Matt Patershuk – SAME AS I EVER HAVE BEEN

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Matt Patershuk
SAME AS I EVER HAVE BEEN
Black Hen Music

Southern Soul and Gritty Americana From Arcadian Canada.

My trusty I-Phone has done it again! As I was driving home from work late last Wednesday a beautifully sad and soulful song randomly purred from the car speakers and I had to immediately press ‘repeat’ as soon as it finished; then sat listening to the final minute on my drive as the song played for the fourth time in twenty minutes, before going into the house.
At this stage I won’t say what that song actually was; as it takes on ‘favourite track’ status further down the page.
The following day I quickly cleared my to-do list and settled back to listen to the rest of Matt Patershuk’s third album.
Even before I heard the cranky guitar and Matt’s world weary drawl, I knew I was going to love any song called Sometimes You’ve Got To Do Bad Things, To Do Good; and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. For a Canadian in a Cowboy hat; Patershuk gives a Southern Soul feel to this sweet, sweet Country pearl, and that goes for the majority of what is to follow too.
Recorded in Superstar Bryan Adam’s Vancouver studio; Steve Dawson’s production is flawless from start to finish, even managing to give an authentic ‘first take’ rawness to songs like Cheap Guitar and the effervescent Hot Knuckle Blues.
I still find it funny that Canadians are writing and recording some of the finest Americana music that I hear these days; as the slow and Good Luck proves in spades; and Atlas couldn’t have come from anywhere other than the American Rust Belt, could it? But it certainly does…….Rural Alberta to be precise.
Patershuk’s songwriting and storytelling is quite extraordinary at times with the Country-Funk of Blank Pages and Lost Wages and the waltz-like title track Same As I Ever Have Been being prime examples; but you could throw a dart at the track list and hit a doozy of a song.
Which all brings us to ‘that song’ that first caught my attention; Swans, which actually closes the disc. Regular readers know that I’m a sucker for a Love Song and this one came to me not long after Don Williams died; and could be the best song that ‘the Gentle Giant never wrote.’ A pair of endearing worn and sad voices coupled to an acoustic guitar you can barely hear make for six short minutes of perfection.
Subsequently there’s been another contender for that prestigious title; Memory And The First Law of Thermodynamics may be an absurd title; but the intricate and delicate story, about and dedicated to his late sister Clare is straight from the Guy Clark songbook and will surely bring a tear to a glass eye.
Discoveries like this is the reason I spend far too much time listening to albums by people I and you have never previously heard of, but deserve a huge world wide audience, when their music is as good….nay, great as this collection is.

Released in Canada October 6th 2017

Released to the World October 27th 2017

http://www.mattpatershuk.com

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Single of the Day MAVIS STAPLES – Little Bit

mavis staples
MAVIS STAPLES
Little Bit
Anti-Records

Mavis Staples has again joined forces with songwriter-producer Jeff Tweedy for a new album entitled ‘If All I Was Was Black’, out 17th November.

More excitedly she has unveiled her latest single “Little Bit” here. The song is a cautionary anthem of all the ways in which those regarded as suspicious have to weigh their actions just to survive day to day: “A little bit too high, a little bit too low, a little bit out of line, and my baby won’t make it home.” Mavis leads listeners through call-and-response vocals in a soundscape that recalls Sly and the Family Stone’s mix of joy and social criticism unfolding over a funk-edged rhythm section.

The lyrics are occasionally shot through with anger. “I have a mind to bury them whole, when they go low,” Mavis sings on ‘We Go High’. “There’s evil in the world, and there’s evil in me” opens the first verse of ‘Try Harder’. “Oh, they lie, and they show no shame” adds a harsh undercurrent to ‘Who Told You That’, an anthem against accepting the status quo. Unsettling musical elements wind their way through the record, too, from the abrasive guitar distortion of ‘Try Harder to a descending bass line that signals danger on ‘Little Bit’.

Despite all this, the mood ring on Mavis’ 2017 outing is set to love, which runs through and over the fury and despair. The songs move less like a hammer and more like the tide, with Mavis countering the anger with an eye toward the work that is required to bring change. She is singing the world as it is, but also a way forward. Mavis is sure that the answer is to lift each other up. She’s not embracing the anxious hesitation of respectability politics but the possibilities of love.

