Low Cut Connie
DIRTY PICTURES Pt.II
High Octane Rock n Roll and Red Raw Punk Drenched R&B.
I’d not heard of Low Cut Connie prior to seeing them rip the roof off a Jumpin’ Hot Club gig earlier this year with their high octane blend of Rock n Roll and red raw R&B so couldn’t wait to finally hear if they could replicate that energy on record…..which would take some doing.
The roof remained in tact the first time I played opening track All These Kids Are Way Too High; but when I turned the volume up even higher the second time the windows definitely rattled!
Revolving around singer, piano player and Showman Extraordinaire Low Cut Connie really know how to put on an unforgettable show and here with an exhilarating mixture of slow and almost dirty Blues ballads like One More Time and Every Time You Turn Around with the rip-snorting scuzzy 50’s inspired Rock & Roll of Hey! Little Child and more than a smattering of London Punk on Please Do Not Come Around and when put together in this form they sizzle and burn like a forest fire.
Weiner deliberately cuts a figure based on Jerry Lee; but there’s more than a hint of Joe Strummer in the way he and the band drop sexy Rock Bombs like Beverly and Suzanne on the unsuspecting listener……and they are so damn good; you come back for more and more.
At face value this is a high-rolling and fun album from a well rehearsed band; but dig deeper and you will find some really interesting, eloquent and thought provoking songs masquerading as ‘Only Rock and Roll’……….Desegregation takes the casual listener down a dark road in a way I can only think Randy Newman can; and again but more importantly on Hollywood when Weiner uses a beautiful ballad to describe what it’s like to be an aspiring star but ultimately a failure in Tinsel Town, again proving what an exceptional songwriter he is.
Then there is the RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’……..Master Tapes which has a delightful melody to it masking a very biting set of lyrics; with Low Cut Connie using the musical metaphor of ‘Master Tapes’ for all the things he’s said during a break-up…….and again the windows rattled.
I’m not sure what else to say; but Low Cut Connie are one of the best and most entertaining bar bands I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen a lot and, yes they can transfer that excitement and magic onto record and more importantly make you actually listen to the songs you thought you could only dance to.
Released May 18th 2018
Orphan Jon & The Abandoned
ABANDONED NO MORE
Rip Cat Records
Dicey, Claustrophobic, Turbulent and Oh So Sexy So-Cal R&B.
I have a love/hate relationship with e-mails that begin “you reviewed my friend/label mates album, so I think you will like mine.”
Obviously I will be the sole judge of what music I like……..but, don’t tell anyone , I can never resist having a wee listen!
So after falling in love with the Kid Ramos album on the fabulously monikered Rip Cat Records (hope they do t-shirts) it’s the turn of stable-mates Orphan Jon & The Abandoned, who revolve around singer Jon English and geetar player extraordinaire Bruce Krupnik; with a well deserved nod to Tony Jack Grigsby and Stan Whiting on bass and drums, without whom the sound they create would not be anywhere near as ‘full’..
#Spoiler Alert…….While they could comfortably share a stage one evening, both bands are sufficiently different for me to be in love with both at the same time…….making me a bit of an R&B Tart!
Every instrument on opening track Backbone not just swings, but growls too and when Jon English sings; those notes know they’ve been hit.
Dear Lord, the next song Blood Moon is sexy, gutsy and almost demonic in equal measures as Jon brings the words up from the pits of his stomach while Bruce Krupnik uses his guitar like a shiny flick-knife in a bar fight, making it perfect for a TV show like Bosch or CSI Miami.
For a Southern R&B band Orphan Jon & The Abandoned manage to make the love songs Drive Me Crazy and Love Light sound dangerously claustrophobic and turbulent in equal measures; which is the best kind of love to find; isn’t it?
Don’t expect no ‘moon in June’ couplets here; these guys have lived a life on the dark edges of Lonely Town and describe women that you and I can only dream of in Medusa and the funklicious Sowin’ Seeds; which will have just as many women punching the air too as they dance along to the ferocious beat when played live in a seedy nightclub somewhere your Mother warned you against going to.
