Patty Griffin
Patty Griffin
Thirty Tigers

A Glorious Tapestry of Modern Folk Songs with an Occasional Jazzy Tinge.

Patty Griffin is one of those singer-songwriters who can fill auditoriums all across the world and be hailed to the rooftops by the Great and the Good of the industry (inc. Robert Plant, Bob Harris and me) but no one you know has ever heard of her, or her songs.
Here we find Ms Griffin embracing her inner-Earth Mother on the cover and to some degree on the songs therein too, as they are more even more personal and intense than on her more recent albums; and without giving anything away too soon…… the world is a much better place because these songs exist.
Guitarist to the Stars, David Pulkingham gives opening song Mama’s Worried a sensitive Jazzy feel, as Ms Griffin inhabits a broken hearted Mother who’s husband has disappeared. Try to imagine, if you will Ella Fitzgerald singing a Dolly Parton song in a Chicago nightclub at 3am. But then again; it’s better than that.
The mood remains quite melancholic on the emotionally charged River; which follows and was the first song to be released from this record to huge acclaim by fans and critics alike. Take only one casual listen and you know you are in the presence of greatness.
I’ll get it out of the way quite early; but friend and fan, the Rock Behemoth Robert Plant makes two appearances here; What Now and Coins; and with hindsight both do have the merest hint of some Led Zeppelin mythological folky intros; but if I’d not read it it was Percy in the background on harmonies I’d not have known it was him; but I might have guessed at Jimmy Page playing the acoustic guitar; but it’s not……it’s mostly Patty Griffin herself.
‘Folk Music’ is a very broad church and means different things to different people; and Patty Griffin embraces many of them across the 13 songs on this album; oddly enough the Celtic themed Boys of Tralee has a very English spine to the way it’s constructed, and I can only imagine you will be able to hear a pin drop when it’s sung live.
As happens when a songwriter gets to ‘a certain age’ they find themselves looking back on the life; as the Jazzy vibe returns on Hourglass, a romantic tale of still feeling young and capable of ‘dancing at six o’clock in the morning’; although I think Patty may be looking through rose coloured glasses; but there’s no harm in dreaming, is there?
There’s a rather beautiful song here called Where I Come From, which paints a rather sad picture of what has become of this once vibrant town; but still the narrator cleverly tells us that ‘in the September sun, as the light is dying, it’s still most beautiful as the day goes down.’
As you know music effects you in different ways at different times; and the intense darkness surrounding many of the songs on this album have caught me like silky fog this evening and are perfect for the mood I’m in……. there ain’t no laughs here!
Had a Good Reason is as stark a tale of a woman walking out on her young family as you will hear in Country Music; just don’t expect Shania or Carrie to ever cover it; they wouldn’t dare…… this is so raw you can smell the tears.
What to choose as a Favourite Song this evening? The sad eyed loneliness of What I Remember? It is a great song, and I found myself staring at the speakers as Patty crooned:
“Life is a foreign land
Impossible to understand
Once we had the precious bird in hand
And let him slip away.”
Or should I choose the clever look at the world we live in, in The Wheel? It certainly has its merits; but no; as regular readers will already know….. I’m a sucker for a love song; no matter how bitter and twisted; which album closer Just The Same most certainly is!
All we hear is Ms Griffin and a crystal clear piano pouring her heart out about loving a man who perhaps doesn’t deserve her all encompassing and pure love she has for him.
“Nothing could ever make me love you less
Though I confess I’ve tried and I’ve wished I could
We weren’t the worst and we weren’t the best
But just beneath it all
Maybe a little good.”

Bloody Hell! Patty Griffin just described my marriage in four exquisite lines!
I don’t know if anyone will agree with me; and perhaps this a misty eyed ‘age thing’ on my behalf but this album somehow feels like it bookends everything that has come and gone since Tapestry and Blue.
Perhaps I’m being a bit over romantic about a bunch of songs; but I listen to more music than the average bear Boo Boo, and PATTY GRIFFIN by Patty Griffin is a very special record indeed; and will find itself in pride of place in many record collections for years to come.

Released March 8th 2019


Jane Kramer
Valley of the Bones

Even More Well Crafted Scrumptious, Thoughtful and Deeply Personal Songs.

