Paul Handyside Loveless Town Malady Music/Bandcamp
A Musical Arcade of Roots, Americana and Good Olde Folk Songs.
Aha! There’s a new album from Paul Handyside coming out and it pains me to say that neither Bob Harris or any of our popular TV shows Lorraine, Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton or even Later With Jools Holland will feature him; but all (apart from Bob ….. probably) will interview Tom Jones and the Tax Avoider from Take That and give them precious air time to promote music no one will buy. Life’s not fair is it? But the discerning music fans like you and I don’t need them; do we? This is Newcastle singer-songwriter Paul Handyside’s fourth solo album; and I’ve been playing it on and off for two months now; sometimes when I was even supposed to be listening to someone else for review purposes. I’m a great believer in the opening track being a ‘strong song’; something to capture the attention and …….. the title track, Loveless Town just might be the best song Paul has ever released. Seriously. A self-confessed Roots Songwriter; Paul goes all Hill Country George Jones siphoned through Steve Earle, with trusty sidekick Rob Tickell playing a lap steel as if he’s channelling the spirit of Buddy Epson …… I know that’s a lot to take in; but I’m not wrong. Just as you try to get your breath back, Handyside and Tickell hit you with the sucker punch that is Light of My Life; a more spacious, but still maudlin love song that takes us on a journey of love that needs a video akin to a lonesome cowboy sitting on the trail, or possibly a travelling musician sitting in a windswept bus station at midnight with the only the moon and memories for company. Beware; Paul is a Roots songwriter; not just Country Music; he can and does change direction in the blink of an eye; but his rich baritone voice and Rob’s symbiotic accompaniment take us on all kinds of journeys, not least with the gently swoonsome heartbreaker Don’t Let Your Heart be a Hotel or the bittersweet bedsit troubadour love song Only You and of course there’s the punchy Lord, Show Yourself which is Roots Music at its richest and most expressive. As with many albums I’ve received lately; this was written and recorded during 2020 during various Lockdowns and Paul somehow keeping his head above water while working in the Health Care sector and Rob, like so many like him, losing his day job in the Arts; but those frustrations and occasional angry bursts come out in the music …… although not always literally. With so much on offer here; it’s been incredibly difficult to select an out and out Winner of the Favourite Track accolade. I first heard Paul sing Hartley Pit Disaster two or three years ago and it hit me like left hook to the solar plexus …… and I’ve subsequently requested it at two further concerts. A Modern Folk Song, about a real coal mining disaster at a local Northumbrian colliery that eventually changed the laws; and is actually best served by hearing Paul tell the story before you hear it. While a ‘local song’ it will touch the hearts of any and everyone from coal mining communities around the world where these tales are all too sadly commonplace. BTW There are harmonies in the mix; but at some stage I’d love to hear this Paul and Rob perform this song with a Colliery Band and associated choir …… it bloody deserves it! Anyway, that’s not even my second Favourite Song here! I know …… but the quality of writing and singing is exceptional. #2 is most likely the finale; another beautiful, if bittersweet love song Someone Like You that manages to marry the essence of modern Bedsit Troubadour stylismo, with Cowboy Country Music melancholia and imagery too. Then, there is a song that kind of sums up a lot of what we have all suffered politically and even emotionally in not just the last two or three years; but in the case of Great Britain; 10 or more …….. Not In My Name captures the frustrations and angst of a nation; any nation and is surely destined to be a thunderous end of night sing/shout a long that initially brought back memories of a Red Wedge Tour many moons ago and if ever there was a time for a Folkie to turn up at the barricades with a guitar and a bag of full of Anthems; now is the time and Paul Handyside (with Rob too) is just that man! His time has come …….. this by far; is probably/definitely Paul Handyside’s most complete and finest body of work so far; as I’m sure there is more and hopefully even better to come.
A Favoured Side-Man Effortlessly Moves Into The Spotlight.
