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.
Released November 9th 2018
*PS….. Sue from the PR Company has just sent me a copy of that original review from 2010!
Keb Mo & Roseanne Cash
PUT A WOMAN IN CHARGE
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.
JUST WHAT I KNOW
Lou B Music
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.
Released July 2018
149 DELTA AVE.
Endless Blues Records
Free Range Blues For The Discerning Music Fan.
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.
Released September 1st 2018
Nine Mile Records
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.
Released July 6th 2018
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.
Released June 1st 2018
Steel Pony Blues
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.
Leo ‘Bud’ Welch
LATE BLOSSOM BLUES (DVD)
City Hall Records
Part History of a Bluesman and Part Love Story.
My father had numerous ‘sayings’ and one of which was “Do you see all of those old people over there? Well they all have a story to tell.”
It’s an adage I’ve clung to all my life; and no truer sentiment describes Leo ‘Bud’ Welch from Bruce in the Mississippi backwoods who began his celebrated recording career at the ripe old age of 81.
My father’s adage sprung to mind during the opening 5 minutes when a hunched over Bud enters his local diner for breakfast and is surprised when the waitress gives him his regular breakfast before he ordered it. He then sits down and starts chatting to two whit men of the same generation as he eats.
This scene was recorded in 2017 and you suddenly realise that for most of their octogenarian lives this conversation wouldn’t or couldn’t have taken place.
That’s the Blues that this man has lived and sings about. Leo ‘Bud’ Welch has stories, boy does he have stories….. and you’d better get comfortable because this film is intoxicating and you won’t want to miss a second.
This charming film follows not just Bud, but his friend and manager Vencie Varnado who is an Army Veteran that first encountered many years previously at his parent Juke Joints and when he re-discovered him he takes it upon himself to let the world know how good his friend was.
The problem, as he explains is that he had no experience in the music industry, so had to Google ‘getting gigs’ and ‘record contracts’.
There’s hardly a moment where if you’re not being entertained you’re learning stuff and when you’re not doing that you are watching a love story develop between Bud and Vencie.
To the uninitiated Leo ‘Bud’ Welch is a new name on the Blues scene; but coupled to his advancing years that’s what makes this story so damn exciting and indeed, charming.
It’s heartbreaking at times watching Bud hobbling around and one scene when he’s signing an autograph brought a tear to my eye; and when he talks you don’t just listen……you are forced to read his words on the subtitles because his accent is thicker than the tobacco leaves he used to harvest in his youth; but you won’t mind in the slightest.
One of my favourite parts is when his family are sitting around telling stories about their father and out of nowhere one daughter remembers the time “BB…..BB…..BB King?” wanted to take Bud on tour, but the cantankerous old man asked how much the wages were and decided to stay at home with his family!
Who knows how musical history could have been changed if he had taken up BB’s offer?
There are so many joyful moments tucked away here…..seeing Bud dancing to his own song in a studio, listening to him telling a story, seeing him in church, the tender way Vencie dresses him before a performance ‘so he looks his best for all the pretty women’, but most of all watching him come to life when he’s on stage whether it’s a Juke Joint in the middle of nowhere or thousands at a festival.
A word of praise must go to Directors Wolfgang Pfoser-Almer and Stefan Wolner who get to the nitty-gritty of Bud’s day to day life and his time travelling with his manager and never seems intrusive or voyeuristic, which is a clever trick that works perfectly well.
Sadly Leo ‘Bud’ Welch died on December 19th 2017 but what a legacy he has left in the form of his two albums and this magnificent documentary which is not just a history of a Blues Musician, but the world he lived in.
Powerful stuff indeed.
# There are a number of super videos and deleted scenes too in the Bonus Features that mustn’t be missed.
Released April 20th 2018
Sublime Pedal-Steel Playing Links an Eclectic Concoction of Songs.
As regular readers will already know, we have very eclectic musical tastes here at RMHQ and, YES we listen to absolutely everything we review and only review what we like…….your eyes would water if you saw the box of un-reviewed albums that goes to Oxfam every Quarter.
Which brings me to this disc by SF Pedal-Steel player Joe Goldmark. First of all the album cover initially caught my attention, but when I flipped it over to look at the track list my eyes nearly popped out of my head…..several of the titles looked familiar, but as sure as ‘God makes little green apples’ weren’t Country Songs; and looking back at Joe in his Stetson and Nudie suit, they must be mustn’t they?
Well….no they ain’t, or at least not all of them are as Joe takes us on a musical merry-go-round with his wonderful pedal-steel playing at the heart of a bunch of songs as eclectic as anything we’ve heard here for years.
