Ramblin’ Roots Festival – Tivoli Vredenburg, Utrecht Holland

Ramblin’ Roots Festival
Tivoli Vredenburg
Utrecht
Holland
19th October 2019

The Dutch Ramblin’ Roots Festival (not to be confused with the English Festival with a similar name) has historical links to the older well-respected Blue Highways festival. The current festival is homed in a huge and spectacular entertainment complex with a variety of different size venues and public art spaces spread over nine floors, from the largest Grote Zaal on the ground floor to the smaller Cloud Nine up on the…yes, you’ve guessed it – ninth floor.
Like the TakeRoot Festival in Groningen, there were no planned gaps between performances in different locations, so a plan had to be made and routes up and down in the lifts and on the escalators taken to ensure that as little was missed as possible.
Most of the keener folks found their way to the Pandora hall up on the 6th floor to see Robert Ellis as first act of the day. Sporting an all-white suit and wearing facial glitter, the “Texas Piano Man” strode a line between early Elton John and Ben Folds both in musical and performance style. “Fucking Crazy” opened the set and others like “Passive Aggressive” and “Topo Chico” (“an ode to Texan bubble water”) kept up the entertainment value. In the 70s, Robert Ellis would have been huge. There’s still time for the rest of the world to catch up.
Then it was the big elevator down to the main hall to catch Dustbowl Revival – the Californian outfit are the perfect good-time festival band, although the fact was lost on many of the first to arrive in the Grote Zaal took to their seats, unfamiliar with the soulful, New Orleans funky sound of the band. Indeed, guitarist and frontman Z. Lupetin remarked that they might be better served by standing – and dancing. It didn’t take long for them to make that happen, to be fair. A brass section of trombone and trumpet and a fiddle that at one point was made to sound like a Wurlitzer organ helped to conjure a vivid mix of southern styles. Two covers – of Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” helped give the band a touchstone with those of the crowd who were less familiar with their material but gave less of an insight into their “true” sound.
Then it was back up nine floors in a very packed lift to the ninth floor to catch a few minutes of Chance McCoy – musically he seems to be exploring several avenues in search of a common style at the moment and it seems a bit difficult to find an audience that appreciates both the more experimental and the traditional in his music. It will be interesting to see where it leads though.
It was then sideways across the ninth-floor foyer to discover that the room called “Hertz” is actually a 500-ish seater amphitheatre. Sway Wild, playing as a three piece were playing to a packed room. Like Dustbowl Revival earlier, their soulful, energetic sound might have had even more impact in a room designed for standing, but they were well-received for their soulful and at times almost Tom Verlaine-esque guitar as heard on songs like “Chimney Fire”.
Frazey Ford – back down on the ground floor was up next and was beautifully established in the setting with grand piano, vibrant shimmering acoustics and ethereal blue light to match her dress. Otherworldly stuff from the start off, she played a set that included several (unnamed to these ears) songs from a forthcoming new album. Not so angelic but striking was the wonderful “Motherfucker” played at the grand piano…and then it was time to get back in the lift again and up to the very top of the building once more to catch Rod Picott. Rod seems to be on a creative roll at the moment and this festival show was similarly charged to his recent UK shows but with a little less chat, down to the constraints of the festival time slot. We got a great versions of “Girl from Arkansas” and “Ghost” from “Tell the truth and shame the devil”…and a little chat about the venues that Rod and Slaid Cleaves used to play in as kids in metal tribute bands.


