Jon Langford – FOUR LOST SOULS

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Jon Langford
FOUR LOST SOULS
Bloodshot Record

The Original Insurgent Country Punk With the Soul of a Poet Creates a Masterpiece.

Any release by Jon Langford is special; and this one is no different; but history may tell us it is very special indeed.
Our second favourite Welshman (Wyn Davies will always be #1) had always planned making a new record; but events during the week of November 8th 2016 sort of forced his hand. So along with a couple of musician friends he took advantage of a long standing offer and set off for the stifling heat of the Nutthouse Studio in Sheffield Alabama.
Four days later and after too many legendary Muscle Shoals legends and original Nashville Cats to mention had added their own little bits of magic this record was recorded……but is the world ready?
Poor Valley Radio opens proceedings and every single note from the musicians involved is Classy with a a capital C, and sets the tone perfectly for what is to follow.
For a Brit, Jon Langford has yet again managed to capture the undistilled essence of all that is great and timeless about Country Music in words and music in just over 3 minutes.
Although he is something of a literary Genius, not all of the songs here are to be taken absolutely literally …..remember Jon is a Welsh Poet at heart.
I wonder if it is because he is an ‘outsider Brit’ that allows Langford to understand and write about Americana in the way he does; In Oxford Mississippi finds Jon duetting with Tomi Lumsford (?) and his gruff voice and her pearlescent vocals combine on a dark song full of historical imagery that will spin your mind, as will the singing and story in I Thought He Was Dead too.
This ain’t no boring Folk album by any stretch of the imagination with the band going all Waco Brothers on Indestructible and the rollicking Halfway Home; with the former sounding a tad like Graham Parker in his prime to my ears.
There are no overtly political songs here; but when you unravel Fish Out of Water and Waste, you get a sense of the confusion many people in the USA must have felt when they heard the news of whom their new President was to be ……both are relevant to us in the UK too, btw.
If there’s any justice in the world, this album will become a huge bestseller (as it deserves) and my choice of ‘favourite song’ will prove futile to historians; but choose I will.
Originally I chose the beautiful rendition of Mystery; primarily because I know it from a Kelly Hogan album and as I’m working from a download without much info, I can’t tell you if it’s Bethany Thomas or Tawny Newsome whose amazing voice takes the song into a whole different stratosphere; but I’m actually going for the Twangtastic Natchez Trace as it’s just bloody brilliant!
Jon Langford now a resident of Chicago Town for nearly 30 years; but was born and bred in Newport, South Wales nearly sixty years ago. So regardless of whatever music he has produced over the last 40 years it has always had that gritty, Celtic working class spine to it…..and this latest Americana/Country release is no different; but perhaps even more more so.

Released September 22nd 2017
http://jonlangford.de/
https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/

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Jack Tempchin – PEACEFUL EASY FEELING

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Jack Tempchin
PEACEFUL EASY FEELING
Blue Elan Records

Songwriter Gracefully Reinterprets His Greatest Hits.

