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/


 

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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/

Kate Campbell DAMN SURE BLUE

kate campbell c

Kate Campbell
DAMN SURE BLUE
Large River Music

Thoughtful and Inspirational Observations on the World Around Us.

To some degree Kate Campbell is a ‘child of the 60’s whose father was a Baptist Preacher and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi; and it’s fair to say that background has been the backbone of her career as a singer-songwriter for the last 40 years; but be assured she ain’t no hippy-trippy Flower-power Folkie; she uses everything in her musical armoury to get her message across to ears and minds of all persuasions.
There’s a heavenly blend of Southern Blues and Country Folk that comes across like a Savannah breeze in the articulated sadness of opening song Damn Sure Blue, when Ms Campbell tries to make sense of the crazy world we find ourselves in in 2018.
On the next song Change Should Have Come By Now she carefully uses a couple of classic couplets from People Get Ready and Sam Cooke’s Change alongside her own astute observations aligned to a Gospel backing to ally even more sadness and despair; but with a golden thread of hope weaving through the lyrics too.
DAMN SURE BLUE certainly isn’t a ‘Concept Album; but most if not every song here has a restrained anger about the way that while plenty of the world has got richer and richer, not a lot has changed apart from the names over the last half century for plenty at the bottom and even the middle of the pile.
If you listen carefully and two songs in particular draw your mind to Johnny Cash in the politics that Kate includes in her tales. One of the songs most associated with Cash, The Ballad of Ira Hayes gets a new lick of paint here; but baring in mind it was written in 1962 it still has a relevance in 2018; which is truly sad. Towards the end a song from the pen of Cash is also included; but one I’d not heard before. Forty Shades of Green is a winsome Celtic Folk song that fits in perfectly well as the storyteller dreams of better times back in Olde Ireland; but it’s not going to happen.
As well as that she also brings new life to the Louvin Brothers The Great Atomic Power too; making it a powerful force of nature again; with a punchy Memphis style backbeat as she herself takes on the role of a Baptist Preacher in the way she sings the words from the pits of her heart; and then she follows this with a brittle adaptation of the Eric Katz/Paul Simon song Christ, It’s Mighty Cold Outside which will stop you in your tracks.
Perhaps it’s the way Will Kimbrough has added his special flourishes to the production; I love the light and shade in the way songs like When You Come Back Home are juxtaposed with the gorgeous Sally Maxcy to hit the listener with poignancy of the finest order; but always keeping your full attention.
While this is a fully fledged ‘grown up’ album that demands that you sit and listen intently from start to finish with no distractions; two particular songs stand out, with the haunting Peace, Precious Peace being the perfect choice to close this record but I’m choosing the Delta Country of Long Slow Train as my Favourite Track; as it encapsulates everything that Kate Campbell is trying to get across on this album but happens to be a perfect example of what modern Country Music can achieve when it puts its mind to it. 10/10 Miss Campbell.
In my humble opinion Kate Campbell is always described as a ‘Folk Singer,’ but believe me she is much, much more than ‘just a Folk Singer’ as this, her 19th album (NINETEEN!) proves, she can melt all of her musical influences into something that transcends that rather tired and cumbersome writing style with ease and grace.

Released 21st September 2018
http://www.katecampbell.com/

Nathan Bell LOVE, BONES & STARS

nathan bell love bones

Nathan Bell
LOVE, BONES & STARS
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
https://www.nathanbellmusic.com/

 

 

 

Malcolm Holcombe COME HELL OR HIGH WATER

MALCOLM HOLCOMBE b Hell or High Water

Malcolm Holcombe
COME HELL OR HIGH WATER
Gypsy Eyes Music

A Masterclass From a Modern Americana and Folk Legend.

