Blackie and The Rodeo Kings KING OF THIS TOWN

Blackie and The Rodeo Kings
File Under Music

The Kings of Canada Take Americana to Infinity and Beyond.

While I’ve dipped in and out of the Rodeo Kings back catalogue over the years; it wasn’t until the Kings and Queens album that I really began to see why they are Superstars in their native Canada.
Then, of course their are the burgeoning solo careers of founder members Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing who all feature prominently in the RMHQ Back Pages.
Originally formed way back in 1996 this is the band’s 10th album; and #Spoiler Alert ….. is quite ‘The Zinger’ in many ways, corralling many and various forms of what we know as Rootsy Americana and adding their very own special blend of Canadian Rock and Roll to give us something quite extraordinary in a very ordinary genre.
The album starts with Hard Town, a Blues/Gospel hybrid which appears to tap into the current socio-political zeitgeist in a beautifully dark and moody manner.
Cold 100, which follows is more like what we would expect, a claustrophobic ‘driving song’; but with extra grit and robustness that features some sublime bottle-neck guitar (from Colin Linden).
It would be foolish to describe every single song; but there’s no filler here; every song is a stone cold killer; with the band switching track and mood with the greatest of ease.
There’s even a hint of Tex-Mex and Mariachi on the eminently danceable Kick My Heart Around; and the lyrics themselves ain’t too shabby either.
World Gone Mad is the type of Alt. Rocker that I love; a tightly packed melody, with everyone in the collective adding tiny bits to create a great big racket that needs turning up to 10 to get the best out of it.
As I wasn’t sent a Press Release (#sigh) I’m afraid to tell you who sings what for fear of making a mistake; but it’s evident all three take turns at the mic and each singer brings his very own strengths to proceedings.
Even though they have a Rock & Roll heart, every song here is carefully and calculatedly created to perfection; with the gently introspective Walking On Our Graves sung by Stephen Fearing still managing to have the power to surprise after all these years; as does the jangly Canadiacana of Medicine Hat which has some fabulous guitar breaks that reminded me of Duanne Eddy in his pomp.
With three Award Winning singer-songwriters at their core, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings songs are always not just articulate and grown-up; but accessible too ……. these chaps are educated to to the hilt; but ain’t no smart asses!
Selecting a Favourite Track certainly isn’t easy here; as every single song has it’s own merits that have touched me in one way or another in the last couple of days; but by today I’ve pressed ‘repeat’ a couple of times on two particular songs; Stephen singing the tender Grace is as good as anything on his recent solo albums (which I absolutely adore); and the addition of harmonica makes it sound like they’re sitting around a camp fire thinking of home.
The other is the title track King of This Town which just about shades the award of Favourite Track as it’s a collective effort and has a beat that will have you putting just a little too much pressure on the accelerator pedal when you hear it in the car. Think Tom Petty fronting The Band singing an old Neil Young song and you will be halfway there.
It’s still only January and I’ve already heard some great Roots Music, but it’s going to take something really, really special to arrive at RMHQ for this album not to be my Album of 2020.
In fact I’ll tell you how much I like it …….. I’ve actually bought a copy with my own money!

# Amended version
Released January 24th 2020


Jared Deck
Bully Pulpit
Self-Release/Proper Music

Fun Times Rock & Roll Fueled, Gospel Tinged Americana

“Great American Breakdown” by Oklahoman Jared Deck, from his newest album, Bully Pulpit, is the song we’ve been waiting for. Cheeky, relevant, danceable. High-heeled sneakers for this politically dysfunctional generation. The best protest songs transcend their message to the point where people can sing along twenty years later, not caring what the song was really about. With a riff straight out of T-Rex (the most danceable of the glam rock bands) and some gospel-fueled shouting, this song rips and tears it up for a full three minutes before slamming the door shut with a satisfying clang.
Songs over, you can go home now, only Jared Deck and his band ain’t done yet, they still have more to say. The rest of this album is a mixture of jump and jive gospel, smooth country, a smattering of Randy Newman on speed, and even some Willy Deville. 
Deck is a farm-raised Oklahoma country boy with blue collar roots who ran for local election, (lost) played piano in a gospel church, and released his first album to much acclaim. He has a powerful voice that goes from cranked up Fender Bassman to comfortable country crooning with ease, with the gospel rockers giving him a chance to hoot and holler, where to me he seems more in his element. The country songs are fine, but the rockers have so much character and burn so hot that pretty much anything next to them pales in comparison. 
We do get a sad tear-jerker of a tale with “Make Your Mama Proud,” and some well-wrought anguish in “Tulsa Sound,” but my ears keep going back to the amped up gospel rockers, “There’s a Leak in This Old Building” and “Sometimes I Miss Being Lonely” both being vocal tours de force which must be fun for him and his band to pull off live — It ain’t showing off if you can pull it off!
“Money Back” utilizes familiar tropes and moves fast like a downhill train, and “I Don’t Know What You Come To Do” is that same train about to derail but Deck and his band are having a blast in the process knowing that to rock, is living life to the fullest.
Words courtesy the Legendary Roy Peak

Released UK September 13th 2019
Released USA January 2019

John Clifton NIGHTLIFE

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John Clifton
Rip Cat Records

Enough Rocking and Rolling R&B to Make Your Heart, Soul and Feet Sizzle.

When I were but a lad there was a vibrant Blues, or more R&B scene in and around Newcastle; mostly promoted by the fledgling Jumpin’ and Hot Club in cellars and back-rooms of public houses. This proved a great starting point for not just me, but a lot of men and women who are my friends now.

