Benjamin Folke Thomas MODERN MAN

ben folke thomas ab

Benjamin Folke Thomas
Aveline Records

The Missing Articulate Link Between Cohen and Cobain.

A few days ago I got involved in a futile discussion a friend who was really excited at the prospect of a new Mumford & Sons album because in his opinion, ‘the state of music these days is rubbish’ and ‘there being nothing interesting out there these days’.
I got in my car and played this album…… and contritely grinned my way home thinking “you don’t know what you’re missing matey!”
He’s been around for a while now; but Ben Folke Thomas only came to my attention (and most other people”s) with his Copenhagen album last year; and I still chuckle at the thought of his ‘Live’ album earlier this year too.
I won’t go into his back story again; but for a young man born on a remote island off the coast of Sweden he sure can make Folk music that defies musical boundaries and natural boundaries.
First and foremost he’s a story teller masquerading as a singer-songwriter that ploughs his own furrow; regardless of what everyone else is doing around him. And for that; you have to admire him.
Using his full band and blasting through this recording in only two days; you can sense the excitement and even freshness right from the first song, the acutely observant Tasteless & Complacent which has some cool backing singers doing ‘woo hoos’ and a lush melody disguising some very sharp lyrics; which won’t surprise existing fans in the slightest.
Thomas chose to write these songs around a piano, rather than his guitar; and the delicate and spellbinding second track One Day still revolves around that beautiful instrument and will make any other songwriter hearing it sit up and listen; then let out a big sigh as Thomas recalls his early life and dreams playing for free, in a smoky bar.
I rad a lot of bios that list an artistes ‘inspirations’ and usually just shake my head as they try to appear ‘cool’ for the sake of being ‘cool’; but in this instance you can definitely hear the intensiveness of Nirvana coupled to the wordplay of Leonard Cohen weaving their way through Dead Horizon and the punchy poetry of Some People; but it’s that modern twist on Punky-Folk Rock that makes this album special.
Ben’s subject matter is left of centre; yet somehow he reels you into songs like Modern Man with ease; even if you can’t decide if it’s a tale of unrequited love or stalking; but sometimes the difference can be quite blurred, as the narrator finds out.
Then, of course there has to be a Favourite RMHQ song; and finding a genuine ‘winner’ is very nearly impossible; as you too will find when you hear Lily Is a Gunslinger the first time and the subject matter and the ethereal way Thomas deals with it makes your jaw fall open in awe; then there is the ultimate ‘break up song’ One More Chance with the clever and observational Cohenesque chorus:
“I said Hey Baby
Excuse my inability to dance
That I make you cry more than I make you laugh
That the next beer I drink won’t be my last
Oh come on now
Baby give me one more chance.”

But I’m probably going for a song about Ben meeting Paul Newman in a dream. Nope; I’m not telling you any more about it; as it wouldn’t make sense….. it is a dream after all, but it’s a genuine thing of rare beauty and so articulate it should be used in educational programmes!
Ben Folke Thomas certainly won’t be for everyone that’s for sure; but if you like eloquent, often poetic observational songs about the human condition; but from the left of centre (think Cohen, Dylan, Cobain, Olney, Lucinda and probably even Ryan Adams) that  make you ‘think’; then you will eventually learn to love this album every bit as much as I have done.

Released November 9th 2018


Martin Stephenson & The Daintees GLADSOME, HUMOUR & BLUE

mgs gladsome ax 2018

Martin Stephenson & The Daintees
Barbaraville Records

The Bard of Geordieland Still Sounds Fresh and Thought-Provoking After 30 Years.

