Will Kimbrough I Like It Down Here Daphne Records/Soundly Music
Songs of The South in All It’s Poetic and Ragged Glory.
Regardless of the content, I’m always going to like a Will Kimbrough album, that’s just how I roll. As per usual I’d played this disc three times before I got around to reading the Press Release, and I’m glad I did…….. as it got to join some very oblique dots for me. First and foremost I never knew Kimbrough was from Alabama, and Lower Alabama at that; but you actually need to know that detail to ‘buy into’ this ‘Love Letter and Prayer to The South’ as he quaintly describes his beautifully motley collection of heartfelt songs. The shimmering opening track Hey Trouble is a good ole fashioned ‘bad luck’ Blues song wrapped up in an Americana melody and chock full of Kimbrough’s trademark guitar licks. What’s not to like? But….. put your emotional seat-belt on for what is to follow. The title track I Like It Down Here follows with the opening stanza confirming the theme of what this album is generally about, “She asked me when’s the bad luck stop When do we rise to the top? It’s awful hard work pulling up the rear.” It’s actually a love song of sorts; and one of those songs that will stick in the memory bank for years; coming back to haunt you when you least expect it. There’s so much going on in Will Kimbrough’s professional life, that he didn’t need to write and record a solo album; but with so much happening politically and socially in his beloved South and especially his home State of Alabama he appears to have got the itch to write about things in his very own and deeply personal manner, going back to his Roots basically. Oddly enough this gives him the opportunity to drop musical surprises, with the jaunty I’m Not Running Away, the Soulful – When I Get To Memphis, the thoughtful – Star, and indeed the wistful in Saltwater & Sand which I’d never have really expected in advance. On any other album his two Southern Blues Deluxe tracks, Buddha Blues and It’s a Sin would truly be deemed exceptional, with the latter starting with the gut-wrenching lines: “Innocent babies come into this world Singing their little hearts out Daddy says it’s a sin …… to kill Mockingbirds I have no reason to doubt”
Attach those stinging words to a a pleading singer and funereal paced N’Orleans melody and you have a song that will break every heart that hears it. But…….takes a deep breath….. there’s also a song here that is probably the cornerstone to this very record, with everything else depending on it’s unyielding power to allow them to breathe on their own. I feel guilty calling Alabama (For *Michael Donald) my Favourite Song here; because it’s much, much more than that. As you do when you first play an album the songs drift in and out of your consciousness but not this one…… phew, Kimbrough’s words and this horrible true story knocked me sideways immediatly. I don’t intend spoiling anything for you, but you simply MUST LISTEN to this song; it just might change your life a little bit. If Will Kimbrough had only ever written and created this one song, he could still die a happy and proud man indeed. When you check out the credits you will see a myriad of Guest Vocalists that are household names; but ignore that……. this is very much Will Kimbrough’s career defining album and his alone. I come from a mining village in NW Durham whose ‘reputation precedes it’ in our region; but it’s my homeland and I’m therefore allowed to openly criticise it….. but God Help anyone else who does; and that’s how this special songwriter and storyteller shows his love for his own Homeland ….. he’s allowed to tell it how it is, warts and all.
I’ve been having ‘one of those mornings’ doing grown-up things, like sorting out my Embezzled Pension, finding a new Life Insurance Policy, finishing off some ironing and reminding Son #1 that it’s his Mam’s birthday next week….. making me all harassed, when this belting slice of Southern/Country Rock arrived in the e-mail. It’s pretty much exactly what I needed and will go straight into the Summer ‘Driving’ playlist for the car. Being busy I didn’t read the Press Release until I’d played it three times…… WHAAAATTTT? These guys are from London? London, England? No way dude! If it’s true; and I have no reason to doubt the source……. Brit -Country has some Stars in the Waiting! This is pretty damn authentic Classic Country Rock that sounds like it comes from Alabama or Memphis, not Croydon or Kensal Green! Apparently there’s an album in the offing, and if this is the starter then the main course is going to be like a red raw T-Bone steak; and I can’t wait.
Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules Live Mules! Self-Release
Bringing the Good Times Back to Country-Blues!
