Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson CHUG IT DOWN AND GO.

david and mark a

Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson
Blind Chihuahua Records

A Little Taste of What Makes Americana Great.

In all honesty this album has been a bit of a challenge for me; not that I didn’t like it from the get go; but simply because there’s just so much going on it’s been damn difficult to get a handle on what to file it under!
Many moons ago I reviewed a Mark Robinson  *album for a prestigious UK magazine and I once saw Daniel Seymour play bass alongside David Olney; and it appears that the dynamic duo have either supplied songs for or produced albums by many of RMHQ’s favourite Alt. Country acts over the years; but none of that prepared me for ‘this’ mish-mash of Rootsy Americana.
The rambunctious and stomping title track Chug It Down and Go opens the album in the finest of fashions, with Robinson on Resonator, Seymour slapping the living daylights out of an upright bass and Mr David Olney supplying sublime harmonica….what’s not to like.
This followed by the Cajun flavoured and accordion driven One Eyed Blue which will bring even a wooden leg back to life; as will the delightful guitar rag that is 19th Street Ramble and the charming Dixie Waltz which closes the album; and is every inch as delightful as the song’s title would suggest.
In between though there’s the world weary Slow Moving Train which sounds like either an out-take from the Band’s debut album, or something Levon Helm may have recorded many years later; yet Gypsy Moon and First Fool both take us back to the crooning Country we associate with the 20’s and 30’s but Take On Me Down The Road somehow manages to incorporate Jug Band Music and the type of Field Workers Blues that John Hammond Sr first discovered and all those white English boys turned into Rock & Roll in the late 1960’s!
With that last description in mind I’m pointing you to Bare Foot Gal featuring young David Olney again on a root’n and toot’n harmonica while the other two strum a banjo and blow a kazoo for extra authenticity.
Just like the rest of the album; it will leave you with a warm smile on your face.
As a stand alone album this isn’t always a cohesive listen; but I’m sure that if you were to see Daniel Seymour & Mark Robinson in a downtown bar or more likely at a Folk Festival somewhere you would find yourself desperate for something to take home; and in that setting this collection of songs will make complete sense.

Released November 9th 2018

*PS….. Sue from the PR Company has just sent me a copy of that original review from 2010!

Mark Robinson MaverickReviewNov2010



My Years with Townes Van Zandt. ‘Music, Genius and Rage.’ by Harold F Eggers Jr & LE McCullough

tvz z x

My Years with Townes Van Zandt.
‘Music, Genius and Rage.’
Harold F Eggers Jr & LE McCullough