No rest for the wicked and it was all the way down nine floors again to get in position for Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore making their European band debut together. Unlike the acoustic duo shows that they have played, this was much more the full-on Guilty Ones rock’n’roll band experience, playing a mix of Dave’s songs “Johnny Ace is Dead”, rock’n’roll standards “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and Jimmie Dale’s “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own”. Dave dedicated “Marie Marie” which the two duetted on, to big brother Phil who he said is very unwell. If there’s regenerative power in rock’n’roll, there was plenty of energy for him to feed on in this show.
The main name of the festival may have taken their bows, but there was still more – up a mere 6 flights to Pandora to catch the set by Drivin’ & Cryin’. Early numbers were affected by a somewhat muddy guitar mix which reduced the finesse in their sound, but the happy accident of a guitar string breaking meant that Kevn/Kevin Kinney switched to acoustic which suited the venue’s rig and these ears, much more. A penultimate singalong of “Straight to hell” was followed with a somewhat disappointing cover of “Jumpin’ jack Flash” and then it was back downstairs again for the final time to catch North Mississippi Allstars. By now, some of the less hardy punters had caught the last electric bus but there was still a large crowd gathered in the Grote Zaal to boogie along to the funky jam band and soulful guitar of the Allstars – and there was even a psychedelic rub-board solo too, of which I heartily approved. Music for drinking and dancing at midnight – perfect.
All in all, an excellent, well-curated festival that may be a notch behind TakeRoot in terms of the big names on the scene that it attracted, but a great audience experience within each performance – good views, good sound and good music – now if they could just see their way to selling food in the lifts…

Review and Photos – the Legendary Nick Barber aka @efsb on Instagram/Twitter/Flickr

Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/efsb/albums/72157711435780662

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit 2 x REISSUES

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Self-Titled Debut & Here We Rest
Thirty Tigers

Two Genre Defying and Groundbreaking Americana Albums.

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT (2009)

A helluva lot has happened to Jason Isbell’s career since the release of his (and the 400 Unit’s) self-titled album in 2009.
Today he is certainly an A-Lister in not just the Americana and Alt. Country Camp, but has been accepted graciously and successfully into the mainstream Country World too …….. with his last album being recorded Live at the Ryman and another 7 night run at the same venue starting on Friday 18th October to coincide with the re-release of his/their first two albums.
As what I think of as a dyed in the wool fan; it behoves me to say I’d never heard the self-titled 2009 album before this week (and I’ve still never even seen a copy of its predecessor SIRENS IN THE DITCH) . In my defence; after leaving Drive-By Truckers in 2007, and the internet still in its infancy Isbell was only a bit player on the scene at that time and the album hardly made a dent in the UK Scene at the time.
So; it’s been really, really exciting to see how the incomparable sound they create today has evolved.
The intro to first track Seven Mile Island is a bit of a mish-mash; and even when Isbell’s (now) distinctive voice kicks in the spin-dryer drumbeat is still on overload, and alongside some quirky guitar (lead and steel) almost drowns out what just might be a very thoughtful song.
Not a great start; and if I’d been given this album to review 10 years ago …….. I may not have got as far as track #2!
But had I continued, Sunstroke would certainly have caught my attention; a dark and brooding pot-boiler that, with hindsight signals the start of the upward spiral the songwriter and associated band members were to go on.
I can’t imagine how listeners felt ten years ago; but this song sent a definite shiver down my back.
For the next song the guitars, piano and amps are cranked up to 11 and the band set fire to the listeners senses on Good. It’s loud; and so intense I can’t think of anyone else round about that time who were creating music like this song ……. making it quite groundbreaking; if I’m not mistaken.
Although this is the forerunner to what we have come to expect from Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit; these songs from start to finish have certainly stood the test of time; with (new songs to me) The Blue, Streetlights and When My Baby’s Beside Me all sounding as imaginative and still as fresh as a daisy 10 full years after they were recorded.
Plus there are a couple of songs which must have been quite mind bending back then; Soldiers Get Strange must have been a very brave and even dangerous song to write; and especially play live.
As I’ve never had the opportunity to see this band play live, I can’t think why I recognised Cigarettes and Wine; but I do and I think it will go on to feature prominently on any future Best Of/Retrospective they will release, as it sounds (again with hindsight) one of those ‘definitive songs’ that a band has.
As much as I like that, one other song here is genuinely outstanding, and is the template for some of Isbell’s future leftfield love songs; the type others have tried to emulate but failed miserably.
This Is The Last Song I Will Write is almost mind-expanding in the way Isbell sort of combines Hank’s observational writing style with Pink Floyd or is it Who At Last style psychedelia to create a song that is the benchmark for a lot of the music I have received in the last ten years and therefore my Favourite Track here.
As Jason Isbell’s name is at the forefront I keep using ‘him’ to describe; what’s happening; but trust me that this album; and everything else they have released is very much a band effort, with everyone involved combining to create this unique ‘sound.’

