Junior Johnson – COULDA DONE BETTER

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Junior Johnson
COULDA DONE BETTER
Self-Release

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
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Ciara Sidine – UNBROKEN LINE

ciara sidine

Ciara Sidine
UNBROKEN LINE
Self-Release

Warm, Evocative and Thought Provoking Inter-crossed Celtic-Americana.

While I can’t actually find any record of Ciara Sidine’s 2011 debut album SHADOW ROAD SHINING in any of my files or even my CD Collection (it doesn’t actually have a filing system) but I certainly recognised both her name and her warmly expressive voice; so I guess I reviewed it for a certain UK Magazine and the CD will turn up when I least expect it.
So; with no real reference point I will treat this album as a completely new ‘find’ and what a ‘find’ it is!
As per usual I will begin at the beginning, track #1 Finest Flower. PHEW! My first thoughts were how much Ciara reminded me of a young Joan Baez or Linda Ronstadt the way she phrases her words and sings them in a breathy fashion. Then the more I’ve listened the more the song unravels, and the thorny topic of Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes is worthy of Joan herself; had she been from Ireland.
Some artistes get a bit arsey when reviewers constantly draw comparisons; but as a ‘seller of their works’ I feel it is my duty to let the readers know what to expect, which is why I have to say the gutsy and passionate 2 Hard 2 Get 2 Heaven has a golden thread that leads back to Sinead O’Connor’s first album; but Ciara’s distinctive voice and exquisite songwriting skills actually makes that comparison futile with hindsight.
UNBROKEN LINE will undoubtedly be filed under ‘Folk’ in record shops; but Ciara Sidine can’t be pigeon-holed so easily; as she is an old-fashioned singer-songwriter who changes course like the wind and lets the song choose it’s own expressive style; with the lovely Watching The Dark and the spine tingling Trouble Come Find Me both being a bit of a late night Jazzy/Blues hybrid and perfect for anyone with a broken heart.
What I particularly like about this album; is the way Ciara’s expressive voice draws you into her stories; so much so that I defy you to try to listen to this as background music (as I did), because you will find yourself stopping whatever you are doing and cocking your head towards the speakers so you don’t miss a word of songs like Unbroken Line and the staggeringly dark tale Let The Rain Fall (which is a song Sinead O’Connor must wish she could have written!).

If you are ever lucky enough to hear the title track Unbroken Line on the radio it will make you do a double-take; as it sounds like the sort of Americana/Country Rock song you’ve heard before but actually haven’t.
On an album chock-full of richly crafted and exceptionally well written songs; two stood out the first time I played them and made me call Mrs. Magpie into the room to hear them. Lemme Drive Your Train is a subtly sassy love song from the point of view of a feisty young woman, and Woman of Constant Sorrow is Ciara’s reworking of that Country Folk standard; and the way she pours her heart and soul into her vocal performance; and the restrained elegance of her band makes it as exciting as any version I’ve ever heard in 40 odd years, therefore giving it the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song.
Although Ciara Sidine’s name is on the album cover; this is actually a ‘band effort’ and couldn’t and wouldn’t have sounded half as good without the aid of Conor Brady’s liquid and lissome guitar playing; Robbie Malone’s subtle bass playing; Justin Carroll’s haunting keyboards and the jazz-lite drumming of Dave Hingerty all sitting in the shadows as the singer shines in the spotlight.

Released October 6th 2017
https://www.ciarasidine.com/

Richard Thompson ACOUSTIC RARITIES.

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Richard Thompson
Acoustic Rarities.

Beeswing/Proper.

