Curse of Lono at The Cluny, Newcastle

Curse of Lono
The Cluny II
May 17th 2022

For health reasons, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to leave the house on an evening to attend a gig; especially when the venue is a standing one; so the act has to be special to tempt me out these days.
Seeing the new version of Curse of Lono certainly ticks that box for me!
While I’d vaguely heard the name ‘Lucas & King’ I had no idea at all what to expect ….. so I was intrigued when two young women wandered onto the stage, which was packed with instruments.
Within seconds of their first song; Bo Lucas’s distinctive voice quietened the chatterers sitting behind me in the bleachers.
I say ‘distinctive’ and it is; but I could have also said ‘beautiful’ and/or ‘quirky’ but whichever; I and the Cluny crowd fell in love with it immediatly.
The other half of the duo; Hayleigh King plays a rather fabulous and Twangtastic style of guitar accompaniment too btw.
Obviously I didn’t know any of the song titles in advance; but one could have been called No Giving In; and was almost Avant Garde with Bo going full on Marianne Faithfull while Hayleigh added some really subtle Jazz influenced piano parts beside her …. and the reception from the sparse crowd was quite extraordinary.
Half way through the all too short set the couple dropped in a cover version…. and what a spectacular choice it was; Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang!
Six songs and every single one a winner and completely different from each other certainly putting Lucas & King on the RMHQ radar, that’s for sure.
After a short interval, as various members of the ‘new’ Curse of Lono’ band set up their various instruments Bo Lucas appeared too, sorting some leads that I presumed she’d left behind; only for her to plug one in as she was the backing vocalist!
I really should keep up to date with the news.
As the band started with a new and increasingly intense and hypnotic version Think I’m Alright Now, the room suddenly filled up with fans who had either been in the bar; or in the case of Clive ….. trying to get into Cluny I!
For the second song Steppin’ Out; Felix’s vocals somehow dropped an octave or two to create a fabulous air of musical mystery.
Without listing every song they played in their hour and a half on stage; but there was a fabulous mix of old and new songs; with the new members of the band expounding a new found energy in the older songs; none more so than Don’t Look Down and London Rain.
While I’ve loved Curse of Lono since the first play of their debut EP in 2016; yet I’ve never been able to ‘pigeon hole’ them.
Are they Americana? Possibly.
Are they Indie? Possibly
Are they Goths? Maybe (around the edges).
Are they Alt. Country? Maybe.
The only act I can really ever compare them too would be Nick Cave, which neatly brings me around to the duets, London Rain and So Damn Beautiful which weren’t a million miles away from Cave’s work with Kylie… yep they really were that good.
As you’d expect the new band members all got their moment in the sun; with Joe Harvey White mesmerising the audience with his intricate pedal steel playing; and when he played his Gretsch guitar, I swear I saw smoke coming off the strings on a few songs.
Dedicating 2018’s Way To Mars to his mentor, Chuck Prophet was as apt as it was a masterstroke as the cool harmonies and interplay between the rhythm section and the guitars was as extraordinary as anything the ex-Green on Red man has ever released.
Another would have to be the lustful and feisty Ursula Andress from the latest album; which took on a life of its own; which I didn’t expect.
After being off the road for over two pandemic laden years, this was quite an emotional night for both band and audience; which really showed by the reaction to both encores Man Down and the pumped up Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride.
As I tried to make a discrete exit it proved difficult as I had been standing next to the merch desk which was suddenly surrounded by fans trying to buy t-shirts, CD’s and (reasonably priced) LP’s.

Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst HEY!

Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst
Silent City Records

Putting the Alt. Into the Dark Heart of Americana

For someone who lurks in the musical shadows rather than headlining festivals; I really look forward to Steven Casper’s albums; and it seems I’m always surprised and pleased with the contents in equal measure.
Yet again he’s pulled together a bunch of nothing less than ‘interesting songs’ that have kept me entertained on a couple of longish car journeys in the last few days.
The band kick things off with a raucous rendition of Absolutely Sweet Marie; which owes a lot more to the Jason & The Scorchers Cowpunk version than it does Bobby Dylan’s original.
This is followed by the first of Casper’s own songs; the maudlin and haunting By Your Side which somehow puts the Alt. straight into the dark heart of Americana in the way the Folkie instrumentation and Casper’s woeful vocals tell a sad, sad tale of his feelings as and after his Mother died, pre-pandemic.
This leads us further into the shadows with Cold Dark Hole which could easily be a lost The Band track that’s dusted off for the 21st Century not least because of the Garth Hudsonesque organ that sweeps and swoops in and out like the Angel of Death;
You can be her Samson or her Romeo
You can pick your poison and see how that goes
Her fingers beckon you closer and somehow you know
That you’re gonna wind up lying in a cold dark hole.

When it finally arrives Howling at The Moon is actually a bit of light relief; as Steven recounts his teenage days ‘feeling free ….. with wine, weed and friends being the only things he needed.”
The album closes with another dark and very personal missive about the breakup of a relationship; that will touch the hearts of many who hear it; as the singer pours his heart out ….
It’s so damned hard to say goodbye
And it’s hard to let go of all the things that you know
It’s so damned hard to say goodbye
Seems a long long way From the life that we made and I can’t find my way
Can’t find my way. 
Tucked away in the middle are a couple of absolute corkers that raise the bar for what we know about Americana and even Alt. Country; the first, Easy sounds like it could have been a Sturgill Simpson/Jason Isbell co-write late one Friday night; and the title track Hey! with its crunchy guitars and powder keg drumming and bass aligned to Casper’s distinctive singing style is a sure fire end of show ‘punch the airathon’ that the songwriter can be really proud to have created.
Yet …. there is still one other song that tops both of these…. ‘how could that be?’ You might well ask; but with the stunningly and starkly beautiful Motherless Child Steven Casper enters brand new and slightly dangerous territory; but the addition of Linda McCrary Fisher performing a mother’s cry is absolute genius on a lo-fi rendition that will having you holding your breath so as not to spoil the mood that the collective have created.
Hence, Motherless Child is by far my Favourite Song on a really special album.

Released 6th May 2022



Brock Davis
A Song Waiting To Be Sung
Raintown Records

Intimate, Personal and Imaginative Songs That Create a Musical Novella

On the day this album was released we had a choice between 14 albums to review …. which left me feeling a bit like Damocles in the Bible; having to choose what to review and what to miss out.
But you can thank my trusty IPhone for picking out a track from this release last night on my way home from work ….. which in turn reminded me how much I’d enjoyed the album a month or so ago.
When you know a little of Davis’s background it helps appreciate the cathartic way he confronts childhood trauma; the demise of an unsustainable marriage; and recent years going 100 miles an hour running a Silicon Valley startup and coming out the other side relatively unscathed.
Straddling Country Rock and Americana storytelling with ease; the album starts with I Choose Love, a delicate and introspective tale about his divorce; but with the narrator choosing to remember their early days and the love and happier times that they had once shared; but no longer can.
Davis immediately cranks up the tempo on the following track Can’t Get Close Enough To You which actually ‘punches well above its weight’ as Davis shows his powerful vocal range on a blistering song that reminded me a bit of a Bob Seger track; whose name I can’t remember!
Later Brock treads a similar, but much softer and path with Second Time around; as Brock sings about a real life ‘second chance’ love affair; which was the track my IPhone played; and a song I’ve come back to it a few times in the intervening days.
I love the way Davis uses and changes the mood right throughout the album; he drops in Soft Rockers like Bet on Love and the intense We Will Rise while surrounding them with beautiful passionate and powerful Marking Time and I Get It Now; which somehow seem more intimate when juxtaposed alongside the more commercial numbers.
Because of the variety in Davis’s writing selecting a Favourite Song has been as difficult as usual.
At first it was going to be the brooding title track; A Song Waiting to Be Sung, which builds and builds until it becomes a crescendo; and it’s immediately followed by the beautiful Your One and Only Life; which is for and about the singer’s daughter ….. and will touch the heart of many who hear it.
Then; there is the bravest song I’ve heard in years …… Bullets and Blood.
The first night I heard it I couldn’t believe my ears ….. and had to take it back to the beginning and listen intently!
The melody is as Country as Country gets ….. but the lyrics will set your average redneck’s hair on end; as Brock dictates a story of ‘the love that cannot be named’ …… sadly in 2022, Gay Love is still a taboo subject and I applaud Brock Davis for having the chutzpah to not just write this song but release it too …. and for that it’s my Favourite Song here.
There’s a lot going on in Brock Davis’ songs, with no two being not just the same; but not even similar; yet when arranged like this create a musical novella; worthy of a much bigger audience than the album is; sadly likely to receive.