When we reviewed Jane Kramer’s last album Carnival Of Hopes we said ”
Scrumptious, Thoughtful and Deeply Personal Songs ” and I’m pleased to say not a lot has changed in the interim; apart from Jane seems a lot more comfortable in her deliciously distinctive voice.
With my background I tend to fear songs called Hymn; but the first line of this opening track
My hippy Mamma didn’t make me go to church
So I found God in the fireflies and digging in the dirt

soon put me at ease; but then again Chris Rosser’s gentle guitar playing and dreamy harmonies were always meant to do that anyways on this song of a woman finding her inner strength in a cruel world. *Apparently this song was meant as a ‘homework assignment from Mary Gauthier!
When I finally got to read the Press Release, I found (as usual) that an awful lot of hard work, involving an awful lot of people helped make these songs all sound incredibly gentle and relaxing; although when you scratch the surface…… darkness often lurks beneath.
With Summer on the horizon; Jane Kramer’s delightful songs full of wit and wisdom on a wide ranging collection of subjects with all being smart and very well constructed; but some are actually highly addictive.
In the smart Soap Opera, Macon County, Jane takes on the role of the narrator who has to return to her home town; for reasons unknown and the way her relationship with Joseph ‘with the kind eyes’ gently develops until ‘she puts lipstick on/in case I smile’ is rather beautiful in a cracked way; and the chorus “Macon County, I ain’t letting you drown me” will break your heart.
It’s a brave man who will compare a songwriter on only her third album as the equal of legends like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith and the afore mentioned Mary Gauthier; but that is the case here, with songs as complex as Two Broke Kids, Valley of the Bones and especially I’ll See Your Crazy and Raise Mine; which is as good a Country song as Loretta or Reba ever recorded and if Dolly ever hears it, expect her t base a whole album around it!.
Then; there is even one song here that will tear your heart apart; it’s unbelievable the sheer anguish and bravery that Kramer fills Child with, yet it still remains completely accessible especially any parent, who when they hear it will find tears running down their cheeks and they won’t know how to stop them; but won’t care.
As someone without a musical bone in their body (is the ear a bone? I don’t think so) I love it when songwriters sing about ‘life on the road’…… and in this case Jane Kramer’s Singin’s Enough manages to stay sad enough to engage us; while still romanticising “singing her Folk Songs in a bar while the College Boys shout out for Freebird!”
To some greater or lesser degree Jane Kramer takes us on a right royal emotional roller coaster ride here; and while I was tempted to go for the insightful Wedding Vows as my Favourite Track; and it would be well deserved; but then I listened a bit more intently to the jaunty and clever Waffle House Song (the title alone should lull you in….. but that’s a ‘false sent of security…. trust me; this is a powerful song!) then I’ve been drawn back to a song that made me smile as I kept having to take deep breaths the first time I really listened to it.
Saint Carrie of the Storms is an astute and sharp-witted tale of sibling rivalry that you don’t understand or appreciate until it’s (almost) too late; which is all part of growing up, isn’t it? Jane Kramer manages to make her personal story feel like it could be about me and my brothers or you and your sister; clever that.
Jane Kramer has been singing and songwriting for twenty years now; and that apprenticeship has surely blossomed with the intricately clever and fascinating songs on Valley of the Bones, which transcend the Folk and Country genres and make this a real Singer-Songwriter album.

Released March 1st 2019


Delta Ladies
Hillbilly Trance

It’s Folk Music Jim; But Not As We Know It!

