Luke Winslow King
Yowza…….this just arrived a few minutes ago and I can’t wait to share it with you…….the very first track from the new Luke Winslow King album BLUE MESA due out on 11th May 2018……and apart from this track listing I know not a lot else…..but I’m seriously excited waiting for the actual album!
“Blue Mesa was recorded in the Tuscan fortress village of Lari, Italy and features long-time collaborator and Italian blues guitar dynamo Roberto Luti, Chris Davis of King James and the Special Men, and Mike Lynch (Bob Seger, Larry McCray) on organ”.
1. You Got Mine
2. Leghorn Women
3. Blue Mesa
4. Born to Roam
5. Better for Knowing You
6. Thought I Heard You
7. Break Down the Walls
8. Chicken Dinner
9. After the Rain
10. Farewell Blues
Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective
Quintessential British R&B With a Country Heart.
My father used to have a saying that I now use; “God acts in mysterious ways” and that may sum up why I selected this album to listen to last week.
First of all the band name is a bit of a mouthful isn’t it and the sleeve isn’t exactly eye-catching but as soon as I heard that wailing harmonica and thumping bass on opening track Little Black Book I knew I was onto a winner.
For what should be a relatively simple Classic British R&B foot stomper there’s an awful lot going on behind Jamie Williams gut wrenching vocal performance; not least Dave Milligan’s searingly hot guitar runs.
I Don’t Want To Break My Baby’s Heart which follows isn’t quite so earthy; more Manfred Mann than Dr. Feelgood if you know what I mean; but a helluva corking love song though, but man.
Nothing here is ever anything less than interesting with a couple of cool acoustic tunes thrown in for good measure, with Godsend and Bastard County both being glorious toe tapping Country Blues tunes of the highest order.
But it’s the glorious Rhythmic Blues of the electric persuasion that I’ve fallen in love with all over again with that harp from Nick Garner sending shivers down my spine on the chilling Voodoo Man (which also features the band on ‘harmonies’) and on Lonesome Howl From The Heart I was transported back to those drunken nights in the Red House on Newcastle’s dangerous Quayside long before it became gentrified.
While they obviously love 60’s British R&B and probably 70’s Pub Rock the band show that they aren’t a Retro Showband with Reaching For The Stars and One Man Mission To Mars which both fit in perfectly; but go off in spectacular new directions all of their own.
But; the title of RMHQ Favourite Song goes to a “Most Blues Wailing” song worthy of The Yardbirds, Feelgoods and even the Stones when they really were Rolling……..Baddass and Lazy is one of those songs that sounds great on record but will surely be a showstopper when played loud and at 100mph on stage. Williams sings from the heart over an industrial strength rhythm section and an electric guitar and harmonica that both need a bucket of cold water at the end of this spectacular 2 and a half minutes.
This is the music that first instilled my love of ‘The Blues’…..the quintessential British version and Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective aka JWRoots are every bit as good as anything that I’ve heard in the last twenty years; primarily because they aren’t trying to sound like anyone but themselves which is a winning formula at RMHQ.
Released 16th March 2018
NONSENSE & HEARTACHE
Songs About The People and Rustic Small Towns that Litter Middle America
I’m not sure where to start here; as until last week I’d never heard of Jerry Leger but his UK PR pushed a little bit and finally mentioned the ‘magic words’ Michael Timmins and the Cowboy Junkies…..on whose label this Double Album is released.
If he’s good enough for the Cowboy Junkies he’s certainly good enough for RMHQ!
As you know I place high stead on a strong opening track and Jerry delivers a virtual Musical Time Bomb with Coat On The Rack……which sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Nashville Skyline and Exile on Main Street; such is the way he delivers the words over a tight as a duck’s bum Indie band with a searing guitar .
Right up my street, methinks.
Halfway through album #1 I couldn’t wait to listen to it all on the car stereo……especially Baby’s Got a Rare Gun, The Big Smoke Blues and Forged Cheque which all need to be played LOUD…..as Leger channels his inner Rockabilly with an Insurgent Country aftershock……great songs and a mighty fine band in equal measures it has to be said.
Not everything is quite as fast and furious with the heart-shredding Wedding Dress sounding like the song Ryan Adams has been waiting 10 years to write; and On The Fishing Line is a mean and moody Rock & Roll ballad that needs the lights turned down low and the sex-o-meter set to stun; and don’t get me started on that Johnny Winteresque geetar kidda!