Opening track the instrumental Night Flight is a Goldmark original and sounds like the Shadows playing in a Nashville Nightclub on a stormy Winter’s night with Joe guesting behind Hank B the boys, and the result is quite spectacular.
WOAH! After that track I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be followed by the Rufus Thomas dance classic All Night Worker with Glenn Walker supplying a delightful Soulful delivery then Dallis Craft turning Roy Orbison’s A Love So Beautiful into slow burning Country-Soul ballad of epic proportions. Bizarrely a pedal-steel as lead instrument in both situations works perfectly well; who’d have thought it?
Back to basics, Joe Goldmark’s own instrumentals are worth the entry fee alone, with Ginger Ale and Tacky Tango sounding like they are just waiting for some enterprising TV Producer to pick them up as theme tunes; but it’s Joe’s selection of cover versions that makes this album stand out.
Perhaps finding Lefty Frizzell’s Look What Thoughts Will Do here isn’t a huge surprise; but hearing Dallis Craft doing her best Patsy Cline impression is; and the last time I heard The Wobble it was an early James Hunter album and was R&B at it’s rawest yet this version with Glenn Walters again on vocals sounds R&B; but that pedal-steel from Goldmark really steals the show, no matter how hard Gary Potterton tries on his electric guitar.
Then, there are the two songs that initially caught my attention…..Bob Marley’s Natty Dread becomes unrecognisable as a Hawaiian nightclub tango (or something!) but lovely none the less; and then there is one of my favourite ever songs, and it’s a brave man who takes on a Graham Parker song; especially Howlin’ Wind…..but somehow this version, with Ms Dallis Craft crooning her little heart out is easily my favourite track on an album chock full of precious gems.
I wish I had the vocabulary to really describe BLUE STEEL, as the sum total probably outweighs the individual tracks, with Joe Goldmark’s sublime pedal-steel playing being the golden thread that links everything together in a very clever manner indeed; making this a very special package indeed.
Released April 20th 2018
DIAL IT IN
Treated Released Records
A 21st Century Schizoid Progressive Blues Experiment.
Many moons ago I reviewed the Reverend’s Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues album and if memory serves me correctly….I bloody adored!
That memory is as good a place as any to start here, although opening track Opus Earth is a lot more left of centre than I remembered. Moody, atmospheric and almost instrumental save for the Reverend croaking poetically two minutes in as his slide guitar makes the hair on the back of your neck absolutely tingle.
I had actually heard the next song a few weeks ago and to say it whetted my appetite for a whole album would be a gross understatement.
Many of you will know Personal Jesus from the wheezy Johnny Cash version; but I have danced to the original Depeche Mode single many, many times back ‘in the day’ and who knew someone could turn both those versions inside out and make it into a sleazy Blues song that even I can still dance to? Probably only Reverend Freakchild and it ticks every box I have for a great radio hit…..if I only had a radio show.
While many musicians are involved with each track here; the Reverend is very much a One Man Band, seamlessly corralling a beautiful West Coast influenced love song Skyflower alongside a footstompin’ Psychedelic Delta Blues like Hippie Bluesman Blues and detuning Dylan’s It’s Alright Ma into Johnny Winter style Rag and weirdly, everything sits comfortably together.
The title track Dial It In is as fresh a Blues tune as you’ll hear this year with traces of Urban Hip-Hop in Hazel Miller’s backing vocals but Garrett Dutton’s harmonica is straight from a 1950’s Chicago Jive Joint and coupled to the Reverend’s singing and guitar playing you end up with 3 minutes of exhilarating music.
With 11 songs as disparate as these ones choosing a favourite is never going to be easy as each individual track could take the title on a different day; with the Uber-Cool Damaged Souls being perfect for a heart broken sunny Saturday night and the bottle-neck National Steel and Freakchild’s drawl on the reinterpretation of the classic Soul of a Man is well worthy of being on the top table but tonight I’m going for……the Honky-Tonking 15 Going On 50 which is as danceable as the story is deep, conjuring up images of steamy nights in bars on the wrong side of town where the beer is cold and the women red hot.
I love this album and it will certainly appeal to music fans who like their music a bit ‘different’ and slightly experimental and I emphasise ‘slightly’……if I want to hear Muddy, BB or Johnny Winter or their ilk I will go to their albums, not a looky-likey act pretending to be ‘modern’ but when I want something fresh, progressive, experimental yet still full of the Blues I will reach out for Reverend Freakchild and friends.
Released April 1st 2018