The Herron Brothers Don’t Be Lonely This Christmas
“Ho, bloody Ho!” It’s Christmas…..or at least the Christmas Season here at RMHQ and our friends The Herron Brothers are releasing a cracker of a single that will not just break your heart but re-heal it too.
“Ignoring any trends or genre identification, and perhaps the first Christmas classic in waltz time, the song features both violin and accordion solos, all wrapped up in the most catchy Christmas chorus you’ll hear this year.”
“Christmas isn’t all fun and games for everyone as you know” says Paul, “it can be a tough time especially for those who feel isolated or haven’t had a great year”
“It’s a song about hope” chimes in Steven, “and more importantly about using the things that go wrong and building on them to make a better future”.
I love Karen Craigie’s back-story, as a one time label manager in Australia, then a venue manager for a chain of UK Nightclubs and now a ‘Full-Time’ Charity worker (chairing boards and committees for children’s services) while also being both a Mum and Foster Mum; so where and when she finds the spare time to be a songwriter that has now recorded three albums is way beyond my comprehension! For an Australian Karen certainly knows her way around both Alt. Country and Americana by the sounds of the sensual Little Heartbreaker which opens the album like a breath of fresh air. There’s something quite refreshing in the way she effortlessly tells her tale of a poisonous teenage love affair. Bottom Line is another tale of a broken love affair, acutely observed and set to a punchy Country melody with Ms Craigie’s warm and breathy vocal delivery having the capacity to make a grown man go weak at the knees. I find it charming that Karen Craigie describes herself first and foremost as a songwriter who sings; while she is most certainly a clever and fascinating songwriter, it’s her gorgeous and distinctive voice that makes the classy title track Mountains of Gold and also the Country Gothic Happy Ending be so memorable. I can’t ‘put my finger on it’ but I somehow picture Karen singing Lonely Town and the haunting Game Face in theatres rather than rough-house bars or Honky-Tonks; perhaps because they demand to be listened to rather than just be the background music to a Saturday night somewhere/anywhere. While certainly being a’Country’ singer-songwriter in her heart, Karen Craigie sits a lot more comfortably alongside Gretchen Peters and Mary Chapin Carpenter than Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson if the deeply intense ‘Til It Gets Done, which closes the album is anything to by; and at times Karen sounds like a coiled spring on High; which could easily be the type of song featured on an album by those first two artistes. Then there’s the song that caught my attention the first night that I half-heartedly listened to Mountains Of Gold; Kill Me Now. OK it’s yet another break-up song of sorts; but there’s something really personal and touching about the way she pours her heart out and lets him know that’it is over; full stop’ even if she alludes to there still being a little flicker of hope, when he “comes around tormenting her/with his funny stories/wearing his old jeans/and singing his stories of love.’ Ha! A lot of ladies are going to associate with these and plenty of other sentiments across these heartbreaking four minutes. While just about every single song here is sad to the core; Karen Craigie’s writing AND singing have made this an absolute joy to listen to, over and over again.
As my Gretchen Peters T-Shirt says; “Sad Songs Make Me Happy.”
Austin Lucas IMMORTAL AMERICANS Cornelius Chapel Records
Suspenseful and Evocative Country-Folk From The Dark Heart of Americana.