Like all good Blues bands OJATA are at their best when they take things low down and dirty; and that’s so very true here with Dance For Me Girl which is so very wrong on many levels……but oh so right too; and more especially Leave My Blues Alone which finds Jon English using his amazing vocals to create a spine-tingly Soulful Blues Ballad and therefore the RMHQ Favourite Song.
A close contender for that prestigious title is the final track Memories of Me and You; but as an acoustic track with some searing bottle neck; it doesn’t sound like anything else here; but shows what a great songwriter English is and how dextrous he and his band are.
My work colleagues do love a car show on the canteen TV and by sheer coincidence I watched one the day before receiving this album about a guy restoring a 55 Chevy Bel Air and the finished article was sprayed the most voluminous yellow you’ve ever seen……it was beautiful; and that is exactly the car you need to be cruising in on a sunny California Highway to get the best from ABANDONED NO MORE, especially if your hair is slicked back and you’re wearing a silk bowling shirt and a pair of RayBan tortoiseshell Clubmasters……or at least pretend you are when you’re in the Hyundai driving to work in the rain.
PS The cover artwork would certainly have grabbed my attention in a record shop; and the accompanying booklet is very nearly worth the entrance fee alone.
Released 16th March 2018
Micke Bjorklof & The Blue Strip
TWENTY FIVE LIVE at Blues Baltica.
Hokahey Records/Continental Record Services
A Great Boozy and Bluesy Night Out From a Band as Tight as a Clenched Fist.
Blues Music truly is International with this Finnish band recording a much anticipated Live Album in Germany for a Dutch record label and all of the songs are in English plus their last studio album was recorded in North Wales……you couldn’t make it up.
Son #1 who lives in Tampere, Finland first mentioned this band to me three years ago after seeing them rip the roof off a club I’ve visited myself a couple of times and said I ‘would love them’…..sadly our paths haven’t crossed until now and I can hear why he would think that.
First of all I love the fact that the band are actually introduced to the ecstatic 1200 strong audience before the band swing into opening track Jack The Black Hat, a sultry swampy infested Southern Blues with a guitar player (Lefty Leppanen) who comes straight from the Stevie Ray Vaughan school of slick licks.
Although the band is 25 years old, hence this album obviously is brand new to me and possibly, all the better for that.
I absolutely love the harp playing on Tell Me which also features a drum and bass combo as tight as a clenched fist; and just as threatening, as they are on most other songs too.
Bjorklof has an ‘interesting’ voice; warm AND raspy in the best of Blues traditions and while there is a slight ‘accent’ I have to give him huge credit as English is his second language with next to nothing in common with his native Finnish tongue.
The songs come thick and fast with hardly any time to drawer breath in-between save for Micke’s intros, with the band showing their love of all things Bluesy with Last Train to Memphis, Boogie or Die and Hold Your Fire Baby being good ole Chicago R&B stompers with 5.10.15 Hours and Ray Needs a Mojo Hand being slower and sexier and full of Memphis Soul too and the band can swing in a New Orleans style too with Gumbo Mama, Killer Woman and After The Flood which shows what a great and diverse band these boys are.
There’s even an ode dedicated to Son House that closes the album; with Ramblified featuring some sweet, sweet National Steel that accompanies Bjorklof as he pours his heart out which is why this song runs the raw R&B of Jungle Cat a close race for ‘Favourite Track’ status, but I’m going for the latter because….well, just because!
It’s difficult to point you in the direction of who this band actually sound like; obviously there’s a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughan in there but I could say the same of Jimmy and the Fabulous Thunderbirds too with more than a nod in the direction Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter too. They are what they are and sound like a great night out and also the type of band that can blow the main act away at a Festival……you have been warned Micke Bjorklof and Blues Strip are coming for you.
Released April 6th 2018
MOON OVER MONTGOMERY
A Hot & Spicy Musical Gumbo of Southern Delights.
This album was released in late in 2017 when I was having my hiatus from reviewing following Mrs Magpie’s ‘big operation’ so has found itself moving further and further to the back of the ‘to do’ box; and even went into the Charity Box one day, but was given a last minute reprieve.
