalHand in HandStone by Stone
3Dr FeelgoodDamn Right I DoDamn Right
2Colin BlunstoneSay You Don’t MindOne Year
1Ian McNabbFilm Noir StarNabby Road

RMHQ Radio Show Ep 33 @NovaRadioNE

RMHQ Radio Show Ep 33
Nova Radio NE
Newcastle

December 18th 2023

As 2022 rattles to a close we’re going out with two ‘specials’; tonight’s being a bunch of songs from albums released this year that hardly got any other traction other than via our website; and next week …. Christmas Day will be the Readers’ Top 25 Albums.

Ep 33CreganWhen a Child Is Born
18th DecJohnny DowdHomemade Pie
Sarah Jane NelsonCuddle Up
Michael Weston KingWeight of The World
Gretchen PetersWhen All You’ve Got is a Hammer
Rod PicottMark of Your Father
Anna AshPopularity
Matt AndersenHouse to House
Shemikia CopelandDone Come Too Far
Horojo TrioA Little Goes a Long Way
Simeon Hammond DallasThe Blues is a Game
Ian SiegalPsycho
Duke RobillardHomeless Blues
Robert Connely FarrSugar Momma
Kaz HawkinsDon’t Make Mama Cry
Will HogeYoung As We Will Ever Be
Emily Scott RobinsonMen and Moons
ShipcoteBetter Times Ahead
Regina BonelliI Got to Go
The SadiesGinger Moon
Durham County PoetsThat’s What Makes Me Smile
Terra Spencer & Ben CaplanGood Friends
Helen McCookerybookWake Up and Smell The Coffee
Hector GannettBlue Murder
Larkin PoeBolt Cutters & The Family Name
Samantha Fish & Jesse DaytonFeelin’ Good
Crosby TylerPeace, Love & Beer

Old California OLD CALIFORNIO COUNTRY

Old Californio
Old Californio Country
Self-released

Rocking Country-Folk With Plenty of Twists and Turns.

With three original songs and a huge handful of covers, Country-Folk rockers Old Californio hit the ground running with their latest self-released album Old Californio Country.
Using these songs to showcase their musicianship is a smart move, as all the members in this band—lead singer Rich Dembowski, guitarist/singer Woody Aplanalp, drummer Justin Smith, keyboardist Jon Niemann, bassist Kip Boardman, and newest member Paul Lacques on dobro and guitar—get to stretch their wings substantially throughout.
This album is mostly a love letter to songwriting, with renditions of many classic songs, several of which are pulled straight from the Americana Songbook.
Their rendition of Neil Young’s “Lotta Love” retains the AOR feel of the Nicolette Larson version, while adding layers of sweet harmonies too.
Folk classic “The Cuckoo” gets the Old Californio treatment with brushes on snare keeping the whole thing moving with electric and acoustic guitars chiming throughout.
Lowell George’s “Willin’” gets an intimate late-night barroom makeover, with a harmonica part that’ll make you weep in your beer.
We get not one but two John Prine songs in the form of “The Speed of Loneliness,” where the delicately picked guitars give a heavenly backdrop to a tale of broken romance; and “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” which is both darker than Prine’s version, but also comes across funnier, with a forward-thinking bluegrass style while not afraid to look back.
The Rolling Stones classic rock song “Wild Horses” is amped up gracefully with some tasty dobro by Paul Lacques, from the Tujunga, California band I See Hawks in L.A.
Adding Lacques to the OC lineup was a wise decision, as he’s proven himself indispensable.
This is a fine addition to the Old Californio discography, keep ’em coming, guys.

Review by the Legendary Roy Peak

https://www.facebook.com/oldcalifornio/
Released November 25 2022

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https://oldcalifornio.bandcamp.com/

Bobbo Byrnes OCTOBER

Bobbo Byrnes
October
Self-Released

Powerful and Introspective Modern British Indie Folk From America!

