WELCOME TO THE BATLANDS
Tin Man Heart
The Sad and Lonely Heart of a Saturday Night in the Dark End Of Town.
I’m not sure if there’s any basis in fact but is it possible that Singer-Songwriter is the third largest profession in Northern Ireland? It certainly feels that way judging by the amount of albums, singles and EPs I seem to receive on a weekly basis.
Bizarrely; apart from those ‘finger in the ear’ traditional Folk ones which are quickly dispensed with; the standard is always remarkably high, and this debut album from Ethan Hanna is a perfect example of working hard at your craft before putting anything on disc.
The album opens with the sound of the sea pounding a beach, followed by some intense guitar playing before a gruff voice enters the cinematic fray on the almost Irish Gothic Bikes & Cars. This is Dark Irish-Americana from the gut and owes more to Sean Rowe or my most recent favourites Curse of Lono than the homage to Bruce you’d first guess from the title.
Hanna ‘rocks it up’ on the next song Perfect; which is actually about his imperfections and sung in his now distinctive world weary, rough around the edges and gruff vocal manner, while the bass and drums trade punches to the jaw behind him.
The ‘apprenticeship’ I alluded to earlier shines through from start to finish; as I guess Hanna has actually managed to recreate the sounds he hears in his head on the enigmatic Proud and darkly beautiful Bad Dreams; which is quite some achievement when his very personal stories slowly unravel.
This isn’t an ‘easy listen’ by any stretch of the imagination; but if you have the imagination that Ethan Hanna has you will love the heart crunching Shadow City and Late August Wonder, with its deliberate ‘nod’ to Bruce even sounds like Ethan was fighting back the tears as it ended.
I receive far too many albums from singer-songwriters who try too hard to ‘be someone else;’ but Ethan Hanna proudly treads his very own path here; caring not a jot for commercial success; as the tragically beautiful Fire and the ethereal Now You’re In New York which is …….. Basically, just tragic!
Choosing a Favourite Song on an album like this is a thankless task; as individual each song will touch me in different ways whenever I hear them depending on how sad I’m feeling (you will never play this when you are in a happy mood btw); but today I’m going for Passenger seat; which finally takes young Mr Hanna into the Tom Waits territory that has been threatened since track #1; and our new friend from Lisburn, Northern Ireland says more about the fragility of love in under two minutes than most songwriters twice or thrice his age can say in a lifetime.
A Classic of its genre perhaps?
Is it the water in Nor’n Iron? The education system? Nothing on the telly? Or perhaps genetics; but yet again we have found ourselves another clever, imaginative and introspective singer-songwriter that deserves your full attention.
Released 5th October 2018
The Eclipse Sessions
New West Records
A Masterclass in Americana and Roots Singing and Songwriting.
I will hold my hands up; my relationship with John Hiatt’s music is actually very limited, as even though I knew ‘of him’ and presumed I’d like his music I didn’t own any of his music until his single Cry To Me arrived back in August; so, it really was with baited breath that I pressed ‘play’ on the office stereo that morning…….phew……ooh…..WOW! Where the first words that sprung to mind as I stopped what I was doing and stared open mouthed at the CD player as the very embodiment of Americana music filled the room for four exquisite minutes; and now nearly two months later I still felt the same excitement as it opened this, John Hiatt’s 23rd (?) studio album in 44 years.
Listening again tonight, second track All The Way to The River still makes me smile; because a month ago I played the album to Big Brother #2 who screwed his nose up when this came on, then looked quizzically at me before muttering….. “This isn’t Randy Newman, is it?” Oh how I laughed; but Hiatt’s grizzled voice and diamond edged lyrics could easily be mistaken for mid-period Newman; more so later on the pithy Poor Imitation of God and Over The Hill; which was an early contender for ‘Favourite Track’ status; but that has lost out to something a lot more personal.
