Rod Stewart THE TEARS OF HERCULES

Rod Stewart
The Tears of Hercules
Warner Records

The Kid is Back on Form With By Far His Best Album for Decades!!

In the last few weeks I’ve received ‘review albums’ for release as far away as March 2022; but when Superstars like Sir Rod Stewart release an album the best we can hope for is usually a ‘stream’ 24 hours in advance; so receiving an actual CD on the day of release is looked on as a ‘result.’
So, I’m actually going to review this in the modern ‘hipster’ style …. i.e writing as I listen the very first time I hear the songs.
I’ve criticised Rod’s last few albums for being ‘over produced’, but that’s certainly not the case with opening track One More Time which opens with Rod and a banjo, before building into a classic tale of lust, love and leaving, which reminds me of Rod circa Atlantic Crossing; which has to be a good thing; doesn’t it?
This is followed by Gabriella; a bouncy and eminently danceable guitar rocking and Caribbean flavoured love song; the type of which Rodders historically has done better than absolutely everyone else over the years.
Two songs in and I’m tempted to agree with the singers’ liner notes when he says that this is ‘by far his best album for years‘ ….. but can he keep up the tempo and quality?
Basically …… yes and yes; as a funky Mexicali song; All My Days follows which is certainly one of the songs that will be included in the forthcoming Tour, as it will have everyone on their feet and allows the band to ‘go off on one’ as the singer dances around the stage with a variety of backing singers.
Without having the CD next to me, I still instantly recognised the opening salvo on Track #4; the majestic Some Kind of Wonderful; originally a US hit for Grand Funk Railroad and a host of others over the years; but to Mods like Rod and me ….. it was always the theme tune for Q Tips (with a young Paul Young on vocals); here Rod plays around with the melody and even drops in a few lines from Can I Get a Witness when nobody’s looking; which bodes well for said UK Tour, as Rod has a huge back-catalogue of similar songs he can add in a verse or two from.
Speaking of intros; my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I heard Born to Boogie ( A Tribute to Marc Bolan) as it is 100% T Rex; and the song goes on to be a love song to Bolan himself in the style of T Rex; referencing Bolan’s clothes and songs and whole lot more ……. who knew Rod was a fanboy like me?
While far from being a bad song; the rather risque Kookooaramabama gets a little bit lost in the Big Band R&B arrangement; but it’s fair to say he’s recorded a lot worse in the last twenty years!
But; he’s back on form with I Can’t Imagine which is a bit of an oddity as the previous song was all about being a Lothario and this beautiful ballad is all about contentment in a monogamous relationship (and parts of the melody might be nicked from The Killing of Georgie btw).
The pace drops dramatically on The Tears of Hercules, with Rod crooning over a gentle piano and occasional violin interludes; as he revisits the style of American Songbook that made him an absolute fortune, and you can hear why as this style really does suit his voice; the song itself was written recently alongside Kevin Sagar and Emmerson Swinford who also play on every track and had a hand in most of the other songs on the album too.
Pretty much keeping to that gentle tempo Hold On is another song that could easily have come from the Atlantic Crossing sessions as Rod sings about the turmoil that surrounds many of us in a way I’d have thought he’d totally forgot about; but her certainly hasn’t and as I play it for the third time in succession, making it an obvious contender for Favourite Track status; not least for the deeper than usual lyrics …..
” A change is gonna come
Sam Cooke once sung,
Oh lay down that burden of hate
Cities divided
The homeless crying
Equality for all ….. so late
Keep your loved ones safe
Keep your family close
Keep your children by your side
Hold on, hold on, hold on to what you got
.”
Seriously I’m a huge fan; and I haven’t heard Rod sing a song as sharply observed as this in thirty or forty years!
As you wipe the tears from your eyes, Rod goes for your heartstrings again with Precious Memories; another brand new song; but in the style of Sam Cooke or maybe Otis Redding …… but always Rod Stewart.
Now, if you have bought any or all of Rod’s last dozen or so albums you will know that he always sneeks in a Celtic/Scots themed song and here it’s These Are My People; which is pretty much Rod Stewart By Numbers; not necessarily a bad song at all, but he has covered this ground a lot over the years.
Then it all comes to close with a Tearjerker Deluxe; Touchline …….. where Rod sings about his Dad’s love of football; but particularly him watching his sons play schoolboy football and offering advice mid-game.
If there’s a dry eye in the house as the story drifts into his last days and passing ….. you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an album like this…. you don’t deserve it!!
I’m genuinely stumped for what to choose as my Favourite Track; Touchline is certainly up there as is Hold On …… but I’ve just gone and made a cup of coffee; and the song still buzzing in my head was Born to Boogie ( A Tribute to Marc Bolan); and as I’m playing it again it’s actually far deeper than you’d expect from the Pop-Rock song that you think it is ……. so it’s my Favourite.
What more can I say?
I’m absolutely staggered ….. and not a little bit surprised; as after 30 previous albums; the kid is back on form with, easily his best album this century by a country mile (and a bit).
So, when you buy this for your Mum or Dad’s Xmas present; sneakily have a listen yourself ….. you won’t regret it!

