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Villiers & The Villains

Cinematic Americana For When The Sun Sets Over Avalon.

As I’ve said before our little website is meant to hark back to the days of the old school yard when someone would see you standing with an LP under your arm and ask what it was; then recommend something similar…….word of mouth marketing before it was trendy?
Which is exactly what happened here.
I can find next to nothing on the interweb to tell me who Villiers and the Villains are (Facebook mentions Tony Villiers and no one else); but if they is good enough for my mate Willie Richardson in Northern Ireland, who went to the bother of sending me their album; then they is certainly good enough for the likes of you out there!
First of all the album title MUSIC CONFOUNDS THE MACHINE appealed to me before I’d even heard a note; but when the first weary chords and Villiers nasal drawl that open first track That 1979 Situation filled the RMHQ office; I immediately felt that I was in for a rare treat indeed.
Even before you get to the final track; the big sound that Villiers and the Villains produce belies them being a local band from Northern Ireland with day jobs to pay the bills.
Kingdom of Sin; which follows is another world weary yet even more atmospheric slice of cinematic Americana with some wonderful choral harmonies that drift in and out like a High Sierra breeze; and this Villiers talking Blues type story ain’t half bad too.
For a second album (?) there’s a lot going on here; with the band strolling in a 60’s Greenwich Village Folk Rock style on Down At Ellie Mays and Little Rhoda May; then they throw in a couple of toe tappin Blues numbers with the Van Morrison Street Choir era inspired Montpelier Hill and the 80’s issue love song Mexico which very nearly melts my heart every time I hear it.
Then there are the glorious Meat For The Dogs, and The Government Man Is Coming which together must be rip-roaring highlights of their shows and then there’s the magnificent Red Wine and Reefer sounds like a young Bob Dylan guesting with the Waterboys.
Villiers and the Villains manage to drop little musical time bombs left and centre here; with the gentle When My Heart Was Broke catching me unawares last night and then had me pressing ‘repeat’ five times in a row so I could savour every word and couplet; then this morning the quirky title track, the poem Music Confounds The Machines came into it’s own and stopped being a coda to Morrison’s Coney Island and took on a whole life of its own; as Villiers warm N’orn Irish brogue reminded me of the late lamented Bap Kennedy as much as it did Van the Man; and the gentle piano backing is just perfect for this delicately intense story.
I’ve very nearly changed my mind and made that song my Favourite Track here; perhaps I will tomorrow, but I’m going with my brain and not my heart and pointing you towards another Talking Blues, The Bubble Will Burst as the words alone are worthy of a much bigger audience than they will receive; as the clever production and Villiers incisive voice as he recites this bittersweet love song/poem will astound all who hear it.
Now I’ve played the album half a dozen times; I feel like crying. Not because it’s no good…….far, far from it my dear; this album is so good it would be hailed as a minor masterpiece by the National Press and magazine if Villiers and the Villains came from Arizona, Winnipeg or even Sarf Landin; but because they are from Northern Ireland and pretty much stay within the craggy Emerald Isle they will sadly go unheralded in the UK and more importantly the US of A who would lap up music like this should they get the opportunity to hear it.
Try it, buy it…….then thank me (and Willie!)

Released July 1st 2018


Milk Carton Kids….. All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do.

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Milk Carton Kids
All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do

An Exciting Turning Point in A Thoroughly Modern Musical Journey.