Some albums aren’t as ‘instant’ as others; they have to be cherished, and allowed to grow on you at their own pace…… which is something I don’t have a lot of….’time’ that is; but there was definitely ‘something’ about this album that has made me keep coming back to it; and on Sunday afternoon ‘click’…I finally got it. Straddling the Country/Folk divide Austin Lucas has a warm, distinctive and almost Latino’ voice looks back on the tormented small town life of his own youth on the stark title track Immortal Americans which is the first track here; and sadly it will still resonate with outsider-teens today; which is sad indictment of the society we all find ourselves living in. I’m not aware of Lucas’s previous six albums; but it’s probably fair to say this is the one he has chosen to pour his heart out, in a style that combines the rawness of Jason Isbell, Tom Paxton and latter day Steve Earle at times. Nothing here is particularly ‘easy on the ear’ and nor are the songs meant to be; for instance My Mother and The Devil and especially Marie and The Shadow are soul-searching at the extreme; with the latter being about the time he found a growth oh his girlfriend’s back that turned out to be cancerous; and is so starkly fragile you will hold your breath while you listen, for fear of missing a word or note. Mercifully not everything is quite so dark; there is much ‘light’ too; albeit in a Folky way that may not be quite so literal; although Goat & Goose may be a true story; but I somehow doubt it. brings me back to Happy;which may not be quite what you expect from the title; but is certainly a Master Craftsman songwriter at the top of his game. Even when I was struggling to get my head around this album, there were two particular songs that kept drawing me back time and time again; hence both the cerebral Killing Time, with it’s jaunty beat coupled to a steel-guitar that sounds like it’s being played with a Bowie knife and the darkly brooding Monroe County Lines tie for the title of RMHQ Favourite Song; as both are quite incredible songs that will sadly miss most people by; but those who ‘get them’ will clutch this album to their bosom and never let go such is the power in Austin Lucas’s writing. I guess that is the real beauty of this album; the actual songs themselves; which may sound an odd thing to say, but each song unravels bit by bit everytime you hear them, slowly letting you into a dark world of shadows that you may not have been aware of; but eventually finding yourself entwining your soul around each deeply sensitive and occasionally sensual line and stanza from the pen of Austin Lucas.
A Platinum Seller Gets Two Fabulous New Leases of Life.
SOUL’S CORE REVIVAL(Electric)
The first time I ever
encountered the music of Shawn Mullins was way back in 2011 when I
reviewed his LIGHT ME UP album for Maverick magazine; which went on
to make it’s way into my Top 10 that year. I vaguely remember being
inundated with a couple of letters pointing me to his prestigious
back catalogue and, in particular this, his fourth and subsequently
platinum selling album from 1998; and here I am 20 years later
listening to it in two shiny new formats.
To celebrate that
Anniversary Mullins has taken his long standing touring band into the
studio and re-recorded everything with a razor sharp, contemporary
edge to each song and also stripping everything back to the bones and
sinew with acoustic versions of each song too.
A brave move? Most
certainly; but one worth taking after singing these songs most nights
for those twenty years and each one subsequently growing and
developing in their own individual direction.
Without knowing any of
the original versions; I’m obviously coming to SOUL’S CORE with an
open mind; and just as I found with Light Me Up, opening track here
Anchored In You is the very essence of West Coast Country Rock at
it’s finest yet with a contemporary and timeless feel to it, as is
the delightful Lullaby which follows. A slow and slightly slurred
‘talking Blues’ as it were, with Mullins singing/talking about the
sad-eyed girl from the Hollywood Hills that hung out with Dennis
Hopper, Bob Segar and even Sonny & Cher; but who feels more at
home in a dive bar on Fairfax.
This song, plus Soul
Child, the beautiful and brittle You Mean Everything To Me and Ballad
of Billy Jo McKay all prove to be ‘ahead of their time’ in the way
they must have been billed as Country Rock in 1998 but today are what
we know to be Americana at its rawest with Mullins acute observations
set to some amazing melodies and chord structures are as fresh as a
While I’ve sat in awe
each time I’ve played this album now; two songs in particular stand
out; Mullin’s cool revisiting of Kristofferson’s old chestnut Sunday
Mornin’ Coming Down somehow takes on a whole new believable resonance
as an organ filters in and out of the mix; and then there’s a song
called Shimmer which closes the disc, a haunting Southern Groove
about an all-encompassing love that stopped me right in my tracks and
even made me turn the dial up to 8 so I could hear the story in more
detail; and it was well worth it.
SOUL’S CORE REVIVAL(Acoustic)
With the benefit of
hindsight; I’m pleased I played the other album first and for a few
days, before picking up the Acoustic version; as here Shawn sits down
with just his guitar, a microphone and the story behind each song
which is a rather beautiful thing indeed.
Again, Anchored In You
is still breathtaking and the story that follows, introducing Lullaby
is almost tear inducing as he explains how it came from listening to
Joni’s Blue album and Mullins trying to work out her tunings (a very
muso thing, but fascinating none the less). There’s also a moment or
two when he strains his rather distinctive voice to hit some high
notes that he sounds like someone else; and I’m damned if I can think
It’s a personal thing,
but both Mrs Magpie love it when songwriters introduce their songs
with the stories behind them; and Shawn Mullins proves to be quite
the raconteur even though he doesn’t appear to have an audience bar
the production crew.