Released November 12th 2021
https://www.rodstewart.com/

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Barrie-James STRANGE DESIRE

Barrie-James
Strange Desire
Vacancy Records

Dark and Rich Country Folk and Americana Tales From Trans-Atlantic Troubadour.

Even though I think that I have my ‘finger on the pulse’; I obviously can’t know absolutely everyone on the Roots Music scene; but how I’ve missed out on the previous two albums by singer-songwriter Barrie-James beggars belief.

Apparently he was a founding member of Scots-Rockers Kassidy, which sort of rings a bell; then moved to L.A where he’s now based; writing and becoming pals with the A-Listers, which is how he can attract Lana Del Ray and Ashley Campbell to guest on this album.

While the cover photograph initially attracted my attention; as it would have had I seen it in a Record Shop, it was the title of the opening track; Angry Man which was the reason that I rushed it into the office CD player.
It’s a lot slower and a whole lot more intimate that Steve Earle’s Angry Young Man; but dredges a similar trough that not just appealed to me, but somehow feels like Barrie-James O’Neill was singing about me that first few days; and I love the way he manages to convey those horrible suppressed feelings via an acoustic Folk Song. It’s a ‘thumbs up’ from me.
Next out of the traps is the duet with Ashley Campbell; Country 33; on which the couple remind us of the Classy and Classic Country duos from George and Tammy through Gram and Emmylou to Faith and Tim on a sad, sad love song that not just tugs on, but squeezes the bejasus out of your heart strings.
As I listen and type the word ‘stylish’ keeps springing to mind and I don’t know if that will be taken as a compliment; but that’s exactly how I feel about songs like Pretending Not To Breathe, Anything and Lady Alone too, and it probably applies to most others too; without ever taking away from the raw intimacy in the arrangements and the subject matter too.
While not quite in the same arena as those three songs; Emerald Girl and Lady Alone also have a ‘stylish’ thread to them; but also sound timeless in the way they’ve reminded me in parts with the bedsit troubadours of my youth like James Taylor and Graham Nash, but I can also envisage an Ed Sheeran fan stumbling on this album and becoming an overnight Barrie-James fan.
Without taking anything away from the obvious hard work done after the event in the control room; there’s a beautiful simplicity to the arrangements in Barrie-James’s own particular take on Country-Folk, with Lady Alone, Solid Rose and the epic title track, Strange Desire, all of which will appeal to the heartbroken of all ages and sexual persuasions …… which is quite a talent, I think you’ll agree.
There really is so much to like and admire here that it’s nearly impossible to single out one song as my Favourite; especially as Mrs Magpie absolutely loves the finale Riverside; a darkly simmering tale of unrequited love song or is it a Murder Ballad? You will no doubt make your own mind up; but the combination of James’s voice alongside the smoky Lana Del Ray has both my wife and I clambering for a whole album in the same vein from the duo.
As is my wont I’m actually going to disagree with my wife; simply because I’m smitten with two other and very different songs; Bad Girl is punchy and more of a band effort that feels like a punch to your heart; and the song that immediately follows, Strange Desire takes James’s writing and arranging into a whole new stratosphere; ticking the boxes that I’d normally associate with Wily Vlautin or Howe Gelb, which is very high praise indeed, so I’m going with Strange Desire as my Favourite Song here.
After making a living from music since 2009 I doubt Barrie-James will become an overnight sensation because of this particular album; but were he to get onto one of the handful of British TV Shows that have ‘real music’ on them (Jools Holland? Graham Norton?) there’s every chance a whole new audience would fall in love with his dark and rich tales.

