Ben de la Cour
HIGH COST OF LIVING STRANGE
Flour Sack Cape
An Americana Road Trip Where The Memories Will Remain Forever.
Here’s an odd thing; a PR sent this to me even though he’s not even working on promoting this album simply because he thought that me and you, my readers would like it.
How nice is that in this cynical world we live in?
It was all a very long time ago but I actually reviewed Ben de la Cour’s album GHOST LIKE in 2011 for a once important magazine; and if memory serves me well; I liked it a lot and forecast a career of money, awards and baubles on the horizon for the young Londoner out of Brooklyn.
As soon as I heard opening track Dixie Crystals I knew why Adam thought I’d like this; De la Cour has a warm and interesting voice; unlike most others and his song-writing is eloquent and detailed plus his band skirt Southern Gothic and modern Hill Country music……what’s not to like?
Baring in mind Ben’s background (born in London and raised in Brooklyn NY) there’s a distinct whiff of Magnolia, Jim Beam and the Everglades that are all pervading through these songs; not least the gorgeous tale Uncle Boudreaux Went To Texas; which is about a man who the narrator sits at his feet listening to and wallowing in his tall tales; but as his own father tells him; “The closest he ever got to Texas/was listening to Willie’s Greatest Hits.”
We’ve all got an Uncle Boudreaux haven’t we?
Tupelo is a darkly atmospheric tale from the Nick Cave book of songwriting; if the Australian had been born in the Southern States; with a shimmering fiddle scaring the bejasus out of me every time it comes into the light from behind some deeply unsettling drums, bass and guitar.
It’s probably best that the more feint hearted don’t listen to this song on their own.
Funnily enough a fiddle comes to the fore again on the next song; Guy Clark’s Fiddle which, partly because I love Guy Clark but mostly because it’s a clever and sensitive song about ‘hope in a broken world’ that I probably needed to hear that first day; and again today if truth be told.
I can’t remember very much about that 2011 album; but I was obviously correct in highlighting Ben’s songwriting skills because he sure can write a doozy. Face Down Penny is certainly the type of song that Johnny Cash would have wanted to sing on his American Series; and if I use my imagination it’s the type of song I associate and love by RMHQ Favourites Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picot; which is praise indeed.
Trying to select an actual Favourite Track isn’t as easy as it should be, as the final track here The High Cost of Living Strange under normal circumstances ticks every box we have for said honour; rumbling and very dirty guitars; an understated bass that still rattles your spine and De La Cour sounding almost demonic on a helluva Country-Gothic song; but then again any album that has a song like Company Town on it has to be very special indeed.
The first time I played the album I nearly missed Company Town, but after three minutes in I had to go back to the beginning and listen intently; as Ben’s tale of dark deeds in a dying Blue Collar rural town; or is he actually comparing America itself to that dying town is disorienting and brooding from start to finish; and rightfully takes the Favourite Track Award.
To some degree Ben de la Cour has instilled everything I love about Americana Music into his 8 songs; taking us on a road trip from the Rust Belt to the Delta and back again and the time goes by in the blink of an eye; but the memories remain with you forever.
Released April 2018
Essex girl, Lisa Wright’s debut EP Mind of Mine is still on the radar here at RMHQ but until we finally get around to heaping praise onto her exciting and articulate brand of British Country Music here’s the new single TENNESSEE…….hope you like it as much as we do.
Released UK June 8th 2018
YESTERDAY & ME
Red Raw and Authentic Blue Collar Country From a Texas Rose.
It’s funny how reviews of one artist or a style of music can spawn a score of others in the same vein; which explains whey I currently have a slew of edgy female Country singers beating a path to my door (not literally I hasten to add).
I’ve had a cursory listen to a few that could do with more gigs under their belt and a much tighter production; but neither are true of Texan Rose Miss Kayla Ray.
The album cover was pleasant enough and the accompanying letter (NOT a Press Release) only hinted at the box of delights I was about to discover.
I smiled at the title of opening song Rockport; but mercifully it’s not an ode to the footwear of choice for football hooligans in the 1980’s but a rather dark and sad tale, in the style of Bobbie Gentry about a woman whose husband dies and leaves her with debts, kids and a habit; eventually ‘asking the neighbours to watch the house/as she nailed the last board on.”