Released March 11th 2022



The HawtThorns
Tarot Cards & Shooting Stars
Mule Kick Records

Enough Twangtastic Country Rock To Make a Grey February Day Feel Like a Sunny Day in July or August.

Husband and wife duo KP & Johnny Hawthorn both had reasonably succesful solo careers before teaming up for their debut album under the joint name The HawtThorns in 2019 MORNING SUN, of which we said “The Perfect Soundtrack For a Charming Country Saturday Night” and three years and a pandemic later; the same could be said of this album.
Unlike most everyone else in the Alt. Country scene, KP & Johnny certainly aren’t afraid of a hook and a melody to accompany their sharply observed songs; starting with opener All The Right Reasons; which while having elements of 70’s and 80’s Country Rock in it – The HawtThorns actually have their own distinctive style and sound; unlike anyone else I can actually think of.
This is one of those rare albums that has songs like Lotta Love, This One is Ours and the Twangtastic On The Way; which features the name of the album in the very catchy chorus; that can actually make a grey February day feel like a sunny Sunday in July or August.
While I was super impressed with their debut; even having it in the car last Summer when we were allowed a little bit of freedom; after a week of fairly intense listening this album the songs seem to have a more mature ‘feel’ to them; which is fair enough as a lot has happened in the interim years and the HawtThorns plus assorted collaborators have had a lot of time on their hands to make songs like Let’s Get Together, Baby It’s a Gift and the introspective One Human At a Time mature, evolve and end up being fully rounded and very easy on the ear, even if the message is a tad on the dark side.
Harking back to their imaginative use of hooks and melodies; The HawtThorns really do sound as if they want every single song to be the type of thing you’d turn the dial up a couple of notches if they came on the car radio ….. which is exactly what I did last week when the punchy Keep It Alive came on one night on the way home from work.
Which neatly brings me to my Favourite Track, which was going to be the album finale When Georgia Cries, as it’s a stunningly beautiful Country song worthy of a cover by Linda Ronstadt or Emmylou Harris; but until that happens I’m more than happy to hear KP Hawthorn’s delightful voice whenever possible. But; one that nearly got away, the delightful and breathy duet The One That Got Away caught me off guard last night as I was feeling very sorry for myself with a dastardly mix of a Cold and Covid. Obviously as a duet I could lazily compare it to Gram and Emmylou, and that wouldn’t be a million miles away; but KP and Johnny’s voices which should be polar opposites combine here like a Prairie Wind on a suitably charming tale of lost love, which will melt the hardest of hearts.
In some ways this is ‘more of the same’ from their 2019 debut; but on repeated plays, I promise you that this album will reveal hidden treasures on every single play.

Released February 25th 2022


Kate Ellis SPIRALS

Kate Ellis
River Rose Records

More Sad Songs to Make You Happy From Another 5 and Dime Somewhere Close to Home.