You may think you’ve never heard of Jack Tempchin; but you most certainly have. As the title track on this magnificent retrospective of his songs suggests; he actually wrote Peaceful Easy Feeling for the Eagles as well as co-writing several other of their huge hits with Glenn Frey and numerous others on Frey’s solo albums.
Personally I only discovered Jack when I reviewed his LEARNING TO DANCE album in 2015; and instantly fell in love with his story telling and warm, velvety and expressive voice.
Jack’s rendition of Peaceful Easy Feeling opens this record; and while the guitar picking is almost identical to the Eagles hit; Jack’s version is aged to perfection, and sounds like a weary but happy man slowly looking on life with a rye smile on his face; not the arrogance of youth which the ‘other’ version may have alluded to.
Not too bad an introduction to Jack’s work is it?
Another couple of songs primarily associated with the Eagles make appearances too, with Already Gone and It’s Your World Now with the latter closing the album in the most perfect and reflective manner a man can achieve.
The songs from the ‘Glenn Frey period’; I’m less well associated with; but Party Town sounds like a Country Rocker that I would have loved ‘back in the day’ and given the right set of circumstances (a sunny day and a fast car) could still have me pretending I was 30 years younger.
On one level another soft-rocker from that period Privacy, hasn’t aged very well, as it was written from the standpoint of a slightly paranoid Millionaire pop-star; but the message about the all covering CCTV and phone hacking touches all our lives; and Jack and Glenn have really captured that zeitgeist exceptionally well; and with Jack singing, he could be singing for me, you or him over there.
Jack’s relaxed approach to Part of Me, Part of You creates a beautiful song that made me look at my wife in a way I haven’t for a number of years. Gosh, Jack has a way of capturing ‘your feelings’ in a way you didn’t know existed until he speaks on your behalf.
While not everything here is actually a surprise; Jack’s versions most certainly and there are surprises around every corner; especially the two songs that took my breath away the first time I played this record a week ago.
The one ‘new song’ here is actually an old one; as it was a Hit for Johnny Rivers way back in 1977; Slow Dancing is a stunning piano led duet with Miss Rita Coolidge that takes sad into a whole new stratosphere and is my joint ‘favourite song’ here Soul Searchin, another duet, but this time with RMHQ favourite Janiva Magnuss. This one combines the Blue-Eyed Soul of Hall & Oates with the Eagles and comes out the other end as a timeless slice of classy Americana that’s just perfect for late night radio anywhere in the world.
I’ve got numerous albums by songwriters covering their hits made famous by others; but in the case of Jack Tempchin he has a voice and delivery that make his own songs his very own and occasionally here……whisper it…….better than the hit version.

PS It’s fascinating looking at the photos on the album sleeve of the young, handsome and hirsute young Jack and how he has evolved into the cool Silver Fox that he is today.

Released September 1st 2017
http://www.jacktempchin.com/

Ray Wylie Hubbard – TELL THE DEVIL

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Ray Wylie Hubbard
TELL THE DEVIL I’M GETTING THERE AS FAST AS I CAN.
Bordello Records

The Last Real Outlaw Shows His Undoubted Class.

It’s fair to say Ray Wylie Hubbard probably hasn’t had the commercial success that is songs have deserved across a 40 year career; but ask any singer-songwriter from the East Nashville Collective (or similar in other countries) and his name will usually be in the Top 3 of influencers.
At the tender age of 71 Ray is releasing his 17th album in a typical low-key manner with next to no advertising budget; but it shows the esteem the guy is held in that early reviews have been a ‘featured’ in the likes of Rolling Stone and all the big US newspapers.
If you don’t already know Ray’s ‘oeuvre’ don’t expect any Coldplay style productions, or twee Ed Sheeran ‘what a sad life I have’ songs here; Ray Wylie Hubbard has lived the life his Mother feared and come out the other side with a twinkle in his eye and voice that will send shivers down your spine.
Opening song God Looked Around finds Ray sounding like Johnny Cash’s rougher and gruffer brother, as the band pick out a spartan almost Native American beat in the background, and is the essence of what we know as Americana all wrapped up in 5 beautiful minutes.
Track #2 Dead Thumb King opens with the ingenious line, ‘I got some dope from Lightning Hopkins Grave/and some bones from a low black crow.’ Then the deadpan Hubbard goes on to narrate what can best be described as ‘The Great Americana Poem’ to a subtle yet stinging Country-Blues backing. The first time I heard it I actually had tears in my eyes.
Ray rasps and wheezes his way through a rascals long rakish life, from the time when he was ‘wild young and handsome/smoking cigarettes at thirteen’ through falling in love with Olivia and ‘settling down’ by opening The House of The White Rose Bouquet until her passing and everything goes to Hell again; and if you listen carefully there’s a majestic twist in the tail too.
While most noted these days for playing acoustically; but on The Rebellious Sons, Lucifer and the Fallen Angels (featuring some deeply gorgeous slide from son Lucas) and Old Wolf he shows he can still write and sing a classy Country Rocker better than plenty of guys half his age.
In a lesser writer’s hands Open G would be a ‘throwaway track’ but the way Ray explains (in song) how to play that damn guitar the way he does is absolutely fascinating; even though I’m not sure how often I will actually play it again; but I look forward to seeing and hearing it when in concert.
The title track Tell The Devil I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can, is a bit of a mouthful but is truly excellent and will appeal to musicians the world over in the way he dolefully tells the tale of an itinerant musician, ‘whose last band played the Clash, Kinks and Replacements/for kicks’ and he ‘met her in Ella/when he was opening for Son Volt’ add that to changing the strings on an ‘old Sunburst Gibson.’ It does it no harm that it’s a duet with Lucinda Williams and Eric Church is in there somewhere too!
The album closes as it starts with the rasping Ray, very much sounding his age and strumming an old acoustic guitar, looking back at his life; and even his possible future ‘place in Hell’ on In Times of Cold; a gorgeous duet with Lucinda Williams again. I don’t really know why but there is a majestic feel to this particular song, especially when he plays that harmonica like an Angel, which is why I’m picking at as my ‘Favourite track’ on a particularly fine album.