This is definitely The Milk Carton Kid’s edgiest album, while also being their most accessible. How does someone even attempt to pull that sort of thing off?
After first listening to this newest one, I went back and gave a re-listen to their previous albums in order to remind myself just how different this new one really is. Those earlier albums by the duo of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale all featured well-written, thoughtful songs, impeccably picked acoustic guitars, on the point, tight harmonies, clear production, and straight-forward arrangements. So what’s their latest album—the long and wonderfully titled, All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do—like?
Well let’s see: We get plenty of well-written, thoughtful songs, impeccably picked acoustic guitars, on the point, tight harmonies, clear production, and straight-forward arrangements of course; but there’s something else too.
After successfully self-producing their earlier albums, TMCK decided to do the unexpected and bring in singer-songwriter Joe Henry to refocus their thinking. A very wise move in my opinion.
The vocals now have a bit more separation in them, the guitars actually jump out of the speakers much more than they did previously, with more detail and focus. No subtle simplicities here. And yes, there’s drums, there’s keyboards, there’s bass guitar, pedal steel, and much more for the first time on a TMCK album.
Another thing that I noticed right away is how much Rock ‘n’ Roll there is in these songs too. And I’m not just referring to the excellent production but rather the songs themselves. I could pull out that oft-overused term “edgy” to describe these songs and I wouldn’t be wrong, but we need instead a term which imparts to us a deeper and more relevant meaning towards our understanding of this collection of songs.
These songs ‘move’, they ‘jump’, there’s even an intensity here that’s not just hyper-bluegrass or even upbeat country-folk. I know that TMCK think of themselves as folkies (or even anti-folkies) but deep down, this is Rock ‘n’ Roll, people. It definitely ain’t jazz. And those harmonies? Now they’re much closer to the Rock ‘n’ Roll of the Everly Brothers than the folk side of Simon and Garfunkel.
It’s nice and somewhat thrilling to hear the guys hoot and holler in “Big Time,” to hear those guitar runs on the solo section of the ten-minute “One More for the Road,” which goes to unexpected places without losing its thread, the fearless octave-shifting vocal on “You Break My Heart,” the nimble and stirring piano on “Nothing is Real,” the dark, mournful, and dizzying “Blindness.”
We get more of Ryan and Pattengale stretching out on these tunes, taking chances, paving new roads for themselves. This is what rock ‘n’ roll did in the early days, what it is supposed to do even now, but disappoints too often.
There’s layers of meaning in these songs, especially on the album’s centerpiece, “One More for the Road,” with its hypnotic stanzas and intertwining chromatic guitar solo which builds to a furious stomp before the tempo changes like a driver downshifting as he pulls off the interstate, perhaps to hit just one more bar before getting home.
Or—is he really trying to make it home?
Or is he attempting to delay the inevitable?
The lyrics leave it ambiguous but the darkness in those harmonies make me think the driver knows he’ll never making it home, he’ll be driving forever, trapped in a David Lynch film, a life of nighttime turnpikes and bars with greasy wooden walls and red neon and half-heard whispers. When that mesmerizing solo starts up you know you’re in for a ride, strapped tight, holding on, the trees like ghosts as they fly on past, speeding up and driving blind, white line fever is real and you’re okay with it. There are few signs on this road, just drizzling rain and darkened street lamps.
The song “Mourning in America,” with those dreamy harmonies and call and response guitar lines would have been my choice for the first single off this album, yet I’m glad they decided to release “One More for the Road” instead. Sometimes bands make an album that’s a turning point in their musical journey, and with TMCK’s All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do, it’s a journey I’m enjoying, and a roller-coaster ride I’m ready for.

Words and love by the Legendary Roy Peak esq.

Released 29th June 2018


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Daniel Meade
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

Nautical Theme FLOAT

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Nautical Theme

Duo Rock The Folk Out of Acoustic Music.