 

Squeeze – THE KNOWLEDGE

Squeeze

Squeeze
THE KNOWLEDGE
ADA /Warner Records

A Magnum Opus For The Middle-Aged.

It’s difficult not to argue against Deptford Fun City’s finest sons Squeeze being amongst the finest ever deliverers of British Pop Music singles in the last forty years; and even longer in my own humble opinion.
Their quintessential English ‘kitchen sink dramas’ easily draw comparison with more feted artistes like the Kinks and Madness; and have stood the test of time better than any others from their Post-Punk generation.
But; and even Messrs Difford & Tilbrook agree in various biographies their albums were best described as ‘patchy’.
Following in the footsteps of the fabulous Cradle to the Grave theme song/single two years ago, does their latest effort change that description?
Yes…….and no, is the answer.
THE KNOWLEDGE opens with the cinematic Innocence in Paradise; possibly their most ‘Grown Up’ song to date; and one that deserves radio play; but more on a late night show, where you ‘listen’ to the output rather than daytime when the output is more or less wallpaper.
I love the guitar opening to Patchouli which follows; and as the guys look back on the halcyon days of their youth, I too was transported back to days spent ‘looking out of windows’ and that overpowering smell of Patchouli which conjures up memories of hanging around Handyside Arcade in Newcastle among a whole host of exotic long haired characters.
As I first played this album in the car on a long journey through the Autumnal countryside, it rapidly became obvious that Chris, Glenn and I (AND YOU!) are no longer the Cool Cats out for a bit of Slap n Tickle and the songs here, like the feisty Please Be Upstanding and Final Score are the new soundtracks to my life; as they deal with subjects that are just as taboo as the unwanted pregnancies and alcoholism of their earlier Master-works.
Please Be Upstanding is a typical Squeeze song; a catchy melody and a sing-a-long chorus and…then you go…..OOH! Yep; it really is about erectile dysfunction…….can you think of another Pop song on this subject? Me neither; but it’s an imaginatively constructed song and one that many men will associate with.
Final Score? Phew. If you thought that last song was a strange subject; this one touches on very dangerous ground indeed……the horrible subject of predatory sports coaches and the scars that they leave behind on the young people they effect.
I can’t tell you how proud of Glenn and Chris I am for writing about both subjects so sensitively.
There are also plenty of smiles to be had too; Albatross is a cool song about obsessive Record Collectors (you know who you are!) and the jaunty Skanking Two Forks which closes the record is a less than subtle look at the duo’s own sparky relationship over the last 40 years.
Before I tell you about my ‘favourite song’ I feel it’s my duty to mention two oddities; Rough Ride and Elmer’s End.
The former, Rough Ride sounds like it was a good idea at the time; but a possibly great insight into the current ‘poverty crisis’ and Government induced ‘Austerity measures’ blighting our inner cities includes a female operatic voice and a Pink Floyd type school choir alongside our heroes; which detracts from the ‘message’ that needs to be told; and when you read the lyrics is told very well.
The instrumental Elmers End initially sounded like a droll homage to Glenn Miller at first; but now I’m not even sure that description actually fits.
But……back to the good news…..it’s my ‘favourite track’ time. A&E is the type of relatively simple ‘everyman’ story that first made Squeeze famous; and made me gasp “Yessssss….you beauties” while I drove with tears in my eyes that first day. It begins with the singer taking his wife to A&E an sitting for four hours with her in pain; but coming out with an even stronger love and bond with the Nurses and staff who are underpaid, over worked and constantly belittled and abused by drunks and people with mental health problems…..but still retain their dignity and treat everyone with a smile.
Whatever rewards, financial and otherwise that Chris and Glenn have previously received they should never feel prouder than writing and singing this beautiful love song to the NHS!
That’s all Folks; while not exactly perfect; this just might be the best album Squeeze ever released and even if it’s not (it is!) the best bits are certainly as good as they have ever released in the last 40 years.

Released October 13th 2017
http://www.squeezeofficial.com/

The Bakesys – MORE BAKESYS

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The Bakesys
MORE BAKESYS
Do The Dog Music

A Thoughtful Modern Twist on Old-Skool Ska.

