Graham Stone – UNTIL THE DAY

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Graham Stone
UNTIL THE DAY
Self-Release

Gorgeous, Heartfelt Everyman Songs for Every Man and Woman.

As RMHQ is a ‘vanity project’ for me, I love receiving albums and gig invites from Musical Household Names; but first and foremost I still love the thrill of discovering a brand new artist and screaming their name from the Internet Rooftop.
Such is the case with Graham Stone from Richmond Virginia who first got in touch earlier in 2017 when he planned to  release a 5 track EP which never materialised; instead Graham managed to finance the recording of this full size album of 10 songs…..and it has turned my head 360 degrees, upside down and inside out!
The gritty intro to Canyonlands which starts the album piqued my interest; and when Graham’s ‘worn leather’ and world weary voice oozed from the speakers; I instinctively leaned over and turned the volume up to get the best benefits from this delicious slice of Americana Pie.
Even today, a full week after first listening to UNTIL THE DAY I still can’t think of anyone else that Stone’s distinctive voice actually sounds like……and that’s a positive around these here parts.
His songwriting is flawless with the title track Until The Day and the brooding Flowers in Montana being both being highly articulate yet easily accessible too.
Stone’s eye for detail comes to the fore in that latter song as well as the Cowboy song, Free and Homeward which could have been schmaltzy in lesser hands; becomes a wonderful tragic Country song in the hands of Graham Stone and band.
While most songs here are beautifully intense ballads, Stone threatens to ‘rock out’ in true Alt. Country style a couple of times; but always pulls back from the brink until On The Run which closes the disc……and in true Tom Petty or Eagles style he lulls you in with a stark and almost Gothic melody then……WHAM! The band let loose and I accidentally found myself punching the air the first time I heard the chorus!!!
Aha…..you say; but what is your ‘favourite song’? Well; dear reader it’s a tie between two songs which follow each other and sort of blend one into the other. Oddly enough they are both about very strong women in the songwriter’s life; but two very different characters. Strong Constitution is about a woman from, ‘old Caroline’ with a “Strong Constitution and steel in her spine/with a spirit more precious than jewels/she won’t take shit from a fool.” At times Stone’s description of this beautiful woman; his sister echoed my memories of my own Mother; as it probably will you with yours.
The other is a more up-tempo and rockier song, full of fuzzy guitars and punchy bass n drums; Kathleen Jean (from Virginny-i-a!).
Another exceptionally descriptive story of a woman once married to a ‘black haired guitar man’ who ‘left her with seven kids’. Stone’s Mother; for it is she sounds quite a gal….and a woman I’d loved to have met.
These two songs; and the rest of the album sound a bit like The Eagles or such singing a Tom Russell or Slaid Cleaves song……..possibly……I think.
Please, please, please buy this album…….it deserves a huge audience and Graham Stone deserves to bring this gorgeous and eloquent Alt. Country Music to the world at large!

Released July 28th 2017

https://www.grahamstonemusic.com/epk

Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters – Self-Titled

Amanda Honeycutters

Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters
Self-Titled
Organic Records

Thoughtful and Articulate Small Town Country Music.

While not really the most enticing Album cover you’ve ever seen; the photographer in me was actually drawn to the picture on the cover of Amanda Anne Platt’s fourth album; as it’s the type of ‘washed out’ photography I myself am experimenting with at the moment.
And, to some degree; and I doubt it’s by accident, that imagery actually gives you a feel of the lived-in Blue-Collar, small town Country music within the grooves of the disc that follows.
Amanda’s pearlescent voice slides gracefully from the speakers on the opening track Birthday Song; which isn’t the normal happy-clappy song the title would suggest; this is a woman looking backwards and forwards in equal measure and wondering what she has achieved and what the world holds for her in the future. We’ve all been there; and Amanda tells her story with style and elegance.
Long Ride follows and the mood doesn’t get much happier. The band sound wrapped as tight as a drum while Amanda pleads with her lover to stick on in there for ‘the long ride;’ and the pedal-steel and piano combine to add enough poignancy to bring a tear to a glass eye.
There are days when I’m staggered that a songwriter can still find a new angle on the age old story of a ‘tired relationship’ and boy does Amanda Anne have a way with words; Learning How To Love Him, finds her accompanying herself on acoustic guitar on a deeply moving song, that reminded me of Jeannie C Riley and Loretta, all those years ago.
Brand New Start is a similar sorry tale but played out to a Waltz beat and is as Country a Country Song as you will hear this year.
The first time I heard Guitar Case and The Good Guys (Dick Tracy) I thought they sounded a bit ‘old fashioned’ which is odd (and wrong!) as they fit in perfectly with the type of songs I love by ‘Ameripolitan’ artists like Sturgill Simpson and Sam Outlaw; so why can’t a lady fit into that sphere? Well, Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters can; and do stand side by side with those guys; but without the Trucker Cap.
Don’t fret, there are toe-tappers here too with Eden and the delightful Late Summer’s Child being a touch more up-tempo and ‘happier’ especially the latter (which is Mrs. Magpie’s favourite song here).
The band here are outstanding from start to finish and Amanda Anne has an spectacular vocal style, ‘pearlescent’ as I described it earlier; but it’s the songwriting that stands out here with two songs that I will choose as ‘RMHQ Favourites’……The Things We Called Home is 100% pure Honky Tonk and timeless; while Amanda and the band straddle the divide between Country and Alt like a tightrope walker on the rattlingly good ‘every-man song’ Diamond in the Rough.
In it’s own heartache drenched way, this has been a joy from start to finish……pure darn Country too; but real down-home Country that we now have to refer to as Ameripolitan; but it is what we know as COUNTRY MUSIC…..pure and simple.