It’s been a busy few weeks inside and outside RMHQ so this new release from Tesia Mallory and Matt Shetler aka Nautical Theme from Dayton Ohio has sat inside the computer metaphorically ‘gathering dust’ until last Monday when I heard a track on Leader’s American Pie radio show and thought “that’s cool….I wonder who they are?” Only to realise the following day I already had the album…..DOH!
For a male/female duo they sure make a lot of noise on opening track Couldn’t Have Said; not White Stripes ‘noisy’ just powerful and loud; with Matt singing from the darkest recesses of his his lungs while Tesia provides cool tinkling on the piano and gorgeous harmonies.
Matt stays at the mic on the next song One Long Day and Night; a breathy and almost breathless road-trip of emotion and perhaps unrequited passion? A really punchy production matches the lyrics too, by the way.
Now I’ve mentioned them I can’t shake the White Stripes comparison, which is odd as Nautical Theme are a Folk duo; well Alt. Folk with a smattering of Indie Rock in the shadows if I’m being honest……I can’t imagine them singing the Wild Rover, that’s for sure.
Tesla gets to show what an emotional singer she is too, with the pair duetting in the old fashioned sense on Long Day and Night and Can’t You Just, two really intensely bittersweet love songs of immense proportions, baring in mind only two people are involved.
Primarily it’s Shetler who takes the lead and what a distinctive voice he has; as it soars and swoops like Charlie Brown’s kite on Wanted More and the powerful and profound Jump Out of the Water.
It’s difficult to imagine a duo recreating this ‘muscular sound’ on stage; but songs like the sensitive Have a Little Fun and What We Deserve may even benefit from an occasional ‘softening up’ but I do like the way both sound fiery and even angsty on this record.
For a couple of days I presumed that I would select one of two opening tracks as our ‘favourite track’ but earlier today the final track So Long Dear finally caught my attention and made me press ‘repeat’ three times so that I could wallow in the beauty of both voices intertwining on an almost evangelical acapella song, which is truly outstanding and therefore collects the RMHQ Favourite Track accolade.
Probably because FLOAT is an acoustic album it will be filed under Folk but there is so much more here that I could also be in the Indie, Alt. Rock and singer-songwriter sections of your local record store too.
I fervently stand by my White Stripes comparison but there are elements of Simon and Garfunkel, Little Big Town, Richard and Linda Thompson and even the Civil Wars here too; but Nautical Theme are very much Nautical Theme on their own terms, and should be very proud of this debut album and there will be a few headline acts that will regret booking them as a support, because they have the ability to blow a few bands off the stage,

Released April 20th 2018


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Matt McGinn
BinLid Records

Songs of Enlightenment For Days Like This.

I thought I had ‘my finger on the pulse’ of the current wave of singer-songwriters from Northern Ireland; but somehow Matt McGinn’s previous two albums have passed me by; but not so the likes of Bob Harris, Martin Chilton and RMHQ friends Malojian and Anthony Toner esq. who all rave about his work.

First of all the stark monotones of Matt McGinn walking through a forest on the album cover instantly caught my attention; and even though I didn’t have much time that first morning I slid the disc into the stereo and was astounded by the power of title track End Of The Common Man which opens the record. WOW….a big, big sound penetrated my ears as McGinn gives it his all on a Blue Collar epic that had and still has me clenching my fists as I listen to it; which is quite an achievement baring in mind how many songs try to get me to do this and fail miserably.
Baring in mind how I’ve just described that first track, the next one The Right Name follows in the same steps but sounds uncannily like Bob Seger’s Night Moves, but with added Belfast grit, edge and pedal-steel.
The ‘big sound’ that combines Folk-Rock, Blues and Celtic Soul pervades throughout the album with Out Sinner being a real 100mph foot-stomper that is sure to close the night when played live; but McGinn also has a sensitive Celtic Soul that comes through like a shroud of Irish linen on the fragile Marianne and haunting Medicine Joe with it’s wailing pedal-steel in the background and finger picked acoustic.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years about Northern Irish songwriters is how carefully they tread the political path; but McGinn shows very little restraint on the feisty Rocker…..Trump. Guess who that’s about? Yep; and while it’s not very subtle, it’s an absolute belter.
So, it’s ‘favourite song’ time…..not easy, not easy at all; but I will toss a coin between the Soulful and poetic album closer The End Of The Days and the spiky Celtic Rocker The Bells of the Angelus , with the coin probably coming down on the side of the latter with it’s crunchy guitars, Cyprus Avenue Big Band Revue and McGinn’s punchy voice winning the battle.
Even if I am late to the Matt McGinn party this album of Irish-American Bluesy Folk-Rock has definitely captured my heart and I doubt will ever be far from the office stereo in the next few months.