To most people I know Ska starts and ends with Madness; although a few still ‘remember’ the Specials and…..sadly they run out of ideas at that stage.
But; there is still a very strong and vibrant British Ska scene bubbling under the surface and has been for over thirty years to my knowledge, playing to sold out halls (large and small) every weekend of the year; all of which can be found in the magnificent magazine Do The Dog who have been chronicling albums and gigs from around the world for many, many years.
Editor of Do The Dog, Kevin Flowerdew also has a popular, (but only occasional) Beat Combo all of his own too; The Bakesys, and I am still a proud owner of their 2011 debut album; funnily enough called….The Bakesys!
Due to popular demand (?) the original trio have finally pooled their pocket money and recorded this brand new EP.
Taking their lead from 60’s Jamaican Ska legends like The Skatalites, Tommy McCook and The Dragonaires The Bakesys’ ‘sound’ is a lot slower than the latter 2-Tone movement, and opening track Anything & Everything with it’s ‘tough times ahead’ and anti-austerity message sets the groove perfectly for what I want from my favourite Ska Band.
That theme carries through the next song, If You Ain’t Got It (You’ll Never Get It) and you quickly understand why the guys felt the need to write about what they see around their neighbourhoods every day; and the end result is well worth hearing……and spreading around.
I will nip past track #3; as it is my ‘favourite track’ and tell you about When The Zombies Come. Can you guess what it’s about? Yep; a couch potato who spends all day playing video games and The Bakesys warn him that he needs to up his game and get fit……because ‘when the zombies come/you better run Rudy run!’ Hahahahaha……it is what is and I likes it a whole lot.
The EP comes to a an all too swift conclusion with track #5 No Time For Counting Sheep; about the way many, many people feel these days with a work/sleep/work/sleep conundrum to make ends meet…..and the way the electric organ keeps going fuzzy really does represent the way I/we feel some days when you can’t remember if it’s Tuesday or Sunday!
Whoosh…..let’s slip back to track #3 Your 10ft Smile, easily my ‘favourite track’ here. In another life this tale of a ‘cheater’ being caught out on a gut-punch of a Broken-hearted love song, could have been a Country Song; but the Bakesys chunka-chunka Ska beat and judicious use of electronic effects makes it Classic Ska of the finest vintage.
Not only is MORE BAKESYS danceable; it most certainly is; but more importantly the guys have something to say about the state of the country (and world) and say it ever so eloquently.
Do the right thing……buy it; you won’t regret it.

https://www.facebook.com/thebakesys/

http://dothedogmusic.tumblr.com/

Released October 2nd 2017

Kenny Foster DEEP CUTS

kenny foster

Kenny Foster
DEEP CUTS
Self-Release

Emotionally Raw Contemporary Country.

This album very nearly got lost on the maelstrom that is the RMHQ Reviews Desk……but, trust me it’s far too good to miss.
From the compelling opening track Stand, to the closer Wood & Steel everything about this album screams ‘Country Star,’ yet Deep Cuts appears to be his debut; and if it is he’s a very mature songwriter indeed.
That first song, Stand caught me completely unawares the first time I heard it; and today; four months later it still has the quality to make me sit up and pay attention.
A song called Made follows; with some stinging pedal-steel and a haunting piano on a song so sad it can only be a Country Song; the type of Blue-Collar heartbreaker that the ‘Hat Acts’ can’t really sing with conviction; but when you hear the pain in Foster’s voice you know this is the ‘real deal.’
The production on tracks like The Ol’ Days and Revival make them sound like they would be best heard in a sold-out stadium; but Foster also has the knack of telling the most intimate tale in Caught or especially Drinking at Home, with it’s mournful accordion; when even a house concert would sound too crowded; such is the masterful way he not only tells a story, but sings it too.
To some degree long haired Country/Americana singers with scraggy beards are ‘two a penny’ these days; but as is always the case there are always a hidden diamond somewhere; and Kenny Foster certainly falls into that category; especially when he can deliver songs like Revival and the tale of teenage heart break, Old Fashioned without them even coming into the reckoning for the title of ‘RMHQ Favourite Song.’
That title is a tie between the feisty and danceable Good Enough (my choice) and the slow and delightful Hearts That Bend (Mrs. Magpies #1).
As I implied earlier; it’s a very crowded marketplace for Country/Americana singer-songwriters at the moment; but quality will always rise to the top and I expect that to happen to Kenny Foster very, very soon.
RMHQ Recommends!!

https://kennyfostermusic.com/#kenny-foster-section

Released April 17th 2017

Robert Plant – CARRY FIRE

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Robert Plant
CARRY FIRE
Nonesuch/Warner Bros.