Here we have Malcolm’s 12th album (I think) and not only are legendary songwriters lining up to sing his praises on the accompanying Press Release but this could easily be labelled as a Duets album as Iris Dement sings alongside him on just about every song.
From the opening chords of Left Alone through to the final wheezes and notes of Torn and Wrinkled I’ve sat mesmerised several times over the last few days as I’ve listened ever more to this album.
Opening track Left Alone; featuring Miss Iris DeMent on whispered harmonies as as powerful song as Malcolm may ever have written; as he recounts the tale of an ageing Vietnam Veteran, who is now ‘left alone to die/with a burnt out mind;’ but sadly the sentiment can apply to many of the men and women across the world who have proudly fought for their respective countries in the intervening half century but are later left on the scrapheap.
Many of the songs here are just as challenging to the listener; not for the first time Malcolm unloads his tightly wrapped wrath on Big Business and the Banks with Legal Tender and on New Damnation Alley he kind of speaks for many of us as he ponders “Feeling my age/Feeling cynical and wrong/Too scared to believe any more.”
I always think it’s lazy to compare Malcolm Holcombe to Townes Van Zandt; even if they do occasionally sound alike and write of similar subjects but I’ve often thought there was more than a hint of Leonard Cohen or even Randy Newman in his writing; and more than ever that comes to the fore on Brother’s Keeper and the magnificent It Is What It Is, which would surely have been included on Cash’s American series had he still been alive today.
Many years ago I remember Rod Stewart’s voice being described as an ‘instrument’ and now more than ever, that adage applies to Mr Holcombe as his distinctive growls, wheezes and snarls make songs like In The Winter and more especially October Morning transcend both the traditional Folk and Country formats and become quite extraordinary in the way he expresses his guttural feelings.
If I still had my radio show I could pick any of these songs for late night playing; but there’s nothing here that would fit into day time or even national broadcasting…….Hit Singles are as far away from Malcolm Holcombe’s thinking as is World Peace; but I will point you towards my Favourite Song; Black Bitter Moon which features some rather sweet and intricate guitar picking as Malcolm and Iris lift the mood from despair to hope; in the blink of an eye.
There’s one more song here that needs an honourable mention; even if it is only September; but Merry Christmas is one of those bleak memory songs that I adore at that time of year; and will go onto my Christmas Eve playlist between Steve Earle and John Prine; but before Willie Nelson!
I appreciate it’s not easy to ‘get into’ Malcolm Holcombe’s music; not least because he ain’t no ‘pretty boy’ Country Star in a Trucker Cap and his voice sounds like he found it in a dumpster behind a car parts unit; meaning he wouldn’t even get past the pre-TV stage of X Factor; but those songs……phew……they all have the REAL X Factor; and are well worth the effort you initially put in; as you are rewarded five fold in every verse and stanza of every story.
Malcolm Holcombe is the ‘real deal’ combining Folk, Country and even Blues in a most eloquent and engaging manner…… trust me.

Released USA September 14th 2018
Released UK October 12th 2018

https://www.malcolmholcombe.com/

Marla & David Celia DAYDREAMERS

Marla and david celia

Marla & David Celia
DAYDREAMERS
Elite Records

Love, Politics and Acutely Probing Worldly Observations.

