gitta x

Gitta De Ridder

A Pearlescent Voice That Will Break Your Heart And Songs You Will Fall In Love With.

I’ve wanted to give this album the time it takes to do it justice; but I’ve had a bit of a noisy Blues thing going on lately, and from what I know of Gitta De Ridder I knew that this was going to be a ‘sit back and concentrate’ type of record; and I was right.
There’s an otherworldly resonance to Gitta’s voice on opening song My Dear, Oh Boy, Oh Man and her intricate acoustic guitar picking is simply wonderful; and the lyrics verge on the poetic in a way vaguely reminiscent of Elliott Smith or Nick Drake.
The more I’ve sat and wallowed in this beautiful recording the more I’ve got from it; especially These Hands which sounds multi-tracked and multi-layered leaving me multi-emotional, as for an acoustic ‘Folk song’ it bloomin’ well rocks.
Here’s The Plan also comes a bit out of left-field; with it’s clock like drum beat and flowery guitar making it well worth checking out.
Obviously/Presumably? FOR EVERYTHING A SEASON will be filed in the Folk section; but there is so much more to it and the more I stretch for the correct descriptive word to describe Every Inch Naked and Knowing a Ghost the word ‘contemporary’ springs to mind; but I just wish I was more literate as these songs, and more like them are so much more interesting than that word suggests.
Wow! I must mention All Is Love at this stage, not least because it’s another sharply observed multi-layered song but includes some razor-sharp bottle-neck guitar too giving it an extra edge that I wasn’t expecting.
I mentioned Elliott Smith and Nick Drake earlier; but now I think Gitta sounds like a long lost relative of Dame Eddi Reader; and like the Scottish songstress Ms De Ridder has a very personal and expressive style of singing, with The Seasons Will Change being a very intense but beautiful four minutes and is instantly followed by No Words which is the type of deep ‘bedsit’ singer-songwriter fare that I pored over in my teens; desperately trying to unravel the meaning of life from a song.
With no National Radio outlets for this type of music any more there’s hardly ever any need for a single; but Gitta is realising The Wheel as such a marketing device; and please God let some discerning producer somewhere hear it and sneak it onto a playlist at Radio 2 or 6; because it’s just quirky enough to capture the public’s attention and if not; at least it was a contender for RMHQ ‘Favourite Track’!
That title though, goes to Baby Darling Blue which opens with a quaint child’s xylophone solo before Gitta dispenses with her guitar and croons the most delectable lullaby you will ever hear.
I’m not sure what’s left to say; there are a zillion female singer-songwriters out there; each with their own merits, but in Gitta De Ridder we have not just an excellent songwriter but an extraordinary singer too with a lovely pearlescent voice that will break your heart as you fall in love with her songs.

Released March 23rd 2018


Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite NO MERCY IN THIS LAND

ben and charlie x

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Contemporary Blues With its Roots in the Southern Plantations of the 1920’s as well as 1950’s Chicago.