Released UK August 4th 2017
Released US August 28th 2017
http://www.honeycutters.com/

Whitehorse – PANTHER IN THE DOLLHOUSE

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Whitehorse
PANTHER IN THE DOLLHOUSE
Six Shooter Records/Thirty Tigers

The Dark and Beautiful Side of Alt. Country.

A few years ago there was a slew of boy/girl Country duet album in the spirit of George & Tammy and Dolly & Porter; each had its merits but I fell deeply in love with ‘the one that got away’…….Whitehorse’s Self-Titled debut album, and tracks were regularly featured on my long gone radio show.
Subsequently the couple, Melissa McLelland and Luke Doucet have released another couple of well received albums; although they never arrived at RMHQ; and their solo careers have gone from strength to strength. So, it was with some excitement that I received this particular album; but with only really knowing them as a Classic Country Couple I wasn’t really prepared for the massive ‘leap to the left’ in their sound.
Epitaph in Tongues is a dark and aerie Lo-Fi song, full of beautiful harmonies, crunchy guitars and a song somewhere between the Cowboy Junkies and the Handsome Family. Strange at first; as it was so unexpected; but today…..WOW……the perfect accompaniment for a stormy Winter’s evening.
This is followed by a slightly chirpier track Boys Like You; but the use of loops and electronica still keep it away from even the Alt. Country mainstream as the couple use effects pedals and vocal inducers like Phil Spector on ‘ludes and strong coffee.
Once I’d got my head around it; I now love this album; especially the bitingly sharp Trophy Wife and the Gram influenced I Can’t Take You With Me (Charlene’s Theme).
Played loud in the car on a sunny day (and I did!) the quirky Pink Kimono is a great Country Pop tune; but the Electro-Country of Nighthawks and Kicking Down Your Door are sort of similar but so very modern they are almost Futuristic-Country…..and that’s a damn good thing in my humble opinion.
If I still had my radio show (and it’s a possibility kids) there are two songs here that I’d love to play for you; the beautiful and ethereal Grace and the wild and wacky Manitoba Death Star which is….well….it is what it is; and will scare some people and enamour others; which is surely what music is all about…isn’t it?
PANTHER IN THE DOLLHOUSE will and should appeal to fans of the Cowboy Junkies, Giant Sand, Barenaked Ladies and Jonathan Richman as everything here is of an incredibly high quality but way different from the norm; and the world is a much better place because of bands like Whitehorse who are prepared to take huge risks in the name of their Art.

Released UK August 4th 2017
Released Canada & US July 11th 2017
https://www.whitehorsemusic.ca/

Robin Trower – TIME & EMOTION

robin trower

Robin Trower
TIME & EMOTION
Manhaton Records

Low Down, Gritty, Dirty and the Real Deal From Classic British Bluesman.

