Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
Captivating Country Folk Songs For a Fine Summer’s Evening.
Like many self-appointed arbiters of good taste; or music reviewers (you decide) it’s not uncommon for a review to followed by numerous e-mails stating “If you like that; you will like us…..can I send a copy of our latest release?”
Me being the musical tart that I am I rarely say “no”; so when this was offered after our latest Jeremy Nail missive I was intrigued; as he’s not an obvious act to compare yourself too; and songstress Hadley McCall Thackston from Decatur, Georgia sounds nowt like him at all; yet I think I’d love to see the pair performing together one evening.
“Pray tell, Why is that”? You ask.
The fragile opening song Butterfly strangely enough made me think of those early Nanci Griffith LP’s I still cherish. There is something delightfully innocent in the way Hadley recounts an almost poetic tale over a winsome fiddle, mandolin and acoustic guitar.
I was instantly hooked.
Then Ms Thackston cranks up the volume to Four on the snappy Ellipsis which follows; and even during that magical first play last week I was ensnared in the silken web this young lady weaves with her stories.
The accompanying Press Release describes her music as Porch to Porch music; and I can see why as the imagery this talented young woman conjures up combines the smells and sounds of not just Georgia but South Carolina where she now lives too; in the way you feel the evening heat on your shoulders as the sun comes down as family sit around sipping cool drinks in the delightful Change and later on Ghost, as well as plenty of others.
Don’t be deceived though; this isn’t a ‘simple album’ at all; the production may make the songs sound that way; but there’s a whole lot of majestic playing behind Hadley as she delivers the haunting Redbird and Devil Or Angel, which has to heard to be believed. Trust me!
It appears that Hadley is a very shy person by nature; and was originally cajoled into putting one of her songs onto Facebook; so it would be a huge disappointment if I was never to witness her singing the gorgeous Last Mountain Waltz or especially Somehow played live in an intimate setting.
Choosing a ‘Favourite’ here is as hard as ever with the ‘bonus track’ Slow Burn certainly being a contender but I’m going for the fiery Wallace’s Song (Sage Bush) which has a delightful danceable beat to it and some fascinating lyrics on a quirky love song.
There’s a whole lot to like here from a 25 year old on her debut album; as she’s a fine storyteller with a pearlescent yet slightly worn around the edges voice……again; not unlike a young Nanci Griffith; but I can easily see her appealing to the hipsters who love Fleet Foxes, First Aid Kit and even Ed Sheeran; as well as our friend Jeremy Nail of course.
Released 15th June 2018
Blazing (Hell is Naked – soundtrack)
A Charmingly Tough Soundtrack
“Mean” Mary James is one tough cookie. When she very young, Mary’s parents lived frontier style, building their own log cabin in the Minnesota woods, where Mary’s mother was forced to shoot a seven-foot tall black bear that attacked their camp. Mary wrote her first song at the age of six (“Mean Mary from Alabam,” which gave her the nickname,) played banjo and sang on a television show until she was nine years old, and later survived a car accident which nearly destroyed her vocal cords. After overcoming that, she began touring and playing music full time, both in the states and overseas, and has now won enough awards to easily overfill a mantlepiece. But Mary James is not even close to slowing down.
Blazing, her latest album, is a “soundtrack” of sorts to Hell is Naked, a mystery novel co-written by Mary and her mother, Jean. Now, I have yet to read the novel, but can attest most assuredly to some fine music on this album. Mary’s voice is in fine form on these songs, and she picks a mean banjo and plays some wonderful gypsy fiddle on several tracks. The instrumentals are some of my favorite tracks on this album. From the gypsy-like “Lights, Gun, Action,” the charming “Rainy,” and the foot-stomping downhill race of “Blazing,” itself, Mary knows how to create a mood with sparse instrumentation. The stirring take of the classic folk song “Rock of Ages” gives Mary a choice to showcase her emotive voice as well as more exemplary banjo playing. Mary covers quite a range of styles on this album, ending it with the song “I Face Somewhere,” where Mary plays heavily reverbed electric guitar and gets a little bit of help from her band, the Contrarys.
