OUR FUTURE IN SPACE
Our Favourite Scouse Rocker Has His Most Arrogant Mojo Back!
Robert Ian McNabb would be the first to tell you that he’s never recorded an album that was anything less than brilliant; although some have been more brilliant than others.
In my humble opinion (as a mega-fan) he did have a bit of a lull a few years ago but; and I don’t think it’s a coincidence; following his truly excellent ‘covers album’ RESPECTFULLY YOURS he most certainly now has his most arrogant mojo back!
With several recent UK tours in the guise of his alter-ego The Icicle Works under his belt, that distinctive ‘sound’ is all pervading on the first couple of songs here; especially the sonic assault of opening track I Can See Tomorrow; with it’s crashing guitars and industrial strength back beat from the bass and drums; while the catchy melody has you unceremoniously tapping your toes and nodding your head along to Mac’s insightful and poetic lyrics.
Phew; you can’t even get your breath back before the trademark ‘jangly guitars’ of Supermoon set fire to your speakers and McNabb treats us to another ‘modern classic’ that is destined to be ignored by the world at large but adored by his ever growing fan base.
Hopefully all of those fans who can’t let the Icicle Works songs go; will finally fall in love with a McNabb solo album as more than a few songs here (Reeperbahn? The Day I Learned To Say No? The glorious Vodka Rivers and Cigarette Trees?) are natural successors to those heady days of our collective youth; but overall this is 100% an Ian McNabb album with no quarter given to commercial success.
He’s always been an exceptional songwriter; as his solo acoustic tour always prove and yet again he finds beauty in some of the ugliest parts of our lives; with Toxic and Throw The Rest Away being bittersweet love songs that in my opinion only RI McNabb could write and drop into your consciousness like a time-bomb.
Hahaha…..I’d heard My Accuser a couple of times before the penny dropped! For such an opinionated person Ian can be a bit thin skinned; and this glorious sub-Pet Sounds opus is his response to all of his critics on Social Media; and what a doozy it is too.
Long time fans; such as I will probably go straight to the glorious final song Girls From Across The Water before even track #1 as it looks like it could be and actually is a sort of coda to my favourite Ian McNabb song of all time Liverpool Girls; and the world is a much better place now those girls have grown up.
In another world there would be several contenders for the title of ‘RMHQ Favourite Song’; the nod to the mystical Folk-Rock of Traffic, Aquamarine, A Secret Everyone Knows and Makin’ Silver Sing are all as good as anything Boots has ever recorded #FACT; but in typical Ian McNabb fashion there is one song here that could and should win every award going come Christmas; not for the first time in recent years our favourite Scouse Lothario writes about a Spring/Autumn type relationship in a way that no other songwriter possibly can….. because Our Future In Space; I’m sure is pretty damn autobiographical!
An almost perfect three minutes of bittersweet, tongue in cheek with a huge production song about a man dating a much younger girl with ‘aspirations’ starts with her wanting an Audi A8 and culminates with Ian groaning “She wants me to wear skinny jeans…….I’m 57, for fucks sake please!”
As he himself once admitted in song, “I’m a Genius.” And he is; albeit an unheralded one.
Only time will tell where this album finally fits into Ian McNabb’s canon of work; but today I feel it sits comfortably alongside his finest master-works Merseybeast and Head Like a Rock; which is high praise indeed from a man with far too many Ian McNabb and Icicle Works bootlegs in his collection.
Released July 10th 2018
ALL THAT RECKONING
Proper Records/Latent Recordings
Canadiacana Revisited (Songs for the heart and brain)
Is it really 30 years since I first heard Blue Moon Revisited (Song For Elvis) on the radio? Apparently so; as the album it came from, the imperial Trinity Sessions is celebrating it’s 30th Anniversary later this year.
It’s fair to say that album was not just a ‘Gateway’ to my listening pleasures, but also a pivotal album in my collection as it tipped all my previous thoughts on music into a muddy ditch and helped move me into a far more grown up world of music appreciation.