The kids get to watch her decline into a haze of drugs and booze, eventually ‘finding comfort in the needle/and Daddy’s snub nose .45’.
I did say it was dark; but wow; what a way to start a Modern Country album……and the accompanying guitars are nothing short of breath taking.
Bless her but Kayla Ray isn’t courting mainstream radio at all here; as her songs are all from the heart and the part of town your Mother warned you against.
Where to start? Once a Week Cheaters is the type of song that will stop you dead in your tracks; and many listening won;t be able to look their partner in the eye as Kayla and Colton Whitley sing verses to each other in a way George and Tammy patented 50 years ago.
Magnolias in the Springtime and Things Only Years Can Teach a Woman too, are Classic Country of the finest vintage, the type people think doesn’t exist any more; but it does with Kayla’s delightful warble sounding like it’s threatening to break into a full set of tears.
Kayla and band can rattle the roof when they want to too; with the raucous Hell Of a Day To Drink All Night being a rip-roaring raucous song about exactly what it says on the tin…..YEE-HAW!
I guess this is Honky-Tonk Music; but the likes of the dangerously sharp lyrics of I’m Still a Woman and Camel Blues are a hell of lot more authentic than a lot I hear most weeks which purports to be what is known today as Ameripolitan……or ‘the Future of Country Music’. These songs are red raw from a life well lived.
Then of course there is the ‘RMHQ Favourite Song’………..Pills. Whoa there; what a sizzling story! A jaunty melody and a singer with her tongue set firmly in her cheek that masks a very modern tale of women hooked on under the counter anti-depressants (and more); but it’s also a story that could have been written any time in the last 60 years!
Produced by Jason Eady, whom Kayla Ray used to Tour Manage this album certainly owes a lot to the likes of Bobbie Gentry, George and Tammy, even Loretta but I also hear Commander Cody and maybe even some Dixie Chicks in there too; but with such a distinctive voice and a marvelous way with writing and delivering a song; all of that is superfluous; as Kayla Ray’s second album has all of the hallmarks of a hit and launching her into the Big Leagues.
Released May 4th 2018
Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK
Yep Roc Records.
A Gripping and Loving Look at Americana Music’s Roots and Beyond.
Oh Lordie LORD! How excited was I when this dropped through the RMHQ letter box two weeks ago?
(V.E.R.Y is the correct answer.)
Although best friends for well over thirty years their various touring and recording schedules have meant that they have never actually got to record together; until now. But my friends the long wait is well worth it.
One of only two new songs here, the title track Downey to Lubbock opens the record in a way Americana lovers have only dared dream about as the duo trade verses on an autobiographical tale of their long-standing friendship. If this had been the only song they ever recorded together, they could still be very proud men.
But no……more, and dare I say it; better is yet to come.
As you’d expect knowing both men’s history the mood seamlessly glides between the Country Rock of the opener to the more laid back Folkier end of the spectrum on Silverlake which follows with Gilmore purring the delicious lyrics.
Dave and Jimmie both have their own sparkling back catalogues to choose from for an album like this; but they have decided to delve into the last 100 years of Roots Music for this fascinating and often sensational collection of songs; with many being brand new to me, with KC Moon and Get Together managing to sound like they were written yesterday not decades ago.
I’m a big fan of Dave Alvin so the songs he takes lead vocals on stood out on the first few listens; with the jaunty take on July, You’re a Woman and the Tex-Mex waltz of The Gardens tugging at the old heart strings like he did on those early albums that I still cherish.
But the biggest pleasure I’ve had listening to Downey to Lubbock has been the rediscovery of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, especially on the rip-roaring Blues stomper Buddy Brown’s Blues and his dark re-imagining of Woody Guthrie’s Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) that have now stolen my heart and sent me back to his records after too many years at the back of the cupboard.
But it’s when the two come together that these songs really, really become memorable with Walk On Walk On becoming a real foot-stomping Honky-Tonker and who’d ever have thought a hoary Folk song like the Memphis Jug Band’s Stealin’ Stealin would get me tapping my toes and nonchalantly singing along to the chorus; but Dave and Jimmie’s marvelous duet managed to do that with ease and was an early contender for ‘Favourite Song’ status; as was the red hot re-invention of Lawdy Miss Clawdy; but that accolade goes to the second of their new songs; Billy The Kid and Geronimo. WOW! I guess Alvin had a big hand in the writing of this epic Cowboy tale; and the world is always a better place with new Dave Alvin songs in it; but as each singer takes the roles of Billy and Geronimo you just end up sitting back and wallowing in one of the finest Americana/Country/Roots/Folk songs you will ever hear……honestly, if you even vaguely like this genre listen to this song and tell me I’m wrong.