Hearing these songs, and the varied emotions and situations they deal with, definitely makes me want to read the book. Looking forward to it. Oh, and if you ever get the chance to see Mean Mary live, please do so, she puts on a solid rockin’ show.
Review courtesy Roy Peak
Released July 6th 2018
Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis
WILD! WILD! WILD!
Happy Days and Sad Nights Country Infused Rock and Roll.
Music effects us in many ways; making us think, dance and quite often cry…….but how often does it make us smile and even laugh?
Well this glorious Rock and Roll album from one of our favourite Roots Rock heroes Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis (sister of The Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis) ticks every one of those boxes in bold red ink…..and more!
As the history books show us Rock and Roll comes in many formats and this odd couple manage to utilise most of them here; starting with the rip-roaring opening track ‘Round Too Long which starts with and goes onto feature 100 mph piano followed by Linda Gail at her sassy, hip swinging best on song that only needs the Fonz swinging Mrs. Cunningham around the dancefloor Al’s Diner to complete its authenticity.
The mood drops down to a a stroll next when Robbie delivers the saddest ballad of the last thirty years; with I Just Lived a Country Song; which features a marvelous couplet from the star of the song; “For a while there I was hot/I can’t recall the early 90’s/the last ten I’d rather not.”
Robbie Fulks at his pithy best? I certainly think so.
This album is so good that song is not even the best song here; or even in the Top 3.
The couple take turns on lead and their harmonies make you wonder why they’ve never partnered up before……but better late than never.
It’s not clear from my review copy, but I presume Robbie had a hand in writing everything here, as the lyrics are always whip smart , articulate and even reverential when they could be tongue in cheek in lesser hands; allowing Linda Gail to delve deep into her Patsy Cline Alter-ego on Who Cares, Til Death and the rip-snorting Boogie Woogie Country Gal without ever sounding like its an act or worse still, patronising.
Robbie himself sounds like he’s having the time of his life on their duets Your Red Wagon and Wild! Wild! Wild! which both sound like even the Rockabilly hipsters will love them to death as much as casual Rock & Rollers like you and I.
Where to go for a Favourite Track? To paraphrase Forest Gump “This album is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna find.” It could easily have been the ‘alternate title track’ Memphis Never Falls From Style, then there’s the theatrical ode to first hearing Rock & Roll in the 50’s; It Came From The South and the Hillbilly delights of Jericho Road, but I’m going for the pedal-steel infused swoon-a-thon duet That’s Why They Call It Temptation, which conjures up black and white images of Dolly & Porter, Tammy & George and more recently those My Darling Clementine albums which I thought couldn’t be topped; but Robbie and Linda Gail have, with ease and indeed grace.
In another dimension the finale Hardluck, Louisiana could and should have won that title as Linda Gail chokes back her tears on a brittle and beautiful ballad that will bring a tear to a glass eye.
So, what you get here is two great singers attached to 13 wonderfully respectful songs that harnesses the Country Roots of what became Rock and Roll and all wrapped in love and style What’s not to like?
Released August 10th 2018
Renegade Maverick Records
Classy Country-Pop and More From Nor’n Ireland.
I can’t remember who I saw then supporting a couple of years ago but I do remember young Nor’n Irish band blowing someone famousish of stage at Sage Gateshead; and I’ve subsequently kept in touch with their stop-start career.
Without going into too much detail here; The Rising are no longer a 5 piece band; but a tight as a drum 3 piece with Chantelle McAteer at the fore, singing and playing an assortment of keyboards, guitarist Chris Logan and Brian Mellors providing a rock solid bass behind them (drummers and pedal-steel players are added extras).
The aptly titled MOVING ON opens the album; and the feisty trio throw down the gauntlet not just to their doubters, but also the burgeoning British Country Movement with a passionate modern Country Rocking breakup song that Chantelle sings as if her life depends on it.
The tempo slows down on next song Forgive and Forget; but the mood of the broken hearted singer remains just as raw, just as it does on the bitter sweet Rebound.
