The latest track from Steve Earle’s tribute album to his late son, Justin Townes Earle is available today. Stream “Champagne Corolla” from the forthcoming album, J.T. now. 100% of the artist advances and royalties from J.T. will be donated to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle. While somber in parts, the album is ultimately a rousing celebration of a life lived with passion and purpose.
Atmospheric Lo-Fi Americana Worthy of a David Lynch Country Movie.
I’d not heard of Josie Bello prior to receiving this album; and took for-granted she would be a ‘Folk Singer’ of some sort because of the Agent I received it via; so what a pleasant surprise it was to hear some modern Americana drenched Country making its way out of my headphones on the opening (and title track) Have Purpose Live Long. There’s some charming lo-fi and almost hypnotic pedal-steel, accordion and guitar accompaniment to Josie’s laid back song, with her vocals sounding ethereal in the mix. Next up is Magic Of The Music; which is very nearly an instrumental, not dissimilar in construction to Blue Velvet; way back when but with a Honky-Tonk melody.
Once I’d thought of that connection I still can’t get that ‘David Lynch connection’ out of my head. It’s pretty obvious that Josie Bello is from a deep seated Country background; but her melodies and arrangements are as far removed from Hank and Reba as you can get; this is music from her heart and financial success at the top of the Hit Parade is not on the agenda at all. Even the most ‘commercial’ songs here; I Bleed Human and Party With The Saints will still only appeal to the cognoscenti among us rather than someone idly scrolling through Spotify; but then again if 1 in 100 who do that stumble on these songs and stick with them …….. they will most likely become lifelong fans. I not only have an open-mind but a broad one too when it comes to music so I’ve got a soft spot for the heart crushing simplicity of Hole In My Heart. The first time I heard it I was left wide-eyed and mouthing ‘phwoar’ to no one in particular. This ‘heartbreaker’ is actually preceded by the tender love song Twenty Five Years; which may or may not be loosely based on Josie’s relationship with husband Frank Bello; or if not it should be. For a Favourite Song I’ve been sorely tempted to select Not The America of My Dreams; another ‘almost instrumental’ with its church like choir; but I’ve decided to go for All It Takes Is Time; another in Josie’s ‘alt-commercial’ style; as it’s a song of the highest quality that deserves to be heard by as wide an audience as possible. That last sentence sums up my feelings towards the whole album; Josie Bello’s music takes a little from a lot of genres to combine to become something quite unlike anyone else I can actually think of; which is a rarity around this office.
Released North America 1st August 2020 Released Europe October 20th 2020
Anything new from Dave Alvin is a thing to be celebrated around these here parts, partner and when it’s as tasty a taster for a new album as like what this is …… well, it’s cans, cans, cans!!!! I’ve not got the album yet (but the track list is as fascinating as it’s intriguing) ….. so; with no further ado ………. GRAMMY award-winning guitarist, singer, and songwriter Dave Alvin shares “Highway 61 Revisited,” a cover of the Bob Dylan classic and the second track unveiled from his first solo album in eleven years, From An Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings, out November 20 on Yep Roc Records. Recorded at Craig Parker Adams’ Winslow Studios in Los Angeles, Dave (on vocals and electric guitar) was joined in studio by Greg Leisz (electric guitar), Gregory Boaz (bass), and Don Heffington (drums).
From An Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings Track listing: 1. Link of Chain 2. Highway 61 Revisited 3. Variations On Earl Hooker’s Guitar Rhumba 4. Amanda 5. Albuquerque 6. Mobile Blue 7. Perdido Street Blues 8. On The Way Downtown 9. Inside 10. Krazy And Ignatz 11. Peace 12. Man Walks Among Us 13. Beautiful City ‘Cross The River 14. Dynamite Woman15. Who’s Been Here 16. Signal Hill Blues
Just like London busses; you wait ages for a new Drive-By Truckers album to come along and just as the first one arrives, a new one comes hurtling around the corner!