I dare you!
You really know how clever these two are when they can turn the Youngbloods Pop Classic Get Together into a sad Country sing-along which is just perfect for the crazy world we live in today; and that’s exactly what they do.
The Press Release describes this indomitable duo as ‘Seasoned Veterans’ and I guess I can’t think of anything better as both Dave and Jimmie have been on the Americana/Roots scene since before it even had a name; but what it doesn’t say is that they sound as good; if not better than ever in 2018 and their choice of songs here is absolutely sublime, with not a single one sounding out of place regardless of the decade that it was originally penned and recorded in.
Released June 1st 2018
Gretchen Peters & Kim Richey
23rd May 2018
So far in 2018 I’ve listened to some amazing albums from artists across the globe, criss crossing all of the Roots genres. Two of the very best have come from long term RMHQ favourite Gretchen Peters and a new name to me, Kim Richey; so the opportunity to see both ladies at the magnificent Sage Concert Hall in Gateshead was too good to miss.
As I stood beside the stage, camera in hand I was surprised to see that people were taking their seats behind the stage on the third tier of Hall 2 meaning that this concert was very close to being a Sell Out…….which is a good thing.
A nervous looking, but smiling Kim Richey opened proceedings with a charming preamble to Chinese Boxes from her 2007 album of the same name, and the song itself was absolutely delightful; as were everything else she sang too.
I particularly liked her stories behind the songs; especially the self-depreciating one for Hello Old Friend/John’s Song which really made me and the crowd chuckle; then gasp at the power of the song itself.
With only 45 minutes to play with Kim slid in only a couple of albums from this years’ Edgeland and thankfully my two favourites, the brilliant Chuck Prophet co-write Pin a Rose and the darkly beautiful and autobiographical Wild Horses were among them; and the latter especially received long and loud applause from the knowledgeable crowd as it ended.
Although not something I normally do I’d intended saying ‘hello’ to Kim during the break; but the queue to buy her album and have a photo taken appeared never ending; so I slunk away back into the shadows like a Reviewer Ninja.
When I walked back into the hall, there was a palpable air of anticipation as the lights went down, and Gretchen Peters made her way across the stage.
I was very surprised that she chose the exquisitely dark and brooding Arguing With Ghosts and Wichita from her new album which only came out a few days ago to start the show; but the look on the audience’s faces as the latter ended proved what an excellent selection they were.
For the third song Barry Walsh left the Steinway piano to strap on a piano accordion and stalk the stage like a Parisian troubadour for the chillingly beautiful Matador.
The mood was set, for an evening of ‘sad songs to make everyone happy.’
With a back catalogue of songs that put all of her contempories in the shade; Gretchen chose to pretty much perform the vast majority of songs from the latest album Dancing With The Beast and, do you know what? They were all here on merit, trust me.
With Barry on piano and two young guys from Northern Ireland on bass and electric guitar; the arrangements of these new songs made Truckstop Angels and Say Grace even more haunting than on disc.
There was something that I’d tried to say in the album review that was even more evident tonight; Gretchen tells some harrowing stories on these songs and really and truly inhabits the characters she’s singing about; but giving these ‘feminist subjects’ a very feminine state of mind.
As I said there weren’t a lot of ‘older songs’ but those that were included were breathtaking; especially the Grammy winning Blackbirds and my personal favourite On a Bus Stop to St. Cloud, which was introduced with a story about Jimmy LaFave which sadly went over the audience’s heads.
Oh……another was Guadalupe, which I think I first heard sung by Tom Russell and was probably the first time I’d heard Gretchen Peter’s name; such is the nature of the world she and I inhabit.
Highlights? Flipping heck!
The title track from the latest album Dancing With The Beast is about a horrible subject; but tonight was delivered with majestic aplomb, leaving everyone dumbfounded until they nearly lifted the roof with their collective applause.
Kim Richey was invited back out to provide backing vocals and harmonies on a couple of songs; one of which; Gretchen got the key wrong and had to be stopped mid verse; much to everyone’s delight!