Then there is She’s The Best Writer You’ve Never Heard Of which could be the title track on any future RMHQ Soundtrack album……Leger’s voice purrs and quivers like a teenager on a hot date as the guitar smokes and sizzles as the bass and drummer sound like a Steel Mill on Friday afternoon.
Hence; this song becomes our ‘favourite track’ on Album one.
It’s a deliberate play from Jerry Leger to make the second album more ‘Rootsy’ and even sentimental, with the pedal-steel replacing the electric guitar as a lead instrument and it works jolly well.
First song in Things Are Changing Around Here and I found myself thinking this could be a 21st Century Flying Burritos and later songs like Take The Ashes and Run, Buckskin Wall and Another Dead Radio Star seem to confirm that; as the harmonies and back beat sound like Jerry and friends have spent as much time listening to their Dad’s Country Rock collection as they did their own snarling Rock records.
While I thought NONESENSE was perfect for car journey’s the same argument prevails when you listen to Lucy and Billy The Kid, Take The Ashes and Run and It Don’t Make The Wrong Go Away; just this album is for cruising around on a warm and sunny day.
Boy can Jerry Leger write a heartbreaker; try listening to He’s The Lonely One Now and not get a tear in the corner of your eyes…….think Gram at his saddest and you will understand where I’m coming from.
But there is one song here that stands out from the rest; and one that defines everything that I love in songs about rustic small towns that litter the back-roads of Middle America and only come to life in songs like this……Pawn Shop Piano is one such song; and one that will stick in my mind for a long time to come.
So, there you have it two quite different albums full of interesting and sophisticated songs and stories by the same singer-songwriter and band that show how clever and professional they all are; and at only 35 minutes each; it’s really just a great LP with a fast side and a slower side but on CD.
Released March 2nd 2018
HEARTBREAK SONG FOR THE RADIO
Atmospherically Tightly Wrapped Songs Drenched In Harmonies And Heartache
Sadly this CD has been sitting in the back of the ‘to do’ box for a couple of months now; probably because it didn’t have a Press Release with it; but in my defence I have been rather busy lately then last week a friend wrote a glowing review of a concert on a UK Tour (which didn’t include the NE btw) and I thought “I think I have an album by said combo” and I did…..and The Lynnes are actually RMHQ favourites Lynne Hanson and Lynn Miles from Canada Town!!
HEY HO….Better late than never?
Opening song Cold Front sets the mood perfectly; one sensational female voice complimented by the other on harmonies on an atmospherically tightly wrapped song that straddles Country, Folk and whatever we think of as Americana albeit from Canada.
As we know both women are accomplished singers and songwriters in their own rite, but together they move up several rungs of the success ladder with ease and grace.
There’s even a hint of the Everly Brothers on Recipe For Disaster but the gorgeous title track Heartbreak Song For The Radio and Dark Waltz are exactly the type of lo-fi Canadiacana we have come to expect from the land of the Maple Leaf and these two ladies themselves.
I first discovered Lynne Hanson via her Murder Ballads album; so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when darkly delicate songs like Blame It On The Devil and Blue Tattoo make an appearance out of left field towards the end.
Perhaps it’s the subject matter of these two songs; but I’d love to hear Tom Russell cover at least one and preferably sing it or them alongside The Lynnes; I think the end result could be extraordinarily good.
OK, regular readers will know I am self-absorbed but I really do think that the punchy Halfway To Happy and Heavy Lifting could have been written about ME! Both delve into the darker recesses of Country Music and come out the other side with lyrics and a song that will squeeze the heartstrings of anyone who has loved and lost or; as in my own case people who feel sorry for themselves……just because.
Both are full of stinging couplets and stories that transcend the backwaters of Roots Music; hence they tie for the accolade of RMHQ ‘favourite song’ on this wonderful long playing album.
Released February 2nd 2018
CALL ME LUCKY
The World Today From the Heart of a Master-Craftsman Songwriter.
I can distinctly remember the day I first discovered Chris Smither and his music four years ago when I reviewed his LEAVE THE LIGHT ON album for a popular (at the time) magazine…….his voice and the way he used it on his stunning songs simply blew me away.
Since that day I’ve picked up another 4 of his albums and the STILL ON THE LEVEE retrospective from an ever decreasing circle of record shops and subsequently loved and cherished every song.
A cursory look at his bio also shows that his songs have been covered by some of the biggest stars in both Country Music and the Rootsier Americana scene; yet only us cool kids know of him; such is the life of a singer-songwriter.
So, after 17 previous albums in 50 years can he still ‘do it’?
