You have to strongly admire any artist, who may or may not be retired, but who continues recording the songs that keep coming and coming into their head regardless of any thought of Commercial success. With no Record Company to lean on, and no savings or capitol to speak of, we have here the definitive DIY project. What’s amazing is that it’s not even a one off, it’s far too common in the 21st Century and something like Number 14 in a series of recent DIY releases. Step forward one Mickey Jupp Esq, the man who started playing in Southend with The Orioles in 1964, the man who was signed to Stiff Records in the 1970’s and the man whose songs have been covered by a multitude of artists on both sides of the pond (and beyond). If you want to discover who he was and what he did, then there’s a cracking book out by Mike Wade, entitled “Hole in my Pocket” the true legend of Mickey Jupp: the rock’n’roll genius who declined to be a star, available from Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hole-pocket-legend-rocknroll-declined/dp/1506088031/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=mickey+jupp&qid=1582709786&s=books&sr=1-1 So, onto the here and now; his latest release contains 11 brand new songs written between October 2019 and February 2020 plus 3 previously unrecorded songs from 1997. Mickey wrote all the songs, played all the instruments on the latest 11, and mixed and produced them all. Not just that, he then burned the 14 songs onto CD’s on his own home PC and then wrote the sleeve notes and printed them off on his home PC/Printer. Next, he bought loads of envelopes and put the CD’s in the envelopes and stuck stamps on the envelopes and took them to his village Post Office for all his loyal fans who pre-ordered their copies without any prior information, other than “Mickey’s got another 14 songs for your entertainment and delight”. You don’t see Ed Sheeran or Justin Timberlake doing that; do you? Delight is the word, as far as I’m concerned. No one comes close to writing lyrics as clever or as perceptive as Mr. Jupp, just like Willie Nelson, Sam Cooke or Buddy Holly before him, he keeps it simple but sharp and targeted to continually hit the bulls eye. The album kicks off with “Nice and She Knew It” recalling the fascination of a school boys dream. “Bad News Can Travel Fast” initially could be a Leiber & Stoller song from the 1950’s and then “Nothing Here For You” picks up the pace and sets a neat groove. “Honky Tonic” is another that paints a wonderful picture whilst honkey-tonking along nicely. Of the 3 older efforts I love “Line Dancing” like an old friend. There’s no fillers on this album at all, and trying to select my personal favourite certainly wasn’t easy, but “I’m Gonna Have To Lie Down” just about pips it, if only because it reminds me of my own mis-spent youth. Now here’s the thing, this album is not available in the shops or via any of the internet retailers or streamers. If you want a copy (and I urge you to do so) then you’ll have to go direct to Mickey Jupp himself. email@example.com or via The Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/71384449470/
Review courtesy Mr Jack Kidd (Currently living in Witness Protection ….. but we don’t talk about that )
Pete Seeger and Roger McGuinn AT THE BOTTOM LINE (1994) The Bottom Line Archive.
A Masterclass In Songwriting From Teacher and Pupil.
