This single from the fabulous new Country Singer-Songwriter Alyssa Trahan arrived last Thursday, the day before release …. but also the day before I went ‘off the grid’ for a romantic break with Mrs. Magpie. Thankfully I had the nous to download it and it (alongside the next single) onto my I-Phone; and both have managed to elbow full album releases from ‘household name’ acts as well as RMHQ Favourites out of the way all weekend, as we found ourselves singing along like love-struck teenagers! What’s not to like? Alyssa has a punchy voice; and it appears can write a proper Country song with not just a catchy melody, sing-along chorus…. but a theme that appeals to fans of all ages, backgrounds and sexual persuasion too. It appears this young lady already has a couple of EP’s out; and on her You Tube channel she has some really cool covers songs too….. but first and foremost I think you will love this single; and will be as jealous as sin that I already have a copy of the next ….. which is released mid June 2019!
Here’s a bit of background …….. “A little bit of sass and a whole lot of talent. Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (she plays over a dozen) and audio engineer Alyssa Trahan (pronounced uh-LIH-sa TRAY-han) is a young force to be reckoned with. She grew up in the small town of East Rochester, NY where she created a major buzz in her hometown and surrounding areas. In 2016, she made the move to Nashville, TN and has been making big waves in the music industry ever since. In January of 2018, she signed her first publishing deal with Dan Hodges Music. This is an impressive accomplishment for any young writer, but especially for a young female artist that’s new in town. Not only that, but she has become a successful producer in Music City, producing not just her own music and demos, but music & tracks for several other artists & writers as well. In a male-dominated business, Alyssa is giving the guys a run for their money. Alyssa’s music combines traditional country instrumentation with modern pop production, creating a fresh new sound all its own that has won over fans of all genres of music, as it can seamlessly cross over genre lines. She is also known for her clever songwriting, incredibly catchy melodies, sweet vocals and a recurring theme of empowerment in her songs. “
Bambi Lee Savage Berlin-Nashville-Express Hoof & Antler Records
There Sure Ain’t No Alt. In This Contemporary Kick-Ass Country!
After playing this album solidly for three days, and Mrs. Magpie asking “Can I have it when you’re finished with it?” I bypassed the Press Release and checked out her Wikipedia page…… and just when I thought I couldn’t love her more; I found this…… not only did she find musical salvation in Einstuerzende Neubauten and relocate to Berlin, she went on to help engineer a Goodbye Mr McKenzie album as well as U2’s Achtung Baby; but most excitedly of all, Bambi Lee Savage’s first ever inspiration was Lt. Uhura from Star Trek! What’s not to like? By the way, none of that knowledge will prepare you for the sizzling, straight up, kick-ass Country Music Bambi has recorded here….. you know, the type ‘they’ say isn’t available anymore! As you’d expect from a proper Country album; there’s plenty of songs dedicated to drinkin’, cheatin’ and lovin’ …….. sometimes all at the same time! There’s more Twang in opening track Honey than you will find in the last dozen releases from the Hat Acts in Nashville; and the delightfully edgy love note harks back to the heady days when Patsy and Kitty topped the charts. At first I couldn’t get past Bambi’s sexy purr; but I’m a grown up and can now talk about her sizzling songs without coming out in a cold sweat. Every song has the ability to make you smile and click your fingers while your feet will be doing things that your brain won’t be able to stop; even the heartbreakers like This Blue Heart and the tear inducing I’ll Have To Leave Town (To Get Over You). Seriously, I went weak at the knees the first time I heard I Can’t Count On My Man; as I was sure I was hearing a Bobbie Gentry song; but Hell No….. this is purely Bambi Lee Savage putting the bite back into Female Country Music; without ever sounding like she’s even vaguely feeling sorry for herself. I started to overthink the backstory to Get Out My Pillow (I’m Coming Home) …. why would she be away for 2 years and a day? Who cares; this punchy ole tune could only have been written after listening to Johnny Cash for 5 days in a row with only coffee and cigarettes as her friends. As an album there’s absolutely no filler here, with every song capable of being a hit single (in a parallel universe!) but two songs stood out right from Day #1; and both feature RMHQ Icons Will Kimbrough on geetar and Spencer T Cullum on pedal-steel, with the feisty Demon Alcohol’s opening lines receiving a mental ‘Yeehaw’ every time I hear them; “It’s a half past two, and I got that thirst Last night’s pleasure This morning’s curse There’s nothing nicer than a drink in time When you hear the call/when you hear the call Of Demon Alcohol/Of Demon Alcohol!” Not many songs you hear this year will be as ‘Country’ as this delightful little ditty. The other song featuring that incomparable duo alongside a sizzling Bambi Lee Savage is Walk In Love, which again; takes all of the ingredients of Classic Country but adds 21st Century pep and vigour into the mix (and lyrics) and we have a winner; which is why this just about shades it as the RMHQ Favourite Song by a whisker. I have no idea how this album compares to Bambi Lee Savage’s previous releases and nor do I care. This is a modern day gem that has arrived under the radar at RMHQ but deserves a huge audience not just around the world; but especially in and around Music Row, Nashville TN.