Released August 18th 2017
https://raywylie.com/

Steve Grozier – A PLACE WE CALLED HOME

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Steve Grozier
A PLACE WE CALLED HOME
1232 Records

The Dark and Edgy Side of Alt-British Country .

Things are certainly on the ‘UP’ at the moment for British Country Music with albums and EP’S regularly arriving at RMHQ, and a lot stand shoulder to shoulder with what is coming out of the USA these days.
When I say ‘Country’ I do NOT mean that Heavy Metal stuff with added banjo or pedal-steel that masquerades as Country Music; I mean the type where the song is the most important part of the equation and a song you can and should actually listen to.
Which brings us to this cracking 4 track EP from Glaswegian singer-songwriter Steve Grozier.
Opening song and current Single, Where The Roses Grow features some razor-sharp guitar in the mode of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings or perhaps The Old 97’s; but it’s the song itself that will capture your attention….and your heart.
A brooding tale that builds and builds across the four minutes and Grozier’s world-weary and emotional voice make for a song well worthy of late night radio; when you are feeling very sorry for yourself.
Next up is the classy Hardest Thing; which has a cool Canadiacana ‘feel’ to it, as the guitars threaten to ‘jangle’ but fall slightly short diverting your attention to Grozier’s lilting voice
The dark clouds remain for Nothing Feels The Same, a slow and melancholic ex-love song which includes the ‘killer line,’ “My love for you is still burning strong/but nothing feels the same,” and when you include some truly sorrowful pedal-steel, you know the relationship isn’t going to have a happy ending; something many of us have encountered over the years.
The claustrophobic title track A Place Called Home closes the EP, and the best has been kept for last. An angrily strummed acoustic guitar competes with the melancholic pedal-steel from Tim Davison on a song worthy of an ex-Eagle or Poco member. This song in particular needs an accompanying video shot in mono on a rain swept inner-city Glasgow Sunday afternoon……or at least that’s what it conjures up for me.
This is Steve Grozier’s 2nd EP and sounds like a man (and band) on the verge of a breakthrough to whatever the next level is in the UK…….a national tour? Hopefully.

Released September 1st 2017

https://stevegrozier.bandcamp.com/

 

Heather Lynne Horton – DON’T MESS WITH Mrs MURPHY

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Heather Lynne Horton
DON’T MESS WITH Mrs Murphy
At The Helm Records Ltd.

Hauntingly Lo-Fi Filtered Alternative Country Love Songs For the Broken Hearted.