Released March 5th 2018




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Junior Johnson

Radio-Friendly Rootsy Singer-Songwriter.

It still amuses me how people stumble on our little website and it humbles me when they say nice things about us.
Such was the case with this new three track single from a friend of a friend in Northern Ireland who got in touch just ‘asking for our opinion’ on the music rather than ‘demanding a review’ then doing bugger all about promoting it; as several large PR Companies and Labels have done recently! Grrrrrr don’t get me started…..
Back to Junior Johnson…….
For a self-confessed ‘jobbing musician,’ although one who counts Shane McGowan and Henry McCullough as friends after supporting them on stage, the disc is exceptionally well packaged and; as is still important to me, would have caught my eye in a record shop.
The first song Kiss The Ones You Love may not be as ‘edgy’ as a lot of music I receive; but as it played through my headphones I looked across the room at Mrs. Magpie and thought “we don’t kiss as much as we should!” Junior’s song is quite complex at times; but also very easy on the ear, with some delightful guitar breaks and backing vocals that you could easily drown in.
Taking Too Long To Leave, which follows has the opening line “I haven’t got a pot to piss in/or a window to throw it out of/I’m just bumping my gums while twiddling my thumbs” now that’s an attention grabber; isn’t it? The song about a broken relationship had me holding my breath so as not to miss a word, as shimmering drums, a steel-guitar and some haunting backing vocals shadow Johnson’s sorrowful voice and sadly strummed guitar (if you can do such a thing.) Perhaps it’s just me; which I doubt; but this really does sound like ‘break-out’ song that is destined for National radio , North and South of the Irish Border and even across the Irish Sea.
The final song Born In The Wrong Time sounds like there’s a fascinating back story; but even without that knowledge Johnson cranks the volume up a little and adds some cracking electric piano from John McCullough alongside some stinging electric guitar on a nicely punchy soft-Rocker.
To some degree these three disparate songs are a fabulous showcase for a talented young man who is making a name for himself in his home market; and with only a little bit of luck hopefully someone influential will hear about him and a massive leap forward will be justified.

Released October 16th 2017

Robert Plant – CARRY FIRE

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Robert Plant
Nonesuch/Warner Bros.

Another Brooding and Thoughtful Masterclass From a True Rock God.

Unlike so many of his generation Robert Plant’s not content to rest on his laurels playing a festival here and there churning out the Led Zeppelin back catalogue ad infinitum; and raking in the cash.
Nope; this guy is one of the few who actually appears to enjoy music; and more importantly constantly re-inventing himself while discovering and playing new styles that interest and excite him.
Which brings us to CARRY FIRE his eleventh solo album; recorded and released after a career spanning 50 years and in the singer’s 70th year.
There’s no mistaking Plant’s distinctive voice on opening song The May Queen, another engrossing intertwining of British Folk with a smattering of Celtic and World music with a smidgen of Rock guitar hiding in the shadows too.
Stay with me here; as you’d expect the production values here are excellent…..but while always showcasing the singer’s amazing voice; it also allows each and every song to breathe and live its own life. A lesser producer would have got carried away with the epic Dance With You Tonight or even the title track Carry Fire, with it’s flaming flamenco guitar flourishes; but both songs become even more empowered by such restraint.
After 50 years in the music business Robert Plant has no right to sound this good and still have the power to surprise and even; dare I say it…..SHOCK. None too subtly Carving Up The World ……Against a Wall and Not a Fence is a powerful ‘political song’ masquerading as a cracking Folk-Rock stomper. Played loud it’s all too easy to get lost in Justin Adams and John Baggott’s liquid guitar duel; but listen to the words from the Sage and you will find yourself singing along and nodding in agreement (I hope) and then there is also the tightly wrapped New World, which deals with sorry subject of ‘people displacement’ across the globe; and it fits in perfectly with the tone of everything else here; but still sounds fresh and exciting while vaguely reminding me of Plant’s EP with the Honeydrippers. Which is never going to be a bad thing.
The first ‘teaser song’ released a few weeks ago was the 60’s flavoured Bones of Saints and nothing has diminished it’s physical phenomenon now it’s sitting alongside the other tracks on this album, and it still shows that the Old Dog can show the young pups plenty of new tricks.
Which all brings us around to my ‘favourite track’ and yet again; not easy at all. But…..I’m going for Heaven Sent, which closes the album and just shades it over the very contemporary Keep It Hid.
I was never really a fan of Led Zeppelin in my youth; and it’s fair to say I only really ‘discovered’ Robert Plant when he got together with Alison Krauss; and I’ve become ever more smitten with every release and CARRY FIRE has done nothing to diminish that flame.