Music? Doncha just love it? It can make “you laugh, sing, dance and just about any old thing” to paraphrase Rod and the Faces; but someone somewhere hundreds of miles away from you can also have the ability to tap into your rawest emotions and make you realise that you aren’t ‘alone’ after all.
Over the last few days I’ve been corresponding with Vicky Martin from the Delta Ladies who was politely asking if we/I would give her band’s latest release a listen, and gave me a bit of background. Nothing odd in that, as we get offered review albums every day … 24/7 yet nothing prepared me for the haunting/passionate/cracked opening track Thieving Boy!
Technically and in spirit, it’s Folk Music……. but Folk Music like I’ve never heard before!
I’m not doing it any justice if I say it’s two fiddles (one acoustic and one electric) plus a keyboard and Vicky Martin’s warmly mystifying vocals on a song that will eventually unravel in a way I doubt I’d ever expected.
This is followed by a 46 second banjo instrumental lament, called Redcar Steel Blues that I wanted to last an hour. Yes, you read that correctly…… BANJO INSTRUMENTAL, but Delta Ladies say more in that short time than feted journalists have managed for years about the death of the steel industry in the North East.
This duo? trio? band? ensemble? (and their friends) are so smart and clever they even include two versions of the same song (others tempos are also available), Rock of Ages and although they share the same words are polar opposites! The first version is Gospelish in essence with some staggering violin playing and a harmonica that will set your hair on end; and the second is a ‘Trance’ version which is bizarre to the Max; yet totally captivating; especially when heard on headphones.
Even when Delta Ladies go wandering off into Hippyland on Seventh Day Blues they kept my interest such is their mesmeric way with a tune and a random set of acoustic instruments.
The nearest to a ‘Commercial’ track here Devil’s Work Today, is a twist on the ‘Crossroads’ theme with some very modern and scary lyrics.
The title of RMHQ Favourite Track has been a tussle between the fabulously sloppy Blues Jam Praise The Lord and the 11 minute epic Hear Me Calling which closes the record; and I’m probably plumping for the latter as it meanders and twists and turns like a river, occasionally rolling along but always with a sense of fear and menace in the background.
By far and away this album isn’t for everyone (I’m hiding it from Mrs. Magpie, that’s for sure!) but for those of us who adore challenging music that doesn’t follow the straight and narrow path it will never be far away when we need a dose of beautiful misery.
Cleverly mixing traditional Folk Music with hints of Rootsy American and snippets of World Music as the whims suit them, this ever expanding trio from the *Norf Landin Delta take us on a tour of the darkest recesses of our broken hearts and tortured souls, but leave us feeling thoroughly cleansed and more peaceful as the last notes fade away.

#This will mean nothing to 99% of you; but the band that instantly sprung to mind when I first played this was String Driven Thing, a Folk Rock band from Glasgow who flirted around the outskirts of Prog in the 1970’s and whom I fell head over heels with; and still adore 40 years later.

*Norf Landin is really North London btw

Released August 2018


Mandolin Orange
Tides of a Teardrop
Yep Roc Records

Intimate and Lucid Lo-Fi Meets Bluegrass in a Country Juke Joint.

Mandolin Orange aka Andrew Marlin & Emily Frantz have been around for ten years now and have previously released 5 albums, with each gaining praise, sales and momentum which have launched the couple/duo into the lower echelons of the Big League, yet I don’t believe I’ve heard a single note, let alone a song prior to receiving this album a month ago.
How odd is that? Or is it?
Perhaps it was because they hail from the Folksier end of the spectrum, which I normally don’t go out of my way to find music…… but the fault it appears was solely mine……. I’ve now fully fallen in love with this album and two of their previous releases too.
With their small, but perfectly formed touring band in tow, the couple holed up in the studio for a lot longer than on previous records; which has allowed Marlin’s intimate and darkly winsome songs to evolve and grow into something very special indeed.
The wordplay and story-line in opening track Golden Embers is both understated and spectacular in equal measures; and when you add Emily’s breathtaking violin playing to Andrew’s softly expressive vocals; you can’t do anything other than sit back and let it all waft over you like a Summer breeze.
Not that it’s blatantly obvious; as each individual song stands alone and is here on its own merits; but after reading the Press Release and then playing the album there is a silvery theme linking each track; as Marlin delves into his past writes about the years following his Mother’s death at an early age.
This knowledge helps explain the unsettling, yet beautiful melancholia that fills Mother Deer and the George and Tammy influenced duet Lonely All The Time.
As I said earlier, each song has its own merits and showcases Marlin’s clever and very mature writing skills; with Suspended in Heaven and the heartbreaker When She’s Feeling Blue, somehow bridging the gap between Bluegrass and Lo-Fi with sumptuous ease.
Perhaps because the songs are so personal to him, Andrew Marlin takes the lead on most songs; but when Emily steps forward on Into The Sun and Like You Used To she sent a tingle down my spine in a way that reminded me of the first time I heard Nanci Griffith.
I’ve picked my Favourite Song here partly because it is a wonderful song and tune; but because the title made my smile when I first saw it on the CD Sleeve. My British friends will know immediatly why it would catch my attention; but the ‘joke’ may pass by the people in North America; as The Wolves is the nickname of a famous football (Soccer?) team in the UK! Mercifully this tightly wrapped and intense song of despair and fear is a million miles away from anything so frivolous.
I will tell you how good it is…….. prior to writing this review, I turned the lights off and pressed play on the Hi-Fi just so I could get into the right frame of mind to hear it in all its primal glory.
I’d barely heard of Mandolin Orange a month ago…… but after immersing myself in TIDES OF A TEARDROP I’m an unadulterated fan now.