Why? You ask.
Well; even though the cover art is less than inspiring (it is!) the album came from a trusted source who included a personal note asking me to listen; which is sometimes a good sign.
But it has taken 4 months for me to follow that up and……YOWZA, YOWZA, YOWZA!
Opening track Pig Feet is intriguing; culling together some mighty fine Urban Blues with pinch of Southern Soul and a big splash of Swamp-Country in a musical Gumbo that sets the tone and mood just perfectly for what is to follow.
This really is a virtual Southern Gumbo of delights, with the hot and spicy I Feel Like Dynamite peppering the palette in readiness for the mellow and sultry Bayou Man and Runaway Love which both had me shuffling along in the kitchen one evening.
While there are six different lead vocalists listed here; each blends in perfectly well to the McKee Brothers sound but adding their own exciting dimension to their contribution; especially Larry McCray on the sexily funklicious Late at Night and Melissa Mei on the heartbreaker that is the album closer, Celebrate Me Home.
The title track Moon Over Montgomery is fascinating; not just because it swings like a Baptist Church on a Sunday morning but is actually a homage to Dr King’s 1965 Civil Rights March in that city.
More than ever before this is an album where choosing my ‘favourite track’ is nearly impossible. Do I go for the homage to buying a vinyl record, Flat, Back and Circular or perhaps You Know How I Lie featuring Jeff Robinson giving it his best ‘Smokey Robinson’ on a song about a low down, dirty cheatin’ son-of-a-B that she keeps taking back; or then again there is Kicks; a cool late night R&B croon from Bob Schultz.
But; and I will regret this tomorrow, today the RMHQ favourite track is…….Blues of the Month Club; which is not only a cool title but features some amazing guitar playing and Keyboards; and if one song was to sum up the Musical Gumbo that is Moon Over Montgomery, I think it’s this one; but each constituent track is a stand alone solid gold winner; and when heard one after the other it all combines to sound like the greatest ever Stax Revue backed by Little Feat or the Doobie Brothers.
I ran out of fingers and toes trying to count the musicians listed on the sleeve who took part in recording this record; but there are actually two McKee Brothers…..Denis and Ralph as well as Melissa Mei McKee who is a Soul Sister supreme judging by her vocal contributions!
As an Englishman who loves and fantasises daily about American music; Moon Over Montgomery ticks just about every box I have for a great night out; or in; as the case may be.
Released October 17th 2017
Jamie Williams & The Roots Collective
Quintessential British R&B With a Country Heart.
My father used to have a saying that I now use; “God acts in mysterious ways” and that may sum up why I selected this album to listen to last week.
First of all the band name is a bit of a mouthful isn’t it and the sleeve isn’t exactly eye-catching but as soon as I heard that wailing harmonica and thumping bass on opening track Little Black Book I knew I was onto a winner.
For what should be a relatively simple Classic British R&B foot stomper there’s an awful lot going on behind Jamie Williams gut wrenching vocal performance; not least Dave Milligan’s searingly hot guitar runs.
I Don’t Want To Break My Baby’s Heart which follows isn’t quite so earthy; more Manfred Mann than Dr. Feelgood if you know what I mean; but a helluva corking love song though, but man.
Nothing here is ever anything less than interesting with a couple of cool acoustic tunes thrown in for good measure, with Godsend and Bastard County both being glorious toe tapping Country Blues tunes of the highest order.
But it’s the glorious Rhythmic Blues of the electric persuasion that I’ve fallen in love with all over again with that harp from Nick Garner sending shivers down my spine on the chilling Voodoo Man (which also features the band on ‘harmonies’) and on Lonesome Howl From The Heart I was transported back to those drunken nights in the Red House on Newcastle’s dangerous Quayside long before it became gentrified.
While they obviously love 60’s British R&B and probably 70’s Pub Rock the band show that they aren’t a Retro Showband with Reaching For The Stars and One Man Mission To Mars which both fit in perfectly; but go off in spectacular new directions all of their own.