Released Digital 5th November
Released CD/LP 12th November

https://www.barriejamesmusic.com/

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Sam Fender SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER

Sam Fender
Seventeen Going Under
Polydor

Cleverly Looking At The Past to Look to The Future.

As an avid Newcastle United fan and a ‘Geordie’ too;  it was probably tough for me to admit that Sam Fender’s debut album didn’t really hit my sweet spot; although a couple of tracks were actually quite outstanding.
Having seen him at a few local venues on his way ‘up;’ and watching his ongoing development I was interested in his reappearance after the eternity that was called lockdown.

I know I shouldn’t prejudge these things; but sometime you do; and now it looks as though I might be on ‘humble pie rations’ for a few weeks; after my first tentative listens to ‘Seventeen Going Under;’ with the final test being to listen to it on my morning walk – no interruptions etc, just the chance to listen and contemplate in the Autumn sunshine.

Fender’s work was recently described in one article that I read; as ‘a collection of anthems’ and I can understand why that phrase was coined, as he has produced an album with some real crackers on it, but all following slightly different musical routes – a ‘Geordie Springsteen’ was suggested by Will Richards in a Rolling Stone review too….. and again; you can hear why.

There is no escaping the fact that his songs follow his very working class upbringing in the streets of North Shields, at the mouth of the River Tyne; and even more relevant, that they represent him from his early years through to his mid twenties – some good and some not so good memories in the pick ‘n mix.
Taken as a whole, the listener is left with an album that (in my opinion) will still sound meaningful for several years to come.

You cannot miss his North East twang on the opener and title track, Seventeen Going Under as his fractured childhood reveals he was;
far soo scared then
but I would hit him in a heartbeat now’.
I always find it amazing that artists can produce a song like this out of such sad times; but backed by a driving chorus and guitars Sam does it with such composure and self-assurance.
Still only Track one and I was already hooked more than on ‘Hypersonic Missiles’.

‘Getting Started’ is another catchy track, with Sam proving to be quite an accomplished wordsmith with his ability to produce a vocal to fit perfectly into the arrangement.
‘*Aye’ is a savage  history of some of the notable events in history, ranging from the Crucifixion, through the atom bomb to the Kennedy assassination years – all of this as backing guitars hammer out behind his great vocals; although those of us (i.e the Rocking Magpie himself!) who are upset at the ‘strong’ language may not agree.
His views of those who ‘hate the poor’ and ‘double down on misery’ are evident here too.

The highlight was, surprisingly, one of the softer tracks, the ‘Spit of You;’ about his relationship with his father as he
smashed cups off the floor,’
with Sam pleading …
I can talk to anyone but I can’t talk to you
while ‘The Leveller’ highlights ‘Little England ripping itself to pieces’ with the scribbling on the walls about ‘the scum who overstayed our welcome’.
You aren’t left in any doubt about his leanings, politically, yet it just fits in neatly in the middle of the album.

Sam remains ‘stuck on a cycle’ in ‘Mantra’ as he is desperate to be a better person, only to fall at just about every hurdle he encounters before he just….. turns off his phone …. so he isn’t receiving ‘anything or anyone’.
Powerful stuff for one so young; and dare I say it, along the lines of Springsteen at his own younger, political best.

It’s difficult to review what is clearly an album of one man’s memories, where the majority are of a pleasant nature; but it’s Fender’s astonishing ability to keep you listening; even though there usually isn’t a happy ending; which makes this a real gem of an album.
In many ways Fender covers areas not touched upon in his first release; but to superb effect.

On reflection, I have to admit that ‘The Dying Light’ with its lovely piano backing could easily move into my Favourite Track position, as it allows him to use his great vocals to full impact, as the singer realises on that he needs to remember the good times/folks in his life instead of always looking on the dark side of life.

Lockdown and self isolation found Sam without the company of friends in the local boozer (public house) but he used this solitary confinement to write and mould a set of tracks that deserve to be listened to intently, so you get the full extent of the darkness into which he fell.

Therapy gave him the chance to understand that some events he had sought to forget in his life, were really the events that may well have turned him into a writer of the songs that now offer these feelings to the world at large on Vinyl/CD and of course download.