Released 1st February 2019

Ashley Monroe SPARROW (Acoustic Sessions EP)

Ashley Monroe
Sparrow (Acoustic Sessions)
Warner Music Nashville

Brave, Honest and Raw Reworkings of Her Hit Songs.

Where to start?
To coincide with her Sold Out (mini) UK and European Tour Ashley Monroe is releasing this ‘digital only’ astonishing acoustic reworking of 5 songs from the ‘Hit Album’ Sparrow ; as if it was actually necessary……. but thankfully she has.
I really liked Sparrow; but Mrs Magpie loves it beyond words, and when I drove her car last week it was back in the CD player; and last December she was on the verge of not speaking to me when it didn’t make my Top 20 albums of 2018.
Although there really were more worthy albums for me last year; my one criticism was the ‘big production’ that is the hallmark of Nashville these days; and what I think of as a ‘wrong’ has now been ‘righted’ here.
None more so than the first song Orphan; which to some degree I’d actually forgot but in this version with Ashley’s amazing voice somehow sounding even more haunting as a piano, violin and cello bring out the story and words like a chilly January wind.
The tragic Hands on You with only Ashley, an acoustic guitar with some occasional violin flourishes follows, and sent a shiver down my spine the first time I played it; and when Mrs. Magpie was listening the other night she turned to me and nodded (which I think means more than a Grammy Award).
Perhaps it’s because I like the simpler things in life that these stripped back to the bare bone songs have taken on a new lease of life for me. The ‘hit single’ Wild Love now sounds like something you would turn to after midnight on Friday night when it’s all gone wrong and you are feeling very, very sorry for yourself…….. and you only have the energy to press ‘repeat play’ every three minutes.
The original Paying Attention has become a bit of a favourite of mine; and here it becomes a really stark and even borderline Gothic Tale as the acoustic guitar gets strummed so angrily you half expect a string to snap; and whoa, whoa and thrice whoa……. the cello lives up to it’s reputation as an instrument of darkness too.
The only surprise in Ashley Monroe being signed to Warner Brothers is that she is signed to Warner Brothers! From first discovering her via LIKE A ROSE in 2013 she has always struck me as a driven character who does things her way; or no way……. which isn’t kinda how the big labels like to work.
With that in mind this EP is something of a brave decision for both singer and label; as in this setting there isn’t anywhere to hide; not that Ashley would ever dream of doing such a thing when it comes to her singing; and all of that dangerous magic combines on what is the RMHQ Favourite Song here; the bitterly raw and honest Keys to the Kingdom; which was my Favourite on the original and here finds Ms Monroe sounding like the great singer; and indeed songwriter she has always been destined to be.
I doubt this will find it’s way into Mrs. Magpies car; but more than likely it will inhabit that special shelf on the rack for albums that will take me to a ‘special place’ as and when I need them.

Released February 15th 2019 (Digital Only)

Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson CHUG IT DOWN AND GO.

david and mark a

Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson
Blind Chihuahua Records

A Little Taste of What Makes Americana Great.

In all honesty this album has been a bit of a challenge for me; not that I didn’t like it from the get go; but simply because there’s just so much going on it’s been damn difficult to get a handle on what to file it under!
Many moons ago I reviewed a Mark Robinson  *album for a prestigious UK magazine and I once saw Daniel Seymour play bass alongside David Olney; and it appears that the dynamic duo have either supplied songs for or produced albums by many of RMHQ’s favourite Alt. Country acts over the years; but none of that prepared me for ‘this’ mish-mash of Rootsy Americana.
The rambunctious and stomping title track Chug It Down and Go opens the album in the finest of fashions, with Robinson on Resonator, Seymour slapping the living daylights out of an upright bass and Mr David Olney supplying sublime harmonica….what’s not to like.
This followed by the Cajun flavoured and accordion driven One Eyed Blue which will bring even a wooden leg back to life; as will the delightful guitar rag that is 19th Street Ramble and the charming Dixie Waltz which closes the album; and is every inch as delightful as the song’s title would suggest.
In between though there’s the world weary Slow Moving Train which sounds like either an out-take from the Band’s debut album, or something Levon Helm may have recorded many years later; yet Gypsy Moon and First Fool both take us back to the crooning Country we associate with the 20’s and 30’s but Take On Me Down The Road somehow manages to incorporate Jug Band Music and the type of Field Workers Blues that John Hammond Sr first discovered and all those white English boys turned into Rock & Roll in the late 1960’s!
With that last description in mind I’m pointing you to Bare Foot Gal featuring young David Olney again on a root’n and toot’n harmonica while the other two strum a banjo and blow a kazoo for extra authenticity.
Just like the rest of the album; it will leave you with a warm smile on your face.
As a stand alone album this isn’t always a cohesive listen; but I’m sure that if you were to see Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson in a downtown bar or more likely at a Folk Festival somewhere you would find yourself desperate for something to take home; and in that setting this collection of songs will make complete sense.