Even after playing this album a couple of times I’d never have guessed that Heather Lynne Horton is half of RMHQ favourites The Westies and married to Michael McDermott, the other half of that inestimable ensemble.
The album opens with the windswept Murphy’s Law which floated out of the speakers on gossamer wings the first time I played it; but later on headphones a tightly wrapped story starts to unravel and I guess there will be even more surprises the more I listen over the coming months.
This is directly followed by Wheelchair Man a very dark story set to an ethereal piece of music; and I knew I couldn’t just let this be ‘background music,’ although I suppose it could work in that scenario; but then you would miss some very clever and intricate songwriting.
If you put your mind to it, this album isn’t an ‘easy listen’ but the effort is worth it when you discover the complex delights of Did You Feel That? Boomerang and Pauper Sky, to name but three songs that definitely deserve your attention.
More astute reviewers than me will be able to do a ‘compare and contrast’ with other female singer-songwriters of this ilk; but to me when I hear fragile songs like Flesh and Blood or Save The Rain I’m reminded of singer-songwriters like Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, possibly channelled through the early Cowboy Junkies albums…..but that’s just me.
I really want to proffer the ‘secret/hidden’ track as my favourite here; because it probably is…..but I won’t spoil it for you; just saying that it may be well worth letting I Wanna Die In Sleep carry on for a couple of minutes #wink.
So the accolade of ‘Favourite Track’ goes to F.U by default. As the title suggests it’s an ‘angry song;’ and quite rightly so when you hear the story unfold, but the way Heather gets her message across is never ‘shouty;’ but more that horrible ‘simmering rage’ way women have, that men like me will never understand……but fear.
DON’T MESS WITH Mrs. MURPHY is a fascinating album, with some wonderful songs that will touch the hearts of many souls who hear them, and will play over and over until the disc wears out.

Released UK September 15th 2017

Released USA July 21ST 2017

http://www.heatherhortonmusic.com

 

Ian Felice – IN THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS

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Ian Felice
KINGDOM OF DREAMS
Loose Records

“One of my best friends Steven K Driver, from Pop Beat Combo The Agency has spent the last four years or so trying to convert me into becoming a Felice Brothers fan…….so far without success; so it was only fair for me to ask him (nay….demand!) he listen to the debut album from singer Ian Felice and pass on his thoughts.”

Fans of the Felice Brothers have long marvelled at Ian Felice’s thin but soothing vocal delivery, pathos drenched, but rich in character. His first solo album ‘In the Kingdom of Dreams’ is the perfect vehicle for the front man to explore the softer elements of his song writing. The lyrics are as majestic and at times as obscure as Felice’s output with the band, but this feels more introspective rather than cinematic, if signs of the latter are evident.
The eponymous opening track sets the tone with its sparse balladry and apocalyptic imagery. It turns out that ‘The Kingdom of Dreams’ is part critique of the American Dream past and present and part escape for Felice himself. There is something more reminiscent of the tenderness and fragility of Simone Felice’s (on production duties, as well as drums and keys on the album) solo work than the raw energy of the Felice Brothers here.
‘21st Century’ is one of the stand out tracks on account of its wilful lyrical obfuscation ‘well, the aliens landed on election day and stole your Mother’s lingerie’. Sonically it is perhaps the track most reminiscent of the early Felice Brothers catalogue. As is so often the case it is clear that Felice’s tongue is firmly in his cheek; the instrumentation, including a saw, at odds with the postmodern hyperbole.
Much of the record seems personal; ‘In Memoriam’, ‘Signs of Spring’ and ‘Mt. Despair’ are heartfelt in their delivery and phrasing, but retain a sense of good humour. Ian Felice is a song writer in the Bob Dylan mould; enamoured with life’s contradictions and absurdities, provoking the listener to reconsider the world they take for granted. The most personal of all is ‘Water Street’, beautifully finger picked like ‘In the Kingdom of Dreams’ and ‘In Memoriam’, which deals with Felice’s fears as a husband and new father, starkly and poetically observed.
‘Road to America’ is a fun stomper but is not without its lyrical menace; in the breakdown section the ‘empire of Donald Duck’ finds itself juxtaposed against the ‘slaughterhouse of flies that fly in the skies’. But it is ok because everyone can sing-a-long with the catchy chorus ‘this must be the road that leads to America’.
Another stand out track is ‘Ten to One’, once again this is as superior lyrical work, but there is just a feeling that it might fly better with the full band in tow rather than as an acoustic number. Let’s hope the Felice Brothers get a shot at this one too. Nevertheless, it is easy to recognise that this is American folk song-writing at its cleverest.
‘In the Final Reckoning’ is a fitting end to the album with its minimalist instrumentation backing Felice’s poetic rambling. It is going to be fascinating to see how these songs translate live on Ian’s upcoming tour. As an album this stands up as a serious piece of work and important entry into the Felice canon. Felice Brothers fans will love this album, but will miss some of the band’s energy, even if the original line-up do feature throughout.