I’m not sure exactly what the New York Country band the Felice Brothers is trying to do with their album Undress. There’s the usual obligatory “hip” references throughout, a bit of both Robyn Hitchcock and Donovan in the song structures, which is ‘cool’ — and just enough Mountain Goats mixed in to the Americana-ness to keep it twenty-first century current — and the excellent musicianship we’ve come to expect from the brothers Felice and their cohorts is there in every word and note. But………. I appreciate the irreverence of the title track with its updated and understated “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” type composition by way of a Saturday Night Live skit. The song “Salvation Army Girl” is all jaunty fun and retro horns and has less pretensions than anything else despite the name dropping. (Yes, we get the references, but are they necessary?) “Jack Reminiscing” seems to get its inspiration from the wrong Bob Dylan songs — is this a Dylan parody? I can’t tell. Several of the songs make me laugh in a good way, they’re all executed well, but there’s something I just can’t put my finger on, that keeps the music at an arm’s length away. I want to like this album. I DO like this album, but I’m not all in……yet. It could be that halfway through the album turns from Oasis poppiness to modern millennial Americana. Now, I have no problem with anyone being genre-fluid — heck, in this day and age I almost expect it — but it has to feel seamless not just shifting gears. You can’t just change musical clothes, you have to become the character completely. The Felice Brothers aren’t as fearless as ‘Jenny Lewis’ and they don’t take as many chances as someone like Wilco (not that they take as many as they could or should, don’t get me started), but they do seem sincere, which may help explain their popularity and longevity in the New York and even International music scene. So let’s give this latest release by the Felice Brothers a chance. It’s growing on me little by little, it just might grow on you, too.
Lone Justice Live at The Palomino (1983) Omnivore Recordings
A Very Early Alternative to Alt. Country.
Most Live Recordings don’t stand the test of time and are generally a snapshot of where that particular artiste or band were at that time in their existence; and the latter is very true of this exciting 35 minute long Album from a nascent Lone Justice in 1983 who still hadn’t released their groundbreaking debut album yet. When you hear Maria’s reverential pleading on opening track You Are The Light, you are hearing a woman not yet finding her voice; but still leading her band from front and centre with more confidence than her tender years should have allowed. There’s a youthful swagger to Drugstore Cowboy and The Train that I should have expected, but somehow didn’t …… those old Lone Justice albums never sounded this exciting; nor how could they? It’s interesting to read in the accompanying sleeve-notes that it was after seeing Elvis Costello playing the Country songs that would make up Almost Blue, at The Palomino Club that turned Ryan Hedgecock’s head towards Ye Olde Country Music and away from Rockabilly. It was that very same album that was the gateway to what has become an obsession for me here at RMHQ. There’s a delightful innocence to the way the quartet approach their collective songwriting on Dustbowl Depression Time and The Grapes of Wrath and maybe I See It, but simplicity has paid a lot of bills in Nashville over the years and these songs all have a magnificently danceable beat supplied by Don Willens on the tiniest drum kit I’ve seen in years….. but size isn’t everything, is it? Baring in mind their peers and probably friends too were dressing like extras in Dallas or Magnum PI the night this was recorded in 1983; Lone Justice were treading a very dangerous and lonely path covering Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash songs while Maria McKee was undoubtedly channelling her inner Dolly Parton; but in her Honky Tonk years! My favourite track here and it’s also one that sounds like it should be an actual Classic Country tune; is Marvin Etzioni’s Working Late; an audience request on the night and a song worthy of everyone from Dolly through Reba and it wouldn’t surprise me if Margo Price was to ever cover it….. it’s a doozy! It’s all over far too quickly; but they played two shows that night; as was the way back then and they had to allow for two sets from their support act….. guess who? Only bloody Dwight Yoakam! That’s who. This is being released as part of the Record Store Day 2019 shenanigans; but it’s a keeper in many ways so don’t you let it get lost in the madness of April 12th……. order a copy now; you won;t regret it.