So; it was with a slight tightening in the chest and butterflies in my stomach that I first played this, their 13th (?) full length album.
Oh dear; I didn’t ‘get it’. Just like all those albums that followed PALE SUN, CRESCANT MOON, it was obviously the Cowboy Junkies with Margot’s exquisite vocals and Michael quietly dictating the sounds, but no…..I didn’t ‘get it’.
Then two weeks later I thought I’d give it another go on a flight to New York, so with eye mask on and headphones pressed tightly against my ears I thought ‘here goes’.
This proved to be the perfect setting; not a sunny back garden as I’d tried previously.
Even from the opening track All That Reckoning Pt1, you are faced with a sensory overload, and not just from Margot Timmins’ unmistakeable voice and the Cowboy Junkies trademarked Lo-Fi bass and guitar combo; but the stark lyrics come at you like the suns rays through a Summer fog;
“I took my heart and laid it on the floor/you took my heart and softly asked for more.”
Not just on this song, but on several others Michael Timmins employs what sounds like an Alt. Chamber Orchestra to compliment their normal ‘Rock’ instrumentation; which on The Things That We Do To Each Other and Wooden Stairs takes us into the ‘darkest of hearts territory’ normally associated with Leonard Cohen; and just like him leaves you smiling through pursed lips; such is the intensity and beauty that this band can create.
Speaking of intensity on Sing Me a Song, the band throw down the challenge flag to Alt. Rockers like Muse and even U2 with some searing guitar and a rhythm section steeped in the oil from a Corvettes sump, to create a song that will send a shiver down your spine.
The Cowboy Junkies can create a poetically atmospheric song like no other, in my humble opinion and with Nose Before Ear and Mountain Streams they challenge the listeners perceptions of what is and isn’t Rock music; and come out proving that they were and are correct and this listener came out educated and enthused by both; and just about everything else too.
Where to go for a Favourite Song’? Obviously there’s no Blue Moon Revisited or Cheap Is How I Feel here; why would there be? Those days are long gone; this is a hardback book not just an essay; these songs need to be listened to in isolation (as I did on that flight for 5 hours) but I will point you to The Possessed which closes the record; for it’s unclouded simplicity and Missing Children as examples of a band who stand on the Rock precipice writing and performing songs, so beautiful they will not just take your breath away but wonder where the concept came from; but I’m actually selecting Shining Teeth as my favourite; for all of those reasons and everything that went before; but the judicial use of an organ takes the song through a fairground and comes out at a funeral.
Perhaps their last half dozen albums passed me by because I wasn’t ready for them; as the Cowboy Junkies have always and still do tread their very own artistic path, with Michael Timmins not caring a jot for commercial success; but absolutely craving artistic success like an addict and he achieves those wild ambitions with every song on this wonderful creation.
Released July 13th 2018
John Wesley Harding
GREATEST OTHER PEOPLE’S HITS
Imaginative and Intriguing Set of Covers From Roots-Rock’s Renaissance Man.
Here we go again; I was sure I had at least one album by John Wesley Harding aka Wesley Stace; but it appears not as all I could find was a dusty copy of the *album Bob Dylan made in his honour in 1967.
So it’s been something of a musical joyride in a stolen car, that I’ve been playing this album of cover versions and collaborations by Root’s Musics favourite Renaissance Man, recorded over the last thirty or so years.
With not a lot to go on the first few seconds of opening track, Roky Erickson’s If You Have Ghosts scared me; as the feedbacky sound effects made me think I was entering some kind of Pink Floyd Meddle territory; but hey…..NO…..we actually get a really cool, almost Indie inspired Alt. Something, few minutes that made my chest tighten with delight.
As there are 29 years between the first and last song recorded here; coupled to Harding’s abstract collaborations mean the mood, tempo and even style jump around like a cat on a hot tin roof; but it also shows what an inspired and inspirational artiste this guy is.
