EXCLUSIVE: Simon Murphy – Parallel Waterfalls

simon murphy

Simon Murphy
PARALLEL WATERFALLS (Single)
Self-Release

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.

https://www.simonmurphymusic.co.uk/music-buy-and-stream

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Jason McNiff JOY & INDEPENDENCE

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Jason McNiff
JOY & INDEPENDENCE
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
http://www.jasonmcniff.com

 

Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK

dave and jimmie

Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK
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
http://www.davealvin.net/
https://www.jimmiegilmore.com/

Gene Turonis aka Gene D Plumber ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS

gene d plumber

Gene Turonis aka Gene D Plumber
ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS
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
https://www.facebook.com/genedplumber/

 

Birds of Chicago LOVE IN WARTIME

birds of chicago

Birds of Chicago
LOVE IN WARTIME
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
http://www.birdsofchicago.com/

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

http://www.scottmatthews.uk/

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

http://www.anniekeating.com/

Jenny Van West HAPPINESS TO BURN

jenny van west 6

Jenny Van West
HAPPINESS TO BURN
Self-Release

Country Flavoured Folk Songs That Shine Like Stars on The Darkest of Nights.

Perhaps because my i-phone decided to quite randomly to file this album under ‘Indie’ it’s stayed undiscovered at RMHQ until yesterday when the title track, which doubles as track #1 Happiness To Burn found it’s way onto the car stereo and I instinctively reacted by turning it up; not that it needs to be played ‘loud’ by any stretch of the imagination, but I wanted to hear it in all its glory.
What a lovely warm voice Jenny Van West has on this delightful Western Swing/Honky Tonk hybrid featuring some old time Jazz guitar; the likes of which have not been heard around here since Laura Cantrell recorded those Kitty Wells songs.
The next song Live in a New Way is a lot more contemporary in words and deeds, with Ms Van West channelling her inner Dusty Springfield on a sultry Southern Country tune.
While there’s a definite Country thread here; especially on Twenty-Seven Dollars and 45 which both get the toes a tappin and the heart a beatin;’ I’m more inclined to file this album under singer-songwriter as Jenny can shift gears with ease and throw in gorgeous ballads like Never Alone with its wailing organ and pedal-steel as well as stories from the dark end of Lonely Street ……Where I Stand and Embers which have to be really concentrated on to get the best out of them.
While the names of the supporting cast may not be exactly household names; their collective pedigree working with RMHQ favourites Lukas Nelson, Adam Cohen and Shooter Jennings as well as Jackson Browne’s piano player shine throughout and none more so than their subtle flourishes on the heartbreaker Can’t Have You Now and the song I’ve selected as my personal Favourite……..Thresholds which didn’t just touch my heart, but my soul as well.
First and foremost the lady from Maryland is not just a super singer with a lovely and distinctive voice; but a marvelous and thoughtful storyteller too, which connected to Shane Alexander’s ace production and the mixing and engineering from Brian Yaskulka makes this, her second album shine like a star on a the darkest of nights.

Released April 20th 2018
http://www.jennyvanwestmusic.com

Nautical Theme FLOAT

nautical theme 1

Nautical Theme
FLOAT
Self-Release

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
http://www.thenauticaltheme.com

EXCLUSIVE Matt McGinn – Lessons of War (Single)

Matt McGinn
Lessons of War (Single)

Friend of RMHQ Matt McGinn from Northern Ireland has been working on an exciting new project for some time now, and at last we can tell the world. LESSONS of WAR is a global music project that he devised in 2017, and developed with help from the Arts Council NI.

Matt reached reach out to musicians from all over the world, but especially from areas of war or conflict, asking them to contribute to a song he had written that highlighted the futility of war. Among those involved was Haris Abdagic, a singer from Bosnia & Herzegovina, and the Citizens of the World choir. Although based in London, they are made up of refugees and their carers.

According to Matt It turned out to be a bit of a monster however. In researching the song, he interviewed people who had more experiences in such matters than he did himself. Namely, Richard Moore, a musician who was blinded at the age of ten by a plastic bullet; Tommy Sands, a musician and peace activist; Anthony Seydu, a songwriter from Sierra Leone who founded the Diamond Child school of Arts there; Mark Kelly, a musician, manager and sound engineer who lost his legs from a UVF bomb aged 18.

A friend of our, and fellow songwriter, Joby Fox (Energy Orchard), introduced Matt to Yazan Ibrahim, an incredible young flamenco guitarist from Golan Heights on the Syrian Border; bringing him to Ireland to record some songs along with some close friends and incredible musicians, at Black Mountain Studios, Dundalk.

Local film-maker, Colm Laverty, has pieced all of these experiences together to make a wonderful short film that is going to be shown in the Black Box, Belfast as part of the BELFAST FILM FESTIVAL, this Sunday (April 15th) at 2pm. After the film, Matt McGinn and some special guests are going to play some songs from and relating to the film. It should be a lovely afternoon.

Released 27th March 2018

http://mattmcginnmusic.com/