Curse of Lono SEVERED Submarine Cat Records

curse of lono1

Curse of Lono
SEVERED
Submarine Cat Records

Tightly Wrapped, Dark and Cinematic Americana.

Somehow managing to blend the harmonious Twang of the Byrds with the songwriting of Nick Cave, Curse of Lono’s EP came along just at the right time last Autumn; capturing the gloomy zeitgeist that was all pervading at RMHQ just perfectly.
Jump forward six months; and we are still enjoying a good wallow in musical melancholia…..so, bring on the Curse of Lono LP!
The album opens with Five Miles High; an illegitimate step-brother to the Byrds Eight Miles High; with harmonies to you could drink and enough psychedelic Amaricanesque guitar to light up a motorway.
The song is quite deep and mystical; but Felix Bechtolsheimer’s world weary voice draws you in like a siren on the rocks.
While Curse of Lono are only two years old; Bechtolsheimer wrote these songs over a 14 year period; knowing that sooner or later he would find a fitting band and producer to bring them to life.
For a British band, Curse of Lono can make you feel like you are sitting in a Texas saloon bar (Send For the Whisky), lonely Mid-Western Motel (Each Time You Hurt) or perhaps the JFK Airport Lounge (He Takes My Place) with the greatest of ease…..they just ‘get’ America and Americana. The way the narrator describes the minutiae in that latter heartbreaker (He Takes My Place) put Felix up there with the likes of Slaid Cleaves and Otis Gibbs around these here parts.
Apart from Felix Bechtolsheimer’s identifiable voice the main thing that makes Curse of Lono stand out from the crowd of British pretenders is the way they use guitar effects to emphasise the mood of different songs; even making one sound like a pump-organ on Welcome Home.
The perkiest song here, Pick Up The Pieces has the feel of someone like Paul Simon or Don McLean on mogadon…..but don’t let that analogy put you off, because it’s excellent; dark and mysterious certainly but excellent and will stick in your brain for hours afterwards.
While I adore this album for what it is; an actual album two songs particularly stand out; the Country-Blues of Just My Head with it’s opening line “Its hard not to drink like a man/when the ghosts that surround you insist that you can”…..it’s when I hear songs like this that I realise how powerful music can be; but I have yo hark back to a song from that EP that features here and has matured in that year like a fine whisky. London Rain still has a minor Doorsian feel to it but oddly enough hints of the Jam in Down in the Tube Station (After Midnight). The edgy atmosphere Bechtolsheimer and friends conjures up, of the darker side of a fractured relationship that is as frightening as it is figurative.
I fear for the success of SEVERED by Curse of Lono as Summer is just around the corner and this is best listened to late on a windswept rainy evening; but I guess a lot of readers here inhabit that world 12 months a year anyway!

http://www.curseoflonoband.com/

Released April 7th 2017

Justin Townes Earle – Champagne Corolla (single)

jte cd

Justin Townes Earle
Champagne Corolla (single)
New West Records

With Mothers Day in mind I asked my friend Richard to play Mama’s Eyes by Justin Townes Earle on his radio show Leader’s American Pie on Monday night. I’d not played Justin’s albums for a while so it was a joy hearing him again…..then today, Thursday I’ve weirdly just received his NEW SINGLE Champagne Corolla and a message saying a new album is on the way too!
As my Dad never tired of saying, “God acts in mysterious ways!!”

Justin has signed to New West Records and will release the new album ‘Kids In The Street’ on 26th May. The 12-song set was produced by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit) at his ARC Studios, and is the first time in his career that Earle has worked with an outside producer.

‘Kids In The Street’ marks a decade into Earle’s recording career and follows his acclaimed companion albums Single Mothers and Absent Fathers (2015). The deeply soulful set is both emotionally riveting and effortlessly uplifting. Now embracing sobriety, marriage, and impending fatherhood, Earle is enthusiastically looking to the future. “Life has changed a lot for me in the last few years,” Earle reflects. “I got married and am getting ready to become a father, and this is the first record that I’ve written since I’ve been married. There’s definitely an uplifting aspect to this record in a lot of ways, because I’m feeling pretty positive.” He continues, “When I wrote songs in the past, I was looking in on what I was feeling, but this record’s more about looking outward on what’s happening, and writing about subjects like gentrification and inner city strife. This record also has more of a soul influence to it, and it’s got a deeper connection to the blues than anything I’ve done before.”