There will no doubt be reviews that draw the analogy between Richard Thompson’s release schedule and that of waiting for a bus, although in this case, it’s not two come along at once but three. This release though is for the uber-fan, brimming with unreleased tracks, those that bemoaned the first two Acoustic releases as being short of ‘wow’ will be cheered by Rarities.
Speaking of the unreleased tracks, there are 6 included here, all recorded afresh for this album ahead of his tour starting in Brighton (the very venue that I first marvelled at Rory Gallagher) and finishing up with a sold-out date at the London Bridge Theatre at the end of October.
The first of the unreleased tracks, What If, kicks off the album and for the life of me I can’t understand why a song with a chorus that includes the lines “What if I’m cool and you’re deluded, what if I’m hip and you’re excluded” hasn’t made it to an album release before. There’s even a reference to a ‘fat man in a thong’, and it works. It’s just the line most of us think of as a cutting riposte ten minutes after the intended victim has walked away.
They Tore the Hippodrome Down is a reflection upon returning to somewhere you once knew only to find the landscape changed and the landmarks of your youth have been replaced by a supermarket/car park/fast food joint. I couldn’t help thinking of The Kinks’ Come Dancing as it managed to evoke exactly the same kind of feeling of change and loss.
The Poor Ditching Boy is one of the tracks that the savvy fan will recognise as from 1972’s Henry the Human Fly although it took me a couple of listens before I realised why it sounded familiar. A punchy accompaniment from (possibly) a 12-string acoustic lifts the song and will probably generate a whole new bunch of fans on this outing alone.
There are a couple of tracks rerecorded that were previously covers, Seven Brothers that had been covered by Blair Dunlop and Rainbow Over the Hill that you may have heard from the Albion Band.
Given RT’s storming Cropredy appearance and with the man being on something of a roll, I would urge you to do almost anything short of requiring a court appearance to get a ticket to one of his shows.

Review courtesy our mate Tony Pearce.

Released October 13th 2017

http://www.richardthompson-music.com/acoustic-classics-ii/

 

 

Findlay Napier – GLASGOW

Findlay Napier

Findlay Napier
GLASGOW
Cherrygroove Records

It’s Folk Jim; But Not As We Know It!

This review will have to be released under the cover of darkness, as friends and associates know of my sociopathic hatred of Folk Music……..unless it’s Very Good Folk Music; and my friends……this is much better than very good!
First of all the cover is bloody excellent using Bruce Depardon’s juxtaposition of two young kids blowing bright pink bubblegum bubbles against a mono backdrop sums up the mix of music held within…..funny that, don’t you think?
I knew I wasn’t listening to any old ‘finger in the ear’ Sea-Shanty Folk Music within a minute of hearing Folk Singer, Bon Viveur, Comedian and all around entertainer Findlay Napier’s opening track Young Goths in the Necropolis. A darkly beautiful tale of unrequited love between two teenage outsiders who hang out in the iconic Cemetery that welcomes visitors from the East to dear old Glasgow Town.
Napier’s way with words and rye wit come through in every couplet and line; and his attention to detail; much of which will be lost on people who don’t know this great City is astounding.
As a Master Craftsman singer-songwriter himself, Boo Hewerdine’s simple and delicate production highlights the tones in Napier’s rich brogue and gives an extra special tone to his gorgeous rendition of the Blue Nile’s Walk Across The Rooftops and later too on his own delightful tale of infidelity, Locarno, Sauchihall St. (1928).
While not from Glasgow itself, Napier has fallen in love with the city, and that comes across so well in the odes to the famous Clyde shipyards of old; There’s More To Building Ships and Wire Burners; which cleverly combines another tale of unrequited love, with a nostalgic look back on time long lost in history.
I’d not heard it before, but now absolutely love Napier’s quirky take on Michael Marra’s King Kong’s Visit To Glasgow (which takes a cheeky swipe at the Mighty Glasgow Rangers Football Club).
I’ve been in love with this fair city myself since 1970 when my big brother celebrated his 21st Birthday there and brought me back a Rangers supporters scarf, and I’ve visited many times in the intervening years for romantic holidays and many football games, so the opening line of “Streets get ready for another fight/between the boys in Blue and Green White/and they sing along to the same old songs/Saying one is right and the other wrong,” made me smile and sigh at the same time.
Napier then goes on to give us another droll and richly observant view of a Saturday night on match day. Don’t expect a sing-along Andy Stewart ditty; these words are from a man who actually lives and works among these people and probably counts many as friends; so can’t understand why they take this stance twice or thrice a year when the respective teams meet each other.
Another potential favourite was legendary Scottish Story Teller Hamish Imlach’s Cod Liver Oil and Orange Juice; sung in the local lingo with loads of words and descriptions from the ‘Weegie Dictionary and hardly recognisable as far East as Edinburgh…..and the world is a whole lot better for this song’s inclusion.
The album closes with Napier taking on the role of a Pub Crooner for the twee bittersweet love song Blue Lagoon. The way he describes falling in love while a gentle piano plays in the background masks the fact that the Blue Lagoon isn’t a cool cocktail bar; but a rather famous fish and chip shop!
What more can I say? I have enjoyed this paean to my own Second Favourite City far more than I ever thought that I would (or even could)……it’s Folk Jim……but not as you know it.