I don’t know all of the bands and singers JWH joins up with but Star (with Fastball) is another tightly wrapped Indie doozy; and his version of Phil Ochs’ Another Age is almost Beatlesesque circa Revolver, but it’s his heart shredding ‘folk’ songs that initially captured my attention with Covered Up In Ages (with and by Elizabeth Barraclough) making me raise my eyebrows in amazement and the previously unreleased Old Bourbon with Rick Moody (?) was an early contender for ‘Favourite Track’ status as the vocals remind me a bit of Liverpool legend Ian McNabb, of whom I’m a fanboy.
The clever way Harding has constructed the album means that just as you think you are getting a handle on him; he throws a curve ball of **Sandy Koufax proportions. The Hip-Hop version of Serge Gainsbourg’s Je Suis Ventu Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais anyone? In this context alongside George Harrison’s Wah Wah kind of works; but I can comfortably go the rest of my life without hearing either again.
WH has some very famous mates; starting with Lou Reed; yep you heard me right…..there are two of his songs here Think It Over is another previously unreleased track; and quite beautiful in the way he sings it over primarily a 12 string guitar and organ; and that didn’t prepare me for the collaboration with Laughing Lou which follows; a live and raw version of Satellite of Love that may even have been what Lou had in mind when he first recorded it all of those years ago.
His other ‘famous mate’ is the one that will probably get this album coverage in all the National papers and website.
Early on Harding strips back and adds a violin to Jackson Cage making it almost Alt. Country and even a bit of a romantic tear jerker; but later I was taken aback when Bruce’s own distinctive voice joined John on an intimate version of Wreck on the Highway. Intriguingly it’s mixed from a soundboard and an audience member’s tape at a McCabe’s Guitar Shop show in 2000.
The song that first brought JWH to the public’s attention is here too and, yes I can certainly enjoy hearing him strip Madonna’s Like a Prayer back to the bone and sinews over and over again. It’s absolutely stunning.
So, after all of that hyperbole what could possibly top rare Bruce and Lou collaborations or the Madonna and Elizabeth Barraclough songs?
Well; it’s a song I already possess and one of my favourite ever Bloodshot recordings; Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe which finds JWH trying to keep up with the only woman I would leave Mrs Magpie for; Miss Kelly Hogan.
John Wesley Harding sounds quite excellent here; but hearing Kelly’s beautiful tones swoop and soar as a gentle guitar, mandolin and accordion drift along in the background will bring a tear to a glass eye.
While the songs here are varied and even contrary at times; there’s certainly been enough for me to want to dip into John Wesley Harding’s 20+ back catalogue to hear his own work; and I presume his legion of fans will love this release ‘just because.’
PS 10 of these tracks were originally released as Record Day ‘only’ on April 21st 2018; but such was demand a further 7 have been added for this more commercial release.
*That’s a joke btw!
** I Googled him to make my metaphor fit.
Released 18th May 2018
CAN’T WAKE UP
Interesting and Illuminating Psychedelic Americana.
Whooooaahhhhh there…….I wasn’t expecting this…….at all!
While the name Shakey Graves was sort of known to me; I presumed……and after all of these years I should know better than to ‘presume’ anything without checking the facts first; but I still like to check out the music before reading the accompanying Press Release…..so when the almost transcendental opening track Back Seat Driver scrambled from the office stereo I had a head spin of Exorcist proportions.
That first day I had to take the album off after three songs because I knew that this was going to be an album that needed my full attention; and it really has.
Track #2 Counting Sheep winds it back into my normal sphere; but it has taken me quite a while to wrap my head around where Graves is coming from; as his take on Psychedelic Country (?) owes more to early Pink Floyd than Music From Big Pink than the Byrds; which isn’t actually a bad thing at times, is it?
