THIS SIDE OR THE OTHER
Black Hen Music
Founding Father of Americana Shows No Signs of Slowing Up.
Like many of my favourite albums from the days before the Interweb was in it’s ascendancy, most came via ‘word of mouth’ and David Olney’s Live in Holland CD was one of those and will still occasionally get dusted off and let me drift off into a world of wizened Americana characters that only he could possibly invent and bring to life.
His other album (EP?) that I love is Film Noir from 2011 which would have been the last time I saw him play live; which is a damn shame.
Then of course there are numerous individual songs that if compiled onto some kind of Retrospective may end up being a triple album; and then have to leave a couple out.
So; any new release is worthy of my time and means I have to put time aside to listen ‘properly,’ with no distractions.
Sadly that is today when I am painfully deaf in one ear, so will pretend this is a Mono release (joke.)
Opening track Always The Stranger, is trademark David Olney with a sweet Texicana tune masking a bittersweet love story that is sung by world weary voice; and it’s certainly the type of song that makes you want to sit back and wallow in whatever the narrator has to say.
Wall which follows has a Native American feel to it, and as the title suggests it’s about ‘building walls’ both real and metaphorical; which is a tender subject across the border lands of America and Mexico where many of Olney’s characters reside.
As you will expect from one of the founding fathers of of Americana; this is a song that has much to say about modern history as it does the past; intertwining both with grace and hope.
This imagery of ‘walls’ continues throughout THIS SIDE OR THE OTHER with the beautiful title track and Death Will Not Divide Us both using that invisible imagery on both songs, making them enjoyable on many different levels; but making you continuously change your mind as to what they are really about; which is quite some trick for a songwriter.
Even by David Olney’s standards I Spy is a dark song; almost ‘talking Blues’ poetic in a Kerouac style that has had me trying to unravel it’s many mysteries this morning; but have decided to just let it be what it is……. a riddle in a puzzle set to music.
Again; by David Olney’s ‘standards’ this is as much a Country album as he’s produced in many years; with Western imagery hauntingly making Stand Tall and Border Town sound like they should be on the soundtrack for a Tarantino re-imagining of Butch Cassidy.
For a man of his advancing years, David Olney can still write a love song that will send shivers down your back; which brings us to the two songs vying for Favourite Song Status; Running From Love with it’s ghostly harmonica accompaniment would easily win the title on many albums; but is just pipped at the post by Open Your Heart (and Let Me In) which will touch the hearts of every romantic who hears it.
Then, just when you think you know exactly where David Olney is coming from he throws a perfect curve ball with the finale; a simple and very rootsy song called She’s Not There…….hang on a minute!
Yes; it actually is the Zombies pop hit from the 60’s but turned on its head, with David doing for this what Joe Cocker did for With a Little Help From My Friends, way back when.
Perhaps I should change my choice of Favourite Track; but will actually keep this song our little secret.
Such is the quality and density of David Olney’s songwriting I could probably write a completely different review of these songs tomorrow and again next week. I will now leave it to you.
Released August 24th 2018
The Bottle Rockets
Yes, we get inundated with new music from fresh faced artistes every day and we love bringing them to you…..but every now and again the Oldies come along and re-write the rule book…..ladies and gentlemen; I give you…..The Bottle Rockets!
Here’s a little teaser from their new album BIT LOGIC which will be released on October 12th.
Watch this space kids.
OUTLAW FOR YOU (Single)
Any day that starts with an e-mail saying that a new Alejandro Escovedo album is in the post and here’s a link to the new single has to be a good one; right?
Much like some of his haughtier and more famous peers Alejandro is prone to change the style and direction of his music at the drop of a hat (a concert featuring him and a string quartet still makes a few of my friends go starry eyed).
The new album The Crossing (Sept 14th on Yep Roc) is themed around immigrants and immigration which is a red hot topic across the world; and knowing Mr Escovedo I doubt he will pull any punches….here’s hoping.
It’s taken a while; but I love his new found back to his teenage days gutsy, rootsy and occasionally punky approach to his Alt. Country songs and this punchy new single Outlaw For You ticks every box in my guide to Rock and indeed Roll…..the Kid still has it, as if there was ever any doubt!
Did You Dream (Single)
We get sent quite a few singles most weeks and the vast majority manage to pass us by in the blink of an eye; but this little beauty from Oklahoma based band Annie Oakley stopped us in our tracks; and we think it will you too.
It’s a taster for their debut album in October……so ‘watch this space’
“The award-winning band is fronted by twin sisters Sophia and Grace Babb on rhythm and lead guitars and vocals, with Nia Personette on violin and third-part harmony. Singing together since childhood, Sophia and Grace were given guitars and started songwriting at their mum’s urging after their father’s death compelled them to find an emotional outlet.
They were 14 years old.
