This video series adds to the Rainey Day Fund’s mission to amplify marginalized voices within the roots music community.
HUDSON VALLEY, New York — In partnership with Beehive Productions, the nonprofitRainey Day Fund today launched the Rainey Day Recordings, a series of live videos showcasing artists the Fund believes should be heard. The first installment features Amythyst Kiah, to be followed up in coming months with performances by Natalia Zukerman, Giri & Uma Peters, and others. In the current conversations regarding the rampant gender disparities at play in country music, rarely do other marginalized voices earn even a mention. However, if the system is to be disrupted or dismantled, change must be inter-sectional rather than incremental, including artists of color, artists with disabilities, artists within the LGBTQ+ community, and others who add to the rich fabric of roots music. For, to paraphrase Pete Seeger, we’re stronger when we rise together. That’s where the Rainey Day Fund comes in. Named after Ma Rainey — the queer, Black “Mother of the Blues” — the Rainey Day Fund provides assistance to performers through its two main components: a micro-grant fund and a suite of professional services — each available to minority artists at key moments in their careers. The Rainey Day Fund does not have an open application process. Instead, it relies on a number of advisors in the music industry to recommend artists for consideration. The organization does, however, have an open donation policy. The current goal is to raise $25,000 to finance the yearlong video series and an additional $25,000 for the micro-grant program. If you would like to donate either financial resources or professional services to support a Rainey Day musician, or for more information about the fund, please contact Kelly McCartney, firstname.lastname@example.org The Rainey Day Fund is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit project of TKDubs Productions Ltd. https://www.raineydayfund.org/https://www.beehivepro.com/
Some days I just don’t know what I want to listen to, so I stick my I-Phone onto ‘random’ and let the fates decide ……. and after nearly ten minutes of pressing ‘next’ I stumbled on this album ……… Oooh ……Ooooh and thrice OOOH! Now a full day later I am totally smitten with New Yorker Billie Williams and her gritty, emotional and Soulful take on The Blues. In today’s crowded market it’s no longer good enough for a female singer to rely on her ‘pretty face’ and can ‘sing a bit’ to make a lasting mark; she has to be the whole package, singer, songwriter AND performer …… and right from the smouldering ‘break up’ song Damn which opens Ms William’s second release, it’s evident that she ticks every box there is …. and some more. Just like the best that there’s ever been, she doesn’t just sing the words, she inhabits the characters in her songs. Prime examples are the rolling barroom ballad Drink From My Cup and the piano led Cold November, which has a big theatrical feel to it as Billie drags us on an emotional roller-coaster for four long minutes. There’s a lot going on in these songs; and not just in the stories and lyrics……. Billie Williams has surrounded herself with some truly excellent musicians and backing singers; which when combined turn the darkly funklicious title track HELL TO PAY and Lost In The Wilderness into songs that transcend the Blues and even Soul as they much more than just that. I am obviously not the targeted demographic for Ten Million Sisters; but can really appreciate and admire the sentiment that this new Feminist Anthem portrays ……. and alongside Take These Dreams, which precedes it,t has more than a hint of something I’d expect to hear in ‘Woman the Musical,’ where such a thing to turn up on Broadway. While any of the songs I’ve already mentioned could be your Favourite Track; two in particular have had me coming back to listen ever more intently to Billie William’s detailed and articulate songwriting. You is one Helluva song, with a very danceable melody that masks an important message; while My Everything is a gorgeous Love Song that would have helped mend my regularly broken heart as a teenager had it been a 45 on Atlantic or Stax; which makes it shade the race for Favourite Song status. Unlike many Bluesy albums I get to hear, this isn’t always an ‘easy listen’; as Billie Williams draws on some very brave subjects to write about; but that’s exactly what we need these days …… ‘brave and courageous’ songwriters, especially female ones; and Billie Williams fills that void very well indeed.
Lonesome Chris Todd Dark Horses E.P. Market Square Music
Impassioned and Heartfelt Northern Irish Delta Blues.