As I don’t know his early work; I’m just loving this album for what it is with the songwriter’s razor sharp observations and red hot melodies on the sadly beautiful and worldly wise Hide Your Tears, Aces Up The Sleeve, Nothing In My Heart and especially the Country-Blues of I Like The Odds of Loving You which features some amazing bottle-neck guitar that made me feel a little feint at one stage.
Any of those songs would have been my ‘Favourite’ on anyone else’s album; as could the velvet edged Robbers Highway which closes the album; such is the gloriously high standard set here; but on an album that is more or less based around Hiatt’s distinctive voice and a laid back acoustic based band; I’m going left of centre for One Stiff Breeze which really rocks the joint and keeps taking me by surprise; as the 66 year old throws down the gauntlet to the scores of pretenders to his lofty throne…….. John Hiatt has still got IT!
While not really a ‘discovery’ for me; but still the first time I’ve heard a complete album by John Hiatt and there’s enough here to make me already buy a ‘Best Of’ to discover what I’ve been missing all these years.
Released October 12th 2018
Hymn For Her
Roots-Rock and Folky Americana At It’s Finest.
It might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that regular visitors to the area, Hymn For Her were the the Stars of the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage at SummerTyne Festival 2018, as their raw Rootsy Rocking n Rolling Folky Americana isn’t always ‘commercial’ nor ‘easy on the ear’; but they certainly won hundreds of new admirers, and when I passed the Merch stand Lucy and Wayne were always very busy autographing numerous CDs for a long line of music fans.
After seeing Hymn For Her four times now and owning their last release DRIVE TIL U DIE, I never know what to expect as this wonderful duo constantly reinvent themselves after immersing themselves in some new rich and exotic culture; which is sort of theme, if there is one here.
For only two people with an array of banjos, cigar box guitars, kazoos, fiddle and a mini drum kit they sure do make a big sound here; none more so than the sub-psychedelic Blue Balloons which opens the record with a lush arrangement and honeyed harmonies that you could almost bathe in.
While at home on a Festival stage, what can sometimes be lost in those performances is the subtly of their stories and the intricacy of their playing as they battle the elements.
Here Scoop becomes a delicious slice of Americana Pie, with Lucy hardly ever sounding finer and later on Shallow Graves you find yourself puzzled at first, then as the dark tale unravels you end up listening open mouthed. Powerful stuff indeed.
The couple’s charming daughter Diver makes a couple appearances here, adding some spacious and sorrowful violin to the sadder than sad Yard Sale on which Wayne seamlessly goes into Ryan Adams mode.
AHA! There it is……First Clown On The Moon; a rip roaring, raucous and fanciful ‘love song’ originally inspired by Diver’s dream of growing up to be the ‘first ballerina on the moon’; and a song that had them dancing in the aisles as the sun shone over the river at SummerTyne; and if one song actually defined Hymn For Her I guess it would be this one.
Or, it could also be the feisty and frantic Human Condition which comes straight out punching well above it’s weight and leaving the listener on the ropes as Wayne regales us with “You’re born crying/you live complaining/you die disappointed!” as we are beaten into submission.
Ain’t that the truth brothers and sisters?
On another day that would and should have been my Favourite Track; but I’m going to be contrary by selecting the Spanish flavoured Rose for no other reason than it’s simply delightful and a little bit epic.
There’s a little bit of everything here and it all gels magnificently; and that’s the beauty of Hymn For Her.
Released October 5th 2018
BROKEN INTO PIECES
The Most Emotional Break-Up and Make-Up Album You Will Ever Hear.
It must have been 2011 or 12 when I first encountered Annie Dressner as a support act at the Jumpin’ Hot Club, sitting there mesmerised for the full 35 minutes or so of her set, and it’s stayed in my memory bank ever since.
Then we have to leap forward to a couple of weeks ago when she got in touch after a friend recommended RMHQ as a possible place to send her latest (and only second!) album BROKEN INTO PIECES.