Even though this album isn’t released until later in the week; I appear to be ‘late to the party;’ as all of the cool kids and influencers in our little world have been going absolutely bonkers for this debut release from *Son of Northumbria (Whitley Bay to be precise), KB Bayley in the last few weeks. To some greater or lesser extent; not knowing what to actually expect, the atmospheric Dobro and sleazy slide guitar intro to track #1 Cold Rain; probably led me to expect something of a Bluesy number; but no…. no …and indeed no; KB is a lot of things; and much of it may even be influenced by Americana; but a Blues Singer he ain’t. Or is he? When you hear his weather worn, yet velvety voice pouring his heart out about a lost love while standing in the Cold Rain ‘waiting on a slow train, coming down the line,’ who’s to argue that a pasty white boy can’t sing the Blues? Not me; that’s for sure. First and foremost this is a Singer-Songwriter album with an intrinsically British slant to it, somewhere in the grand tradition of Ralph McTell and more recently Chris Difford and Ben Glover (who adds backing vocals to one song here). Most every song is so full of minutiae and intimate detail; it’s like listening to 4 minute kitchen sink drama on the radio, played out to a silvery intricate musical backdrop. You’d never believe that these songs were recorded at home on second-hand equipment; but that somehow adds to the pathos in Throw It In The River and North Shore Road with Bayley’s exquisite finger-picked guitar playing sounding like it’s your heart strings that are being plucked at the same time as a mournful harmonica gently cuts through like a winter breeze. I need to jump back to track #2, the titular Little Thunderstorms because I was listening to another track a few minutes ago and just felt the urge to go back and listen more intently, to this darkly poeric and almost Gothic Folk song. I was correct; Bayley’s storytelling really does raise the bar for his peers out there; gently leading us towards an approaching cliché; then KERPOW – he hits us with lines and observations that bely his tender years. This happens again and again; with Time to Leave Town and Cray About Me being prime examples; lines springing to mind when I least expected it over the last week or so. Bayley includes a striking and powerful instrumental towards the end; Wayfaring Stranger (Redux) ….. part Ry Cooder, part Welsh Celtic and a nod in the direction of the Northumbrian Hills combine to create a piece of music that just begs for a wise Film Director to use it in a Murder Mystery set in some dark hinterland. There’s a delightful starkness about this recording; which obviously comes from the claustrophobic conditions imposed by Lockdowns I through III; but don’t think that this is a one man band; it’s not. Although Bayley plays numerous instruments, other musicians have added their very own golden musical threads at a later date, bringing an added texture and occasional warmth to everything here; so thanks must got to Backing vocals from Claudia Stark and Jim Cozens: pedal steel from Charlie Jonas Walter (of bluegrass duo Jonas and Jane), electric guitar from Backwoods Creek’s Dean Parker, and chorus vocals on ‘Blood Red Lullaby’ by Proper Records artist Ben Glover. That latter song; Blood Red Lullaby starts with an AM radio announcer then bleeds into a really tightly constructed bittersweet song about how memories; be it on a global scale like those we have for JFK but more pertinently, family and friends taken too soon, effect us in more ways than are always inherently obvious at the time. For my Favourite Track it has been a bit of a conundrum; as the David Olney film Noir influenced (?) Night Dogs stands out like a raw, bloodied sore thumb and will live with me for years to come. But; me being a sucker for a Love Song, I’ve been drawn back to North Coast Girl several times, as I am a Northern Boy married to a North Coast Girl; and Bayley’s cold and haunting tale is right up there with the very best of its genre. Is it about a Lover, a Mother or a Fantasy Figure? It’s not clear and therefore will make you want to draw your own conclusion ….. then change your mind ten times in ten minutes. I suppose someone much wiser than me will know who Cheap Suit is about; but I don’t …… (is he the Father to the Mother of North Coast Girl?) but this tragic tale is so excruciatingly extraordinary and Bayley’s use of the soft vibrato in his own voice, alongside some carefully selected instrumentation; beautifully captured for posterity, is quite easily my Favourite Song here by a million miles. I have very little background information about KB Bayley; save he’s been a side-man to some of my favourite singer-songwriters over the years; but with this release I think those days are over ……. the spotlight surely beckons for a talent that has lain hidden for far too long.