At RMHQ we listen to a lot of music, occasionally liking the same things but more often than not loudly disagreeing as to what is deemed ‘good’…….and I even have my own personal quality control system; especially with Blues Records.
It normally consists of Mrs Magpie rolling her eyes and leaving the room or suggesting I put my headphones on; or as is the case with this package her looking at the CD Player then me and sighing, “What the Hell is this?”
Always a sign of quality in my mind.
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite are a Grammy Award winning duo that will never top the bill at Glastonbury, but more likely a club or hall with a capacity in the low hundreds; but everyone who is in that room is there on a musical pilgrimage and will hang on every single note; which probably isn’t true of Ed Sheeran or Toby Keith concerts is it?
For the uninitiated Musselwhite is a white boy, born in 1944 who learned his trade standing side by side with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Mike Bloomfield while Harper (born 1969) is something of a renaissance man, fighting and winning the battle of being ‘The Next Big Thing’ and releasing a wide variety of albums over the last few years as well as being a famous Producer too; and the two were first introduced by John Lee Hooker.
Then there is the music.
There’s a Rock Gospel tinge to opening track When I Go which takes Urban Blues down a very dark road on the outskirts of a rundown industrial town and brings it back to life with electric shock therapy.
Man oh man……did that song send shivers down my spine from the get go?
Both men have lived such dangerous lives it’s a surprise that either or both have come out the other side; and that comes across not just in the deadly honest lyrics but the way both men deliver their parts; be it singing, playing guitar or in Musselwhite’s case blowing that magic harmonica.
When these guys sing a love song don’t expect a ‘moon in June’ couplet; Love and Trust will break your heart into a thousand pieces and Found The One is a tale of pain as much as it is romance while Nothing at All may appear gentle on the outside, this acidly emotional ballad will and should make grown men crumble and cry as women look on unsympathetically.
Hidden in the middle is wonderfully fragile Country Blues, Trust You To Dig My Grave which finds Harper trading licks on an acoustic guitar (with bottle neck) with Musselwhite wheezing into his harmonica as if it was made from solid gold and feathers.
There’s no denying that this amazing duo make very modern Blues Music but with its roots very firmly in the Cotton Fields of Georgia and Louisiana in the 1920’s and spreading to the tenements of Chicago or New York in the 50’s and 60’s as the troubles and strife that effect poor people sadly ain’t changed very much in 2018 have they?
Yet Harper and Musselwhite manage to make their sad, sad songs incredibly beautiful though, with When Love Is Not Enough taking my breath away whereas the title track No Mercy In This Land is spell binding and made me righteously angry to the pits of my stomach!
Many reviewers will pick that last song as the stand out track here; and they won’t be wrong, but I’m going for the punchy The Bottle Wins Again as my ‘favourite track’ because when you read the lyrics then hear Harper wailing them out of your speakers while Charlie blows the reeds from his harp as the band rip it up behind them; you just know that these characters have lived every word in this scarily honest song…..which is why I love the Blues, baby.
This isn’t party music and it’s destined to be played when I am all alone and probably drunk and feeling very sorry for myself and it will fit that mood just perfectly.

Released 30th March 2018

Mary Chapin Carpenter – SOMETIMES JUST THE SKY

mary chapin carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter
Lambent Light Records/Thirty Tigers

A Bleakly Beautiful Re-Imagining of More Carefree Times.

If you were to ask either Mrs Magpie or myself we would very quickly telly you we were Mary Chapin Carpenter fans; and we are with a gig in Glasgow being in our mutual Top 10 of all time, and my wife even took her Mother to see Mary at Newcastle City Hall one evening when I was stuck in London; plus we own 10 of her previous 12 albums as well as Party Doll being a fixture in her car for nearly twenty years; yet……and this pains me……this album; like her last three has been ‘challenging’ to say the least.
The concept of another Mary Chapin Carpenter retrospective excited both of us; especially as it would be a re-imagining of a song from each of those 12 albums.
What could possibly go wrong?
On the one hand absolutely nothing; if you like Mary’s deep, dark and mystical last half dozen releases, but if (like me) you prefer her earlier feistier and up tempo work; quite a bit actually.
In it’s praise the Ethan John’s pin sharp production and orchestration is outstanding; giving Superman and Jericho an almost ethereal feel to them; and What Does It Mean To Travel becomes wistful and poetic with Mary virtually whispering her words to no one in particular; but perhaps herself.
Most of Ms Carpenter’s more commercial and famous songs aren’t here; and that seems deliberate, as the ones that are Heros And Heroines and The Moon and St Christopher for example are both now structured to become very sad and delicate as the singer looks back on happier times from afar; which they both probably always were but now Mary is a lot older than the woman who wrote these songs; but the sentiment in both is even more pertinent now than it was then.
Perhaps that’s why I found this album so difficult to ‘like’…….I want my Mary Chapin Carpenter to still be 27 ……and me too; but she isn’t and nor am I any more, which is why this song is even more beautiful than you will remember.
The title track Sometimes Just The Sky is the only new song here and the spark of which came from an interview with Patti Smith; and in it’s own way could be one of Mary’s finest songs of the last twenty years.
An all pervading mellow mood permeates throughout this album; but as I said earlier, none of us are getting any younger and now I finally ‘get it’ and can comfortably pick out two really special songs as RMHQ ‘Favourites’, the first is a long term favourite here and this version of This Shirt takes on a whole new meaning as the singer whispers new life into her words of love in a way I could never imagine; and will touch the hearts of many listeners who have lost a loved one in recent years rather than the relationship breakdowns that we all lived through many years ago.
The other is a song I barely remembered never mind recognised; even though Rhythm of the Blues comes from the first of the singers albums I ever bought COME ON, COME ON. This is interpretation so gut wrenching; I haven’t been able to go back to the original to do a ‘compare and contrast.’
I stand by my original feelings to some degree, as the mood here is quite bleak and never gets beyond a strolling pace; but yet again that’s what I do more of these days unlike when I was a frisky young man drinking and dancing to Passionate Kisses and Shut Up and Kiss Me at the wild parties of my youth; and those albums are still on the shelf for when I want to pretend I’m still a young man.
SOMETIMES JUST THE SKY is what is, a rather beautiful look back and re-imagining of better, more carefree times but with the benefit of hindsight……and rose coloured glasses.