I first came across Townes Van Zandt courtesy of The Cowboy Junkies’ love song ‘Townes Blues’ and their cover of ‘To Live is To Fly’ on the BLACK EYED MAN album way back in 1992. A little bit of research brought me to a 23 track ‘Best Of’ which I purchased for £3.99 (it still has a sticker on it!) from Goldrush Records in Perth, Scotland; but, I really struggled with it; primarily because of Townes’ voice; which was and still is ‘something only a Mother could love’.
Thankfully in the intervening years my tastes have changed and Mr Van Zandt is now a cornerstone of my collection; and quite often the benchmark I now use for intelligent and heartfelt Americana; of which he was one of the finest singer-songwriters ever in that very competitive market place. #Fact
So; when this book was offered for review I couldn’t say “Yes please!” fast enough.
First of all this isn’t your normal biography; although bits and pieces of Townes early life is included but only as background, with tales of his Great Grandfather venturing into Indian territory with the family fortune and coming back with a mixed-race child and who knew he was enrolled in a Military Academy after being deemed unruly at school; then being given electric shock therapy to ‘cure his behaviour’ aged 19? Knowing what we know now about such things and with the benefit of hindsight he must have suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder; but for all of his 52 years he was just ‘troubled’.
The book is told from the point of view of Harold F Eggers who himself had ‘problems’ after serving in Vietnam and going on to become the songwriter’s Tour Manager, best friend, confidante, business partner and occasional getaway driver for over twenty years; while also building a successful career himself in the Music Industry.
Impressively Eggers never comes across as judgemental, intrusive or even sensationalist when recounting stories that will make your hair stand on end; but never actually surprising you.
As TVZ insisted many times in conversations with H, he tells the stories ‘honestly, warts and all’ and boy are there ‘warts’ here!
There are many individual concerts included from across the years, leaving me incredibly jealous at not discovering him until it was too late for me to see him play, as a couple of friends have on his infrequent visits to Europe and the UK where he found an adoring fan base which gave him a new lease of life late on in his career.
I won’t spoil it for you as there are surprises around every corner as our favourite Texas Troubadour’s charm shines through every chapter, even when you would cheerfully hold him down as Eggers strangles him after yet another successful attempt to grasp failure from the jaws of success, in a 20 year roller coaster ride of a tale that will break your heart and make you smile like all the best blockbusters do; and that’s how this story feels…..it’s a Blockbuster (and a ballbuster too).
I’ve seen Heartworn Highways several times so knew of his relationship with Guy, Rodney and the young Steve Earle, but who knew Dylan was a fan and an album by both men was planned but never materialised because our hero, who had cheated life so many, many times finally succumbed to the Ghosts that had haunted him all of his life on January 1st 1997.
Although I knew how the story ended and everything builds towards Van Zandt’s death; the last two chapters were still really hard for me to read; and when Eggers leaves a visibly ill Townes on New Years Eve and flies home to celebrate the holiday with his family; he writes……
“I fell asleep and was drowsing on the living room sofa, when our black lab, Jezebel began barking furiously, scampering around the house as if chasing an unseen visitor.
I woke with a start and watched the lights flicker, then dim for several seconds before coming back up. I tried to quiet her as two more light dimming cycles occurred; then the lights stabilized and the dog hushed.”
Half an hour later the phone rang and Townes wife Jeanene whispered, “Townes has gone.”
By this stage tears were streaming down my cheeks.
The congregation at the service after TVZ’s cremation is a veritable who’s who of the nascent Roots/Americana scene with Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle among many others sang his songs and told beautiful stories about a very troubled man who history now knows was a true Genius.

Published (Hardback) October 16th 2018

A Different Thread ON A WHIM


A Different Thread

A Spellbinding Blend Of British Folk and Carolina Hill Music.

We rather liked the last EP from Robert Jackson and Alicia Best and have been looking forward to the couple’s debut album since that release 12 months ago.
The album opens with Roberts pouring his heart out on the dark tinged Folk Song On a Whim; with Alicia supplying delicious harmonies that bely the couple’s background from different continents.
The mood picks up with the snappy Hold Me Down which follows; which has a bit of a sea-shanty melody if I’m not too mistaken, and the fiddle sounds a lot more British West Country than American West.
Which is actually one of the things I like most about A Different Thread; they aren’t afraid to mix n match their respective musical backgrounds; with one coming from the Litchfield middle of England and the other Durham, North Carolina.
Both singers; when they take the lad have their very own virtues; complimenting each other like leather and lace; with Alicia’s breathy and pearlescent voice being able to melt the hardest of hearts on Potter’s Field, Carolina Song and most notably the haunting Not Good With Words which closes the disc.
Jackson; on the other hand likes a good ole foot-stomper; with The Farmers Mistress and Hold Me Down proving I can like Traditional Folk music; if I really put my mind to it; but in these cases there’s definitely an Old School Americana feel to the tunes as well.
Choosing a favourite song hasn’t been easy as, when Jackson slows things down on High Time and Alicia provides shimmering harmonies the couple transcend normal musical boundaries; but I’m going to point you towards the pretty Rosa Rosa which has Alicia on lead vocals which somehow remind me of the young Rita Coolidge or maybe even Bobbie Gentry; I guess it’s the Southern genes that does it.
Sometimes I can get bogged down in comparing acts that you’ve not heard of, so you can get an idea of what they sound like; and now I’ve re-read my words it may confuse you if I mention singers and songwriters like Tom Paxton, Richard Thompson, Rita and even Sandy Denny; but there are hints of all these and more in the distinctive way A Different Thread perform their well written and thoughtful songs; but they don’t sound like any other duo/band I can actually think of, and that’s no bad thing at all.
Give them a try; I doubt you will be disappointed.