But; the title of RMHQ Favourite Song goes to a “Most Blues Wailing” song worthy of The Yardbirds, Feelgoods and even the Stones when they really were Rolling……..Baddass and Lazy is one of those songs that sounds great on record but will surely be a showstopper when played loud and at 100mph on stage. Williams sings from the heart over an industrial strength rhythm section and an electric guitar and harmonica that both need a bucket of cold water at the end of this spectacular 2 and a half minutes.
This is the music that first instilled my love of ‘The Blues’…..the quintessential British version and Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective aka JWRoots are every bit as good as anything that I’ve heard in the last twenty years; primarily because they aren’t trying to sound like anyone but themselves which is a winning formula at RMHQ.
Released 16th March 2018
BIG DADDY GUMBO
Maximum R&B From Swampland USA.
Like so many albums I receive I’d not heard of Tommy Dardar before receiving this album; but why would I? He played in and fronted bands in and around South Louisiana for aeons but sadly died in 2017 before these tracks originally recorded in 2001 would ever be released.
But after reading the accompanying Press Release and listening to the loving way his friends and family have re-worked and polished those recordings I really wish I could have not just seen him playing live; but even met the guy as he sounds a fascinating character.
I’m pretty sure the album artwork would have caught my eye in a record shop and if the man behind the counter played track #1 It’s Good To Be King I would gratefully have shelled out the £10 or so to buy whatever came next.
That song is an absolute doozy; opening with some stinging guitar from Johnny Lee Schell and when Tommy’s rich voice and most blues-wailin’ harmonica come in I knew instantly that this was music I would absolutely luuurve.
Oh boy, oh boy….oh boy songs like Baby I Can Tell and Shake a Leg are the type of Rocking Blues music fans like me fantasise about hearing coming from a downtown club somewhere South of the Mason-Dixon line while on holiday.
Then there is Dangerous Woman and C’mon Second Line; oohheee……are these cool or what? Dardar and friends produce the musical sounds that Van Morrison must hear in his head before he goes into a studio; but has failed to reproduce for 30+ years #fact.
Favourite track? How am I supposed to choose only one from this parcel of musical gems; but choose I must.
Perhaps the Honky-Tonk of Let’s Go Back to New Orleans; featuring the legendary Jon Cleary on piano and Tommy Dardar at his crooning best or will it be the funklicious Big Daddy Gumbo which closes the proceeding with even more sizzling guitar and saxophone than a man my age can handle; and don’t get me started on those sexy backing singers!
But I’m going for In My Mind; a slow burning sensual ballad that will bring tears to a glass eye and a song Tommy Dardar can proudly leave as his finest legacy, as is the record itself.
Released February 13th 2018
Only Blues Music (Australia)
Soul Sister and Heartbreaker Extraordinaire.
As an old Soul Boy; finding good high quality Soul Music these days is becoming increasingly difficult, as the majority of what is being called R&B ain’t really got Rhythm and certainly isn’t what I call The Blues!
My appetite was sated a recently when I accidentally discovered a label called Ecko Records which released some really saucy and sassy albums by acts like Miss Jody, Sheba Potts-Wright and (my favourite) Barbara Carr, but it appears to have sunk without trace; leaving me with my old record collection for solace.
So it was with great delight when my favourite Blues PR man, Frank Roszack sent me this terrific album by Sri-Lankan born and Australian brought up, musical powerhouse Andrea Marr.
Even the cover artwork will get Soul aficionados blood pumping and when opening track Force of Nature comes blasting out of the speakers feet all over the world will twitch and tap as hips shake like leaves in a storm.
Andrea Marr and The Funky Hitmen sure know how to get a party started as they use every trick in the book with their swinging horn section and a firecracker guitarist coupled to a steam powered organ, drummer and bassist giving Andrea’s amazing voice a backing it well deserves.
Track #2 will give you a real idea about where Ms Marr is coming from as she tears away all of the Pop trappings from Aretha’s Rock Steady and turns it into the sassy Rhythm AND Blues song of seduction it was always meant to be!