Released March 30th 2018

Kim Richey – EDGELAND

kim richey edgeland

Kim Richey
Yep Roc

Nashville Singer-Songwriter Delivers the Goods Faster Than UPS!

AHA! Kim Richey……Nashville singer-songwriter and yet after releasing 8 previous albums on some rather impressive labels, is sadly best known as a Grammy Award nominated songwriter; which is a damn shame as she can certainly carry a song herself.
EDGLEND opens with the punchy The Red Line, a red hot slice of contemporary Americana with a hefty side plate of Alt. Country that rocks……there ain’t nothing to dislike in this 4 strong minutes, with Ms. Richey’s observations of all around her as razor sharp as ever.
This is followed by Chase Wild Horses; a fabulous metaphor for those long lonely nights trying to find love in all the wrong places, with all of the wrong people. This is as Country a song as you will hear this decade; and I expect all of the Nashville Stars will be beating a path to Kim’s door asking politely if they can record it on their next Platinum Album….trust me.
Only two songs in and I’ve already fallen in love with the album; how often does that happen?
It’s easy to hear in songs like High Time and Black Trees why Kim Richey is a ‘go to songwriter’ but she has a wonderful voice herself; and can tell her stories as well as anyone else; so it beggars belief why she’s not held in the same high esteem as Mary Chapin Carpenter or Gretchen Peters who she is about to open for on a UK Tour.
There are some truly beautiful songs tucked away here with the heart-rending Your Dear John and Can’t Let You go both being good enough to be lead songs on anyone else’s album; but here they just pop up to catch you unawares and then make you listen intently as Kim delivers bombshell after musical bombshell.
I know this all sounds like I’m getting carried away, and perhaps I am but I defy you to listen to Not For Money Or Love and not come up for air as the fragile story filters around your room; and……that isn’t even the best song here!
No sirree Bob! And that title doesn’t even go to the duet with the unmistakeable voice of Chuck Prophet, Whistle on Occasion which transported me back to those Gram and Emmylou songs that first introduced me to Country Music. Yup, it really is that good.
No…..for me, the best song here is actually Pin a Rose. Why? After all these years I can get a bit jaded some days; but for a lyric lover like me Kim delivers the goods faster than UPS!
“You saw a light/I saw a freight train coming/I tried to tell you he was no damn good/you heard bells/I heard the hammer falling.” Seriously? Then add a tear-ass band and you have the perfect break up/told you so song.
This album has really re-invigorated me music wise; and I hope you feel the same way about it when you hear it too.

