Carson McHone CAROUSEL

carson mchone

Carson McHone
Nine Mile Records

A Country Carousel Worth Loads of Spins.

“Carson McHone’s album Carousel is mostly electric barroom windups with a few satisfying ballads thrown in for twangy effectiveness.” So says the accompanying Press Release; but is that the case?

McHone hails from Austin, Texas where she cut her teeth with regular weekly engagements in the local honky-tonks. McHone rocks out effortlessly on many of these tunes and has just enough twang in her voice to keep it “real-life country for real.” The album’s kick-off song, “Sad,” is a twangy barroom jaunt and a good introduction for what’s to come. “Lucky” shifts gears emotionally to keep it surprising and interesting. “Good Time Daddy Blues” is well sung, but the production is a bit ‘paint by the numbers’ with too much generic yeehaw going on for my taste. (Now, perhaps that’s the point, McHone could be going for a classic feel on the barroom staple songs. Some of these songs do have a purposeful classic country vibe, but this one’s a bit too pat for my tastes. One needn’t have the fiddle and the pedal steel both share the solo section. Yes, classic country used to do this a lot, and it’s still done a lot, which is kind of my point.) Instead, give it over fully to one instrument and let them shine, give the player a chance to dig into it a bit and make a complete emotional statement.

Which makes “Spider Song” with its droning harmonium probably my favorite cut on this album, followed closely by “Dram Shop Girl” which comes off tender, but with a touch of darkness reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt. Both of these tunes have an innocence to them rather than naïveté that makes them work, as well as being forward thinking in their arrangements. “Drugs” with its plaintive repeating chorus: “Drugs, I need drugs, I need drugs,” is catchy and strong, and I find myself coming back to listen to it again and again, and “Gentle” is whispery and resolute in its emotional impact. These songs definitely are worth listening to over and over, as Carousel definitely gets better with each spin.

I like McHone’s voice and songs, and her band is obviously talented, but I feel this album represents a transition in McHone’s learning curve. She’s reaching for something with her art and I hope she gets there, as we will all be the better for it.

Review by the Legendary Roy Peak

Released 26th October 2018


Ken Pomeroy Hallways

Ken Pomeroy a Hallways

Ken Pomeroy
Horton Records

Heartfelt Songs From Oklahoma Teenager 

With delicately picked guitar, and the kind of voice in which plate reverbs were built for, Oklahoman Ken Pomeroy writes songs from the singer-songwriter side of modern folk that are reminiscent of both Nanci Griffith and Patty Griffin.

That’s the short version. Here’s a longer one.

Ken Pomeroy is a singer-songwriter from Oklahoma who started singing and playing music at a very young age and released her first EP, Minutes to Hours, in 2017. At the tender age of fifteen she has already won several songwriting awards including the Jimmy LaFave Songwriting Contest with her entry “The Sidewalk Song,” and has opened up for rockabilly giant Wanda Jackson, as well as playing some of her original songs on the Oklahoma Rodeo Opry stage. Pomeroy has played music festivals near her home on the windy plains of Oklahoma and as far away as sunny Key West and several in between. With her second release, Hallways, Pomeroy has crafted seven heartfelt songs which do an admirable job of showcasing her voice as well as her guitar playing.
Now young girls playing guitar and writing their own songs have decidedly taken an upswing in these post-Taylor Swift Wannabe years, but I feel that we are finally nearing the end of this arc, leaving only the truly talented and dedicated to continue on. Thankfully, Ken Pomeroy is as gifted as she is dedicated. One doesn’t write a song such as “Hallways” with lines like “A different direction I turn my head, trying to look away from the demons I’ve fed,” and then sing it with understated grace without first working hard at your craft, listening to other songwriters, singing a song over and over until you know how best to convey its darknesses and contradictions. These are heady songs, not fluff in the least, presented simply, letting the guitar frame Pomeroy’s voice perfectly. I hear many influences in Pomeroy’s music, but the afore mentioned Nanci Griffith and Patty Griffin stand out to me, especially on repeated listens. Not in the delivery, but certain turns of phrase, the smart, poetic lyrics that are so concise and well thought out throughout.
“The Sidewalk Song” is the centrepiece of this collection, but it’s the title song, “Hallways,” which won me over with its ambient backing track and plaintive vocal delivery. Pomeroy has some good songs and I like the terse production on this collection, but it would be nice to hear her stretch her wings next time with something with a bit more thump to it, or a quicker pace, as most of these songs clock in with a similar meter.

