A Different Thread HIGH TIME EP

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A Different Thread

Quintessential English Folk But With an Appalachian Heartbeat.

Yet again this is a release that has been sitting in the to-do queue for a few weeks and was brought to my attention via the ‘random button’ on my i-phone.
Thankfully that track wasn’t the actual first one on the CD, Banjo Tune because; and not for the first time……I’m currently suffering from ‘Banjo Fatigue’! With Americana music currently ‘on trend’ I receive a few albums that appear to be either Folk or even Rock; with a banjo welded onto the recording to give it ‘authenticity’ which doesn’t do my ears any favours.
While the banjo does feature strongly on the song of the same name; mercifully singer Robert Jackson’s richly distinctive voice carries a rather sweet song along a path normally trodden by one of my heroes Tom Paxton.
Very much on the Appalachian Folk end of the Americana Spectrum A Different Thread deliver a series of lovely and warm songs like Cherry Tree and Long In The Tooth which belies the trio’s distinctly Middle England roots.
With only 5 songs on this EP those previous three are each delightful in their own ways; but the other two songs stand out like poppies in a field of corn.
The first, High Time made me smile as soon as I saw the title because it’s the same as a favourite song in my teens by Detroit proto-punks The MC5; but this song is 359 degrees away from tat madness.
A gorgeously crafted and written song features some darkly melancholic cello by Isaac Collier and intricate guitar playing by Jackson himself while Alicia Best’s subtle fiddle playing will break the hardest of hearts.
Then it behoves me to say that they have kept the best until last; with the bittersweet love song Sweet Elizabeth. Like a fine red wine, it conjures up the heady flavours of Led Zeppelin and even the Allman Brothers (without the electric guitars or drums) as well as the rich aroma of Richard Thomson and my personal favourite Bert Jansch; while very much creating their own distinctive sound.
Whether in a club, pub or even your own home this is the type of music best heard with the lights down low and your hopes set high.

released 15th September 2017.





Blue Rose Code
Navigator Records

Winsome Yet Breathtaking Sound of New Scotia.

Where to start? After nearly twenty years, there are some albums I receive where I can actually write an eloquent review the first time I hear them; and others that it takes several plays with no distractions spread over several days so I can savour everything that the music has to offer.
This is one such.
Scottish singer-songwriter Ross Wilson aka Blue Rose Code has been around the scene for a few years now, flitting on and off my radar via various friends who swoon and go weak at the knees at the very mention of his name (and they are real men’s men!), such is the way his music touches people.
It’s easy to hear why that would be the case as the beautiful first song Over The Fields (for John) floats over you like a late Autumnal sunset. Such is the combination of Wilson’s soft voice and words I totally missed the orchestral sweeps that come and go the first three times I listened to the record.
Technically you will probably find this record filed under Folk or Scottish Roots in the shop racks; but songs like Ebb & Flow, Love Is…. and On The Hill Remains a Heart all transcend such myopic depictions.
There is a definite beauty in the way Wilson allows his brogue to come to the fore alongside a young lady singing in her native Celtic tongue on the mildly socio-political Sandaig; and again the mysterious Celtic lady makes an appearance on the haunting Passing Places, which features an amazing slide guitar, violin and cello assemblage.
While never sounding experimental, Wilson throws caution to the wind by adding a Dinner-Jazz atmosphere to the delicate song Child and then adds a Chet Baker type trumpet to Nashville Blue and it all works fantastically well.
Never afraid to be bound by the traditional 3 or 4 minute rule; two songs are allowed to breathe and take on a life of their own, The Water is a heady mix of Jazz trumpet and Classical piano combining to take us into areas I would never have expected to venture on an album that is meant to be ‘Rootsy’.
The cinematic To the Shore immediately follows it and comes in at seven and a half minutes of absolute sensory delight.
I can only describe The Waters Of Leith as an old-fashioned Long Player that must be listened to in one (or two) unencumbered sittings; but I will force myself to pick out a Favourite Track; Bluebell for no other reason than it is a catalyst for everything else that is hear and sort of reminds me of a Traffic in their heyday without sounding anything like them…..if that makes any sense.
Blue Rose Code somehow manage to have ‘easy on the ear’ melodious musical sensibilities with deep and occasionally poetic lyrics that will appeal to a broad section of music lovers, without alienating the Cool Kids who have been with Ross since his earliest days.

