Serious Sam Barrett WHERE THE WHITE ROSES GROW

Serious Sam Barrett
Where The White Roses Grow
Ya Dig? Records

Americana Influenced Folk Music; Made In Yorkshire.

In theory I’m averse to this type of Traditional English, or in this particular case ‘Yorkshire’ Folk Music. (Did Sam mention he was from Yorkshire? He hardly ever mentions it.)
But, Sam has been a regular visitor to the Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle over the years and has somehow won me over to his distinctive and, it’s fair to say, evocative singing style.
Sam’s first actual Solo album in three years opens with some sparkling banjo playing on the Americana flavoured title track Where The White Roses Grow, which owes more to the Hills of Kentucky than it does his normal hills and Dales of Yorkshire, which are the setting for many of his songs.
Funnily enough that Americana flavour runs through Sam’s tale of the legendary Robin Hood in the Last of The Yorkshire Outlaws, and Sam’s lightning fast guitar picking really comes to the fore on this track too. The man most normally associated with Nottingham, makes another appearance; as does Barrett’s distinctive guitar picking style on the traditional Folk Song, Robin Hood & The 15 Foresters, which is sung with great passion and zeal too.
Our Man from Addingham treads the a’cappella tightrope for the first time on record with the rather beautiful Holmfirth Anthem, which he learnt note for note from a Watersons LP many years ago and then closing the record with the plaintiff Darling Where You Are too .
He picks up his guitar again for a song I myself learnt at Junior School half a century ago; and apart from a version by local legend George Welch I can’t think of anyone who has made Waters of The Tyne sound so evocative as when Sam Barrett sings in such a mournful manner.
I suppose there are surprises around every corner here; especially the Bonaparte’s Love Song and Tennessee Line which both show how gifted Barrett is on a variety of acoustic instruments, and how his many visits to the US of A are now influencing his songwriting.
A big part of me wanted to choose that local Folk Song as my favourite here, but in all honesty the powerful story of the Bramhope Tunnel Monument, is not just an absorbing history lesson but the type of crossover Folk song that leaves you quite speechless. Plus, Bramhope is an area I’ve visited many times and vaguely knew of this harrowing tale of how men’s lives where held in such little regard in the middle 19th Century.
Possibly because of the Rootsy Americana edge to many of the intrinsically English Folk songs here, Where The White Roses Grow has meant I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this album and now I’m excited about seeing him on his tour to support this special release.

Released February 1st 2019
https://serioussambarrett.bandcamp.com/

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Matt Owens WHISKEY & ORCHIDS

Matt Owens
Whiskey & Orchids
Urby Records

Reflective, Powerful and Heartfelt Folk that Occasionally Rocks.

Regular readers will know by now how much I like an eye-catching cover on my albums; and this one is so lovely I’d like it framed on the bedroom wall.
Enough about my decorating tips, onward to the music!
When it first arrived, all I knew about this album was that it was Matt Owens’ solo debut but a cursory look at the track listing and ‘artistes involved’ puzzled me…… especially the inclusion of Thea Gilmore, Michael Blair and Friend of RMHQ Sir Robert Vincent.
Hmm, something suspicious here, methinks.
Then a little extra research unearthed the fact that Matt Owens was actually the singer in Noah and The Whale! Not a band I actually know; but I certainly know of them.
Thankfully, because of my ignorance this won’t and can’t be a ‘compare and contrast’ review…… just me talking about what I hear and how it makes me feel.
There’s a delightfully warm majesty to opening track Lay Down Honey which lends itself to the commercial end of Indie-Folk (if such a thing exists) and has a pedal-steel sliding in and out of the big ole backing.
I probably first fell in love with this album via second track Little Tornado. A rather fine and wordy love song with very, very clever imagery, about a wild and strong willed young woman; presumably the singers partner (?) but reminded me of a couple of women in my own life.
For a singer-songwriter slash Folk album; there’s a big sound here via Nigel Stonier and Seadna McPhail’s production and mixing; which adds extra sparkle and life to relatively simple songs like the charming Piano at the Greyhound, American Girls in London and the subtly passionate title track, Whiskey and Orchids.
Rob Vincent makes two guest appearances; first on Too Far Gone, another complicated and slightly twisted song of love and desire; and the other is one of two dark songs about Christmas time. This one; One Fuck of a Year will appeal to many of us who get tangled in the false bonhomie that abounds; when not everything around us is really shiny and rainbowish. Owens slides in some accurately sharp observations in every single line …… not one for Radio 2 by any means; but a contender for Song of the Year!
Christmas Eve follows a similar starkly lit path; but is a lot more personal and come from the dark recesses of Owen’s battered heart.
Choosing a Favourite Song for you hasn’t been easy (it very rarely is) but I’m going to toss a coin between two that use ‘sports’ as a metaphor.
In Match Day Matt compares being in a band to supporting your football team;
“She hates me going
Gets me through the week
Seems I’m fighting all
For this losing streak
When you get that feeling
I should just stick to dreaming”