The more I play this album the more I like it; which is an exciting experience for me. My initial reservations were based on some weird preconceptions……probably brought on by the label and PR’s track record; but Graves ploughs a very singular furrow that owes a little bit here and there to left field geniuses like Prince and Capt. Beefheart as I said; but there’s also some REM in the crunchy Kids These Days and Cops and Robbers is something I hoped Teenage Fanclub would have released, but never did.
Some songs (Aibohphobia? Big Bad Wolf? My Neighbour?) are a bit too left of centre and basically weird for me these days; but I’m not the designated demographic, am I? This album is most definitely aimed at a much younger crowd; probably High School or more likely College students who are more appreciative of having their mind expanded…….I’m losing enough grey cells without music taking its toll.
But; when Shakey Graves is good he’s very, very good with the manic and experimental Indie-Pop of Mansion Door easily being my favourite track here, with the delightful Dining Alone running it a close second.
Lo-Fi? At times but Not Really.
Experimental? Sort of.
Alt. Rock? I suppose; but certainly way left of centre if it is.
This multi-layered and multi-tracked album is the sort of thing I might have expected Prince to produce if he had ever opened a studio in downtown Nashville and was trying to replicate the White Album with a bunch of kids in plaid shirts and covered in tattoos.
It’s been an interesting and even illuminating couple of hours listening to CAN’T WAKE UP, but I doubt it will feature much more this year on the RMHQ Stereo System; but I do expect to see Shakey and Friends selling out Concert Halls right left and centre across the Western World.
Released 4th May 2018
A Heady Mix of Cow-Punk, Insurgent Country and Hot Southern Blues Rock.
As a pre-cursor to this release I was sent a video a couple of months ago which blew my cotton socks right off! I’d never heard of Arkansas Dave prior to seeing and hearing his version of Tom Waits’s Chocolate Jesus……and after only watching it once I knew I ‘needed’ to hear and own a full CD in the same vein.
YOWZA! Dave holds nothing back for later as opening track virtually explodes from the speakers with a full on assault on the senses with a magnificent horn section plus a guitarist who thinks he’s in AC/DC and an industrial strength bass n drums that pound out a beat on a song that had me singing along to the chorus as I punched the air in joy.
Things do slow down for the powder keg love song On My Way which follows and I found myself struggling to find a comparable all out Rocking Alt. Country band on the circuit or indeed ever. Georgia Satellites? Waco Brothers? Even the Stones? But none of them have a horn section like this one……Hell… they could be from the Blues Brothers!
The mood on the album seamlessly swings between the hot and sultry Something For Me and The Wheel and the low down and dirty Squeaky Clean which features some scintillating bottle neck guitar by the way, with ease.
The songwriting and storytelling here is all rather good too; but it’s Arkansas Dave’s voice is what you will buy this album for…….gutsy, clear and very distinctive.
Covering all aspects of Blue Collar Americana Dave’s class oozes on the more Bluesy tracks Hard Times and the gorgeous Rest Of My Days which not only tug at your heartstrings but punch you in the gut when you listen intently to his words.
I’d love to give Chocolate Jesus the accolade of ‘Favourite Track’ and probably should, as it’s a doozy; but being the contrary soul I am I’m going for something slightly less left of centre for once; Think Too Much is the type of Insurgent and indeed Cow-Punk Country I’ve loved for nigh on thirty years and this song is right up there with my all time favourites from Jason and the Scorchers, the Waco Brothers, The Blasters and even Steve Earle circa Copperhead Road. Yep, brave words indeed……but well merited.
Readers will know by now; I’m very rarely wrong with such matters and yet again I’m right, this is an album you too NEED TO OWN!
Released April 20th 2018
STARS FOR THE EYES
A Love of Quality English Pop Music Linked to a Quaint Country Charm
This has been a bit of a challenge for me as I’d never heard of Mark Huff before yesterday, and there was no accompanying Press Release, but the song titles look like he has a similar sense of humour to me and the album cover intrigued me plus on the photo on the back he looks uncannily like RMHQ favourite Pete Molinari.