Released October 27th 2017

Disconcerting P – I LOVE YOU TO DEATH


Disconcerting P

Ireland’s Best Kept Secret, But Not For Much Longer.

Some days keeping the website up to date can be a bit of a chore; then occasionally a bit of sunshine comes into my life, like the charming e-mail Padraig McCauley aka Disconcerting P sent a few weeks ago, asking if I would have a listen to his latest album.
I had a courteous quick listen to the first couple of tracks as I updated the site and replied to a bunch of e-mails; and found myself quickly putting it back to track #1 Woman and a Man as I made a cup of coffee and sat back, listening even more intently.
That first song is absolutely delightful, and ticks every box I have for singer-songwriters; a fairly simple narrative that immediately captures your attention as the harmonies and gently strummed acoustic instruments wash over you.
Next, In The Clouds (With You) is a more complex arrangement, but the haunting and hypnotic song had me close my eyes and drift off into another unworldly place imagining Mrs Magpie and myself walking in the surf holding hands and looking longingly into each others eyes.
Coincidently the next song Your Lungs actually has a chorus ‘Jump Into The Sea’; as well as one of my favourite lines of the year “The heart in my chest/I love you to death/I love you to death/the heart in your chest/love me to death.” Powerful and emotive stuff; and something that touched me deeply.
Perhaps it was the mood I was in that morning; but here I am still playing the record two weeks later and feel the same way about Disconcerting P’s heartfelt and evocatively sad love songs, especially the song of our times This Is Your Life…..are pretty much all outstanding and will tug at your heartstrings, as they did mine.
This Is Love Speaking To You Directly, finds Padraig alone with his acoustic guitar and a broken heart, and it is exactly what you would expect from such a title; but more so.
I’m not really sure where to start picking a ‘favourite song’ as this is very much an Album in the old-fashioned sense; something you put on the stereo as you turn down the lights and just wallow in the beautiful misery that comes from the speakers. Yesterday I was going to choose (We Are) The Dreamers which closes the album and could easily be the theme tune for RMHQ and a song that will make you feel it was written about you too, then this morning I thought it might be the fragile My Heart Bursts which conjures up memories of John Martyn and Tim Buckley; but (and this will change tomorrow) I’m going for Love Is Like a Loaded Pistol, with its Jazz-Lite melody and left of centre; but strangely true sentiments.
If I have one complaint; and it’s a small one……the drums, or electro drum-beats are occasionally pushed too high in the mix distracting from Irish man, McCauley’s softly expressive voice; but in the grand scheme of things that isn’t worth worrying about as, strangely for a singer-songwriter in these corporate and selfish times, and for a man with such a magnificent way with words, McCauley does this for ‘fun’……remember that concept? He writes and records at home then releases his music for FREE on Bandcamp……strange but true; and if there is any justice a Record Label will discover him soon and you will be forced; albeit willingly to part with coins of the realm to buy his works.

Released October 16th 2017

Randy Newman plays NPR Tiny Desk

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One of my joys these days is the NPR Music Tiny Desk series on the You Tube. I get to discover new artists and occasionally see RMHQ Favourites play in an intimate setting…..then this morning I got an e-mail saying Randy Newman had recorded a session for them…..yes…..THE RANDY NEWMAN!

Here it is…….there’s nothing more I can add.


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Richard Thompson
Acoustic Rarities.


