Sara Petite RARE BIRD

Sara Petite
Rare Bird
JTM Music

The Benchmark for What Country Rock Should Be About in the Mid-21st Century.

I was 99.9% sure I recognised Sara’s name, so checked through my old reviews ….. nothing; so checked out the hard drive …… nothing ……. then rang Graham Anderson who runs the Jumpin’ Hot Club….. nada; he’d never heard of her either.
But by this stage I was already hooked and had the album on heavy rotation in the RMHQ office and my car too.
Why the fuss when you listen to so much music; you may well ask.
Take a quick listen to opening song Feeling Like an Angel and if this innocent looking young lady from San Diego out of (the other) Washington, doesn’t just break your heart, but win it over like you’re a hormonal teenager again; then you are reading the wrong review.
Sara has a distinctive and very individual set of vocals; which somehow sounds like the offspring of Bobbie Gentry and Tom Petty filtered through Ashley McBryde who was singing Kitty Wells songs at a party hosted in Janis Joplin’s honour.
The song itself; and the haunting backing from her band are as sure to break your heart as kitten video on YouTube will.
As the band kick up some trail dust on the next song Runnin’; the only thing missing is Sarah purring, “Are you ready boys?” as an intro.
Twang guitar? Pedal-Steel? A bass that sounds like the strings are covered in rust and a drummer who can shake the foundations when necessary, but keep time like a Swiss watch at others?
What’s not to like?
Add them to Sara Petite’s introspective, heart-rending and Insurgent Country power-ballads like Missing You Tonight, Floating With the Angels and the hip-hop inspired, tear jerker, Working on a Soul and you have the benchmark for what Country Music should be about in the mid-21st Century.
I’d love to think that I will see Sara blasting out The Misfits and/or Crash, Boom Bang at the CMA’s or the Ryman one night; but will be more than happy to be in a jam-packed Cluny in downtown Newcastle one hot and sweaty Friday night; and you will too.
I’ve got a horrible feeling that Sara Petite will be deemed ‘too Country’ for Country Radio and the CMA’s etc. so with songs like Medicine Man and the sublime Keep Moving On, in her bag, let’s claim her for Americana, Country Rock and/or Alt. Country because she’s a keeper.
When I first played RARE BIRD, the rambunctious and anthemic Scars stood out; not least because of the opening power-chords which are immediatly toned down for Ms Petite to opine;
I’ve got Scars
I wear my tattoos on my heart
Imprinted little lessons like a tortured work of art..
Scars
Some are rough and some are faded.

Man o’ Man; this is ‘one of those songs’ that you will come back to years and years in the future, be you man, woman or whatever …… but one lonely night, it will come back and haunt you like a dear departed loved one.
Trust me here; if this song did come on the car radio; you would have to pull over to the side so you could hear it unencumbered then scramble to find a piece of paper to write her name down on …… then missing your appointment drive straight to a Record Store to buy it.
For once I can’t say it any better than a quote on the accompanying Press Release;
Sara is as American as apple pie and Harley Davidson.
She is gritty, she is wild, she is tender with a soul of a child.
I will leave the last words to Sirius Outlaw Country Radio DJ Mojo Nixon …..
Sara Petite can sing a buzzard off of a slop wagon!

Released 26th February 2021.
https://www.sarapetite.com/

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Chris Hillman TIME BETWEEN (My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother and Beyond)

Chris Hillman
TIME BETWEEN (My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother and Beyond)

Chris Hillman, as a shy kid just learning to play bass, helped to form the California band the Byrds, which by itself, would be enough to land him a spot in the Music History books. But Hillman wasn’t content to stop there. He also was a guiding force in the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Desert Rose Band, and (Stephen Stills’) Manassas. For over half a century Hillman worked with such musical luminaries as Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills, Bernie Leadon, David Crosby, J.D. Souther, Tom Petty, and Gram Parsons. Then, in the eighties he founded the Desert Rose Band, which had a multitude of hits on the country charts.