It’s still not clear why the long wait; but when you hear opening track Fades Away and what follows, you will come to the conclusion that this is a nearly perfect album of love songs that describes the roller coaster of emotions we all feel from the powerful beginning to the (eventual) Break-Up album. Fades Away is a soft, gentle and heartbreakingly beautiful love song about the time it takes to get over a break-up that she didn’t see coming, and will leave you occasionally forgetting to breathe; as it did me as she purrs out the story.
What a stunning way to start an album.
Although the musical mood picks up in the melody on the next song couple of songs, starting with Don’t Go (25th July) the sentiment in the story is as dark and brooding as I’ve heard in years and sounds just perfect for radio as does Heartbreaker which has the killer line “There’s the smell of cigarettes seeping through the curtain door/as your mother made us dinner/made my favourite thing of all/but I won’t be back again.”
Dressner’s observations of the minutiae in a once passionate relationship are staggering at times; but as the adage goes….. ‘be very careful when you break up with a songwriter; they get to write songs about you that will last forever!’
It obviously wasn’t just Annie’s songs that captured my heart that night in Newcastle but her wonderfully expressive voice that has the warmth of Nanci Griffith coupled to the softer edges of Tift Merritt; and her songs follow a similar if even more intimate path than either at times.
While all of the songs here are pleasingly feminine in origin; of course they would be – she’s a woman! But the depth involved in songs like Over and Over, the winsome Paper Moon and Numbers will resonate with many men who have gone through the same type of complicated relationship; such is the way Annie’s genuine sensitivity keeps shining through.
Me? I’m in a very strong and stable relationship (41 years and counting) but I knew heartbreak as a young man and have seen friends and family crumble as complicated relationships go wrong; not everything is black and white. So we can appreciate and sympathise with where Ms Dressner is coming from on the tearjerkers Morning and more pertinently Falter which sort of sent a shiver down my spine.
The first time I played Kentucky I had to stop it half way through and go back to the start, just to confirm what my ears had heard. I’m not going to spoil the surprise or indeed twist in the tale; but tucking this song away in the middle is a very clever trick indeed.
Then, there is a song so clever and personal that it will get standing ovations whenever it is played in concert; which is why Bruise Beneath My Bones is my Favourite Track here. It, like many others isn’t actually an ‘easy listen’ and nor is it intended to be; but boy has it got a sting in the tale ….several in fact, as Annie goes into full on Tarantula mode to let him know how she really, really feels!
For an album that is probably on the Folkie end of the Americana spectrum BROKEN INTO PIECES has more S.O.U.L than anything you are going to hear from just about anyone else this year or many more to come.
Released October 26th 2018 (pre-order NOW and get three free songs immediately)
# Annie Dressner is such a good and imaginative songwriter; she is actually happily married to Paul Goodwin who appears here on keyboards!
My Years with Townes Van Zandt.
‘Music, Genius and Rage.’
Harold F Eggers Jr & LE McCullough
I first came across Townes Van Zandt courtesy of The Cowboy Junkies’ love song ‘Townes Blues’ and their cover of ‘To Live is To Fly’ on the BLACK EYED MAN album way back in 1992. A little bit of research brought me to a 23 track ‘Best Of’ which I purchased for £3.99 (it still has a sticker on it!) from Goldrush Records in Perth, Scotland; but, I really struggled with it; primarily because of Townes’ voice; which was and still is ‘something only a Mother could love’.
Thankfully in the intervening years my tastes have changed and Mr Van Zandt is now a cornerstone of my collection; and quite often the benchmark I now use for intelligent and heartfelt Americana; of which he was one of the finest singer-songwriters ever in that very competitive market place. #Fact
So; when this book was offered for review I couldn’t say “Yes please!” fast enough.
First of all this isn’t your normal biography; although bits and pieces of Townes early life is included but only as background, with tales of his Great Grandfather venturing into Indian territory with the family fortune and coming back with a mixed-race child and who knew he was enrolled in a Military Academy after being deemed unruly at school; then being given electric shock therapy to ‘cure his behaviour’ aged 19? Knowing what we know now about such things and with the benefit of hindsight he must have suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder; but for all of his 52 years he was just ‘troubled’.