John Paul White The Hurting Kind Single Lock Records
Country Songs For Not Just Only The Lonely But the Hopeful Too.
Even if I didn’t already know who John Paul White was the stunning Blue Notesque artwork on the album cover would certainly have caught my attention in a record shop; and I would cross my fingers that that haunted look in the singers eyes was a foretaste of what was to come. And my second sight would have been 100% correct. White’s songs in his previous incarnation as half of the Civil Wars and then his last solo album Beulah were always heartfelt and on the sadder edges of Country Music; but from opening song The Good Old Days you get the feeling this young man has spent the intervening years wallowing in the section of his record collection that includes Hank, George, Patsy, Raul and more likely than not……. Roy Orbison. What a way to start an album; and man, oh man will that song take your breath away. It’s never been in any doubt that White was/is one of the finest songwriters of his generation and here he surrounds himself with some really clever co-writers; but even I have been surprised by the depths of his soul that he manages to mine for the winsome The Long Way Home or Yesterday’s Love and the stunning and occasionally stinging title track itself, The Hurting Kind which will all break hearts left, right and centre across the Western World. John Paul White admits to attempting to recreate the Classic Country sound of the early 1960’s when they went into the studio; and he has certainly managed that with ease, but just like Buddy Holly he’s managed to include luscious orchestrations throughout that never threaten to overshadow his magnificent voice or contemporary and it has to be said, edgy lyrics either. If there’s a theme here; and as it’s a Country Album in all but name; the golden thread is ‘Love’ in all it’s forms. On I Wish I Could Write You a Song, White adds some Twang as a metaphor for the way his heart feels as he attempts to tell the girl how he feels. I can only think he missed a Million Dollar Trick by not releasing this on St. Valentine’s Day! The song that already appears to picking up interest is the world weary duet with Lee Ann Womack, This Isn’t Gonna End Well and it’s as wonderful a Country duet as you will hear this year, or indeed methinks…… this century! But…… that’s not even the best song here! Nor is Mrs. Magpie’s selection for Favourite Song My Dreams Have All Come True, the one where White takes melancholy into a whole new stratosphere. Nope, the best song here (in my humble opinion) is Heart Like a Kite, a fairly simply constructed song by the high standards that White sets here; but one full of metaphors and longing that will reduce grown men to a mushy heap. Just imagine White sitting on a porch with his Stetson tipped back on his head as he fights back the tears while singing, “She’s got a heart like a kite Floating away all the time But I’m holding on for dear life But she’s got a heart like a kite.” Come on; if George Jones had wrote that verse there’s not a jukebox in America that wouldn’t still be playing it today. It would have been all too easy for John Paul White to have stayed in the shadows with his current career as a ‘Go-To’ Producer; but no…… he’s a songwriter and singer first and foremost, and he’s dug deep here to create in many ways a career-defining album that should and will not just feature in many Reviewers Top 10’s of 2019; but will surely see him in the running for yet another Grammy.