Released November 9th 2018

*PS….. Sue from the PR Company has just sent me a copy of that original review from 2010!

Mark Robinson MaverickReviewNov2010



joe matera zz

Joe Matera
Mercury Fire

Aussie Rocker Goes Acoustic, Thoughtful and Very Very Articulate.

It’s no surprise that I’d never heard of Australian Joe Matera before, as he is something of a ‘Rocker Dude’ releasing many albums under his own name; and being a ‘guitar hire’ too, for plenty of household names touring Europe and The Empire.
But, this tattooed and bandanna wearing electric guitarist has now discovered his more sensitive side and written and recorded this EP of acoustic songs in the classic singer-songwriter style.
Simply because the title of the opening track will confuse the Hell out of his existing Rocky fan base, I very nearly made All Night Long my Favourite Song even before I’d heard it.
Now I’m well versed in all six songs I’m not too sure that the gentle ode to his Troubadour lifestyle couldn’t still win that most coveted of accolades.
Like everything else here, it’s well constructed and considered in the way Joe tells the story in a tender voice that belies his time on the Rock and Roll circuit.
I think it was the third time I played it that the subject matter of Inside Looking Out hit me like a brick. Perhaps it’s the smooth delivery; but Matera’s harrowing tale of the mass migrations that are blighting not just Southern Europe but North America too will ring your emotions dry too.
He drops in a similar twist with his bittersweet observations in the break-up song Movin’ On; which is a really angry song sung in a wistful and reflective manner; and could easily be covered straight up by any number of female singers.
The biggest surprise for me is how Matera’s songs have made me overlook his outstanding fretwork throughout; but now I think about it he has the eclectic style of John Renbourn and the authority of Richard Thompson in the way he underscores Take a Look and the title track Waiting For The Sun, which is another song with more twists than a roller-coaster and closes the EP with as many questions as it has answers.
Then of course there is the actual RMHQ Favourite Track; and a choice that will make regular readers smile; as instead of being contrary as usual I’m going for the actual radio single Semantics. But then again, Matera is being contrary releasing a very wordy, erudite and intelligent song as a single. For readers of a ‘certain age’ think Sting or Lloyd Cole or; and one of the world most under rated songwriters Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout fame and you will understand where this song; and probably the other five too are coming from.
As I’ve alluded to, these songs could easily fall into being ‘background music’ if you’re not careful, but when you listen to the words; there is nearly always a sharp sting in the tail that is well worth seeking out.

Released 21st September 2018


Stephen Fearing g

Stephen Fearing

Warm and Intimate Back To Basics Songs From Canadian Legend.