I’m normally not a fan of encores, as they are generally contrived these days, but tonight they were well deserved with Gretchen eventually leaving the stage to go ‘off mic’ to serenade the front row with an incredibly simple and intimate Love That Makes a Cup of Tea; (which was only spoilt by someone dropping a pin), and was the perfect way to end a perfect concert.
Photos by HarrisonaPhotos.
Full set https://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Gretchen-Peters-2018/
The Complete Capitol Singles 1967-70
A Contemporary and Influential Set of Songs From a Country Music Giant.
I have to hold my hands up and declare that apart from another Compilation of his later work; I know nought about Buck Owens apart from the occasional visiting act who sing one of his songs as an encore to ecstatic cries from two or three people in the audience.
When I was growing up in NE England in the late 60’s and 70’s his type of Country Music was way past its sell by date and Country Rock hadn’t yet been invented; so the Bakersfield Sound made famous by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos completely past me by.
But; because plenty of acts I like adore him; it was always going to worthwhile checking out this Double Album of 36 A and B-sides from the years that followed his ‘Golden Age’ in the 1960’s.
The collection starts with some mighty neat guitar from Red Simpson on the jumpin’ Sam’s Place. Taken in context it must have been a joy to hear on the radio or more importantly a Jukebox when it first hit the streets in 1967 but today it sounds a bit twee; which is a word I associate with another couple of songs on the first Album here.
Without knowing his actual #1 Hits; I love the tender ballads here like Don’t Ever Tell Me Goodbye and I’ve Got You On My Mind Again, with That’s Alright With Me (If It’s Alright With You) certainly being a template for quite a few songs in my own collection that were recorded nearly 50 years after its release.
On the second album there are some rather special collaborations with Susan Raye, that didn’t just make my toes tap but my heart actually skip a beat with We’re Gonna Get Together, Fallin’ For You and the delightful Your Tender Loving Care all sounding exactly like the type of songs that at least 5 of my favourite duos sound like now; half a century later (funny that; isn’t it? No names – no pack drill).
That’s the thing here; judicial editing would leave us with a very contemporary set of songs; but too many of the songs haven’t actually aged very well…….especially Happy Times Are Here Again, The Kansas City Song and the glitzy Live version of Johnny B Goode; but when Buck Owens is good; he’s beyond excellent…..Maybe If I Close My Eyes (It Will Go Away and I’ll Love You Forever and Ever?) both fall into that category but there are others too.
Speaking of ‘contemporary’ I think it’s fair to say with hindsight that Big In Vegas, White Satin Bed and Tall Dark Stranger have influenced at least three generations of singer-songwriters from Glen Campbell through Gram Parsons to the likes of Sturgill Simpson and even Brad Paisley today.
Where to go for a Favourite Song? Any of those last few songs would easily fit the bill; but I’m plumping for a song that has aged better than it possibly should have; and ticks a lot of boxes for me over the years….and is a song I really should have heard over the years, but haven’t. I Wouldn’t Live In New York City (If They Gave Me The Whole Dang Town) probably didn’t appeal to his core fans ‘back in the day’ but it’s a helluva song that deserves another lease of life……..please, please, please someone record it ASAP!
I only discovered the definition of word ‘seminal’ last week; and it perfectly sums up the best of these 36 songs; as many of them were ‘before their time’ and as I point out; must have been heard by plenty of aspiring songwriters as they grew up; because I hear their ‘heart, soul and style’ in plenty of modern songs and albums in 2018.
Now to delve further back into Buck Owen’s career.
Released May 11th 2018
Whitney Rose Band
Jumpin’ Hot Club
Monday 7th May 2018
For a variety of reasons I fell out of love with ‘live music’ last year; partly because of the odd hours my day job leave me constantly tired and also I’d sort of ‘seen everyone’ with no one exciting me the way they used to do.
Then a couple of weeks ago I went to see Canadian singer-songwriter Jerry Leger who played an exciting and intimate concert in Durham, which reignited the flame in readiness for taking Mrs Magpie to see one of our favourite acts from the last few years; Whitney Rose tonight.
The evening started in the newly designed Cluny II with friend of the Rocking Magpie, the recently repatriated Mrs Gem Andrews who has been domiciled in Germany for a couple of years, with her friend Sue McLaren supplying harmonies.