Keep on writing and singing, Miss Pomeroy, I’ll be listening.

Review by The Legendary Roy Peak esq.

Released November 2nd 2018


kerry fearon honky tonk

Kerry Fearon

Cool, Easy Listening Country Music With Added ZING!

As regular readers will know I have a soft spot for singer-songwriters from Northern Ireland and welcome their releases like long lost relatives; but I don’t think I’ve ever been sent anything from Ireland’s home grown Country Music arena; and bearing in mind Irish Country Music is incredibly popular across the water; it historically doesn’t ‘travel well’; I probably wouldn’t have given this album the time of day if it hadn’t come from from my mentor Alan Cackett; so to the top of the pile it went.
All my preconceptions were blown away as soon as I heard opening track, Jessi Colter’s Storms Never Last, which features some sublime pedal-steel and Twangtastic guitar and of course Ms Fearon’s dreamy voice…..and the song itself ain’t too shabby too!
As I’d expected everything here is in the Classic Country vein and the world is a better place because of it; with Kerry breathing new life into Cotton Jenny and Loretta’s Honky Tonk Girl; which is obviously the title track too (Doh!).
Even ‘Classic’ Country comes in many different shades; and Kerry Fearon shows her good taste by including rip-roaring versions of Gram’s Luxury Liner and Miss Maybelle Carter’s Jukebox Blues alongside Red River Valley and even a couple of winsome Ashley Monroe tunes too; I’m Good at Leaving and If The Devil Don’t Want Me (which I didn’t know before this glorious album closer).
We need to bounce back to the start for my choice of ‘Favourite Song’; the obvious choice the feisty and poignant That’s What I Like About You; which was originally a 1991 single for Trisha Yearwood and this version deserves to be heard on daytime radio across the whole wide world; even though the American Country stations will likely sneer at the warble in Kerry’s voice; rat-a-tat drumming, shimmering pedal-steel and some damn sweet Chet Atkins influenced guitar breaks too….. are you getting the picture?
For the second time in as many weeks I’ve found an album that I’ve used as something of a ‘pallet cleanser’ as it is so very ‘easy on the ear’ from start to finish, with Kerry’s voice being ‘universal’ in a good way; and the pin-sharp production making this locally released album something that will and should be a hit all around the world; or at the very least of interest to Country Music fans of all persuasions.

#Kerry Fearon also presents a weekly Country Music TV show, Kerry’s Country Gold and a daily Country Music radio show too!

Released August 23rd 2018


dawn landes bb

Dawn Landes
Yep Roc Records

Luxurious and Classy Country With a Very Modern Twist.

Dawn Landes is another of those names that I’ve been aware of for years, with friends travelling far and wide to see her; while I’ve been oblivious to her charms.
It was obvious as the delightful Meet Me At The River; which opens proceedings fades to a close why my (knowledgeable) friends would hold her in such high esteem; first and foremost Dawn has a charmingly crystal clear singing voice; and the song itself is unashamedly a modern take on classy, Country Music…. you know, the type that fuddy duddies say isn’t made any more!
Every time I’ve played this album; be it the office, living room or car I’ve always ended up mouthing the lyrics while I tap my toes along to the melodies.
While traditional in format; Dawn Landes actual songs are anything other than ‘old fashioned’; Why They Name Whisky After Men shows acutely sharp perception; while never making it an ‘anti-man’ song; which is a clever tightrope to walk; and later her Gospel flavoured What Is The Colour of Soul of Man; again Ms Landes cleverly avoids being preachy; as she makes you think deeply along with every line.
In a style originally made famous by Kitty Wells and more recently rediscovered by Laura Cantrell; Dawn Landes throws a couple of curve ball with My Church and the ‘call and response’ duet with Bobby Bare, I Don’t Dance; which are both  highlights on a wonderful release.
I regularly listen to albums that try to rediscover the magic of Classic Country Music; and very few manage to reach the heights that we hear on the feisty Southern Girl, Travelling and/or Wind and Rain; which both sound like they have their roots in the recordings of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn; but are also songs that are perfect for younger more lyrically astute audiences in 2018.
Because of my current mind set; the accolade of Favourite Track is always going to come from one of the winsome bittersweet love songs tucked away in between the more uptempo tracks; with What Will I Do; being an early contestant and then I lent towards the timeless How To Say “I Love You” but I’m actually sticking my neck out with Old Memories, which is the type of song you’d associate with Nanci Griffith or maybe Reba McIntyre as she looks back on life through ‘rose coloured’ glasses; which is something I’m guilty of doing a lot myself these days; and Ms Landes sounds like she does too.
It’s all a bit embarrassing to say That I have ‘discovered Dawn Landes’ with this album; but I have and I only wish I had done it years ago.