So……into uncharted territory we go……to musical infinity and beyond?
Hmmm…..fuzzy guitars open proceedings with track #1 Prison Doors and Huff’s enigmatic voice has a slightly worn feel to it on a punchy anti-love song that straddles Brit Pop and Alt. Country in a way that works, bizarrely.
The title track STARS FOR EYES follows and takes us into a dreamy almost Psychedelic Folkie world I first encountered with Marc Bolan and still love drifting back into every now and again; and Huff fits that bill perfectly well with this lovely tune.
Two days to review this album isn’t enough, as Huff writes songs that need to be heard over and over again to get the best from them; with God In Geography being the type of quirky Trans-Atlantic Indie-Pop that fans of Robyn Hitchcock and Barenaked Ladies fans will love, but he follows that with a left-field Alt. Country song Nightingale which has all the hallmarks of Gram or maybe even latter day Byrds to it.
Confused? You won’t be, as Huff’s songwriting and delightful voice will carry you through like a warm Summer breeze.
Now I’m on the second day Mark Huff’s bittersweet and deliberately sad love songs that are tugging at my heartstrings; with the haunting I Know You Don’t Want My Love and on Burning Letters he enters Difford and Tillbrook kitchen sink drama territory, which is always a good thing at RMHQ and comes out with a supper tale alongside some really stinging guitar during the chorus.
There’s even a Leonard Cohen song here, which I didn’t recognise for a while; Almost Like The Blues possibly even sums up where Mark Huff is coming from with his almost unquantifiable songs, just like The Master before him…..let’s just go with singer-songwriter and story teller?
I will come onto who Mark Huff ‘really is’ later; but after listening to this album for a couple of days I sense a love of quality (particularly English?) Pop Music in the songwriting; but quite often there is a pedal-steel in the background giving the harmonies and well smart lyrics a sort of Country charm which shouldn’t work; but does on the two songs that tie for the title of RMHQ ‘Favourite’; Big City Down has a claustrophobic almost rainy urban atmosphere but Albatross is another dark almost psychedelic Folk song that has a rusty hook that drew me in and won’t let me go.
Now I’ve got me head around the music, who is Mark Huff? Originally from LA he relocated to Nashville where he has worked with and opened for Superstars like Peter Frampton, Al Green, Allison Moorer and Mr. Dylan, among a host of others while cementing his reputation in the bars and clubs across America.
RELEASED March 23rd 2018
We get sent a lot of music that people ‘think RMHQ will like,’ sometimes they are right but more often than not they are poor judges of our taste……but every so often a Video arrives that blows us away…..this is one such!
I know very little about this band from New Jersey….basically they have an album coming out on June 1st called Lightning Kid, that I can’t wait to hear; until then here’s their single CHOSEN ONE.
Luke Winslow King
Yowza…….this just arrived a few minutes ago and I can’t wait to share it with you…….the very first track from the new Luke Winslow King album BLUE MESA due out on 11th May 2018……and apart from this track listing I know not a lot else…..but I’m seriously excited waiting for the actual album!
“Blue Mesa was recorded in the Tuscan fortress village of Lari, Italy and features long-time collaborator and Italian blues guitar dynamo Roberto Luti, Chris Davis of King James and the Special Men, and Mike Lynch (Bob Seger, Larry McCray) on organ”.
1. You Got Mine
2. Leghorn Women
3. Blue Mesa
4. Born to Roam
5. Better for Knowing You
6. Thought I Heard You
7. Break Down the Walls
8. Chicken Dinner
9. After the Rain
10. Farewell Blues
I’ll Be Yours
A great collection of songs from this Los Angeles based quartet that hints at any number of influences. They’ve got a frontman in Patrick Farris whose looks won’t offend too many in their audience and a clutch of tunes that won’t be easily ignored either.