There will no doubt be reviews that draw the analogy between Richard Thompson’s release schedule and that of waiting for a bus, although in this case, it’s not two come along at once but three. This release though is for the uber-fan, brimming with unreleased tracks, those that bemoaned the first two Acoustic releases as being short of ‘wow’ will be cheered by Rarities.
Speaking of the unreleased tracks, there are 6 included here, all recorded afresh for this album ahead of his tour starting in Brighton (the very venue that I first marvelled at Rory Gallagher) and finishing up with a sold-out date at the London Bridge Theatre at the end of October.
The first of the unreleased tracks, What If, kicks off the album and for the life of me I can’t understand why a song with a chorus that includes the lines “What if I’m cool and you’re deluded, what if I’m hip and you’re excluded” hasn’t made it to an album release before. There’s even a reference to a ‘fat man in a thong’, and it works. It’s just the line most of us think of as a cutting riposte ten minutes after the intended victim has walked away.
They Tore the Hippodrome Down is a reflection upon returning to somewhere you once knew only to find the landscape changed and the landmarks of your youth have been replaced by a supermarket/car park/fast food joint. I couldn’t help thinking of The Kinks’ Come Dancing as it managed to evoke exactly the same kind of feeling of change and loss.
The Poor Ditching Boy is one of the tracks that the savvy fan will recognise as from 1972’s Henry the Human Fly although it took me a couple of listens before I realised why it sounded familiar. A punchy accompaniment from (possibly) a 12-string acoustic lifts the song and will probably generate a whole new bunch of fans on this outing alone.
There are a couple of tracks rerecorded that were previously covers, Seven Brothers that had been covered by Blair Dunlop and Rainbow Over the Hill that you may have heard from the Albion Band.
Given RT’s storming Cropredy appearance and with the man being on something of a roll, I would urge you to do almost anything short of requiring a court appearance to get a ticket to one of his shows.

Review courtesy our mate Tony Pearce.

Released October 13th 2017




Findlay Napier – GLASGOW

Findlay Napier

Findlay Napier
Cherrygroove Records

It’s Folk Jim; But Not As We Know It!

This review will have to be released under the cover of darkness, as friends and associates know of my sociopathic hatred of Folk Music……..unless it’s Very Good Folk Music; and my friends……this is much better than very good!
First of all the cover is bloody excellent using Bruce Depardon’s juxtaposition of two young kids blowing bright pink bubblegum bubbles against a mono backdrop sums up the mix of music held within…..funny that, don’t you think?
I knew I wasn’t listening to any old ‘finger in the ear’ Sea-Shanty Folk Music within a minute of hearing Folk Singer, Bon Viveur, Comedian and all around entertainer Findlay Napier’s opening track Young Goths in the Necropolis. A darkly beautiful tale of unrequited love between two teenage outsiders who hang out in the iconic Cemetery that welcomes visitors from the East to dear old Glasgow Town.
Napier’s way with words and rye wit come through in every couplet and line; and his attention to detail; much of which will be lost on people who don’t know this great City is astounding.
As a Master Craftsman singer-songwriter himself, Boo Hewerdine’s simple and delicate production highlights the tones in Napier’s rich brogue and gives an extra special tone to his gorgeous rendition of the Blue Nile’s Walk Across The Rooftops and later too on his own delightful tale of infidelity, Locarno, Sauchihall St. (1928).
While not from Glasgow itself, Napier has fallen in love with the city, and that comes across so well in the odes to the famous Clyde shipyards of old; There’s More To Building Ships and Wire Burners; which cleverly combines another tale of unrequited love, with a nostalgic look back on time long lost in history.
I’d not heard it before, but now absolutely love Napier’s quirky take on Michael Marra’s King Kong’s Visit To Glasgow (which takes a cheeky swipe at the Mighty Glasgow Rangers Football Club).
I’ve been in love with this fair city myself since 1970 when my big brother celebrated his 21st Birthday there and brought me back a Rangers supporters scarf, and I’ve visited many times in the intervening years for romantic holidays and many football games, so the opening line of “Streets get ready for another fight/between the boys in Blue and Green White/and they sing along to the same old songs/Saying one is right and the other wrong,” made me smile and sigh at the same time.
Napier then goes on to give us another droll and richly observant view of a Saturday night on match day. Don’t expect a sing-along Andy Stewart ditty; these words are from a man who actually lives and works among these people and probably counts many as friends; so can’t understand why they take this stance twice or thrice a year when the respective teams meet each other.
Another potential favourite was legendary Scottish Story Teller Hamish Imlach’s Cod Liver Oil and Orange Juice; sung in the local lingo with loads of words and descriptions from the ‘Weegie Dictionary and hardly recognisable as far East as Edinburgh…..and the world is a whole lot better for this song’s inclusion.
The album closes with Napier taking on the role of a Pub Crooner for the twee bittersweet love song Blue Lagoon. The way he describes falling in love while a gentle piano plays in the background masks the fact that the Blue Lagoon isn’t a cool cocktail bar; but a rather famous fish and chip shop!
What more can I say? I have enjoyed this paean to my own Second Favourite City far more than I ever thought that I would (or even could)……it’s Folk Jim……but not as you know it.