Released September 14th 2018



nathan bell love bones

Nathan Bell
Angry Stick Recordings

The Last of The American Troubadours Sings of Love and More.

Nathan Bell pretty much strikes me as the ‘bloke along the street’ who nods and says ‘Hello’ whenever you see him; but you know nothing about him; but presume he works in a factory; or at least something manual.
He may even loan you one of his treasured Power Tools; but would  more than likely to come along and do the job himself; refusing payment save for a cup of coffee.
Then another neighbour would tell you he is a singer-songwriter; and you wouldn’t believe them; but that’s what he is……something of The Lone Ranger of the Americana scene.
He is the latest in a long line of blue collar troubadours; singing for and about the common man; who comes in all ages and hues, and his last two albums have been among the angriest I’ve ever heard from a Folk Singer; and just what the world needed; and indeed still needs today. .
Although I was told what to expect; I was still very pleasantly surprised by the intricate sensitivity in Would Be a Blackbird (for Leslie Irene) which opens this album; yet I shouldn’t be as Nathan has proved many times what a clever songwriter he is; so writing and dedicating a song to his wife of 30 years was always destined to be full of rich and dark beauty; wasn’t it?
As with the rest of the songs here; where he neatly blends Folk into Country and Country into Folk; the arrangement is delicately simple (guitar/concertina/harmony vocals) yet the end result is very powerful indeed.
Nathan tells us that there are both old and new songs here; but it’s impossible to tell which have been residing on a shelf gathering dust and which are as fresh as a daisy.
We don’t find out the real story behind the songs; with A Day Like This, Molly Had a Baby and the fascinating My Kid all being too literate not to based in real life happenings; and coincidentally each is dedicated to a named recipient too; so I guess they are, but such is thw way Bell delivers a song you will know someone who fits each sentiment too.
Then there are a couple which come from a heart that truly knows the meaning of love; which is more of a rarity than you’d expect…….Gold Wedding Ring and Whiskey You Win both spring immediately to mind; but Fragile will leave you wondering whether it’s about a break up or possibly even a death; but it’s fair to say it’s one of the finest songs I’ve heard in a long long time.
It’s not always fair to compare one songwriter with another; but as most of the acts I cover remain unknown to the populace at large I feel obliged to do so; with Nathan Bell’s ‘lived in’ and ‘world weary’ singing style being not unlike Kris Kristofferson or Rodney Crowell; and his songwriting isn’t too far away from them either; but I hear a feminine sensitivity too, with Nanci Griffith and Gretchen Peters too in Metal as well as Faulkner and Four Roses; which is quite some feat.
I don’t know why but historically I tend to steer away from title tracks as my ‘Favourite’ in my reviews; but here LOVE, BONES & STARS, LOVE’S BONES & STARS, of which there are two versions included, is the only contender in a really strong heavyweight division, as the story and complex detail Bell winds and weaves in every line makes this one of those rarities that will make you hold your breath so as not to miss a note; and then press repeat just to confirm the songs is as good as you thought; then you will think it was even better the second time!
LOVE, BONES & STARS is the fourth and last in what he calls his Family Man series; and if it is it’s a beautiful way to close this chapter in his life, before opening a whole other even more exhilarating one too.

#Tucked away at the back of the sleeve notes is a delightful note; that most people will miss; but I think it’s quite appropriate here “No autotune was used in the making of these recordings.”

#There is another new release on his website; the Live Bootleg Er Gwaetha Pawb A Phopeth which was recorded in November 2017 in Newport, Wales and will make an ideal Christmas Present for anyone you know who loves ‘our type’ of music.

Released September 24th 2018





martha v

Martha Fields

Real Deal Americana With Added Gallic Flair.