This is a fascinating series of releases from the Bottom Line Archive; often bringing our ‘back pages’ into sparkling life again; and for younger listeners not just a window into the soul of what has become known as Americana Music; but in many cases a Masterclass in the oeuvre too. If you are in any shape or form, a Folk music fan, if Vin Scelsa’s introduction to Pete Seeger doesn’t move you into settling back for what is to follow, then this website and review ain’t really for you, is it? Even without me telling you about the songs here; you just know that listening to Pete Seeger and his protege, Roger McGuinn telling stories and singing songs on stage has to be a history lesson in itself, and well worth your time, doesn’t it? In themselves, not every song here has stood the test of time, but there are more than enough nuggets that are genuine magical moments that will make you smile and sigh at the same time, to make it all worthwhile. Personally I’m not really a ‘fan’ of Pete Seeger’s style of Folk Music; but listening to his story of building his first house, which leads into If I Had a Hammer is absolutely spellbinding; and made me incredibly jealous of the couple of hundred people crammed into the Bottom Line hearing this story first hand. But; I am a fan of Roger McGuinn (don’t get me started on the night I met him for a cup of tea!); and you have to put into perspective where he was in his career that night, as he had recently left the Byrds and had just been part of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review, and was about to embark on the solo career that still fills halls today, yet still found the time to sit mesmerised at the feet of his mentor, Pete Seeger. If you were in a Record Store, a cursory look at the track listing would or should make you want to hear Roger’s story behind The Ballad of Easy Rider, Eight Miles High, and Chestnut Mare; and his heartfelt singing of each; but ……… hearing Pete talk about Woody Guthrie and Alan Lomax brought tears to my eyes; and will you too. On a charming double album it’s kinda difficult to pick out a Favourite Track for you. Roger talking about writing You Showed Me with Gene Clark then singing it, has to be a highlight; but Pete’s stories are all genuinely enthralling and need to be heard by everyone who has the audacity to think they too are a singer-songwriter; but I will point you to Where Have All The Flowers Gone ….. it’s just as important today in 2020 as it was 60 years ago! But; I’m going with Roger who writes that singing Bells of Rhymney alongside Pete was and is still one of the highlights of his well documented career; and I can’t disagree with that, now can I? This remarkable album is as much a historical document, as it is anything else and I urge you to buy two copies; as you will want one for yourself and if you know any aspiring singer-songwriter, give them the other copy to hear two Masters of the genre oozing love and class in abundance!
Christopher Paul Stelling Best of Luck Anti- Records
A Varied and Fulfilling Americana Album
Christopher Paul Stelling – or CPS as I shall abbreviate him to save time typing – is part of the long tradition of American travelling troubadours. Only armed with guitar, voice, enthusiasm and plenty of talent he’s grafted his way across Europe and huge parts of his native America over the years. I once saw him play a thirty minute support slot to Lilly Hiatt in Brussels after he’d driven a couple of hundred miles to the gig – and he had a couple of hundred more to get to the next show. The result of such dedication is the creation of a craftsman – CPS is a fine finger-picking bluesy guitarist, reminiscent in many ways of Sean Taylor. “Best of Luck” and “Thank My Lucky Stars” frame his mellow vocals and create a nice, warm full sound. “Trouble Don’t Follow” affirms a positive worldview with a Motown shuffle on distorted guitar – a real crowd-pleaser. “Until I die” leaves the fuzz plugged in but switches to a nicely discordant blues riff – again there’s the resigned attitude of the road warrior “you’re gonna keep on working until you die”, but tempered with the recognition that he’ll be loved for the same amount of time too. “Made up Your Mind” and “Blue Bed” return to confident bluesy picking with CPS showing off fine chops especially on the second track. “Something in Return” is somewhat Richard Thompson in guitar style, but vocally much more soulful; lyrically, CPS’ themes are still the universal ones of the balladeer – “love and the chaos and the coincidence”; but that’s no bad thing. “Hear me calling” shifts things up a gear with stomping percussion, Rock God vocal and Angus Young licks, whereas “Waiting Game” brings in keyboards for a bit of Sweet Southern Soul – keyboards which hang around for “Goodnight Sweet Dreams” and a tender wish to “see you in the morning”. Christopher Paul Stelling – to give him back his full title – has delivered a varied, fulfilling album that showcases his ability to hold the attention of the listener, a skill in no part formed out there on the road – he deserves your attention and attendance.
Ian Roland and the Subtown Set DOUBLE RAINBOW Self-Released
Charming and Heavenly Contemporary British Folk.
Cast your mind back 5 years to when RMHQ first started and you just might remember that one of our first reviews was Ian Roland’s HOW THAT DUST JUMPS. I’ve just had another listen and it’s still rather lovely btw.