It’s very maudlin, but very clever too and certainly tugs on the old heartstrings.
This album couldn’t close with anything finer than Last Play of The Day, a haunting story of growing old that verges on poetry set to music. So, I’m going for the latter as my Favourite Track on this sublime album.
It’s kind odd and perversely funny ‘discovering’ Matt Owens so late into his career; but this sounds and feels like a whole new chapter for him……… and hopefully an even more succesful one.

Released February 1st 2019
https://www.mattowensmusic.com/about/


VA Songs & Rhymes From The Mines

Various Artists
Songs & Rhymes From The Mines (an East Midlands View)
Trent Editions/Nottingham Trent University

A Glorious and Heartbreaking Collection of Coal Mining Stories, Songs and Poems.

I had big plans for today, and started off so well until this mysterious package arrived. To those who don’t know me very well wouldn’t understand why a book of poetry and local industrial history from a region in England quite alien to me, and it’s accompanying CD of Folk Songs (several are the finger in the ear variety) would
a) interest me
b) reduce me to tears several times
c) make me as proud as Punch!
Well, dear reader I come from three generations of Coal Mining stock dating back to the turn of the 20th Century and my own Father working down our village pit for nigh on 40 years, only disrupted by his time serving in the Navy during WWII; plus two brothers who also spent their best years hewing coal too.
This project is part of Nottingham Trent University’s project to keep their local dialect alive while teaching schoolchildren of their heritage too.
The CD is a complex mix of short stories, poems and old and relatively new songs about Coal Mining; with a couple already in my collection, from The Most Ugly Child, who’s intricate and beautiful My Pony which opens the CD, through my mate Al’s DH Lawrence Vaudeville Show ‘kitchen sink drama’ Sons and Lovers and the mighty Misk Hills Rambler III’s sadder than sad The Dance of the Miner and the powerful history lesson of When Coal Was King.
There are plenty of songs here that tell very local stories from the East Midlands; but if you come from a similar community in NE England or the West Coast of Scotland or anyway in Wales; or even North America, Australia, Holland or Germany you can tape over the village in the song and replace it with your own on Bill Kerry’s anthemic Folk Song The Greatest Loscoe Miner and the sorrowful Annesley Headstocks sung by the King of Rome (who I must search out more from).
The King of Rome turns up again with Tiny Giant, which reminded me so much of my own father’s story and alongside the haunting ballad The Deaths of Child Miners sung a’ Capella by Bill Kerry both had me blubbing as I listened while reading poems from the book.
Choosing a Favourite Song isn’t fair on the others here; but choose one I must. It could easily have been Terry Faulkner’s heartbreaking and unaccompanied Working Man and perhaps should have been the beautiful Cob a’ Coalin’ by Jennifer Reid (trad. with additional lyrics by the Heyman Primary School) but with a deep breath I’m picking…….. John Stafford’s Mine Eyes; because it reminded me so much of the men my Dad sat and drank with in the Legion on a weekend; and yet again brought me to tears the first two times I played it.
I’ve flicked through the book; and need more time to really devour everything here; but several poems tugged on my heartstrings like dead weights…… especially Mina Ahmed’s Because Nothing Comes Close, which is on the very first page and you can’t help getting a lump in your throat too reading Barry Harper’s Father of Mine, or especially the poignant The Striker’s Wife (1984).
Perhaps the biggest (and best) surprise is reading the names of the people who wrote the poems. Several are actually ex-miners who had never previously been involved in anything like this but found great solace in putting their words onto paper and having strangers; educated ones at that telling them how good the work is. But; there are many family names here who obviously never worked down a pit, especially later Mina Ahmed (again) with her intricate and intuitive My Tiny Hands at Work and if I had to pick a Favourite Poem it would have to be The Bevin Boy by Sandhya Sharma; a wonderful tale of a 9 year old questioning a 92 year old about why people call him The Bevin Boy.
Read it and weep!
There are photos a’plenty too and some charming drawings from the children at Heymann Primary which will bring a smile to your face as they did mine.
SONGS AND RHYMES will always have a special place in my heart and my collection; and I hope that someone will do a similar exercise in County Durham and Northumberland; but in fairness everyone has done such a quality job here…. it may not actually be necessary.