Released 30 March 2018




Don McLean

A Fitting Epitaph From one of America’s Finest Singer-Songwriters

What do you expect from a legend like Don McLean’s 19th album? Some people won’t expect very much as the hits all came nearly half a century ago; and others like me, will be intrigued to hear what the All American Troubadour who penned both American Pie and Vincent, has to offer in 2018.
The title track Botanical Gardens opens proceedings and suddenly the dark world we inhabit suddenly seems a nice place after all. Apparently the idea for the song came from an actual walk in a park in Sydney, Australia then McLean realised that it was something of a metaphor for his own life (and many of us too) as he looks back fondly on a life well lived.
A marvelous blending of acoustic and electric guitars coupled with a delightful melody and a delightful story make for a single that is just perfect for daytime radio and/or the stereo in the RMHQ conservatory.
While nothing else matches the commercialism of that particular song there is plenty more here to please the ear (and the heart). With actual Hit Singles not being worth a jot any more; it’s been wonderful just sitting back and devouring songs like The King of Fools, the cinematic When July Comes and Waving Man just because they are what they are; well constructed, imaginative and heartfelt songs that will make your heart tingle as you think they are about someone you know; or it may even be you yourself.
Baring in mind McLean is of ‘a certain vintage’ I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find he can still Rock & Roll with the best of them. I’m not talking AC/DC Rock & Roll I’m talking more 1950’s Original Rock & Roll in the style of Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson and even Eddie Cochran with The Lucky Guy, Ain’t She a Honey and of course Rock & Roll Your Baby which is a Toe-Tapper Deluxe.
Whichever way you look at this album, there’s no denying Don McLean is still a first-class storyteller with the ability to tug at the heart strings. Grief and Hope has a sting in the tail and the love songs You’ve Got Such Beautiful Eyes and A Total Eclipse of the Sun are both timeless and contemporary in equal measures, with both bringing a lump to this tired old throat the first night I played them (on headphones) as I looked across the room at Mrs. Magpie who was ignoring me as she watched TV.
The closing track Last Night When We Were Young finds McLean crooning another touching song about ‘looking back’ Sinatra style, as Tim Migliore beautifully plays a piano in the background as a string section flutter and flow behind them. Hence; and this is no surprise this song is easily the RMHQ favourite by a country mile.
I’m not sure Don McLean still sounds like the famous Don McLean of American Pie fame; but why will he… I said at the beginning, that was nearly half a century and if the rumours are true, this is his last ever studio album; it’s very fitting epitaph from one of America’s finest singer-songwriters.

Released 23rd March 2018
Don McLean: Official Website


matt mcginn

Matt McGinn
BinLid Records

Songs of Enlightenment For Days Like This.

I thought I had ‘my finger on the pulse’ of the current wave of singer-songwriters from Northern Ireland; but somehow Matt McGinn’s previous two albums have passed me by; but not so the likes of Bob Harris, Martin Chilton and RMHQ friends Malojian and Anthony Toner esq. who all rave about his work.