This single; which is also the title track from a shiny new Album arrived late yesterday; and the album (download) was waiting on the laptop first thing this morning ……. so guess what I will be playing on the way too and from work?
As you will hear; the single is chock full of sharp, incisive and biting lyrics about the times we find ourselves in; all set to a summery beat and Beach Boysesque harmonies; which are hopefully destined to fool radio producers.
I will leave it to Patterson to tell you about the album; and why it’s being ‘rush released’ ………..
Drive-By Truckers’ 13th studio album ‘The New OK’ arrives mere months after the release of the band’s highly acclaimed ‘The Unraveling’. Originally conceived as a quarantine EP collecting material recorded in Memphis during sessions for ‘The Unraveling’, the project quickly grew to include provocative new songs written and recorded over what Drive-By Truckers co-founder Patterson Hood calls “this endless summer of protests, riots, political shenanigans and pandemic horrors.” Tracks such as Hood’s “Watching The Orange Clouds” – inspired by the protests which followed George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police – and a fiery cover of The Ramones’ classic ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ (vocals by bassist Matt Patton) were exchanged between Hood, co-founding singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Cooley, bassist Patton, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez, drummer Brad Morgan and then mixed by longtime DBT producer David Barbe. The result, says Hood, is “a full album that hopefully balances out the darkness of our current situation with a hope for better days and nights ahead.”
“To call these past few months trying would be a dramatic understatement.” Hood continues; “Our lives are intertwined with our work in ways that give us our best songs and performances. It is a life that has often rewarded us beyond our wildest dreams. Speaking for myself, I don’t have hobbies, I have this thing I do. To be sidelined with a brand new album and have to sit idly while so much that I love and hold dear falls apart before my very eyes has been intense, heartbreaking, anger provoking and very depressing. It has gone to the very heart of our livelihoods and threatened near everything that we have spent our lives trying to build. Here’s to the hope that we can make 2021 a better year than this one has been. In the meantime, here’s to THE NEW OK!”
TRACK LISTING: The New OK Tough To Let Go The Unraveling The Perilous Night Sarah’s Flame Sea Island Lonely The Distance Watching The Orange Clouds The KKK Took My Baby Away
Single – Released October 1st 2020 Album – Released October 2nd 2020
Emily Zuzik Torch and Trouble Maenades Music/Head Bitch Music
Sad Love, Flawed Characters, Edgy Subject Matter and Enough Twang to Sink a Battleship.
While we have our regular labels and PR Companies who supply RMHQ with New music on a very, very (too?) regular basis; it never stops being exciting when an act get in touch themselves; which is what happened here. Now; the first mistake I made was thinking this was a very slick ‘debut album’; even though it was produced by friend of RMHQ Ted Russell Kamp; as the accompanying skimpy e-mail failed to mention Ms. Zuzik’s previous 14 (yes …. FOURTEEN) releases (albums, EP’S and singles) or her 2 album from her time in the delightfully named Alt. Country band Sex Fresh; nor her vocals on a Moby album or …… or ….. well; it’s fair to say Emily has had a long and reasonably succesful career before her music ended up on my stereo! Onwards and upwards towards this newest release ……. The Country tinged Power Ballad Stay Wild opens the album in a way that means Ms. Zuzik ain’t taking no prisoners …. and it’s absolutely perfect for daytime radio in countries of all persuasions. The LA native certainly mixes it up, with the ‘Blue Collar’ slow and sultry All That Love, showcasing Emily’s rich and dusky voice as it rips and tugs at the heartstrings, in a style reminiscent (to my ears) of a young Lucinda. The singer certainly knows how to bring the words in these stories to life; especially so on the soulful love song, Magic and yet again during the emotionally brittle Wild Mustangs too. Now I’m four hours into listening I think I’ve fallen in love with Emily Zuzik’s voice and especially her phrasing around the words and stories in Shadows and Get It Right; which occasionally drift aimlessly and evocatively into Cowboy Junkies territory. There’s even a deliciously epic tale here too, The Band Plays On, which ends the album in almost cinematic fashion; and is highly recommended if you want to hear one song that typifies Emily Zuzik’s sophisticated stylings. Selecting a Favourite Track has been a tad easier than I’d expected; although it’s a coin toss between two songs. Even before I’d heard it; the title alone attracted me to Chinese Food and Donuts …… and it delivers faster than a Just Eat kid on a moped. A very clever song; which could easily have been a maudlin mess in lesser hands; but Ms Zuzik brings a freshness and stale beauty to this break-up song of the finest hue. The other came to me later; as Trouble #1 is a left of centre surprise, mostly because it’s a ‘pedal to the metal’ Country Rocker that makes me want to hear a whole album like it. So, which is the winner? Neither it’s a score draw! I’m not sure which branch of Country Music to hang this album on, as there is certainly enough Twang and pathos to say much is Classic Country; yet the subject matter is quite edgy and the characters are all flawed in a way I associate with Alt.; so let’s hitch it to Americana or whatever we are calling it this week? Whatever; this is an album I highly recommend.