Another Brooding and Thoughtful Masterclass From a True Rock God.

Unlike so many of his generation Robert Plant’s not content to rest on his laurels playing a festival here and there churning out the Led Zeppelin back catalogue ad infinitum; and raking in the cash.
Nope; this guy is one of the few who actually appears to enjoy music; and more importantly constantly re-inventing himself while discovering and playing new styles that interest and excite him.
Which brings us to CARRY FIRE his eleventh solo album; recorded and released after a career spanning 50 years and in the singer’s 70th year.
There’s no mistaking Plant’s distinctive voice on opening song The May Queen, another engrossing intertwining of British Folk with a smattering of Celtic and World music with a smidgen of Rock guitar hiding in the shadows too.
Stay with me here; as you’d expect the production values here are excellent…..but while always showcasing the singer’s amazing voice; it also allows each and every song to breathe and live its own life. A lesser producer would have got carried away with the epic Dance With You Tonight or even the title track Carry Fire, with it’s flaming flamenco guitar flourishes; but both songs become even more empowered by such restraint.
After 50 years in the music business Robert Plant has no right to sound this good and still have the power to surprise and even; dare I say it…..SHOCK. None too subtly Carving Up The World ……Against a Wall and Not a Fence is a powerful ‘political song’ masquerading as a cracking Folk-Rock stomper. Played loud it’s all too easy to get lost in Justin Adams and John Baggott’s liquid guitar duel; but listen to the words from the Sage and you will find yourself singing along and nodding in agreement (I hope) and then there is also the tightly wrapped New World, which deals with sorry subject of ‘people displacement’ across the globe; and it fits in perfectly with the tone of everything else here; but still sounds fresh and exciting while vaguely reminding me of Plant’s EP with the Honeydrippers. Which is never going to be a bad thing.
The first ‘teaser song’ released a few weeks ago was the 60’s flavoured Bones of Saints and nothing has diminished it’s physical phenomenon now it’s sitting alongside the other tracks on this album, and it still shows that the Old Dog can show the young pups plenty of new tricks.
Which all brings us around to my ‘favourite track’ and yet again; not easy at all. But…..I’m going for Heaven Sent, which closes the album and just shades it over the very contemporary Keep It Hid.
I was never really a fan of Led Zeppelin in my youth; and it’s fair to say I only really ‘discovered’ Robert Plant when he got together with Alison Krauss; and I’ve become ever more smitten with every release and CARRY FIRE has done nothing to diminish that flame.

Released October 13th 2017
http://www.robertplant.com

Strange Blue Dreams Self-Titled CD

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Strange Blue Dreams
Self-Titled
Holy Smokes Records

Eleven Sweet Little Rock & Roll Vignettes To Make Your Heart Rejoice.