Historically I like to get my reviews up and running a week or two before the release date, but because of work/life commitments I sometimes have to take a second look at my spreadsheet to see if I’ve missed anything of interest …….. and thankfully I did that last week and found this exciting gem. Apparently Chris Todd fronts a Northern Irish (Electric) Blues Band called the Hardchargers, but has decided to go back to his Blues Roots for this release ……… and without giving anything away …… I’m mighty glad he has! The self-penned title track Dark Horses starts the EP, and the way he plays his acoustic guitar and phrases his words, the first name that sprung to mind was Jose Feliciano; wow …… can he make his guitar weep, wail and howl along with his very own words and story of the same ilk. This song and the crystal clear production are probably worth the entrance fee alone; but there’s even better to come. Normally it’s difficult for any artist to capture your attention with only four songs; especially when only two are your own and the two are covers, but the enigmatic ‘Lonesome Chris’ does this with ease; especially with the two stunning covers – Lightnin’ Hopkin’s Lonesome Dog Blues is not just scintillating and stark, it’s also accessible for anyone who wants to know what all the fuss is about when Grown men like me go all misty eyed when discussing Delta Blues; and it’s the same with his re-evaluation of Bukka White’s Shake ‘Em Down, a staple of many a Blues Set in the 1960’s and more recently rediscovered by some young friends in Newcastle. But Todd adds shine, pathos and heart in a way I don’t think I’ve heard before on any other version. The actual stand-out song here is again from Todd’s own pen and experiences. Written during a short period of homelessness in 2017 while living in England, Irishman Todd manages to capture that ‘extra something’ that only ‘The Blues’ can give in Red Lion Yard. Is it because it’s so touching? Heartfelt? Raw? Passionate? that I’ve played this song five times in succession this morning? I don’t know, but it’s an absolute stunner. There is so much to like and admire in these four songs; and not just the songs themselves but Todd’s warm and rich singing voice and not least his outstanding guitar playing which are captured in all of their glory by Cormac O’Kane’s sympathetic production.
Griff Hamlin and The Single Barrel Blues Band I’ll Drink to That Self-Release
Luxurious Big Band Rhythm & Blues For the Connoisseur and Beginner Alike.
Probably more famous for his Guitar instructional videos and YouTube channel, Griff Hamlin has put something of an All-Star band together to release this ‘debut album’ by his latest inception, The Single Barrel Blues Band; and a finer name for what you will hear I can’t imagine. With the emphasis on the Rhythm half of Rhythm and Blues opening track Almost Level With The Ground will not just have your toes a’tappin and your hips swivelling, but your memory bank telling you “that is you, that is!” In the Classic Blues tradition this song is about ‘drinking your worries away on a Saturday night’ and it’s quality through and through. To some degree there are no surprises here; but who wants surprises from Rhythm and Blues? Certainly not me …….. I just want to be entertained; and that’s just what these cats do; with Down and Out shimmering and shaking while Nothing Better simply sizzles like bacon and eggs on Sunday morning; and it’s just as tasty! While I don’t know Hamlin’s back catalogue; he and The Single Barrel Blues Band reinvigorate a couple of his own older songs; and crikey Moses are they red hot!! Louisiana Holiday and Got To End have a Big Band feel to them, with Tim Aker’s horn section giving it a mystical 50’s Nightclub feeling, while Hamlin’s singing voice slides deep into crooning territory on the latter, while he seriously makes his guitar weep with joy. There are two songs on the album that I’ve wrestled with as to which is my Favourite Song; one is again from the back catalogue; Where Would I Begin is a rare beauty of a love song and just perfect for late in the evening; and I can imagine someone like Tony Bennett or even Harry Connick Jr keeping the exact same arrangement and making it into a huge worldwide hit, it’s so good. The other is the album closer Bourbon and a Pistol which is pretty much a case of ‘keeping the best until last’ with Hamlin and Band regaling us with a really special ‘cheating tale’ in the style of ……….. well, themselves really! While I said earlier that there are ‘no real surprises’ here; that’s the big surprise; Griff Hamlin and The Single Barrel Blues Band treat the Classic Rhythm and Blues genre with huge respect; but make the songs extra spicy and very contemporary too; which is quite an achievement.