As with all the great Soul that came out of Stax and Atlantic in that halcyon bygone age and what Daptone Records currently do better than anyone else, Miss Andrea Marr combines passion, energy and S-O-U-L with melodies and hooks to die for on What Do I Have To Do and Mama Gets It Wrong Sometimes Too, but it’s when she writes and sings from and about the heart this album surpasses any similar releases in the last 20 years.
That’s Where Love Ends and Sticks and Stones are both the type of slow song I wanted to hear when the lights went down low at the end of the night in a Club or at a party.
While not as ribald as those Ecko albums I love, Andrea includes a couple of earthy songs of seduction in Good Man and the quaintly titled Let’s Take It To The Bedroom, when she shows she’s a lady that knows what she wants and…..trust me; she’s going get what SHE wants!
That last song was very nearly (and probably should be) my favourite track here; but I’m actually going for something a bit left of centre with Grateful; a rather beautiful bittersweet love song that evokes memories of discovering the delights of Aretha, Phyllis Nelson and, of course more recently Sharon Jones; and now Andrea Marr appears to have the same ability to touch my heart with her magical words and phrasing too.
Released October 31st 2017
BORN IN OAKLAND
Mule Slide Records
After 30 Years The Kings of Frisco Blues Still Swing Like a Swiss Watch.
Some days I just love this job!
Mrs. Magpie wasn’t too happy with me earlier in the week because the pile of padded envelopes was stacking up in the kitchen; so I disappeared into the backroom with a strong cup of coffee and began downloading and logging the contents. After looking at 11 CD covers of acts I’d never heard of I took this one out of the packet, and there was ‘something’ about the cover artwork that caught my attention…..the band name? The harmonica? Who knows but as it downloaded I pressed ‘play’…..BIFF….BAP….POW! The opening salvo hit me like a 1960’s Batman episode.
That song, Sunny Day is way beyond ‘cool’…..way, way beyond. A swampy horn section, bass and drums from a building site, sizzling guitars and a singer with a voice that sounds like it has lived a life all of it’s very own……..more coffee was ordered and I settled in for an hour of classy, gorgeous Rhythm AND Blues.
Track two Fine and Healthy Thing bizarrely sounds like a funky Van Morrison fronting the Glenn Miller Orchestra; and coming from someone whose Mother loved the Big Band Sound; that’s as good a compliment as I give.
My, oh my Delta Wires can not only play a tune but write a damn fine song too……the love songs Your Eyes and Fun Time are both pure midnight magic; making your toes tap and your loins twitch ……if you know what I mean 😉
I very nearly chose the hiptastic Days of the Week as my favourite track; not just because of singer and bandleader Ernie Pinata’s lung busting harmonica playing that somehow leaves just enough energy to sing about waiting for Friday night.
But I’m going for the sensual and Soulful Devil’s in my Headset because……just….because. It’s a doozy and ….well….sometimes you just fall in love with a sound; and fall in love I most certainly have.
Even on that first play the quality of the individual musicians shone though on every song; with I Don’t Care and Vacation really and truly showcasing their combined efforts and Pinata really sings his heart out on album closer All I Have To Give.
If you take Jools Holland out of the equation this type of R&B doesn’t exist in the UK any-more; which is a shame because this is the music that I grew up with back in the late 70’s in the pubs and clubs of Durham and Tyneside and my gateway to The Blues of BB King etc.
I doubt Delta Wires will ever visit NE England; so I guess I will have to check flights and hotels for a trip to SF sometime soon.
Released June 30th 2017
Glenn Alexander & Shadowland
Rainbows Revenge Records
Enough Rhythm & Blues Infused Soul To Make Your Heart Burst.
I haven’t got the time to listen to every album I receive, never mind review them so some rare gems get lost to the Oxfam shop; which is nearly what happened here, but there was something about the cover and song titles that made me give it a try.
Yippee Whey Aye Man!!!
I knew in the first 15 seconds that this was for me; cool swishing guitars and red hot horn section hit me like a left hook; and when Glenn Alexander’s rough around the edges voice joined them I was out for the musical count.