Hearing Gem’s warm ‘burr’ on opening song Letter from the newest album North after so long was a delight in itself; but the stripped back interpretation gave it an almost earthy resonance, which set the tone for the short and (bitter) sweet set.
While introducing the next song, Sing Your Song which is about domestic violence Gem unceremoniously hitched her jeans up and told us they were elasticated maternity ones……because she was pregnant!
I wasn’t expecting that …….but felt quite paternal at the news, as I’ve known the young singer-songwriter for quite a few years now.
The 30 minutes flew by in the twinkle of an eye, with the two Julia Darling poem/songs from North both sounding even lovelier in this setting but the actual highlight was the coal mining song Lungs; which came as no surprise as it’s the finest song Gem has ever written, never mind sung.
Then following a short break the small hall filled to just short of capacity; which was quite an achievement on a red hot Bank Holiday Monday to welcome Whitney’s band who regaled us with a cool instrumental Ode to BJ, before the Princess of Modern Country Music made her eye-popping appearance! The big Cowboy hat and boots were no surprise, but the leather Daisy Dukes and the Gold ‘Elvis’ Cape which covered very little was a huge surprise!
Not that her clothing was ever going to distract from the music…..God Forbid.
With two albums and an ace EP at her disposal Whitney chose the sassy Country Classic Harper Valley PTA to open the show; and Live Music hardly gets better than that three minutes.
This was immediately followed by one of my favourite songs of hers, My Boots then the sweet and sultry Three Minute Love Affair which had everyone around me tapping out the beat on their thighs.
With time being of the essence on a School Night; there was very little time for chat or indeed intros; but we were here for the music anyway……and music of the highest order we got, from a singer and band who must surely be on the cusp of the Major Leagues sometime soon?
Pretty much all of Rule 62 and the EP South Texas Suite got a run out tonight with Analog, You’re a Mess and You Don’t Scare Me getting noisy applause as they faded to a close; but it was evident from the cheers that greeted The Devil Borrowed my Boots that this was a knowledgable group of fans who have been with her for the long haul.
Baring in mind Whitney and band had just arrived after a twelve hour journey from Kilkenny in Southern Ireland where they had played two gigs the previous day; their energy level was sky high throughout the 90 minute set that couldn’t have been more Country if John Wayne and Johnny Cash had walked in.
My own personal highlight of a red hot set? Trucker’s Funeral of course. If any one song can define this songwriter’s skill it has to be this one; taking a spectacularly odd subject and making it a smile inducing weepy of the highest order; what’s not to like y’all.
But Mrs. Magpie has just reminded me that there were another two spectacular cover versions worthy of mention; Tom T Hall’s How I Got From Memphis and the song that received a gasp, Suspicious Minds……and the applause nearly shook the walls when it ended.
I’m not normally a fan of encores; but tonight it was fully deserved with the band regaling us with another intricate instrumental, Sleepwalk before Whitney brought the show to a close with an exquisite version of Two More Bottles, before spending nearly half an hour signing CD’s and getting her picture taken with adoring fans.
Normal service has now resumed and my faith in Live Music is certainly restored after a short hiatus.
Authentic and Mighty Impressive Down Home Country For the Discerning Listener.
I appear to have been out of the loop regarding the reigning Queen of Oklahoma, Ms. Carter Sampson; but that could be because I don’t visit the Rootsy Festivals across the UK and Ireland where she’s been a frequent visitor over the last few years; and the loss is mine.
Before we even listen to a note on the record; that cover really is impressive isn’t it? Great eye-catching artwork will always catch favour around these here parts; and I’d be happy to have a copy of the album poster on the office wall……just saying, like though but.
But, of course you will be buying this album for the music, won’t you?
Well even as you listen to the title track Lucky which opens proceedings you will feel your money was well spent, as it’s a slightly tongue in cheek, but exceptionally well written song from the heart (of Oklahoma) that sets the tone for what is to follow. So settle yourself down for a fun, interesting and toe-tapping hour or so of Modern Country Music that owes a little bit to Kitty, Patsy and IMHO the delectable Laura Cantrell.
Track #2 Anything Else To Do is the type of laid back song that seems perfect for listening to as the sun goes down; but listen closely and you will slowly have your heartbroken, just like the narrator and I just can’t stop thinking about the chorus “love me like you ain’t got anything else to do.” Plus the guitar and piano in the background sound like they were recorded in the coolest Honky Tonk in the US of A.