Can it really be two whole years since Martha Fields last release SOUTHERN WHITE LIES? Where does the time go?
Before I talk about the actual songs here; can I mention that I’ve been listening to this album on and off for a couple of weeks now, but I’m writing the review in the aftermath of the Americana Awards 2018; and I’m confused as to what constitutes ‘Americana’ music these days; as Martha Fields is the corner stone of what I think of as Americana Music; but she doesn’t sound like many of the those recipients last night (Jason Isbell excluded!)
Opening track Sukey is a sultry and even swampy slice of ‘Americana’ and certainly sounds like it has its roots in Martha’s Southern White Lies album;as does the Gothic sounding Demona which follows on down the line, with both  having more edge than a Bowie knife.
I’ve been a fan for a few years now; and love the way Ms Fields uses her smoky voice to tell a tale; almost inhabiting her characters in Forbidden Fruit and the bubbly Fare Thee Well Blues; yet also becoming the third party storyteller on Maxine; which has more than a smidgen of Bobbie Gentry in it by the way.
Fans will already know Martha is based in rural France now; which makes her songs Oklahoma and West Virginia In My Bones all the more wistful; and the gentle Paris to Austin somehow manages to tug at the listeners heartstrings with both hands until you can hardly breathe. Exile; when you listen carefully has a slight socio-political backbone to it; and yet written from afar will resonate with how many Americans feel about the country that they live in.
Perhaps it is because she no longer lives in the US of A that these songs have a romantic thread to them; which can be missing on some home grown albums……absence makes the heart grow fonder?
I can’t help mentioning too, that the band are all born and bred French men; which makes their collective delicate touches and flourishes on Said And Done, Desert Flower and the majestic Lone Wolf Waltz all the more intriguing; but then again…….Americana is really a state of mind, in my opinion.
With so much to choose from I was going to close my eyes and just point my finger at the track listing to select a favourite; then the rip snorting Hillbilly Bop came sizzling out of the office speakers and the deal was done. What’s not to like about a hummable and danceable tune that’s a lot more ‘Country’ than most anything you will hear on your Nashville radio these day, y’all.
Sadly Martha Fields will most likely not be attending any Awards Galas in the near future; but then again nor will 99.9% of the acts we cover here at RMHQ; so just sit back and enjoy; knowing you know something the other kids don’t; Marty Fields is the Real Deal.

Released September 14th 2018

Clare Bowen Sage Gateshead

clare bowen c

Clare Bowen
Sage Gateshead
Tuesday 4th September 2018

Is she an actress who sings or a singer who acts? That was my dilemma a few weeks ago when I was about to review the star of the Nashville TV series’ Clare Bowen’s debut album release.
Afterwards it was pretty apparent that it was the latter; as the young Australian really can sing, which made us pretty excited when it was announced she would be playing Sage Gateshead in early September.
Because of work commitments I arrived as support act Striking Matches were on stage; so rather than disrupt proceedings we decided to have a relaxing drink in the foyer for once, before making our way into the pretty full Hall 1 us the lights were dimming.
The band entered the stage in the dark and were already playing as a spotlight lit up the far side of the stage and the smiling Clare Bowen, wearing a delightful golden dress and sporting feathers in her hair carefully made her way to the centre and launched into the powerful Where I Belong, which coincidently was the prefect choice to get the party started.
There really was so much to like tonight; Ms Bowen’s voice is quite staggering when heard live…….she can milk the emotion out of every single note on ballads like Ays Song and the song she wrote in the wake of the London Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks, Little By Little; but to me she sounds best when ‘rocking out’ on the Bluesy Let It Rain or Premonition which Mrs Magpie reminded me was from the TV series.
Then there were surprises galore with a couple of sultry duets with husband Brandon, who got to sing his own latest single, which went down very well with the appreciative crowd; and she also sat in awe as guitarist to the stars Colin Linden got his moment in the spotlight.
Highlights came in all shapes and sizes too; especially her stories linking to the songs usually being quite heartfelt, if occasionally a bit Hippyish in context; but that’s no real bad thing as the songs that followed like Lullaby and All The Beds I’ve Made were all the more memorable because of them.
As the show drew to a loud and danceable close, I was surprised to find there had been 20 songs including a medley of Country Classics and had lasted well over an hour and half; which had flown by.
One other thing about tonight; I was reminded a few times why I love live music; as this group of musicians made magic happen before my very eyes, turning random musical notes into moments that will stay in my mind for a long time to come.
This bit may seem odd; baring in mind ‘who’ Clare Bowen is and where she’s come from, but I really do think she has all the qualities, especially a voice to become a Bona-fide Country Star in the near future; and her acting career could well fall by the wayside.

Photo-Set by Harrisonaphotos


Jonas & Jane SEDONA RAIN (EP)

Jonas and Jane_sedona-rain

Jonas & Jane

Beautifully Delicate and Winsome Country Music From the Surrey Delta.