A year later, they were joined by friend Nia on violin, herself no stranger to loss; she, too, had lost her father shortly before joining the band. Since the band’s formation, wise, emotive lyrics and sophisticated instrumentation have been hallmarks of their style.”
CRY TO ME (Single)
WAHAY! I’ve come home from a few days in the North Yorkshire hills with no internet access and just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, I found a new single from the legendary John Hiatt waiting for me……and I can’t wait to share it with you guys (and gals).
“John Hiatt is set to return with ‘The Eclipse Sessions’ on 12th October 2018 via New West Records. The 11-track set is the Grammy nominated legend’s first new album in four years. It was produced by Kevin McKendree (Delbert McClinton) and features Hiatt’s longtime drummer Kenneth Blevins and bassist Patrick O’Hearn, as well as Yates McKendree (Kevin’s 17-year old wunderkind son, who also engineered).”
“Hiatt places ‘The Eclipse Sessions’ in a lineage alongside two of his greatest works — 1987’s mainstream breakthrough ‘Bring the Family’, which sprung from an impulsive four-day session with an all-star combo led by Ry Cooder, and 2000’s ‘Crossing Muddy Waters’, an unplanned and largely unplugged effort that garnered a Grammy Award nomination and also set Hiatt on the rootsier path he’s still pursuing today. “The three albums are very connected in my mind,” Hiatt says. “They all have a vibe to them that was unexpected. I didn’t know where I was going when I started out on any of them. And each one wound up being a pleasant surprise.”
There’s a grit to these songs — a craggy, perfectly-imperfect quality that colors every aspect of the performances, right down to Hiatt’s vocals, which are quite possibly his most raw and expressive to date.
The Eclipse Sessions will be available across digital platforms, compact disc, vinyl, as well as a limited split metallic & white vinyl edition available at Independent Retailers. John Hiatt’s The Eclipse Sessions is available for pre-order now via NEW WEST RECORDS http://geni.us/jhtes?track=pr
John Hiatt’s songs have been recorded by Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Iggy Pop, Rosanne Cash, Eric Clapton & B.B. King, and countless others. He has received his own star on Nashville’s Walk of Fame, the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting, and has been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.”
John Hiatt The Eclipse Sessions Track Listing:
1. Cry To Me
2. All The Way To The River
3. Aces Up Your Sleeve
4. Poor Imitation Of God
5. Nothing In My Heart
6. Over The Hill
7. Outrunning My Soul
8. Hide Your Tears
9. The Odds Of Loving You
10. One Stiff Breeze
11. Robber’s Highway
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 and Uncle Tupelo ; treading the boards of a scene that wasn’t ready to blossom or even be understood for a good 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 I played 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 Country-Rock tunes like Every Time She Walks On By and I Wish You Would are the perfect soundtrack to 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 even some epic Eagles on Waste of Time; with every song sitting perfectly comfortably side by side.
While that 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……making me actually ‘listen’ 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
Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes
SOME GIRLS (Quite like Country Music)
Deep and Dark Uneasy Listening for the Discerning Music Lover.
Somewhere in the deep and distant past I’m sure I once reviewed Australian Lachlan Bryan’s BLACK COFFEE album for a magazine; but I can’t find any sign of the album in my collection; nor me words either.
My memory was more of a singer-songwriter in the Folk troubadour style rather than the Country/Americana act the album title and accompanying Press Release would suggest; and opening track I Hope That I’m Wrong ironically proves me correct.
This rather special song and story,treads a path that neatly straddles world weary Folk and the type of laconic Country music we associate with Townes and Guy or more recently Slaid Cleaves or Josh Ritter.
Possibly with Josh Ritter in my mind, I love the way Bryan (and the Wildes) create many and various velvety layers to go with the rich tapestry that songs like Careless Hearts, The Cemetery Near My Hometown and especially Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Man weave each time you hear them.
First and foremost Lachlan Bryan is an exquisite storyteller, who isn’t afraid to challenge the listener with some of his subject matter. Peace In the Valley is a very sombre Folk song about a young woman who goes missing; and told from the view point of her helpless father; and will send a shiver down your spine at the end.
Another dark tale that sparkles with life is Stolen Again; where he takes the roll of a man who woos a beautiful girl away from her lover, then spends his time worrying about losing her to another. Very clever and lyrically very astute.
As usual I didn’t look at the back of the album cover the first time I played the disc; so got a delightful surprise when I recognised the dulcet tones of the young lady he duets with on TVZ’s Don’t You Take It Too Bad; yes…that really is Lindi Ortega playing Emmylou to Lachlan’s Gram on three minutes of absolutely majestic Country Folk.
And that’s not even the best or most memorable song here!