Where do start? The opening of the envelope, I suppose…….neither the CD cover nor the bands name took my fancy when I first perused the contents; and the PR who sent it is primarily known for Folk Music rather than the Roots/Americana/Country I normally favour; so things didn’t get off to a very good beginning. But…..there’s always a ‘but’……there was an intriguing photo of a quirkilly dressed beat combo set inside a vintage TV on the Press Release; which I normally don’t look at so early.
So; into the CD Player it went…….crackles, pops and whizzes came out of the speaker until a velvety male voice began ‘Ooohing and aahhhing” before crooning “This City got electricity /for the first time/when you came to me,” in a style reminiscent of Billy Fury, and the band sound quality too. The song, Electricity just blew me away……I’d not heard anything like it since…..maybe my Rock n Roll period in the mid 70’s when Showaddywaddy ruled the British airwaves.
WOW and WOAH…..the second track Reverberatin’ Love is full of Duane Eddy ‘Twang’ guitar; coupled to singer David Addison’s classy voice crooning again…..yes…..he croons; and croons in a way that will makes ladies go weak at the knees.
That was it for me……I immediately went onto Twitter declaring my undying love for The Strange Blue Dreams…..and nothing has changed in the ensuing three weeks.
What I love most about this album is the glorious ‘Retro’ feel to it; but instead of going for the obligatory Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent 90 MPH sort of Rock and Roll, these five lads from Glasgow Town have opened a secret door on 1960’s British Rock & Roll with added Country tones and even a bit of Swing at one stage ; pretty much the music I grew up with, and I’m pleased to say they do themselves proud.
The album title makes an appearance in The Ballad of the Sun and the Moon; which sounds like it should have been on the soundtrack to an Alan Ladd Western; and if Quentin Tarantino hears it; it may still make an appearance in a film in the future.
It’s difficult for me not to just list every track with my notes next to the title; as everything is here on merit – All hits……no shit!
Even Mrs. Magpie looked up from her magazine one evening when the delicious Pretending Everything came on; and I don’t blame her for nodding her head along with the pleasing Waltz like tune and sweet lyrics.
This Twilight Zone isn’t the TV Theme; it’s actually got a bit of a Hawaiian lilt to it; and a set of lyrics that will make you want to cuddle the love of your life, and sway along long into the night.
There’s no denying that these songs are what they are because of singer David Addison’s unique voice; but the other four lads; Ross Wilson, Duncan Kennedy, David Rae and Richard Anderson ain’t no slouches either, they not only play their respective instruments like Nashville’s finest but know when to let the song takeover and not swamp the vocals; which says a lot for their lac of ego as this is a self-produced album.
No ‘one trick ponies’ they aren’t afraid to dabble in the Pop side of this iconic sound; with the glorious Up To The Stars and Jungle Drums which must be a hoot when heard live.
Picking a ‘favourite track’ has proved a nightmare; as last week it was Lyrebird, a quirky song unlike anything else here, and this morning it was the Film-Noir enhanced That’s The Place (I’m Falling) but I’m going for……..Towards The Warm Place; a Buddy Holly (or Shakin’ Stevens if you are my generation) influenced toe-tapping beauty that has actually had me dancing as I listened; until I saw my reflection!
Don’t let the band’s name nor the weird artwork on the album cover put you off; as they nearly did me…..because this group and their debut album are……bloody amazing from start to finish!

https://www.facebook.com/thestrangebluedreams/
Released October 20th 2017

Malojian – LET YOUR WEIRDNESS CARRY YOU HOME

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Malojian
LET YOUR WEIRDNESS CARRY YOU HOME
Rollercoaster Records

A Whole New Intriguing and Mesmerising Direction For Northern Ireland’s Finest.

I won’t bore you again with my story of the day that I ‘discovered’ Malojian aka Stevie Scullion; but when both Bap Kennedy and Anthony Toner ‘insist’ that you watch a young lad and his band at a music festival; than said young lad must be pretty special; and…..he/they is/are.
This is Malojian’s fourth album since that exciting afternoon in Belfast and I’ve been excitedly waiting for my copy ever since I heard a whisper about it’s release from a spy in Northern Ireland as far back as July.
Not for the first time this year I can honestly say……this ain’t what I was expecting….at all. Malojian is primarily a singer-songwriter brought up in the post-punk era and has a love for all things Indie, which can come across in some of his songs……and his last outing had a bit of a ‘West Coast/Laurel Canyon’ theme…….and opening track Some New Bones sort of carries on where that album left off;
the guitars certainly have a Byrdsian feel to it, then with the addition of some crackling radio effects; the song soon drifts off into Teenage Fanclub Land; with harmonies galore and more echo than the Grand Canyon and could easily have been one of my ‘Sounds of the Summer’ had it been released earlier.
With that in mind, the first track most of us heard here was the single Ambulance Song, with it’s Sgt. Pepper meets Syd era Floyd ‘vibe’ which intrigued me; and if I wasn’t prepared for that, track #2 here A New Armageddon knocked me sideways; it’s a slow, moody and stark song sung over a luscious and intense Doors style meditative melody……but don’t worry……it’s bloody beautiful in it’s own way.
The rest of the album pretty much follows suit; not quite ‘experimental’ but so far left of what we think is centre; it hardy bares comparison to what has ever gone before.
But……while songs like Damp and the title track Let Your Weirdness are somewhat ‘challenging’ the first time you hear them; persevere and they too will unravel before your very eyes; and when they do you will punch the air with joy.
Now I’ve played the album solidly for two days and nights; just like I did back in my teenage bedroom in the 70’s; I get the feeling that Stevie and his cohorts have been listening to much the same LPs; which has greatly influenced this ‘work’……there’s definitely a ‘Progressive’ feel to Between The Pylons and the gorgeous Hanging on the Glow and Battery, with the judicious use of synths and organs being a bit of a giveaway.
Even on that mind-bending first play one track caught my attention above all others; possibly because it’s more what we associate with Malojian; a deceptively complex love song, that will actually crush your heart……..The Purity of Your Smile; which eventually evolves into a semi-classical piece with swooping violins and a cello from the Gods, is the type of ingenious song that deserves every award going.
The ever growing Malojian fan base I figure will be initially confused as I was; because this is a much bigger and far more complex ‘sound’ than we could ever have expected; but I’m pretty sure they too will persevere and fall in love with it on its own merits.
But……. new fans to Malojian’s music will fall over themselves in the rush to buy this record; and I personally can’t wait to see and hear it performed in all its glory on a stage sometime soon.