Released October 13th 2017


The Young ‘Uns STRANGERS

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The Young ‘Uns

Magnificent Folk Songs For Wayfaring Strangers.

Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hedges are The Young ‘Uns and, if they’re new to you they’re not unknown to crowds of folk fans. Personally, I could never get past the name but that’s my problem. This is folk with a capital F. The band have achieved considerable success since their beginnings in Stockton Folk Club, indeed, they’ve played to a packed Albert Hall in London.
Not bad for a bunch of lads from the North East. There’s more to them than just sweet harmonies. They have a stinging wit that shows through in some of their self-penned tunes as well as their between song banter on stage.
The album kicks off with A Place Called England, the only tune not written by Sean Cooney. An acapella paen to an England of long ago. There’s mention of the meadow and retail parks and the inevitable dig at the ‘rich landowner who can stay in the Virgin Isles’.
Although their publicity hints at traditional folk songs with a modern twist the album leaves you with the feeling that success, at any level, isn’t as virtuous as a life of struggle.
Ghafoor’s Bus is another acapella track. The harmonies don’t falter from track to track but I couldn’t help wonder what this particular track would sound like with an accompaniment.
It’s not all acapella, Be The Man sets out with an acoustic guitar under a solo vocal and builds into strings and horns backing. It still sounds, to these ears, like a lyric desperately hunting for a tune. Not one that you’d be whistling after the first hearing.
Carriage 12 took me several listening’s to realise it was, amongst other things, about the Thalys terrorist attack on the train in France. I guess in 20 years’ time the mix of traditional harmonies with subject matter ranging from Syrian refugees to Gay Rights will seem perfectly normal. I find it a little incongruous to mix unaccompanied voices with modern politics. It’s not the subject matter, folk has championed the underdog for as long as songs were being recorded in Sussex.
Dark Water feels like another song in need of a more memorable tune. They’re backed by more young musicians, this time from Aldeburgh.
Bound to be a hit with the folk crowd.

Courtesy Guest Reviewer Tony Pearce

Released 29th September 2017

Old Salt Union – OLD SALT UNION

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Old Salt Union
Compass Records

It’s Bluegrass Jim; But Not As We Know It.

Any band that features a horticulturist, a hip-hop producer and a relative of Son Volts Jay Farrar has to be worth a listen, hasn’t it?. The audience for a show at one of the Bluegrass nights at The Ryman theatre in Nashville in June certainly thought so, as they packed the street and area outside the front of the venue for a good hour before going inside to see Old Salt Union, who feature some classically trained musicians but it was the special arrangements of their original tunes and sheer energy that kept the audience on the pavement on that sultry summer night in June.