The book is told from the point of view of Harold F Eggers who himself had ‘problems’ after serving in Vietnam and going on to become the songwriter’s Tour Manager, best friend, confidante, business partner and occasional getaway driver for over twenty years; while also building a successful career himself in the Music Industry.
Impressively Eggers never comes across as judgemental, intrusive or even sensationalist when recounting stories that will make your hair stand on end; but never actually surprising you.
As TVZ insisted many times in conversations with H, he tells the stories ‘honestly, warts and all’ and boy are there ‘warts’ here!
There are many individual concerts included from across the years, leaving me incredibly jealous at not discovering him until it was too late for me to see him play, as a couple of friends have on his infrequent visits to Europe and the UK where he found an adoring fan base which gave him a new lease of life late on in his career.
I won’t spoil it for you as there are surprises around every corner as our favourite Texas Troubadour’s charm shines through every chapter, even when you would cheerfully hold him down as Eggers strangles him after yet another successful attempt to grasp failure from the jaws of success, in a 20 year roller coaster ride of a tale that will break your heart and make you smile like all the best blockbusters do; and that’s how this story feels…..it’s a Blockbuster (and a ballbuster too).
I’ve seen Heartworn Highways several times so knew of his relationship with Guy, Rodney and the young Steve Earle, but who knew Dylan was a fan and an album by both men was planned but never materialised because our hero, who had cheated life so many, many times finally succumbed to the Ghosts that had haunted him all of his life on January 1st 1997.
Although I knew how the story ended and everything builds towards Van Zandt’s death; the last two chapters were still really hard for me to read; and when Eggers leaves a visibly ill Townes on New Years Eve and flies home to celebrate the holiday with his family; he writes……
“I fell asleep and was drowsing on the living room sofa, when our black lab, Jezebel began barking furiously, scampering around the house as if chasing an unseen visitor.
I woke with a start and watched the lights flicker, then dim for several seconds before coming back up. I tried to quiet her as two more light dimming cycles occurred; then the lights stabilized and the dog hushed.”
Half an hour later the phone rang and Townes wife Jeanene whispered, “Townes has gone.”
By this stage tears were streaming down my cheeks.
The congregation at the service after TVZ’s cremation is a veritable who’s who of the nascent Roots/Americana scene with Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle among many others sang his songs and told beautiful stories about a very troubled man who history now knows was a true Genius.
Published (Hardback) October 16th 2018
DOPAMINE MACHINE & ACOUSTIC DOPAMINE
Blues Is Art
Two Contrasting Albums of the Same Great Songs.
This is not just an interesting, but a fascinating concept……. an album chock full of Blues Rockers, then the same songs by the same artist done acoustically.
Can it work? Will it work?
Without spoiling your fun; the answer is a resounding YES.
As is often the case I’d not heard of Hadden Sayers before receiving these two discs; but not only is DOPAMINE MACHINE his 9th album he plays guitar for Ruthie Foster whom we have a warm and soft spot for here at RMHQ.
The ‘electric’ album kicks off with a roar of ZZ Top proportions on Unsatisfied; and it’s no surprise that Maestro Billy Gibbons reckons Hadden is “pretty much my hero” as Sayers threatens the listeners sensibilities with his gruff singing voice and buzz-saw guitar licks; on a pretty cool song; it has to be said.
Now I’ve played the album 5 or 6 times; the sound of ZZ Top is certainly the ‘elephant in the room’ on a few songs but hey; that’s certainly no bad thing when they are of the quality of Hit The Road, Peppermint Patty and the raw muscle power of Backbreaker on which Sayers makes Ozzy Osbourne sound quite wimpy in comparison!
Not everything here actually trods that path though, no no no……Blood Red DeVille slows things down to a country stroll on a Sunday evening, and Sayers shows the versatility he’s acquired after so many years on the road by slinging in a cool slice of sexy Funk Rock with Good, Good Girl which, showcases his sizzling guitar skills better than just about anything else here.