A Little Bit Country, A Dollop of Americana, Add Some Alt. and a Whole Lotta Harmonies and Love ……….
As regular readers know we try to get reviews out in week preceding release; but that’s not always for a million reasons; and that means some minor gems can get lost …… for which we apologise. This nearly fell into that category; as it was already out in the wild world when the band sent us a sweet e-mail with a download attached. Although I didn’t really have the time to listen properly last weekend; as other albums from ‘Big Names’ were on my schedule; yet there was ‘something’ that drew me in. So; on the way home last night I skipped through the album in the car – 30 seconds here; 10 seconds there and …….. the result is the Maple Run Band have been on heavy rotation around RMHQ as I ate breakfast; and I’m now penning my words while looking at the clock before going to work at mid-day! I haven’t had time to research the band and the Press Release doesn’t say if this is a debut album or not; but that’s no matter …….. what I do know is that Maple Run Band are a quartet from Vermont and they just love Country Music in all its glory from Bluegrass through to Alt. and back again! You’re Gonna Make Me Cry Again opens like a whirlwind; with Trevor Crist sounding all Travis Tritt as he implores his young lady not to leave him or she will make him cry for the very first time since Johnny Cash died. Clever, huh? And it’s a proper Honky-Tonk toe tapper too. Already; I love the way the band use ‘space’ on their songs; allowing the words and, indeed music to fill your senses without over powering you. For a Country song, Ma Bell has a hefty dose of spice to the maudlin words and slow, waltz like tune. It’s a sad song at heart of course; but Crist and drummer Nicole Valour’s harmonies take you on a ghostly journey worthy of not just Gram and Emmylou but the Handsome Family too. With that in mind I love the way Maple Run Band can squeeze the hell out of your heart one minute then crank the pace up a song later; which is what happens here as Independence Day, which follows is a rare doozy and is bound to be a 10 minute jam when played live. When I discover new acts I always imagine what type of venue would suit them best; but with these crazy kids I can picture them playing Catch You Down The Line and Keep On Truckin’ in the bawdiest Roadhouse Bar West of the Mississippi and Engine, Engine #9 in a tent at a Bluegrass Festival, while Queen of Labrador City and You’ve Got a Warrant Out (On My Affection) are surely destined for the Ryman Theatre and if not, perhaps The Sage in Gateshead during #SummerTyne! But all three (and more) are suitable for all three types of venue. I’ve been stumped for what to choose as a Favourite Song, as each is as inherently different, which sounding like first generation offspring at the same time ………. the grungy guitars on Borderline have drawn me back a couple of times; as has Lost Bird with its luscious harmonies, shimmering cymbals and haunting cello (from Nelson Caldwell) but I’m being drawn back to Last of The West Kansas Cowboys; because who among us doesn’t like a Cowboy Song? A tearjerker, more in the mould of Willie Nelson than Toby Kieth, that’s for sure and the harmonies that compliment Crist’s quivering vocals are quite sublime; so Last of The West Kansas Cowboys is the RMHQ Favourite Track (I think). I’ve had to ‘bump’ a review of an album by a household name in the Blues World to listen to and then write this review; which should tell you something about the quality of songs and playing here; but that’s what the RMHQ is all about; unearthing new music that you may not find elsewhere …… and this is well worth trying; thank me later.