Released October 13th 2017
http://www.findlaynapier.com/

 

The Young ‘Uns STRANGERS

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The Young ‘Uns
STRANGERS

Magnificent Folk Songs For Wayfaring Strangers.

Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hedges are The Young ‘Uns and, if they’re new to you they’re not unknown to crowds of folk fans. Personally, I could never get past the name but that’s my problem. This is folk with a capital F. The band have achieved considerable success since their beginnings in Stockton Folk Club, indeed, they’ve played to a packed Albert Hall in London.
Not bad for a bunch of lads from the North East. There’s more to them than just sweet harmonies. They have a stinging wit that shows through in some of their self-penned tunes as well as their between song banter on stage.
The album kicks off with A Place Called England, the only tune not written by Sean Cooney. An acapella paen to an England of long ago. There’s mention of the meadow and retail parks and the inevitable dig at the ‘rich landowner who can stay in the Virgin Isles’.
Although their publicity hints at traditional folk songs with a modern twist the album leaves you with the feeling that success, at any level, isn’t as virtuous as a life of struggle.
Ghafoor’s Bus is another acapella track. The harmonies don’t falter from track to track but I couldn’t help wonder what this particular track would sound like with an accompaniment.
It’s not all acapella, Be The Man sets out with an acoustic guitar under a solo vocal and builds into strings and horns backing. It still sounds, to these ears, like a lyric desperately hunting for a tune. Not one that you’d be whistling after the first hearing.
Carriage 12 took me several listening’s to realise it was, amongst other things, about the Thalys terrorist attack on the train in France. I guess in 20 years’ time the mix of traditional harmonies with subject matter ranging from Syrian refugees to Gay Rights will seem perfectly normal. I find it a little incongruous to mix unaccompanied voices with modern politics. It’s not the subject matter, folk has championed the underdog for as long as songs were being recorded in Sussex.
Dark Water feels like another song in need of a more memorable tune. They’re backed by more young musicians, this time from Aldeburgh.
Bound to be a hit with the folk crowd.

Courtesy Guest Reviewer Tony Pearce

Released 29th September 2017
http://www.theyounguns.co.uk/

Bruce Cockburn – BONE ON BONE

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Bruce Cockburn
BONE ON BONE
True North Records

Legendary Canadian Songwriter Ups the Ante Again.

Bruce Cockburn? This is his 33rd album since 1970, yet his first in 7 years and a multi-Multi-Award winner but could probably walk unnoticed down most streets in his home country of Canada. That said his fans around the world do pore over his every release like Dylanaholics.
Even though I own three previous releases, strangely this is the first album of his that I’ve ever reviewed.
The passionately poetic States I’m In opens the album and sets the tone for what is to follow quite perfectly. Cockburn’s voice sounds slightly weary but with fire around the edges as the band create a claustrophobic atmosphere that will make your chest tighten.
While it shouldn’t be a surprise Cockburn follows this with a real punchy Folk song, Stab at Matter which features, and not for the time here, some sublime guitar and slide playing.
As a Master Craftsman Cockburn appreciates and studies other wordsmiths in his spare time, which has spawned 3 Al Purdys a re-imagining of ‘a homeless man ranting and reciting the acclaimed Canadian Poet’s works on the streets.’
‘Stunning’ and ‘brilliant’ spring to mind when I heard it the first time, and I still feel the same way about the song now.
Another couple of songs that instantly caught my attention were Jesus Train; a non-preachy song about the singer’s love of Jesus alongside Twelve Gates To The City which has a Southern Baptist feel to it; both coming from Cockburn’s Spiritual Beliefs.
I’d forgotten what an expressive voice Bruce Cockburn has; and his skilled storytelling combine perfectly on the two songs that vie for the title of ‘Favourite Track’. Cafe Society has a sort of smoky Parisian swing to it, and appeals as Cockburn very subtly hits the nail on the head of the minutiae in a world I inhabit myself; gossiping, bitching, politicking and generally putting the world to rights over a Cappuccino or Americano or two for hours on end.
The other, a traditional slice of beautiful Canadiacana; Forty Years in the Wilderness is probably a self-portrait of the artist himself; but felt like a punch on the nose as he could have been talking about me too; and I feel plenty of other listeners will feel exactly the same way about this clever and literate song.
After all of these years Bruce Cockburn doesn’t deserve the likes of me making comparisons; but his other albums are filed alongside David Olney, John Martyn and Bap Kennedy in my collection.