Released September 14th 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Simon Murphy – Parallel Waterfalls

simon murphy

Simon Murphy

Hopefully you will remember Simon Murphy’s 2015 album LET IT BE that we loved (and still love) at RMHQ, well apart from making babies with his lovely wife (one toddling and one about to hatch imminently) and continuing the day job as a psychiatric therapist in Belfast (God Bless him!) in his spare time Simon has continued writing perfect songs and even managed a trip or two to Nashville Town pitching his wares, playing a couple of gigs and most importantly writing and co-writing a heap of new songs, which will be released primarily as singles during 2018.
This is the first, a co-write with (Grammy Award Winner no less) Don Henry and is absolutely beautiful……and Simon has given us the EXCLUSIVE first play of the video and you can buy it from the relevant streaming websites in the next couple of weeks; but we suggest you go directly to yer man’s own website listed below.



jason mcniff 1

Jason McNiff
At The Helm Records

A Starkly Beautiful Collection of Stories From English Songwriting Troubadour.

In my less lucid moments I think I pretty much have my finger on the pulse of British Acoustic and Americana style music; and then along comes singer-songwriter and all around troubadour Jason McNiff who has released 5 previous albums including a best selling double retrospective; and I’ve never heard of him.
Shame on me.
This ‘stripped back’ album; and all there ever is is McNiff’s breathy vocals, expertly strummed guitar occasional harmonica with no show-boating to divert your attention from his stunning and articulate songs.
The first thing you hear is the title track Joy and Independence, which uses those words as the Christian names of the young couple in the bittersweet story of carefree love across one glorious year long adventure; 25 years ago.
Is there a happy ending? You didn’t think I would tell you; did you?
Now I’ve played this album 6 or 7 times, I’m truly impressed by McNiff’s storytelling and way with words and imagery which conjures up memories of the first time I heard the likes of Townes, Guy and more importantly Tom Paxton all those years ago.
While McNiff’s presentation style is quite laid back; just like his fore-bearers your ears will keep pricking up as stories unfold; with Dream Of a Highway and Wind of Zaragoza both sounding like any of those three songwriters would have been proud to have been written by them.
With Ed Sheeran filling stadiums across the world, I hope that the current wind of change in Folk Music means that songs like the darkly beautiful Italy and the song for songwriters everywhere, And The Sun Comes Up On My Dreams can find the far reaching audience that they deserve; but the cream always rises to the to anyway, doesn’t it?
When it comes to choosing a ‘Favourite Track’ for you, I’m actually spoilt for choice with the spoken intro to the delightful Midnight Shift initially catching my ear, then the re-working of Stuck In The Past proves to be another wonderful example of a songwriter writing from personal experience; but I’m going for a left of centre choice again with Amanda.
It’s an odd and very brave subject for someone to write about; but this tragic tale of Amanda Knox is the type of song my heroes in the 60’s made careers from; and it’s fair to say Jason McNiff treads very cautiously over the broken glass but comes out with a dramatic yet sad song that will make you ‘think,’ smile and possibly even shed a tear as it slowly unfolds and unwinds.
Tucked away in the middle is Thoughts; a delightful duet with Lily Ramona and it may be the one commercial song here that just might find its way onto radio and therefore draw attention to the rest of this starkly beautiful album.

Released July 27th 2018


Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK

dave and jimmie

Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Yep Roc Records.

A Gripping and Loving Look at Americana Music’s Roots and Beyond.