Normally I avoid Press Releases until well after I’ve played an album twice; and then it’s generally a quick skim to fill in some background; but in this case it was lying on the table next to me and a quote from Lyric Magazine jumped out at me ….. “Think Nanci Griffith … with a twist.”
Obviously I immediately thought “I will be the judge of that!” but of course it meant I had to listen there and then.
The gentle opening track, Can’t Not is actually in the playground I associate with Ms Griffith; but it and a lot of what follows reminds me of Gretchen Peters; the phrasing and breathy vocals especially and of course; the ever so sad lyrics, which will bring a tear to a glass eye.
I won’t get hung up on comparisons if I were you; as it turns out Kate Ellis has a very distinctive voice of her own and boy oh boy can she write a song to melt your heart.

Born in Louisiana, raised in NYC and now settled in London Town, Kate appears to have absorbed the musical ether from all three areas and is now using them as a musical Super Power. Even from track #2 Bluebirds and Rye she creates a Country-Folk love song that sounds like it should be from the swamps; but there’s also an urban edge to her observations, plus the instrumentation gracefully drifts between Country and Celtic with haunting ease.
As a music ‘fan’ I’ve always been impressed by the way a songwriter can see the same things in life as I do; but turn even the mundane into a thing of rare beauty ….. and Kate Ellis is one such talent.
The charming I Am The Tree, written after the writer’s Mother died; captures the emotions associated with such an event quite perfectly; and the album closer The Story You’ve Been Told (which is the nearest to a Nanci Griffith song here) niftily describes the way we see ourselves juxtaposed against the way others might see us …… it’s different and will benefit from being heard in isolation.
The bouncy and bittersweet Other Side of the Street on the other hand is written by her friend Tom Hackwood; and the way Kate sings it captures the competing emotions we feel/felt the first time we saw someone as a prospective lover.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of thought goes into synching the songs on an LP; and that comes to the fore in the middle when the gently retrospective Wonderland is followed by the punchy and evocative Honky-Tonky danceable hellraiser Scars and the mini song-cycle closes with Wolf which is breathtaking in the way Kate describes depression in a way that will resonate with fellow sufferers and hopefully make others appreciate how we feel on days like that.
Albums and indeed, artistes like this are the reason the likes of us here at The Rocking Magpie exists; you are unlikely to hear Kate Ellis on the radio and unless she has deep pockets, you’re not going to read reviews in national magazines or newspapers; and that’s a damn shame as you would then miss out on two really special songs; which I’m letting tie as my Favourites.
The title track Spirals has a delicious melody that will reel you in; and sooner or later the deceptive story, which again touches on depression; but is mostly about ‘growing up’ ….. no matter how late in life that happens and is worthy of any of Ms Ellis’s peers in the songwriting spectrum.
The other is a troubling song I ‘got’ straight away; Another Way; about a Father who is constantly angry and confused; frightening his child …… but who in turn looks back on his life with great sympathy.
Man ……. I can think of 5 or 6 household names that have tried to write such a song and never got close to the emotions Kate Ellis describes while still keeping the tale eminently listenable; regardless of the darkness in her words.
Let’s go back to the comparison with Nanci Griffith. I know exactly where that reviewer is coming from; as this album will sit comfortably alongside my Nanci collection; but Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gretchen Peters, Amelia White and Tift Merritt are all on that shelf too … and Kate is there on merit.

Released February 18th 2022



Massy Ferguson
Joe’s Meat and Grocery
North & Left Records

Stacking The Shelves With a Huge Pile of Irresistibly Catchy Alt. Country Rock and Indie Anthems.

I’m hitchin’ a late ride with this rockin’ twangin’ Seattle band of four, as it’s their 6th album release to date.
Grabbing my attention even before I press play is the striking cover depicting guitarist Adam Monde’s Grandpa at his store in small town Wenatchee, WA circa 1900.
I’m always sold on any band who puts their heritage on the front row and it’s an easy stroll right into their world.