First and foremost Sam Fender is a **Geordie through and through, second of all a ***Toon fanatic and last but not least a writer of great songs and judging by this collection; possibly even a great writer of great songs as he matures and perhaps allows himself to be a bit more upbeat.

Humble pie now eaten and digested – it tasted a lot better than I thought.

* Aye aka ‘yes’; but in the local parlance can be used to convey many different feelings.
**Geordie – historically a person from in and around Newcastle upon Tyne
*** Toon fanatic – a supporter/follower of Newcastle United (a city; but the self depreciating locals always refer to it as ‘the Toon’ (i.e Town)

Review courtesy Bill Redhead
Released October 8th 2021

https://www.samfender.com/

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Ana Egge BETWEEN US

Ana Egge
Between Us
Storysound Records

Beautiful and Boldly Crafted Songs and Stories.

Conceived during songwriting sessions via FaceTime with Irish singer-songwriter Mick Flannery, and with the assistance of a dream journal that Egge had begun keeping, Between Us; the twelfth album by the Canadian/American songwriter—may be her most ambitious yet, and one of her most memorable. Helped along with a smart, taut production by Lorenzo Wolff who treats these songs as the gems they are, mostly utilizing musicians new to Egge.
(I don’t know if she is planning any live shows with these musicians, but if there are any, they will assuredly rock. These cats have it down.)
The first cut, “Wait a Minute,” kicks off with some perfect horns extolling a melody pure and simple before Egge sings about a relationship in need of compromise yet full of hope.
One thing I love about Egge is the way she uses horns on several of her albums in fun and distinctly inventive ways. The horns here weave and bob throughout the song, one picks up where another drops out, wrapping around the vocals.
Great stuff, always reaching, never missing.
Egge’s voice on these songs is always full of subtleties.
Often she will go softer where others will go loud, sometimes repeating a line only to twist the melody slightly for emphasis. You can tell she loves to sing and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Walk out back,
I’ll always find you,
head inside an engine,
with a wrench pushed in your back pocket,” she sings on “The Machine.”
A portrait of a man obsessed with working on cars to the point of being left behind by the ever-changing world around him, and the person who loves him in spite of it all.
“Heartbroken Kind” pairs an upbeat melody with a dark story some of us know all too well. Leave it to Egge to find a way to make a song about self destruction so free and fun to sing along with. “We Let the Devil” is a tale of modern trials.
We let the Devil come between us,
now he doesn’t want to go,
he wants us to keep fighting,
cuz he knows what devils know.” she sings beautifully.
People divided, no hope in sight, no true winners.
“We Lay Roses” is a tribute to a fallen soul—thoughtful and full of warmth.
Am I crazy or does “Want Your Attention” throw off some fun Family Stone vibes?
With guest vocals by J.Hoard, and some quirky sound effects, this funky tune is exhilarating and grooves like a MOFO.
My favorite song on this album for sure, the way it kicks, the dual vocal interplay, the way the bridge sneaks in after the stop. This song is pure infectious fun.
More like this, please!
Ana Egge keeps getting better and bolder with the crafting of each album. If this keeps up, who are we to argue?
Released 24th September 2021
Review by Roy Peak
https://www.anaegge.com/

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Air Cool Jenny FIRST FLIGHT E.P

Air Cool Jenny
First Flight
Self Release

A Charming Bluegrass/Folk Hybrid With a Side Order of Classic Pop Harmonies Thrown in For Good Measure.