But, we are ‘all about New Music’ these days and Ian and assorted friends have just recorded an new, bigger sounding and perhaps more ‘mature album’ under the moniker Ian Roland and the Subtown Set (NOT Sect as I first typed!), named after the studio these songs were originally recorded in. Opening song The Valley is rather divine; as Roland uses his velvety smooth voice plus acoustic guitar, violin and cello to great effect on a pining ‘Contemporary Folk Song’ of the finest order. This is followed by Butterfly; and as a man of a ‘certain vintage’ I was swept back to my teenage years in the coalfields of NE England where I would dream of a better life somewhere warmer, sunnier and more colourful; and this song made for a perfect soundtrack. At times here I’ve found it difficult to make my choice of descriptive nouns not sound ‘critical’; but in the best of ways this album is both charming and delightful in equal measures; but never saccharine or twee. Roland actually tackles some dark and challenging subjects in Human Too and In The Darkness; but the melodious constructions and crystal clear production bring the very best out of his words and make them deceptively ‘easy on the ear’. This is most definitely in the Folk spectrum; but not the ‘finger in the ear’ ‘how worthy am I’ sphere; Roland writes of the things around him but adds a lovely commercial edge to his songs; with Colour Me In and the show-stopping title track Double Rainbow being well worthy of daytime radio play; and not just on the Interweb. (Where are the brave DJ’s any more?). There are two songs that you really should take the trouble to hunt out; and because of that they tie for the title RMHQ Favourite Song. Shooting Star is a delightful Love Song, with Roland’s voice soaring to the stratosphere on the chorus and the gentle combination of guitars and cello creating a warm backdrop T’other is Songbirds; a more complex melody plus the surprise addition of Brione Jackson stepping up from creating windswept harmonies to juxtapose Roland’s on a verse or two is an absolute Masterstroke. I’m out of touch with the Folk Scene these days; so don’t know where this ‘band’ will fit in; but if you can put your preconceptions to one side for an hour or two; then this album (and I presume a gig or two) will please everyone who likes a singer-songwriter with a great voice and songs too; then this is for you.
Neil Bob Herd and the Dirty Little Acoustic Band EVERY SOUL A STORY Cattlecall Music
Glorious Americana With Its Scottish Roots Showing.
Although it obviously has a rich musical history, why such a small country as Scotland continues to produce not just authentic but exciting Americana music is beyond me. But it keeps churning out albums that I love and admire from some mystical conveyor belt North of Hawick and South of Lerwick. Today it’s the turn of one time Coal Porter, Neil Bob Herd and his latest solo album. The intriguing Rockabilly-lite, Bad Land opens the album in a toe tapping style; and Herd’s natural brogue takes you on a fabulous musical journey. It sounds like a very simple story of ‘dreams turned sour’; but I keep getting the impression that there’s a political metaphor in there too; is it about Americae? Scotland? Or possibly Post-Brexit Great Britain …. or it just might be a bittersweet love song. That’s been the joy listening to this album; Neil Bob Herd is a fabulous storyteller, steeped in the Traditional Folk heritage, but he also has a Poets soul and a Rock n Roll heart. I try my best to unravel songs; but it’s not always easy with Herd hiding a conundrum inside a riddle; but with a lovely melody and chorus making Light a Single Candle and Well Well, very easy to hum along to. Others are far more ‘obvious’; but none the less fascinating; As Much As I Needed Too is a sad eyed observation on a long relationship that has drifted into complacence; yet the same man can deliver the gorgeous love song Exactly What I Wanted 15 minutes later! Herd dips his toes into several musical ponds here; those last two could easily have been from the pithy pen of Nick Lowe; while his Scottish Folk Roots come to the fore on the Colour of History and later he straps on his Fender Jaguar (?) for a Postcard era Indie missive called Best Song; which may end up being my Song of The Summer! We all know someone like the ‘characters’ in Coming Back as Jason and Book Inside Them. Mysteriously romantic figures in our lives who have an indescribable aura about them; ‘that’ bloke in the pub, or someone we used to work alongside; or it could even be an Uncle (or Aunt) you only meet at weddings and funerals; but always brings a smile to your face when they say, “That Reminds Me…….” These romantic figures are best summed up in the line: “Frank was good with Treasure Maps But no good at Crossword Clues.” Which then brings me to my actual Favourite Song here; Leave Only Love (Old Dog) which again will make you sit back smiling thinking of someone similar; I know that I have …… and that neat pedal-steel does the melody no harm at all. In many ways this album proves that good music knows no boundaries; and just because Neil Bob Herd makes no pretence at hiding his lovely Scottish accent when he sings, doesn’t stop this having an Americana heartbeat.