Those less familiar or taken with the band will discover a unique and talented folk singer-songwriter in Ian Felice.

Guest reviewer Steven K Driver.

Released 25th August 2017

Graham Stone – UNTIL THE DAY

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Graham Stone
UNTIL THE DAY
Self-Release

Gorgeous, Heartfelt Everyman Songs for Every Man and Woman.

As RMHQ is a ‘vanity project’ for me, I love receiving albums and gig invites from Musical Household Names; but first and foremost I still love the thrill of discovering a brand new artist and screaming their name from the Internet Rooftop.
Such is the case with Graham Stone from Richmond Virginia who first got in touch earlier in 2017 when he planned to  release a 5 track EP which never materialised; instead Graham managed to finance the recording of this full size album of 10 songs…..and it has turned my head 360 degrees, upside down and inside out!
The gritty intro to Canyonlands which starts the album piqued my interest; and when Graham’s ‘worn leather’ and world weary voice oozed from the speakers; I instinctively leaned over and turned the volume up to get the best benefits from this delicious slice of Americana Pie.
Even today, a full week after first listening to UNTIL THE DAY I still can’t think of anyone else that Stone’s distinctive voice actually sounds like……and that’s a positive around these here parts.
His songwriting is flawless with the title track Until The Day and the brooding Flowers in Montana being both being highly articulate yet easily accessible too.
Stone’s eye for detail comes to the fore in that latter song as well as the Cowboy song, Free and Homeward which could have been schmaltzy in lesser hands; becomes a wonderful tragic Country song in the hands of Graham Stone and band.
While most songs here are beautifully intense ballads, Stone threatens to ‘rock out’ in true Alt. Country style a couple of times; but always pulls back from the brink until On The Run which closes the disc……and in true Tom Petty or Eagles style he lulls you in with a stark and almost Gothic melody then……WHAM! The band let loose and I accidentally found myself punching the air the first time I heard the chorus!!!
Aha…..you say; but what is your ‘favourite song’? Well; dear reader it’s a tie between two songs which follow each other and sort of blend one into the other. Oddly enough they are both about very strong women in the songwriter’s life; but two very different characters. Strong Constitution is about a woman from, ‘old Caroline’ with a “Strong Constitution and steel in her spine/with a spirit more precious than jewels/she won’t take shit from a fool.” At times Stone’s description of this beautiful woman; his sister echoed my memories of my own Mother; as it probably will you with yours.
The other is a more up-tempo and rockier song, full of fuzzy guitars and punchy bass n drums; Kathleen Jean (from Virginny-i-a!).
Another exceptionally descriptive story of a woman once married to a ‘black haired guitar man’ who ‘left her with seven kids’. Stone’s Mother; for it is she sounds quite a gal….and a woman I’d loved to have met.
These two songs; and the rest of the album sound a bit like The Eagles or such singing a Tom Russell or Slaid Cleaves song……..possibly……I think.
Please, please, please buy this album…….it deserves a huge audience and Graham Stone deserves to bring this gorgeous and eloquent Alt. Country Music to the world at large!

Released July 28th 2017

https://www.grahamstonemusic.com/epk

Whitehorse – PANTHER IN THE DOLLHOUSE

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Whitehorse
PANTHER IN THE DOLLHOUSE
Six Shooter Records/Thirty Tigers

The Dark and Beautiful Side of Alt. Country.