As I wasn’t a fan back in the day, and his recent offerings have sort of passed me by I never thought I would see the day when I raved about a Robin Trower album, but hey…..this has won me over.
In all fairness it was opening track The Land of Plenty that did it; Trower slows things down to a stroll on a song that immediately reminded me of one the formative albums of my teenage years, Blues Obituary from the Groundhogs.
While Trower’s fretwork is as astonishing as you’d expect; for once it’s his voice (and the song itself) that captures the imagination.
Sounding as rough and gruff as you’d expect from a man his age; Trower enters brand new territory on the slow burning Chicago inspired numbers like Bitten By The Snake and the sultry and bittersweet Make Up Your Mind, with the latter taking it’s lead more from John Lee Hooker than Hendrix for once.
The all pervading shadow from Hendrix does make an appearance on You’re The One; but it’s the mellow end of the Jimi spectrum; than on previous outings; and again for me the song itself wins out over the subtly spectacular guitar playing that many will be thrilled with.
TIME & EMOTION is the type of album that will not just appeal to Rock fans looking for ‘come down’ music at the end of the night (and it works perfectly in that format) but actual bona-fide Blues snobs; with Returned In Kind, If You Believe In Me and What Was I Really Worth To You crossing divides in a way I’ve not heard since The Cream’s halcyon days 40 years ago. Mmmmmm….maybe that’s it; a lot of the songwriting on this record does remind me of those gorgeous Jack Bruce/Pete Brown collaborations I pored over in my bedroom….as did millions of others around the globe.
As you’d expect from an elder statesman like Robin Trower, this is an old fashioned Long Player; in as much as there aren’t any obvious ‘singles’ here (where would they get played anyways???) but there are two truly outstanding songs here; the smooth title track Time & Emotion which closes the record and the actual RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ the spine-tingling love song You’re The One, which has such a strong set of lyrics that it could be from the heart of a love struck teenager or; as in this case a septuagenarian looking at his lover, still with a twinkle in his eyes.
While fans of Robin Trower’s guitar playing will still find plenty to enjoy here; TIME & EMOTION is an album full of exceptionally written and ‘sung’ songs with Robin Trower sounding more like a classic Chicago Bluesman than the majority of household names ever did.
Love it – from start to finish.

https://www.trowerpower.com/
Released UK 4th August 2017

Released USA May 6th 2017

 

 

EXCLUSIVE …Jon Langford – Fish Out of Water

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Jon Langford
Fish Out of Water (Single)
Bloodshot

The legendary Jon Langford from the Waco Brothers and The Mekons alongside multiple collaborations rushed to the studio in The Shoals, Alabama with members of the Swampers the day after the USA Presidential Election and recorded a whole new album across 4 days.
Here’s the very first track…..and we couldn’t be any more excited!!

Album FOUR LOST SOULS released September 22nd 2017
PRE-ORDER THE ALBUM HERE https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/album/four-lost-souls

 

Valparaiso – Rising Tides (feat. Phoebe Killdeer & Howe Gelb)

VALPARAISIO

Valparaiso
Rising Tides (feat. Phoebe Killdeer & Howe Gelb)

While I’d not heard of the band Jack The Ripper; anything that incorporates Howe Gelb and Phoebe Killdeer from Nouvelle Vague is always going to catch my attention…..and quite rightly so if this amazing song and video is anything to go by.

Here’s what they have to say about themselves…..
“The Chilean seaport Valparaiso has been a distant, yet mystic point for travellers and sailors. The French musical collective Valparaiso symbolizes a harbor that welcomes artists who stay for a while, leave and may come back. Though, the travelling and no-border mentalities unite Valparaiso and their manifold guests.

It is the artist’s passion for the iconic photographer Sergio Lorrain’s raw imagery, as well as Joris Ivens and Chris Maker’s film about Valparaiso that led to the name’s choice of Valparaiso. At the same time, this marked the overall aesthetics of the project, which also leads to a particular visual note in the many short-films, photos and stage-design.

Hervé and Thierry Mazurel, musicians and co-founders of the French cult act Jack The Ripper are at the origin of Valparaiso. Stable members are also Matthieu Texier (guitars), Thomas Belhom (drums) and Adrien Rodrigue (violin and vibraphones), all indie-rock scene experienced musicians.

Just before Jack the Ripper’s 4th album recording session, a surprising split from their iconic singer left the band without a frontman. Out of the ashes of Jack the Ripper, they marked a milestone with The Fitzcarraldo Sessions, an experimental predecessor to Valparaiso (among them Stuart Staples of Tindersticks, Joey Burns of Calexico, Blaine Reininger of Tuxedomoon, Craig Walker of Archive). The album We hear Voices immediately gained rave reviews in France.

While the music on “Broken Homeland” was composed by Valparaiso, the guests were invited through creative and organic networking and finally coincidences. The lyrics and vocals were written in total liberty by each singer and recorded together in Bristol, where it was all unified and consolidated by John Parish. Today, their first album Broken Homeland resemble a photo-book that documents the collective.”