WHAM! Opening track The Blame’s On Me is a Country Rocker that immediately shows us that there’s still fire in the old dog’s belly and the new kids on the block should look over their shoulders, cos Smither is coming for them.
This is followed by a lovely laid back and almost ‘back porch’ rendition of Chuck Berry’s Maybelline making it virtually unrecognisable as Chris makes it a reflective song about ‘memories’ rather than the racy style of the original.
The trademark laconic Smither ‘style’ rolls through songs like Everything On Top, Change Your Mind and Mrs. Magpie’s favourite song here By The Numbers all of which help you understand how Chris Smither reached the top of his game many years ago; but has never faltered from that position. He really is a Master-Craftsman.
While I don’t know every song or indeed every album Smither has released but I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Southern Shuffle on Too Bad, So Sad and Down To The Sound with it’s late night atmospheric channels that have had me pressing ‘repeat’ a few times.
She Said, She Said which opens the second disc is as dark a song as I’ve heard in years; but the way Smither delivers Lennon & McCartney’s words makes for a truly beautiful and heart wrenching 3 minutes and nothing like what I remember from sitting poring over Revolver in my teenage bedroom many moons ago..
While not exactly ‘experimental’ this second disc finds Smither and friends playing around with a few songs from Side #1; with Nobody Home sounding edgier and perhaps a touch more menacing than the original but By The Numbers gets something of a Randy Newman makeover with Chris only accompanied by Keith Gary gently touching the piano keys.
Which brings me to ‘my favourite song’ here; an odd choice to some but Sittin’ On Top Of The World has been both entrancing and enthralling every time I’ve played it. Perhaps it’s an age thing but the way he delivers this hoary old classic nearly reduced me to tears earlier today.
I don’t know what else to say; but even without Chris Smither’s back catalogue bringing these songs to people’s attention, I’m pretty sure it will feature in many critics Top 10 at the end of the year on it’s very own merits……I know it will at RMHQ.
Released March 2nd 2018
TRAVEL WITH LOVE and KNOW JAH BETTER
One of Reggae’s Most Innovative Pioneers Legacy Lives On.
Those cool kids at Omnivore Records have done it again; this time as part of their amazing Nighthawk Records collection they have re-discovered, re-produced and repackaged two fabulous albums by Reggae pioneer Justin Hinds and even adding some bonus tracks from those original recording sessions.
TRAVEL WITH LOVE
Originally released in 1984, this album finds Hinds reworking some of his earlier singles from the Treasure Island label this opens with Get Ready, Rock Steady a staple of compilation albums from that era and was perfect for the last half hour of Youth Club Discos; but now with a heavier bass line than I remember (but I am getting old!).
The only other song I remember is Sweet Loraine and forty years later I still found myself shuffling around the kitchen as I made a cup of tea as it slinked out of the office stereo.
But the songs I don’t recognise sound like I should; especially the wailingly beautiful Weeping Eyes and Travel With Love; which feature some of Jamaica’s finest and emerging musicians in the background; but first and foremost the star here is Justin Hind’s amazing voice.
Fans will be astounded and thankful that there are an extra 10 BONUS TRACKS; mostly made up of ‘bass heavy versions’ of the original 8; with three brand new songs from the vault, Meditation, Valley of Reality and my pick for ‘Favourite Track’ Wolf and Sheep showing what a class act Justin Hinds was back in 1984, if these three fabulous songs could originally miss the cut.
KNOW JAH BETTER
More than any other musical sector Reggae musicians have always been more innovative than any other and never sat around ‘counting the cash’ from their hits (as invariably there wasn’t much cash) and they would evolve and innovate to suit market trends; which is what has happened between the last album in 1984 and the release of this much heavier sound in 1992.
Out goes the danceable Rock Steady sound and in comes Dancehall and why this album wasn’t a hit in the style of Gregory Isaacs or Barrington Levy around the same time, I will never know.
Perhaps the title of opening track War Time may have put people off; but it shouldn’t as it’s only slightly political but very, very danceable; and is immediately followed by a Dub version; which I strangely prefer.
A couple of tracks really stand the test of time, with Almond Tree conjuring up images of sitting on the beach with the one your love watching the sun go down and both Deep In The Heart and Love In The Morning with their sharper beats and funkier bass are exactly what I was listening to in the cooler clubs around town at that very time; which really does beggar the question as to why this never made the shelves of record stores in Newcastle….or did it?
Then there is No Place Like Home, which should surely have been a hit record; but appears to have just languished in a record company vault for a quarter of a century; but is now (alongside the album itself) is destined to be a crucial part of the RMHQ Soundtrack to Summer 2018.