On this album a couple
of different songs shine in the stripped back format, most notably
Twin Rocks, Oregon and Patrick’s Song which both must have been
groundbreaking back in ’98.
One track I couldn’t
get my head around, Tannin’ Bed Song now makes absolute sense as a
Folk Song; but nothing like anything Dylan was doing back in those
Then of course the
songs I like in the Electric stylee, are still beautiful done
acoustically with both the story and song Ballad of Billy Jo McKay
bringing tears to my eyes.
anything; the story behind The Gulf of Mexico really showcases the
imagination that a great songwriter has; and in my humble opinion the
acoustic format makes this song staggeringly beautiful, as he lives
every word through his warm and raspy voice.
I doubt I’ve ever heard
a bad version of Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down; and this version is as
good as most, but hearing Mullins chuckle as he remembers his Dad’s
eclectic record collection and this song especially, warmed my heart
more than the song did.
Shimmer (plus it’s
heart breaking and life affirming back story), is yet again a
contender for the title of RMHQ Favourite Track but I’m going for
You Mean Everything To Me, which while ‘good’ on the other album; but
now coupled to its very short story is truly stunning as Mullins
intricately combines Folk, Country and even Poetry on a very intense
four and a half minutes, that he claims to be inspired by listening
to Townes Van Zandt…….. which very few did 20 years ago.
I neither know nor care
what Mullin’s huge fan base will make of this release; I guess a few
will be upset as he’s ‘messing with perfection’ but for me recording
these 13 powerful songs in two very different, yet complimentary
styles isn’t just brave but has the mark of genius too!
John Paul White
MY DREAMS HAVE ALL COME TRUE
GOSH! I couldn’t believe my little ears when I first heard this earlier today……with a UK Tour in January being announced today; and tickets going on sale this Friday morning, 16th November @ 9am, he is releasing this beautiful song from a prospective new album soon after.
Remember Jesse Jo Stark’s single DEADLY DOLL from last year which we loved? Well, with the haunting lilt of Marianne Faithful still in our subconscious her latest slice of Gothic-Americana similarly captured my attention an hour ago and just like those heady teenage nights when I was locked in my bedroom; and with Mrs Magpie out of the house, I can’t take it off the office turntable!
Born in LA with a penchant for Horror B-Movies and Elvira, Jesse Jo Stark has bizarrely managed to evoke memories of Nouvelle Vague and Marilyn Monroe albums in my collection and of course images of Bettie Paige and the sexy starlet of so many Hammer Films, the delightful Fanella Fielding who sadly passed in September this year.
VIVA! Los Pacaminos LIVE!
The Most Authentic Tex-Mex Band This Side of the Atlantic!
Do I start with a History Lesson about how London Pub Rock in the early 1970’s begat not only Punk Rock, but what we now know as Alt. Country all around the world; or do I just pile straight into this fire cracker of an album?
Let’s go for the latter shall we? I don’t want to bore or antagonise you
Los Pacaminos are often lazily billed as Superstar, Paul Young’s band but they are so much more than that; as if you check out the CV of each musician you will see they are something of a mini-Supergroup in their own rite and us this format to have a blast whenever they can get the band together.
VIVA! LIVE! Is their fourth album and follows on from the immaculately titled A Fist Full of Statins from earlier last year; and really does showcase the best Bar Band in NW London at their very best in a club in Harrogate, North Yorkshire which is frequently compared to the border town of Tijuana, Mexico.
The party; and that’s the best way to describe a Los Pacaminos concert starts with a shady rendition of Highway Patrol and the whoops from the audience are 100% genuine and similar to the sounds inside my head as the guitars squeal and hiss as whoever is singing rumbles like a storm brewing in the dessert.
That’s the beauty of Los Pacaminos, even though Paul Young was/is a bonafide Pop Star, he’s more than happy to share the spotlight with his band mates.