Hillman grew up in a small town in California, picked up guitar and mandolin and played in bluegrass bands until he saw a little known band called the Beatles playing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Like many of the youth of the time, it changed his life forever. A chance meeting with a band looking for a bass player led to Hillman being in the right place at the right time and the Byrds quickly became one of the biggest breakout bands at the time. The Byrds, touted as “the American Beatles” recorded several albums, toured the world, and influenced generations of musicians in the process. The band went through various band members over the years, Hillman being one of the constants. After the band broke up, Hillman was lucky enough to be part of some of the finest bands around, playing with the best songwriters and musicians in the world for many decades, and grows from a shy young man to a seasoned musical veteran, finding his voice, the love of his life, and his religion in the process.

Hillman writes honestly and candidly about band members, managers, and record executives, he talks of his love for playing music, writing songs, and working with several of the greatest musicians of his time.
His style is very “conversation-like,” as if you’re in the room with him, drinking a beer, talking about the good ol’ days.
Very refreshing if you’ve read other rock bios such as Pete Townshend, or Elvis Costello.
Hillman’s reminds me more of Roger Daltrey’s memoirs or Marky Ramone’s—candid, honest, passionate, refreshing, not as if he’s out to push an agenda or settle old scores.
These are his memories, simple as that.
A great book, not just about the Byrds, but about Chris Hillman the man, the times he lived in, and the journey which took him from a shy mandolin player, to a seasoned musician, a husband and a father.

https://chrishillman.com/product/time-between-my-life-as-a-byrd-burrito-brother-and-beyond/

This review first appeared on the rather magnificent Sacred Chickens website:
https://www.sacredchickens.com/

Review by Roy Peak.

​Bio:
The Rocking Magpie’s Roy Peak is Sacred Chickens’ Music Editor, and has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember.
He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show “Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn” on WPNR-FM. His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville. 

DAVE ALVIN From an Old Guitar (Unreleased Recordings).

DAVE ALVIN
From an Old Guitar (Unreleased Recordings).
Yep Roc Records

Long Lost Americana Gems Rescued For Posterity.

It’s over 40 years since The Blasters first propelled the Alvin Brothers onto the world stage; predominantly revolving around elder brother Phil the main vocalist and brother and lead guitarist, Dave. The brother’s explosive relationship is well documented; and eventually the younger sibling eventually split from the band in 1986 to pursue his own more singular career.
Since then Dave Alvin has provided a plethora of musical options for his fans and thankfully the two things that have remained constant, over the decades, is the quality of the music and that wonderful deep, dark baritone voice.

As a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and a more than willing collaborator he has few equals.
So, in 2020, with the world in the depths of a weird and scary pandemic, filling recording studios with human players and knob twiddlers has become nigh on impossible.
What’s a creative boy to do?
Well, if you’re Dave Alvin you have a look at your library of past recordings that, for one reason or another, were left off previous releases; and you also consider tracks that furnished various tributes etc. and then pull them together into a mighty fine 16 track album.
It’s no-where near a potentially unbalanced hotchpotch, it’s not even an incongruous collection, it just bloomin’ well works as a ‘complete ALBUM’ in its own rite.
If you know anything about Dave Alvin then his humble, self-deprecating approach to life and especially to his music has always been with his feet firmly on the ground, remaining staunchly modest whilst delivering continual, persistent, high-grade, end product.

From an old Guitar and Unreleased Recordings has 13 sublime cover versions and 3 self-penned numbers, cutting across various genres. Additionally, there’s an unbelievable array of guest contributors, including some much loved friends who are sadly no longer with us.
The lead track sets the tone with a Chris Smither cover, “Link of Chain” followed by Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” which had been a pre-release teaser single.
Lil’ Hardin Armstrong’s “Perido Street Blues” and Earl Hooker’s “Variations on Earl Hooker’s Guitar Rhumba” are both absolutely first class, rousing instrumentals and well worthy of inclusion.
On My Way Downtown,” from the pen of Peter & Joshua Case features two of the unfortunately departed, with Amy Farris’ violin and Chris Gaffney’s accordion helping provide a somewhat Celtic sound, which you don’t normally associate with Dave Alvin.