This delightful little album from Glasgow’s finest purveyors of Countryish Music was recorded three years ago when the band were in the support slot for The Stray Birds in a hall in Scotland’s ‘Murder Capital’ ………Shetland (if the TV series is to be believed!) and only came to light a couple of months ago when Dan was having a bit of a ‘sort out’ of some tapes. With only a tweak here and there the clarity of this recording puts many bigger names to shame and with so little chat belies the fact that this is a Live Album at all. Rising River Blues comes from a Meade solo outing and gets new fizz added with the band absolutely on fire behind the chirpy singer-songwriter. If you’ve ever seen Daniel play live, in any of his guises you will know he visibly enjoys what he does, which is a rarity in this industry, and that comes across especially on the self-effacing Let Me Off at the Bottom and If It’s Not Your Fault (I Guess It’s Mine) which also features some staggeringly intricate guitar work from Lloyd Reid too. Earlier I described Meade’s music as ‘Countryish’, which it is, but there’s a healthy dose of olde worlde Blues in the mixer too; which comes to the fore on their rip-roaring cover of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s Hooray! Hooray! which closes the record in fabulouso fashion. That Country-Blues hybrid is probably the template for the two singles that are included here too, their first ever being Long Gone Wrong and the twisted love song Please Louise which was their most recent at the time of recording. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “This album is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you gonna get;” which brings me to my Favourite Song here, There’s a Headstone Where Her Heart Used To Be; a fairly simple song originally but here it becomes a veritable Country Hoedown, with Meade pouring his heart out in his best George Jones fashion, but with a punk spine to it. I absolutely love it! Live Mules! Has been something of a ‘palette cleanser’ for me recently as I’ve used it in the car as a ‘bit of fun’ to tap my toes to in between listening to more ‘righteous’ and ‘serious’ albums by the great and the good; and everything from Mark Ferrie’s pneumatic bass playing, Thomas Ferrie’s rat-a-tat-tat drumming and Lloyd Reid’s understated yet still flamboyant guitaring and of course Dan’s distinctive singing have made my heart swell and occasionally skip a beat on a bunch of sharply observed and really smartly written songs ; and I can’t recommend this highly enough; especially if you want an introduction to the rare talent that is Daniel Meade for only £3.99!
Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson
CHUG IT DOWN AND GO.
Blind Chihuahua Records
A Little Taste of What Makes Americana Great.
In all honesty this album has been a bit of a challenge for me; not that I didn’t like it from the get go; but simply because there’s just so much going on it’s been damn difficult to get a handle on what to file it under!
Many moons ago I reviewed a Mark Robinson *album for a prestigious UK magazine and I once saw Daniel Seymour play bass alongside David Olney; and it appears that the dynamic duo have either supplied songs for or produced albums by many of RMHQ’s favourite Alt. Country acts over the years; but none of that prepared me for ‘this’ mish-mash of Rootsy Americana.
The rambunctious and stomping title track Chug It Down and Go opens the album in the finest of fashions, with Robinson on Resonator, Seymour slapping the living daylights out of an upright bass and Mr David Olney supplying sublime harmonica….what’s not to like.
This followed by the Cajun flavoured and accordion driven One Eyed Blue which will bring even a wooden leg back to life; as will the delightful guitar rag that is 19th Street Ramble and the charming Dixie Waltz which closes the album; and is every inch as delightful as the song’s title would suggest.
In between though there’s the world weary Slow Moving Train which sounds like either an out-take from the Band’s debut album, or something Levon Helm may have recorded many years later; yet Gypsy Moon and First Fool both take us back to the crooning Country we associate with the 20’s and 30’s but Take On Me Down The Road somehow manages to incorporate Jug Band Music and the type of Field Workers Blues that John Hammond Sr first discovered and all those white English boys turned into Rock & Roll in the late 1960’s!
With that last description in mind I’m pointing you to Bare Foot Gal featuring young David Olney again on a root’n and toot’n harmonica while the other two strum a banjo and blow a kazoo for extra authenticity.
Just like the rest of the album; it will leave you with a warm smile on your face.