Released September 15th 2017

http://brucecockburn.com/

 

The Orphan Brigade – HEART OF THE CAVE

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The Orphan Brigade
HEART OF THE CAVE
At The Helm Records

Beauteous Collection of Mystical and Mysterious Songs and Stories.

A month or so back a friend of Ben Glover’s sent me a download of this album and I only got to play the first 3 or 4 songs before moving on to more pressing reviews.
Two weeks afterwards I was sitting in the living room reading and listening to my iPhone on shuffle when a track called The Birds Are Silent came on. I sort of recognised the voice so was looking at the track listing when the Postman knocked on the door with a pile of packets (CDs) for me. The first one I opened was……this actual album. Serendipity?
So now it behoves me to tell you why the fates were making me listen, love and review Heart Of The Cave.
Baring in mind the amount of people involved with The Orphan Brigade the end result isn’t like anything I’ve ever heard from any of them before, although it’s actually their second release…..and that’s a good thing; as I like musicians to occasionally challenge themselves and take risks.
The opening track Pile of Bones has an almost Native American music about before seamlessly sliding into a Celtic melody behind some luscious harmonies on a mystical introduction to the story.
Town of 100 Churches follows, and alongside the next song Osimo (Come to life) are more what I was expecting and beautifully paint a verbal picture of the town that the ‘theme/concept’ is based around…….a town in the Italian hills with more than its fair share of history and mystery.
That central theme makes the songs flow beautifully as the stories individually unfold revealing narratives about Secret Societies (V.I.T.R.I.O.L), death (the dark and monastic Meet Me In The Shadows) and of course redemption (Pain is Gone).
The Heart Of The Cave is very much the type of record that you need to take time over; and the investment is well worth it, with echoes of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Quentin Tarantino at times.
But, as always there all always individual songs that shine above all others; and here that first song that caught my attention The Birds Are Silent is obliquely as brittle and beautiful as it is haunting, while Flying Joe is almost ‘up-tempo’ by comparison, it still manages to be quite Gothic too.
Then of course; there is the song that to all intents and purposes, wraps up the story……There’s a Fire That Never Goes Out. In itself it’s a singularly claustrophobic melodrama, but by the time you get to it, it brings the story to a quite magnificent conclusion, and is then followed by Donna Sacra which brings everything to a heart-aching close.
The Orphan Brigade revolves around songwriters Ben Glover, Neilson Hubbard and Joshua Britt but is also a collective bringing in the talents of household names like Gretchen Peters, Will Kimbrough and Barry Walsh as well as numerous others, without whom I’m sure this magnificent idea would never have come to life in the way it has.

Released September 29th 2017
http://www.theorphanbrigade.com/home

Old Salt Union – OLD SALT UNION

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Old Salt Union
OLD SALT UNION
Compass Records

It’s Bluegrass Jim; But Not As We Know It.

Any band that features a horticulturist, a hip-hop producer and a relative of Son Volts Jay Farrar has to be worth a listen, hasn’t it?. The audience for a show at one of the Bluegrass nights at The Ryman theatre in Nashville in June certainly thought so, as they packed the street and area outside the front of the venue for a good hour before going inside to see Old Salt Union, who feature some classically trained musicians but it was the special arrangements of their original tunes and sheer energy that kept the audience on the pavement on that sultry summer night in June.

This album features some of the tunes that have been building audiences across festivals and shows like Bluegrass underground, Freshgrass and Yonder Mountains Harvest Festival. To describe them as Bluegrass misses the point. They aren’t Newgrass, Psycograss, Old Timey or even Folk. There are elements of each of those styles in their playing from the out and out bluegrassy Where I Stand (with memorable harmonies under the melody) to the surprise cover of “You Can Call Me Al”, the Paul Simon tune.