Wyman Reese adds a beautiful, restrained piano on the cover of Bill Morrisey’s “Inside,” whilst Gaffney tinkles the ivories, as well as adding accordion, on the prolific Bob McDill’s “Amanda,” which happened to be the eighth number one country hit for Waylon Jennings back in 1974.
As you might expect, the tempo increases on the cover of Link Wray’s “Albuquerque,” where Alvin himself delivers some fine wah-wah guitar. Obviously, the Blues come to the fore whenever anyone covers a Willie Dixon song, and Dave’s low pitched voice convincingly projects the lyrics of “Peace,” which are just as relevant today as they were when Dixon recorded the original almost 50 years ago.
You make a deaf man hear and a dumb man speak,
but It don’t make sense if you can’t make peace

If I had to choose a favourite track then two contenders jump out.
Firstly, one of Alvin’s own compositions, the third instrumental called “Crazy and Ignatz” which just has Alvin strummin’ his trusty 1934 National Steel Duolian Guitar paired with some superb Dobro from one of his hugely talented Guilty Women, Cindy Cashdollar.
However, just easing it out and into my actual top-spot is a lively version of Mickey Newbury’s “Mobile Blue,” which has one of the weirder starts you’ll ever hear, with Bill Frisell’s backwards guitar intro.

Currently there are some fine new releases by artists recording basic and simple albums, often re-interpreting their Greatest Hits in the comfort of their own home studio.
Modern technology has made this eminently possible for almost everyone. Clearly, not an option chosen by Dave Alvin.
Here’s the puzzler though; if many of these songs were deemed unsuitable for previous albums, then we all should promptly re-visit his esteemed catalogue of work to re-affirm just how marvellous and pleasurable a musician he is.
Thank goodness these beauties have been rescued from the cutting room floor and packaged into a well balanced and extremely entertaining album that I am personally struggling to take off the CD player.

Jack Kidd – “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released on 20th. November 2020
https://www.davealvin.net/
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BOBBO BYRNES SeaGreenNumber5

BOBBO BYRNES
SeaGreenNumber5
Self Release

A Gentle Alternative to both Alt. and Country Themselves.

I’ve really liked Byrnes’ last two releases; especially Red Wheelbarrow; so was surprised to see a review of SeaGreenNumber5 turn up on my Twittery timeline a couple of months ago; and then, ‘as if by magic’ said Promo Copy arrived a week later.
Sadly; because it had already been released it kept getting put on and off the ‘to do’ pile in the office; but I keep getting drawn back to it in the car or on my ‘day off’ …. Sundays.
Why would that be, you might well ask.
Well; it’s a departure from Red Wheelbarrow, that’s for sure; but the songs and Byrne’s distinctive weary voice are exactly what I’ve wanted and needed to hear recently.
Opening track, Queen of The Party is an absolute doozy of an Alternative to both Alt. and Country itself; while serving both genres admirably. Part Roger McGuinn (and the Byrds get a subtle mention), part Gram Parsons and even a little part one of my favourite Northern Irish singers; Anthony Toner …. but always Bobbo Byrnes; that’s for sure.
Art first When We Ride sounded like a Tom Russell cowboy song; but the more it’s evolved it sounds more in the vein of Neil’s Unknown Legend; as it’s beautifully windswept and charismatic, which says a lot about Byrnes intricate way with words and melodies.
That last sentence holds true throughout; most noticeably on the majestic Eveline, 10,00 Miles and Running Back To You, which all twist the melancholy out of his love stories like very few of his contempories ever manage.
Tucked away in the middle is a lovely surprise; Geo’s Jig ……. which as the titles implies is just that; a sweet and winsome Celtic instrumental with some extraordinary guitar and mandolin playing throughout.
As you may expect; choosing a single Favourite Song here has been far from easy for me; December is as dark and despondent as you’d expect from such a title on such an album; especially when he sings about ignoring the ‘unanswered phone ringing while he drinks his breakfast beer;’ as Jeremy Long makes his pedal-steel sound like tears running down a ruddy cheek.
Then; there’s album closer; Somewhere Else with it’s intriguing intro; angry acoustic guitar playing and words so sad, they will squeeze your heartstrings until you can’t breathe ……. but in a good way.
One of my Favourite Songs of all times is Favourite Photograph Of You by Guy Clark; and while I should therefore have haughtily sniffed at Bobbo Byrnes song, Favourite Photograph coming along in the same vein; but I can’t.
This duet (with Tracy Byrnes on harmonies) is every inch as stunning and stinging as Clark’s song and has me on the edge of my seat, holding my breath every time I hear it. So the title of RMHQ Favourite Song goes to Favourite Photograph.
Discovering and ‘promoting’ the works of acts like Bobbo Byrnes is why I started this whole reviewing malarkey; even though it shouldn’t really be necessary when this is his tenth release under his own name and/or with his band The Fallen Stars; but with so much competition out there I sometimes feel I am a lone voice in the wilderness …… so buy SeaGreenNumber5 or be damned to Hell!