First of all the stark monotones of Matt McGinn walking through a forest on the album cover instantly caught my attention; and even though I didn’t have much time that first morning I slid the disc into the stereo and was astounded by the power of title track End Of The Common Man which opens the record. WOW….a big, big sound penetrated my ears as McGinn gives it his all on a Blue Collar epic that had and still has me clenching my fists as I listen to it; which is quite an achievement baring in mind how many songs try to get me to do this and fail miserably.
Baring in mind how I’ve just described that first track, the next one The Right Name follows in the same steps but sounds uncannily like Bob Seger’s Night Moves, but with added Belfast grit, edge and pedal-steel.
The ‘big sound’ that combines Folk-Rock, Blues and Celtic Soul pervades throughout the album with Out Sinner being a real 100mph foot-stomper that is sure to close the night when played live; but McGinn also has a sensitive Celtic Soul that comes through like a shroud of Irish linen on the fragile Marianne and haunting Medicine Joe with it’s wailing pedal-steel in the background and finger picked acoustic.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years about Northern Irish songwriters is how carefully they tread the political path; but McGinn shows very little restraint on the feisty Rocker…..Trump. Guess who that’s about? Yep; and while it’s not very subtle, it’s an absolute belter.
So, it’s ‘favourite song’ time…..not easy, not easy at all; but I will toss a coin between the Soulful and poetic album closer The End Of The Days and the spiky Celtic Rocker The Bells of the Angelus , with the coin probably coming down on the side of the latter with it’s crunchy guitars, Cyprus Avenue Big Band Revue and McGinn’s punchy voice winning the battle.
Even if I am late to the Matt McGinn party this album of Irish-American Bluesy Folk-Rock has definitely captured my heart and I doubt will ever be far from the office stereo in the next few months.

Released March 5th 2018



Laurence Jones – THE TRUTH

Laurence Jones_The Truth

Laurence Jones
Top Stop Music

Extraordinary Songs From Exciting Young British Blues Guitarist.

I’m not sure where to start with Laurence Jones as after winning ‘The Young Artist of the Year’ three years running between 2014 and 2016 he’s already a UK Blues Hall of Famer at the tender age of 25. Couple that with supporting just about every heavyweight touring Bluesman in the last 6 or 7 years; and giving them all a run for their money (standing ovations AND encores aren’t/weren’t uncommon) and you have a very special talent indeed.
Never one to hide his talent under a bushel this is Jones’ 5th album since 2012 and (SPOILER ALERT) could and should be the one that tips him over into the Big Leagues……trust me.
Oddly enough Jones doesn’t go for a big ole’ crashing eye catching opener on THE TRUTH, instead he goes for an intensely powerful pot-boiler with What Would You Do? Obviously the fretwork is sublime; but the big surprise for me is the way Jones uses his voice…….and what a Soulful voice he has; and the song itself ain’t too shabby either, as the singer takes a step back from the toils and troubles from Modern Life asking ‘what would you be instead?’ Clever, huh?
The surprises come thick and fast, with Keep Me Up at Night being the type of FM Soft Rocker the radio needs these days, and if that were to happen I can easily imagine hordes of young girls flocking to his gigs and swooning at the mere sight of the handsome young guitar slinger, much to the annoyance of the fat bearded blokes at the back of the hall!
Those (potentially) new fans will love the next two tracks too, Give Me Your Time which even has harmonies and a Guitar Riff Deluxe that sounds perfect for Air Guitarists like me; and the title track The Truth finds Jones examining his mellower sensitive side on a piano led Power Ballad that will bring a tear to a glass eye.
The problem I find with most modern ‘Blues Rock’ albums these days is that the songs usually get lost in an avalanche of guitar licks; not so here! A bit like the recent Joe Bonamassa albums Laurence Jones is first and foremost a songwriter that can sing and play a mean electric guitar……if that makes sense. His guitar playing on Can’t Go On Without You is truly excellent; but the way producer Gregory Elias has constructed the song around a tight rhythm section and Jones’ pleading voice on a gloriously bittersweet love song will take your breath away; as it did mine.
By far my favourite song here, is one of the slower ones and it has to be said, probably the saddest; but WOW……what an intelligent song Hold Me Close is.
Even more so than the rest of the albums; this particular song really shows the new found maturity (and vulnerability) in Laurence Jones’ writing and singing and if you were to hear it on late night radio you would find yourself just staring at the speakers as the words and the passionate way Jones delivers them smother your senses like a beautiful fog.
THE TRUTH is an impressive and very important ‘next step’ for Laurence Jones and has enough to satisfy his existing fan base; but there is also more than enough here to excite fans (and bookers) in the Home of the Blues……the US of A.