Samantha Fish Bulletproof (Single) Rounder Records
RMHQ favourite Samantha Fish releases her new single ‘Bulletproof’ today. The single is taken from her upcoming album Kill Or Be Kind – released on Friday 20th September on Rounder Records and distributed in the UK by Proper Music – which is now available for pre-order worldwide here – https://found.ee/SFBulletproof . When pre-ordering the album, you receive ‘Bulletproof’ as a free MP3 download.
I don’t know where to start? Kete Bowers’ back-story I presume; as being born on the banks of the River Mersey and leaving home when the last ‘years of austerity’ in the North bit hard; and subsequently marrying and divorcing colour his songwriting like a very fine black permanent marker. Even getting this album recorded was fraught with despair; as a financial backer disappeared without trace days before the original recordings were to start. But being the dogged character he is, Bowers sent out even more e-mails and a Canadian record label picked up the challenge alongside Michael Timmins from Cowboy Junkies agreed to be Producer too. So; hopefully you’re not expecting a happy go-lucky collection of dance tracks after that are you? The stone cold beauty of this collection of songs is the combination of Bowers’ heartfelt and often gut-wrenching songwriting with a distinctively rich voice and Timmins trademark crisp production that forces the listener to listen intently to every damn word and chord progression. Northern Town which starts the album and sets the mono-tone was originally conceived as a commentary about living in and eventually leaving Birkenhead between 1976 and 81; but sadly could have been written any time in the last 5 years as it’s just as pertinent and observational today in 2019. It’s no surprise at all to find each and every song is desperately person in tone, word and deed with each and every one being tragically beautiful too; with A Place By The River and Ghosts visiting themes many others have attempted to capture; but never in such an extraordinary manner as Bowers uses his words and Timmins his magic touch on the emotional dashboard. It’s a long time since I heard anyone use their voice in this deeply sensitive way to convey their feelings from the very pits of their soul, as Kete does on A Fine Day To Leave and later on You Stole My Joy, which uses imagery in a way I would normally associate with film directors Ken Loach and Shane Meadows. As this is only Bowers second ever album, and nine years after the first it’s unlikely you will ever have heard of him before this review; but I will throw a couple of names into the ring as to whom he reminds me of; Canadian Stephen Fearing and legendary English Folk Singer Ralph McTell; a strange combination, I agree …… but listen and tell me I’m wrong. Normally I would avoid a ‘single’ as my Favourite Track; but Winner is such an emotional and heartbreaking narrative; sung with raw passion how could I select anything else? We all know talent isn’t enough on it’s own to become succesful these days; but Kete Bowers just needs a smidgen of good luck and a couple of TV appearances to make this album into some kind of chart hit for this exceptional singer-songwriter.
A Very Powerful and Thought Provoking Album For Our Times.