While I had two albums by Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, I wasn’t aware of their status in Canadian or especially North American popular culture until three years ago; and even then the constituent parts were still a mystery to me.
HA!!! Since then I have become something of a convert and evangelist for their cause; perhaps none more so than Stephen Fearing whose EVERY SOUL’S A SAILOR was a huge hit on the website in 2017 and still receives more ‘reads’ than I could ever expect; plus I still keep it in the car for ‘emergencies’ when I need to hear something to soothe my tortured soul.
Which all brings us to Fearing’s 11th solo release; and possibly his most fascinating?
Before I discuss the actual music and songs I have to tell you about the background to the recording, as it’s intricate to the overall story.
As a lifelong advocate of ‘authentic music’ and a man who has been ‘chasing his musical sweet spot’ forever, for THE SECRET OF CLIMBING Stephen has collaborated with Roy Gandy from Hi-Fi specialists Rega Research and legendary Mastering Engineer Ray Staff to create music that was originally destined for a Vinyl Only release which the trio feel is the ‘one true format’ to recreate the sound that the artiste hears inside his head.
Recorded over just two days in a tiny; but pitch perfect English studio with just Fearing, his Manzer acoustic guitar and 7 songs from his past and one outstanding cover version this beautifully intimate collection starts with a pin sharp rendition of Johnny’s Lament in which you can hear every single note and breath he takes as our Canadian troubadour pours his heart out like a dying man begging for forgiveness on his death bed.
A similar sense of melancholy and heartache weave’s through all eight songs here; none more so than Just In Time To Say Goodbye which follows. A song I’m not familiar with; so I can’t ‘compare and contrast’ but why would I want to when this version grabbed my senses and virtually squeezed the life out of them until I was a quivering mess.
Liking music has, and always will be subjective, which is why I’m always left despairing to hear songwriting and the majestic way Stephen delivers his words and melodies on The Things We Did and When My Baby Calls My Name and remember this guy isn’t lauded around the world in even 10% of the manner that Ed Sheeran is!
With that in mind; you have to remember that there are no overdubs, gadgetry or general ‘studio trickery’ involved in this recording, the magic here is just one mans, a guitar and a bunch of well-crafted songs.
The single cover version here is the Tom Waits Time; and Fearing somehow manages to bring out a new ragged beauty from Wait’s poetic words with some Spartan guitar playing and his own velvety world weary voice.
With only 8 songs here selecting a Favourite is nigh on impossible. Obviously the title track from the 217 album Every Soul’s A Sailor was already an RMHQ favourite; but stripped back to the scorched bone it twice had me sitting stock still and desperately trying not to breathe too loudly in case I missed a note or nuance; but then again the microscopic observations in Red Lights In The Rain and the sprightly The Things We Did both could and should scoop the accolade with ease on most albums; but I’m going for the breath-taking Long Walk To Freedom which made me go “Bloody Hell! That’s a Blackie and the Rodeo Kings song” the third time I played it; such is the difference in styles.
The delicious irony here is that while so much work has gone into making this recording specifically for 180 gram Vinyl with artwork designed specifically for a gatefold sleeve; I’ve been listening to a download on my laptop via two £25 speakers; and the results still knock the socks off most other recordings I’ve heard this year.
AHA…. The Dynamic Trio realised this would be the case; and while every step of recording and production was designed for vinyl, so according to Fearing “the album is being released into a mobile-driven world. So to accommodate these seemingly competing realities Audio Engineer David Travers-Smith (co-producer of Every Soul’s a Sailor) developed a digital download for The Secret of Climbing so that the files were lifted directly from the album’s test pressing and would preserve the detail and warmth of analogue as faithfully as possible.”
Even the Vinyl pressing was sent to a much researched and specialist plant in Germany……. so I hope you appreciate everything that has gone into this very special record!

Released September 16th 2018

Bert Jansch `Just A Simple Soul (Best of Collection)

bert jansch 23

Bert Jansch
`Just A Simple Soul’ (Best of Collection)
BMG (Double CD & 2 LP Vinyl )

The Flame Burns as Bright As Ever For One of British Folk Music’s True Legends. 

Many years ago while I was a student I whiled away my spare time at Durham Folk Club listening to The Spinners and The Seekers while The Rocking Magpie was in a Youth Club surrounded by teenage girls, dancing to Ska and Motown …he always was the cool one!
Which is why, nearly 50 years later he has asked me to listen to and pen some thoughtful words on this latest offering from one of Britain’s finest ever Folk Musicians ….Mr Bert Jansch.
There was a time in the 1960’s, before “Clapton Is God” was scrawled in four feet high letters on a wall, that there were other “gods” in the music world. A time before “Rock” music was even a ‘thing’ and The Beatles and Stones were still Pop Groups and before a young whippersnapper in a funny hat called Bobby Dylan was starting to make a noise in America.

For a  period in those early sixties there were 100’s of Folk Clubs  scattered all over the UK in little rooms above pubs..or in pubs, above cafes or in cafes playing a heady mix of traditional songs, American blues, work songs, miners songs and everything else in between to groups of young people with long hair and invariably wearing duffle coats and smoking cigarettes while listening intently and reverentially to whoever was on stage.

As the 1960’s progressed word started coming out of these London folk clubs about a variety of homegrown singer-songwriters and Folk groups that were writing their own songs…and they were good; very, very good!

One of these was a handsome young Scotsman called Bert Jansch who moved South in 1963 to ply his trade as another  hungry folk singer in London.