Charlie Jonas has been a friend of RMHQ for a year or so now; so when he got in touch a couple of weeks ago telling us he was releasing a 5 track EP with partner Katherine Jane it would have been churlish to turn down a review; now wouldn’t it?
The couple describe themselves as a ‘harmony duo from the UK’ and boy; are they underselling themselves!!
They are indeed a duo that sings in harmony; but there is much more here; starting with the windswept and gorgeous first song, Hold Me featuring Jonas on lead vocals and Katherine supplying velveteen harmonies that makes a good song extraordinary. Then of course there is the the eerie combination of pedal-steel and chromatic harmonica in the background…….phew; what a breathtaking opening few minutes.
It’s Katherine who steps forward on Too Little Time; which is more of timeless slice of Hill Country music that should be from Appalachia or the Blue Ridge Mountains; and certainly not Guildford in Surrey!
There really is so much to like here; and not just the two fabulous voices (both separate and in harmony) as the intricate guitar picking, Dobro, double-bass, banjo etc. is also from the couple themselves; and their songwriting is rather special too; with the single Don’t Cry For Me being the type of bittersweet break-up song you’d associate with the Civil Wars or even Emmylou and Rodney if I’m not mistaken in the way they squeeze every drop of emotion out of every word and note.
While there’s a dark thread weaving throughout all 5 songs; which is just how we likes our Country Music these days; I can’t help feeling that the word ‘lovely’ comes into play too; as everything here bares repeated listening and quite often too; most notably with the title track Sedona Rain I find myself silently mouthing the words as the duo tug at my heartstrings.
Then; there is Jumping Ship which again features Charlie on lead vocals; and Katherine harmonising like a ghost on a desperately sad song that could easily find it’s way onto an album by the Dixie Chicks, Faith or Miranda or their ilk……it really is that strong and indeed, classy.
I know Jonas and Jane visit America on holiday; but on the back of this EP surely a detour to Nashville beckons and with songs like these it’s not great a leap to think of them  signing on as songwriters first and foremost; but that would be a huge shame as they have such a beautifully delicate and distinctive sound of their very own which should be enough to make the Big Time all by themselves.

Released September 7th 2018


clare bowen cd

Clare Bowen

Cool, Classy and Contemporary Country

Regardless of what the Cool Kids thought, me and Mrs Magpie thoroughly enjoyed the Nashville TV series; OK it was more a Soap Country than a hard hitting look at the underbelly of Music Row; but what did you expect on Prime Time TV across the globe?
Without a shadow of a doubt our favourite character was Scarlett; the slightly neurotic singer-songwriter who was constantly looking for love. If you watched the show you will know that Scarlett; or more to the point Australian actress Clare Bowen had a beautiful voice and could deliver a heart wrenching ballad like few others in the show; and now it appears…..real life.
Which oddly enough; brings us to Clare’s debut self-titled album.
Opening track, Let It Rain has already been released as a single; and it’s exactly what you would want and expect to hear from this talented actress and that’s a good thing as it really is a Classy modern Country/Singer-Songwriter hybrid that fits into both Mrs. Magpies collection and mine too.
If there are surprises here, it’s the slower and softer songs where the production leaves Clare Bowen with nowhere to hide; as if she wants to anyway. I’m pleased to say she sounds a lot more confident than her alter-ego on Tide Rolls In, which gently builds to a big ole climax and later on the delightfully delicate Grace of God and  You, she sounds a bit like the young Dusty in Memphis; but without the overpowering string arrangements.
Her choice of songs here is quite excellent from start to finish; mingling the Folk tinged Sweet William with the cinematic Doors & Corridors then the intricate Lijah and the Shadow, which sounds like it owes more to East Nashville than it does Music Row, as does Lullabye which is a brave inclusion on such a high profile release.
Choosing a Favourite Track has had it’s challenges; as Let It Rain is a great Country single and well worthy of its chart success; but the challenging Warrior which closes the record very much has its merits and was my pick; but Mrs. Magpie went slightly off piste with her choice; the heartbreaking duet All The Beds I’ve Made, (with fiancée Brandon Robert Young?) as it’s a lot ‘deeper’ than her usual choices.
To a great extent this is exactly the album I’d have expected from the character Scarlett O’Connor; but the big surprise is that Clare Bowen delivers the goods with class, cool and most of all she sounds like she was actually born to do this, and not all actors can make this transition so easily.

Released 31st August 2018

Hadley McCall Thackston Self-Titled (Album)

hadley mccall thackston

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