Moving, Emotional and Sometimes Uncomfortable Listening.
When I first looked at the list of forthcoming releases, I thought I know that name, in fact I’m sure I’ve some of their music in my collection. Sure enough, I looked into the digital library and there, from 2010, was “Howling Trains & Barking Dogs” by Cindy Bullens. Whoah, wait a minute, something has changed, and not just the spelling of the first name but via a massive and immensely brave life changing decision as ………Cindy has become Cidny. After surviving and succeeding in the music industry for over 4 decades and consistently working with a very long list of who’s-who among the top-notchers, singer-songwriter Cidny releases a unique, compelling ‘debut’ album. Whilst there have been 8 previous collections of original songs from the female Bullens, this is more than a basic game-changer, it’s the first as a transgender man.
Recorded in Nashville and co-produced with 5 times Grammy winner Ray Kennedy “Walkin’ Through This World” reveals the story of Bullens’ gender transition and covers all the emotions and pain, plus; thank goodness, the joy and satisfaction of following one’s dreams. As per previous Bullens releases, Cidny has involved and collaborated with the likes of Rodney Crowell, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Mary Gauthier as well as Siobhan Kennedy and daughter Reid Bullens Crewe to deliver a splendid set of songs.
So, after that spellbinding background, what about the music? Well, just using my single sense that functions via my ears, at first run through, I can tell you that it’s a terrific set of songs, of varying tempos and instrumentation that’s as good as anything I’ve heard in a long while. Then, on subsequent plays it simply gets better as you get familiar with the honest lyrics, the superb sound and the marvellous melodies.
The title track is a spoken-word effort, somehow paying homage to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”, but clearly revealing the paradoxical journey that Cidny has patiently endured. “Call me by my name” is an up-tempo doozy looking back on a confused life whilst the self-reflecting “The Gender Line”, already released as a single, ends with the awesome, indeed daunting question “are you a boy or are you a girl”. I particularly like the rocker that is “Lucky for Me”, which has some great piano tinkling to support the ever-thankful lyrics. However, my favourite of the 10 tracks is “Crack the Sky”, where the words in the chorus slightly change from initially “Can I crack the sky, can I fly beyond my Universe” to eventually “I need to crack the sky, break the glass that holds my Universe”. Powerful, bare-boned, evocative questions that must have prevailed throughout the difficult pathway of transition.
Sir Elton John says of the album, “A musical journey of the miracle that is Cidny Bullens. He HAD to do this. He had to musically tell his story. And it is SO moving”.
Undoubtedly courageous, non-vacillating and completely open. Wow! Cidny Bullens Moving, Emotional and Sometimes Uncomfortable Listening. Might just have transposed 2 letters in his fore-name, but via a monumental 9 year journey can now be rightly proud of the music found in “Walkin’ Through This World.”
Hidden Secrets, Complex Stories and Charming Alt. Country Melodies.