Already I can imaging teenage girls everywhere poring over the lyrics thinking “they are singing about ME!” Just as Mrs. Magpie did all those years ago after some imagined slight I’d managed during one of our early dates.
Later the melancholy Rebound and Back To Me and Rebound follows in a similar ‘young love gone wrong path’ path; but is a whole lot more traditionally Country in style and will have them dancing in the aisles whenever played live.
While The Rising will easily fit in alongside The Shires, Jess and The Bandits etc. they certainly have their very own take on what they do; with influences like Chrissie Hinde and maybe even Debbie Harry coming through songs like Just Another Name and Roundabouts as much as Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert do on the exciting Take a Hint and the melancholic and love lorn Even If The Stars Fall For You.
After listening to this album on and off over the last few weeks it’s apparent that this trio who wrote or at east had a hand in writing every song here; write from the heart and their own experiences, both biter and sweet.
Which brings me to the RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ accolade which has caused some friction in our house; as when I told my beloved that With You was by far the most outstanding song here; as it combines ‘all that is good about Traditional Country Music’ but with a ‘delightful modern twist’ she looked at me as if I’d gone mad, because the ‘delightful heartbreaker’ Love Is is the ‘best love song’ she has heard in years.
Experience tells me she who must be obeyed must be correct (even when she’s wrong!)…..so let’s call it a tie.
While a very commercial release by our normal standards; I have thoroughly enjoyed MOVING ON in the same way I enjoyed the first Shires album; and it’s an exhilarating pleasure to see and hear another rising musical talent coming out of Nor’n Ireland and hopefully onto the World’s stage.
Released 3rd August 2018
Country Legend Shows the Hip Young Gunslingers How To Write and Sing Americana.
It’s odd to think that to me Jim Lauderdale was actually a ‘discovery’ at SummerTyne 2017!
This is his 30th full length album in a career that spans……well, I will be diplomatic and just say ‘a long time’; but he really did only hit my radar last year with two great concerts at Sage Gateshead and that wonderful London Southern album.
With so many great songs already under his belt it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Lauderdale just ‘phoned it in’ these days; but hey……this guy is a Professional and as the title song TIME FLIES, which opens the record proves, he can still not just write a cool contemporary song but deliver it in his own distinctive manner better than most of those hip young gunslingers that the music press slavishly adore these days. Time Flies is another timeless slice of Country/Americana music that could have easily been released in the laid back Country Rock days of the 70’s or 80’s; but his whip smart lyrics sound so very apt today to my ageing ears.
Jim can still turn his hand to what used to be C&W but we now know as Countrypolitan, most noticeably with the slow drawl of When I Held The Cards, the two-stepping Wild On Me Fast and of course the magnificent When The Cars Go By Fast, which is Country as Country gets these days, with a raggedy fiddle, some razor sharp pedal steel and a gloriously ghostly backing vocal from Lillie Mae Rische.
There are guests aplenty in the background (Chris Scruggs, Kenny Vaughan and Jay Weaver to name but three) but TIME FLIES is all about Jim Lauderdale as a songwriter AND Singer, with my priority certainly being the latter.
I’ve grown to love Jim’s voice in the last year; as it’s so distinctive and expressive as he gives relatively simple songs like Violet and It Blows My Mind a personality and gravitas I don’t think anyone else could achieve.
In the glorious tradition of Country music Jim isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun too, with the inclusion of the delightfully twee Slow as Molasses and the toe-tapping shuffle of While You’re Hoping; which will surely both go on to become staples of his concerts.
Then of course there has to be a Favourite Song, doesn’t there? For a few days I was definitely going to choose the finale, a gorgeous Country ballad that defies time and maybe even genre….. If The World Is Still Here Tomorrow; but the aspiring hipster in me is going for the Honky-Tonky, rolling and rocking Wearing Out Your Cool which may or may not be written about me! Probably not methinks; but I’m pretty sure Lauderdale has someone specific in mind; even if it’s not your favourite Rocking Magpie!