These dozen songs delightfully bounce around a multitude of punchy, punky, roots and grungy Americana rock with their Country Folk influences always at the core.
What binds them all is the quite infectious, chart worthy melodies and real life downright honest storytelling.

The dynamically upbeat anthem opener Miles Away launches us down the Rock n Roll highway at full speed as the drum beat kicks in. Maturely crafted Alt. Country, Ethan Anderson’s powerful vocal rings out with cautious optimism for change:

we were broke before this sickness and I don’t think that will change, but there’s a fire in the thicket and the kettles burning hot.”

The album draws us in deeper with recurring themes of journeying, both in the physical and emotional sense, hitting home hard for many at this point in time.
Saved What Couldn’t Be Saved is a woeful tale of a man’s personal journey heading for self- destruction yet musically the playful guitar riff dances around the melody balancing out the lyrics with a hint of optimism implying that all is not lost.
Roll A Hard Six is an energetic bluesy rock number building up to an intensely fast plateau of flute, Fred Slater’s keys and Dave Goedde’s tribalesque drumming, lyrically spelling out a path with tough choices ahead and no easy short cuts.
In complete contrast Off To See Rose, inspired by the birth of Adam’s niece, opens in that acoustic gentle picking Alabama sweet spot and the heartfelt harmonious vocals transport us to a beautiful world catching the sun rise, the new dawn being that special person who is gonna save us:

Watching crowds of people as they pass, sitting here barefoot in the grass, so I go off to see Rose, I don’t know who decides these things cos I’ve been running half my life, can she find a cure for that”

Musically there are many surprises along the highway, Leave If You Want To and I Don’t Know Why are delightfully bathed in the Indie New Wave early Cure/ Echo and the Bunnymen beach tide.
Backspin shows a hauntingly darker side, ‘90’s guitar grunge with yet another impactful vocal delivery, verging on demonic harmonica playing and transcending into a near psychedelic frenzy.
Powerful through and through and that’s in addition to referencing The Rocking Magpie’s home spot Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Sister Roll Up carries on this vibe superbly, the wolf-like howling harmonica getting the goosebumps going. The drums arrive late for maximum effect and I can almost hear a trace of The Smiths in the undergrowth.

A tall order to pick my favourite cut on this exceptional release but the Folk Country gem Fire of Life narrowly wins for its infectiously pleasing melody, the concentrated manic bursts of fiddle teamed with the immediate shift change straight down to first gear, a delicious slow pace.
I could happily imagine myself getting confused on the dancefloor to this at their first ever gig, a local farmers market where they received a fruit basket as payment.
It is inevitable that I’ll want to stock up on their back catalogue now that I am a converted loyal customer at Grandpa Joe’s pit stop.
One not to drive past without calling in.

Review courtesy our latest Rocking Magpie; Anita Joyce
Released 25th February 2022


Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes AS LONG AS IT’S NOT US

Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes
As Long As It’s Not Us
Social Family Records