Released July 14th 2020
https://thefallenstars.com/home
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Sam Morrow GETTIN BY ON GETTIN DOWN

Sam Morrow
Gettin’ By on Gettin’ Down
Forty Below Records

Introspective and Boogielicious Country Rock For Less Refined Ladies and Gentlemen.

If you know us here at RMHQ, it would come as no surprise that we rather liked Morrow’s 2018 release CONCRETE & MUD. While I/we have eclectic tastes I especially have a penchant for Southern Rock especially when it has an extra splash of Boogieliciousness; and it had both.
Leap forward 2 two and a half years; when one and a half of them were spent flogging the act around USA and Europe and the listener has every right to think ‘has anything changed.?’

The answer is both yes AND no.
No; in as much as Sam Morrow and Band are still treading the same ole road that made the last album and subsequent tours such a success; but ‘yes’ as all that time on the road has tightened up not just their ‘sound’ but Morrow’s songwriting too.
I found myself hissing ‘yeesssssss’ through clenched teeth as the opening bars of Rosarita sashayed out of the office speakers for the first time, a few weeks ago.
Yup; this is the Sam Morrow that I discovered two and a bit years ago; and suddenly all of my First World Problems eased away as I was transported to the same mythical highway Little Feet made famous in Willin’.
The title track Gettin’ By on Gettin’ Down follows; and it’s a torrent of Wah-Wah and fuzztone guitar; and Morrow sounds like he was simply born to Rock & Roll.

While I simply adore Sam Morrow’s songwriting; primarily as he likes a hook, chorus and melody as much as I do; it’s also fair to say that this is a ‘Guitar Rock Album’; not in the meandering self-indulgent ways of yore; but all of the songs are based around riffs that the 70’s Masters would have been proud of.

As you’d expect from the 60’s inspired ‘Groovy’ Haight-Ashbury style album cover; Morrow borrows a lot from his record collection; with Golden Venus incorporating the ‘heavy sound’ we associate with the likes of Moby Grape; but with added country slickness.

Round and Round on the other hand, takes us on a Doug Sahm type of road trip; and I can easily imagine it being drawn out when played live; with enough guitar solos to fill the Albert Hall.

I could be wrong; but for a band with Southern Rock leanings; Sit Crooked, Talk Straight is one helluva brave song to release at the end of 2020; as it’s very much a ‘song of our times’ and may not play too well in some cities across the Bible Belt; even if it does have Waylon Jennings undertones.

I guess any song that includes a cow-bell is going to have Rolling Stones comparisons thrown at it; which is patently unfair on the slick and sleazy Make ‘Em Miss Me; as it blows everything the Stones have recorded this century right out of the water.

Money Ain’t Everything is a tight and punchy Country Rocker that owes more to the Clash than it does Chet Atkins; that’s for sure; such is the eclecticism of Sam Morrow’s songwriting and arrangements.