You can listen to ‘Kids In The Street’’s opener ‘Champagne Corolla’ here:

‘Kids In the Street’ will be available digitally, as well as compact disc and vinyl. The album is now available for pre-order via PledgeMusic including an exclusive, limited edition colored vinyl version of the LP, special 7” single including ‘Maybe A Moment’ as well as Earle’s reading of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, and cassette.

Justin Townes Earle will take to the road in the States this Spring with his longtime guitarist Paul Niehaus alongside The Sadies as his backing band, with UK and European dates to be announced soon.

‘Kids In The Street’ Track Listing:
1. Champagne Corolla
2. Maybe A Moment
3. What’s She Crying For
4. 15-25
5. Kids In The Street
6. Faded Valentine
7. What’s Goin’ Wrong
8. Short Hair Woman
9. Same Old Stagolee
10. If I Was The Devil
11. Trouble Is
12. There Go A Fool

Rodney Crowell – CLOSE TIES

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Rodney Crowell
CLOSE TIES
New West Records

Deeply Personal Stories of Life, Love and Friends.

Rodney Crowell has a new album coming out……BUY IT! What more do you need to know?
Oh; you want to know a bit more about the content, do you? Alright then….here goes.
Rodney Crowell divides opinion at RMHQ, as Mrs. Magpie still goes weak at the knees listening to those early albums by the handsome young man with the curly hair and chiselled cheekbones; whereas I love and adore his later more reflective albums; now that his hair is more ‘salt and pepper’ and his voice gravelly and emotional.
On the surface Rodney Crowell has had a wonderful life; happily married, lovely family and a career that shows no signs of fading; but like most of us of now a certain vintage; close friends have illnesses and many die; leaving us with memories, both good and bad.
If I’m any judge of character that’s where CLOSE TIES begins; and as any songwriter worth his salt knows; there’s always a song in misery.
The album opens with East Houston Blues; featuring Tommy Emmanuel playing some mean guitar then through a pained voice details a boy from a fractured childhood in the poor part of town where the lad ‘learned to drink and drive when I was 12’ before embarking on a life of minor and unsuccessful crime. Presumably it’s not autobiographical, but the detail in and between the lines is astonishing and proves what a great songwriter Rodney is.
Next song Reckless takes my breath away every time I hear it. One of the more simpler arrangements here, the singer sounds as sad as a man can be, as he tells two stories at once. One is of a man living a wild Reckless life but he also has a guilty streak a mile wide running down his back, because ‘you were watching from a distant star.’ Crowell’s way with words has always been undervalued in my opinion; but songs like this prove he is up there with the Masters.
There certainly aren’t many laughs here; but why would there be? This is a man looking at his life and reflecting on his many mistakes; but realising how lucky he has been too……something I can associate with all the way.
Some songs are from his vivid imagination and others are from his colourful life, and all are very near the bone.  I’ve certainly had days when I Don’t Care Any More could be my very own theme tune and the single It Ain’t Over Yet featuring Crowell’s ex-wife Roseanne Cash and John Paul White is the type of ‘fighting song’ that gets many of us with ‘rickety legs and watery eyes’ wish we could have written ourselves; but thankfully Rodney has and we can sing along to the chorus with arthritically clenched fists. Plus I’m as lucky as the narrator because I too have someone who takes the Roseanne Cash role of ‘all forgiving Angel’ …….and when she sings ‘No you don’t walk on water/and your sarcasm stings’ I felt that the song really was about me; and you will too. Honestly; this is one of the finest songs you will hear this year.
There are ten songs here and any one could be my ‘favourite song’ in fact they all are; but I will narrow it down to two…..both dark bittersweet love songs.
Forgive Me Annabelle finds Crowell begging forgiveness from a former lover and has some top-quality lines from start to finish; ‘You lean on anger like a crutch’, ‘We both knew how far from grace I fell’ and ‘When you walked out on me/it tore my heart in half/and I hid behind a laugh’. Come on; when did you last hear a song with lyrics half as powerful as those?
But I’m choosing the song about Crowell’s best friends wife as the Winner.
Forty years or more ago two of my favourite rock songs Layla and Something were about the same woman, Pattie Boyd; and now I feel the same way about Guy Clark’s My Favourite Picture of You and Life Without Susanna on this album. Both are about Clark’s late wife  who was the heart and muse in the infamous gang that included Crowell, Clark, Earle, Van Zandt and a host of others who invented this thing we call Americana.
I’m not sure ‘unrequited love’ describes a relationship between ‘A self-sure bastard and stubborn bitch’ but the way Crowell describes the effect her debilitating illness and eventual death is truly heartbreaking; and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything so raw and yet beautiful before.
The album isn’t anywhere near as bleak as my words sound; and the closing song Nashville 1972 is a four minute opus that encompasses a period in musical history that helped define Crowell’s life and my record collection. In lesser hands it could sound like ‘name dropping’ when Crowell talks about his friend named Guy and the innumerable singers, poets, tightrope walkers and more drifted through their house; but Rodney turns it all into musical poetry.
It’s difficult to compare CLOSE TIES to Rodney’s previous albums; even the latter ones as this is ‘different’ and ‘different’ in a very good, personal and intimate way; and it just may be his very best ….only time will tell, but it’s not been off my player for a whole week.