I can chose the Press Release perspective and pretend you and I already know who the constituent parts of Air Cool Jenny are; Helen Rose and Kramer Sanguinetti ….. but I won’t because I don’t.
Not that that really matters here at RMHQ; it’s just a niggling annoyance I have; because at the end of the day “it’s all about the music” isn’t it?
The answer should be a resounding YES.
Any hoot; Helen Rose and Kramer Sanguinetti are ‘multi-instrumentalists’ and songwriters who criss-crossed America before winding up in New York City where their stars finally aligned.
This, their debut as a duo is a lot of things as they combine their obvious writing and singing talents on what ends up being a charming Bluegrass/Folk hybrid with a side order of Classic Pop harmonies thrown in for good measure.
It’s taken a while; but opening track Pelican has really ‘grown on me’ over the last few weeks. To some degree Rose and Sanguinetti challenge the listener right from the get go; with the song about a ‘special spot on the Mississippi that the couple know” starting out as a whimsical and slightly nonsensical Folk tale that grows and builds until (and you have to believe me here!) the couple end up going full on Led Zeppelin by the end of the 4 and a half minutes are up!
The next track When I Rise is stunningly beautiful; with Helen taking the lead on a tender and heart-crushing love song; which has had me delving into her solo back catalogue btw.
Track III, Pissin’ on the Moon is a 100mph Bluegrass Twangfest that will even have Peg Leg Jake jigging around the room ……. I’ve not really got a clue what it’s actually about ….. but it’s a belter-deluxe.
In many ways this 4 track EP seems to be a Sampler of what the duo are capable of; as the finale; an ode to New Orleans; The River’s Gone has Kramer on lead and Helen supplying totally dreamy harmonies on a bittersweet song that has echoes of Laurel Canyon in every note and beat.
Yep; I think Air Cool Jenny are finding their feet here; and that’s no bad thing at all with each track being individually very listenable and eminently classy in it’s own way; but listening as a collective has been jarring on occasion; but in their defence I’ve been very busy lately and I’ve still kept coming back here for solace; so they must be doing something right.

Released September 10th 2021
https://www.aircooljenny.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Air-Cool-Jenny-312118442765429/

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Malcolm Holcombe TRICKS OF THE TRADE

Malcolm Holcombe
Tricks of The Trade
Need To Know Music

Warm, World Weary, Thoughtful and ….. as Dangerously Honest as Ever.

Q) When is a new release, not a new release?
A) If it’s been released before.

But, if; as in this case something was released as a Limited Edition LP; just before the artist took seriously ill, therefore delaying the CD/Downloads coming out; and an unrelated pandemic stopped any promotion and an accompanying tour can take place; would that mean we can count TRICKS OF THE TRADE as a new release?
YES is my answer.
Mercifully Malcolm has come through his operation uncommonly well and I can now breathe a sigh of relief and treat this as ‘just another’ of his releases.
Money Train which opens the album finds our hero in his trademarked ‘piss n vinegar’ angry at the moneymen who rule the world mode; and boy can he write and perform something like this without sounding ‘worthy’ or ‘earnest’ ….. he just ‘speaks for the common man and woman.’
God Bless Him.
I forget how many albums Malcolm Holcombe has previously released; but in recent years he’s had something of an epiphany; writing better than ever; and this album has some belters on it.
Crazy Man Blues and the title track Tricks of the Trade are as good and eminently as ‘listenable’ as anything I’ve heard from the singer in the last 15+ years; and when you finally get to hear Your Kin and Good Intentions you will think you are listening to someone who is evoking the ghost of Townes Van Zandt; and to some great extent he is.
Malcolm has been around long enough not to really need comparisons; but I can’t hear him now without thinking he’s carrying that very torch better and longer than anyone else.
Traditionally a Folk Singer at heart; the arrangements are very sympathetic to Malcolm’s voice of course; but on many songs he transcends Americana and goes seamlessly into Alt. Country with the greatest of ease; especially noticeable on Damn Rainy Day and the magnificent On Tennessee Land; which is the type of song Johnny Cash would have given his eye-teeth for during the American Album series.
The ‘Bonus Track’ here Windows of Amsterdam is one of ‘those songs’ along with Lenora Cynthia that I can only imagine Malcolm Holcombe writing and singing.
For a million reasons this is a very special album indeed; and there are two very special songs here too; and I can’t seperate them so my selection of Favourite Song is a tie between the punchy Higher Ground, which features the joint talents of Mary Gauthier and Jaimee Harris on the exceptional ‘Higher Ground’, bringing home its reckoning on the final chorus:
I got freedom to choose
I got freedom to lose
I got freedom to choose
higher ground.
T’other caught me unawares the first time I played the album; as Misery Loves Company was the perfect soundtrack to how I was feeling that day; but as the days have gone by it’s become a beautiful heartbreaker of a good old fashioned Country drinkin’ song worthy of Hank or more recently Kris Kristofferson …..
I’ve tasted and I’ve wasted
the good life that I had
my poor selfish drinking
made a rich ol man go mad…I passed out and I cried out
my God what have I done
she’s gone… I oughtta be on tv
with a guitar strummin’ smile
cause misery loves company when the neon’s burnin’ bright.
It’s far from a criticism; but the arrangement and backing band; as usual are quite exceptional here and throughout the album too; but I’ve only ever seen Malcolm perform solo; and these songs ain’t gonna sound anything like this when he goes off on one, attacking his acoustic guitar as if it has personally offended him and bringing it on home unlike just about anyone else I can think of these days .
That said; as an album that you will listen to in the comfort of your home …. and you will; the Production team of Brian BrinkerhoffDave Roe and Jared Tyler have managed to make Malcolm’s wheezy growl sound the way the Grand Old Man of Americana should; warm, world weary, thoughtful and above all else ……. dangerously honest.