This album features some of the tunes that have been building audiences across festivals and shows like Bluegrass underground, Freshgrass and Yonder Mountains Harvest Festival. To describe them as Bluegrass misses the point. They aren’t Newgrass, Psycograss, Old Timey or even Folk. There are elements of each of those styles in their playing from the out and out bluegrassy Where I Stand (with memorable harmonies under the melody) to the surprise cover of “You Can Call Me Al”, the Paul Simon tune.

They won’t be the first string band to deliver a creditable cover of Paul Simon; but this one is pretty special indeed. Greensky Bluegrass have featured Gumboots, among many covers in and out of their sets for a good while now,

Old Salt Union’s version is no bad thing. The band have a traditional set up of fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, guitar and banjo. if you want to see their real bluegrass heritage checkout their version of ‘Whiskey Before Breakfast’ on You Tube.

They deliver a masterful ballad in “Bought and Sold” and it’s this restraint that shows off the real talent in the band.

The albums one instrumental, “Flat Baroque”, features some fine twin mandolin too,  and to quote Alison Brown “While they may look like a bluegrass band, their musical sensibilities run much deeper and broader, borrowing as much from indie rock and jazz fusion as from Bill Monroe” And, lets be fair, Alison Brown knows a thing or two.

Courtesy Special Reviewer Tony Pearce.

Released August 4th 2017


Martin Stephenson & Friends Washington Old Hall.

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Martin Stephenson & Friends
Washington Old Hall.
Tyne and Wear

Saturday 19th 2017

“Welcome to our very own little Woodstock.” Laughed Washington’s finest son; “listen…..and you can hear them flying in from Barmston……and Blackfell…..and even Oxclose!”
How the swelling crowd cheered to hear local villages being name-checked at a ‘Rock Concert.’
So started the first ever concert that I could walk to and from in under 30 minutes each way.
Washington Old Hall is the former home of George Washington and now owned by the National Trust who are trying to dust off their ‘fuddy duddy’ image with a series of multi-cultural events at their premises around the UK.
Tonight local lad Martin Stephenson; who went to junior school and church about 200 yards from the main gate; was making his first appearance in his home-town for many a long year; in the Nuttery……which is a beautiful orchard which had been lit with fairy lights and a bar at one end a stage at the other.
Martin introduced his cousin Jamie and friend John who are known as Violet Chimes to open proceedings. The one time Punk Rockers pleasantly surprised the sold-out crowd with a blend of Indie Rock and Alt. Country Twang.
Their songs had originally been written in the early 80’s but the duo have only got around to recording them recently.
Playing to a sympathetic audience two songs really stood out; Brand New Town…..about growing up in Washington (which was then deemed a New Town) and Heart of Town about their teenage love affairs….in that very same New Town.
Their set was all too brief; but only because the Star was about to do a 20 minute acoustic slot too and there was a strict 10pm curfew less than two hours away.
With a 35 year and 40+ album career to choose a set from; there were surprises around every corner; with Merle Travis’s Cannonball Rag opening the evening followed by the inspired Rain (chosen because the clouds were fair drawing in).
Aware he had to curtail his rambling stories he managed to abridge the intro to Greenhouse (My Grandfather and Me); but the delicate Sad Tale of Joe McCue which followed; involved a little interaction with a couple of old friends in the audience as he explained who Joe had been.
As he was about to start Home, he dedicated it to his dearly departed Mother and the story brought a tear to my own eyes as Saturday would have been my own Mam’s birthday. A rather beautiful and poignant song for both of us.
By the last notes of Slaughterman the cool breeze of earlier in the evening was now becoming a cold wind; but at least it was dry and the warmth Martin and his songs brought meant it was hardly noticeable at all.
There was a fifteen minute intermission, where the queue for the only two toilets on the site meant that some naughty men may have helped water some apple trees; but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Martin on the other hand was glad-handing so many people that he knew from his childhood that he had to be forcible reminded he was there to do a show!
Now with the Legendary Shipcote on Dbl. Bass and the quietest man in Rock n Roll, John ‘Bongo’ Miller on a single snare drum; the second half got off to a swinging start with Little Red Bottle; the first of many songs dedicated to friends in the crowd; one of whom who was late back from the toilet entered the garden and the two enjoyed a minute or so of banter before the pal walked on stage for a handshake and a man-hug, without a care……..you don’t get that at the Royal Albert Hall do you?
It was no real surprise that Martin totally ignored his latest album Bayswater Road in favour of age-old favourites like Sweet Misdemeanour and Salutation Road; plus I finally found out what Colleen was actually about……you live and learn.
No Martin Stephenson gig would be complete without the Anti-Thatcher Classic….. Left Us To Burn, complete with a chorus of Pantomime Boos during the introduction when her name was mentioned and a couple of choruses of Blank Generation on the middle.
For me the absolute highlight of the evening was when Martin started to introduce a song that reminded him of a night he was on a bus coming out of Sunderland which begat a story about various bus routes and their anomalies in his teenage years; then remembered a fight on a bus, which begat a story about the various ‘Fighting Families’ of Olde Washington; many of whom were represented tonight and cheered when their names were mentioned which led into Martin dedicating Blue Moon of Kentucky to a girl he hadn’t seen before tonight since they both left school nearly 40 years ago.
I go back to the beginning by mentioning all the albums and great songs Martin has written in 40 years; so the choice for a finale in such a short and compact set could be seen as bizarre, contrary or even brilliant……Doc Watson’s Southbound, which got to show what a canny guitar player the singer-songwriter is when he sets his mind to it.
What more can I say? I’ve been to hundreds of gigs over the years; but not one in the orchard of historical Manor House with one of my favourite ever artists telling jokes about people I know and the villages I’ve lived in.
I don’t care how many weeks Ed Sheeran sold out the 02 in London I know it didn’t and couldn’t compare to this wonderful hour and a half in the company of one of Britain’s finest songwriters and raconteurs. This is why I absolutely love live music….I was there……you weren’t …..I win.