HERE WE REST (2011)

This is where I came in, reviewing this for Maverick Magazine; and even though it didn’t make a dent in the UK Charts at the time; the seeds were certainly sown for what was to follow.
The majestic Alabama Pines opens the disc in a way I’d not ever heard before …….. was this Country Rock? Not really; and Alt. Country was more or less just a handful of solo singer-songwriters at the time; so hearing a fully fledged band sound like this was like hearing the Beatles or Byrds for the first time.
Now, listening to both albums in chronological order It’s fair to say that the 400 Unit (and Jason Isbell) had been working really hard in the interim years to create ‘their sound’ with very few nods in any direction for direct influences (others may argue that pint; but they are wrong.)
With not hearing these songs in quite a few years; re-discovering We’ve Met and Heart on a String has been a real joy to behold; and I can distinctly remember playing Save It For Sunday on auto-repeat one night as I tried to unravel the ‘meaning of life’ contained therein.
Two songs contained here have gone on to become ‘definitive’ Jason Isbell songs and still occasionally feature on the finer Internet Radio stations (Somewhere there must be an Americana Gold radio station!) and who that hat has ever heard Codeine and/or Tour of Duty hasn’t been touched in one way or another.
Oh man; how heartbreaking is Codeine? I vaguely remember hearing this way back in ’11 and thinking I’d never heard such an obviously Country Song like it ever before; perhaps I still haven’t.
It was a similar feeling with Tour of Duty; which was and still is a million miles away from the Gung-ho ‘I love the flag’ songs that were filling the Country airwaves at the time; this was a very contemporary story and song that owed a debt to the Greenwich Village troubadours of the 60’s than it ever did Music Row.
I can still understand why I got so excited back in 2011; and most of the songs here have stood up to the tests of time; although I doubt The Ballad of Nobeard will ever get dusted off when they play the Ryman; but Daisy Mae and the twisted love song We’ve Met just might.
I’ve forced myself not to re-visit my original review to see what I selected as a Favourite Track; primarily because I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Heart on a String; which just may be one of Jason Isbell (and the 400 Unit’s) finest ever songs. Damn it ….. ‘might be’……. of course it is!
This has been a fabulous exercise for me; actually hearing the Self-Titled album for the first time and hearing one of the 21st Century’s most innovative and gifted Country/Roots/Americana bands coming together to create what has become a distinctive and definitive sound; that was and still is unlike any other out there.

Released October 18th 2019
http://www.jasonisbell.com/

Uncle Brent & The NoStone MONKEY ROAD (ep)

Uncle Brent & The NoStone
Monkey Road (EP)
Nostone Music

Swaggering and Articulate Americana Rock & Roll.

In a month when we’ve been inundated with new music from the Great and the good in the industry as well as numerous singles, EP’s and bloody links to Spotify from every other level too; our favourite Texan Bar Band; Uncle Brent and The NoStone have kept us sane with this; their latest release.
There’s no time to breath as the band come swaggering out of the block on a meth fuelled Faces/Quireboys/Black Crowes hybrid called Forget About U, and I just adore the way the guitars squeal and crunch as Uncle Brent disguises a very socio-political song about self-belief as a Rock and Roller Deluxe.
Then things slow down to about 85mph on the title track Monkey Road which follows at #2; and just like the last single I keep listening to this Rock n Rolling Blast of Modern Americana and remain mystified as to why these guys aren’t playing to huge crowds in stadiums or at least Concert Halls around the world.
Trust me; they certainly have the chops and songs to open for the Who or Stones!
While not as loud or rocky as those first two songs; disc closer Tequila Nights is every bit just as Rock & Roll; but tipping it’s hat more in the direction of the harmonious Burritos or perhaps even the first Eagles album.
Then; phew proving Uncle Brent & The NoStone ain’t no one trick ponies ……. there are the two slower, smoochier and certainly more mature and eloquent songs; Her Pain and Bullets.
By sheer coincidence I’m writing this on #WorldMentalHealthDay and wow; does Her Pain fit that bill. I’m not going to spoil it for you; I will leave it to you to listen and decide; but listen intently you must.
Bullets though just about edges it as my Favourite Song; and again it’s not a particularly ‘easy listen’ as Uncle Brent throw a beautiful and courageous curve ball; sounding all CS&N and even utilising their a cutting edge, to tell a horrific tale that is all too pertinent in the US of A today.
I keep looking at the band photos and realise that these guys are all of ‘a certain vintage’; which explains the excellent musicianship and smart songwriting; but I will repeat myself; why the Hell are they still playing bars in their Home State? I receive albums every week from acts who are headlining Concert Halls across the globe yet have less than half the talent than Uncle Brent & The NoStone!!!
Harrumph.