Jansch soon recorded his first album and sold the tapes for £100 to Transatlantic records who released it in 1965. The Self-Titled Bert Jansch contained several songs that are still classics today in 2018, including “Needle Of Death” about the loss of a close friend and the more traditional “Blackwaterside” (which a certain Jimmy Page re-worked for the first Zeppelin album 3 years later!). But it was an instrumental “Angie” written by Davy Graham ( a brilliant instrumentalist and songwriter in his own right) that showed off Jansch’s prowess with an acoustic guitar.
Through the late 60’s and early 70’s Bert Jansch was the ‘go to’ name in British Folk Music, releasing a number of sought after albums including the excellent Jack Orion and the iconic LA Turnaround.  Over his career Jansch released over 20 albums, plus a myriad of live releases and compilations of varying ‘legitimacy’. Unfortunately Bert’s legacy is scattered over many record labels many of which are no longer around.
Which is where this magnificent collection stands out. Just A Simple Soul pulls everything into one place; not only his classic early songs, wonderfully re-mastered, but also includes ‘Reynardine’ from his time with Pentangle ( Oh yes – he also played in one of the most loved Folk Groups of the 70’s that at regularly competed with Fairport Convention for many a best Folk award) but that’s a book in itself!  This collection also realises that Bert continued to perform and record until 2006, with his later albums well represented, especially worth listening to are‘Crimson Moon’ from 2000 and ‘On The Edge Of A Dream’from the 2002 album of the same name, as well as the poignant “High Days” from his last album Black Swan.

I don’t know if this collection covering Bert’s 5 Decades of music, lovingly compiled by Bernard Butler in conjunction with the Bert Jansch Estate, will attract many new fans – because it should as it’s an actual Masterclass in songwriting and stunningly brilliant fret work all allied to Bert’s fragile and gentle vocals.  But for those already “in the know” this collection cleverly pulls together some of his greatest songs alongside many rarer but still important parts of the legacy into one place.
The sound quality of my digital download used for this review appears excellent especially on the early songs, and the Vinyl release will be an opportunity for those in love with that particular format to finally renew some of those pretty worn out original LP’s

Highly Recommended.
Released October 26th 2016

Review – John Jobling aka

John Andrews JOHNNY WAS E.P

johnny andrews

John Andrews

Windswept and Interesting Tales From A Troubled Heart.

I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone left in Northern Ireland who isn’t actually a working musician?
As you will know I have a soft spot for this beautiful part of the United Kingdom and the people in it and over the last seven or so years I don’t think I’ve heard a recording from it’s inhabitants that I haven’t liked……and that even includes a couple of ‘finger in the ear’ folk albums.
Here we have John Andrews and the not so rushed follow up to his 2014 debut release.
With so much new music to listen to I have to judge albums by the first track; and WHAM!!! did Pray capture my attention from the get go.
The first minute or so is taken up with a fire and brimstone preacher bellowing that we are all going to Hell! Then Andrews comes into the action with a punchy Rockabilly lick that follows in a similar; if a lot less angry path…..and the result is a doozy, especially as our Preacher keeps butting in and out.
The next song, Don’t Let Me Fade Away slows things down a heck of a lot with Andrews singing and playing an acoustic in the finest singer-songwriter tradition. as some soft drumming and intricate cymbal playing add to the tension of a deep and meaningful tale of lost love.
Even with only five songs to judge him by on this EP; it’s quite easy to hear what a clever and thoughtful songwriter Andrew is; with the nod to Alt. Country Wolves and his own Love Sick Blues not just showcasing his narrative skills; but also his wonderfully warm and expressive vocals too.
Then there is the stand out track Love Letter which is easily my Favourite Song here. As is often the case with artists from this tiny corner of Ireland, Andrews is obliged by a lifetime playing pubs and clubs to play every genre of music known to man in his quest to make a living; and this charming, yet quite dark tale blends modern folk with a touch of Alt. Country, a snippet of latter day Indie with a big dollop of West Coast swagger too, and the result sounds not a million miles away from one of my favourite Celtic bands of all time, the Waterboys and that is a very good thing indeed.
I doubt John Andrews will ever headline Glastonbury or Lollapalooza but that’s not always the point, is it? He has talent in abundance and ticks a lot of boxes on these five songs and deserves a much wider audience than he is currently getting in his home country.
Try it…..and buy it; you won’t regret it.

Released August 3rd 2018