Oh Lordie LORD! How excited was I when this dropped through the RMHQ letter box two weeks ago?
(V.E.R.Y is the correct answer.)
Although best friends for well over thirty years their various touring and recording schedules have meant that they have never actually got to record together; until now. But my friends the long wait is well worth it.
One of only two new songs here, the title track Downey to Lubbock opens the record in a way Americana lovers have only dared dream about as the duo trade verses on an autobiographical tale of their long-standing friendship. If this had been the only song they ever recorded together, they could still be very proud men.
But no……more, and dare I say it; better is yet to come.
As you’d expect knowing both men’s history the mood seamlessly glides between the Country Rock of the opener to the more laid back Folkier end of the spectrum on Silverlake which follows with Gilmore purring the delicious lyrics.
Dave and Jimmie both have their own sparkling back catalogues to choose from for an album like this; but they have decided to delve into the last 100 years of Roots Music for this fascinating and often sensational collection of songs; with many being brand new to me, with KC Moon and Get Together managing to sound like they were written yesterday not decades ago.
I’m a big fan of Dave Alvin so the songs he takes lead vocals on stood out on the first few listens; with the jaunty take on July, You’re a Woman and the Tex-Mex waltz of The Gardens tugging at the old heart strings like he did on those early albums that I still cherish.
But the biggest pleasure I’ve had listening to Downey to Lubbock has been the rediscovery of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, especially on the rip-roaring Blues stomper Buddy Brown’s Blues and his dark re-imagining of Woody Guthrie’s Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) that have now stolen my heart and sent me back to his records after too many years at the back of the cupboard.
But it’s when the two come together that these songs really, really become memorable with Walk On Walk On becoming a real foot-stomping Honky-Tonker and who’d ever have thought a hoary Folk song like the Memphis Jug Band’s Stealin’ Stealin would get me tapping my toes and nonchalantly singing along to the chorus; but Dave and Jimmie’s marvelous duet managed to do that with ease and was an early contender for ‘Favourite Song’ status; as was the red hot re-invention of Lawdy Miss Clawdy; but that accolade goes to the second of their new songs; Billy The Kid and Geronimo. WOW! I guess Alvin had a big hand in the writing of this epic Cowboy tale; and the world is always a better place with new Dave Alvin songs in it; but as each singer takes the roles of Billy and Geronimo you just end up sitting back and wallowing in one of the finest Americana/Country/Roots/Folk songs you will ever hear……honestly, if you even vaguely like this genre listen to this song and tell me I’m wrong.
I dare you!
You really know how clever these two are when they can turn the Youngbloods Pop Classic Get Together into a sad Country sing-along which is just perfect for the crazy world we live in today; and that’s exactly what they do.
The Press Release describes this indomitable duo as ‘Seasoned Veterans’ and I guess I can’t think of anything better as both Dave and Jimmie have been on the Americana/Roots scene since before it even had a name; but what it doesn’t say is that they sound as good; if not better than ever in 2018 and their choice of songs here is absolutely sublime, with not a single one sounding out of place regardless of the decade that it was originally penned and recorded in.

Released June 1st 2018

Gene Turonis aka Gene D Plumber ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS

gene d plumber

Gene Turonis aka Gene D Plumber
Bar None Records

An Indefinable Joy From Start to Finish.

Gene Turonis has been a cornerstone of Hoboken life for over thirty years primarily as Gene D Plumber by day and ‘The Singing Plumber’ by night; and only now after finally retiring from the day job at the tender age of 72 is he releasing his debut album of original songs and a couple of his favourite cover versions too.
Normally I’d run a mile from such a record; but the tongue in cheek title track All The Pretty Girls opens the disc and, do you know what? It’s really quite good in a laid back Willie Nelson meets Maurice Chevalier kind of way. An odd combination? Yes; but there’s more than a hint of Willie’s natural ‘rasp’ and twinkle in the eye in the way Gene delivers the song over a neatly strummed acoustic and a swaying Accordion played by Charlie Giordano; which made me think of the legendary French Actor.
When you hear Turonis’ own songs like Been a Fool All My Life and Diamonds As Big as Potatoes you can’t help but smile at the self-depreciating and well constructed stories; but you just know he’s gonna get the gal in the end……hopefully.
As a jobbing musician it’s difficult to pigeon -hole the Singing Plumber’s ‘style’ as he slips in a Calypso tune on Let’s Make a Deal then follows it with a Western Swing cover of Clarence Gatemouth Brown’s Going Back To Louisiana and later drops in the Cajun-Lite She Belongs To Someone, without ever confusing the listener.
Then there are two George Jones covers thrown in for good measure too; neither of which I recognised, his ‘plumbing’ signatune Things Have Gone to Pieces and Always Get Lucky, which is a sweet down home/back-porch Country tune, that was an early contender for Favourite Track status a couple of days ago. Then he closes the record with his own ode George….George Jones, George Jones which must surely be a showstopper when played live.
Which all only leaves me to crown I Like It Like That as RMHQ Favourite Track. A danceable uptempo jaunty and professionally ‘sloppy’ Cajun and New Orleans influenced happy-clappy sing-along belter, which is ideal for a Saturday night anywhere people gather.
I certainly don’t expect this album to sell in the millions or even win Awards; but it’s been a joy from start to finish every time I’ve played it; and that can never be a bad thing.