Many years ago I remember seeing an advert in a Sunday newspaper for ‘Mood Music’ ……..I think it was the sound of whales farting or something; but the adage has stayed with me until now; and I can’t think of a better description for this delightful Folk/Americana hybrid from the ever wonderful David Celia and a new name to us, Marla Winkler………’Mood Music’……. but ‘Good Mood’ music.
Carry It On, the first thing you hear is a wonderfully dreamy three minutes with David sounding not unlike Neil Young on the high notes (which he hits and they stay hit!) and the harmonies produced by Ms Winkler are the sort you’d normally expect from a sibling……and the lyrics aren’t too shabby either.
This is the reason I put such great stead in albums having a good first song…….I was instantly hooked.
Things get a bit more jaunty on the Hill Country flavoured love song Lover Of Mine duet; which follows; nearly taking Marla and David into Dolly and Porter territory if I’m not mistaken.
In the accompanying bio the couple’s relationship is never actually made clear; but when they sing a love song not just sparks fly but rainbows come out of the speakers too on the title track Daydreamers and the song that captured Mrs. Magpie’s attention Heart Like a Dove; where again the couple appear to be singing to each other, without a care in the world that someone may be listening.
While plenty of tracks here could be described as ‘love songs’ the couple also squeeze in some acutely observational songs that err on the side of the politico spectrum; with the atmospheric Brave New World being a prime example, and Luddite Blues being the couple’s homage to Pete Seeger; and a contender for RMHQ Favourite Track at one stage.
Which neatly brings me to the award of Favourite Track; and even though the whole album could actually be worthy; I very nearly went for I Am Her Man which is a tightly wrapped ode of love and cracked my heart when I first heard it; but I’m now going for the winsome Warming Words which features Marla on lead and David on guitar and ghostly harmonies. If this hard working and touring couple had only ever produced one song together and it was this one; they could be rightly proud of the outcome on this one.
There really is so much to like here, from David Celia’s exquisite songwriting which take on a whole new life when sung alongside Marla Winkler, as both have not just complimentary voices; but styles that truly blend into one and the production, while simple still manages to fill any room you hear the songs in; which is quite some accomplishment for a ‘Folk’ album.

Released August 17th 2018
http://www.davidcelia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/marladavidcelia/

 

John Andrews JOHNNY WAS E.P

johnny andrews

John Andrews
JOHNNY WAS
Self-Release

Windswept and Interesting Tales From A Troubled Heart.

I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone left in Northern Ireland who isn’t actually a working musician?
As you will know I have a soft spot for this beautiful part of the United Kingdom and the people in it and over the last seven or so years I don’t think I’ve heard a recording from it’s inhabitants that I haven’t liked……and that even includes a couple of ‘finger in the ear’ folk albums.
Here we have John Andrews and the not so rushed follow up to his 2014 debut release.
With so much new music to listen to I have to judge albums by the first track; and WHAM!!! did Pray capture my attention from the get go.
The first minute or so is taken up with a fire and brimstone preacher bellowing that we are all going to Hell! Then Andrews comes into the action with a punchy Rockabilly lick that follows in a similar; if a lot less angry path…..and the result is a doozy, especially as our Preacher keeps butting in and out.
The next song, Don’t Let Me Fade Away slows things down a heck of a lot with Andrews singing and playing an acoustic in the finest singer-songwriter tradition. as some soft drumming and intricate cymbal playing add to the tension of a deep and meaningful tale of lost love.
Even with only five songs to judge him by on this EP; it’s quite easy to hear what a clever and thoughtful songwriter Andrew is; with the nod to Alt. Country Wolves and his own Love Sick Blues not just showcasing his narrative skills; but also his wonderfully warm and expressive vocals too.
Then there is the stand out track Love Letter which is easily my Favourite Song here. As is often the case with artists from this tiny corner of Ireland, Andrews is obliged by a lifetime playing pubs and clubs to play every genre of music known to man in his quest to make a living; and this charming, yet quite dark tale blends modern folk with a touch of Alt. Country, a snippet of latter day Indie with a big dollop of West Coast swagger too, and the result sounds not a million miles away from one of my favourite Celtic bands of all time, the Waterboys and that is a very good thing indeed.
I doubt John Andrews will ever headline Glastonbury or Lollapalooza but that’s not always the point, is it? He has talent in abundance and ticks a lot of boxes on these five songs and deserves a much wider audience than he is currently getting in his home country.
Try it…..and buy it; you won’t regret it.

Released August 3rd 2018
https://www.facebook.com/JohnnywasNI/

Hadley McCall Thackston Self-Titled (Album)

hadley mccall thackston

Hadley McCall Thackston
Self-Titled
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
https://www.facebook.com/hadley.thackston