One of the many things I like about this album is the feeling of space, Carter leaves for the listener to think about her exquisite words; with Tulsa and Hello Darlin’ probably being the best examples; but there are plenty more.
It’s funny trying to describe Carter Sampson’s ‘style’ as it’s most certainly Country but not like anything that’s coming out of Nashville, Austin or even London these days; it has one foot in the past but the other one hovers over Ameripolitan and even Alt. Country without the ‘edge’ that those worlds expect; even though the Guy Clark inspired Ten Penny Nail and her own sassy and saucy Wild Ride could easily fit in to either category.
But, thankfully Carter Samson rides her own stallion and will appeal to discerning fans of all Country persuasions.
With that in mind, our Favourite Track is actually a Country song from the Western Frontier; Rattlesnake Kate. An atmospheric, cinematic and almost powder keg tale of a widow woman left to bring up her son all alone on a farm; ‘killing and skinning rattlesnakes’ to make ‘a matching dress and shoes’ and my very own favourite couplet “I raised goats to cover up the smell/of the air coming off that moonshine still.” Just like her other songs; you just have to sit back and easily conjure up the images the songs suggest.
Then the album closes with the biggest smile of all; Carter’s rendition of Shel Silverstein’s Queen of the Silver Dollar which just could be her very own, and well deserved new signature tune.
Released May 18th 2018
DANCING WITH THE BEAST
Beauty in the Darkness of Sad Songs and Taboo Subjects.
It’s funny how you discover an artist isn’t it? Sometimes it’s a song on the radio, occasionally an advert will catch your attention or more likely for you it will be one of my amazing reviews; but for me and Gretchen Peters I still treasure the DIY Best Of CD my mate John created for me many years ago even though the last three tracks no longer play and I actually own the original albums the tracks come from.
Leap forward 10 years or so and I’ve found myself wallowing in the miserable beauty of her latest album for several weeks now; desperately keeping its majesty a secret from the rest of the world until now; the week of release.
When you get to our age (we ere born only a couple of weeks apart) a lot has already happened in your life and suddenly a lot of people around you, loved ones and friends begin to get seriously ill and regularly die; as happened to Gretchen in 2017; leaving her in the depths of despair and add to that a Presidency that goes against everything she has stood for and campaigned against all through her adult life nearly brought her to her knees.
But; when you are an amazingly talented and Award winning songwriter it all gets stowed away until the day you can write it all down and set it to music…….hence DANCING WITH THE BEAST.
As regular readers will already know I’ve publicly battled my own Demons in recent years so the first time I heard opening song Arguing With Ghosts (and again last week) I found myself weakly smiling as tears ran down my cheeks. If I started quoting individual lines from this song about the sadness and loneliness felt after the death of a loved one I would end up posting the whole bloody song.
Then of course we have Gretchen’s ghostly approach to delivering this Modern Gothic Classic over a gentle piano and soft string section while the drummer sounds like only the shadows of the sticks are touching the skins.
Oddly enough; this song ties with one other as the RMHQ Favourite here.
Phew; onto the rest………
While still sad, this story is oddly scary to the core; Wichita which follows is a lot more upbeat and takes us into Dark Country Territory; and shows what an amazing imagination this particular songwriter has. By the way, it’s very unlikely you will ever hear this song on the radio; but don’t be surprised if it turned up on the soundtrack to some gruesome Murder Movie some time in the future.
Even though this is a particulary Dark album; there is still plenty of shade in the way the songs are created and the almost Classical tunes (think Bach and Dvorak) that accompany them.
The Show is a prime example, opening with some stark piano and Gretchen sounding like she’s holding back tears as she sings ‘Freight Train plays a major Southern Chord/sign across the street says Praise The Lord/hotel coffee tastes likes kerosene/Yet I fell as happy as I’ve ever been.’
As she herself says, “Sad songs make me happy” ….. me too.
There are plenty of ‘big songs’ included here that will get a lot of well deserved attention like Disappearing Act and The Boy From Rye instantly spring to mind; but there are a couple of hidden gems too; with Lay Low being something every musician in the world can associate with and possibly only Lucinda Williams would dare to write a song like Truckstop Angel such is the taboo subject of a drug addicted prostitute; but hey……..it’s truly magnificent and will stop you in your tracks just like a Hi Lux fired up on nitro would.