Chatham County Line Sharing the Covers Yep Roc Records
Ripping Up The Bluegrass Rule Book.
An album of all covers by any artist can go one of three ways: 1. Why bother? 2. Some good, some bad. 3. Yes, yes, yes! Chatham County Line, from the mountains of North Carolina, U.S.A., are decidedly in the multiple affirmative. From the amusing album cover on the front — which was most likely an interesting photo shoot — to the songs inside, both familiar and rare. I appreciate that they decided to forego the easy to pull off and predictable novelty cover of an established modern pop song, (such as a bluegrass rave-up version of Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” or “I” by Kendrick Lamar done up as a dirt floor country stomper.) Instead the guys choose to take chances with tougher material such as the Ventures “Walk, Don’t Run” and a beautiful take on John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels,” as well as a solid re-imagining of the Rolling Stones old standby “Last Time” which ups the bluegrass element without losing any of the rock ‘n’ roll. Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels” is bound to be a crowd favorite, but my favorite, beyond a doubt, has to be “I Think I’m in Love” written by Beck and originally on his The Information album from 2006. Understated isn’t usually a bluegrass staple, but this song is just that, wonderfully understated and perfectly dynamic in its simplicity, and Chatham County Line expertly pulls it off. The boys are expert pickers but know when to smartly hold back. And did I say the harmonies throughout are deliciously pure? We also get wonderful renditions of Wilco, the Delmore Brothers, and James Hunter songs here as the Chatham County boys know full well how to make someone else’s tune their own. They’re on tour right now to support this album, see them live if you get the chance, they’re fun, full of energy, and highly entertaining onstage.
Cameron Hawthorn Dancing in the Living Room (Single)
Do you get times when coincidental things happen for no particular reason and you think “Wow…. why did that happen…….. then?” That’s how I feel this morning, with this special song and it’s accompanying video. An hour ago I’d never heard of Kansas’ Country Singer-Songwriter Cameron Hawthorn and now he’s blown me away and won my heart with his latest single ‘Dancing in the Living Room’. Why? It’s a really good song, of course; and the accompanying video (below) is rather exceptional….. but it’s because he’s encapsulated my feelings for Mrs. Magpie, who had a rather monumental birthday on Friday and……….. we had our own ‘little dance’ in the Living Room to * ‘our song’ last night! Talk about perfect timing!
A little about Cameron Hawthorn.
‘Dancing In The Living Room’ narrates the feeling of dancing with a loved one in the most intimate of places. Featuring organic instrumentation and passionate heartfelt vocals that glide gently atop the soft sweeping melodies, the single is a wholehearted love song. The visuals follow multiple couples of all sexualities, dancing together in their intimate spaces, including Hawthorn and his partner. This is Hawthorn’s coming out letter to his fans. Hawthorn confides, “I remember always thinking how special it was to dance freely with my boyfriend in the living room of our apartment – being gay, it’s not as easy to dance as a couple in public together as it is for a straight couple. I wanted to express how special that moment is for a couple, when it’s just the two of you in the privacy of your own four walls”.
I’ve been hearing whispers since Christmas about this year’s SummerTyne Festival at Sage Gateshead, yet they’ve managed to throw me a complete curve ball with the first Headline Act announcement only bloomin’ KD Lang!
Says Tamsin Austin, Director of Performance Programme at Sage Gateshead said: “This year we are delighted to announce the return of k.d. lang to SummerTyne as our first headliner. Her performance in 2008 was one of the absolute artistic highlights of the festivals history and we couldn’t be happier that she is coming back to join us as part of the Ingenue Redux tour marking the 25th anniversary of her seminal album, to perform it in its entirety at SummerTyne along with a range of other material from her long and celebrated career. It promises to be a very special evening.”
More news as we get it! Tickets for k.d lang go on sale Friday 1 March.