They won’t be the first string band to deliver a creditable cover of Paul Simon; but this one is pretty special indeed. Greensky Bluegrass have featured Gumboots, among many covers in and out of their sets for a good while now,

Old Salt Union’s version is no bad thing. The band have a traditional set up of fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, guitar and banjo. if you want to see their real bluegrass heritage checkout their version of ‘Whiskey Before Breakfast’ on You Tube.

They deliver a masterful ballad in “Bought and Sold” and it’s this restraint that shows off the real talent in the band.

The albums one instrumental, “Flat Baroque”, features some fine twin mandolin too,  and to quote Alison Brown “While they may look like a bluegrass band, their musical sensibilities run much deeper and broader, borrowing as much from indie rock and jazz fusion as from Bill Monroe” And, lets be fair, Alison Brown knows a thing or two.

Courtesy Special Reviewer Tony Pearce.

Released August 4th 2017

https://www.oldsaltunion.com/

Tom Russell – FOLK HOTEL

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Tom Russell
FOLK HOTEL
Proper Records/Frontier Records

The Quintessential American Storyteller Returns To His Folk Roots.

To the knowledgable few, alongside his friend and compatriot Dave Alvin there’s a bloody good argument that he helped invent what we now call Americana Music.
Straddling the feint paths that lie between Country, Folk and even the Blues at times, this Los Angeles born singer-songwriter and artist with a poets heart has previously released 27 studio albums since 1976 and his last release, the epic Rose of Roscrae was the RMHQ album of the year in 2015.
In recent years Tom certainly hasn’t been afraid to experiment and take risks with his music; but as the record title implies; here he goes back to what he does better than anyone else these days; writing incredibly complex stories and making them sound beautifully warm and simple.
The few bars of an olde worlde Jazz song which opens the album certainly made my ears prick up; but 30 seconds later Tom’s expressive trademark drawl enters the scene accompanied by Joel Guzman’s haunting accordion on Up In The Old Hotel; a wistful look at a series of dark love stories from The Chelsea Hotel, first made famous by Leonard Cohen and suddenly the world is a better place again.
This is followed by the beautiful Leaving El Paso; a typical Russell romantically cinematic song about a minor character living in the Borderlands; that makes you feel that you are sitting in the shadows watching the scenarios he describes play out before your very eyes.
I’ve just had to delete the last paragraph four times because I typed ‘typical’ then ‘trademark’ and then couldn’t think of a better way to describe track #3 I’ll Never Leave These Old Horses; and those two words actually ‘typify’ every single song here; as only Tom Russell can write a dark Country-Folk song like this and make it instantly his own then follow it with a love song to the Welsh writer Dylan Thomas on The Sparrow of Swansea with equal aplomb then close the record with a sad Folk song about a man he saw a glimpse of but never met in The Rooftops of Copenhagen. These stories Russell conjures up from his imagination, in theory are poles apart in style, genre and content but all come together in one big, bold and beautiful musical tapestry.
Like a million other Americans Tom is very proud of his Irish lineage and includes the beautiful All on a Belfast Morning; Tom reciting a poem before describing the Northern Irish capital in a way I’ve not heard before but in a way it certainly deserves. Like the poets of old, Tom finds beauty in the unlikeliest of places and makes what most people see as ordinary become extraordinary in his hands.
Later he sort of revisits Rose of Roscrae territory with the trilogy The Day They Dredged The Liffey – The Banks Of Montauk – The Road To Santa Fe-O which starts with a ‘talking Blues’ then drifts into traditional Country-Folk territory without the listener noticing.
But Tom Russell has always been at home in the mythologies of the American West and the cold recesses of Europe’s history; and both are at home on a Tom Russell record…….it shouldn’t work; but it does.
As he is prone to do these days; Tom dips back into his memory bank for The Last Time I Saw Hank; and yet again the images he paints with words had me closing my eyes and picturing the scenarios in my mind.
The CD/LP release will have two ‘extra’ tracks, the nine minutes plus Country-Blues of Scars on His Ankles but more importantly; alongside Joel Guzman’s wistful accordion playing Tom and Joe Ely reconstruct Tom Thumb’s Blues until it now becomes two old men looking back at life, and the final line “I’m going back to New York City/I Believe I’ve Had Enough” has never sounded more apt in the songs’ 50 year lifespan.
RMHQ Favourite song? Not easy at all on a Tom Russell album; but I will point you towards The Light Beyond The Coyote Fence; which is Tom Russell doing what Tom Russell and only Tom Russell does best. In theory it’s a ‘nothing special’ story about a musician living along the American/Mexican Border but lines like “I’ve got a pocket full of guitar picks/that’s my trade sir/suits me better than a gun Mister;” leave me mystified at the genius of the man; and his character even gets to compare his own dusty homelands with touring, “how many rest stops on that A1 Motorway/The road to Scotland/The Angel of The North/That great old Iron Lady seems to say sing your songs kid/ For all That You Are Worth.”
After all these years I still marvel at the skills of musicians; especially troubadour singer-songwriters and non more so than Mr Tom Russell.