On an album that is predominantly ‘Rock’ based I’m actually choosing two slower songs as my joint favourite tracks (it’s an age thing!); Gravity is one of those beautiful Acoustic-Rock ballads that builds and builds to a crescendo that used to litter the airwaves in the Eighties; and Hadden does the genre proud, with a very well written and constructed song.
The other was a much easier and probably more obvious choice for me, as Waiting Wanting is not just a gorgeous song in it’s own rite but actually features Ruthie Foster too which is never a bad thing.
DOPAMINE MACHINE is a really good collection of songs, which together showcase a talent that I’d not been aware of but will try my best to discover his back catalogue.
I wish I knew who once said “you know the strength of a great Rock song when it can be played just as well on an acoustic guitar” (or something like that) but Hadden Sayers certainly puts this adage to the test when he re-recorded all of the songs on DOPAMINE MACHINE In a way that sounds like they are from his bedroom with only his trusty Gibson ’54 acoustic and the (very) occasional assistance of Jim Ed Cobbs on percussion and the return of Ruthie Foster on Waiting Wanting.
For me, Sayers tale of addiction Dopamine Machine which opens the second disc is even more powerful in this raw state, as his voice virtually spits out the lyrics and you can hear every intimate breath in between lines too.
One fascinating aspect of the Acoustic album is the way the songs are re-ordered which appears to tell the same ‘story’ but in a much more coherent manner.
Learning to Disappear in this format becomes a breathtaking tale our modern times and the waste we create, told through a cracked voice and a man who has a compelling way with an acoustic guitar.
It’s a personal thing but I love the way Sayers counts himself in on Peppermint Patty and yet again a song I adored in its Rocky version, takes on a whole new life as the story unfolds in a much more personal manner; which is also true of Good Good Girl which now sounds like something Bruce might have written for The River but never got around to recording.
Obviously the whole point of these two collections is to ‘compare and contrast’ but it’s sometimes not fair; as both versions of Gravity and Backbreaker sound so completely different from each other I defy you to tell me they are the same songs; yet both are fabulous with Sayers really getting his Country-Blues on with both Acoustic versions.
Waitin Wanting (featuring Miss Ruthie Foster) is absolutely spellbinding and much more sensitive and sensual in this really basic formula, and when Ruthie supplies her background vocals I swear I went weak at the knees the first time I heard it.
Funnily enough I can’t slide a cigarette paper between two songs when choosing my obligatory ‘Favourite Track’ but two completely different songs from the ones on the ‘electric album’ which I think is quite odd.
Blood Red Deville isn’t a million miles away from the original; but without any other distractions Sayers sounds like he is drifting away into a whole other universe as he delivers his very private lyrics; and the other song, I Feel Love seems to delve into the Jose Feliciano arena, as Sayers delves deep into his soul to bring out the passion in absolutely every word and note he squeezes out of that classy wooden box.
DOPAMINE MACHINE is every inch a good Blues-Rock album full of ire, brimstone and majestic guitar playing and I’m sure it will appeal to his core fan base and even bring in new fans too but; and it’s just a personal thing but I very much prefer the ACOUSTIC DOPAMINE album; as it’s the style of music from the Americana/Blues spectrum that I listen to most these days; and Sayers is suddenly right up there with some of my favourite performers, with this album going on the shelf next to Jason Isbell, Chuck Prophet and Tom Russell.
Released September 14th 2018
Tony Joe White
Haunting and Magical Songs of the South.
Thankfully I’ve had this album on and off the office stereo and car radio for the last 6 weeks or so; because I’m in a rush to write the review today and……..Tony Joe White music isn’t for ‘rushing’ to? Is it?
Even the dark tale of a stormy relationship which opens the record. Bad Mouthin’ is done at a country stroll pace; with White pouring his heart out; but not having the energy or will to leave the woman who keeps Bad Mouthin’ him (or her if Lucinda ever records this). Sheer, absolute quality!