Released October 13th 2017

Steve Winwood GREATEST HITS LIVE (2cd/4lp)

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Steve Winwood
Wincraft Records

A  Stunning 50 Year Retrospective From a True British Musical Legend.

Let me start by saying this only arrived two days ago as a ‘stream’ rather than a physical entity; so I haven’t really had time to immerse myself in the magic that is contained in these 23 career spanning songs; but that will come later, in my own time.
Such is my love for this man’s music it might even have been possible to actually review this release without listening to it (many others will!) but that would be doing Mr. Winwood and your good selves a huge disservice.
Listen indeed, I did last night; and I woke up this morning with a mash-up of these beautiful songs still playing inside my head….and now I can’t wait to tell you about it all.
Culled from Steve’s own collection of every live recording he’s ever played in (WOW) Disc #1 opens with a majestic interpretation of the MOD Classic I’m a Man; and like the original Mod Movement itself this version has a classy Jazz vibe to it with Steve showcasing his skills on the Hammond B3 for the first and not the last time -ion this awe inspiring set of songs.
Remember that these songs are taken from numerous different concerts of several years; so high praise must got to the backroom boys who have managed to blend everything seamlessly into one flowing ‘concert like’ experience
As you would expect all of the ‘Hits’ are here and time has certainly been kind to Find My Own Way Home and the 80’s Pop Hits Back In The High Life Again and Higher Love; which sound even better than I’d remembered from my Miami Vice days with a perm, moustache and my jacket sleeves rolled up.
In fairness those last two songs, stripped back of all their 80’s over-production they now have a Traffic like quality especially as they are placed in between two of my favourite songs of all time, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Dear Mr Fantasy; and they all fit together like a velvet jigsaw in this setting.
Disc #1 closes with another MOD Classic and RMHQ Party favourite Gimme Some Lovin’ and………remember, this song is 51 years old but has aged ever so gracefully in the hands of Little Stevie Winwood (as we once knew him).

Then, of course there is Disc #2!

This opens with the tragically beautiful Traffic song Rainmaker, and it’s the inclusion of album tracks like this and Pearly Queen which follows that really showcase Winwood’s genius and that of his fellow band members in Traffic, because these songs as well as the more famous ones sound as contemporary today as they did when they first blew our minds 50 years ago……yes…..that is HALF A CENTURY kids!
To some degree I think it is also incredibly brave of Steve to include songs like 40,000 Headmen (I still have the original single btw), the nod towards Folk Rock John Barleycorn Must Die (I never liked the original….but this version is lovely) and the psycho-babble of Medicated Goo; but it wouldn’t be a real Stevie Winwood retrospective without them, would it?
It’s fascinating to see how the double album/CD actually closes as John Barleycorn bleeds into his first solo hit, While You See a Chance, then another personal RMHQ favourite, the Arc of a Diver, the 1986 single Freedom Overspill and everything is wrapped up with a very soulful rendition of Roll With It and it all works like a well oiled machine.
Aha……’favourite song’ time; my gut reaction was to pick one of the popular songs from my youth, and there are plenty to pick from; but I’ve decided on a bit of a rarity as I had totally forgot about it; and it was not only wonderful when I first heard it as track #1 on the Blind Faith LP, but Steve Winwood’s voice, which has no right to sound this good after all of these years and his Hammond playing sounds as good and inventive on this version of Had To Cry Today, as he does on anything else and he sings it from the very pits of his Soul. So that’s what I’m going for.
All snapshots in their respective time, but given a whole new lease of life here, and all of these magical songs go together to help tell the Steve Winwood story.
Stevie Winwood, huh? History will show that he was there and a key player and even instigator in several very different, but key parts of the Popular Music Story, from the Dawn of Mod and British R&B in the early 1960’s with the Spencer Davis Group, then with Traffic he helped invent Psychedelia which begat Prog and later Folk-Rock, then in Blind Faith he helped evolve British Rock into a more melodious arena, then he re-invented himself for the MTV Generation as a classy solo artiste, and in recent years as this double album proves, he has shown what a brilliant musician he is by pulling all of that together with ease, grace and more than a little bit of class.
Now, when can we expect a Knighthood?