As you would expect, the song selection is quite exceptional with Little Sister, A Little Bit is Better Than Nada and He’ll Have To Go all getting dusted off and gussied up for a night on the town; and even old nuggets like Smoke That Cigarette, Wooly Bully, the dazzling Come a Little Bit Closer and a favourite of Mama Magpie Edie, Wooly Bully somehow sound as fresh as the day they were recorded over half a century ago by their originators.
There’s even a Guest Spot from Honouree Pacamino, Senor Chris Difford who takes the lead on (the remixed) Tex Me I’m Yours which fits in like guacamole on a taco; and why no one thought of adding a slide and pedal-steel guitar to the original I will never know!
There are also a couple of originals in here too alongside the Classics; but things move along so quickly and there aren’t really any song intros; and the record cover misses these things out completely but I didn’t recognise Poor Boys or Girl From Tennessee but both are rip-roaring stonkers and quickly had me tapping my toes, swaying my hips and even miming along with their choruses; even though I’d never heard them before.
And it’s the same with both songs that became RMHQ Favourites after only two sittings; both Battered And Boozed and Our Favourite Things; could easily have been something the Blasters or Fabulous Thunderbirds would have played to a smoky and packed cantina somewhere sleazy and hot, ‘back in the day’……. Perhaps they did; and if they did I bet it was a great night there too!
In many ways there’s ‘nothing new’ here; but that misses the point completely this is an album and indeed audience paying homage to a cool genre of music (Tex Mex/Tejano) that has been airbrushed from the Americana History books in recent years; but still makes for a cracking good night of happy songs, dance tunes, love songs, break up songs and especially drinking songs when done as well as this.
Epic, Brooding and Emotional Americana From Canada.
At last! Our friends from Toronto, LeBarons have finally finished their debut full length album and are releasing it out into the wild, after nurturing, developing and growing the songs for well over two years now.
Let’s not dwell on the mishap which meant RMHQ got missed off the original mail-out; because “all good things come to he who waits” or some nonsense like that.
We still play their phenomenal EP ALLISTON on an irregular basis in the office; so anything new has to be exciting, doesn’t it?
Will it be different?
Will it be the same?
Will it be better?
Phew……………opener Long Highway far exceeds my fanboy expectations; as an almost military beat from the bass and drums add to the atmospheric production on a wonderful ‘road song’ worthy of The Travelling Wilburys or Little Feat if they’d come from Nashville.
BOOM! The next song Bad News wasn’t what I was expecting at all; it’s as if there was a power surge in the studio as every instrument sounds 5 x faster, louder and tighter as Chris MacDonald opines his bad luck in life AND love as the band support him with the most muscular harmonies I’ve ever heard in my life; and I only wish that this had closed the album as I’m sure it will be ‘that sort of song’ when played live….with the audience shouting along with the glorious choruses.
Now I’ve got my head around them; the songs are indeed ‘fuller’ and ‘more seasoned’ than on the debut; but that’s to be expects as these crazy cats have spent as much time on the road as in the studio in the interim.
While the band is so much more than just Chris MacDonald and a bunch of mates; his songwriting has somehow managed to move on leaps and bounds, with Quiet and Waste which follows it; both having a kind of coiled spring ambience to them…… leaving you on tenterhooks as both songs play out and build to a brain penetrating climax.
To some degree LeBarons have reined back their quintessential Canadianness here; going for a more earthy transient sound that will suit listening tastes all across the English speaking world (and beyond hopefully!). Until It Goes is an Alt. Country song, but only in as much as it really is a cool Country song with a pneumatic rhythm section and more Twang from the guitars than you’ll hear in a whole weekend in the Horseshoe Lounge.
Then there is the Border Land Country of Power Lines which somehow sits perfectly comfortably straight after the almost ‘experimental’ title track SUMMER OF DEATH, which leads us down a dark and dangerous path into Gothic Canadiacana, if such a thing exists!
I haven’t really had a lot of time to pore over ever song I intimate detail; but a couple of songs on a rather exceptional record really do stand out; the haunting Born in ’76 which sounds like LeBarons are singing and playing behind a tattered velvet curtain in a seedy nightclub as the bar staff clean up around them.
Then there is the potent Brand New Sound which sounds like something concocted after a long night driving along the back roads as a storm howls around and only Bruce and The Clash on the car stereo. As the title suggests it is a brand new sound for LeBarons and in its own way is the lynch pin for everything else here; and for that reason is the RMHQ Favourite Track, by a country mile.