Released November 2018
http://coalanddialect.com/coaldialect

Gordie Tentrees & Jaxon Haldane GRIT

Gordie Tentrees & Jaxon Haldane
Grit
Greywood Records

A Sparkling Live Album From Two Wonderful Troubadours.

I remember being pleasantly taken aback by Gordie Tentrees 2015 offering, LESS IS MORE and here I am 3 years later taken aback again!
Why?
I guess it’s the timeless yet contemporary way Gordie alongside Jaxon Haldane build so much into their simple sounding Folk songs, which were recorded across five nights at gigs across Western Canada; so much so I found myself checking the CD cover several times to confirm that there really were only two people and their myriad of acoustic instruments were on each song.
The opening song Armand, a Haldane/Tentrees co-write is powerful stuff indeed as Gordie sings about his friend the Dutch Folk-Singer and political activist Herman George van Loenhout aka Armand. Spiky and tender are very rarely used together; but that’s the best way to describe this thoughtful song.
This the type of Singer-songwriter/troubadour fayre that I was first introduced to in the early 1970’s by my big brother Brian and even now it never fails to impress me the imagination and creativity musicians have to enable them to create songs like Bottleneck to Wire and the wonderful Holy Moly (not least for its musical-saw solo); both of which are older songs from Tentrees lovingly dusted off and tenderly sung for the delectation of people across the world.
Some people think that these records are just slung together; but nothing could be further from the truth as the 2004 Tentrees song 29 Loads of Freight, which was inspired by his love for Fred Eaglesmith’s songs leads straight into the Tentrees/Eaglesmith co-write Craft Beards and Man Buns which in lesser hands could have been syrupy twee; but here it’s almost a protest song! Certainly the deadly duo seem to feel the same way about trendy-bendy things that some deem ‘cool’ annoy them as much as they do me.
There are two ‘muso’ songs here too; well songs written about the sad and lonely life of the touring musician, and both will appeal to all of my musician friends, with Sideman being a 70 mph Bluesy blast on the banjo and National Steel and the sad ode to missing your children growing up, Junior will surely bring a tear to a bass players eye.
Selecting my Favourite track here was a straight choice between a Willie P Bennett song Willie’s Diamond Blues, which is as sharp as a razor and as dark as night, and Tentree’s own smart, slick and savvy love song Lost; and I’m tempted to go for the latter as it’s the type of song I mostly associate with Gordie Tentrees (and now Jaxon Haldane too).
Cleverly recorded with occasional applause and laughter, this album really does capture the magic that these two musicians create on stage; yet unlike ‘live albums’ of old won’t date.

Released UK January 11th 2019
https://www.tentrees.ca/

Dylan Rodrigue CAT’S GAME

Dylan Rodrigue
Cat’s Game
Bad Paintings/Palomino


Beautifully Intense, Eloquent and Just the Right Side of Melancholic Singer-Songwriter.