Unlike most of his contemporaries in Nashville Town these days, Lauderdale doesn’t live in the past bemoaning the passing of time since their glory days writing songs for Country Radio. Time moves on with indecent haste and Jim Lauderdale has adapted to the new Countrypolitain and Americana movements better than anyone else of his generation that I can think of.
Released August 3rd 2018
Some Part of Something
Devil Duck Records
High-Octane Texas Thrashgrass
Bluegrass has always been fueled on high-octane mandolin fills and fast-fast-faster solos and singalong rave-ups ever since Bill Monroe formed the Blue Grass Boys so many moons ago. So it was inevitable that we would eventually get a melding of bluegrass and punk pop with a heady dose of barroom sensibilities thrown in for good measure. And straight from Austin, Texas we have the punk rock, countrified rave-ups of Whiskey Shivers, which toss a full blown bass and drum rhythm section into the mix along with some tasteful Celtic-inspired fiddle. Add some well-written songs like Cluck Ole’ Hen, No Pity In The Rose City and Liquor, Beer, Wine & Ice, a handful of seasoned musicians and you get a fun, rocking band.
Most of the songs are saloon singalongs and twenty-first century pop with a bluegrass bent, but WS are fine lyricists also. Check out the line “I ain’t looking for trouble, she knows who I am” on the song “Southern Sisyphus,” which also harbors a dandy chorus complete with interweaving banjo and fiddle.
Originally I was ready to dismiss the song “Fuck You” from the title alone, but it actually comes across as one of the better songs on the album. Very well sung, tongue firmly in cheek, yet somehow truly sincere. CeeLo Green tried to do this exact thing nearly a decade ago—and admittedly had a huge hit with it—yet WS one-ups him with deliciously playful background vocals, and then once again with their earnestness. And do I hear a tasty bit of revenge in these words? Way to go guys, you’ve upped the ante yet again!
The two covers on Some Part of Something, namely the Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” and Daniel Johnston’s epic “True Love (Will Get You in the End),” aren’t throwaways in the least. WS knows well how a good hook will always get a barroom singing along and toasting the band, and treat the material as they would one of their originals.
WS is geared up for a UK tour this summer, be on the lookout for their version of Texas thrashgrass, and prepare to buckle up for the ride!
Courtesy the American Magpie Mr Roy Peak
Released July 20th 2018
Let It Rain (single)
It couldn’t have been timed better, could it? The new single from singer-songwriter Clare Bowen (Scarlett in Nashville TV Series btw) LET IT RAIN arrived today; just as the Heavens open all over the UK!
Her song is actually a bittersweet love song, of the break up variety, but I’m sure Radio 2 will go with the weather theme.
For what it’s worth Clare was our favourite in the TV show and has a simply wonderful and expressive voice; and this single really bodes well for the album and UK Tour which are due in September.
SummerTyne Americana Festival 2018
What’s not to like about a music Festival in and around one of the world’s finest auditoriums featuring the music you love during a hot and sunny weekend only twenty minutes from your doorstep? Oh; and 50% of it is FREE!
Well, for some of my hipster-cool friends who appear to live in a) the past and b) Nashville… quite a lot actually; but to those doom laden miserabilists all I can say is “Shaddupa Your Face!”
While a tad smaller and more condensed than in previous years; there was still so very much to enjoy and write home about.
As I say every year SummerTyne is a festival of two halves, with two stages inside and outside the hall curated by the Jumping Hot Club and AMA UK which are FREE to the public and introduce acts of all hues and stages of their careers to the local music fans and cognoscenti alike.
During the afternoons and of course the evenings the three Sage concert halls buzz with proper World Famous acts singing on our door step; yet the entry prices don’t necessarily reflect that as Sage tends to subsidise the prices with a look towards bringing this music to the masses.
Sadly for me the ‘real world’ in the form of my day job took it’s toll early on meaning I missed all of Friday afternoon’s Home Fries performances, which took place inside Sage on the concourse stage as it was actually raining outside!