Selecting a Favourite Track was quite easy; although that’s only because I’ve chose two to tie!
The finale; I Think I’ll Just Die Here finds Morrow solo, with acoustic guitar on his lap reflecting on a life well lived; and a rather fine song it is too.
T’other is as quintessential a Southern Boogie as you will hear this year; Wicked Woman and it’s absolutely everything you would dare hope from a song with that title; and before the feminists start burning their bras, the lady in question is feisty, intelligent and his whole life revolves around her …. just as it should be.

Arguably this is a more mature album than Concrete & Mud; but not in any detrimental way as it sits side by side comfortably; but with slightly more grown up themes and stories.

Released October 30th 2020
https://www.sammorrowmusic.com/

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The Cordovas DESTINY HOTEL

The Cordovas
Destiny Hotel
ATO Records

Sharp and Melodious Alt. Country Rockers For the Discerning Music Fan.

When I received this I remembered previously ‘liking’ the Cordovas ……. but couldn’t quite ‘place them’ so did a bit of research on the website’s Back Pages and ….. AHA! It was a live review from 2018; and I was correct; I had liked them.
So with a tinge of excitement I pressed ‘play’ and SHAZAAM!
I was instantly whisked back to the late 1970’s; when Country Rock was all over the airwaves and what little spare money I had was squandered on albums by Little Feet, Allman Brothers, The Band and The Eagles too …… none of that snarling Punk Rock for me.
Opening track High on The Rail is as timeless as it’s contemporary; which is not meant to be a misnomer; as The Cordovas have taken all of the good things from those bands I name checked; put them in a Moulinex blender and come up with as cool a Summer Soundtrack as you are going to hear in October on the Eve of an Apocalypse.
Here at RMHQ we hear a lot of albums trying to tap into this style of Country Rock; but very few come anywhere near the quality that The Cordovas produce on Afraid No More and Warm Farewells, which when played loud(ish) come dangerously close to giving you a sensory overload and leave you feeling like you’re a little bit sloppy drunk, without ever taking a taste of alcohol.
Loving this album as I now do, I’m left wondering where it fits into the current world of media; social and actual. I can only think of two UK Internet radio shows that will comfortably fit Rain on The Rail and Man In My Head into their playlists; and maybe a couple in the US a friend listens to too; but National Radio?
Not a chance; and don’t even mention TV …… these cats are too cool for any TV shows I’m aware of.
But there’s always me, you, our friends and the age old ‘word of mouth’ isn’t there?
Aha! You ask, what though is the RMHQ Favourite Track?
It’s not been easy as nearly every song here has its merits and has had me either singing along or at the very least tapping a toe or two (plus when no one was watching I even played Air Guitar to one song!) but … ta da……. it’s between The Game, which is the type of track that’s absolutely perfect for long car journeys (think: The Doobie Bros. or Eagles) and the more laid groove of I’ma Be Me with its neat choppy guitars is a bit different from everything else here and therefore wins a very tightly run musical race.
DESTINY HOTEL is a good ole fashioned Long Player, the type you put on the stereo and sit back and listen to; rather than the type of thing that people flit in and out of on the streaming sites. Of course I could be wrong; but I doubt it …… this is music for Real Music Fans.
It’s all here; harmonies so thick and delicious you want to eat them with a spoon; short sharp and liquid gold guitar playing; occasional mandolin and organ (of the Garth Hudson variety) a bass player who barely touches his strings, and when he does it sounds like there’s ‘thunder in them thar hills’ plus a machine gun drummer who occasionally becomes a sharp shot sniper too; and even a ‘live’ or ‘one take’ feel to the whole album.

http://cordovasband.com/

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Released USA October 16th 2020
Released UK & Europe October 23rd 2020

Dave Alvin HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (Single)

Dave Alvin
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED
Yep Roc

Anything new from Dave Alvin is a thing to be celebrated around these here parts, partner and when it’s as tasty a taster for a new album as like what this is …… well, it’s cans, cans, cans!!!!
I’ve not got the album yet (but the track list is as fascinating as it’s intriguing) ….. so; with no further ado ………. GRAMMY award-winning guitarist, singer, and songwriter Dave Alvin shares “Highway 61 Revisited,” a cover of the Bob Dylan classic and the second track unveiled from his first solo album in eleven years, 
From An Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordingsout November 20 on Yep Roc Records.  
Recorded at Craig Parker Adams’ Winslow Studios in Los Angeles, Dave (on vocals and electric guitar) was joined in studio by Greg Leisz (electric guitar), Gregory Boaz (bass), and Don Heffington (drums).