If you don’t already know the work of Martin George Stephenson you should be damn near ashamed to call yourself a music fan!
OOPS! Did I just say that out loud? Well; if I did it’s because that’s how I feel about the man and his music.
I once described the second most famous musician to come from Washington as having ‘Musical Tourette’s’ such is the way he keeps releasing albums; and the standard is always exceptionally high too, by the way; which in a roundabout way bring us to this his glorious reworking of his second ever album from 1988 and (bizarrely) the only one to chart in the Top 40….. who knew?
The almost legendary Comes A Time opens events like a an exhausted battle-cry; originally for the disaffected youth of the late Eighties; but one that still resonates today for those very same people, who are now in their fifties but with similar worries and more.
Another crowd favourite that has stood the test of time Slaughterman follows; and yet again Martin’s clever way with words and metaphors sound even more apt today; as we are all older, wiser and probably a lot more cynical; nodding our heads as he softly growls –
“Like some hot dog seller sitting in a stand,
You’ve a nerve to criticize while you sit inside your cage,
Like some Turkey paying homage to the slaughter man”.
Thirty years on; surely this is as apt a description of the British public facing an unsure future after Brexit; or even the world sitting waiting to see what Trump and/or Putin will do next?
As someone who couldn’t afford to buy the original LP; the next few songs are brand new to me and each one shows what an insightful and staggeringly intelligent songwriter he was at such a young age; but the new treatments also highlight what great musicians Stephenson MG, Steel, Mordey and Stephenson K. have all evolved into; even though the most famous Daintees formation never actually played on the original! (Apart from Stephenson MG of course).
The Wait finds Martin at his Folksiest; and the romantic waltz like I Can See now revolves around Chris Mordey’s hypnotic bass playing and Kate’s oh so deceptively clever drumming.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Martin play live and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Even The Night before; and that just goes to show what an amazing back catalogue he has; if such a diamond can remain in his musical shadows until now.
Oh Lordy, Lord…… I did know Goodbye John before but never in this format. Martin tells the sad story in his charming native tongue; half talking and half singing as John Steel sets your hair on edge with his Hank B Marvinesque guitar playing in the background. #SHIVER
I thought choosing a Favourite Track would have proved much easier than it actually has been; as the new warn and occasionally spine tingling production on a favourite for 30 years Wholly Humble Heart was a shoe-in surely, and as for Me & Matthew, it still brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it (and that’s a lot), and then there’s Nancy of course which always reminds me of…… never mind, my heart beat a little bit faster when I played this last week is all you need to know!
No sirree; I’m going to go for one of the songs that are brand new to me; possibly one of the two songs that tenuously deal with Religion; the delicate love song I Pray or Old Church which is another beauty that has been kept hidden from me for 30 years; and when you hear it you won’t believe that he was only 24 when he wrote these very deep lyrics which (again) sound like they could have been written last month!
But……cue drum roll from Kate……. The RMHQ Favourite Song here is…… the class, hard-hitting, dancetastic and also the nearest thing to seeing Martin G Stephenson in concert you will ever hear from a studio album; Get, Get Gone which closes the album and comfortably straddles the Folk-Rock and Americana spheres that he has unknowingly introduced several generations too without knowing it!
Whoever you are and whatever music you like, there is something here to make you think about, smile at or just plainly enjoy!

Released November 23rd 2018

Paul Kelly NATURE

paul kelly Nature b c

Paul Kelly
EMI Australia

Engrossing and Totally Captivating Concept Album (of sorts).

Only a couple of years ago I’d never heard of Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly; but after immersing myself in his last three releases and now NATURE I can fully understand why he has ‘legendary’ status in his home land; and is a Multi-Award winner too.
This album is a bit of left of centre challenge for everyone concerned; including his fans, as it revolves around a number of poems that Kelly has set to music, which could all have gone horribly wrong in lesser hands.
Fear not; as Kelly’s almost soft-rock treatment of Dylan Thomas’s And Death Shall Have No Dominion sounds uncannily like Bob Dylan (if His Bobness actually had a warmth and depth to his singing!) and sets the tone for a startling album that lies ahead.
The electric guitars stay around for Kelly’s own For The One I Love, which has a ‘woo-hoo’ chorus and some delectable harmonies from the female backing singers.
The balance of songs/poems is exceptional as Kelly explores ‘NATURE’ in all its glory and from many different viewpoints.
Kelly’s adaptation of Walt Whitman’s With Animals has a dark, almost Native American melody to it which gives it a deep and perhaps even hypnotic effect which deserves utmost reverence when listening.
While the overall effect is totally engrossing; I was surprised to discover how short each individual track is; with only the glorious Bound To Follow coming in at over four minutes long; and that’s not even noticeable as every single song here bleeds into the next one to create something of (dare I say it?) …….. a Folk-Rock Opera; but without the self-centredness normally associated with such productions.
As a non-musician I’m never failed to be impressed when someone like Paul Kelly can find a work like Phillip Larkin’s The Trees which bored me rigid 45 years ago when I was at school; and have the imagination to turn it into a beautiful and engrossing multi-layered song that we have here!
It’s a similar story with Mushrooms, a Sylvia Plath poem which would normally be associated with fragile young things that sit poring over the words in a darkened room; but here I was left open mouthed at the beauty of the words and the gently introspective way Kelly and Friends wrap them up in delicate musical notes.
Just like the album the concept of NATURE in real life, is made up of many and varied particles and just when you think it’s a beautiful ‘thing’ along comes a prickly thorn to test your resolve; and here it’s A Bastard Like Me (for Charlie Perkins); which takes us on a dangerous road trip that we never expected; but it’s harshness (based on a real life story) helps us appreciate the beauty that surrounds it and us in life and on record.
Selecting a single song as a ‘Favourite’ is not really fair as Kelly has created a Masterwork that deserves and needs to be heard as a complete ‘piece’ (and if I’m not mistaken from the production; is also designed for 180 gram vinyl; but I could be wrong.) but, as is my won’t I will point you towards Paul Kelly’s The River Song, which features the Acacia String Quartet, a piano and a double bass with Kelly’s rich Australian voice never sounding better or indeed more expressive.
While the subject matter of the poems/songs here can be dark at time; ‘NATURE’ isn’t always about ‘smelling the rose, is it? And poetry itself can be quite deep and inaccessible at times; but Paul Kelly has managed to pull off a master stroke here; by not making a ‘preachy’ album; but one that is beautiful and engrossing; with numerous hidden messages that just might seep into tired old subconscious’s like mine.