Released 11th May 2018


Birds of Chicago LOVE IN WARTIME

birds of chicago

Birds of Chicago
Signature Sounds Recordings

Songs of Beauty and Grace From A Very Special Genre-Defying Duo.

Is it possible, arrogant even to presume an album is going to be ‘inch perfect’ even before you’ve heard a note? I know this is true of Dylan and One Direction fans; but Birds of Chicago? Well dear reader, JT and Alli are my Dylan and One Direction and when I saw that Luther Dickenson was co-producing my fingers were shaking when I slipped the disc into the office stereo.
A little history lesson for you as I play the album for the umpteenth time this month; I first saw Jeremy Lindsay aka JT Nero at one of the inaugural JHC at SummerTyne Festivals and while words failed me in a way to describe his ‘sound’ I knew I liked it. He returned to Newcastle with a band (JT and the Clouds) in tow the following year 2011, and again blew me away.
I think it was the next year when he was billed to appear solo in the JHC Tent at Evolution Festival but actually turned up alongside Po’ Girl and the way he exchanged glances with Allison Russell made me think ‘aye aye’ but the sound the ‘Supergroup’ created was amazing and, as they say……the rest is history……who knew the Birds of Chicago were invented in a field in Newcastle?
I’m still lost for words how to describe the ‘sound’ Birds of Chicago create; this album begins with a delightful 1 minute opus of Allison ‘Mmmmming’ over some piano and a gently strummed guitar on Now/Sunlight and I knew any pre-conceived fears could easily be dismissed.
The first real song Never Go Back follows and finds JT on lead vocals and Allison providing backing vocals and harmonies worthy of Atlantic Records at their Soulful finest. While the song is a traditional Folk/Country/Americana hybrid, when Alli sings in French it made me go weak at the knees!
There’s nothing here not to like or even be confused about even if songs like Roisin Starchild and Lodestar are undefinable in musical terms; just sit back and let their beauty seep in…….you will thank me soon enough.
There is also a delightful warmth to Dickinson and Lindsay’s production; bringing out the best in the title track Love In Wartime, which is a song of hope in these troubled times; and Try which just sounds like the perfect song to listen to as the sun sets and your loved one sits opposite unaware you are looking at them.
If Birds of Chicago have a ‘signature sound’ it probably comes to the fore on Baton Rouge which has a hypnotic Jazz meets Country-Blues feel about it; with Allison Russell taking the listener on a dreamy journey to Heaven and back, without you ever leaving the comfort of your armchair.
Both JT and Alli have completely different voices and singing styles but when they combine on Roll Away and Derecho which closes the album, the stars truly align.
After all that, my selection for Favourite Track is probably the most traditional of songs on the album. On Super Lover you can picture Allison singing with a smile on her lips and her eyes tightly closed as her banjo picking carries the song until JT and the band ease in with harmonies which you don’t even notice the first 4 or 5 times you hear the song; so beautiful and spellbinding is Allison’s voice.
As I said earlier, this album is genuinely genre-defying, with the couple’s Folk background certainly coming to the fore, but it sits very comfortably alongside my favourite Alt. Country and Lo-Fi acts; but when Allison sings there’s always an underlying Jazz thread and when she plays her clarinet it makes this record and this duo very special indeed.

Released May 4th 2018

Scott Matthews – The Great Untold

Scott M

Scott Matthews
The Great Untold
Shedio Records

Considerate, warm, and full of grace.