RELEASED 31st March 2017

https://www.rodneycrowell.com/

Lowlands and Friends – Play Townes Van Zandt’s Last Set.

TVZ LOWLANDS

Lowlands and Friends
Play Townes Van Zandt’s Last Set.
Route 61

A Wonderful Homage To A Legendary Evening.

Townes Van Zandt didn’t really find fame, nor certainly fortune during his lifetime; but his influence and shadow can be heard and felt in a lot of what we now call Americana Music.
He played his last ever set at The Borderline in London on Tuesday 3rd December 1996; and as was common at the time only hardcore fans were there to witness a shambling set, with the singer the worse for ‘a life well lived.’
Twenty years later Songwriter, producer and leader of Lowlands Edward Abbiati has lovingly recreated the complete set-list in chronological order with the help of numerous friends from today’s wacky world of Roots music, in bars, garages, bedrooms and wherever across the globe.
Each song is introduced in the style of a radio presenter by narrator Barry Marshall-Everett who was there that night.
First song, Lightning Hopkins’ My Starter Won’t Start is a low down dirty Country Blues, featuring Shinyribs/Gourds frontman the inimitable Kevin Russell alongside the Gnola Blues Band; and boy does it inhabit the soul of not just the song; but Townes himself.
There are Townes’ songs here that I’d forgot about; and some I plain didn’t know and the way some of bands and singers explore the depths of his words are at times overwhelming.
Dollar Bill Blues I did recognise; but Italian Rock band Cheap Wine turn the volume up and create a dirty Grunge meets Alt. Country rocker of the highest quality.
Just like that track there are surprises, and always pleasant surprises around every corner…..with new names to me like Will T Massey and Australian Tim Rogers reinventing Marie and A Song For respectively.
Then there are RMHQ favourites Sid Griffin and Rod Picott to talk about; with Sid, Michele Gazrich and a band we’d nearly forgot about, The Lucky Strikes combining to bring an extra spark to Pancho & Lefty; making it sound not unlike The Band; although Michele Gazich’s ‘fiddle-extreme’ really does cut through everything like a freshly sharpened Bowie knife.
Rod makes two appearances; one alongside a host of other great voices on an almost psychedelic version of Sanatorium Blues; then on the much easier on the ear Tecumseh Valley/Dead Flowers hybrid; which was an early contender for the ‘favourite song’ accolade.
That in fact goes to the stunning Waiting Around To Die; with Chris Cacavas from the legendary Green on Red on Vocals fronting an intensely tight band of fine musicians, which leaves me breathless every time I hear it.
This would have been a fascinating project even if it had only been one singer re-enacting the concert; but by featuring such a variety of bands, singers and musicians to cover each song in their own inimitable way is very nearly genius; and every one concerned, especially Edward Abbiati should be incredibly proud of themselves.

Released February 10th 2017

Bone Moon – The Writer (EP)

bone moon

Bone Moon
The Writer (EP)
Self-Release

Beauteous, Brittle and Atmospheric Americana Inspired Lo-Fi From Finland.