ALBUM RELEASED 22ND SEPTEMBER 2017

Video of the Week…. Grainne Duffy – Where I Belong

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Grainne Duffy
Where I Belong

After seeing her blowing the roof off the Jumping Hot Club Stage at SummerTyne in 2012, Irish Blues-Rocker Grainne Duffy is ‘the one that got away’ for RMHQ.
She didn’t have any albums with her that day; and even though we follow her every move on Social Media no recent albums have arrived on our desk; nor have we bought any 😦
But…….this wonderful acoustic driven single Where I Belong arrived today via the medium of the E-Mail system and we have fallen in love all over again.
A lot more mellow than I’d expected, but Grainne’s exquisite voice shines like never before on this lovely mellow Blues song. Just like our mutual hero Mr Rory Gallagher, as without her trusty electric guitar by her side Grainne shows she ain’t no one trick pony and can sing a love song with the best of them.
All I can say is WHERE I BELONG has certainly whetted my appetite for the album when it comes; and a live show which will certainly go in the diary.

released 31st July 2017

http://www.graineduffy.com

 

 

Benjamin Folke Thomas – ACOUSTIC CLASSICS.

BFT LIVE

Benjamin Folke Thomas
ACOUSTIC CLASSICS (Live For Your Listening Pleasure)
Louvaio Productions

A Genuine One Man Show With Articulate Folk Songs and Lots of Laughs Too.

Everything about this release makes it a winner at RMHQ; as if I’d been browsing the racks in a record shop I’m 99% sure the cover would have attracted my attention even if I’d not heard and loved Ben Folk Thomas’s previous release COPENHAGEN; but primarily his wicked sense of humour in recording this Live album in his living room only with only himself and numerous overdubs of him cheering, laughing and even heckling himself as the singer is way beyond a brilliant concept!!
Let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start!) I’m Alive; a rather brittle and beautiful love song that is brought to life by Ben’s rich singing voice and compelling guitar strumming.
Then we get the first story/introduction and it……sounds so…..’real’ as he explains the background to Good Friend Again from COPENHAGEN; and the song itself has gained a lot more gravitas sung ‘live’ as does the song named after his Grandfather Finn and the title track Copenhagen from that wonderful album.
Just as in his ‘real’ concerts, there are songs both old and new with jokes a ‘plenty in his introductions……corny jokes, but absolutely hilarious when you know the gag about the audience who howl with laughter.
The songs though are what we are here for and existing fans will thrill at hearing the darkly fragile Nothing Next To You and Woman I Love which juxtapose each other; and Folk music never sounded more interesting.
While I really, really love this album from start to finish; but two songs chiselled their way into my head the first time I heard them; partly because of their introductions; with the silver-tongued Sex , which closes the concert just losing out to Married which also is another good song; but made ‘great’ by the monologue which leads into a truly tremendous modern Folk song.
I’m normally not a lover of Live Albums, but ACOUSTIC CLASSICS, like the classic Compleat Tom Paxton from 1970 works on so many different levels and bares repeated listening; or at least it does in the RMHQ office and I think it will in your house too.

Released UK July 10th 2017

https://www.benfolkethomas.com/

Pickxen – SELEH (ep)

Selah

Pickxen
SELEH
Self-Release

Fairy Dust Sprinkled Southern Alt. Country.

What more can I say but my head still spins with excitement whenever I play Pickxen’s album PICKS n Vittles; so when John and Laura sent me their latest 6 track offering I did a little ‘Snoopy dance of joy’ in the kitchen!
The accompanying letter explains that this is actually a fascinating project; as the couple are releasing this ‘raw’ EP to raise enough funds to bring in a band a producer to ‘fill out’ the songs for release as a bona-fide album later in 2017……and I urge you to buy both; you won’t regret it.
Opening track ‘Cher Knee is the type of late night Country ballad that I dream of hearing in a darkened bar in the wrong side of town, as Laura Monk goes into heartbroken Linda Ronstadt, Lena Martell or Lynn Anderson mode, with some searing Redd Volkaert guitar licks in the background.
Oh dear…….I immediately had a lump in my throat as Laura’s immaculate voice wobbles on the repeated opening lines of “I read your letter in the rain” and it stayed there for the next three solid minutes. Unless there’s a puppy involved, Country songs don’t get any more Countrier than this……heartbreak by the numbers, and tears by the ton.
I’ve Fallen Away is another beautiful bittersweet Country Love Song that will grab you by the heartstrings then tug and squeeze them until you can’t draw breath; but you won’t care as Laura Monk truly has the voice of a teenage Country Angel.
As a man without a musical bone in my body, songs like BS for Breakfast amaze me. The opening line “Brussels sprouts for breakfast” and the Twangtastic guitar certainly caught my attention and the story of a brokedown relationship that follows is another 100% Classic Country song of misery and love and can only come from the heart; can’t it? Well….not exactly according to John’s letter, and without taking too much of the ‘magic’ away, the Brussels Sprouts bit is accurate then he let his imagination run away with him…….brilliant and I can’t do anything other than salute such a vivid imagination.
John Monk’s imagination runs riot on the final track Cedars of Lebanon, where he read a biography of WB Yeats then got to thinking about the Lebanese flag which features a Cedar tree which is a metaphor for the eternal qualities of life…..then he goes on to write another exceptional Country Song. How does he; and his like do it? I don’t really care; but it certainly enriches my life.
Which brings us around to my favourite song here; the Mavericks influenced Another You; a timeless melody and richly eloquent song that will appeal to Country, World and Pop Music fans alike if it was to get played on the wireless.
As I said at the beginning, the purpose of this disc (and downloads) is to raise funds for a more fleshed out, bigger sound for the proposed album; but as an un-musical music fan I would urge caution as in my humble opinion these stark and occasionally raw performances allow Laura’s voice to bring these often beautiful stories to life in a way that could get lost in the hands of an over enthusiastic producer.
Just a thought.