SummerTyne Americana Festival 2019 runs Friday 19 to Sunday 21 July
A Real-Deal Feisty and Passionate Country Singer-Songwriter
Lazy journalists often point to the disposable Spotify Generation who cherry pick songs for their playlists as ‘the main users of music today’; but in my humble opinion….that is complete and utter bollocks! In the world I live in (and presumably you too) music is still a ‘considered purchase’ , and by using the internet wisely it is timeless. Last week I saw two talented young men regaling us with Blues songs from pre WWI that they meticulously learnt from YouTube, which strangely brings me to this Cheley Tackett’s fourth album Buckeye, first released in the US in 2017 but getting a new lease of life two years later to coincide with a UK and European tour. What little I knew of her background hardly prepared me for the opening song Bitter Girl; yet it’s the perfect way to introduce us to a very prodigious talent with a leathery, worn and very expressive voice and a special talent with words and storytelling. Plus any song with a Nah Nah Nah chorus is always going to find favour at RMHQ. For the uninitiated like me, Cheley sits comfortably in the early Mary Chapin Carpenter and Lucinda Williams camp; mixing acoustic and electric guitars, catchy tunes, Country sentiments and more attitude than a cat on heat. Paraphrasing the adage ‘Never choose a book by the cover’ certainly doesn’t apply here; as on the album cover Cheley looks in defiant mood and her eyes tell you not to mess with her; and that image inhabits her songs $2 Bill, Crucible Steel and on The Healer she will turn your head inside out. Another thing here; is the all pervading darkness many of her characters live in, but Cheley shines a light on for us to examine lives that are oft ignored; in the Southern Gothic My Best Dress (a co-write with Ashley McBryde and Randall Clay) the character hurts, she hurts a lot in a timeless lament, and I can’t think of a song in this vein this good I’ve heard for over 20 years. There’s a fascinating cover song here; CSN&Y’s Ohio which is sung straight from the heart and features some drum effects that mirror ‘boots on the ground.’ Who knew that this ‘protest song’ from 1971 would still resonate with a new generation in 2019? As a Country Album at heart; there are copious tales of heartache and break throughout, with the haunting Used to Feel Good being about ‘how real life can take away the fun that a relationship was founded on’ and the poetic Heavy Heart will touch people who have lost loved ones both physically and emotionally. Then, there is All She Knows is Rain, which starts “Six years old watchin’ cartoons in a trailer reeks of cigarettes Mama’s long gone and Daddy’s out cold on his cloud of barbiturates And she’s right at home all alone Ain’t no use to cry” Can a song get any Countrier than that? But there is also a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel too which is why Magic Still Happens is the RMHQ Favourite Track; but I won’t ‘spoil’ it for you……. check it out on the attached video (albeit a different version) and cry your heart out. Although she’s been around the scene in the USA for nearly twenty years; Cheley Tackett is a new find for us here in the UK and while some of the venues on her UK Tour are in far flung corners; I think she’ll be back soon (Festival season?) and just like Mary, Lucinda and Nanci before her we will clutch her to our collective bosom and make Cheley Tackett one of our own.
Yippee Why Aye Music Lovers! There’s a new Felice Brothers album on the way…….. and here’s the title track Undress, for your personal delectation.
Plus…. here’s what they have to say about the album: “Cut live to tape with very little overdubbing,Undress was recorded in the late summer of 2018 in Germantown, New York. Band members Ian Felice, James Felice, Will Lawrence (drums) and Jesske Hume (bass) teamed up with producer Jeremy Backofen to record their most personal and reflective album to date.
“Many of the songs on the new album are motivated by a shift from private to public concerns,” says songwriter Ian Felice. “It isn’t hard to find worthwhile things to write about these days, there are a lot of storms blooming on the horizon and a lot of chaos that permeates our lives. The hard part is finding simple and direct ways to address them.”
Undress follows the band’s 2016 album Life In The Dark, and finds the group in a very different place three years later. Between personnel changes, families growing and the political landscape, the result is a tighter, more-paired down release. “Every song is a story,” said James Felice. “On this album everything was a bit more thoughtful, including the arrangements, the sonic quality and the harmonies.”