I’ve had a troubled relationship with the Jayhawks over the years. Originally; via Hollywood Town Hall they were one of my ‘gateway’ bands towards what we now lovingly call Alt. Country, and not long afterwards I bought Tomorrow, The Green Grass, which for many years was a ‘go to’ album whenever the mood took me. Then a couple of years later I saw them play on what must have been the Rainy Days Tour and, well ……. the dynamic had changed, for me. But by then I was reviewing for magazines and a newspaper, so I had more than enough ‘new music’ to make me forget my ‘past love’. Leap forward to 2014 and The Jayhawks were headlining SummerTyne Festival and I excitedly turned up, hoping to rekindle my musical love affair. Sadly I walked out after four or five songs. I forget why; but this wasn’t the Jayhawks I’d once been in love with all those years ago ……. the jaunty Americana/Country tunes I’d so adored were replaced with *miserabilsm of a type I didn’t need in my life at that time. So, it was with tempered excitement that I pressed play on the car stereo last week ………. hmm, the sad and lonely acoustic guitar that opens Forgotten Town made my heart sink…….. but, when Gary Louris’s distinctive, world weary voice entered the fray and a band that seems to have corralled the best of Poco and, dare I say it ……. the early Eagles join him in on a maudlin song of infinite beauty! Even if nothing else matches the quality of this opening song, The Jayhawks may have just invented Alt. Alt-Country! The guitars are slung low and tempo cranked up high on track #2 Dogtown Days ……….. all I can say is …….. the gang is back in town and on a mission! I have no idea what has preceded XOXO in the last twenty years or so; and don’t really care; as these new songs are absolutely timeless, with Bitter Pill and Down To The Farm as well as the complex, Beatles influenced Illuminate all sounding like they could and should have been on an album that followed Tomorrow, The Green Grass, yet still sound as contemporary and edgy as anything their prodigies have released in the last twelve months. When I say ‘timeless’ I mean it in a way that these songs, in all their ragged glory will appeal to fresh faced teenagers as well as their grey haired Grandparents, who were buying vinyl when it was the only format available in buildings we used to call shops. There’s just so much to like here; not least Karen Grotberg’s songs; especially when she purrs her heart out on Across My Field and the tragically beautiful Ruby, which leaves me open mouthed every time I play it. Before I get to my Favourite Song here; my copy has three ‘Bonus Tracks’ which; for once actually sound like they should be included on every copy; especially Karen’s haunting The Jewel of the Trimbelle and the stunning duet between Karen and Gary, Hypocrite’s Lament which is actually a contender for the title of Favourite Song; but as it might not appear on your copy is excluded from the race. For my actual Favourite Track I’ve been torn between what will be the album ‘closer’ the powerfully evocative and love lorn Looking Up Your Number and the song title which made me smile; the cynical Living in a Bubble which is actually as apt in 2020 Britain as you’d hope the title would live up to; and it does. So, with the toss of a coin I’m going for the rolling and rocking Living In a Bubble as it not just appeals to my sense of humour and musical tastes but to some degree, is a song that needed to be written …… and Gary Louris should be applauded for doing just that. It’s a week after first playing this album, and I’ve discovered and uncovered many nuances and hidden secrets in most of the songs here, which have all evolved like butterflies from their chrysalis’s. Perhaps ‘absence really does make the heart grow fonder’; but I think I’ve now fallin’ in love with The Jayhawks all over again.
PS Were I in a record shop, the cover alone would have intrigued me enough to want to hear the contents; and it certainly does live up to the artwork.
A Perfectly Balanced Mix of Alt. Country Love Songs That Sound Perfect For Both Chevy Vans and Toyota Hybrids.