Released October 6th October 2017

http://www.malojian.com

JD McPherson – UNDIVIDED HEART & SOUL

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JD McPherson
UNDIVIDED HEART & SOUL
New West Records

It’s Not Just Rock & Roll; And I Like It!

It only seems like 5 minutes since Signs and Signifiers was released and JD McPherson was the ‘bright new thing’ of Rock & Roll; here we are 6 years later and he is releasing his third album.
A lot has happened in the intervening years; McPherson appears to be conquering the USA one town at a time and the music just gets better and better.
UNDIVIDED HEART & SOUL opens with a crashing guitar chord followed by JD going into his best Roy Orbison meets Ritchie Valens crooning mode, as he plays some raw and almost dirty guitar licks.
It’s fair to say he hasn’t rested on his laurels in the last couple of years; as his songwriting has certainly matured, with Crying’s Just a Thing That You Do and Style (Is a Losing Game) is pure R& R but shows a new and more melodic direction than his previous releases.
McPherson’s ballads are pure romance on vinyl; with Hunting For Sugar and Jubilee owing a lot more to the Everly Brothers than Elvis.
Don’t worry though…..the kid still makes his guitar growl and moan on the Diddleylicious Bloodhound Rock, then later on Under The Spell of The City Lights he combines a Hank B Marvin groove with a sizzling vocal performance.
While I adore quality Rock & Roll, it’s no good playing the same chords over and over again for fifty years; as Buddy Holly showed in his all too brief career. McPherson certainly knows and appreciates his heritage, but I’m thrilled to see and hear him not alienating his core fan-base; but still having the nerve to move out of the safety-zone with Indie influenced tracks like Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young and the fabulous Style (Is Just a Losing Game) which is good enough to be a crossover/breakout hit (or whatever the hip kids call these things).
That last song was very nearly our ‘favourite track’ but we’re going for the classy Lucky Penny, because it has a little bit of everything that is great about this album all rolled into a catchy 3 and a half minutes of unclouded heartbreak.
This another one of those albums that is cool and commercial in equal measures; which is quite an achievement in an industry that craves one or the other but very rarely both.

http://www.jdmcpherson.com

Released 6th October 2017

Little Big Town – Sage Gateshead

lbt band
Little Big Town
Sage Gateshead.
Sunday 1st October 2017

Tonight’s romantic liaison with Mrs Magpie was planned many months ago; but the rota at work was changed in Mid-September meaning I was meant to be working 4pm till midnight; so I had to pull out all of the stops to swap days off; which only got agreed 36 hours hours before ‘curtain up’!
Phew.
Historically Country bands of the ilk of Little Big Town have totally ignored the UK and Europe, favouring the US of A to amass their fortunes; so it was no real surprise to see the Sold Out notice on the Sage website only two days after tickets came on sale.
The show opened with one of the hottest young songwriters in Nashville, Seth Ennis and his band.
Dressed casually in a grey sweatshirt, tight black jeans and Timberland boots he looked nothing like your typical Country star or even singer-songwriter; but then again I’m not his usual demographic judging by the screams from hundreds of young ladies at the start and end of each song.