Released September 8th 2017.
http://www.tomrussell.com/

 

Susan Cattaneo THE HAMMER & THE HEART

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Susan Cattaneo
THE HAMMER & THE HEART
Jersey Girl Music

Lots of Songs and Stories to Love, Laugh and Dance To.

First of all let me tell you that I firmly believe that there’s no such thing as a ‘great’ double album; as judicial editing can reduce them all to a great single album…..FACT.

But I will forgive Susan Cattaneo for releasing such a monolith; as in this instance she has coupled together a distinct ‘Electric’ album alongside an ‘acoustic’ one; in the style of LP sides of old; and that’s how I’m treating this release….as a single LP made up of two sides.

Side #1 (The Hammer)…..
Me and my I-Phone both absolutely adore the opening track Work Hard, Love Harder…..a rip-roaring Country Rocker finds Susan with the Bottle Rockets in tow blowing the cobwebs off Country Rock with fire, brimstone and a damn fine melody.
As if giving us time to draw breath things slow down and get a tad darker immediately afterwards with the reflective The River Always Wins.
As the first notes of #3 In The Grooves fought their way out of the car speakers I thought “I know that guitar picker!” And it really is the legendary Bill Kirchen adding his trademark ‘Twang’ to a gloriously sloppy, rocking and rolling three and a half minutes of pure musical joy.
This is Susan’s fifth album and wowza can she write a song to make you think, tap your toes and keep your attention too. The only comparison I can make is with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 1990’s releases; but with added forcefulness on Dry and Back Door Slam (feat. Davy Knowles) which closes Side/Album #1.
Favourite track here should be Work Hard, Love Harder but the sensitive and bittersweet Does My Ring Burn Your Finger, with its growling guitars and menacing drum n bass combo combine with Susan’s distinctive voice to create a mighty powerful song that will stay with me long into my dotage.

Side #2 (The Heart)
Work Hard, Love Harder opens this side/album too but couldn’t sound any more different. This version alongside the Boxcar Lilies is a delightful Hill-country Folk song with the words possibly even taking on a completely different meaning.
This is followed by the brittle and beautiful love song, Ordinary Magic during which Cattaneo’s velvety voice makes my heart tingle every time I hear it.
Smoke is probably the most traditional ‘Country Love Song’ here, with the ingenious chorus ‘loving you is like catching Smoke.’ I couldn’t possibly comment; as Mrs. Magpie occasionally reads these things; but ‘I know where you are coming from!’
The nine tracks on The Heart really do sound the polar opposite of those on The Hammer; with her treatment of the Mose Allison classic (Everyone’s Crying) Mercy becoming a midnight torch song and the bizarre selection of Bowie’s Space Oddity fitting into the collection like a glove.
Choosing a favourite song on this side/album has proved very difficult indeed; but I’m going for Field of Stone which deals with the trials and tribulations that have followed her throughout her life with some incredible attention to detail and a sad and eloquent chorus that will break your heart into little pieces.

As two distinct separate ‘sides’ The Hammer & The Heart works perfectly well; meaning you can delight in Susan Cattaneo’s writing and singing no matter what mood you are in; clever that.

Released August 25th 2017

http://susancattaneo.com/