Nathaniel Rateliff And It’s Still Alright Stax Records/Concord Music
Putting Plenty of Heartbreaking Soul Into Country Folk.
Straight from the opening acoustic guitar chords on What a Drag, you know this is very, very, very different from Nate Rateliff’s previous albums with the Night Sweats. While there were sad ballads on those albums they sure weren’t nothing like this …….. a deceptively beautiful, thoughtful and haunting song of loss and then hope. I think it’s fair to say ……… Stax Records ain’t ever released an album like this before! And they should be proud of themselves for doing so. Singer-Songwriter’s always write from the heart and generally deliver deeply personal works; and that’s exactly what you get on this album, which shouldn’t have but has still managed to surprise me in every groove and stanza. Rateliff certainly has a distinctive voice; one that still oozes S.O.U.L even in this Country-Folk format; with Expecting To Lose and Mavis both threatening to break into becoming Power Ballad; but Rateliff shows great restraint; holding back from the brink to leave the listener gasping for breath. But the all encompassing beauty of Rateliff’s kind words and deep storytelling shine brightly in Time Stands and You Need Me; with his Folk Roots showing like a ‘Bottle Blonde’ in the third week of the month on All Or Nothing and the tragically beautiful Kissing Our Friends which has been a contender for Favourite Song Status for several days now. Apparently these songs began poring from his pencil in 2017 as a long-term relationship unravelled just as his career began to peak; then a year later his friend and Producer of The Night Sweats albums Richard Swift died; taking Nathaniel into a ‘dark place’ from which he wrote the title track And It’s Still Alright; which is as pertinent a song as you’ll hear on the subject of losing someone close to you; and you know what …….. it will make you smile. Two songs really stand out; the finale the dark and brooding Rush On and the one that quite rightfully takes the RMHQ Accolade of Favourite Song; the absolutely wonderful All or Nothing on which the singer sounds uncannily like Harry Nilsson! As something of a Night Sweats ‘fan and although I was aware of the laid-back Acoustic format this album would take; but it’s still been surprise after surprise as the singer uses his magnificent voice in a manner that has no right to be succesful; and the songs themselves? Boy oh Boy; can he right something touching, eloquent and eminently touching again and again.