A few years ago there was a slew of boy/girl Country duet album in the spirit of George & Tammy and Dolly & Porter; each had its merits but I fell deeply in love with ‘the one that got away’…….Whitehorse’s Self-Titled debut album, and tracks were regularly featured on my long gone radio show.
Subsequently the couple, Melissa McLelland and Luke Doucet have released another couple of well received albums; although they never arrived at RMHQ; and their solo careers have gone from strength to strength. So, it was with some excitement that I received this particular album; but with only really knowing them as a Classic Country Couple I wasn’t really prepared for the massive ‘leap to the left’ in their sound.
Epitaph in Tongues is a dark and aerie Lo-Fi song, full of beautiful harmonies, crunchy guitars and a song somewhere between the Cowboy Junkies and the Handsome Family. Strange at first; as it was so unexpected; but today…..WOW……the perfect accompaniment for a stormy Winter’s evening.
This is followed by a slightly chirpier track Boys Like You; but the use of loops and electronica still keep it away from even the Alt. Country mainstream as the couple use effects pedals and vocal inducers like Phil Spector on ‘ludes and strong coffee.
Once I’d got my head around it; I now love this album; especially the bitingly sharp Trophy Wife and the Gram influenced I Can’t Take You With Me (Charlene’s Theme).
Played loud in the car on a sunny day (and I did!) the quirky Pink Kimono is a great Country Pop tune; but the Electro-Country of Nighthawks and Kicking Down Your Door are sort of similar but so very modern they are almost Futuristic-Country…..and that’s a damn good thing in my humble opinion.
If I still had my radio show (and it’s a possibility kids) there are two songs here that I’d love to play for you; the beautiful and ethereal Grace and the wild and wacky Manitoba Death Star which is….well….it is what it is; and will scare some people and enamour others; which is surely what music is all about…isn’t it?
PANTHER IN THE DOLLHOUSE will and should appeal to fans of the Cowboy Junkies, Giant Sand, Barenaked Ladies and Jonathan Richman as everything here is of an incredibly high quality but way different from the norm; and the world is a much better place because of bands like Whitehorse who are prepared to take huge risks in the name of their Art.

Released UK August 4th 2017
Released Canada & US July 11th 2017
https://www.whitehorsemusic.ca/

Pickxen – SELEH (ep)

Selah

Pickxen
SELEH
Self-Release

Fairy Dust Sprinkled Southern Alt. Country.

What more can I say but my head still spins with excitement whenever I play Pickxen’s album PICKS n Vittles; so when John and Laura sent me their latest 6 track offering I did a little ‘Snoopy dance of joy’ in the kitchen!
The accompanying letter explains that this is actually a fascinating project; as the couple are releasing this ‘raw’ EP to raise enough funds to bring in a band a producer to ‘fill out’ the songs for release as a bona-fide album later in 2017……and I urge you to buy both; you won’t regret it.
Opening track ‘Cher Knee is the type of late night Country ballad that I dream of hearing in a darkened bar in the wrong side of town, as Laura Monk goes into heartbroken Linda Ronstadt, Lena Martell or Lynn Anderson mode, with some searing Redd Volkaert guitar licks in the background.
Oh dear…….I immediately had a lump in my throat as Laura’s immaculate voice wobbles on the repeated opening lines of “I read your letter in the rain” and it stayed there for the next three solid minutes. Unless there’s a puppy involved, Country songs don’t get any more Countrier than this……heartbreak by the numbers, and tears by the ton.
I’ve Fallen Away is another beautiful bittersweet Country Love Song that will grab you by the heartstrings then tug and squeeze them until you can’t draw breath; but you won’t care as Laura Monk truly has the voice of a teenage Country Angel.
As a man without a musical bone in my body, songs like BS for Breakfast amaze me. The opening line “Brussels sprouts for breakfast” and the Twangtastic guitar certainly caught my attention and the story of a brokedown relationship that follows is another 100% Classic Country song of misery and love and can only come from the heart; can’t it? Well….not exactly according to John’s letter, and without taking too much of the ‘magic’ away, the Brussels Sprouts bit is accurate then he let his imagination run away with him…….brilliant and I can’t do anything other than salute such a vivid imagination.
John Monk’s imagination runs riot on the final track Cedars of Lebanon, where he read a biography of WB Yeats then got to thinking about the Lebanese flag which features a Cedar tree which is a metaphor for the eternal qualities of life…..then he goes on to write another exceptional Country Song. How does he; and his like do it? I don’t really care; but it certainly enriches my life.
Which brings us around to my favourite song here; the Mavericks influenced Another You; a timeless melody and richly eloquent song that will appeal to Country, World and Pop Music fans alike if it was to get played on the wireless.
As I said at the beginning, the purpose of this disc (and downloads) is to raise funds for a more fleshed out, bigger sound for the proposed album; but as an un-musical music fan I would urge caution as in my humble opinion these stark and occasionally raw performances allow Laura’s voice to bring these often beautiful stories to life in a way that could get lost in the hands of an over enthusiastic producer.
Just a thought.