That title is a tie between another duet, this time with Shanley Del; The Basics of Love which genuinely made me swoon the first couple of times I heard it; to some degree Bryan plays second fiddle to the lady in question; which is quite brave for the ‘headline act’ but it works incredibly well on a song that could stop your heart in the wrong conditions.
The other is a Waitsian lament with Bryan alone at the piano; Sweet Bird of Youth before a gently picked ‘Jazz guitar’ enters the fray to add even extra pathos, if indeed any more was needed; but makes for the perfect accompaniment to feeling sorry for yourself after midnight.
Even when Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes decide to ‘rip it up’ it’s more of a Summer Stroll in the park, than a city centre riot; and that keeps the mood flowing with the infectious toe-tappin’ Hill Country (rocker?) It Tears Me Up (Everytime You Turn Me Down).
This isn’t ‘easy listening’ on any level; but will appeal to lovers of articulate and occasionally daring song writing from a songwriter and ace band on the cusp of a major breakthrough, if this album is anything to go by.
Released UK & Europe 29th June 2018
KICK OUT THE TWANG!
Enough Twang and Bang to Break 1,000 Hearts.
I do like a new musical sub-genre; even making a few up myself just for the Hell of it; but one of the earliest ‘genuine ones’ is/was Cow Punk; of which one of my favourite bands of all time were proud purveyors….Jason and The Scorchers. So for someone else to use that moniker to describe their music has to be of interest; doesn’t it?
Then, of course there is their swamp infested version of Last Train to Clarksville which opens the album……yes sirree Bubba; this is certainly going to be right up my street.
The songs come at you like baseballs in a pen; fast and furious belters like Rodeo Star and Get Around which leave you with sweat running down your face; then there are the deceptively slow curlers Sorry and Honky Tonk Singer which lull you into a false sense of security until you listen intently and two very Country sad tales unravel before your eyes.
But it’s Speedbuggy USA’s sidewinders that are among some of the most memorable songs here; Hold My Head Up High and Wood, Screws and Nails are the type of 99mph Twang that you’d possibly hear in a London Pub circa 1977 when Punk Rock was at it’s height; and these crazy cats would win any battle of wills with the spiky haired audience; or perhaps just the battle.
Fear not though, Speedbuggy USA know their way around a Bona-fide Country song too; and so they should after 8 previous albums; with The Devil With Me and South Bound being opposite ends of the Honky Tonk spectrum and both being packed full of the spit, swagger and enthusiasm we normally associate with bands like the Waco Brothers, The Blasters and of course Jason and the Scorchers.
Even though I’ve loved every single track on an album that should be played from start to finish with no stopping for toilet breaks; choosing a Favourite song has been quite easy; even if it is a tie!
The band’s seedy interpretation of Unchain My Heart is fabulous; and just like Clarksville proved earlier; if you are going to do a cover……make it sound like you wrote it yourself, and that’s what they do here.
The other is a song of their own; Shaky Town which is just the type truck driving Country love song that will make you want to put your arm around your lover and both sway in time to the waltz like melody, as singer Timbo runs an emotional gamut for 3 short but perfect minutes.
What’s not to like about a band with a pedal-steel that sounds like a 1,000 hearts being broken, guitars that weep, wail and sing, a drummer and bass player who keep time better than a shiny new Rolex and a singer in Timbo who sounds like his life depends on you hearing every single note that comes from his grizzled throat; and boy oh boy can they write and deliver a toe-tapping song!
Released July 6th 2018
Jumping Hot Club
Gosforth Civic Theatre.
Because of my awkward shifts at work attending to gigs is becoming increasingly difficult for me these days; but this one fell on my long weekend off; and following promoter Shipcote’s fulsome praise for this Nashville band a trip across town was in order.
By the time I arrived all of the seats were taken but there were still a few standing positions with good views of the stage.
Opening act John Wilkins is a singer-songwriter from a fishing village further down the coast called Sunderland; and someone else Shipcote told me about earlier in the year after being impressed at a Songwriters Circle.
As usual my musician friend was perfectly right, as Wilkins proved thoroughly entertaining, sounding somewhere between someone like John Martyn and Roy Harper; albeit with a gently abrasive singing style.
Two; no three songs from his thirty minute set really stood out; Halfway From Wearside, a rolling Blues about being away from his home town; Big Shot (?) with it’s delicate chorus and the ‘accidental encore’ (the promoter was otherwise engaged removing a drunk so the act just kept playing) Twice In Love; which was a pleasant surprise as it compared love the second time around with shopping at an Oxfam charity shop!
Because of the slight over run there was a very short break leaving people still at the bar as the Cordovas arrived on stage; starting with the drummer and slowing being joined one by one by his bandmates. Their introductory instrumental became even longer than expected as there were problems with a microphone; but that’s one of the joys of live music, isn’t it?