seth ennis x
The songs? Good…..really good at times; especially Fast Girl and Three which were just perfect for his slightly gritty Country croak.
Accompanied by the lad with a mohican on an acoustic guitar Ennis turned to a piano for Think & Drive; a ‘Broken-hearted 2am drunks song’ as he introduced it; and while I thought it needed filling out with the rest of the band; it still sounded a beautifully brittle story.
With a set lasting only 30 minutes Ennis wasted a good 5 minutes ‘chatting’ and ‘interacting’ (Who wants to paaaarrty??? etc), when he could easily have included another song; but HEY….what do I know; as he still got a standing ovation from around 50% of the downstairs audience! He was certainly ‘very alright’ bordering on good……but …..a standing ovation? Kids today!
After the thirty minute intermission; the stage set had hardly changed for the headline act which slightly baffled me; as I was half expecting a big ‘show’……but it appeared Little Big Town wanted their show to be all about ‘the songs’ and with hindsight; that’s no bad thing at all.
Hiding in the shadows, the backing band built up the already palpable tension in the room for nearly two minutes before Little Big Town made their appearance, swathed in blue lights creating an air of mystery for their opening song Night on Our Side; then with a minimum of fuss as the roar of approval died down the stage lights came on and the band slid seamlessly into Happy People and the front three rows immediately got to their feet as Karen and Kimberley slickly glad-handed people without missing a note.
This was very much the tone for the whole concert; bang, bang, bang…….song/applause/song/applause/song; with very little chit-chat in between…..the Hits just kept on coming; without any overpowering light-show or attention grabbing backdrop of videos…..this really was a showcase for their songs.
One bit of audience interaction has to be reported though; after only 24 hours in the Region Kimberly Schlapman greeted the audience with “Hello GATESHEAD…….we know you’re NOT Newcastle!” Which was a lovely touch as this world class venue is on the much maligned South side of the River Tyne, and not the more famous Northern side. She then told a lovely anecdote about the nuances of our local accent……which went down very well indeed.
I knew very little about the band prior to tonight; so was really impressed with Take Me Down, especially when the guitarist who had been hiding in the shadows strolled to the front of the stage for a short and sharp solo……”play that funky geetar….kidda!”
Others that caught my attention were the new single Better Man, Rollin (which featured FOUR guitarists!), Tornado, Save Your Sin and of course the awe-inspiring Girl Crush.
As is my won’t on nights like this I’m prone to watching the crowd’s reactions to songs and singers; and this crowd doted on every single note from each singer as they each took a turn at lead vocals.

lbt girls
Surprisingly there appeared to be an under prepared tribute to the late Don Williams, which started so well with some beautiful four part harmonies on Lord, I Hope This Day is Good and I Believe in Love, out of nowhere they morphed into an Alicia Keys song then When Doves Cry! All really well sung; but what they had to do with Don Williams I will never know.
Then of course there was my “I know this song” moment. The sultry swampy-funk tune confused me but I sure knew the lyrics……DOH……Little Big Town had not only turned the Indie Classic Wonderwall into a Country song; but a spellbinding one at that. 10/10

Oh dear; I also faced a modern concert problem; two female characters from Viz Comic sitting/standing/dancing/drinking sitting directly behind me, who shouted their admiration for each song (especially the ballads) to each other until song #14 when my patience finally snapped and ‘words were exchanged.’ Defeated but unbowed they decided to dance/wobble in the aisle, only returning to gulp their pints and puff on their e-cigs. Kids today?
Hey ho; that apart I really enjoyed the whole show…….24 songs (with no filler) followed by two glorious encores; making for an exceptionally well paced evening….. what’s not to like?
Afterwards I heard someone bemoaning the fact that the venue should be booking likes of Toby Keith and Tim McGraw! Get real!! That shipped many years ago; so it was a wonderful surprise to see Little Big Town playing a UK Tour at venues that ‘only’ hold 3,000 or so fans; and hopefully they will go home and tell their friends of their welcome (and the merch they sold) therefore bringing even more Grade 1 Country Acts to our fair shores.

photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Little-Big-Town/