I don’t know an awful lot about Singer-Songwriter Dylan Rodrigue; but I’d love to meet his Dad.
Apparently the family lived in a Hippy style, Yoga based community in Northern California, with the young Dylan being brought up on a diet of `’quiet, peaceful and introspective music’ until……. when he was aged 7 his Dad snuck a copy of Who’s Next into the kids bedroom!
Let’s just say it changed his outlook on life!
Leap forward to today and Dylan is now releasing his second full-length album of self-penned songs that criss-cross both genres from his early life discovering music.
The opening song White Moon is a timeless and powerful four minutes that captures the attention and opens the door to a collage of musical delights.
For me Rodrigue is very much at his best with an acoustic guitar in his hands, especially when the windswept production and ethereal harmonies combine on Some Kind Of Heaven and especially the red raw, articulate and introspective Living in Color which closes the album.
Somewhere deep inside his chest I believe there’s a poets soul lurking; how else can you explain the delicate stories on Self Love and the fragile piano led, tearjerker Living This Way?
Be under no illusions Dylan Rodrigue isn’t a self-pitying songwriter, these songs while deeply personal sound like they are for and about anyone and everyone; none more so than the Alt. Rocker Money Game, which had my car speakers shaking in the dashboard!
Perhaps it’s the post-Christmas funk I’m in; but two songs have really touched my heart; it may have been the third or fourth time I played the album when It’s So Funny caught me unawares and Rodrigue’s world weary and pleading voice made me listen very intently to his words; and I felt blessed at discovering such a richly talented wordsmith.
But it’s the other song, Minimize The Damage which has taken the title of RMHQ Favourite song on a rather excellent album. It’s certainly intense and just the right side of melancholic; but there’s also something darkly beautiful and empowering in the way Rodrigue fights back the tears as he pours out his shattered heart and dreams to only you (and me).
Who knows if Dylan Rodrigue will go on to win a Grammy or earn a million dollars from his music; but what I do know is that everyone who buys Cat’s Game will cherish it for life.

Released 25th January 2019
https://dylanrodrigue.com/home

RMHQ Top 20 Albums of 2018

RMHQ Top 20 Album
2018.

This end of year Top 10 Albums malarkey is proving ever more difficult…….. so far we have posted 279 reviews covering Americana, Country, Alt. Country, Cow Punk, Soul, Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, Blues Rock, singer-songwriters, Folk, Alt. Folk, Nu-Folk, Ska AND Reggae!
Each individual album is here on it’s very own merits and we wrote about them because we liked ’em and passionately believed they needed to be heard around the world (speaking of which…….. we had visitors from 371 different countries during 2018!!! 371???? I didn’t know that there was that many!)
At one stage the spreadsheet for my Top 10 featured over 50 titles; such has been the quality of releases in 2018; but after a lot of deliberation and heartache, here is my own personal Top 20 albums that were released this year and each ‘surprised or fascinated’ me when I first heard them……….. sorry if you aren’t included. 

  1. Kim Richey – Edgeland
  2. Malcolm Holcombe – Come Hell or High Water
  3. Big Boy Bloater – Pills
  4. Stephen Fearing – The Secret of Climbing
  5. Curse of Lono – As I Feel
  6. Gem Andrews – North
  7. Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It
  8. Bennett Wilson Poole – Bennett Wilson Poole
  9. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – No Mercy
  10. Prosecco Socialist – Songs From Behind Bars
  11. Kid Ramos – Old School 
  12. John Hiatt – Eclipse Sessions
  13. Susie Vinnick – Shake The Love Around
  14. Abe Partridge – Cotton Fields and Blood For Days
  15. Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Downey to Lubbock
  16. Rod Picott – Out Past the Wires
  17. Capone & The Bullets – Fusion 
  18. Ben Folke Thomas – Modern Man
  19. LeBarons Band – Summer of Death 
  20. Frankie Davies – Wherever I Go.

Song of the year……… Kim Richey 

Luke James Williams DROVE

Luke James Williams
DROVE
Self-Release

The Sound of a Breaking Heart Set To Music.