Released October 12th 2018




villiers d

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


ginger d

Ginger Wildheart
Graphite Records

Brutally Honest and Raw Songs about Love, Heartbreak and Depression.

#For reasons I won’t go into…..if you are reading this please leave a short comment (anything) at the end.

I suppose an apology is in order here; as while I’ve had a download of this album for ages I’ve not actually heard it until yesterday, as I’ve been waiting for the CD and Press Release to arrive. Hopefully that doesn’t make me sound precious; but it can be difficult keeping up to date with albums on the modern medium without having a CD cover to remind me about it.
The ‘reminder’ has come every day for weeks because the ‘Exclusive video’ we posted of the single Paying It Forward is still getting viewed several times every single day!
So; what’s all the fuss about?
Ginger Wildheart has been around the British Music Scene for aeons and apart from his earlies incantation as guitarist in the Quireboys has mostly passed me by; apart from us having a couple of mutual friends in the NE (and America).
The Daylight Hotel opens proceedings and it’s immediately evident that there won’t be many laughs here on in; as this really punchy Rocker has a powerful story to it; dealing with depression of the manic variety in a very eloquent manner, and that taboo theme carries on through a lot of what follows.
In a lot of ways this is a very brave record for the Singer-Guitarist to release as the songs all appear deeply personal and judging by his Social Media feeds often autobiographical too.
Phantom Memories is a prime example and manages to not just scare the pants off the listener but make them sympathetic to to the singers plight too; which is quite some achievement.
Ginger takes us on a journey that includes the classy British Folk-Rockers The Words Are Gonna Have To Wait and the bittersweet Minus You with the more traditional end of the Folk spectrum with Just a Few Old Memories; as well as songs I would normally associate with old-school bedsit singer-songwriters; the intimate Has She Got a Friend For Me.
While some songs here are more commercial than others and a few are actually ‘radio friendly’ I’ve gone left of centre for my ‘Favourite Track’…….The Reaper is a modern take on a traditional Gothic Folk theme; ‘death becomes us all’ but listen intently to Wildheart’s intimate words before you dance around and scream them out loud at a Festival or Club gig; they will send a shiver down your spine and back up the other side!
An early title contender was Don’t Say Goodbye; another articulate heartbreaker that belies the Geordie Lads Punk and Hard Rock background; this fella can write a love song that can turn the world on its head when he tries.
Even though I loved the message and story behind the single Passing It Forward and its punchy Folk-Rock melody, it still didn’t prepare me for Wildheart’s total soul baring and genuine love of Folk Music; which is all prevalent throughout this raw and at times brutally honest album; making it a ‘must have’ for anyone you know who has any form of mental health problems, no matter how big or small……these songs will let them know they are not alone.

Released March 2nd 2018

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

milk carton kids c

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


daniel meade 01

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

nautical theme 1

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


matt mcginn

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




junior j

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