There’s not a lot else to say as both albums are a lovely snapshot in time; but still sound as fresh today as they would have when they were recorded; and it’s a huge shame that Justin Hinds didn’t live to see and hear his legacy in the Reggae music that is being recorded today.
Released February 23rd 2018
Ten Red-hot Songs From The Finest Guitarist You’ve Never Heard Of.
In the halcyon days of my youth in the 1970’s the weekly music papers Sounds, NME and Melody Maker had annual polls for best this and that with the accolade of Best Guitarist being the first thing me and my friends looked for; with the holy trinity of Clapton, Hendrix and Page rotating for the #1 slot with my favourite Rory Gallagher normally entering at #4.
Fast forward 40 years and barely a week goes by without me receiving an album by or featuring a guitarist that is literally mind blowing, and one such is Michael Landau.
If his name is familiar to regular RMHQ readers it could be because he was the touring guitarist for Dame Joni Mitchell back in the 80’s but he has also played on albums by artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Pink Floyd and even James Taylor!
Even that CV wasn’t enough to really capture my attention; but when the track opening track Squirrels turned up on my I-Phone shuffle last week my attention was certainly piqued at last. Phew, how to describe it isn’t easy? Think Jack Bruce/Cream or perhaps Chris Rea on a good day or more likely Dire Straits after listening to Led Zeppelin……yep, it’s that good.
The music here is on the Jazzier edge of the Blues Rock spectrum with David Frazee’s vocals straddling all three genres with ease as Michael Landau liquid gold guitar playing really sparkles on tracks like We All Feel The Same and Poor Dear.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at the diversity Landau and friends shows across these 10 songs; but I wasn’t expecting anything half as beautiful as the intricate acoustic track Freedom or the mind blowing Speak Now, Make Your Peace which closes the disc and had me remembering the night I discovered Stevie Winwood’s Traffic…….it’s that kind of vibe; maaaannnnn.
The RMHQ favourite song is a tie between two very different songs; One Tear Away is heart shredding and bittersweet love song; best played with the lights down low and the other is a much more Rocky affair……with Bad Friend coming in just the right side of Metallic American Punk and best played LOUD……that is LOUD!!!
I suppose it would be all too easy to put this on as ‘interesting background music’ if you were having a dinner party in Hoxton, Heaton or Didsbury but Michael Landau has actually produced a work that should be listened to on your own; preferably on high quality to headphones to get the best out of it…..and you will.
Released February 23rd 2018
BIG DADDY GUMBO
Maximum R&B From Swampland USA.
Like so many albums I receive I’d not heard of Tommy Dardar before receiving this album; but why would I? He played in and fronted bands in and around South Louisiana for aeons but sadly died in 2017 before these tracks originally recorded in 2001 would ever be released.
But after reading the accompanying Press Release and listening to the loving way his friends and family have re-worked and polished those recordings I really wish I could have not just seen him playing live; but even met the guy as he sounds a fascinating character.
I’m pretty sure the album artwork would have caught my eye in a record shop and if the man behind the counter played track #1 It’s Good To Be King I would gratefully have shelled out the £10 or so to buy whatever came next.
That song is an absolute doozy; opening with some stinging guitar from Johnny Lee Schell and when Tommy’s rich voice and most blues-wailin’ harmonica come in I knew instantly that this was music I would absolutely luuurve.
Oh boy, oh boy….oh boy songs like Baby I Can Tell and Shake a Leg are the type of Rocking Blues music fans like me fantasise about hearing coming from a downtown club somewhere South of the Mason-Dixon line while on holiday.
Then there is Dangerous Woman and C’mon Second Line; oohheee……are these cool or what? Dardar and friends produce the musical sounds that Van Morrison must hear in his head before he goes into a studio; but has failed to reproduce for 30+ years #fact.
Favourite track? How am I supposed to choose only one from this parcel of musical gems; but choose I must.
Perhaps the Honky-Tonk of Let’s Go Back to New Orleans; featuring the legendary Jon Cleary on piano and Tommy Dardar at his crooning best or will it be the funklicious Big Daddy Gumbo which closes the proceeding with even more sizzling guitar and saxophone than a man my age can handle; and don’t get me started on those sexy backing singers!
But I’m going for In My Mind; a slow burning sensual ballad that will bring tears to a glass eye and a song Tommy Dardar can proudly leave as his finest legacy, as is the record itself.