PS. Did I ever tell you that I met him once in a shop in Cheltenham. Lovely bloke too.

Released September 1st 2017

(Martin Stephenson and) The Daintees – BAYSWATER ROAD


(Martin Stephenson and) The Daintees
Lilac Tree Records.

The Bard of Brady Square Blows The Boat to Bolivia Out of the Water!

I’m sure Martin G Stephenson, of this parish has some weird form of Musical Tourrettes; as the ideas just spring forth from his over active imagination and he can’t stop himself recording them. Over the past few years he has hardly finished recording one album when his is back in a studio recording something completely different, but just as relevant and of an equally high quality as when he was a young poppet singing on Top of the Pops.
Don’t let the next few paragraphs put you off buying this wonderful disc; as what I’m going to say doesn’t necessarily make sense when written down; but fans of Martin already know that in advance, don’t you?
BAYSWATER ROAD is a quintessential Martin Stephenson record, with a toe-tapping old school Rock n Roller called The Whisky opening proceedings; and Martin’s clever way with words not only extols the virtues of the amber nectar but as he so eloquently puts it;

“The Whisky, will surely beat you
Take away your heart and steal your home
Make you raise your voice to women and children

Turn you a Hydish creature left to roam
For the Whisky is a whore she’s a deep dark medicine”

Ain’t that the truth brothers and sisters?
The title track Bayswater Road; a love song to that once Bohemian centre of London Town follows in quirky pub sing-along style with John Trier providing some lovely barrel-house piano in the background.
As I alluded to earlier, music of all varieties must spin around in that head of his; how else could you explain the groovy Bossa Nova beat to High Sierra Snow? But Bossa Nova it undoubtedly is and somehow this head mix of Bert Kampfaert, The Surfaris and Cliff Richard couldn’t sound any-more up to date and Classic Daintees if it tried!!
Just as your head is coming to terms with that lovely song it leads into…….a Gospel Song; honestly and it’s wonderful. If I’m not mistaken Martin Stephenson has slipped in a sneaky subversive ‘political’ song of ‘hope’ in a way that will have us singing along and raising our arms to Heaven without realising what Lord Lead Us is actually about….or I could be wrong and it is just a glorious Sunday Morning song after all.
This in turn bleeds into Every Kind of Heaven which is pure 60’s Folk innocence and alongside the jingle-jangle guitars of Shoot are the only songs that sound like the original Daintees did way back when.
There have been a lot of strong women in Martin’s life and many are heralded in song; and in this case Elaine, the sadly departed wife of bass player Chris Mordey is beautifully celebrated in song and will not only stop you in your tracks but quite possibly stop you breathing for a moment or two when you hear it the first time. The story and intimate detail provided is pure dead brilliant; if I may say so.
Just like every other Martin Stephenson and/or The Daintees album I own there are surprises around every corner and each one is a delight; especially the poetic She Rides Horses which closes the record; but my ears keep being drawn back to two special ones over and over again.
So the title of ‘favourite’ is a tie between two lovely love songs; Secret Crush sweeps us back in time to the early to mid sixties with the band sounding uncommonly like the Shadows (take a bow Mr. Steel) and tonight………Martin is …..Billy Fury!
The other just might…..and I don’t say this lightly just might be one of the finest songs Martin has ever recorded. Thorn For a Rose is a beautiful, raw tearjerker of the highest quality; with harmonies and Neil Morrison’s bittersweet fiddle playing would bring a tear to a glass eye; even without the poignancy of the lyrics. 10/10 young man.
That gloriously perky and lived in voice of Martin Stephenson is more than complimented throughout by the rock solid bass playing of Christopher Mordey, sizzling guitar from John Steel esq. and tip-top drumming from the delightful Ms Kate Stephenson.