As a stand alone album this isn’t always a cohesive listen; but I’m sure that if you were to see Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson in a downtown bar or more likely at a Folk Festival somewhere you would find yourself desperate for something to take home; and in that setting this collection of songs will make complete sense.
WOW! What a great combination…..Keb Mo AND Roseanne Cash on a wonderful new stomping single called PUT A WOMAN IN CHARGE.
With all that’s going on politically in the US of A it’s a wonderfully romantic notion to boot men to one side and PUT A WOMAN IN CHARGE, but before anyone gets carried away remember the UK has Theresa May ‘in charge’ and we are going to Hell in a handcart and the memory of the divisive Madam Thatcher still sends a shiver down the spine of most people North of Watford Gap; but hey……it’s still a really cool song.
” Mo’ hopes the track can be a gift to women everywhere “My mother just recently passed at the age of 91. She was smart. She was strong. She was a leader. This video is dedicated to her and amazing women everywhere that are getting the job done.”
Written by Keb’ Mo’, John Lewis Parker (“Hard Habit To Break,” “Can’t We Fall In Love Again”), and Beth Nielsen Chapman (“This Kiss,” “Happy Girl”), “Put A Woman In Charge” is now available through all digital retailers, including Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, and more.
Music force Rosanne Cash, who delivered a powerful speech while accepting the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award during this year’s Americana Music Awards teamed up with Keb’ and sings on the track. On Nov. 2, Cash will release her first new album in nearly five years, titled “She Remembers Everything.” The poetic, personal and incisive collection features ten songs, all written or co-written by Cash, that reckon with a flawed and fragile world from a uniquely feminine perspective.
Authentic Acoustic Blues From The Burgundy Delta, Out Of Birmingham UK.
Several weeks ago a Twitter ‘friend’ sent a message asking if we would we mind a friend of his getting in touch as they were about to release a new album; and he thought it could be of interest to us here at RMHQ.
Out of courtesy I said ‘yes’ and a couple of e-mails later, a copy was sent from the Blues Quarter of downtown Burgundy in that France!
Paul Cowley? Born and bred in the original Birmingham and a founder member of the prestigious Sutton Coalfield Blues Collective; but now residing in said Blues Quarter of Burgundy and very little of that bio prepared me for the world weary rendition of Memphis Minnie’s New Bumble Bee #2 which opens this disc. I was actually driving the car as a most glorious sunrise lit up the sky when I first heard this song last week; and I swear I went weak at the knees as Cowley pours the words out over some sublime slide guitar.
Seamlessly blending Country and Delta Blues together; the way Paul Cowley delivers Red Fence and Memphis Jug Blues belies which Birmingham he hails from as he sounds like he’s sitting on an Alabama stoop, singing and playing without a care in the world.
It’s pretty much a 50/50 split between Cowley’s own penned songs and an eclectic mix of covers that, apart from the Memphis Minnie song; I’d not heard before, even the Willie McTell song I Got To Cross That River of Jordan, which features some glorious guitar picking and sizzling slide work that defies his relative obscurity.
Speaking of his guitar playing; I’d place it in the Stefan Grossman school of Blues; but I have no idea what he’s doing with that wooden box on Roll & Tumble, which closes the album; as it’s quite scary at times; even sounding like it’s in danger of going out of tune, but never does.
Even though I was driving through an urban landscape on my way to work that first morning; Cowley’s songs Dollar & a Lie and Summer Breeze made me pretend I was in the Delta or Everglades as the sun rose over the ‘metaphorical’ hills and forests.
Honestly, there’s one song better than another here, making selecting a Favourite Song as difficult as ever; but I’m going to grasp the musical nettle and go for the intense love song Penny For Mine, Penny For Yours, which is the song that Eric Clapton has been trying to write and record for the last 40 years!
I have quite a collection of acoustic Blues albums; with a lot being ‘not so easy on the ear,’ but that’s not the case here; as not just is this authentic Blues to the core, there is something really special about Cowley’s guitar playing and ability to turn dour subjects into something quite beautiful, while still being a contemporary collection of songs.