Released February 13th 2018
PAYING IT FORWARD
I first came across Ginger Wildheart many moons ago when he was the guitarist in the Quireboys; but who knew he was also in Beki Bondage’s Bombshells?
After being unceremoniously sacked from the Quireboys he formed his own little combo…..The Wildhearts; of whom several of my long haired friends are life long fans (Me? Less so as they are a bit too noisy).
But, being a local lad to me I’ve actually been in Ginger’s company a few times over the years (not that he will remember me) as we both have mutual friends in several American bands.
Hey ho; Ginger is one of those artists with Musical Tourrettes; as it appears he can’t sit still for a minute and is always working on new projects, writing or creating in new directions……which brings us here, the single from his latest album.
On 2 March 2018 Ginger released his new album, the aptly titled ‘Ghost In The Tanglewood’. A seamless mix of country, folk, roots and rock,showcasing Ginger’s song-writing maturity as he wears his heart (and influences) on his sleeve over 10 deeply personal tracks, channelling his emotions and and pouring his soul into every note. Influenced by the likes of Steve Earle, Maria McKee, Tom Waits and Richard Thompson, this is Ginger music on the mellow side; roots music played by a working class Geordie raised on Country and Northern folk music.
“While leaning towards country music, my fairly unavoidable accent means that the songs come off less Willie Nelson and more *Bobby Thompson, but every lyric is purely heartfelt and every song is as true a story as you’ll ever hear. This stuff has always been in my blood since I was a wee nipper and it’s an honour to finally get it out for people to hear” says Ginger.
“The songs largely deal with the traditionally taboo subject of mental health issues, specifically depression, which I have suffered from my whole life. Having recently weaned myself off medication, the music I make now serves as both therapy and comfort. I find relief in this music and hope that the songs bring a similar comfort to the listener. The narrative throughout is pretty confessional in nature, but I think the candid approach showcases the lyrics in a more bold and open way than a traditional rock album.”
*Bobby Thompson was a legendary NE comedian
Here’s the single PAYING IT FORWARD……
6 String Drag
TOP OF THE WORLD
Fun, Melodious and Lyrically Sharp Grown Up Alt. Country For Sunny Summer Afternoons.
Where to start? 6 String Drag hail from Raleigh, North Carolina and first appeared on the emerging Alt. Country scene in 1983 alongside better known bands like Whiskytown, Uncle Tupelo ; treading the boards of a scene that wasn’t really to blossom or even be understood for a number of years.
They did actually have one ‘hit’ album, HIGH HAT in 1997, which was re-released in January 2018 to some acclaim from the hipster set and has proven a lively opener for this, their fourth album in 25 years.
With only their bio to go by I had no expectations at all when first track Never Turn My Back On You Again; and got a very pleasant surprise when the melodic (remember that?) Country sounds eased out of the office speakers followed by singer Kenny Roby’s slightly road worn voice.
The word I found myself thinking was ……’cool’ and that actually fits most everything that follows; especially track #2 Wrong Girl; which features some liquid gold guitar breaks on a ballad that wouldn’t be out of place on Smooth Radio or it’s like wherever you live.
As is often the case when listening to music for the first time; outside influences affect the mood; and here the UK had just experienced a week of Arctic conditions with my car being buried under a snow drift for 4 days; and today the sun is shining and the flowers budding like the Spring morning it’s meant to be and 6 String Drag and their timeless American Pop-Rock tunes like Every Time She Walks On By and I Wish You Would are the perfect soundtrack for such a lovely day.
Like so many bands of their generation 6 String Drag sure ain’t no One Trick Pony’s, which might account for their lack of worldwide success; as they delve into their teenage angsty memories with the Clash-Lite Small Town Punks but juxtapose that with a nod to Sgt. Pepper’s with Jennifer Wren & The Crow I Know and epic Eagles on Waste of Time; with everything sitting perfectly comfortably side by side.
While the song, like the album itself is ‘easy on the ear’ the song that takes the award of ‘Favourite Track’ stopped me in my tracks the third time I heard it……actually listened to it…..there is a subtle difference; as Be Like You is a very subtle hard hitting lyric that you must listen intently to to get the best of it; and you are rewarded with a song of Neil Young and Chrissie Hynde proportions.
One of the joys of this ‘job’ is discovering new bands; and that’s exactly what 6 String Drag will be to 99.9% of our readers; even if the band have been around for 25 years; and both of these albums are now firmly ensconced in the Rocking Magmobile in readiness for a sunny Summer.
Released 9th March 2018