Released July 1st 2017
http://pickxen.com/

Peter Himmelman – THERE IS NO CALAMITY

PETER HIMMELMAN A
Peter Himmelman
There is No Calamity

Himmasongs

Peter Himmelman is an interesting cat. His voice may remind you of Declan
McManus channelling an amped up Randy Newman, his band sounds like a pub-funk E Street Band with a touch of Mink DeVille, and the man can seriously
write a song like nobody’s business. Add to this his compositions for film and
television, his series of children’s albums, his paintings—and the fact that he owns a company called Big Muse, that helps organisations to bring out the potential of their people with innovative thinking, team building, and leadership ability through the learning of songwriting—and you may have a true Renaissance Man.
A Renaissance Man who rocks, by the way.
THERE IS NO CALAMITY is Himmelman’s umpteenth album. Seriously, the man has
released a too many albums, compilations, soundtracks to easily keep track of,
and he’s been at this game since the 1970s, working with several bands as well as numerous solo projects. So to say that he knows what he’s doing, would be an
understatement. Produced by Steve Berlin, the sounds on this album are thick,
yet quick footed, the bass by Matt Thompson is snaky, fluid, thumping in a way
that makes this bass player want to practice a bit more than I already do, the
guitars are melodic and nasty, and the drums pound deliciously throughout.
Several of these tunes feature the kind of banging piano and lush keyboard
textures that you don’t hear enough of these days, and the background vocalists
are tight enough to do their job, yet loose enough to let go when required. Does
this sound like a host of contradictions? Yes, it does. The contradictions of rock ‘n’roll abound all over these songs. Hope and punishment, fear and dreams, the arcane and the profound, all played with near abandon, yet restrained just enough. Good car chase music. You ever see that movie Timerider? A motorcyclist is transported through time to America’s Old West. The soundtrack plays cowboy saddle ‘em ups for the modern day motorcycle shots and then shifts to contrasting hard rock when the dirty and bedraggled lowlife outlaws come on screen.
Himmelman and his band are somewhere in between, but smarter, no—make
that craftier. On the opening track “245th Peace Song” (which by the title alone
tells me Himmelman has a fine sense of humour, even on a song that has such a
serious subject matter) we get spit in your face vocals, thrilling harmonies (the
background vocalists must have had a blast putting these down) kick down your
door snare and some driving lead bass where you can nearly near the strings
digging into the neck the way I like. “Fear and Undoing” and “Rich Men Rule the
World” are deep piano burners, a bit of Ian Hunter in the choruses, some playful
Warren Zevon on the verses, and “Sacrificial” is a floor tom and distorted bass
throbfest where Himmelman lets it all out and pleads for answers, knowing the
world doesn’t work that way:
“How angry is too angry, how sweet is just too sweet?
How do you call out for love, when love feels like defeat?”
I know that Himmelman sounds nothing like Steve Earle, but I hear in these songs
the same kind of focused energy, a similar sense of responsibility of—not just to the music, but also the subject matter, and most importantly—the end result of the music. Which is to say creating art that hits you like a fist when you first hear it, and that also leaves a handhold on your heart. These are soulful tunes, full of wit and honesty, pluck and heart.

Rock on.

Released 11th August 2017

http://www.peterhimmelman.com/home.php

Guest reviewer The legendary Mr. Roy Peak