So many albums to review and so little time has meant some absolute gems have fallen by the wayside this year; and this flawed diamond nearly followed suit; but even a cursory play in the car on a sunny afternoon over a month ago meant I knew that I had to come back to it sooner or later; as you need to hear this…..you really, really do.
A haunting slither of what will probably be described as Alt. Folk in the mainstream press;  actually follows in a long line of very intense, quintessentially English singer-songwriters starting with Nick Drake right through to the more recent Martin Longstaff aka Lake Poets. 
Luke opens his record with an instrumental, of sorts called From The Drove. A hybrid of background noises followed by some kind of acoustic guitar noodling brilliantly leads into the first actual song Snares & Traps. Not for the last time here I can picture the singer clenching his eyes closed as desperately stops himself screaming his very eloquent words out; painfully pouring his heart out alongside some very taught guitar playing.
The mood picks up ever so slightly on Speak To Me; and here the guitar playing is almost Spanish in origin which gives this sad song quite an exotic texture, which I wasn’t expecting. 
The claustrophobic Rabbit Hole is tucked away in the middle; which has a lot going on behind William’s sorrowful voice, but never so much that it ever interferes with the song or indeed, words and story; because this is a song that the sad and lonely at this time of year should listen to……. or perhaps not. 
At only six tracks and five songs long; I felt a little bit cheated tonight as the brooding You Are The Captain filtered away; as this and especially the winsome, but delicately powerful Still In Bed, which is the RMHQ Favourite here more than hints at a talent that is on the cusp of blossoming into something very special indeed.
I don’t know much about Luke James Williams as his e-mails have both been quite short and straight to the point; but in DROVE, from the very first time I played it; (in very much the wrong setting) gave me a shiver down my back, just like the first time I heard Nick Drake and The Lake Poets. 
As the hipsters would say “Luke James Williams is the Real Deal.” 

Released 21st November 2018
 http://www.lukejameswilliams.co.uk/ 

https://lukejameswilliams.bandcamp.com/


 

Annie Dressner BROKEN INTO PIECES

Annie-Dressner

Annie Dressner
BROKEN INTO PIECES
Self-Release

The Most Emotional Break-Up and Make-Up Album You Will Ever Hear.

It must have been 2011 or 12 when I first encountered Annie Dressner as a support act at the Jumpin’ Hot Club, sitting there mesmerised for the full 35 minutes or so of her set, and it’s stayed in my memory bank ever since.
Then we have to leap forward to a couple of weeks ago when she got in touch after a friend recommended RMHQ as a possible place to send her latest (and only second!) album BROKEN INTO PIECES.
It’s still not clear why the long wait; but when you hear opening track Fades Away and what follows, you will come to the conclusion that this is a nearly perfect album of love songs that describes the roller coaster of emotions we all feel from the powerful beginning to the (eventual) Break-Up album. Fades Away is a soft, gentle and heartbreakingly beautiful love song about the time it takes to get over a break-up that she didn’t see coming, and will leave you occasionally forgetting to breathe; as it did me as she purrs out the story.
What a stunning way to start an album.
Although the musical mood picks up in the melody on the next song couple of songs, starting with Don’t Go (25th July) the sentiment in the story is as dark and brooding as I’ve heard in years and sounds just perfect for radio as does Heartbreaker which has the killer line “There’s the smell of cigarettes seeping through the curtain door/as your mother made us dinner/made my favourite thing of all/but I won’t be back again.”
Dressner’s observations of the minutiae in a once passionate relationship are staggering at times; but as the adage goes….. ‘be very careful when you break up with a songwriter; they get to write songs about you that will last forever!’
It obviously wasn’t just Annie’s songs that captured my heart that night in Newcastle but her wonderfully expressive voice that has the warmth of Nanci Griffith coupled to the softer edges of Tift Merritt; and her songs follow a similar if even more intimate path than either at times.
While all of the songs here are pleasingly feminine in origin; of course they would be – she’s a woman! But the depth involved in songs like Over and Over, the winsome Paper Moon and Numbers will resonate with many men who have gone through the same type of complicated relationship; such is the way Annie’s genuine sensitivity keeps shining through.
Me? I’m in a very strong and stable relationship (41 years and counting) but I knew heartbreak as a young man and have seen friends and family crumble as complicated relationships go wrong; not everything is black and white. So we can appreciate and sympathise with where Ms Dressner is coming from on the tearjerkers Morning and more pertinently Falter which sort of sent a shiver down my spine.
The first time I played Kentucky I had to stop it half way through and go back to the start, just to confirm what my ears had heard. I’m not going to spoil the surprise or indeed twist in the tale; but tucking this song away in the middle is a very clever trick indeed.
Then, there is a song so clever and personal that it will get standing ovations whenever it is played in concert; which is why Bruise Beneath My Bones is my Favourite Track here. It, like many others isn’t actually an ‘easy listen’ and nor is it intended to be; but boy has it got a sting in the tale ….several in fact, as Annie goes into full on Tarantula mode to let him know how she really, really feels!
For an album that is probably on the Folkie end of the Americana spectrum BROKEN INTO PIECES has more S.O.U.L than anything you are going to hear from just about anyone else this year or many more to come.