Released March 9th 2018


jerry leger

Jerry Leger
Latent Records

Songs About The People and Rustic Small Towns that Litter Middle America

I’m not sure where to start here; as until last week I’d never heard of Jerry Leger but his UK PR pushed a little bit and finally mentioned the ‘magic words’ Michael Timmins and the Cowboy Junkies…..on whose label this Double Album is released.
If he’s good enough for the Cowboy Junkies he’s certainly good enough for RMHQ!

As you know I place high stead on a strong opening track and Jerry delivers a virtual Musical Time Bomb with Coat On The Rack……which sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Nashville Skyline and Exile on Main Street; such is the way he delivers the words over a tight as a duck’s bum Indie band with a searing guitar .
Right up my street, methinks.
Halfway through album #1 I couldn’t wait to listen to it all on the car stereo……especially Baby’s Got a Rare Gun, The Big Smoke Blues and Forged Cheque which all need to be played LOUD… Leger channels his inner Rockabilly with an Insurgent Country aftershock……great songs and a mighty fine band in equal measures it has to be said.
Not everything is quite as fast and furious with the heart-shredding Wedding Dress sounding like the song Ryan Adams has been waiting 10 years to write; and On The Fishing Line is a mean and moody Rock & Roll ballad that needs the lights turned down low and the sex-o-meter set to stun; and don’t get me started on that Johnny Winteresque geetar kidda!
Then there is She’s The Best Writer You’ve Never Heard Of which could be the title track on any future RMHQ Soundtrack album……Leger’s voice purrs and quivers like a teenager on a hot date as the guitar smokes and sizzles as the bass and drummer sound like a Steel Mill on Friday afternoon.
Hence; this song becomes our ‘favourite track’ on Album one.


It’s a deliberate play from Jerry Leger to make the second album more ‘Rootsy’ and even sentimental, with the pedal-steel replacing the electric guitar as a lead instrument and it works jolly well.
First song in Things Are Changing Around Here and I found myself thinking this could be a 21st Century Flying Burritos and later songs like Take The Ashes and Run, Buckskin Wall and Another Dead Radio Star seem to confirm that; as the harmonies and back beat sound like Jerry and friends have spent as much time listening to their Dad’s Country Rock collection as they did their own snarling Rock records.
While I thought NONESENSE was perfect for car journey’s the same argument prevails when you listen to Lucy and Billy The Kid, Take The Ashes and Run and It Don’t Make The Wrong Go Away; just this album is for cruising around on a warm and sunny day.
Boy can Jerry Leger write a heartbreaker; try listening to He’s The Lonely One Now and not get a tear in the corner of your eyes…….think Gram at his saddest and you will understand where I’m coming from.
But there is one song here that stands out from the rest; and one that defines everything that I love in songs about rustic small towns that litter the back-roads of Middle America and only come to life in songs like this……Pawn Shop Piano is one such song; and one that will stick in my mind for a long time to come.

So, there you have it two quite different albums full of interesting and sophisticated songs and stories by the same singer-songwriter and band that show how clever and professional they all are; and at only 35 minutes each; it’s really just a great LP with a fast side and a slower side but on CD.