The Great Untold is the sixth studio album from the English singer-songwriter Scott Matthews, which finds him once again recording at home (and the occasional church) which enables him to get an intimate and personal document of this collection of modern folk hymns.
With a clean, clear falsetto voice, along with with impeccable finger-picking, comparisons to Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake are not out of place, but I also hear quite a bit of John Martyn and even a touch of Paul Simon, and dare I say, Priscilla Ahn, in Matthews songs too, which aren’t sparse as much as they’re spared the weight of complications. Easy, yet not empty, there’s a dreamy cathedral quality to the music. Not religious, per se, but spiritual, sanctified, as if the subject matter is too close and personal for Matthews that he won’t take chances with. Why clutter up something that means the world to you?
“You’ll be mother’s precious gold, And I’ll see new reasons through your eyes,”
he states on the title track, obviously a paean to a newborn child, but it could also be about these ten songs, reverent as he is towards them.
There’s an evenness throughout this album too, but it’s purposeful. These are delicate elegies and descants, some thoughtful, others darker and more potent, full of depth and lyrical poetry. Take the gossamer-like musical shifts throughout “Lawless Stars” which give it a graceful integrity, the fun bounce of “Silence,” betraying its meditative subject matter. “Cinnamon” is warm sensuousness wrapped in softly picked electric guitar notes and lush synths, while the folksy harmonica and pedal steel of “Chapters” end the album in an upbeat, thoughtful mood.
This is a considerate and reflective album full of affirmations and grace, which should warm any heart.

Guest reviewer Roy Peak

Released April 27th 2018


Annie Keating – Ghost of the Untraveled Road

Annie Keating B

Annie Keating
Ghost of the Untraveled Road
8th Street Studios

Difficult to Express Emotions Somewhere Between Regret and Resolve.

I like it when artists use the EP format to do something different, perhaps release a few songs that really don’t fit on any oth album they have, but still fit together, the misfit songs, maybe even one that’s out of character for the artist. After The Graceless Age, John Murry released Califorlornia, an EP with a few sensitive songs mixed in with “The Murder of Dylan Hartsfeld” which is scary/devastating in a way similar to Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop.” Murry’s song wouldn’t have worked on the album that came before or after but on an EP it somehow made sense.
At times it’s also refreshing to just hear an EP from an artist rather than an entire album. Nowadays albums are, sadly, becoming passé, as no one hardly buys CDs anymore and vinyl is such a niche market, and many albums are becoming just filler. When an artist chooses to just release a single, is one song enough for a listener to make a decision on whether there is something musical worth pursuing? Practically anyone can record at least one good song, but what about three or four? Remember acts like Jesus Jones, Simple Minds, or Joan Osborne? One worthwhile song was pretty much all they had.
Now, after seven full albums, we have Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Annie Keating releasing Ghost of the Untraveled Road, a five-song EP of love songs, longing, memories, and dreamy what-ifs. At times Keating’s voice reminds me of a time-worn and breathier Tanya Donnelly, at others a huskier and softer-voiced Nanci Griffith. Whichever, Keating makes the most of her voice with wry melodies over top understated acoustic guitar.
Keating isn’t blazing new trails into uncharted territory here, but that’s okay, as this is country-folk, not Sgt. Peppers. Mandolin, fiddle, and pedal steel all add support to these tunes, weaving in and out from one another to form a fine netting around Keating’s guitar and voice. Personally I feel that perhaps a little more variation on the instrumentation from one song to the next might have made things a bit more interesting, but I get the impression this EP is meant to be representative of Keating’s live shows. We’re getting the living room treatment here, which is fine.The title song, Ghost of the Untraveled Road, sets the pace here with a song about wondering what the past may have been like if only she’d done things a bit different:

“Should I think of you fondly, or not much at all?/Shall I cherish confessions of bury them all?”

But Keating still sees a glimmer of fond hope here, a wish that perhaps this dream can still be realized. “Sting of Hindsight” utilizes a fun, bouncy melody and carries the theme of longing for the past even further. “Forever Loved” is a well meant toe-tapper, and “Kindness of Strangers” is purposely languid, but it’s the closing song, “Forget My Name” which hits me as the best song here, mainly because of its bite. There’s real pain here, you can hear it in the crack in Keating’s voice from the very first line, the longing referenced in the earlier songs now replaced by a difficult to express emotion somewhere between regret and resolve. A darker tone to the pedal steel and some knife thrusts from the guitar help drive this tune home—if home is a dark and possibly dead end street. I’m hoping Keating goes for more of this next time, as this one stands out from the other songs on this EP, fine as they are.

Review courtesy the legendary Mr Roy Peak.

Released 25th May 2018