Only the words ‘raw and basic’ can describe the sound and indeed atmosphere that White creates across Bad Mouthin’ as he predominantly just records with his voice, Fender Telecaster and a wheezy harmonica; making the richly observational Cool Town Woman, Rich Woman Blues and Stockholm Blues all sound like a ghost is singing them in a haunted house somewhere in the Everglades.
For a legendary songwriter in his own rite; Tony Joe White has some amazing songs to cover too; with his rendition of Baby Please Don’t Go being so sparse I swear you can hear him take a breath before wheezing into his harmonica and on Boom Boom he makes a sexy song sound incredibly seedy and even sleazier than I’d ever imagine it could sound.
There’s a silver thread of loss and sorrow in just about every track; with the Lightnin’ Hopkins Awful Dreams and White’s own Cool Town Woman being absolutely spine tingling as well as raising the hair on the back of my neck.
Even the most uptempo song here, Charley Patton’s deeply personal Dirt Road Blues barely gets beyond Country Shuffle mode, with the drummer tapping away like a heart fit to burst on a song that captures the magic of White’s Southern swampland home.
Selecting a ‘Favourite Track’ has fallen between two fantastic tracks; I’m an Elvis fan at heart, but the dry and dusty manner White delivers Heartbreak Hotel takes the song onto a level I could never have dreamed of, but I’m probably erring on the side of Bad Dreams, which is something I’ve personally suffered from for years and the almost spooky arrangement coupled to White’s mumbled singing style and razor sharp guitar playing capture the horrors that these things can create quite perfectly.
I’ve been aware of Tony Joe White since I was a kid but only came to his albums about 10 years ago via a compilation; and after buying and loving the last four I think I can safely say this is the album that Tony Joe White has wanted to make for a mighty long time…….and you can share it too.
Released September 28th 2018
A Different Thread
ON A WHIM
A Spellbinding Blend Of British Folk and Carolina Hill Music.
We rather liked the last EP from Robert Jackson and Alicia Best and have been looking forward to the couple’s debut album since that release 12 months ago.
The album opens with Roberts pouring his heart out on the dark tinged Folk Song On a Whim; with Alicia supplying delicious harmonies that bely the couple’s background from different continents.
The mood picks up with the snappy Hold Me Down which follows; which has a bit of a sea-shanty melody if I’m not too mistaken, and the fiddle sounds a lot more British West Country than American West.
Which is actually one of the things I like most about A Different Thread; they aren’t afraid to mix n match their respective musical backgrounds; with one coming from the Litchfield middle of England and the other Durham, North Carolina.
Both singers; when they take the lad have their very own virtues; complimenting each other like leather and lace; with Alicia’s breathy and pearlescent voice being able to melt the hardest of hearts on Potter’s Field, Carolina Song and most notably the haunting Not Good With Words which closes the disc.
Jackson; on the other hand likes a good ole foot-stomper; with The Farmers Mistress and Hold Me Down proving I can like Traditional Folk music; if I really put my mind to it; but in these cases there’s definitely an Old School Americana feel to the tunes as well.
Choosing a favourite song hasn’t been easy as, when Jackson slows things down on High Time and Alicia provides shimmering harmonies the couple transcend normal musical boundaries; but I’m going to point you towards the pretty Rosa Rosa which has Alicia on lead vocals which somehow remind me of the young Rita Coolidge or maybe even Bobbie Gentry; I guess it’s the Southern genes that does it.
Sometimes I can get bogged down in comparing acts that you’ve not heard of, so you can get an idea of what they sound like; and now I’ve re-read my words it may confuse you if I mention singers and songwriters like Tom Paxton, Richard Thompson, Rita and even Sandy Denny; but there are hints of all these and more in the distinctive way A Different Thread perform their well written and thoughtful songs; but they don’t sound like any other duo/band I can actually think of, and that’s no bad thing at all.
Give them a try; I doubt you will be disappointed.