Released 18th October 2019
http://www.nostonemusicband.com/#about-trigger

Janiva Magness CHANGE IN THE WEATHER

Janiva Magness
Change in The Weather
Blue Elan Records

Simply Stunning Re-Inventions of The Original Sound of Americana.

I’ve always thought of myself as a Creedence Clearwater Revival fan; but with hindsight, owning a worn and tatty copy of Creedence Gold doesn’t make me #1 does it?
But I am a real fan of Janiva Magness and got really excited a couple of months ago when it was announced that she was doing an album of CCR and John Fogerty songs.
The time flew by ……. nada……. but I’ve finally received a copy ……. a week after release! Hey ho.
Without doing a ‘compare and contrast’ with the original versions because a) this is Janiva putting her own unmistakable stamp on the songs; and b) I don’t actually recognise very many songs anyways!
The bouncy and provocative title track Change in The Weather starts the album like a UXB……. fizzing and smoking and very, very menacing. Janiva makes it work on many levels, most notably because of Fogerty’s very apt words virtually forecast ‘climate change’ but on a metaphorical stance, it could also describe the incendiary political climate around the world too.
Ms. Magness’ smoky voice sounds fabulous duetting with Sam Morrow on the Touring Musician’s anthem Lodi, which follows and I swear you can almost smell the magnolia and gumbo as the band give it a groove that will have you swishing and sashaying in the kitchen.
While it’s fair to say this is first and foremost a Janiva Magness album; boy does she bring out the best in John Fogerty’s much undervalued songwriting; and when you hear the magnificent twists and turns on Deja Vu (All Over Again) and/or Wrote a Song For Everyone you are hearing a great singer doing an even greater songwriter justice; and feel the time is right for a full on John Fogerty retrospective.
There a couple of CCR Classics here too (of course!), with the passion still oozing out of every word in Fortunate Son even though it was written half a century ago; and somehow Janiva breaths brand new life into Bad Moon Rising making it even more sensual than the original; and the way she interprates Have You Ever Seen The Rain will send a shiver down your back.
Not that it needs it; but there’s another Guest Appearance with none other than Taj Mahal adding banjo and scintillating vocals to Don’t You Wish It Was True, making it sound like it was recorded on an Alabama back porch; but destined to be sung in concert halls all around the world.
With so much going on here, and with every song certainly being worthy of inclusion (All killer – no filler!) selecting a single song as the RMHQ Favourite certainly hasn’t been easy; especially as I’ve only had three damp and grey Autumn days to let this seep into my Soul; but one song has certainly caught my attention; and shows what a magnificent singer is; and that’s when she unleashes her inner Bobbie Gentry on the stifling A Hundred and Ten In The Shade, and of course the detail in Fogerty’s words about life in the cotton fields are quite amazing too ………
“Poppa won’t you carry me
Handle so hot I can’t stand it
Might shrivel up and blow away
Noon day sun make you crazy
Least that’s the old man say
Bottom land hard as a gravestone
Couldn’t cut it with an axe
Gonna lay me down here, that’s a fact.”