That song If Your Phone Don’t Ring, a swinging Rhythm and Blues deluxe song would be the highlight of many albums; but here it’s just a taster for what is to come.
Memphis Soul is ‘just what it says on the tin’ but with added ‘twang’; and the low and slow Blues For You & Me and Big Boss Man are the type of suburban Chicago Blues I fell in love with 40+ years ago; and this gorgeous duet between Glenn and Orio is absolutely delicious.
The band can get low down and funky with the best of them and when needed they can pick up the pace too and make your feet twitch and shake on Get Up and the razzle dazzling The Odds Are Good.
As connoisseurs would expect, classy R&B and Soul tends to be primarily about Luuurve…..good Luuurve and bad Luuurve; and Glenn Alexander doesn’t disappoint on that front with The Odds are Good and the red hot Get a Life which features Southside Johnny on mouth harp, being prime examples; but the title of ‘Favourite Song’ goes to the soulful groove of I Picked The Wrong Day (To Stop Drinking). It’s as sad as it’s beautiful with Gospel style harmonies and a wailing B3 Organ in the background. Who among us doesn’t love a tearjerker and heartbreaker like this?
As my Father used to say “God moves in mysterious ways” and that is certainly true here; as this CD was in a box destined for the Charity Shop when something made me take it back out……and I’m mighty pleased I did; and you will be too.
Released January 2017
I Got Your Medicine
The Good Doctor Prescribes Listening To This Funky Soulful Delight Daily!
This arrived in a week when I was inundated with CD’s to review yet I was instantly drawn to the cover artwork, showing a hirsute young man looking not unlike a young and natty Dr John, so into the player it went.
OOOOHHHEEE BABY! God sure does act in mysterious ways.
The title track I Got Your Medicine immediately swoops from the speakers the New Orleans gumbo music of Dr. John immediately sprang to mind as ex-Gourd Kevin Russell croons in a deep and loaded and, it has to be said….slightly sexy manner over a jazzy groove with plenty of Doo-Wop too from the backing singers. If I had heard this song on the car radio, I would have had to pull over.
I seem to be listening to a lot of Rhythm & Blues at the moment; and the world is a better place for it especially with amazing songs like Trouble, Trouble and the nod to Louis Jordan, Ambulance being out there in the ether just waiting to make your life a little bit better.
Music effects people in many ways; but I personally don’t listen to enough ‘happy music’ and that is the best way to describe
Shinyribs very much wear their influences on their sleeves, with I Gave it All Up For You being a delicious Fats Domino/Otis Redding hybrid……trust me it’s a rare song that gets me miming along while including dance moves and facial expressions, but this one did and still does.
I only wish I had the imagination and vocabulary to have described this style of music as Tub Gut Stomp & Red Eyed Soul; but thankfully Russell has and did as that is the title of one of the stand out tracks tucked away in the middle of the album.
Kevin Russell is a glorious songwriter but still includes three covers here; the heart-shredding interpretation of Ted Hawkins’ I Gave Up All I Had could easily be mistaken for Otis or Marvin in their heydays (as does the mournful Nothing Takes The Place of You); but another made go “What the Hell”, “No…it can’t be…it is” Shinyribs turn the RMHQ favourite the Yardbirds, A Certain Girl into a late night Bluesy Soul Destroyer…..which is probably what songwriter Allen Toussaint originally intended and it becomes a thing of rare beauty here.
Oh man; choosing a favourite is nearly impossible with the slow burning Hands on Your Hips being a contender; but the tongue in cheek ‘I love you and I hate you and can’t live without you’ call and response between Kevin Russell and Alice Spencer…..I Don’t Give a Shit is the winner by a funky country mile. It’s sure not made for radio but will be a guaranteed showstopper when played live.
Tinkling piano, an amazing voice, sexy backing singers, horns a plenty and meticulously groovy rhythm section all combine to make all of these dozen songs into a classic album that will more than likely be included in my Top 10 albums of the year.
Released February 24th 2017