The lyrics sound as if they are both introspective and observational in equal measures; perhaps they are and perhaps they aren’t; but first and foremost this is an album is simply great to listen to under any and all circumstances plus, it has the hallmarks of being a Game Changer for my favourite band from Toronto.
Bloody Hell! Is it really nearly 40 years since the ‘Little Stevie Orbit’ LP was a fixture on my Panasonic Music Centre?
Where does the time go?
A lot has happened to both of us since those heady days of our youth; and I guess with the benefit of hindsight that album was a forerunner for what we now know as Alt. Country in many ways; as he and it straddled the razors edge between what was then Soft Rock and Country Rock……or is that just my frazzled memory?
Anyway; let’s leap forward to today and THE MAGIC TREE, his 18th studio album, and the first music I’ve heard from him since 1980!
Oddly enough Steve still sounds a lot like I’d remembered; although mellower and well-worn around the edges on the title track THE MAGIC TREE, which starts this delightful package. Possibly on the ‘twee’ side of what I normally like from singer-songwriters these days, but I might say it’s even poetic and the melody and raspy harmonica solos certainly save the day, for me.
Thankfully things perk up on That’d Be Alright which follows, which still has a sprightly beat but the words in song itself are a lot nearer the benchmark I’d set for a songwriter of Forbert’s standing and years.
While his voice comes across as slightly wheezy on a couple of songs, it actually gives the likes of Tryna Let It Go a whole lot more gravitas than if sung by anyone else; especially the opening verse@ “I’ve made my mistakes it’s true,
Maybe one and maybe two;
Maybe more than quite a few,
Need I even say?”
The rest of the story kind of writes itself; as Forbert asks Tryna for forgiveness for his ‘Rock & Roll’ lifestyle as he leaves the home they’ve shared.
‘That voice’ is so well suited to Lookin’ At The River in the Rain and the gorgeous Movin’ Through America which both have an American Recording Cash feel to them, as Forbert proves he can still write a song that can squeeze on the heartstrings.
As my copy of the album is a basic ‘review copy’ it’s not made clear who is playing the guitar; and I can only presume and hope it’s Steve Forbert himself; as while understated throughout many, many flourishes add a tearful sting to his considerate lyrics.
HA! While not quite the guy who played to a packed CBGB’s Stevie can still write and perform a punchy ‘soft Rocker’ as the sad observations in I Ain’t Got Time proves in spades as tight as a drum band kick up a restrained fuss behind him; and yet again he makes that harmonica penetrate even the coldest of hearts.
It’s evident in the rye observations and subject matter throughout that Forbert isn’t courting the ‘Youth Market’ as he offers the same reflections on life that effect all of us these days, Only You, and You Alone proving that not just the kids can write a love song to touch the heart of us more mature of years.
Which brings me to the finale Music of the Night; which also happens to be the RMHQ Favourite Track here. Not just because of the rolling Honky Tonk piano and Twangtastic guitar fills; but the attention to detail he paints in a story of a man dreaming of returning to his hometown to see out his Golden Days.
This album shows a mature songwriter who is secure in his own self and writing and singing songs that will mean as much to the Older Generation; as he used to write for the Younger Generation; which we all used to be.
James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band
QUOTING SAGAN (Video Single)
Dead Records Collective.
We are often ‘late to the party’ here at RMHQ; but we like to think of it as ‘fashionably late’ when it comes to bringing you GREAT NEW MUSIC; as this the case here with the shiny new single from Glasgow’s James Edwyn & the Borrowed Band; QUOTING SAGAN which is the third single from their ‘highly acclaimed’ second album HIGH FENCES.
I say ‘Highly Acclaimed’ because we sadly managed to miss it when it was released earlier in the year; and most of our friends in Reviewland raved about it.
Thankfully the lads in the band have forgiven us and allowed us the chance to rectify that FAUX PAS with this EXCLUSIVE first viewing of the video; which accompanies an absolutely stunning song.
The band will be doing a Micro-Tour to promote the release, and we recommend you get yourselves along as it promises to be a cracking night out.