Quickly sorted the show quickly went from strength to strength for this relatively unknown 5 piece band with twin lead guitars and three part harmonies you could swim in.
Very few songs actually had intros, as the band just kept keeping on; at one stage I even noted that I couldn’t always tell when one song ended and another began as the three singers seamlessly switched from one to another.
Each certainly had their own distinctive and rather wonderful styles; and when they joined together in harmony………my knees nearly buckled.
I did pick up on a couple of titles though; Louisiana Hurricane and Just Because He Can (with its cheeky false ending) both sounded like something Little Feet or the Allman’s would have gone on to record; but that’s no surprise with twin lead guitars is it?
On a hot, stuffy and stifling Summers evening The Cordova’s understated Country Rock was the perfect soundtrack, with only bass player and singer extraordinaire Joe Firstman showing any showmanship; screwing his face up when singing and even jumping off stage to serenade the front row at one stage; but first and foremost The Cordovas are all about the music and what sweet music they make.
During Southern Rain I swear you could smell the acacia blossom and then during the cool groove of Common Desire it really was like being transported to Memphis on a steamy Friday night.
The time genuinely flew by and I had to check my watch as the band bade us a farewell after 75 minutes; but hang on…….who’d have thunk it; they came back for a well prepared couple of encore songs.
First of all it was Firstman alone at the piano singing something called I’m Leaving; which my mate Ian correctly suggested sounded like Randy Newman; and it did which was very impressive.
Then he introduced the two guitarists Lucca Soria and Graham Spillman who twisted and juggled a rather neat and impressive rendition of Sweet Home Chicago which yet again, showcased their skills and dexterity on their electrical guitars.
Well; what a fantastic night we all had and what a discovery for RMHQ……now to get hold of their next album.
Full photo-set by HarrisonaPhotos https://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/The-Cordovas/
Roof Down, Wayfarers on, Press Play…….
The exotically monikered Luke Tuchscherer’s previous album came to us straight out of left-field a couple of years ago; a SE England lad living in NYC and playing Americana with a side order of Country Rock shouldn’t add up; should it? But it certainly did; and I’m pleased to say……still does.
Just as I was leaving the house the postman handed me three packages, which I opened in the car. The first was this CD, and knowing I’d liked that previous album put it straight into the stereo.
Yes sirree Bub! The fizzing and feisty opening track Sudden Getaway was the start of a perfect soundtrack for last minute drive to work in the British sunshine. Wayfarers on and a delightful dose of Anglo-American Country Rock blasting out of the windows as my right foot was pressed firmly to the floor; what’s not to like?
Company Girl (Needs a Company Man) follows and my mood just got better; as a swirling organ, luscious guitars and a delightfully flat vocal took me into Neil’s Trans/Freedom and Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road arena and there we stayed for the next half hour.
Stay with me here; this isn’t no homage to Neil or Steve or anyone in particular by any stretch of the imagination; as subsequent plays reveal many other lines of enquiry; but those fuzzy guitars and razor sharp observations will appeal to the rockier end of the Americana world that Neil made his own decades ago.
Tuchscherer has his very own way with lyrics; with Batten Down The Hatches being a straight forward song about preparing for the stormy season…..or is it? Could it be a clever song about the political situation in his adopted country? Only he knows; and we can guess.
After half a dozen exciting songs based around the electric guitar we get Ghosts, a wonderfully atmospheric acoustic road song with a man reliving and revisiting his past as one chapter in his life closes; and hopefully another brighter one is just around the corner. It’s a very clever and articulate song; that was an early contender for the Favourite Song accolade.
I love the way Luke straddles the Country Rock and Americana boundaries with no shame whatsoever; as good music is just that……good music.
That first day PIECES fit my mood perfectly well; but subsequently songs have unravelled revealing some very interesting stories masked by that fantastic band. Requiem is a pseudo-political tale about the have and have nots in our world, and the anthemic title track Pieces which follows is another punchy view on the world we live in with my favourite line of the week,
“Some Folks are born/but never live.”
Ain’t that the truth!
Then there is the song that actually takes the title of RMHQ Favourite Track; See You When I See You (For the Whybirds). A love song to Tuchscherer’s former band The Whybirds who were a staple of the nascent Alt. Country scene before it had a name and certainly long before it became cool. Just like that band itself this song will go over the heads of many who hear it; but for many of us and it’s fair to say members of any other band who hears it will get a tingle in the tummy and a tear in the eye.
“Don’t look back/never look back.” Don Henley once sang; but sometimes you have to, to move forward and with this beautiful song Luke Tuchscherer can and will move on to the next stage of his burgeoning career and hopefully get the success that his former band deserved, but never received.
Just like that last album; PIECES is something you can listen to on many levels; background music in the car, a soundtrack to a cool BBQ or better still on headphones when no one else is around.
Released July 6th 2018