Stateless Alt. Country From The Hidden Dark Soul of Australia

While not quite being there at the beginning of Australian band Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes’s illustrious career; but we did join in circa 2015 with a very positive review of their BLACK COFFEE album in Maverick Magazine; and we followed that up with an even more praiseworthy review of SOME GIRLS a few years later on these pages; which I tagged as “Deep and Dark Uneasy Listening for the Discerning Music Lover;” which it was and made me very excited when this disc arrived last week; a couple of weeks after its Australian release.
The opening track has a very intriguing title, OK To Love and the song itself follows a very intriguing path about someone with a broken heart tentatively re-starting their life; and Bryan sums up the emotional turmoil therein very very eloquently; and the beautifully melancholic arrangement, that all bodes well for what is to follow.
This is immediately followed by the magnificent title track AS LONG AS IT’S NOT US, which borders on the darker fringes of Alt. Country; but pulls back from the brink in a manner that draws the listener in like a moth to a flame. Presumably a biographical tale from Lachlan; it’s also a story that many of us on the outside can connect with as the story unravels.
Without having sat down and listened to all three previous albums back to back; I feel that the band have certainly matured and listened to a lot of other contemporary Alt and Country Music in the years since I first heard that BLACK COFFEE album; with influences now ranging from Giant Sand to Sturgill Simpson via Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell being apparent here and there; but never overwhelming the band’s distinctive groove on Quit While We’re Ahead and/or The Road or anything else.
When I play these review albums I tend to imagine where and when I would hear them played live; and with these songs I can easily picture sitting in a darkened theatre or concert hall listening to the prescient I Found God, The Understudy or more likely Never Said a Word; because they deserve the intimacy such a venue gives; no chitter chatter or people ordering from the bar at the back of the room.
Sitting here writing and listening on a cold and wet Autumn morning; I find myself keep wanting to use the word ‘impressive’ over and over again; and I don’t know why I’ve shied away from using it; as I can’t think of a better word to describe the way not just Take It Out On Me with it’s McGuinn flavoured jangly guitars and the New York meets New South Wales inspired I Went Down are not just constructed, but conveyed too; but the album as a whole too.
Then there are another two really exceptional songs that are squabbling inside my head for the title of Favourite Song; the one that will probably lose by a hair’s breadth is the dark and almost painful Weighing On Me which even by Alt. Country standards is heartbreaking beyond belief; and all the more moody because of the piano and shuffling drums in the background ….. prepare to cry!
The actual Winner of the accolade is a song that I was drawn to by the title alone; You Remind Me of Myself which is a phrase I’ve found myself using more and more in recent years; and the song could nearly be autobiographical in many ways; but I also feel that it will to a great many people who get to hear it ….. and that’s a sign of a genuinely ‘great song’ isn’t it?
I’ve said it many times in the last few years that some of the best Alt. Country I hear doesn’t necessarily come from America; and this album is a case in point; as it is Stateless, certainly not sounding Australian but no paean to America either; just a medium to get their intricate and personal stories across to the widest audience possible.

Released September 2021


Malcolm Holcombe TRICKS OF THE TRADE

Malcolm Holcombe
Tricks of The Trade
Need To Know Music

Warm, World Weary, Thoughtful and ….. as Dangerously Honest as Ever.

Q) When is a new release, not a new release?
A) If it’s been released before.