A few years ago Son #1 who lives in Finland was taken on a date to see a Finnish Folk-Rock band called Ochre Room, and halfway through the gig he thought ‘My Dad will love these!’ and much to the young lady’s horror (Finnish people are notoriously shy) he introduced himself to the singer at the end of the gig and explained that his Dad was a writer for Maverick magazine in the UK…..they were impressed and gave him a copy of their CD.
A year later I actually interviewed the band for said magazine and stardom surely beckoned….alas not. and like so many other young bands they appeared to have just fizzled out.
Then; totally out of the blue I revived an e-mail yesterday from the singer Lauri Myllymäki who has now formed a new group called Bone Moon, and attached a link to their debut EP.
WOW!
To some degree starting where Ochre Room left off, opening song The Writer is stunning in its complexity; as one voice, a guitar, a banjo and something called a jouhikko combine to create a haunting slice of Arcadian Americana that you would normally associate with the likes of Fleet Foxes or Cowboy Junkies, not three young people from rural Finland.
Track #2 Bone Moon; is full of shimmering cymbals, plucked banjo and cello (?) as well as some almost Classical guitar alongside Myllymäki’s ethereal voice on a song that is as deep and dark as it is mysterious and will stay in your memory bank long after the record has stopped.
Lady Noon; is the type of cryptic love song that music fans have tried to unravel for decades; but I chose to just let it wash over me like a velvet fog; and yet again Lauri’s voice just melts into your heart.
This far too short EP closes with False Fires, the closest thing here to ‘commercial Folk music’; the sort that I would listen to by Nick Drake or John Martyn with the lights off as I wondered if I would ever find love…..you know the type of song; and Bone Moon capture that feeling better than anyone I’ve listened to in many a year.
What more can I say? I was probably pre-destined to like anything which featured Lauri Myllymäki singing; but these four songs have far exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to actually see and hear these songs played live either in the UK or Finland.

Released March 10th 2017.

Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone – Transatlanticana

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Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone
Transatlanticana
Proper Music/The Last Music Co.

The Titan and The Godfather of Pub Rock Rip It Up In The Lounge.

If you already know these two names you will buy this ‘historic’ album anyways; and if you don’t I think you are on the wrong the website!
Bill co-founded Commander Cody nearly 100 years ago; even before Country Rock was born, never mind Alt. Country and Austin de Lone goes down in British music history as a member of Eggs Over Easy who were the founders of Pub Rock, which begat…….you do the Googling.
As friends and colleagues since those heady days in the 70’s Bill and Austin have played together on stage and in the studio many times; but never actually made an album together…..that wrong is righted here.
TRANSATLANTICANA couldn’t open with anything other than a gorgeous slice of trademark Bill Kirchen. Quirky, funny and intelligent lyrics, tipping a hat towards Merle and Company on top of some of the sweetest Telecaster and Baritone geetar your ears will ever hear.
Kirchen takes the lead again on the following track Wine, Wine, Wine only this time Bobby Black compliments the sad song with some sweet pedal steel alongside Bill’s trademark guitar sound, while De Lone comes and goes at ease on the piano in the corner.
As expected the ‘Country Rockers’ come thick and fast; with Butch Hancock’s Oxblood giving Austin the opportunity to happily punch the piano keys through to the floor as Kirchen and Hancock trade words and licks like feisty teenagers.
If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought All Tore Up was a Rockabilly classic, but it’s not it’s from the pen of Austin De Lone and allows him to take lead on vocals and piano and the world is a whole better place for it!
While I love the fast paced tracks with all of my heart; my soul keeps making me go back to the slow and tender ‘lounge’ songs that are included; not just because I wasn’t expecting them (which I wasn’t) but because each one is staggeringly sad and beautiful.
On Losing Hand De Lone and Kirchen sound like the house band at midnight in a run down club in the dangerous part of Vegas; singing to and for all the losers and hustlers cradling their last drink of the evening. Tucked away towards the end the duo tear up Dylan’s hoary old The Times They Are a Changing; filling it with the bile and fire first associated with it nearly 50 years ago; but sadly missing from most interpretations.
Warm and Tender Love is a serious contender for ‘favourite track’ especially as it has the warmth and depth of something Nick Lowe would sing; but has the fragility of Goffin and King too.
Another could be the Country-Gospel Somebody’s Going Home too; but my heart and soul concur that Back in The Day ticks every box there is in Country Music.
Written by Kirchen’s wife Louise; the singer looks back on those hazy, crazy days of 1969 when they all had flowers in their hair but ‘they had tear gas and guns’ as they sang ‘we shall overcome’…..sadly this song is all too appropriate for 2017, and the doleful way Kirchen uses his voice; as the band create a tension that is nearly frightening make for a song that deserves to be heard by Politicians and their volatile supporters of all hues around the world.
If you are lucky as me, your copy will include the bonus tracks No Need For Knocking and the legendary Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette too.
Baring in mind this album was recorded in several sessions across several cities on both sides of the Atlantic, Malcolm Mills production and the razor sharp editing come together to create an album that sounds like it was recorded in one glorious session that went on late into the night.
I’ve seen Bill Kirchen play live many times over the years; and for once he doesn’t try to recapture that magic on disc. This is an ‘actual album’ full of songs and immaculate playing by musicians who are all at the top of their game; recreating this sound on stage will be a problem for another day.