‘Liking’ a particular musician or band is incredibly personal and subjective, regularly making no sense at all. I first encountered Bobbo Byrnes via his 2018, TWO SIDES TO THIS TOWN album, which I gave a very positive review to; but it was the follow up; RED WHEELBARROW that made me a fan.
With hindsight there’s not a lot to choose between the two; you can certainly hear that there’s a difference; some kind of progression in the style of songwriting even; but why I would wear one CD out and not the other; makes no physical sense … does it?
Now, another three albums on, Byrnes has all but ditched the Americana/Alt. Country formula that has done him proud so far; so nothing has prepared me for these songs … nothing.
First of all there’s some electronica jiggery-pokery that opens the first song; (Warren Sroka’s) Cold War … and continues throughout as Byrnes dives headlong into what I’d normally think of as Modern British Indie Folk!
Seriously!
The song is universal, and at the very least thought provoking; but the construction owes a lot more to the likes of Waterboys, Ian McNabb or even bloomin’ Ed Sheeran than it does anyone born on the other side of the Atlantic.
As the album progresses, the thing that has surprised and impressed me most is the intricate and imaginative way Byrnes plays his guitar ….. for a Modern Folk album (IMHO) there are Jazz and Blues flourishes here and there complimenting his impassioned songs and stories; the songs Untitled and Time Enough being prime examples; but there are others in there too.
Once his existing fans get over the initial shock of the change in direction; they are in for a veritable treat, with The Sea and Time Enough being deceptively simple songs on first hearing but evolve into ever more thoughtful and personal songs that would make fans of Ed Sheeran and Glen Hansard proud to own.
While the production behind the songs sounds complex; I have the feeling that this is the way Bobbo Byrnes can achieve on stage as a solo performer; none more so than Brendan Behan’s Contemporary-Sea Shanty Crooked Jack; which reminded me of the Roger McGuinn album of similar stories, many years ago.
If I’m honest it’s taken a while to fully comprehend and truly appreciate what Bobby Byrnes has created here; but there was a ‘Eureka moment’ a few days; and now I’m smitten; which has also made selecting a Favourite Song all the more difficult.
As a for-instance; even though I own a Bluegrass version; so I know it can be disseminated; I didn’t recognise Bowie’s magnificent Heroes for a few days; then ….. WOW …. it hit me like punch to the gut ….. what an incredible job Byrnes has done; and the windswept backing takes it into an arena Ziggy could never have dreamed of.
There’s even a beautiful instrumental here; October, and again highlighting Byrnes’ dexterity with an acoustic guitar.
But; I’m sticking with Byrnes’ own words for my actual ‘Favourite Song’ and it too is ‘Magnificent’ and a song that will make your jaw drop; such is the power and imagery that House of Cards creates I’ve had to turn the dial up to 9 so as not to miss a single word; and I urge you to, too when you buy your copy.
A sudden change of direction for one of my Favourite Alt. Country acts; but a very welcome one; and one that deserves your attention in many ways.

https://bobbobyrnes.com/home

Released January 2023

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https://bobbobyrnes.bandcamp.com/




Joe Louis Walker WEIGHT OF THE WORLD

Joe Louis Walker
Weight of The World
Forty Below Records

Sharp and Contemporary Blues With a Soul Filled Heart

Joe Louis Walker is one of those ‘names’ that I recognised, but when I scoped through my collections of albums and downloads found I own nothing of his previous work – sad but true.
Right from the ‘git go’ of opening track and titular song Weight Of The World you know you are in the presence of a Mastercraftsman of their Art ….. a really clever and heartfelt ballad about the sadness that is all purveying these days; but wrapped in a velvet blanket of musicians who never waste or miss a note; and in Walker’s vocal delivery …. a voice that will warm your heart at the same time as sending shivers down your back.
Walker has a sublime talent in the way he delivers his message throughout; Waking Up The Dead is a prime example; blending African style drumbeats with an ultra-modern; jazz tinged beat that sounds like a minor earthquake as Walker sings as if his life depends on it; but never loses the listener’s attention even for a second.
It’s a similar story with Count Your Chickens where the energy playing out behind him would overshadow many another singer; but Joe Louis Walker fights them off with a stellar performance up front and centre.
Presumably many of his fan base will buy this to hear his guitar playing; for which he’s rightly famous … and there’s plenty here to please them; although he’s more of the ‘less is more’ school …. but when he does insert a solo ….. WOWZA …. that guitar sounds like it could melt at any moment.
Personally I like this album as much as I do because of the songs themselves; even though the construction and arrangements are fabulous throughout; but it really is the stories in the songs that have made me play this over and over again; not least the intense Bed of Roses and It’s a Matter of Time which has hints of Stevie Wonder and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson in the mix; and that’s no bad thing; is it.
Eric Corne’s razor sharp production brings out plenty of nuance too in Don’t Walk Out The Door and perhaps Root Down too; which could easily have been missed in lesser hands.
I’m not totally sure where to fit this album in, as while it’s most certainly a Blues Album, but there are more than enough elements of Soul (both urban and raw) that it could easily win prizes in that category too; not least when the judges hear the finale; Got Me Whipped; but then again Scott Milici’s gentle keyboard playing subtly takes this ballad into Jazz territory too.
I’ve been really impressed by Walker’s songwriting throughout; but one song in particular Hello, It’s The Blues highlights what a clever and articulate songwriter he is; as he treats us to beautiful conversation between the listener and a Guardian Angel in the guise of The Blues as a talking entity …. don’t worry; it’s a stunning song that my words don’t do justice to … listen and be seriously impressed.
Sometimes songs and albums are too clever for their good; but here Joe Louis Walker pushes the boundaries of what we know as Blues and Soul, but stays well within those same lines to give us an ultra-modern album that will impress not just hipsters and the cognoscenti but cynical old Blues Hounds alike.

Released February 17th 2023
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