But, if; as in this case something was released as a Limited Edition LP; just before the artist took seriously ill, therefore delaying the CD/Downloads coming out; and an unrelated pandemic stopped any promotion and an accompanying tour can take place; would that mean we can count TRICKS OF THE TRADE as a new release?
YES is my answer.
Mercifully Malcolm has come through his operation uncommonly well and I can now breathe a sigh of relief and treat this as ‘just another’ of his releases.
Money Train which opens the album finds our hero in his trademarked ‘piss n vinegar’ angry at the moneymen who rule the world mode; and boy can he write and perform something like this without sounding ‘worthy’ or ‘earnest’ ….. he just ‘speaks for the common man and woman.’
God Bless Him.
I forget how many albums Malcolm Holcombe has previously released; but in recent years he’s had something of an epiphany; writing better than ever; and this album has some belters on it.
Crazy Man Blues and the title track Tricks of the Trade are as good and eminently as ‘listenable’ as anything I’ve heard from the singer in the last 15+ years; and when you finally get to hear Your Kin and Good Intentions you will think you are listening to someone who is evoking the ghost of Townes Van Zandt; and to some great extent he is.
Malcolm has been around long enough not to really need comparisons; but I can’t hear him now without thinking he’s carrying that very torch better and longer than anyone else.
Traditionally a Folk Singer at heart; the arrangements are very sympathetic to Malcolm’s voice of course; but on many songs he transcends Americana and goes seamlessly into Alt. Country with the greatest of ease; especially noticeable on Damn Rainy Day and the magnificent On Tennessee Land; which is the type of song Johnny Cash would have given his eye-teeth for during the American Album series.
The ‘Bonus Track’ here Windows of Amsterdam is one of ‘those songs’ along with Lenora Cynthia that I can only imagine Malcolm Holcombe writing and singing.
For a million reasons this is a very special album indeed; and there are two very special songs here too; and I can’t seperate them so my selection of Favourite Song is a tie between the punchy Higher Ground, which features the joint talents of Mary Gauthier and Jaimee Harris on the exceptional ‘Higher Ground’, bringing home its reckoning on the final chorus:
I got freedom to choose
I got freedom to lose
I got freedom to choose
higher ground.
T’other caught me unawares the first time I played the album; as Misery Loves Company was the perfect soundtrack to how I was feeling that day; but as the days have gone by it’s become a beautiful heartbreaker of a good old fashioned Country drinkin’ song worthy of Hank or more recently Kris Kristofferson …..
I’ve tasted and I’ve wasted
the good life that I had
my poor selfish drinking
made a rich ol man go mad…I passed out and I cried out
my God what have I done
she’s gone… I oughtta be on tv
with a guitar strummin’ smile
cause misery loves company when the neon’s burnin’ bright.
It’s far from a criticism; but the arrangement and backing band; as usual are quite exceptional here and throughout the album too; but I’ve only ever seen Malcolm perform solo; and these songs ain’t gonna sound anything like this when he goes off on one, attacking his acoustic guitar as if it has personally offended him and bringing it on home unlike just about anyone else I can think of these days .
That said; as an album that you will listen to in the comfort of your home …. and you will; the Production team of Brian BrinkerhoffDave Roe and Jared Tyler have managed to make Malcolm’s wheezy growl sound the way the Grand Old Man of Americana should; warm, world weary, thoughtful and above all else ……. dangerously honest.

Released August 20th 2021

Vinyl –


Little Richard
Southern Child
Omnivore Recordings

The King of Rock & Roll Was the Forefather Of Alt. Country Too!

Those fine folks at Omnivore recordings sure have the ability to unearth some forgotten gems; often hidden away in Record Company vaults covered in dust and spiders.
As a for instance, who knew the self-proclaimed King of Rock and Roll recorded so many albums in the 1970’s and that one; this one ……. was what we have come to know as Alternative Country?
Apart from appearing on a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ compilation in 2005, SOUTHERN CHILD has been hidden from public view ever since it was recorded in 1972 as a follow up to King of Rock & Roll; but rEPRISE label executives didn’t know what to make of it; and I’m damn sure his legions of fans wouldn’t have either!
If you had accepted a lift from Marty McFly in his DeLorean that year and landed in 2020 (God forbid!!) you’d have discovered that what Little Richard was doing then; is actually now commonplace; in fact if I was to do a ‘blind tasting’ I swear 9 out of 10 music cats would think this was from Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed or St. Paul and the Broken Bones or their like; but ….. Hell’s Teeth music lovers; this is … and only can be Little Richard.
When he bellows “I was born in the Country and raised in the County!” at the start of California (I’m Comin’) there’s that instant thrill that you’re in the presence of someone really special.
This song in particular just oozes the smells of the swamps and roadhouses that line them; Little Richard just bleeds sleaze and sass in every line and stanza.
Track #2 will stagger his old school fans; as it’s a lot slower and based around an acoustic guitar; although the rather amorphous title, If You Pick Her Too Hard (She’ll Go Out of Tune) and the way he sings it, could easily be a double entendre.
I’ve listened to this as a ‘brand new album’ and you should too; otherwise you end up in a rabbit hole comparing and contrasting with things that don’t actually exist.
This was obviously a very brave change of direction from the Master; and one that backfired …….. but when I first heard the title track Southern Child and I Git a Little Lonely I genuinely and absent mindedly thought “I would love to see this guy live belting these out at SummerTyne Festival.”