Released March 3rd 2017

https://www.billkirchen.com/

Jim Lauderdale – London Southern

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Jim Lauderdale
London Southern
Proper Records

Landmark Album For Country’s Wagonmaster.

While I wouldn’t say I was a ‘fan’ of Jim Lauderdale, I do own three albums that I still play occasionally and when I had my radio show would play the occasional track, and at least twice as the subject of requests; so I was thrilled last week when this, his latest release dropped onto the hall carpet.
Opening track Sweet Time is a delightful Country shuffle in the mode of someone like Charly Pride or Vince Gill; and it wouldn’t take too much of a leap to imagine any of today’s ‘Hat Acts’ covering in a bid to add authenticity to an album. The title London Southern comes from Lauderdale recording he disc in the Goldstar Studios in London, England with his friend Nick Lowe’s band and when you know that; you can hear a slightly different tone to Lauderdale’s regular approach on songs like the stunning Different Kind of Groove Sometimes and Mrs. Magpie’s favourite song here, What Have You Got to Lose with its sumptuous background harmonies.
Tucked away towards the end of the album is deep and meaningful song; when Jim gives us a full throated Country warble, along with some Memphis style soulful trumpet and sax…..I Can’t Do Without You is trademark Lauderdale but somehow as fresh as a daisy too.
The Twangtastic Don’t Shut Me Down and You Came to Get Me will both make feet all around the world get the urge to dance, and show that Lauderdale can still write great songs in any style he desires.
It’s fascinating to realise that this songwriters-songwriter isn’t afraid of a challenge; as shown by the choice of co-writers on a couple of songs included here, not only has he wrote two with the legendary Dan Penn but another pair with the ‘Blue Eyed Soul’ star John Oates and it’s one of those If I Can’t Resist; which reminded me of Wicked Game by Chris Isaak; and certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack.
Love songs come at you from all directions on this record; but the late night piano, heart stopping double bass and sweeping strings that accompanying a crooning Jim Lauderdale on I Love You More just melted my heart the first time I heard it and there’s been a tiny tear in the corner of my eye each subsequent play. I’m not aux fait with every song he has ever written; but I doubt he’s ever written one more beautiful, making this easily my favourite song here.
It’s shameful to discover that after 27 previous albums and too many hits for other stars too numerous to mention spread over a career spanning 27+ years that legendary songwriter Jim Lauderdale’s solo albums have only ever troubled the Country Music Charts twice; and then only at #47 & #67!
Will London Southern fare any better? Who knows; but if I’m any judge I’m pretty sure it will go Top 10 in the UK AMA Charts pretty damn soon after release; showing what great taste British Country Music fans have 😉

Released February 3rd 2017

http://www.jimlauderdale.com/

Curtis McMurtry – The Hornet’s Nest

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Curtis McMurtry
The Hornet’s Nest
Self-Release

A Late Night, Avant Garde Approach to Alt. Country.