Released October 26th 2018 (pre-order NOW and get three free songs immediately)
http://www.anniedressner.com/

# Annie Dressner is such a good and imaginative songwriter; she is actually happily married to Paul Goodwin who appears here on keyboards!

Bert Jansch `Just A Simple Soul (Best of Collection)

bert jansch 23

Bert Jansch
`Just A Simple Soul’ (Best of Collection)
BMG (Double CD & 2 LP Vinyl )

The Flame Burns as Bright As Ever For One of British Folk Music’s True Legends. 

Many years ago while I was a student I whiled away my spare time at Durham Folk Club listening to The Spinners and The Seekers while The Rocking Magpie was in a Youth Club surrounded by teenage girls, dancing to Ska and Motown …he always was the cool one!
Which is why, nearly 50 years later he has asked me to listen to and pen some thoughtful words on this latest offering from one of Britain’s finest ever Folk Musicians ….Mr Bert Jansch.
There was a time in the 1960’s, before “Clapton Is God” was scrawled in four feet high letters on a wall, that there were other “gods” in the music world. A time before “Rock” music was even a ‘thing’ and The Beatles and Stones were still Pop Groups and before a young whippersnapper in a funny hat called Bobby Dylan was starting to make a noise in America.

For a  period in those early sixties there were 100’s of Folk Clubs  scattered all over the UK in little rooms above pubs..or in pubs, above cafes or in cafes playing a heady mix of traditional songs, American blues, work songs, miners songs and everything else in between to groups of young people with long hair and invariably wearing duffle coats and smoking cigarettes while listening intently and reverentially to whoever was on stage.

As the 1960’s progressed word started coming out of these London folk clubs about a variety of homegrown singer-songwriters and Folk groups that were writing their own songs…and they were good; very, very good!

One of these was a handsome young Scotsman called Bert Jansch who moved South in 1963 to ply his trade as another  hungry folk singer in London.

Jansch soon recorded his first album and sold the tapes for £100 to Transatlantic records who released it in 1965. The Self-Titled Bert Jansch contained several songs that are still classics today in 2018, including “Needle Of Death” about the loss of a close friend and the more traditional “Blackwaterside” (which a certain Jimmy Page re-worked for the first Zeppelin album 3 years later!). But it was an instrumental “Angie” written by Davy Graham ( a brilliant instrumentalist and songwriter in his own right) that showed off Jansch’s prowess with an acoustic guitar.
Through the late 60’s and early 70’s Bert Jansch was the ‘go to’ name in British Folk Music, releasing a number of sought after albums including the excellent Jack Orion and the iconic LA Turnaround.  Over his career Jansch released over 20 albums, plus a myriad of live releases and compilations of varying ‘legitimacy’. Unfortunately Bert’s legacy is scattered over many record labels many of which are no longer around.
Which is where this magnificent collection stands out. Just A Simple Soul pulls everything into one place; not only his classic early songs, wonderfully re-mastered, but also includes ‘Reynardine’ from his time with Pentangle ( Oh yes – he also played in one of the most loved Folk Groups of the 70’s that at regularly competed with Fairport Convention for many a best Folk award) but that’s a book in itself!  This collection also realises that Bert continued to perform and record until 2006, with his later albums well represented, especially worth listening to are‘Crimson Moon’ from 2000 and ‘On The Edge Of A Dream’from the 2002 album of the same name, as well as the poignant “High Days” from his last album Black Swan.