Amazing and Important Songs That Shouldn’t Have To Be Written or Sung in 2020
I first came across Northern Irish Folk Singer and Troubadour Matt McGinn via a mutual friend in the Province who suggested he get in touch with RMHQ around the time he released The End of the Common Man album in 2018. Like the rest of his generation Matt grew up in the uneasy aftermath of The Troubles that blighted this beautiful part of Europe; but hasn’t really wrote about the feelings that time effected him and those around him …… until now. Not long after that album hit the world, he released the single Lessons of War as a taster for the project in connection with Arts Council NI, that has spawned this amazing album. For the project McGinn initially reached 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. This was the stunning title track Lessons of War; which was such a success that it spawned the idea for a full album in a similar vein. Without delving too deeply into the background of each song; let’s just let the music speak for itself. I Read The Writing on The Wall is a universal tale that was probably written about Northern Ireland, but could just as easily be about Syria, Libya or even Brazil too, as the politicians spout rhetoric across the globe while lining their own pockets at the cost of the poorest under their leadership. Even more powerful writing and incredible musicianship combine on the next song I Was There, which takes a Jazz melody and flute to take the listener on an incredible journey that scare the bejasus out of me in 2020. That’s the ‘thing’ here; come on ……. we are nearly a quarter way through the 21st Century and greedy and selfish politicians of all hues and backgrounds are still causing chaos and needless death and starvation in every continent; have we learnt nothing from the past? That’s a rhetorical question; which becomes the dark spine for several songs here; with Child of War, The Hunt and, of course Refugees all perfect for radio; but awaiting a brave producer or presenter to add them to a playlist. In this ‘disposable age’ this is an album that needs to be invested in and listened to in solitude; there certainly ain’t much to add to a Spotty playlist; that’s for sure. Although there is one (deliberately) commercial song; the amazing single Bubblegum which hopefully will bring a few unsuspecting people towards the rest of these very important songs. Matt isn’t the first songwriter to cover these issues in song; I can think of three other albums we’ve reviewed in the last few years; but that doesn’t make Child of War or the delicately beautiful An Shuaimhneas One Day of Peace any less fascinating or important ……. just different words on the same harrowing stories. Bubblegum, as sung by Ciara O’Neill and about a young girls innocent diary pages written at the height of Northern Ireland’s Troubles/Civil War is the most obvious contender to be my Favourite Song; but when I heard the final song When Will We Learn I found myself clenching both my fists and teeth. But the way Matt McGinn gently lets his words and story breathe, make this one of the most important ‘protest songs’ I’ve possibly ever heard from a native of these fair islands and is most certainly a ‘song of our times.’ It’s fair to say that these songs don’t make for Easy Listening; but there should certainly be a place either on your record shelf or mobile phone for these songs that are coated in a ‘terrible beauty’ yet are still accessible to anyone with even a semblance of a conscience.
Grown-Up Poptastic Anglo-Americana Never Sounded Better.
Anyone who follows us on The Twitter will be aware of the Hoo Haa it took to get a review copy of this release …….. thankfully ‘that squabble’ is over with; but had been any other artist in the world but Pete Molinari, I would have given up weeks ago. Anyways; we have it now and…. well……. it’s taken some ‘getting into’; as like all his previous releases; apart from his very unique voice, it’s very different from what has preceded it. Which is a good thing; because I love it when songwriters grow and develop; moving on ‘in a good way’ …… which has always been the Molinari Ethos. First song Goodbye Baby Jane actually illicited an OOH! The first time I played it …….. by Pete’s standards it’s a big old Alt. Rock sound, albeit with a cool melody and almost Glam Rock chorus; yep the title did remind me of Slade and to some degree that ‘memory’ carries on throughout the song too. Pete sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of different bands in the years he’s been off the radar, with several influences coming through songs like the psychedelic No Ordinary Girl where he sounds a bit like Liam Gallagher; but with typical Molinari chutzpah; ‘this is how you should have done it!’ And he’s right; it’s the finest song Oasis never recorded. Fear not; this is 100% a Pete Molinari album through and through; and the most commercial thing he’s ever released with Radio Friendly songs bouncing out of the speakers every couple of minutes. There’s never been a time in history when the World wouldn’t have been a better place for the grungy Garage Song, I’ll Take You There or his quintessentially English Pop Song, Please Mrs Jones coming out of the radio and defying you not to sing along. Obviously there’s not a bad song here; and I’m impressed that there’s a a distinct flow, taking you on a Kiddy Rollercoaster of highs and lows, with absolutely no peril involved at all. Pete still slides a couple of his trademark melodious Folk-Rock songs ; like the deep and meaningful Absolute Zero and then there’s the title track Just Like Achilles and Born To Be Blue with their jaunty tunes that gives them the capacity to make you sit back and listen to his wise words of wisdom, while shuffling to the beat. Selecting a Favourite Song here is a bit like standing in an orphanage and looking at all the cute and longing faces; knowing full well you are going to break a lot of hearts with those you leave behind. The singer’s love for all things Americana come through loud and clear on Waiting For a Train, and then Colour My Love is a doozy with a big ole Philles Records production and the piano led ballad Steal The Night is as good a song as Molinari has ever recorded and perhaps the whole album actually spins off this magical three minutes; but; and this is controversial ….. I’m going for …… cue drum roll ……….. You’ve Got The Fever; a delicious slice of moody Alt. Country flavoured Americana but with a Molinari cherry on top. What’s not to like? I’m no lover of the hype that accompanies Vinyl releases; but maybe ten years ago Pete Molinari was an Early Adopter releasing LP’s and 45RPM singles to an adoring fan base; but for the time being and for fiscal reasons, Just Like Achilles is a Download/Streaming only release; yet these songs just cry out to be played in that format, where the listener has to choose the time to invest in listening to music; and boy will you ‘listen’ to these songs when you get the chance.