Later in the evening I cornered a couple of friends and even artistes who had been there and apparently Sam Gibson who opened the afternoon with half an hour or so of his own intense yet commercial take on Country songs went down very well with the freshly arriving fans; and local Country-Folk duo Jinski got the party started with their relatively high energy act.
Later RMHQ friend Gem Andrews made lots of new fans with songs from across both her albums and last minute substitute Sour Mash Trio turned this ultra-modern building into a Geordie Honky-Tonk with their blistering Rockabilly songs (or so singer Jimmi told me!).
Me? I arrived at 6pm just as Wandering Hearts from that there London Town were opening their own set on the AMA UK Concourse Stage and it was instantly evident why they are on the cusp of success with their easy on the ear harmony drenched Country-Folk songs. (I now need to re-address their debut album).
This year’s Friday night shows probably highlighted the strength and diversity that SummerTyne brings better than many other years; with Shawn Colvin who would normally headline Hall 2 actually opening for the legend Graham Nash in Hall 1.
Shawn was a powerhouse of intensity during her half hour; and while I only got to see and hear about 30 minutes of Nash’s performance (I was running around photographing elsewhere all night) his on stage charisma and understated songs set the audience to ‘stun’ and ‘smile’ as they left the venue later in the evening.
Personally I hung around Hall 2 as a new name to me, Texan Country singer-songwriter Charley Crockett totally blew me away with his simple and timeless songs that spanned the last 50 years of the genre; and any guy in a cowboy hat with a Texas state flag draped over the piano who includes a T-Bone Walker song has to be a good and indeed cool guy in my book.
The headline act in that hall was English Rockabilly star Darrell Higham and the Enforcers who had the immaculately dressed crowd dancing from the get go.
My long day and another impending 5am alarm call meant that I only stayed for half an hour; but regretted missing the rest of his set.
As I made my way out I spotted a few friends arriving for the closing act of the night and another one that in previous years would have been on my ‘gig of the year’ list; a double header of RMHQ favourites Rob Vincent and Yola Carter which had those friends still salivating the next day.
If there was one single act that I wanted to see it was Arkansas Dave who played twice; with the first being a 4pm set on the JHC stage; which I missed; arriving as I did at 4.45! But I did get to see the left of centre William the Conqueror at 5, who were a strange choice to close the afternoon as it sounded the type of music more suited to late at night. But what do I know?
Earlier a singer-songwriter from Liverpool called Tom Blackwell opened proceedings and as the day progressed six different people told me I had to check him out; and as happens at SummerTyne a mate actually introduced me to Tom later in the night and as we chatted a couple of advancing years tentatively approached him to tell him how brilliant he was! (I now have a copy of his latest cassette/album….. so watch this space).
Saturday night at SummerTyne was every inch as good if not better than previous years; starting with RMHQ favourites Curse of Lono opening for Steve Earle and mesmerising the rock crowd so much so there was a queue later at the merch table for their CD. They were followed by The Mastersons who I personally love to bits and again; on another night would have headlined Hall 2 on their own.
In between sets I ran across the concourse to photograph Natalie Merchant; she of 10,000 Maniacs fame. It’s fair to say she’s never been my ‘cup of tea’ but looking at the adoring faces of the sold-out crowd, told me that I was in the minority; but such is SummerTyne……it brings all of the disparate and loose ends together under one magnificent roof.
Before I went back into Hall 1 I nipped into the Barbour Room to see a few minutes of another recommendation; Jade Bird. It was difficult t pass judgement on the diminutive young lady in a red jump suit and battered converse playing a jumbo acoustic guitar nearly as big as she was; because her stories were nearly as long as both songs I heard. But; I did hear enough to know I need to investigate further.
Then of course there was Steve Earle and the Dukes!
I’ve been a fan for over twenty years and previously seen him live 6 times; being a bit underwhelmed the last twice……but tonight PHWOAR! He was back on form with that ‘fire in his belly’!
He opened the set with a song about and dedicated to the firefighters who were still busy putting out forest fires in his Home State then interspersed the ‘Greatest Hits?’ with fiery songs from his latest album and you could barely see the joins. Tonight Steve let the music speak for itself without too much literary interaction introducing them; and the world was a better place for it.