Released September 14th 2018
Lucky Hound Music
Take Three Girls and a Handful of Melodies, Hooks and Some Great Songs.
The consummate members of Nobody’s Girl have all been on our radar for a few years; be it as solo artistes or harmony singers or just as damn good songwriters, so putting them together is almost a stroke of genius on somebody’s part.
If you need to know who Rebecca Loebe, Grace Pettis and Betty Soo are I guess you are on this website by mistake, but hey…you are here, so read on.
I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t quite expecting the punchy Power-Pop of opening track What’ll I Do? But; Hell…… Grace Pettis turns out to be a bit of a a firecracker on a song full of luscious harmonies, hooks and a melody that you can’t help swaying to and……in my case……singing along to!
There are similar surprises left, right and centre among these seven songs; with Betty Soo’s Waterline sounding a bit like Belinda Carlisle singing a Tom Petty song; and Rebecca makes the swaggering Blondie song Call Me into a Saturday night anthem that groups of feisty and flirty young women will drink beer to, screech out the chorus while scaring the bejasus out of any young men who dare enter their lair; but then she makes Queen City into a sleazy and sexy song that will make those same women then cry their hearts out to its heartbreaking chorus and story…. if you know what I mean.
With hindsight I was probably expecting more songs like Bluebonnets, as it has its roots on the Folk-Rock Arena;but sits perfectly well among this more contemporary and dare I say it…..more commercial company.
Then we go to the glorious Power-Ballad Riding Out The Storm which takes the title of Favourite Track by the merest whisker; simply because all of the ingredients come together in four fabulous minutes that make me despair at the state of modern radio; as songs this good will never come out of the FM speakers any more.
WATERLINE comes to an all too brief ending with a ‘live’ recording of What’ll I Do; and it leaves the listener; or at least this one, salivating at the opportunity of seeing Nobody’s Girl play live.
Released September 28th September 2018
The Weight Band
WORLD GONE MAD
No Stage Fright From These Big Pink Veterans.
Normally I have a pathologic hatred of looky-likey bands; so even though the Press Release was a bit vague I still approached this release with appropriate caution.
But (*Spoiler Alert) the end result is just fine and dandy; as The Weight Band, who are made up of musicians from the Band’s latter touring version pay homage to the forefathers of Americana AND Alt. Country in the finest way without resorting to lazy cover versions of the Hits; but carefully selecting a couple of rarities and a Jerry Garcia cover to compliment 8 of their own songs; which sound pretty damn authentic.
Obviously for fiscal reasons The Weight Band sound uncannily like The Band; and the title track World Gone Mad sounds just perfect in that context; blending a little bit of old-school hippy wisdom with 21st Century cynicism; which is why the originals music still stands tall today.
Once I’d put my original reservations to one side I quickly fell in love with the raunchy You’re Never Too Old to Rock and Roll, which will be included on the mythical RMHQ Soundtrack album.
This is immediately followed by Big Legged Sadie (from Saskatoon) which genuinely sounds like the Band in all their finery having a ball on a cheeky love song.
I’m sorry if I keep ‘comparing and contrasting’ but it’s difficult not too, as we have three singers here who all sound very similar to Levon, Robbie and Garth; and their instrumentation and playing is as razor sharp as you’d expect too.
With that in mind; I’ve sort of treat this album as ‘the album the Band never made’ and in that context Every Step of The Way and Fire in The Hole work perfectly well; and the beautiful I Wish You Were Here Tonight sounds even better and could easily have been an out take from Cahoots.
But; then again Heat of the Moment and Bob Dylan’s 1998 Day of the Locusts, while fitting the format perfectly well somehow manage to take the music in a whole new. exciting direction.
There is also one song here that straddles both of those formats and that’s the blue collar bodacious Country rocker, Common Man which is easily my favourite song here and sets the course for whatever The Weight Band choose to release next.
As they are first and foremost a touring band; the album closes with a Live track The Remedy, which truly showcases what this band are all about and manages to whet my appetite for any future UK Tour.
Released 14th September 2018