Then the album is all wrapped up with the gloriously toe-tappin’ Lookin’ Out My Back Door, which features not just Rusty Young but Jesse Dayton and Aubrey Richmond; who makes his fiddle sizzle and smoke …… what’s not to like?
It’s now fair to say that my initial excitement all those weeks ago have been truly justified, and the only gripe I have is that this Soundtrack to Summer is released in September (which feels like Winter today) and not June. That apart; this is a musical marriage made in Heaven; and yes a John Fogerty and CCR resurgence is long overdue.

Released September 13th 2019
http://www.janivamagness.com/
https://stores.portmerch.com/janivamagness/featured-products/janiva-sings-fogerty-cd.html



Allan Clarke RESURGENCE

Allan Clarke
Resurgence
BMG

The Godfather Of British Americana Returns to Put The Alt. Into Country.

Allan Clarke? Who he? Many of you will be asking; but if you know your history you should know that his golden voice was the main reason that the Hollies were so succesful in the 1960’s and with only a tiny leap of imagination were the forefathers of what we now know as British Country/Americana music.
So, after being retired for 20 years why ‘come back’ now? It appears the simple answer is ‘why not’.
A few years ago he started writing poetry and when asked why he didn’t want to put it to music; he replied that he couldn’t face all the studio palaver any more; so his son sorted him out with GarageBand, he got to work than brought in his friend Francis Haines as Producer/Arranger and here is the end result.
Clarke’s distinctive voice is instantly recognisable on opening track Journey of Regret, but slightly worn around the edges which fits in perfectly with this edgy Country tale that would easily have fit into Cash’s American body of work.
There’s no evidence of a DIY ethos here, and then again there is no over-production which (may) have blighted some of his solo work; this album is all about the songs …. and the songs alone.
Clarke appears to have embraced the Americana ethos with both hands; using that type of imagery, and occasionally Twang to great effect on Hearts of Stone, I’ll Just Keep on Walking and the deeply personal I’m Coming Home, which errs on the folkier side of the spectrum; and will touch your heart in the most unexpected fashion.
There’s even a touch of American Gothic to the brooding The Door is Slowly Closing; which sounds like a musical storm is brewing and you’re can’t help feeling will it or will it not boil over?
Clarke’s dalliance with poetry makes an occasional appearance too; most noticeably on the rather lovely I’m Only Sleeping;
From a garland of indifference
Comes a fragrance of deceit
A bouquet of unfilled promises
Lay scattered at my feet”

Clarke’s rich voice and some cool guitar interludes certainly saves it from ever being twee. This will amuse or confuse you; it actually reminds me of Paul Weller’s early solo work ……. and that’s a good thing at RMHQ.
The only nod in the direction of Allan Clarke’s Hollies Days is a song called Long Cool Woman’s Back in Town and the world is a better place for this bittersweet Alt. Country rocker featuring some spine shivering harmonica from the man himself.
AHA! What to select as a Favourite Track? Several I’ve already mentioned could certainly fit the bill; but there’s something special about You Broke My Heart that makes it the cornerstone for everything to build around. A mid-paced Rocker with Clarke drawing up memories from the dark recesses of his memory bank that will resonate with everyone who has had their own heart broken by a loved one; and it’s something Allan Clarke can be very, very proud of.
I listen to a whole lot of music like this, and I can honestly say that this album sits up there with recent releases from the likes of RMHQ Favourites Jason Isbell, Stephen Fearing and Will Kimbrough.