Released March 2nd 2018


the lynnes

The Lynnes

Atmospherically Tightly Wrapped Songs Drenched In Harmonies And Heartache

Sadly this CD has been sitting in the back of the ‘to do’ box for a couple of months now; probably because it didn’t have a Press Release with it; but in my defence I have been rather busy lately then last week a friend wrote a glowing review of a concert on a UK Tour (which didn’t include the NE btw) and I thought “I think I have an album by said combo” and I did…..and The Lynnes are actually RMHQ favourites Lynne Hanson and Lynn Miles from Canada Town!!
HEY HO….Better late than never?
Opening song Cold Front sets the mood perfectly; one sensational female voice complimented by the other on harmonies on an atmospherically tightly wrapped song that straddles Country, Folk and whatever we think of as Americana albeit from Canada.
As we know both women are accomplished singers and songwriters in their own rite, but together they move up several rungs of the success ladder with ease and grace.
There’s even a hint of the Everly Brothers on Recipe For Disaster but the gorgeous title track Heartbreak Song For The Radio and Dark Waltz are exactly the type of lo-fi Canadiacana we have come to expect from the land of the Maple Leaf and these two ladies themselves.
I first discovered Lynne Hanson via her Murder Ballads album; so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when darkly delicate songs like Blame It On The Devil and Blue Tattoo make an appearance out of left field towards the end.
Perhaps it’s the subject matter of these two songs; but I’d love to hear Tom Russell cover at least one and preferably sing it or them alongside The Lynnes; I think the end result could be extraordinarily good.
OK, regular readers will know I am self-absorbed but I really do think that the punchy Halfway To Happy and Heavy Lifting could have been written about ME! Both delve into the darker recesses of Country Music and come out the other side with lyrics and a song that will squeeze the heartstrings of anyone who has loved and lost or; as in my own case people who feel sorry for themselves……just because.
Both are full of stinging couplets and stories that transcend the backwaters of Roots Music; hence they tie for the accolade of RMHQ ‘favourite song’ on this wonderful long playing album.

Released February 2nd 2018

Chris Smither – CALL ME LUCKY


Chris Smither
Signature Sounds

The World Today From the Heart of a Master-Craftsman Songwriter.

I can distinctly remember the day I first discovered Chris Smither and his music four years ago when I reviewed his LEAVE THE LIGHT ON album for a popular (at the time) magazine…….his voice and the way he used it on his stunning songs simply blew me away.
Since that day I’ve picked up another 4 of his albums and the STILL ON THE LEVEE retrospective from an ever decreasing circle of record shops and subsequently loved and cherished every song.
A cursory look at his bio also shows that his songs have been covered by some of the biggest stars in both Country Music and the Rootsier Americana scene; yet only us cool kids know of him; such is the life of a singer-songwriter.
So, after 17 previous albums in 50 years can he still ‘do it’?
WHAM! Opening track The Blame’s On Me is a Country Rocker that immediately shows us that there’s still fire in the old dog’s belly and the new kids on the block should look over their shoulders, cos Smither is coming for them.
This is followed by a lovely laid back and almost ‘back porch’ rendition of Chuck Berry’s Maybelline making it virtually unrecognisable as Chris makes it a reflective song about ‘memories’ rather than the racy style of the original.
The trademark laconic Smither ‘style’ rolls through songs like Everything On Top, Change Your Mind and Mrs. Magpie’s favourite song here By The Numbers all of which help you understand how Chris Smither reached the top of his game many years ago; but has never faltered from that position. He really is a Master-Craftsman.
While I don’t know every song or indeed every album Smither has released but I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Southern Shuffle on Too Bad, So Sad and Down To The Sound with it’s late night atmospheric channels that have had me pressing ‘repeat’ a few times.
She Said, She Said which opens the second disc is as dark a song as I’ve heard in years; but the way Smither delivers Lennon & McCartney’s words makes for a truly beautiful and heart wrenching 3 minutes and nothing like what I remember from sitting poring over Revolver in my teenage bedroom many moons ago..
While not exactly ‘experimental’ this second disc finds Smither and friends playing around with a few songs from Side #1; with Nobody Home sounding edgier and perhaps a touch more menacing than the original but By The Numbers gets something of a Randy Newman makeover with Chris only accompanied by Keith Gary gently touching the piano keys.
Which brings me to ‘my favourite song’ here; an odd choice to some but Sittin’ On Top Of The World has been both entrancing and enthralling every time I’ve played it. Perhaps it’s an age thing but the way he delivers this hoary old classic nearly reduced me to tears earlier today.
I don’t know what else to say; but even without Chris Smither’s back catalogue bringing these songs to people’s attention, I’m pretty sure it will feature in many critics Top 10 at the end of the year on it’s very own merits……I know it will at RMHQ.

Released March 2nd 2018