I’m not sure my ample frame would do justice to a T-Shirt baring the name of ‘Mississippi’ Mike Kolassa and the Taylor Made Blues Band; but after listening to this their latest release I’d be more than happy to give it a go!
Proceedings start with the classic stomp of I Can’t Slow Down which is an autobiographical look at the handsome silver foxes’ Rock n Roll lifestyle; and features some razor sharp guitar licks from David Dunavent and some of the honkiest and tonkiest piano playing from Chris Stephenson than I’ve heard in months. Not a bad start at all.
Like all Blues singers and bands; Kolassa isn’t afraid to include a cover or two in his itinerary and his choices here are quite exemplary with I Don’t Need No Doctor going right back to it’s N’Orleans roots and sounding nothing like the version that I have from Humble Pie!
Although I didn’t recognise it; the swinging and sassy Miss Boss was written by his friend Larry Garner and is a mainstay of Kolassa’s live sets; and it’s easy to hear why; it’s a doozy.
But first and foremost this album not just highlights Mick’s own writing skills but his authentic singing voice; this guy squeezes the pips out of the emotion on 35 Miles to Empty and Pullin’ Me Down; while also being able to dig right back into the heart of the Blues with the anthemic Cotton Road and then rocking the rafters of the Juke Joint on the road song US12 to Highway 49 with consummate ease.
The third of the three covers closes the disc and yet again I’d not heard it before; but Jazzy The Viper is very much a challenger for Favourite Track and would easily have won the title if it hadn’t been for the inclusion of two versions of the sassy Alternative Man; which are as good as each other and designed to make the ladies think “I wish he was my Alternative Man” and the men think; “I wish I could be her Alternative Man!” The Blues comes in many shades, but I love this raggedy and dirty version best of all *wink*.
What’s left to say? I just wish that there was a better and bigger shop window for super albums like this than RMHQ; but until there is……tell your friends, ‘Lock up your wives and daughters, Mick Kolassa is coming to town!’
# My ‘secret source’ in America keeps coming up trumps with the Blues albums he sends me……every single one hits the RMHQ ‘spot;’ and often keeps imminent releases from more famous acts offa the turntable. More often than not these acts wouldn’t get recognised in the street from outside a 50 mile radius of their home towns but their music is universal and deserves to be heard across the Blues World.
The Coolest Blues, Funk and Country Swamp Music You Can Imagine.
Sadly; such is the backlog at RMHQ that this album; from one of our favourite artistes has sat around unplayed and unloved for over a month now; but such is our love for Patrick Sweany that we knew we would get the best out of it when the time was right; and that proved to be last Sunday.
The sun was high in the sky and it was so hot my cold beer was soon warm beer; so I had to keep refilling my glass as I let this music seep into my soul.
Hallelujah! Opening track Old Time Ways was exactly as I’d hoped it would be; Sweany on top form howling from the heart as a red hot band makes every single note count; and not a single one is out of place.
This is already Swamp Music par excellence, mon ami.
Sweany’s cool groove continues through Up and Down and on third track Country Loving he slows things down to an evening stroll through the Everglades pace, as Charles Hodges takes on a Professor Longhair role at the piano while Sweany croons (if such a word can describe his grizzled tones) the sweetest of honest love songs.
In its own way ANCIENT NOISE is a ‘move on’ from what I remember of his last two albums; with a new found maturity to the construction of songs like Outcast Blues, Play Around (with its Roy Orbison undertones) and more especially Get Along which could easily have become an over excited stomp; but Sweany and bandmates show incredible restraint on a chest tightening Soul-Rocker.
Back in the olden days I don’t know if the songs Steady or album closer Victory Lap would have been described as Rock Ballads; as that term has gone out of fashion now but both are articulate, intimate and very easy on the ear while retaining Sweany’s trademark powerful honesty in every breath and stanza.
There’s also the surprising inclusion of a pseudo-political song that delves into the troubled past of the USA and more importantly The Southern States. At first I thought Cry of Amede was just a nod in the direction of Dr. John; but delve deeper and you will hear a history lesson that will send a shiver down your spine; as Amede Ardoin who was a Creole musician in the 1930’s and was cruelly beaten for receiving a handkerchief from a white woman as a gift. Sweany gets the unpleasant story across without ever sounding maudlin or even preachy; just giving us the facts in a sensitive and rather beautiful manner.