Earlier this year I had been really looking forward to Curtis McMurtry’s first appearance at the Jumping Hot Club but had to cancel at the last minute due to ‘work commitments’. Talking to friends in the following weeks drew interesting comments; with no one going as far to say that ‘they had actually enjoyed’ the night, which made reviewing this, his second album even more ‘exciting’ for me.
First of all Curtis McMurtry’s approach to what we know and love as Americana/Alt. Country/Roots music is certainly ‘different’…..left-field, if you will.
Hard Blue Stones which opens the disc is a raw folk song played out against a brittle sounding banjo, and isn’t always easy on the ear.
Smooth as Thorns which follows, isn’t a million miles away in ‘feel’ but the addition of some finely textured cello shadowing his voice, plus a trumpet from the Chet Baker School of trumpet playing makes for an interesting juxtaposition of styles.
There are left turns at every juncture, with the almost romantically Latin flavoured Wrong Inflection being sandwiched between the Western Swing of Loves Me More and the Spanish guitar on the traditional Folk ballad Coward. Yet; it works …..I don’t know why; but it does.
The ukulele makes an entrance alongside Nathan Calzada’s sweet trumpet on the sweet sounding lullaby Together For Now; but listen more than twice and you will find a heartbreaking story that will bring a tear to your eye.
Tracker is as interesting as it is puzzling; reminding me at times of David Olney’s excursions into Film Noir a couple of years ago but also conjuring up mad thoughts of what Scott Walker might sound like if he made a Rootsy album. A dark, gloomy and ultimately a beautiful song.
I get the feeling that Curtis McMurtry would be devastated to know I was going to pick a ‘favourite’ here; as The Hornet’s Nest appears to be a ‘complete work’ in the mode of a theatrical story; not necessarily telling a story; but all of the narratives coming together to create a ‘mood’; but I feel the need to point you towards the pensive Shot At The Title or Rebecca as snapshots of what lies around them.
Everything here, from the delicate balance of the instrumentation through to McMurtry’s intelligently barbed lyrics are challenging; and they are meant to be; with McMurtry’s delightful voice being the singular constant that holds everything together.
As my knowledgeable friends intimated, The Hornets Nest won’t appeal to everyone; but fans of the Handsome Family, Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen will probably be attracted to the dark delights that abound here.

Released 24th February 2017

http://www.curtismcmurtrymusic.com/
https://curtismcmurtry.bandcamp.com/album/the-hornets-nest

Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers – REAL SHARP

chilli

Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers
REAL SHARP
Proper Records

British Pub Rock Really Did Invent Alt. Country!

From the 60’s we have always had our own Blues infused Pub Rock scene in the NE; but in the mid 70’s London developed it’s now legendary Pub Rock scene. Every Thursday I would look enviously at the pages of Melody Maker and see exotically named bands like Eggs Over Easy, Ducks Deluxe, Brinsley Schwarz, Bees Make Honey and of course Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, but because of my tender age and that there London being 300 miles away I never actually got to see them.
Over the years I’ve collected a few VA albums featuring these bands; but very few of their actual LP releases have been transferred to the new fangled Compact Disc format; which is why this release has really excited me.
Let’s start with the album sleeve…..OOHEEE! A Barney Bubbles image on the outer sleeve is certainly eye catching; and the accompanying 24 page booklet really does capture a ‘moment in time’ and kept me enthralled all last night.
For Chilli aficionados this release is made up of both LP releases, Kings of the Robot Rhythm and Bongos Over Balham plus the I’ll Be Home Sessions and live recordings plus one unreleased track.
For the rest of us…..here goes….
CD 1, the Kings of Robot Rhythm plus some demos open with Living Out of My Suitcase; a luscious slice of what we now know as Americana but must have been mind-blowing in 1972, when Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y albums were out of the reach of the average man in the street.
The fiddle and harmonies on Window Pane sound rudimentary today must have been groundbreaking back then; certainly I wouldn’t have heard anything like it at the time. Nashville Rag still stands up today; and I love the way they turn That’s Alright Mama into a bit of a Country Reel.
With this re-release I’d love to hear one of the New Wave of British Country bands have a go at recording Drunken Sunken Redneck Blues and/or the closing track from the debut album A Page in History. Both are still relevant in 2017.
Friday Song was recorded as a single but didn’t get released; which is a bit of a shame as it’s a glorious concoction of Hall & Oats, Gram Parsons and Poco all rolled into one magic carpet ride.
Of the demos, several went on to be included on Bongos, but the delightful Don’t Hurt The One You Love appears to have been lost in the mist of time until now; and the world is a better place for it.
CD 2 is the second album Bongos Over Balham plus some outtakes and live tracks from that era.
The very first song shows a radical change in direction by opening with a rip-snortin version of the Jive classic Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie, and then Desert Island Woman sounding like something you would have heard on Miami Vice.
As you would expect after 40 years, not everything has stood the test of time; but plenty have with Jesse Winchester’s Midnight Bus appealing to me on a personal level and Truck Driving Girl is a joy from start to finish, plus All In a Dream and 9-5 Songwriting Man, while harking back to the first album, show a maturity in the actual songwriting.
This disc is then made up of ‘other sessions’ demos and live versions’ of more or less the same songs, with only Fire On The Mountain, which out fiddles The Charlie Daniels Band, the Rockabilly swing of Pinball Boogie and the new song Papa and Mama Had The Blues baring repeated listening; and I will repeatedly listen to them!
Then of course we have their ‘signature tune’ and title of the best compilation from this era, Goodbye Nashville (Hello Camden Town) which is one of those songs that every songwriter must wish they had written.
At 44 songs in total this could have easily been edited into a tip-top Best Of; but obviously REAL SHARP is aimed at ‘collectors’ while priced to attract casual music fans like me; so works on every level.