The album kicks off with Nevada and immediately we’re into the world of the Americans. “Never was a fan of the quiet life/sitting in my hand is a pair of dice” sings Farris. It’s an out and out heads-down rocker; and it would be a bit of a cheap shot to compare it to mid-period Springsteen; but almost any track these days that has ‘cinematic scope’ i.e. wide-ranging subject matter, gets compared to Springsteen/Dylan/Young etc etc. and I mean it as a compliment.
Tracks like The Right Stuff don’t owe a nod to anyone though, a pacey critique of ‘him’ being accused of not having the right stuff. This band clearly demonstrate that they have the chops, as The Right Stuff and Stowaway could easily fall flat if there wasn’t more than a drop of talent in the band.
I’ll Be Yours slows the tempo and shows, perhaps, a weakness in the song writing, or at least in the melody. It wanders about in search of a hook and never quiet settles on a tune. Not one you’d easily remember. This is when you make the break for the bar or loo during the set.
Last Chance is back in familiar heartbreak territory “I knew I could win you over/if I could keep my mouth shut long enough” and “Yesterday somebody said you were out with somebody new” we’ve all been there. The chorus chimes with a plea to “try me again”.
I’d pay good money to be looking out at the audience during this track. The guys would be all ‘Nah, it sucks, but I’m better off without her’ and the girls will be ‘Of course I’ll give you another chance’!
The band may be familiar to you if you caught American Epic the PBS history of roots music in the US since the 1920’s. The band featured in the shows, not bad for a bunch of unknowns and you might think they have some mates with clout. They do; Jack White has been involved as has T Bone Burnett and Robert Redford. They were even involved in the selection of the band who, in the past, have backed Nick Cave and recorded with Keith Richards and Tom Waits. That having been said, none of these heavyweights would have picked the band on good looks alone. These guys can back it up with musicality and some fine songs.
Review courtesy the ever wonderful Tony Pearce esq.
Released 7th July 2017
Sonic Unyon Records
It’s Canadian Rock n Roll and I LOVE IT!
Even if I hadn’t already been a fan of this feisty Canadian Rocker; the artwork on the CD cover would have caught my attention in a Record Shop; and if the man behind the counter was kind enough to play the first track Paradise as a ‘sample’ I would gladly have passed a £10 note across the counter.
Ms. Lightfoot’s voice is a dominant as ever; straddling Memphis Soul and Urban Blues with ease; and boy…..can she write a song.
The ‘band shot’ on the back cover hints at the dichotomy Terra Lightfoot’s music poses; she’s a pretty young woman in a Summer dress but playing a striking electric guitar……and when you hear her; she can really play that machine as well as the Big Boys; but it’s her singing and songwriting that I’m smitten with.
This album is littered with classy Rockers out of the Bonnie Raitt/Chrissie Hynde Book of Rock, like Slick Back Kid and Stars Over Dakota to name check but two; but Terra also shows her Soulful and softer side on the beautifully delicate Lonesome Eyes and the intimate Three In The Morning.
As big fan of her previous album I was thrilled to hear a clever change in direction with the haunting story of single Mother Norma Gale; a Country Bass player in the 1970’s.
These days I’m never sure where Country Rock ends and Alt. Country begins; but id does it really matter when you hear classy songs like Ruthless and the single Paradise, as both are actually genre defying in the way they can only be Terra Lightfoot songs.
Hmmmm…..where do I go for my ‘favourite track’? The silky smooth Lonesome Eyes or the epic Two Hearts or the heart-pounding Rocker Pinball King? Hey, call me crazy but I’m going for the latter as when I played the album in the car I accidentally found myself going at 90mph when it came on!
Yet again I’ve fallen in love with a Terra Lightfoot album and can’t get my head around why someone with such a great voice and guitar skills fronting a red hot band; featuring a super-smooth keyboard player isn’t filling Concert Halls around the world; but that’s the world I live in; but you can share our secret too.
Released October 13th 2017