A long awaited day off meant that I could arrive at a sunny SummerTyne in time to see the immaculately attired CD Wallum Trio and their lovely tunes.
Next up were The Strange Blue Dreams, whose album we loved earlier in the year. The crowd seemed initially confused by the strange Gypsy infused Country-Folk, but quickly got into it and I spotted the first of the days dancers on Shipcote Hill.
As they finished I moved inside to see another recommendation on the AMA UK stage; Foreign Affairs. Hmmm; for me this sibling duo were a bit more Folk than Americana but they still went down very well with the packed to the gills audience.
Unlike previous years there wasn’t any ‘paid for’ gigs on the afternoon which left me at a loose end a couple of times; but that allowed me time for a 99 from the ice cream van and later a delicious burger and fries from one of the myriad of pop-up food stalls.
Back on the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage regular visitors Hymn For Her really ripped it up with their very own Hillbilly Country sound; much to the delight of the knowledgable and appreciative crowd.
Normally the closing act outside is something loud and rip-roaring; Blues Rock or Cajun acts being a speciality; but tonight it was the job of Southern Gothic specialists Curse of Lono to bring events to an end.
I had my reservations, and don’t know why but ……it worked. At last I could hear why I once heard them described as an Americana Doors; but that was only because the assorted keyboards came to the fore alongside Felix’s smoky vocals on a hot and steamy Gateshead afternoon.
As I’m prone to do I spent a lot of time looking at the crowd; and I’m pleased to announce that the 1,000 or so people present all looked very happy at the closure; and again there was a steady stream of people buying that CD.
Yet again I have to applaud the diversity that Sage Gateshead brings to an Americana Festival with Sunday night showcasing the very best in new, young Country Music in Hall 1 with Nashville TV star Sam Palladio headlining over the wonderful Sarah Darling who just gets better and better; and darling of the new movement Striking Matches who were so loud they would have been more suited to a Rock Festival (NOT FOR ME I’M AFRAID!).
Palladio? Interesting; as he is still looking for a specific style. He seemed more comfortable rocking out on electric guitar; but sounded more at home on the ballads from the TV series. Only time will tell which direction he ends up in.
Hall 2, just like the previous evening was completely sold out with people begging for ‘spares’ all afternoon.
I know very little of Iris Dement; but just like the Natalie Merchant audience the 1,000 or so in residence sat in stunned silence all night; but interspersing the songs with loud and long applause; and at the very end several had tears in their eyes during a long standing ovation.
My night ended with another twenty minutes in the concourse with Orphan Colours regaling the departing crowds with some delicious Country – Rock of the finest hue.
As I drove home I got to thinking again, “What exactly is Americana Music?” I couldn’t think of a definitive answer, and I doubt you have either; but Sage Gateshead have to be applauded yet again for trying and succeeding in providing some clues; and rather exciting ones too.
Red Hot Blue Collar Honky Tonkin’ Rock & Roll.
Every now and again I use my I-Phone as a radio in the car; hitting ‘random’ and letting the fates choose my soundtrack for the journey to or from work. It’s been a fascinating aid over the last few years; helping me sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to selecting albums to review; and finding me a few absolute diamonds that otherwise may have been missed.
Such is the case with the latest release by Ben Bostick from South Carolina; even though I have an unreviewed copy of his self-titled debut album hauntingly sitting above my desk at this very moment.
HELLFIRE starts with a growl; as No Show Blues takes us on a late night walk into the dark side of town where only the very brave stay. Dirty guitars, a raggedy honky-tonk piano and bass/drum combo that sound like they spent the day stripping down stolen Harleys combine with Bostick’s world weary and greasy voice to create a glorious noise that instantly ensnared me last Thursday night.
The title track Hellfire follows and is a whole lot more toe-tappin’ as it’s Bakersfield in origin and and sounds like it was written after a night drinking Sour Mash and listening to Waylon and Jerry Lee records right through to sun up.