RELEASED 24th February 2017

http://www.proper-records.co.uk/artists/chilli-willi-and-the-red-hot-peppers/

Norrie McCulloch – Bare Along the Branches

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Norrie McCulloch
Bare Along the Branches
BLACK DUST RECORDS

Classy Contemporary Folk Songs That Transcend Boundaries and Borders.

I loved; and still love Norrie McCulloch’s last album These Mountain Blues released less than a year ago so was very surprised when this ‘follow up’ album arrived in late January.
So, it was with a modicum of trepidation that I slid the shiny disc into the office hi-fi and sat back cradling a piping hot cup of tea.
It took less than two minutes of opening track Shutter for a smile to break out and I breathed a sigh of relief. Norrie’s voice sounds even warmer and more ’rounded’ than on the previous album; and the ‘sound’ that surrounds a delightfully brittle bittersweet love song obviously comes from a band of musicians who know each others strengths intimately and gel like a well oiled machine.
Historically I steer away from the F Word; but this is Folk Music Jim; just not as we know it.
McCulloch’s voice is definitely Scottish; but to the uninitiated…. quintessentially ‘Celtic;’ and songs like Safe Keeping and Around The Bend are from the Folk idiom; but just like his heroes Guy Clark and Bobby Dylan the way McCulloch interprates his own lyrics is way beyond the ‘finger in the ear’ ballads and shanties that still get played in Folk Clubs around the world.
McCulloch is obviously well travelled; and he has picked up ideas for stories and songs along the way; making Frozen River and Little Boat just as relevant in Australia, Appalachia and Airdrie…..which is quite some feat, in my humble opinion.
Dig deep here and you will find the Lo-Fi dark delights of Beggars Woods and Turn To Dust; written shortly after the death of his Mother and are both as Southern Gothic as they are Scottish Presbyterian in essence.
Then, just when I thought I had a handle on Norrie’s ‘new direction’ he throws a couple of left-field curve balls with the ‘Folk Rockers’ Never Leave You Behind (featuring some sublime pedal-steel from Mr Ian Sloan) and Lonely Boy.
Like all of the best singer-songwriter albums through the ages, Bare Along The Ashes is best listened to alone, preferably with the lights down low and a refreshing brew to hand; which brings me to my two stand out tracks…….the stark and brooding piano led This Time is absolutely spellbinding but the one I keep going back to; and the one ‘shuffle’ on my I-pod keeps playing is Safe Keeping. A very simple melody masking a very complex and timeless song that could be about my own life in a ‘small town’ and looking for a road out.
This is Norrie McCulloch’s third album in as many years; and for such a prolific songwriter there’s not a weak song here and the self-confidence in his storytelling and way with words is quite astonishing really.
If you like quality songwriters like Guy Clark, Richard Thompson and the like I’m pretty sure you will love this album by this proud son of Scotland too.

http://www.norriemcculloch.com/

Released February 24th 2017