Released August 20th 2021
https://www.malcolmholcombe.com/

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https://www.roughtrade.com/us/malcolm-holcombe/tricks-of-the-trade

Roger Chapman LIFE IN THE POND

Roger Chapman
Life in the Pond
Ruf Records

Still Fearless and Providing Family Entertainment From Somewhere Downtown, Americana.

The adage ‘legendary’ is well over used when it comes to reviewing anything by an act over 40 years old these days; but how else to describe Roger Chapman; one of the British forefathers of Rock and indeed; Prog in his days with The Family?
While not as prolific these days; he’s never stopped touring and recording in the near half century since that band split; and in my humble opinion has never stopped being at the very least ‘interesting’.
WOW!
Opening track Dark Side of The Stairs is a rather sensuous and sleazy late night New Orleansy type stomp (or should that be Romp?). There sure ain’t nothing wrong with ‘that voice’ that’s for sure; and Roger sounds as salacious as ever if a little bit ragged around the edges ….. but then again; didn’t he always?
Like anyone and everyone with a scrap of common sense these days, our man is using his well used and very distinctive voice to his best advantage; slowing things down and dipping his toe into the Americana pond throughout; with that ‘knowing’ snarl and growl at it’s glorious best on Nightmare #5 and After The Rain which both may or may not be a man’s thoughts on the aging process ….. or just crinkly love songs …. who knows?
Because the title is slightly different from the versions I recognise, Snake took me not just by surprise but a few minutes for the penny to drop. Al Wilson’s Northern Soul floor filler, The Snake gets slowed down to now become a dirty ole Blues song, that sounds like it was recorded on a Friday night in a run down Honky Tonk on the bad side of town.
Obviously Roger can’t still do what he did in the 70’s; but he can still ‘Rock the House’ better than most folk his age; give Collar Turned Up and The Playtime is Over to hear what I’m talking about ……. and Sir Rodney Stewart should take note; you really can still be an authentic Rocker at this age, if you know what you’re doing ….. and Roger Chapman does!
There ain’t no filler here by the way; every song is well worth it’s place; but there are a couple that show Roger Chapman still has a twinkle in his eye and an eye for a great song; with Rabbit Got a Gun being a primo example and that harmonica blast ain’t too shabby wither.
I’m simply adoring the slow and romantic On Lavender Heights which I wasn’t expecting at all; but then again I too am still a silly old romantic at my age.
Having Us a Honeymoon, courtesy of the rinky-dinky piano and Cajun fiddler is another bit of a New Orleansy Romp; with more than a nod to the good Doctor but so many others in that vein too ……. perfect for a Saturday night BBQ.
Which brings me to the album closer and my Favourite Song on a rather exceptional album; Naughty Child.
WOW!
Dark and slow burning; it sounds very much like Chappo has deliberately kept the best ’til last; with the one song here that sort of reminds me of The Streetwalkers circa Downtown Flyers, with not a note or word wasted on a claustrophobic look back on his and perhaps our own younger days.
It’s been a blast listening to this album over the last few weeks; rediscovering a talent that, while I hadn’t forgot about …. but perhaps the industry just might have ….. and hopefully this album will put right that wrong, across the Post-Pandemic Summer of ’21.

Released June 25th 2021
Fan Site http://www.lakepipewebdesign.co.uk/Chappo/

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BRIGITTE DeMEYER Seeker

BRIGITTE DeMEYER
Seeker
BDM Music

A Limpid Honesty and Beauty in Her Prose That Shines Through Every Song

Brigitte DeMeyer has been making music for over 20 years. Originally based in California, she moved to Nashville and succeeded in developing not just a career in music but in forging some very strong and tight friendships.
However, a family situation has meant that she needed to re-locate back to San Francisco and break away from Music City.
But through the wonders of modern technology, her conducive friendships somehow became stronger and tighter, continuing to function effectively, despite the distance.