Released September 20th 2019
https://www.allan-clarke.co.uk/

Jared Deck BULLY PULPIT

Jared Deck
Bully Pulpit
Self-Release/Proper Music

Fun Times Rock & Roll Fueled, Gospel Tinged Americana

“Great American Breakdown” by Oklahoman Jared Deck, from his newest album, Bully Pulpit, is the song we’ve been waiting for. Cheeky, relevant, danceable. High-heeled sneakers for this politically dysfunctional generation. The best protest songs transcend their message to the point where people can sing along twenty years later, not caring what the song was really about. With a riff straight out of T-Rex (the most danceable of the glam rock bands) and some gospel-fueled shouting, this song rips and tears it up for a full three minutes before slamming the door shut with a satisfying clang.
Songs over, you can go home now, only Jared Deck and his band ain’t done yet, they still have more to say. The rest of this album is a mixture of jump and jive gospel, smooth country, a smattering of Randy Newman on speed, and even some Willy Deville. 
Deck is a farm-raised Oklahoma country boy with blue collar roots who ran for local election, (lost) played piano in a gospel church, and released his first album to much acclaim. He has a powerful voice that goes from cranked up Fender Bassman to comfortable country crooning with ease, with the gospel rockers giving him a chance to hoot and holler, where to me he seems more in his element. The country songs are fine, but the rockers have so much character and burn so hot that pretty much anything next to them pales in comparison. 
We do get a sad tear-jerker of a tale with “Make Your Mama Proud,” and some well-wrought anguish in “Tulsa Sound,” but my ears keep going back to the amped up gospel rockers, “There’s a Leak in This Old Building” and “Sometimes I Miss Being Lonely” both being vocal tours de force which must be fun for him and his band to pull off live — It ain’t showing off if you can pull it off!
“Money Back” utilizes familiar tropes and moves fast like a downhill train, and “I Don’t Know What You Come To Do” is that same train about to derail but Deck and his band are having a blast in the process knowing that to rock, is living life to the fullest.
Words courtesy the Legendary Roy Peak

Released UK September 13th 2019
Released USA January 2019
https://jareddeckmusic.com/



Rachel Harrington HUSH THE WILD HORSES

Rachel Harrington
Hush The Wild Horses
Skinny Dennis Records

Raw and Articulate Americana That Eases Between Shadow and Light.

It’s odd how ‘fate’ plays a hand in life, isn’t it? Or, as my father used to say; “God acts in mysterious ways.”
A few weeks ago I was having a beer with a friend I’d not seen in a year or so and during the conversation he asked, “Can you remember that woman we saw in that cafe in Tynemouth?” I scratched my head and eventually remembered her name as Rachel Harrington; and we both wondered whatever happened to her.
Two days later this album dropped on the hall mat!
Spooky, or what?????
Apparently she’s been ill and subsequently took a couple of years, that stretched to 8 ‘off’; and as part of her therapy began rescuing horses, which has rekindled her love of music …… which took her to a Mary Gauthier songwriting retreat and here is the result.
While I own two of her previous four releases I haven’t played them in years; and deliberately avoided them while listening this week, for fear of pre-judgement.
The first thing you will notice is the stark beauty of the recording; this is Americana in it’s purest form; starting with Hush The Wild Horses itself, which has a violently strummed acoustic guitar, militaristic drumbeat a maudlin fiddle accompany Rachel’s pained vocals.
It has to be said that ‘there aren’t many laughs here’ as Rachel delves deep into the darkest recesses of her heart for these stories; many of which sound quite cathartic; none more so than Child of God which finds the singer only barely restraining herself from screaming and possibly even crying as she tells a harrowing tale of a child’s sexual abuse (her own actually.) Truth really is stranger than fiction in this case.
I hadn’t noticed until earlier today how not just the dark subject matter of her songs, but the timbre in her voice and even the way she actually sings reminds me of Joni Mitchell circa Blue!
The other name that sprung to mind was Guy Clark; and it wasn’t until I finally read the Press Release that Rachel tells us that her beautiful song Susanna is actually a tribute to the Great Man; who is/was one of her all-time heroes. (Serendipity again?)
Which in its own way puts her powerful Vietnam based songs into perspective; starting with Mekong Delta, about on her own Uncle’s experiences in Vietnam and then the rocking and rolling Drop Zone; but most especially The Barn; a subtly deceptive tale based on a story about her Mother’s first love which will bring tears to a glass eye.
While there is more than enough shade here; there is also plenty of light ……. with Rachel pouring her heart out in the brittle love songs I Meant to Go To Memphis and the delightful Save Yourself; which is Americana in its rawest form.
I say ‘Americana’ which is the best way I can describe these songs, as they conjure up cinematic imagery in a way we associate with filmmakers as disparate as John Ford and David Lynch.
I’m actually selecting two songs as my joint Favourite Songs; If Wishes Were Horses and Drinking About You, which both transcend what we think of as Americana Music and even Country although both fit very comfortably into either genre.
While the subject matter here is often challenging, it will also resonate with many people of ‘a certain age’ and many of whom will find solace in Rachel Harrington’s words, while her Love Songs; not always easy on the ear manage to shine a light in a way very few modern songwriters can achieve in such an eloquent manner.

