Boo Ray
Tennessee Alabama Fireworks
BRRB Music

Sparkling Country Tearjerkers and Heartbreakers.

Admit it; if you were in a record store and saw an album called Tennessee Alabama Fireworks by a guy called Boo Ray you’d pick it up, wouldn’t you?
I thought so…… and then you’d probably ask the assistant if you could hear a couple of tracks?
Trust me, as soon as you hear the pedal-steel that opens the catchy Truckin’ Tune; A Tune You Can Whistle it would have you reaching for your wallet; and when Boo Ray’s raspy vocals trample all over the Twangy geetar you would be throwing your cash across the counter and not waiting for the disc to put in a bag!
Well; that’s how I felt.
Boo Ray? I’ve not heard of him before; but that’s obviously my loss as he puts the Americana into Ameripolitan or whatever we are calling Country Music these days. He’s got a mighty clever way with words, as he croons all over the mellow ballad Honky Tonk Dream, then kicks up a storm on the apologetic love song 20 Questions without letting you catch your breath.
I haven’t checked, but I picture Boo Ray hiding behind a big ole pair of Aviator glasses; possibly even the Elvis type as he hides his tears on Gone Back Down to Georgia and the heartbreaking We Ain’t Got The Good too.
To all intents and purposes Don’t Look Back and Out Run the Wind is the type of Country Music you pray to hear in a bar on a Tuesday night, when there are more people on stage than in the audience, and those who are there, are there because they don’t want to go home; and Boo Ray sings from the heart just for them.
All of these songs could easily find their way onto those shiny albums that those guys with designer stubble and made to measure Stetson hats bring out every few weeks; but none of them can find the pathos in She Wrote the Song the way Boo Ray does; and when he sings,
“it’s the pain pills that took away my sweetheart/
it gives me cold chills/
I think I’m gonna leave a star.”
you will have cold chills yourself.
The biggest surprise for me here; is that the songs come in at 6, 7, 8 or even 9 minutes long; but don’t worry that this is a Prog whig out….. not in the slightest; Boo Ray just lets his songs breathe and develop in a way very few others are allowed these days; and my own favourite song Skin & Ink which closes the disc is a mighty 8 minutes and 19 seconds long; but like everything that has gone before it…… not a single word or note shouldn’t be there.
If you are of my generation and discovered Country Music via the Country Rock acts of the late 70’s and 80’s like the Allmans, Skynard or Creedence then this album is meant for you. Great songs, sung with passion and from the heart by a leathery voice and a band that has the ability to stop your heart on a whim.

Released 15th February 2019



Amelia White
White Wolf Records

Mmmmmm, Smokey and Sultry Songs of Love, Life and Grief.

Sometimes it’s difficult to put into words why you like a particular singer or band; but with Amelia White her voice tugged at my very heartstrings the first time I heard it 5 or 6 years ago; and the stories she tells and the way she sings them makes me go weak at the knees every time they come out of the office Hi-Fi.
RHYTHM OF THE RAIN is Amelia’s 8th album in nearly twenty years and ( #SpoilerAlert ) is by far her most mature and probably the best I’ve heard.
The intro to opening track Little Cloud Over Little Rock sounds like a cool Indie Alt. Country band is about to kick in; them Amelia’s haunting and slightly smokey voice filters out of the speakers and a whole new aura envelopes the proceedings.
The story is full of intimate detail you’d normally associate with writers like Dylan and Joni or maybe Springsteen; not someone you’ve probably never heard of before. The character in the song has ‘dyed black hair and ear feather rings/she’s gotta put three kids through school/she’s sipping on the sly/to keep her cool’…..see what I mean? And it’s got a cool melody too.
Songs like Sinking Sun and Yuma probably sum up my feelings about Amelia White best; not quite Southern Gothic, but pretty damn close and with a swampy Country feel to them too; sort of as if Bobbie Gentry was singing her saddest songs with Creedence backing her.
There are Love Songs here aplenty; but not the ‘Moon in June’ type; these are dark and mysterious; the type you find later in life……listen to Sugar Baby and Supernova without getting a shiver down your back, and you are a stronger person than I am.
If this is your type of music; and I presume it is if you are still reading this far; you will absolutely love the title track Rhythm of the Rain; and my personal ‘favourite’ song here…….Let The Wind Blow, which closes the proceedings. In theory a simple enough song until you listen a second time, and even more intently the third and fourth times as a gorgeous story unfolds and unravels like a magical fairytale.
While these songs were written long before Amelia went into the studio; but when you realise that this album was written in the four short days between her Mother’s funeral and her own wedding; you will find an extra special spirituality in the way she delivers these beautiful songs.