From An Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings Track listing:
1. Link of Chain
2. Highway 61 Revisited
3. Variations On Earl Hooker’s Guitar Rhumba
4. Amanda
5. Albuquerque
6. Mobile Blue 
7. Perdido Street Blues 
8. On The Way Downtown
9. Inside
10. Krazy And Ignatz
11. Peace
12. Man Walks Among Us
13. Beautiful City ‘Cross The River
14. Dynamite Woman15. Who’s Been Here
16. Signal Hill Blues 

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Brent Cobb KEEP ‘EM ON THEY TOES.

Brent Cobb
Keep ‘Em on They Toes
Thirty Tigers

Consolation and Power in the Details of Everyday Life.

My last – and only encounter – so far with Brent Cobb was on a steamy night in Nashville in September 2019 in a rammed Cannery Ballroom.
I remember thinking at the time how quintessentially American his set sounded – strong Southern accent, Classic band instrumentation and Uber-Country rhythms – his set had the easy unforced authenticity of a man being entirely comfortable with his musical roots, yet when he brought the UK’s Jade Bird out to join in on proceedings, it was a surprising sign of a more expansive musical world view too.
My ears pricked up.
It’s good to hear many of the qualities and values I recognised twelve months ago are still firmly in place on his latest release, “Keep ‘Em on They Toes” (this unconventional grammar is just “how folks speak”).
The title track opens things up is an ode to individualism – “Walk on to your own beat / Keep ‘em on they toes,” which starts with gentle picking before bass and soulful vocals then an organ take things over nicely.
“Shut Up and Sing” which follows takes a similar stance – as do other writers like Michaela Anne, with “If I Wanted Your Opinion” are challenging the narrow view that artists aren’t supposed to have Political (or any!) opinions and Brent Cobb quite rightly knocks that view out of the park with his Cash-like instrumentation underlining lines like:
So I’ll sing what the hell is going on around here.”
Damn Right!
This might rattle several cages.
There’s a shift of subject matter on “Good Times and Good Love” which is a minor key shifting tale of emotional gratitude with lovely descending fiddle lines from Libby Rodenbough.
“Sometimes I’m a Clown” is a wry philosophical ode to emotionally coping with blue collar working life, which treads the fragile line between hope and uncertainty – it’s beautifully underscored with sensitive rhythm by musicians who have ears for what a song needs – or doesn’t.
“This Side of the River” adds to the ever-growing list of river-metaphor songs; this time it’s all about security and home – about liking and loving our lot (and this the side of the riverbank that we’re on), but accepting how things can be
But I’ve never seen this overflowing stream from the other side / Over there it could be nice.”
It’s a song that’s going to lend itself to many a Folk act’s cover repertoire. Drums, mandolin and Mike Harris’ fluid guitar kick things up a notch on “Dust Under My Rug” which takes on personal freedom and respect
I don’t call your lover when I’m lonely  / So don’t you even let your big toe cross that line.”
“Soapbox” tackles the tricky question of how folks should get along when they don’t agree, when a country and its people are divided
You might wear out my nerves, but you ain’t changing my mind / by, good God, let’s hop off the soap box and get along.”
Cobb’s answer is simple – let’s hope he’s right.
Unity through shared love of something has a lot to say for it. It’s the “there’s more that unites us than divides us line” – it takes a brave person to go there, so credit for Cobb for trying.
“When You Go” starts off with a hybrid mix of Blue Oyster Cult/Jason Isbell styles and reaches again into ways of coping with the bigger picture – it’s the Samuel Beckett notion that ‘all life is pain and we do small stuff to shut out that pain’ – the way Cobb writes it – …“Might be time to clean house” – and reboot.
The theme remains the same on the final track “Little Stuff”
There’s a lot of truth in all that little stuff / Ain’t that enough?
In these uncertain times, Brent Cobb is taking consolation in the familiar and that which he has control over but he’s still reaching out to deal with the trickier issues beyond our own four walls; the intimate themes and warm production reinforce and reconcile this and create a well-timed release of autumnal detail – that has one eye on coping with the coming winter………