Unless you are a devotee of the minutiae on albums; especially the ‘songwriter’ slot next to the track title, you may not have heard of Gary Nicholson before; but you almost certainly own some of his songs …… Keb’ Mo’s Don’t Leave Me Here and and most notably Buddy Guy’s The Blues Are Alive and Well to name just two, that will give you a taste of what to expect here to some degree. The opening track, a duet starring RMHQ Favourite Ruthie Foster, God Help America will alienate 50% of the US population; but needs to be heard by all, as it’s a 21st Century Blues lament that will sting the soul of many who hear it; but just as many will shout “Hallelujah Brother!” Living across the Atlantic I sit firmly in the latter camp; as I presume most of my liberal leaning readers will do too. Jump forward a couple of songs and Nicholson gives us the almighty Immigrant Nation; which comes from the same part of his soul; and while written for and about his own country; it mirrors my own thoughts about the UK today, where the Right Wing seem Hell bent on turning away refugees and migrants at the border, without a thought to where we all originally came from anyway …. we too are an Immigrant Nation. As a talented songwriter Nicholson can get these, and other similar messages across without the need for spitting bile and banging any drums; songs like the title track The Great Divide and The Troubles, will have you nodding along to the tune, before thinking and backtracking; “Did he really say THAT??” Yep, he did! I’m not spoiling anything here, because you ‘need’ to listen carefully and the message will eventually punch you square on the nose. It breaks my heart that in my own lifetime Gary Nicholson could experience racism like which he describes in Blues in Black & White first hand, as a young touring musician; but sadly history shows that it is 100% accurate, and deeply personal too. To some intents and purposes, THE GREAT DIVIDE is a Modern Protest Album in the vein of those 60’s classics we all grew up with; and Nicholson carries on that proud tradition with not just style, but grace too; flitting as he does between the Blues end of the spectrum with Trickle Down through to the downright Folky on the spine-tingling Nineteen and touching all points in-between too on Choose Love. It’s been quite easy selecting the jaunty Soft Spot as my Favourite Song; because it reflects my own Father’s take on life, where as a poorly paid coal miner, he still knew that there were many people out there a lot worse off than us; and that’s something he instilled in me and my brothers and we in turn have past that on to our own children. This is a very important album, as it asks as many questions of the world we find ourselves in in 2019 as it gives answers; with Gary Nicholson using the skills he’s garnered over half a century in the business to create a very, very powerful album indeed.
More Sublime and Thought Provoking Songs From a Modern Blues Master.
Quite regularly I listen to albums by artistes that make me think “Why aren’t they more famous?” or others “How they Hell are they famous and filling Wembley?” Then, along comes the likes of Keb’ Mo and I think, “He certainly deserves all of the accolades, awards and riches his talent and hard work deserves.” While always associated with Delta Blues, there’s always been so much more to his music than just that one tiny genre, and OKLAHOMA is no different; with every song here being accessible to everyone; even music fans who don’t think they ‘like the Blues.’ OOOhhheeee! Opening track I Remember You is a slow hypnotic Blues with some delightful slide hiding in the shadows, that typifies Keb’ Mo’s distinctive ‘style’ and not just sets the tone here. Only because one other track is actually stunningly brilliant, stops it being my Favourite Song. It was only by reading his Wikipedia page as research that I found out Morris started his musical career in a Calypso band; and that fact makes the beat in This Is My Home make ‘sense’ as this topically ‘political’ song about immigration in one form or another; needs a sweet melody to ‘get the message across’ and it certainly does. It’s no surprise that this is a collection of songs that bounce off each other until they are a cohesive unit that demands your attention; with the uptempo and thought provoking I Should’ve, Ridin’ on a Train and the lusciously cinematic title track Oklahoma adding ‘light’ to the ‘shade’ of Cold Outside and The Way I, a fascinating song about depression that takes Keb’ Mo’ into a bit of a traditional Folk arena. Tucked away in the middle is a glorious Ragtime tune, featuring Taj Mahal that is so very poignant in 2019; Don’t Throw It Away; about the amount of plastic waste we use one and dispose of; cluttering the earth, sea and more. Clever, witty and poignant …… expect it to be on a TV Advert some time soon. I don’t usually ‘criticise’ in my reviews; but I have to say that the single, a duet with Roseanne Cash; Put A Woman in Charge is an over simplistic theory, pandering to the Feminist Movement which is in the ascendancy these days. With all that’s going on in America at the moment, I understand the need for radical change; but having suffered under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and more recently Theresa May I can’t vouch for this theory as necessarily being the right way forward; simply because of gender. Personally, I’m just for the best person for the job; regardless of race, creed or gender. Back to the good stuff ……….. The Official RMHQ Favourite Track is the finale, Beautiful Music which feature the divine voice of the artiste’s wife, Robbie Brookes Moore on a love song so personal, passionate and damn near perfect it couldn’t be anything other than my Favourite Song here. While always steeping his albums in Blues Mythology; Keb’ Mo’ has created yet another Cross-Over album that Rock, Soul and even Jazz fans can delight in owning and playing too; while Blues Fans will hail this as one of, if not ‘the’ Album of the Year.