Released 28th July 2017


Holy Moly and the Crackers – SALEM

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Holy Moly and the Crackers
Pink Lane Records

Frighteningly Exciting Gothic Folk Rock!

It was on a sunny Saturday afternoon at SummerTyne Festival in 2011, when I first fell in love with Holy Moly and the Crackers as they stole the show with a performance akin to bands like the Pogues or The Men They Couldn’t Hang that I grew up with.
Over the next couple of years they released a cool EP (Lilly) and a blazing album and I lost count of the number of times I saw the perky quartet play; occasionally augmented by mates on a variety of instruments to beef up the songs and; just because they felt like it some nights. One thing is for sure; they never stood still and always pushed their boundaries….in a good way.
But……absolutely nothing before has prepared me for THIS.
Amazingly, the title track Salem, which opens the record features (stars?) Ruth Patterson singing a very dark tale based on the Salem Witch Trials set to what can only be described as a punchy chamber orchestra and ……wow….and….. DOUBLE WOW!
This is followed by Cold Comfort Lane, a really punchy ’60s influenced hard edged piece of demonic psychedelia; again with Ruth Lyon at the forefront.
Who knew Ruth had such a powerful voice? I did. Honestly, I always thought she was cruelly underused on that front, as her voice was almost velvety smooth and a great counterpoint for Conrad Bird, the band’s traditional #1 singer. But even I didn’t think she was ‘this good’.
Conrad only makes his first appearance on the vocal front on track #3 Hallelujah, Amen and his rich baritone takes us into Alex Harvey and Wily Bo territory on this and the rocktastic Hippitty-Hop of Mary which follows. Play both as loud as possible for the best effect btw.
I’m not going to describe each individual song for you; as that will spoil the joyous surprise that faces you when you buy SALEM; and you will… must.
By no stretch of the imagination is this album just about the singers Ruth and Conrad; as to make music of this outstanding quality it takes a collective and an honourable mention must go to the shyest woman in Rock and Roll, Rosie Bristow for her judicial use of accordion throughout and drummer Tommy Evans whose ‘Ringo Starr on steroids’ style provides a spine for everyone else to play off and around.
There are a couple of other songs I must point you in the direction of too; Conrad exuding the delights and dangers of Sugar on the song of the same title; the sexy gypsy jazz-folk of Easy as the Sunrise and the atmospherically sweeping ballad Yours to Keep which closes the album, spring to mind; but by far and away my ‘favourite’ track is Woman From Spain which sounded great the first time I heard it; then on the second play I had to do a double take and go back to the beginning as I couldn’t believe my ears. But yes sirree Bob, Ruth Lyon, the saucy minx really is singing about a torrid sapphic holiday love affair and the band let rip in suitable style behind her too.
In theory none of this should work, but the band threw caution to the wind by raising funds to record SALEM in London Town under the guidance of producer Matt Terry, engineer Gethin Pearson and then getting everything mastered by Nigel Watson who combined have a track record as long as your arm; and collectively have managed to get the sounds that have been bouncing around the bands heads actually down on disc in a way these crazy kids could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.
In this day and age I’m staggered that a band can still be prepared to take risks with their music; as that is what Holy Moly and the Crackers have done here, and they just may have tapped into a whole new magical formula that will win them legions of fans across Europe in a way that their previous ‘good time’ show couldn’t.
Released 14th July 2017