Released 6th September 2019
https://www.rachelharrington.net/

Ana Egge IS IT THE KISS

Ana Egge
Is It the Kiss
Story Sound Records

Light, Bright and Understated Songs of Americana Dreaminess.

Consistency is a hard line to toe when you’re an artist. Too much and all your material sounds too much the same, not enough and you risk alienating an audience who expects enough of that consistency in order to have something familiar to latch onto.
With Is It the Kiss, Ana Egge’s latest, she manages the right mix of both. We get more of the wonderful woodwinds and simple sounds from Egge’s previous album, White Tiger, throughout this new one which is a nice touch.
You don’t hear that on too many rock and folk albums these days and they give Egge’s songs a warm yet light touch, which reminds me of some of Jonathan Richman’s albums — another artist who understands dynamics and the benefits of a light, understated touch. Egge has a way with sincerity. I get the feeling that these songs rise up out of her and bubble to the surface when they’re ready instead of having to be coaxed. Her songs don’t sound forced, nor are they full of lyrical trickiness that makes one say “Oh, what a witty writer.”
Instead, these songs are way past that, coming from decidedly purer places. If a writer’s job is to say “This is who I am right now, and this what I see,” then Egge has done her job remarkably well. I’m not a believer of a need for poetry in rock music, and there is little of that here. Egge is less Bob Dylan and more Gordon Lightfoot or Tywanna Jo Baskette, and for that we should all be grateful. 
But what about the songs, you say?
“Cocaine Cowboys” is so perfectly crafted it could be a lost Willie Nelson classic, and Egge’s dreamy-druggy euphoric delivery is flawless. The sawdust pedal steel and tenuous touches on the harmonies and piano make this the perfect lead off song on a finely crafted album.
“Hurt A Little” is part life lesson, part plaintive call for peace of mind with a marvelous melody and subtly driving electric guitar.
“Stay the Night” with its pleas of patient wanting and fearlessness is a seduction song — but who is she trying to convince? Herself or her hopeful lover? On an album of short songs, this one’s the shortest, clocking in at 2:35, but has some great lines such as “What is it about a secret, that makes you wanna keep it?” delivered with honest matter of factness, not cheekily, that make this one a standout.
“Chasing Rabbits in the Sun” leaves us on a darker, yet welcome, note. This is impressionist songwriting. You know SOMETHING is going on, but not exactly what. This one is like a dream you just woke from, waiting for the coffee to kick in. 
This album, much like her previous one, is full of deft subtleties and soft intensities which magnify the mood. Ana Egge’s albums could be considered “quiet,” but they’re not “easy-listening” at all. One thing Egge and her producer and musicians understand is how that sometimes intentionally holding back can create more tension than bombastics or playing ahead of the beat.
Bravo.

Review by the Legendary Roy Peak

Released 6th September 2019
https://www.anaegge.com/
https://ffm.to/anaegge

NRBQ Turn On, Tune In

NRBQ
Turn On, Tune In
Omnivore Records

Occasionally Cerebral But Always Good Times Rock and Indeed, Roll!