Ben Bostick and Band crank up the tension that comes from the type of love very few of us have ever experienced on a couple of belters that will stay in the memory for a long, long time…….Blow Off Some Steam features some truly sizzling Twang guitar in the style of Redd Volkaert or Luther Perkins and on The Other Side of Wrong they make Jerry Lee Lewis sound like a choirboy!
There’s a fizzing excitement on this album right from the very beginning to the gloriously brooding final track The Outsider which is as scary a Rock & Roll song as I’ve heard this side of the first time I heard Psycho Killer!
Everything here sounds like it was recorded in one take, with no soft overdubs or last minute additions to appease the men in suits; It Ain’t Cheap Being Poor and How Much Lower Can I Go are deceptively simple Country drenched Rock & Roll songs that must sound exactly the same when played live after a night on the beer with whisky chasers, with sweat not just running down Bostick’s forehead but the walls of the club too.
Where to go for a ‘Favourite Track’? The Feeling Mean with it’s Gene Vincent undertones was an early contender, as was the Blue Collar Country Twang of No Good Fool but I’m closing my eyes and picking the glorious Work, Sleep, Repeat as it was the first song I heard that night in the car after an 11 hour shift at work in the hot cab of a bus; and it fit my mood perfectly.
Ben Bostick has created an album here that comfortably sits in several camps; Alt. Country, Rock & Roll, Countrypolitan and best of all Classic Country and will appeal to fans of all those genres.
Released June 27th 2018
AIN’T IT SOMETHING, HANK WILLIAMS
Classic Country For Today, Tomorrow; But Certainly Not Yesterday.
Strangely enough two of my favourite albums are both collections of Hank Williams song (Bap Kennedy’s HILLBILLY SHAKESPEARE and HANKY PANKY by Matt Johnson’s The The) so it was with more than a tingle of excitement I agreed to listen to this album by Denver based Miss Leslie Tom.
With only four of the ten songs here written by the great man; this is more of a love letter from the heart, to Hank than anything else.
Very much in the style of Williams, Leslie’s very own Born Too Late opens proceedings and your toes will tap from the get go, as Leslie pines the fact that she was “born too late and he was born too soon” for the pair to have ever met; but if they had “she could see us in a great big Cadillac/Ridin’ high through life/never looking back”. In the nicest possible way it’s a cute song; yet like a few others here quite edgy in it’s own special way, with some very eloquent and clever lyrics.
This is followed by Leslie rockin’ the heck outta Hey Good Lookin’; not a song that will trouble the Grammy committee but one that made me smile like a nanny goat; and boy can Mr Lloyd Green pick that pedal-steel!
In fairness that’s the beauty of this album; every song is sung with love and joy and are the type of songs that pay homage in the very best way; regardless of commercial success.
If you like quality Country AND Western music you will just love Honky Tonkin’ and the delightful duet with Dean Miller, Are You Ready For Some Hanky Panky, both of which must be highlights of any live shows.
Then of course there is one of my favourite songs of all time I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, a tearjerker of the highest order and a dangerous song to cover as there are some stinkers out there; but Leslie captures the same essence that Hank had when he wrote it; and coupled to some shimmering guitar and pedal-steel this version will send shivers down your spine.
Choosing a favourite song certainly hasn’t been easy; with the brittle Audrey’s Song (Still Love You) being an early contender and Leslie breaths fresh breath into Angel of Death (sounding uncannily like Nanci Griffith btw) but I’m going for the Leslie Tom Composition Mr. Williams, which if taken out of context here is a stunning song on its own merits; but becomes the cornerstone for an album that could easily be the soundtrack to a Stage Show (now there’s an idea!) and will give pleasure to absolutely everyone who hears it.
After a couple of beers my favourite argument with friends whose musical tastes are deeply embedded in the past; is that they should ‘move with the times’ and listen to modern music too. AIN’T IT SOMETHING, HANK WILLIAMS has a foot in both camps; as Leslie Tom certainly loves the ‘old music’ of Hank Williams and sings her odes to him in the Classic style; but this is very much an album for today…….and tomorrow; and certainly not yesterday.
Released June June 16th 2018.