But the whole album sounds so fresh; and often exciting too …. with the soul searching Ain’t No Telling and an early contender for Favourite Track status; Last Year’s Race Horse (Can’t Win This Year’s Race) which metaphorically touched places most other songs can’t for a man my age.
In fairness I could live without ever hearing Puppy Dog Song again (and that’s true of the 3 In The Name outtakes too; but that’s more than recompensed with by the addition of the Country Rock fantastique instrumental Sneak the Freak tagged on at the end.
For my actual Favourite track her I’ve been torn between In The Name (take #3) which sees Penneman pouring his heart out alongside some sublime slide guitar and a wailing harmonica; and becomes as harrowing and Soul searching as Country Music gets. Yet at the other end of the Love Song spectrum; Burning Up With Love is a right ybelter; and I’m going for the latter as it sounds as fresh and truly exciting as anything the young ‘uns in this category will release in the next 2 or 3 years; which is amazing when you consider that it’s nigh on half a century old and initially; wasn’t deemed good enough for release.
Once you get past the album cover; which is ‘of its time’ and very, very Little Richard; you are in for a right royal treat from the one time King of Rock and Roll who; apparantly was the forefather of Alt. Country too.

Released (yellow vinyl) November 27th 2020
Released (CD & Stream) December 5th 2020

West on Colfax BARFLY FLEW BY

West on Colfax
Greenhorse Records

The New Sound of the North West.

As a general rule we like to receive an album about a month before release here at RMHQ, then we can give the songs the time they deserve to mature and then get a fair and honest review (or get left by the wayside – sorry).
But occasionally, unsigned Independent artists will discover us via a review of a Major League act and get in touch.
Trying to fit those albums into the itinerary is difficult; but my good old fashioned ‘guilt’ takes over and a cursory play in the car, with the fast-forward button can be a test/trial.
That’s what happened here ……… and the FF button was only used once!
In their bio, West of Colfax admit to originally being an Americana ‘Covers Band’ …….. which is a great apprenticeship of course; but I have no recollection of ever having seen an actual Americana ‘Covers Band’ ; Country – yes, Blues – of course, but Americana?
Any hoot …. when I played track #1 for the second time (in early July 2020) the the opening line of verse four, and the actual song title made my jaw drop and my ears pop wide open!
Choke Hold? CHOKE HOLD? Was this cool and Twangy ‘love song’ really called Choke Hold? Yes it is; and was undoubtedly written long before George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, and is actually quite a neat metaphor for the feeling at the start of a new love affair …….. but with the benefit of hindsight!
That apart this young band from Preston in NW England have used their ‘Covers Band’ schooling exquisitely; conjuring up genuine Americana imagery on every song here and they sure do know how to use a melody.
Best played on a long car journey, Tyre Tracks and the title track Barfly Flew By really come into their own, zipping along like a rusty MGBGT with the roof down on a sunny day.
But, West on Colfax have many more strings to their bow; the Bluegrass imbued Back Out On the Run is like a breath of fresh mountain air when it arrives; and the out and out Love Songs, This Ole Heart, Misty Morning Blue and Tinsel Heart couldn’t be any more different if they tried, with the former being a campfire Folk Song and the latter two jaunty Honky-Tonky toe-tappers.
To some degree singer Alan Hay’s flat Northern accent, which he makes no attempt to disguise; may divide listeners, but I like his style a whole damn lot and I doubt my Favourite Song here, the charming Cowgirl of the Country would or could sound any more evocative or touching if in a Tennessee or Montana voice.
Yet again we appear to have unearthed another little gem; and a British one at that ……… check them out on Bandcamp, then I’m pretty sure you will find yourself pressing ‘buy’ long before the final notes fade away into the night air.

Released June 17th 2020