*Son of Northumbria …… while he moved down South as a child and has spent a lot of time on the windswept Norfolk Coast; I’m still claiming him as ‘one of ours‘!!!
As I’m away for a few days COVID-Busting, or something I can’t post this in the normal manner ….. but as Andrew is such a new and exciting talent I’m going to post his new single via my iPhone 🤞
Andrew Cushin is a talent that’s organically earning him a grassroots following: initially at home in Newcastle, where he sold-out The Cluny before officially releasing any music, and more recently with a huge socially distanced outdoor show as guest to Two Door Cinema Club.Andrew Cushin now adds to his rising profile by sharing his new single ‘Where’s My Family Gone’.
‘Where’s My Family Gone’ is the product of a mutual respect between Andrew Cushin and Noel Gallagher. The Oasis icon first discovered Andrew after he hearing an early demo of his single ‘Waiting For The Rain’, which prompted Noel to praise his “great natural voice.” Their friendship grew, which resulted in Noel offering to produce, play guitar and singing backing vocals on the new single.
“I wrote Where’s My Family Gone when I was in a dark place” explains Andrew. “I hadn’t been speaking to my family, or friends. I felt as though I had no outlet for the way I was feeling, and I wrote it in a little hotel room in Leeds before a gig. It started out as a darker track but the production that Noel has added to the song has pushed the track in a way that it’s now so much bigger and more uplifting. I can’t wait to play it live and see everyone’s faces when that colossal chorus hits”.
Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra Soul of My City Tea Pad Recordings
Insightful and High Quality Roots Music Deluxe.
When not fronting the Tea Pad Orchestra Rob Heron will usually be found scavenging the singles racks (45’s AND 78’s) of record shops for rare and usually obsolete records from every single genre of Roots Music known to man; and if he’s not playing them at Record Hops in the back (or occasionally front) of pubs around Newcastle; he’s devouring them for influences for his delightful beat combo the Tea Pad Orchestra……. as is instantly evident on this; the band’s fourth fully formed LP. The seed is firmly planted for all to hear on the swinging Honky Tonk love Let’s Go Back in Time which comes out of the speakers like the Wabash Cannonball fired up on High Octane Diesel! While it’s obvious these cats know their history; The Tea Pad Orchestra are more than capable of writing a contemporary song; albeit with a Classic/Traditional rocking beat (check out previous singles High Speed Train and The Devil Wears a Blue Tie!) and here the second track There’s a Hole in My Pocket (Where My Pocket Used to Be.) is a clever and articulate take on the sad plight of the working man in today’s economy; and a very danceable tune will do it no harm either. That’s always been the joy of Tea Pad music; it may ‘sound’ old fashioned; but listen to Rob’s often biting and always insightful lyrics and your head will spin like one of his favourite 78’s. There’s fun and frolics around every corner here, with Life Is a Drag, Fool Talkin’ Man and the cheeky Double Meaning, Double Entendre all being intricately clever songs masquerading as joyful romps. I’m sure he’s written a love song before but I can’t remember one catching my attention like Holy Moly (I’m In Love Again) does; and that’s not just because of Tom Cronin’s superb harmonica interludes and the Doo-Wop harmonies. This is immediatly followed by a 60’s pastiche tale of heartbreak; One Letter Away From Lonely; which shows not just Rob Heron’s quirky sense of humour but highlights his maturing songwriting ability too. As I alluded to earlier, Rob and the Teapads constantly hide razor sharp contemporary ‘messages’ behind Rootsy melodies; and that’s exactly what they do with the amazing title track Soul of My City; which could be about most cities around the world these days; but none more so than mine and Rob’s precious Newcastle Upon Tyne; with the singer barely containing his anger and resentment at the mess town planners are making of this characterful, historic and beautiful area; but letting you tap your toes at the same time. Just when you’d think the songs couldn’t get any better……. Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra crank the quality factor up to 11 on the two songs that tie for the RMHQ Favourite Track honour. Even though it begins with Rob yodelling his little heart out in a homage to Jimmie Rogers, the song Lonely Boy in The Dole Queue could have been written in the 1920’s but sadly is just as apt in 2019…… and Rob’s astute and insightful words will bring tears to your eyes as you shimmy around the dancefloor. An intrinsic part of the North East music scene Rob Heron and Tea Pad Orchestra also support their friends by including a ‘cover’ from a local writer on their albums; and this one is no different with the inclusion of a song I once played an exclusive demo version of on my short lived radio show many years ago…….. Drinking and Carrying on, written by mutual friend Davy Patton, of Sour Mash Trio fame; and this lovely Rumbatastic version is my other Favourite Track on a classy album chock full of radio friendly songs. I’ve known Rob Heron since before he could shave and it’s fair to say I’ve watched him and the various incantations of the Orchestra evolve from being a raggle-taggle Olde Timey covers band playing for fun and beer into the fully formed and (by far) the best Good Time band on the planet! This dear reader; is a collection of Classy Roots Music Deluxe!
Shipcote & Friends
Low Fella Records
With World Cup Fever currently hitting England like a huge Novichuk attack; our friend and local hero Shipcote has sent us his new single ‘Football Focus’ which comes from his last album, Old is Cool and will also serve as teaser for his new album due out in Autumn 2018.
A genuine Football fan; Shipcote’s a season ticket holder at Gateshead FC, and has written this lovely and literate ode to Britain’s favourite pastime from the heart; and even named it after the iconic 1970’s BBC Saturday afternoon sports programme.
When Andy Lee from the Ree-Vahs got in touch to say a new mini-album was in the offing I got quite excited; as I love their previous two albums; and because they come from my home town of Stanley, Co. Durham and sound a bit like me; it’s a pleasure to give whatever help I can……but…..and it’s a very big ‘but’…..when he told me the background to the songs, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it at all.
The Ree-Vahs are, or should be brothers Andy and Paul Lee; but Paul sadly took his own life as the band were in the final stages of putting this record together.
So; knowing that, the title track MAN OVERBOARD comes in two versions with the first being an eerily prophetic snippet from a home recording by Paul several years ago in his bedroom and the finale is a full band version recorded after his death.
Mercifully this is followed by a more upbeat and slightly anthemic song Pack Your Bags, featuring some classy fiddle and cello from local lasses Catherine Geldard and Katie Hall. It’s not altogether clear what or whom the singer is moving on from; but the sentiment will touch even the coldest of hearts.
The spirit of Paul Lee flits in and out of several songs; especially so on the biographical Jigsaw and Sing Our Songs in the Dark with it’s sub-calypso beat; and a story about the magical feeling of playing records in your bedroom as a teenager.
Andy even includes a love song to his brother with Under The Wheels; a Northern Soap Opera told through the memories of a brother with depression and weaknesses. This is what Folk Music does best; and this song will reduce grown men and women to tears.
Baring in mind the tone and background to this album, I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do to choose a ‘favourite song’ but when the songwriting and presentation as as good as this it’s hard not to; so I will make it a tie between the finished article MAN OVERBOARD, which has echoes of Mark Knopfler around the edges and if you were to hear this song by accident it will truly take your breath away.
The other is Stronger Than Me (non-binary) another beautifully bleak tale; and this one is about teenage bullying and the helplessness it forces on all of the adults around the child.
There’s not many laughs here; but what there is is bundle of songs that are written from the heart and destined to tear at your heartstrings.
Don’t let this record drift into obscurity…….try it, buy it…….cherish it.