Although they have been around for nigh on half a century, I only discovered NRBQ two years ago yet couldn’t have been more excited at receiving this album a month ago. The timing has been quite serendipitous as it coincided with a heatwave across the UK and a few longish car journeys where this Live Album has proven to be a very charming companion indeed.
Even though the actual performances are split between two sets two years apart for two different radio stations (Sirius XM 2015 and WFMU in 2017); such is the professionalism and quality involved, the music sits seamlessly together.
I certainly don’t know enough about NRBQ’s back catalogue to tell you what comes from where; so I’m treating this as a brand new release…… if you get my drift.
My eyes nearly popped out of my head when the poptastic harmonies of Don’t Ever Change first seeped out of the car stereo. Obviously a Goffin/King Classic; but this edgy version owes more to the Beatles than it does the Crickets hit single; and then NRBQ give us their finest Beach Boys impersonation on the quirky Florida and regardless of what was to follow, I knew I’d be in for the long haul.
It’s fair to say NRBQ are an ‘acquired taste’, especially as they can be deliberately obtuse at times; such as track Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard and The Animal Life to name but two; but that’s the joy here …… you never really know what to expect next.
These crazy cats can Rock & Roll withe best of them ……. Don’t Talk About My Music and Keep This Love Goin’ instantly spring to mind; and of course the inclusion of Red River Rock will always make my heart skip a beat.
But, NRBQ also have the ability and skill sets to go down a Randy Newman path with an intelligent message masquerading as a Pop Song; Nature’s Gonna Pay You Back and The Wilderness Road instantly spring to mind; but there are others too.
I’ve been to a lot of concerts where instrumentals are added as filler; but I certainly get the feeling that Red’s Piano is here to showcase Terry Adams pianistic talents.
While I would normally plump for a love song as my Favourite Song; and there are plenty here to choose from (the spiky Beautiful Lover and Keep This Love Goin’ are obvious choices; but It Feels Good has its merits too) but I’m going for the album closer RC Cola and Moon Pie as my absolute Favourite Song as it’s a blast; combining snatches of Duke Ellington piano tunes with a rollicking Beach Boys/Bill Haley pastiche that is as crazy as it is wonderful.
They themselves actually brag about being impossible to find a genre that they sit comfortably in …… I agree. Is it Pop? Yep. Is it Rock and Roll? Yep. Is it Art-Rock? Yep. Is it Jazz? Yep? Is it brilliant? Most certainly.

#There’s also a Live DVD of the 15 song Monty Hall/WFMU-FM performance included in the CD package; and it’s a hoot too!

Released September 6th 2019
http://www.nrbq.com/


The Blue Highways DEBUT E.P

Blue Highways
Debut EP
Self-Release

World Weary and Grizzled British Country Rock to Stir The Soul.

All I seem to take from the accompanying Press Release is that The Blue Highways are probably British, were formed in 2018 and Bob Harris likes them.
But perhaps that’s all we need to know, as the music they create certainly ‘does the talking’ for them.
The powerful opening track He Works kick-starts the EP like pouring petrol on a BBQ! This tale of guy who works hard day in and day out without complaint suddenly has his world turned upside down; giving him the opportunity to finally live the life he daydreams about ……. but does he take it?
All in all He Works is a very clever and intelligent song masquerading as a 4 to the floor Country Rocker with additional horn section. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this song came from the Southern States and not Southern England!
Callum Leary’s world weary and grizzled vocals and a muscular rhythm somehow lift the next song, the almost Shakespearean Blood Off Your Hands into Black Crowes territory, if I’m not mistaken.
Next out of the traps, Matter of Love buzzes along like it’s tail is on fire, and this enigmatic and twisted Love Song manages to question the whole concept of love, if you listen carefully …….. but even if I’m wrong, it has a very catchy chorus anyways.
With British Country and UK Americana in the ascendancy today, but judging by those first three songs The Blue Highways have decided to quite rightly, ‘out rock’ every one else on the scene; but they also throw a splendid ‘curve ball’ with the final track Have You Seen My Baby, which is more of an acoustic heartbreaker; and even without the aid of the splendid Henry Senior Jr. from Danny and the Champs supplying some truly maudlin pedal-steel would more than likely have been my Favourite Song by a Country Mile.
From their profile pictures The Blue Highways are unfeasibly young to have created such a mature and well crafted songs; but they have and this EP is certainly well worth hunting down regardless of which side of the Atlantic you live on.

Released 23rd August 2019
https://thebluehighwaysband.com/bio