With so much to choose from; and so many songs that sound exciting, interesting and often just plain fabulous I’m going for the Country Funkylicious No Way No How as my favourite track; simply because it was the first one that I found myself murmuring the chorus too.
This is the third of eight Patrick Sweany albums we’ve reviewed here at RMHQ and each one has come along into our lives just when we needed some rough and ready, sweaty and cinematic Southern Blues with a splash of Rock n Roll flavoured bourbon; and he delivers all of those things with gentlemanly panache.
Part Rockabilly Queen and Soul Sister Extreme and More Than a Little Bit West End Soundtrack Too.
I suppose with hindsight I should have expected to hear what I first heard a couple of weeks ago just by the amazing cover to this Album from New Zealand’s Tami Neilson; but in 2018 who among us could expect a blistering ‘Show Tune’ like Stay Outta My Business? It’s part Rocking Blues, part Soul Sister Extreme and part West End on a hot Saturday night.
Then of course some time later the actual storyline knocked me sideways.
What a combination!
That ‘Show Tune’ meets Rockabilly feeling continues on the next couple of tunes, starting with the crazy Bananas which has had me doing a Carmen Miranda style dance in the kitchen twice (that I’m admitting to) then Tami becomes a sex-kitten in the manner of Eartha Kitt on Diamond Ring.
This is only the first three songs and I’m so hot, I find myself fanning my face with the album sleeve to cool down.
I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing; but Tami then moves across into a Country Siren on the Bobbie Gentryesque A Woman’s Pain, at #4; a Gothic tale of a woman done wrong and left to live with the consequences; and oddly enough is a true story about Tami’s own Grandmother.
The first time I played SASSAFRASS this left turn really confused me; but when you listen to the whole album it really is akin to a soundtrack to a Romeo and Juliet style Southern Love Story, with the songs all generally linking into each other even if they do cover a number of different styles.
There’s even a red hot Blues tribute to and in the style of the late lamented Sharon Jones; Miss Jones is destined to get even the most leaden of male feet onto the dancefloor; even mine; and Devil in a Dress will keep you there but clinging on tightly for a slow smooch.
With so much to choose from it’s been really, really difficult to select a genuine Favourite.
The sleazy and sultry Smoking Gun certainly has it’s merits; as does the lovely and gentle on the mind Manitoba Sunrise at Motel 6 (the homage to Glen Campbell) but I’m going for the rip-roaring Kitty Cat which is the type of rocking and rolling Rockabilly song that the album cover and title SASSAFRASS! put me in mind of even before I’d heard a note.
Don’t worry, there are love songs here too; with One Thought Of You being the sort of classy song that Elvis or Connie Francis would have recorded back in the day; and would still make you swoon if it came on the radio tomorrow. The album closer, a heartfelt Good Man, is in a similar vein but a lot more contemporary and a perfect way to close the ‘show.’
There’s a whole lot going on here; not least Tami Neilson’s amazing voice; boy oh boy can she sing a song! But her songwriting can’t be underestimated either; as each individual song has a strong tale to tell and deserves very close inspection; but overall this is just a damn fine record.
Oohee…..how exciting is this?
Dom Flemons, founding member of the legendary Carolina Chocolate Drops has a new album ; the first album of its kind in fact, Flemons new release ‘Black Cowboys’ (March 23rd release) takes the listener on an illuminating journey “from the trails to the rails” of the Old West. The 18-song set traverses a varied soundscape featuring string blues, old-time square dance music, and cowboy poetry. Flemons is joined by a celebrated group of backing musicians throughout the record, such as GRAMMY-winning bluesman Alvin “Youngblood” Hart, Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), and decorated folklorist and Folkways’ director emeritus Dan Sheehy, who co-produced the album.
This song from the album is about Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick. Born a slave, who travelled out to Arizona as a rancher and later worked on the railroad.