This is finally being released in the US of A with a brand new cover and the the addition of one new song, Pink Clouds a charming duet with RMHQ favourite Will Kimbrough which, if you’re patient runs out into a rather special treat for Amelia White fans…….

Released UK October 27th 2017
Released US January 25th 2019

John Kilzer SCARS

John Kilzer
Archer Records

Melodious and Introspective Songs From the Recesses of a Dark Soul.

Now I’ve played this album a couple of times I’ve now read the accompanying Press Release and it’s a good job I’ve done it in that order; as who wants to hear from a singer-songwriter with a Masters in English Lit. who has come out the other side from substance abuse to go on to earn a Master of Divinity degree with a PHd in Religious Studies and becoming an ordained Methodist Minister?
Not many I would guess.
John Kilzer from Memphis TN, ain’t no ordinary Singer-Songwriter!
Opening track Flat Bed Truck is a weird Beatles/Country hybrid…… no, seriously…… there is something distinctively Beatlesish in the melody and production; but the subject matter is very much Smalltown, Middle America and the combination works when it most obviously shouldn’t.
In the nicest possible way this album of quite dark stories is actually very ‘easy on the ear;’ which comes down to Kilzer’s astute use of melodies and actual ‘catchy tunes’ to accentuate his very literate and clever story telling.
Woods of Love and It, alongside a couple of others have a delightful ‘English Pop sensibility’ …. think The Beatles or Kinks; but just like Flat Bed Truck John Kilzer’s story is 100% Americana to the core.
These songs were either written or culled from notes he made when he was in a ‘thin place’ a few years ago; but went back to in readiness for making this album; which probably explains his clever and intricate use of light and shade in Hello Heart, Rope The Moon and the rather splendid Twinkle of Love, which sounds like it could easily be converted into a Torch Song by any one of a number of young female singers looking for a Hit single.
Kilzer’s Americana Roots comes to the fore on the Alt. Country Soft Rockers woods of Love, Dark Highway and The American Blues, which are both as tightly wrapped as a drum yet you will find yourself carelessly singing along with the chorus of both.
For the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Track there are two songs that are so good you can’t slide a cigarette paper between them; so the title is a tie between the astute and very introspective title track Scars and the dark ode to his home Memphis Town, which is possibly the illegitimate younger brother to Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis and is exactly what Americana music was invented for.
John Kilzer has been in and around the music scene for a very long time; recording albums and writing minor hits for others; and coupled to the his own ‘life, lived well’ he has combined absolutely everything (plus his love of a melody!) to create a rather fabulous album that will age like a fine wine; or more likely a fine bourbon!

Released 11th January 2019

Rebecca Loebe GHOSTS (Video)

Rebecca Loebe
Blue Corn Music

Rebecca Loebe is one of those artists that have flitted in and out of my ‘musical life’ a couple of times over the last few years; and I can remember playing a couple of tracks on my Olde Radio Show several years ago.
Here we find her again with this gorgeously delicate single Ghosts; taken from the album GIVE UP YOUR GHOSTS due for release in early February; and from the few tracks I’ve played has all the hallmarks of being a bit of a game-changer for this young lady.


herron bros Xmas v
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”.

Released November 31st 2018 




Karen Craigie mountains of gold

Karen Craigie 

10 Sad Australiana Songs To Make You Happy.

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.”

Released 30th November 2018


Austin Lucas
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.

Released November 23rd 2018


Shawn Mullins

SOUL’S CORE (Revival)

Soul Carnival Records

A Platinum Seller Gets Two Fabulous New Leases of Life.


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 summer breeze.

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.


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 who!

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 heady days.

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.

Without spoiling 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!

Released November 16th 2018


john paul white

John Paul White

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.

January 2019

Sun 27th – Gateshead, Sage

Mon 28th – Manchester, Night & Day

Tues 29th – London, Omeara

Weds 30th – Bristol, The Louisiana


jesse jo stark
Jesse Jo Stark

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.

I’m loving it!

Released 1st November 2018