I suppose I have to issue a Disclaimer here; as the Producer of this release from Robert Lester Folsom was none other than our very own Roy Peak; who sent me an early copy. As I regularly tell people when they talk about the extraordinary amount of albums we get through here at RMHQ, “You should see the size of the box with the ones that we don’t review!” So to some degree, every album we review at RMHQ has to merit not just our precious time to listen to them; but your precious money to purchase them…… #BuyDon’tSpotify! So; just because Roy was involved didn’t mean this album would necessarily pass our stringent barriers. Just like when we were kids in a Record Shop, the first song has to catch my attention in one way or another; and the instrumental title track, Autumn Lament does that with ease. The uber-cool steel guitar and assorted instruments that combine to create an interesting and atmospheric tune to lead an album was a brave but worthy decision; and works far better than it should. The first actual song, It’s Not You follows and the mood is something akin to those 1980’s albums that led into what we now know as Alt. Country; not quite Country enough to be Country and not enough zing to make them Country Rock either; but more than good enough to to still be listened to twenty years after release. Perhaps that’s because several of these songs have lain dormant since the late 70’s, only to be brought to life earlier this year for this ‘Song Cycle’ about Love and relationships; which shouldn’t scare you; as each song appears to be here on merit; as opposed to ‘filler’ to move a ‘Rock Opera’ along. Perhaps Robert will be disappointed in me; but I’ve just enjoyed listening to Winter Warning, Dancing With Piano In The Rain and Waiting For Summer on their own merits, without worrying about any narrative that links them together. Presumably with the aid of the Legendary Roy Peak, Folsom comfortably manages to toy with our emotions using every gift a songwriter and musician has in his tool box; juxtaposing the gentle acoustic heartbreaker One More Song with the claustrophobic Hop Hop Hop Hop Hippity Hop and then closing the album with the down home Southern fried See You Later, I’m Gone, which genuinely sounds like Jason Isbell covering The Lemonheads. That last song was going to be my Favourite Song for a couple of weeks; but recently the dark and brooding Missing You X 7 has evolved and unraveled in a way only repeated playing can do; so this now wins the title; but both are well worth checking out before buying the album. I’d not heard of Robert Lester Folsom prior to receiving this album; which is a sad surprise as he seems to be quite ‘the big deal’ around Florida and South Korea too! Which is no surprise as he’s got a singing voice that burns into your Soul and songs that are certainly the equal of many of his current peers.
Intense and Personal Rocking and Rolling Alt. Country.
Will Hoge? Hmmmmmm …… Will Hoge? The name rang a bell; but with so many albums flowing through RMHQ in the last three years my ever dissolving memory couldn’t place him. So I did what you would do; checked my previous reviews and Hey Presto! Silly me ……….. I love Will Hoge! Sure enough memories of long car journeys with his 2017 release ANCHORS blasting out of the windows came flooding back as soon as he began singing Midway Motel and that distinctive Twangy guitar sound filled the room. While most every song here sounds deeply personal; they also tick many boxes for the listener too; even if you haven’t actually lived Hoge’s words they live out the romanticism (and the dark side of his Tiny Little Movies) which is also all I adore in Alt. Country, Country Rock and/or Americana. The anthemic The Overthrow follows; sounding like Springsteen fronting the Heartbreakers singing a Neil Young song! Seriously; and trust me here; when played live those guitar and drum solos will last eons and you won’t care a jot! Hoge describes himself as a Rock n Roller at heart; and even a cursory listen to Con Man Blues will tell you he’s not wrong! Angry, angsty and awesome in equal measures and destined to scare the bejasus out of your neighbours the next time you have a BBQ in the backyard. As with all of the best; Hoge can put just as much anger and angst into an acoustic song; and here Is That All You Wanted Me For and All The Pretty Horses fill a gap that my heart has been waiting for all year. I’ve only ever seen Will Hoge play solo; but imagine hearing the melancholia of My Worst or the sweet laid back Country tunes The Curse and The Likes of You with these musicians filling the silences ever so delicately must be an experience worth travelling long distances for. Selecting a Favourite Song was never going to be easy here; as just about every song has its own merits in that regard, with some being Radio Friendly and others being destined for very personal playlists that no one else has access to; and that’s probably where I’m going with Maybe This is OK. Again, Hoge has written an intense song from his own experiences that somehow manages to be about me too …… clever that; isn’t it? My interpretation of this Petty/Springsteen hybrid, is that it’s about someone who has made many mistakes in his life; but has actually come through it all reasonably well …….. which may sound like it’s about you too? 2020 is proving another very special year for the music we bring you on RMHQ and although it’s still only June; TINY LITTLE MOVIES (which neatly describes Hoge’s songs) will undoubtedly be in our year end Top 20 reviews; and also has the capacity with just a smidgen of luck, to be a game changer for this excellent singer-songwriter; and ‘performer’ too.
PS Somehow or other I appear to have missed MY AMERICAN DREAM from 2018 ……. there’s a PR out there who owes me an apology.