Photo-Set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Martin-Stephenson-Washington/


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Jefferson Ross

Time Served Troubadour Shows How It’s Done.

The name Jefferson Ross will mean as much or as little to you as it did to me when I first received this album; then I dug a little deeper and found not only has he released 5 studio album under his own steam as a singer-songwriter and has written songs for and appeared on stage with a bona fide who’s who of Nashville’s A-List Country acts over the years.
Here we find him showcasing his songs and telling some sweet stories in-between on an inspired Live Album.
For once on a Live Album we actually hear the act being introduced; and after thanking the audience Mr. Ross treats us to a tightly wound acoustic Country song called Two Horses, that features some mighty neat guitar picking that reinforces Ross’s warmly expressive voice.
A ‘laid back’ approach is the best way to describe Jefferson Ross’s ‘style’; akin to Gordon Lightfoot and Don Williams at times; with House of the Lord and Yesterday’s Paper being prime examples.
I’m not normally a lover of Live Albums; but producer Thom Jutz’ (who can be heard playing guitar too) has genuinely captured the warmth and intimacy of the concert, making it sound like you are there in the room sharing in the magic.
As he was a staff-writer in Nashville for many years I shouldn’t be surprised by the quality of the songs here; but I am. Trying Not To Lose My Mind is a ‘talking Blues’ that evolves into a whip sharp Folk song, that I normally associate with Tom Russell or RMHQ favourite David Olney; especially as it includes more minutiae than an encyclopedia.
While I love just about every single charming song here; especially Sol is Made of Broken Things, 77 Lime Green Cadillac Hearse and the glorious harmonies on The Thunder which closes the concert; but tucked away in the middle are two back to back songs that made me twist my head to the speakers in disbelief; first is Family Drama a fun song that will resonate with most people of our age then, it is followed by the deeply personal Isle of Hope and it’s even more personal introduction. I won’t spoil the surprise for you…but…phew…..spellbinding springs to mind.
So, I’ve made another amazing musical discovery in Jefferson Ross and I hope that you will too.

Released June 23rd 2017