Review by Nick Barber
Released October 2nd 2020

https://www.brentcobbmusic.com/
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Drive-By Truckers THE NEW OK!

THE DRIVE BY TRUCKERS
The New OK
ATO Records

More Anger, But Maybe Some Hope Too For What Follows 2020.

Back in 2000 I was working as a sales rep for an independent record company. I loved it, as I got to hear so much great music.
The strength of the company I worked for (Pinnacle Records-sadly no more) was that although we had huge chart topping acts we also had obscure acts being released on obscure labels, run by only one or maybe two people.
One such label was Zane Records. They licensed a lot of American southern bands and artists and released them in the UK.
One sales meeting they turned up with an album called PIZZA DELIVERANCE by THE DRIVE BY TRUCKERS. Straight away I thought, ‘hello, this sounds like my cup of tea‘ and after playing NINE BULLETS to the rep meeting my life was never the same again!

Fast forward to 2020 and we have a very angry Patterson Hood (main songwriter for Drive-By Truckers) continuing where he left off on the bands January 2020 release THE UNRAVELING (and the previous, AMERICAN BAND too btw).
While the Truckers have mostly written about their own lives they have always had a political edge to them but this has become stronger and more potent the longer they go on. 
THE NEW OK isn’t as angry as that last album, but it’s very much part II and so continues in the same vein. 
The opener – and title track – is a mid tempo rocker talking about the demonstrations for BLM, anti police, covid etc, going on in his home town of Portland during this mad year.
We’ve lost our way, the new OK
TOUGH TO LET GO follows with a slower pace and isn’t about the present climate but a heartbreak song about how hard it is to end something when you know it just isn’t working. 
THE UNRAVELING takes a leaf out of Led Zep’s book in that it wasn’t on the album of the same name (I.E. HOUSES OF THE HOLY) but musically is driven and quite punky. It’s lead vocal is one of two songs sung by bassist Matt Patton.
The first song sung by neither Hood or Cooley since Shona Tucker took lead vocals on a couple of songs on 2008 release BRIGHTER THAN CREATIONS DARK. 
Next up, THE PERILOUS NIGHT is a new version of a song first released in 2016 to tie in with the US election that year. It was only released on 7 inch single at the time, so it’s nice to finally have it on my iPod. 
It’s quite clear to see where Hood sits with lyrics like
Dumb, white and angry with their cup half filled,
Running over people down in Charlottesville.
White House fury, it’s the killing side he defends
Disappointing for me is that Mike Cooley only gets one song on the album; with SARAH’S FLAME being a slow electric piano led tune about Sarah Palin. It might seem odd to tie her to 2020 but Cooley is basically laying the start of the mess in America at her door and those like her.
She made it look so easy all Fat Donnie had to do was wear the pants
SEA ISLAND LONELY is something a little different for DBT.
While it has the sound you expect, the added horns give it a fantastic Stax sound. No real surprise considering Hood’s connection to that label and period through his dad and Muscle Shoals.
Like most bands and musicians I guess DBT miss the days of getting on the van/plane and travelling to the next city to play the next gig.
THE DISTANCE makes you realise we all miss bands touring. 
WATCHING THE ORANGE CLOUDS is probably the strongest song on here. More stories of what Portland has been like during the summer of 2020 and Patterson Hood personally struggled through what’s going on in his adopted town. 
The voices that were hired to protect only betray you” and “Across the Burnside Bridge , There’s heads getting bashed and teargas. Boys too stupid to really be proud“.
Finally maybe a little belief that things will get better…. “Hoping on day we’ll rise and move onto some better place. We can look back on the nightmares of this endless spring“.
When the Truckers first started they were a punk band called Adams House Cat, and the closing song on here is a nod back to those glorious days; with a cover of THE KKK TOOK MY BABY AWAY.
It’s a brilliant version – again sung by Matt Patton – and although it’s the Ramones through and through it surprisingly suits DBT really well. 
The Drive By Truckers have never released a weak album in my opinion and this surprise release is no different.
As always, incredibly good lyrics and very strong songwriting make THE NEW OK probably the highlight of 2020. 