I don’t know if this collection covering Bert’s 5 Decades of music, lovingly compiled by Bernard Butler in conjunction with the Bert Jansch Estate, will attract many new fans – because it should as it’s an actual Masterclass in songwriting and stunningly brilliant fret work all allied to Bert’s fragile and gentle vocals.  But for those already “in the know” this collection cleverly pulls together some of his greatest songs alongside many rarer but still important parts of the legacy into one place.
The sound quality of my digital download used for this review appears excellent especially on the early songs, and the Vinyl release will be an opportunity for those in love with that particular format to finally renew some of those pretty worn out original LP’s

Highly Recommended.
Released October 26th 2016

Review – John Jobling aka http://www.joblingphotography.com/

Shipcote & Friends I’M QUITE HAPPY WITH THAT.

shipcote happy 6

Shipcote & Friends
I’M QUITE HAPPY WITH THAT.
Low Fella Records

Laid Back Americana Full of Warmth Via NE England.

The once thriving Shipcote area of Gateshead in Tyne and Wear has all but gone now; but the name lives on as the alter-ego of one half of the Jumpin’ Hot Club and full time musical troubadour Mr Graham Anderson; of which this is his latest disc.
If you already know him and his music you will buy this CD regardless of what I have to say; as ‘once a fan, always a fan’ in my experience; but to the uninitiated he writes very clever and intricate songs about the immediate world around him and the people who inhabit it; performing them in a warm, charming and laid-back Western-Swing meets American Folk via a traditional singer-songwriter hybrid that doesn’t particularly sound like anyone else I can think of. Confused? You won’t be!
I had to take a deep breath the first time I heard opening track Mystery Waltz as it begins with Cath and her accordion nodding towards something akin to the Captain Pugwash tune; but mercifully Shipcote and the other Friends seamlessly slide in with the first of a series of magical love songs sung to a hypnotic melody that will make you sway along as you aimlessly mouth the words, while thinking that you know who the song is really about.
The jaunty Photograph follows; and yet again a simple thing like ‘looking at a photograph of his wedding day’ ends up taking us all down ‘memory lane’ thinking exactly the same thoughts about our own past; such is the power of clever songwriting.
Although a man of a ‘certain age’ Shipcote isn’t as cynical as the majority of people I know; generally seeing the best in life; as the punchy Sanctuary Street and the delightfully romantic Country Swing of Lucky Me prove; but he can also let his imagination go wild with the insightful and sensitive I’m Coming To Get You, which will also turn a few eyes misty as time goes by.
The whimsical I Get Around and title track, I’m Quite Happy With That are both autobiographical ditties that had me smiling from start to finish as our man describes his day to day  life; with the latter being a description of his office including the posters on the wall , the swivel chair and his name sat next to a paperweight on his desk; and is all only an 8 minute ride away each day. I doubt Robbie Williams will ever cover this song; but I love it to bits!
Picking a Favourite Track on a Shipcote album is never easy, as each song always has its merits; and this one is no different with the slightly brittle and dark break up Hope It Stays That Way is unlike anything I’ve heard from him before and would be a contender for that reason alone; but the addition of luscious harmonies and a heartbreaking cello take it onto a whole other level.
Then there are two songs that are very close to my own heart, the first is a tongue in cheek tilt towards the myriad of Award Ceremonies every year, covering just about every (and some made up) categories in our own little musical world; leaving them with very little, if any meaning save for the Press Releases that litter my desk.
The other; and it’s the one I’m actually giving the prize to is What Can a City Do? Specifically about Newcastle which is on the verge of having more student accommodation than it has for actual rate payers and (more importantly) Social Housing; Shippy lists all of the new businesses that now litter the High Streets of our once Green and Pleasant land. And, in Shipcote & Friends style it’s all sung over a charming and lazy Countryfied melody.
Okay, I’m a friend first, a fan second and only thirdly an impartial reviewer; but if ever a song title summed up the contents of the music within the cover it’s, I’m Quite Happy With That and that’s is exactly what you will feel as the final song runs out into the groove.

Released Sunday 07 October 2018
http://www.shipcote.com/