Released July 1st 2017
http://pickxen.com/

Peter Himmelman – THERE IS NO CALAMITY

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Peter Himmelman
There is No Calamity

Himmasongs

Peter Himmelman is an interesting cat. His voice may remind you of Declan
McManus channelling an amped up Randy Newman, his band sounds like a pub-funk E Street Band with a touch of Mink DeVille, and the man can seriously
write a song like nobody’s business. Add to this his compositions for film and
television, his series of children’s albums, his paintings—and the fact that he owns a company called Big Muse, that helps organisations to bring out the potential of their people with innovative thinking, team building, and leadership ability through the learning of songwriting—and you may have a true Renaissance Man.
A Renaissance Man who rocks, by the way.
THERE IS NO CALAMITY is Himmelman’s umpteenth album. Seriously, the man has
released a too many albums, compilations, soundtracks to easily keep track of,
and he’s been at this game since the 1970s, working with several bands as well as numerous solo projects. So to say that he knows what he’s doing, would be an
understatement. Produced by Steve Berlin, the sounds on this album are thick,
yet quick footed, the bass by Matt Thompson is snaky, fluid, thumping in a way
that makes this bass player want to practice a bit more than I already do, the
guitars are melodic and nasty, and the drums pound deliciously throughout.
Several of these tunes feature the kind of banging piano and lush keyboard
textures that you don’t hear enough of these days, and the background vocalists
are tight enough to do their job, yet loose enough to let go when required. Does
this sound like a host of contradictions? Yes, it does. The contradictions of rock ‘n’roll abound all over these songs. Hope and punishment, fear and dreams, the arcane and the profound, all played with near abandon, yet restrained just enough. Good car chase music. You ever see that movie Timerider? A motorcyclist is transported through time to America’s Old West. The soundtrack plays cowboy saddle ‘em ups for the modern day motorcycle shots and then shifts to contrasting hard rock when the dirty and bedraggled lowlife outlaws come on screen.
Himmelman and his band are somewhere in between, but smarter, no—make
that craftier. On the opening track “245th Peace Song” (which by the title alone
tells me Himmelman has a fine sense of humour, even on a song that has such a
serious subject matter) we get spit in your face vocals, thrilling harmonies (the
background vocalists must have had a blast putting these down) kick down your
door snare and some driving lead bass where you can nearly near the strings
digging into the neck the way I like. “Fear and Undoing” and “Rich Men Rule the
World” are deep piano burners, a bit of Ian Hunter in the choruses, some playful
Warren Zevon on the verses, and “Sacrificial” is a floor tom and distorted bass
throbfest where Himmelman lets it all out and pleads for answers, knowing the
world doesn’t work that way:
“How angry is too angry, how sweet is just too sweet?
How do you call out for love, when love feels like defeat?”
I know that Himmelman sounds nothing like Steve Earle, but I hear in these songs
the same kind of focused energy, a similar sense of responsibility of—not just to the music, but also the subject matter, and most importantly—the end result of the music. Which is to say creating art that hits you like a fist when you first hear it, and that also leaves a handhold on your heart. These are soulful tunes, full of wit and honesty, pluck and heart.

Rock on.

Released 11th August 2017

http://www.peterhimmelman.com/home.php

Guest reviewer The legendary Mr. Roy Peak