Our mate and Bluesman Extraordinaire has gone a bit political on his latest and very mindful and accurate new single BREXIT BLUES. There’s not a lot to say except ….. he hits the nail squarely on the heid and I love it!
Arcari tours Estonia and Finland at the end of this month (May) before embarking on the first of two USA tours in July. The five-week tour kicks off in California where he launches National Reso-Phonic Guitars’ “Dave Arcari signature” model guitar which is not only a unique design, but incorporates some brand new ideas alongside Arcari’s standard custom features. The tour then takes him to the mid-West and back. “I’m incredibly excited about the signature guitar,” says Arcari. “To be asked to develop a signature model instrument with such an iconic brand is a huge honour – especially for a grass-roots artist from Scotland.” He adds: “Ironically, this new single wasn’t recorded on a National guitar…but it will be performed on one when played live – and another forthcoming release has been composed on – and will be recorded and performed on – a National guitar.”
National Reso-Phonic guitars are synonymous with blues music from the birth of the pre-war Delta blues styles through to the current day. Arcari returns to the USA in October for a series of East Coast dates and looks forward to Scottish shows in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen in November. Arcari has recently been taken onboard by Reunion Blues Gig Bags as an official artist, a partnership which sees the premium instrument case manufacturer join Arcari’s list of endorsees alongside National Reso-Phonic Guitars, Newtone Strings, G7th Capos and Diamond Bottlenecks. “Dave plays like he got his skin turned inside out and pretty soon my skin was inside out too listening and it was all good. That boy bleeds for you – he a real down deep player and a soul man…”SEASICK STEVE
This is crazy; I couldn’t believe Savoy Brown were still going when this turned up a month ago; formed in 1965 I saw them several times in the 70’s supporting the great and the good at Newcastle City Hall; yet I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a single track off any of their previous 40 (FORTY) albums. What the Hell! That’s obviously my loss, not their’s as I’ve loved every note on CITY NIGHT every time I’ve played it, be it in the car, the office or the bus. The growling and rumbling Blues Rocker Walking on Hot Stones throws down a marker, like the guy with the flag at the start of a Street Drag Race; you know what’s coming……. but the brute force that Savoy Brown supplies will still blow you away. To all intents and purposes this is the barn storming, foot stompin’ Blues that I grew up listening to in the early 1970’s with very few bells, whistles or trinkets added for effect, and it’s all the better for that rawness and ‘authenticity’. Everything from the song writing and vocals plus some rather amazing guitar playing revolves around band founder Kim Simmonds, and boy can he write a timeless Blues Rocker ……….. Red Light Mama is a belter and features some really dirty Gibson Les Paul playing; and the title track City Night takes us on a midnight stroll through the part of town your Mother warned you against visiting; then the band really let rip in a fashion I’ve not heard in decades on the sultry Neighbourhood Blues. What’s not to like? Well supported by Garnett Grimm on drums and Pat DeSalvo on bass; Simmonds and his worn around the edges, world weary voice really, really prove that the Blues is still very much alive and well on all 12 songs here; but special mentions must go to the magnificent Don’t Hang Me Out To Dry, Ain’t Gonna Worry and especially Selfish World which are all from different parts of the Blues spectrum but prove that the ‘old guys’ still have something to say that is worth listening to and is very relevent in 2019. I’m still not sure what to select for a Favourite Track; possibly the low down and sexy Superstitious Woman but most likely I’m being drawn to the tip of the hat to Diddley Daddy ……. Hang In Tough, which precedes it and shows that there’s more life in these old geezers than there is in the majority of the younger, cooler kids who think The Blues is all about your prowess on the guitar; when the Blues is more about words and feelings; and Savoy Brown combine all three better than most out there today. Currently a trio, Savoy Brown and especially frontman Kit Simmonds have delivered a record here that is full of fire, passion and excitement and is a bit of a keeper.
PS. Just out of interest I checked out Savoy Brown’s Wikipedia page and had my mind blown by all the musicians who have been in the band at one time or another; and then gone on to play in some of the worlds biggest Rock Bands …….. I’d love to see Pete Frame do a Rock Family tree one day.