Before I get onto my other Favourite Song, I can’t not mention the title track Dancing With The Beast; another delicate heart-to-heart song about a taboo subject; as Gretchen takes the role of a woman in an abusive relationship and a song so intense and beautiful it surely must follow Blackbirds into the Winners Enclosure at the Grammy Awards.
Lowlands too is a brooding Country pot-boiler about a break-up and the loneliness that follows, primarily for women, and again Gretchen inhabits the soul of a woman in such a position in a way I can’t think any other singer-songwriter can.
A few weeks ago I reviewed Ben Glover’s new album and highlighted his co-write Say Grace with Gretchen Peters; and mentioned it appeared here too. There’s not a lot to choose between either version; but both singer’s distinctive voices bring a little extra ‘something’ out of an extraordinary set of words and an almost Mystical and Celtic tune.
Now, you may well ask how can any song be better than any of those last few songs and actually be good enough to tie with Arguing With Ghosts for the world renowned accolade of RMHQ Favourite title?
Well; the song that closes the album, Love That Makes a Cup of Tea is an intricately complex story masquerading as a simple Country-Folk song that her fans adore Gretchen Peters for and goes to show that no matter how dark you feel your life is; and we all get to feel that way some time…….True Love, a cup of tea and someone asking and meaning “How are you doing?” Gets you through even the most difficult of times. #FACT
So far 2018 is proving a spectacular year for the eclectic swathe of music we like at RMHQ but this particular album will certainly feature in our end of year Top 10; and will sit proudly in that ‘special box’ for those nights I need to wallow in the mud with someone who knows what it’s like to suffer the mental torture of depression.
Released May 18th 2018
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME?
Button Up Records
Gallus and Quintessentially Scottish Folk, Indie and of Course Country Hybrid.
It was a pleasant surprise just before last Christmas when this CD originally arrived at RMHQ alongside a nicely penned note from the artist himself; but the bad news was……it wasn’t to be released until May; 5 months away!
That said I still played it rather a lot in the Festive period but it went onto the back burner with more pressing reviews to write. Yet four months later; two songs have stuck in my mind like ‘earworms’ which is high praise indeed when you realise the amount of music I listen to.
The first is opening track As Good As It Gets; an almost epic song that is the complete antithesis of the British Country Music that the UK National Media is currently salivating about. Meade’s voice and writing sounds even more mature than on SHOOTING STARS & TINY TEARS although only a year has gone by.
I will get around to the second ‘earworm’ later; as it’s actually my Favourite Song on the album.
The next song Nothing Really Matters is a good old ‘clenched fist’ Alt. Rocker, with judicious use of an echo-machine leaving us with no doubts of the passion in the singers heart which is forced out through his velvet larynx; which is the best way (in my humble opinion) to describe Meade’s distinctive singing style.
As with all singer-songwriters of his ilk; the mood range here goes from the heights of those two openers through the Celtic Psychedelia of Oh My, My Oh and also the introspective acapella of So Much For Sorrow, with Meade’s Country and Folk roots showing everywhere too.
As with that last song there’s more than a hint of current socio-politics across a few songs with the bittersweet love song If The Bombs Don’t Kill Us and the thought inducing How High We Fly; although both are subtle enough to make them easy on the ear if not exactly the conscience.
I’m still going with my Celtic Country theory here; although there’s an all pervading sense of RMHQ favourites Big Country and Aztec Camera in the way Daniel delivers the title track When Was The Last Time? and even the gentle Folk Rock of final song Don’t We All with it’s glorious sing-along chorus.
Which all brings us back to my second ‘earworm’ and Favourite Song The Day The Clown Stopped Crying. It’s one of those songs that will or at least should, out live the writer and performer as it’s got everything you could wish for. A glorious and almost jaunty melody with some superb ‘choppy guitar’ and a deep and meaningful lyric that we can all identify with, and yes; I have found myself singing the chorus out loud when alone in the car!
To the acutely tuned ear; WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME? is a quintessentially Scottish hybrid of Folk, Indie, Rock & Roll and of course Country music that will appeal to good music fans around the globe, and in Daniel Meade we have one of the this country’s finest undiscovered songwriters.
Trust me; this album will feature in all of the Cool writer’s Top 10’s come December!
Released May 1st 2018