Review courtesy Chris Harrison

Released October 2nd 2020
https://www.drivebytruckers.com/

Drive-By Truckers THE NEW OK!

Drive-By Truckers
The New OK!
ATO Records

Another Very Important Album For and About The Times We Find Ourselves In.

NB. I’ve only had this album for less than 24 hours and had to sandwich a shift at work in between listening in the car and once more earlier today; before Friday’s actual ‘download/streaming’ release ….. so this is very much ‘on the hoof’ …… but that’s proving an exciting challenge; but I’m probably going to miss some nuances in the songs – so forgive me.

With such a bonkers year as 2020 is/has been so far; it’s no real surprise that I’m being inundated with new and exciting albums that have been inspired by everything that’s happening around them.
Patterson Hood the primary songwriter for Drive-By Truckers is certainly one writer who has a fire burning in his Soul at the moment!
Back in January I said of THE UNRAVELING that it was “The Most Powerful and Important Rock & Roll Record of the Decade;” and I stand by that sentiment; but in the intervening 8 months the world; and especially America has been spun 359 Degrees upside down and backwards and forwards ….. which means that Hood just had to set pen to paper again!
The title track THE NEW OK!; paraphrasing ‘The New Normal’ that someone coined to describe our lives post-Covid; but that day now seems s far away.
It’s feisty, powerful and Hood’s bile occasionally boils over; but the Beach Boys style harmonies and melody amazingly mask all that so it just may turn up on National radio …… quite by accident.
It’s no surprise that this is a very ‘angry album’ from start to finish, with the Truckers turning their amps up to 11; as they channel their Inner Clash on The Unravelling but it’s not all like that at all.
To all intents and purposes THE NEW OK! is Americana at its most intense; but that just proves with The Distance, Sarah’s Flame and the imperious Sea Island Lonely, with its Stax-era horn section that you don’t always have to shout to be heard.
Even by Drive-By Truckers standards there are three very, very important songs here and each tells its own story completely differently; yet all spark off each other on way or another.
Watching The Orange Clouds, like the title track has a lovely melody masking some deeply incisive and razor-sharp lyrics around and about the protests that swept across America (and beyond) following George Floyd’s senseless murder.
As I said earlier, this is being written as I listen; but even under those circumstances I knew immediatly that The Perilous Night is one of those songs that will stand loud and proud for decades to come ……. it’s frighteningly good and sadly all based on true events.
Now, dear reader if the Drive-By Truckers were going to include a cover version on an album like this; what do you think it would or should be?
Something from Woody? Dylan? Or maybe Neil Young?
Don’t be silly ……… turn the dial up to 11 or maybe even 12 ……. The Truckers have only gone and covered The Ramones The KKK Took My Baby Away!
Bassist Matt Patton provides punchy vocals and really does justice to this genuine Punk Classic; and who among us thought that in 2020 this song would still be relevent and even an anthem?
Because of that, it’s my Favourite Track …… but that may change next week.
I’ve got nothing left to say; THE NEW OK! stands shoulder to shoulder with its predecessor THE UNRAVELLING as ” Two of The Most Powerful and Important Rock & Roll Records of the Decade.

TRACK LISTING:
The New OK
Tough To Let Go
The Unraveling
The Perilous Night
Sarah’s Flame
Sea Island Lonely
The Distance
Watching The Orange Clouds
The KKK Took My Baby Away

Released October 2nd 2020 (CD & Vinyl 18th December)

https://www.drivebytruckers.com/
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