It’s pointless naming the bands names; even the ‘big name’ out of towners, but they stamped a life long love of red hot and blistering Rhythm AND Blues into my psyche, and while it has gone out of fashion in the UK it’s evident that there are plenty of such combo’s still treading the boards across the US of A; and some of the finest appear to have a home at the aptly monikered Rip Cat Records (and yes; I would look amazing in one of their XL work-shirts!).

The latest of their releases to hit our desk is from John Clifton; and as I occasionally say……if I had seen this album in a Record Store the sleeve alone would have made me part with Mrs. Magpie’s shopping money.

For half an hour I couldn’t get past opening track, Charlie Musselwhite’s Strange Land! Repeat…repeat and …….repeat! The song absolutely sizzles for the whole three and a half minutes; not just grabbing the listener’s attention but his throat and testicles too!

This is followed by the burning soul of Sad About It; which has my over active imagination picturing Clifton dropping to his knees mid song a’la James Brown as he howls and wails like a man possessed when not secretly confiding his sins to us.

Tucked away in the middle are three self-penned ‘classics’ that take us into the Rock and Roll end of the Blues spectrum; with guitarist Scott Abeyta sounding uncannily like Cliff Gallup on Brand New Way to Walk! Then the crickets at the beginning of Swamp Dump help add a distinct touch of magic to this superbly greasy instrumental, of which the title tells you all you need to know and the third in the trio is another instrumental, but a very clever duet/battle between Clifton on harmonica and Bartek Szopinski on piano and the end result is sensational.

While Clifton covers tracks by artistes I’m well aware of the only song I recognised was Muddy Waters’ Still a Fool; and only then because I have a version on a bootleg by my favourite ever Geordie Blues Band…….the Blues Burglars; of whom this album sounds like they could and should have.

John Clifton certainly knows his history and his Roots as he pays homage to this style of playing; but the way they deliver Nightlife and No Better Time Than Now shows a band who ain’t no ‘one trick ponies’…….these guys are all experienced and intricate players in their own rites; but when playing together they take R&B into a whole new dimension than the one I remember from those drunken and sweaty nights in the Bridge Hotel and Red House, 40 years ago.

Before I announce the winner of the RMHQ Favourite Track Award a word or two about the beautiful lament Every Now and Then which closes the record. At 9 minutes plus, I should normally have got bored half way through; but just like Van Morrison back in the days he played this music; Clifton had me hanging on every single note and word each time I’ve played it.

Then there is Last Clean Shirt; written by Leiber, Stoller and Otis; but (now I’ve researched it!) made famous by T-Bone Walker……..and Walker’s finest……..THE ANIMALS! Hey ho; John Clifton wrings every last ounce of emotion from this amazing song and his band…..well…..suffice to say; they make it (and me) come close to boiling point several times but never add anything that doesn’t need to be here…….the Blues don’t get much better than these 5 minutes kidda… me.

Quite often with albums like this bands struggle to recreate their stage magic in the studio; that is not the case here…..these guys have managed to sprinkle extra Fairy Dust on this bunch of songs to make them perfect for both a sensual night in or a late night lonesome drive along the highways with no particular place to go.

Released May 18th 2018


Blackfoot Gypsies – TO THE TOP

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Blackfoot Gypsies


Plowboy Records

It’s Only Rock n Roll and I BLOODY LOVE IT!

New music arrives on my desk from a variety of sources and for a variety of reasons; and only occasionally someone will contact me with a personal note to say “I genuinely think you will like this album.”

Such was the case here when a ‘friend’ mentioned a band a year ago that he’d seen at SXSW then again this year and he ‘knew that I would love them’….subsequently quoting reviews of similar acts.

He wasn’t wrong!

The fuzzy Jeff Beck channelled through Warner E Hodges guitar break that opens first track I’m So Blue had me instantly hooked and then a ‘most Blues-wailing’ harmonica sealed the deal before the singer Matthew Paige had even uttered a note. What can I see boom-boom Ramones style drumming, 60’s British Beat Boom R&B and a singer who thinks he’s Jason Ringenberg…..what’s not to like?

In many ways this album starts with a bang and proceeds to drop musical bombs at every opportunity……I Had a Vision is a soundtrack for anyone with a conscience in this mad political world and will have fans screaming the chorus while manically punching the air at concerts, and I expect the 100 mph stomper I Wanna Be Famous to have a similar effect.

This band will be known for their fantastic Rockers (Everybody’s Watching is as good as life gets!); but like the best before them they will be judged (by me at least) for their ability to slow things down too; and with I’ve Got The Blues, Paige’s sorrowful lament, a mournful harmonica and a Steel-guitar, duh-duh-duh bass and some sublime understated drumming combine to make an raw and authentic Country-Blues record that sounds like it was recorded in a field outside a Juke Joint in rural Alabama in 1947…..and damn good it is too.

Then, just to confuse you Velvet Low Down Blues finds the band harmonising on a gorgeous slow and swinging tune with a fiddle as lead instrument…..and again, it’s damn good.

She Was Mine, which closes the album rocks and shakes like a cat on heat, and Promise to Keep sounds like something the Stones or Faces might have recorded but were frightened to release as it was ‘too Country Rock’ for the times; but those times are right now and the Blackfoot Gypsies are at the forefront.

Do I go for the Diddley-Rocker Gypsy Queen, with Paige imitating everyone who has ever imitated Mick Jagger, for the title of ‘Favourite Track’ or the mellow and borderline sexy Woman Woman? Today it’s the latter, but last night with the car stereo cranked up to 11 it was the former, TO THE TOP is that kind of album, it has suited and created every mood I’ve been in or needed to be in all week.

Thank you Cary and thank you Blackfoot Gypsies, you know me better than I know myself.

It’s only Rock n Roll…….and I bloody love it!

Released April 14th 2017