Robert Vincent In This Town You’re Owned Thirty Tigers
An Atlantic Crossing Beckons For Our Favourite Liverpudlian.
The much-anticipated new album from Mr Vincent starts with the gentle-paced single “This Town”, easily bearing the ear for melody and sympathetic accompaniment that he’s displayed on earlier releases. Following this, another single, “My Neighbour’s Ghost” lifts the tempo with echoes of Bo Diddley and Buffalo Springfield on display to create something of a toe-tapper from the Liverpudlian. “The Kids Don’t Dig God Anymore” might alienate the Bible Belt, because its impassioned low-key gospel energetically spits plenty of fire and fury, as sparse instrumentation – mainly kick and snare with sympathetic fills push the vocal to the fore with a Memphis country soul feel. Track 4 is “The Ending” – it’s not, but that’s its title – again, the tempo is chilled and there’s a Latin lilt to matters with accordion and shakers – the message is one of uncertainty, but it’s neither optimistic or pessimistic; hence …… “Nobody knows the ending”. Second single “Conundrum” also tackles the issue of the effects of love and our lasting influence and strikes a note of hope about the world “leave it better off when you go”. “Husk of a soul” again pares the backing away to move the vocal to the fore and push a narrative about individual strength and is followed by “I Was Hurt Today But I’m Alright Now” another song about emotional resilience and independence. A further song about endings – “End of the war” brings in the motif of hope after bad times that permeates the album. “If You Were You” is an ode to self-revelation and being honest to one’s self and a partner and explores the ache for honest emotional connection in a way very few of Vincent’s peers can dream of matching. The album ends with “Cuckoo” – “forgiveness works in strange ways” – a postulation about the nature of repairing things that have gone wrong. Such almost – dare I say it – religious – themes are laced throughout this album; hope, loss, forgiveness and other matters spiritual, whether linked to a fixed deity or not. Mature, intelligent writing and playing are on display throughout with a gentle southern country-soul feel that enhances the strong melodies and lyrics that are Robert Vincent’s trademarks. Such quality deserves an audience – the issue – as ever – is going to be putting this music in front of those who will appreciate it in both the UK and; if I’m not mistaken …… the USA too. Success is almost guaranteed in the UK with this release; but if someone could get RV a USA support tour with the likes of Elvis Costello, John Prine or even Mark Knopfler, he could yet “Do a Yola” across the Atlantic too.
Scottish singer-songwriter Lisa Kowalski came onto our radar with her single I DO in November 2018 and we sat all excited like; waiting for the follow up or; better still a new album. Sadly things didn’t work out too well in her ‘real life’ and she lost the desire to write or record. But, you can’t keep a songwriter down for too long …… and, more importantly ……. never upset a songwriter! Sit back, open your ears …… and your heart; and really listen to this wonderful and powerful song.