Seeker will be her 8th. album since “Another Thousand Miles” debuted in 2001.
Having previously toured and worked with The Wood Brothers it was a no-brainer to not just involve them but co-write all but one of the songs with their multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, who also took on the additional production duties.
Of course Oliver and Chris Wood join Mr. Rix on some of the tracks and Brigitte’s best friend and Godmother to her son; sister Alfreda McCrary can be heard on the backing vocals.

All the Blue” kicks off the proceedings with Jano Rix on his special shuitar, plus guests JP Ruggieri on pedal steel & acoustic guitars and Viktor Krauss on upright bass.
Brigitte takes both the lead and background vocals and tells the tale of a hardworking cowboy friend, with a haunting chorus of “but when the night comes, that’s when your soul hums, a poorboy looking at that rich mans run”.
Alfreda McCrary provides the backing vocals to the slinky “Cat Man Do” whilst Jano contributes more shuitar plus sublime piano and organ.

Just the 2 main protagonists feature on the bluesy protestations of “Calamity Gone”, whilst they are again joined by Ruggieri on serene acoustic guitar for the love song ‘Already In” touchingly dedicated to Brigitte’s husband, including the lyrics
We could be anywhere or nowhere,
I could be alone,
But if you’re there on the square
I call it home,
You’ll never know how to,
no need to convince,
but a heart that wants you,
you’re already in”.
Viktor Krauss returns on the jazzy “Ain’t No Mister” with further superb keys from Rix.

Poignantly dedicated to DeMeyers’ son, without being anyway near piteous, “Roots and Wings and Bones” is all about mothers who sacrifice everything for the well-being of filials.

The ambrosial title track “Seeker” was written when she had returned to California reflecting on missing all her buddies, some 2,000 miles to the East.

It was so difficult trying to select a favourite track. Nevertheless, in a close second place on this glorious new release that undoubtedly straddles so many genres whilst never falling into any is “Louisiana” apparently DeMeyers favourite US City (and mine too btw).
Amazingly, she and I also agree on our overall favourite song, “Salt of the Earth” which is all about trust and connectivity, featuring the full contingent of The Wood Brothers plus Kris Donegan on electric guitar and once again Alfreda, just one of a choir of backing vocalists.

In summary, I thought very highly of her previous release “Mockingbird Soul” with long-term collaborator and another seriously multi-talented musician in Will Kimbrough. However, Seeker elevates Brigitte DeMeyer into the upper echelons of my all-time favourite female lyricists and singers.
There is a limpid honesty and beauty in her prose that shines through the ever indelible, magical music of Jano Rix; and means I need to revisit not just her earlier work but that of The Wood Brothers, as well.

Review by Jack Kidd (Broadcaster Extraordinaire) – “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com

Released on 26th. March 2021
https://brigittedemeyer.com/

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Lorenzo Wolff – Down Where the Valleys Are Low: Another Otherworld for Judee Sill

Lorenzo Wolff
Down Where the Valleys Are Low: Another Otherworld for Judee Sill
StorySound Records

Avant-Garde Interpretations of Bedsit Heartbreakers.

This has been a bit of a challenge on several levels. Firstly I thought I knew Judee Sill’s work; but apparantly don’t and have never owned a single record of hers; and neither did my brothers, then I thought I saw her once as a ‘support act’ ….. again, this drew a blank ….. but I did recognise the recording she did for OGWT of Jesus Was a Crossmaker.
Then, Producer Lorenzo Wolf’s reimaginings of Judee Sill’s songs have; on occasion stretched my own imagination; but I’ve clung on in there just for you.
With all that in mind this isn’t going to be a ‘compare and contrast’ with the originals, that’s for sure.
Hmmmm; the slightly electro-psychedelic opening to first song Down Where The Valleys are low, made my teeth itch; but Mary Elaine Jenkins’ soulful voice carries a rather dark and lovely song way past where the Electronica backdrop deserves.
This is followed by a contemporary Blues-Rock version of The Pearl, with Batrees Strange (a man btw) sounding like he’s actually living every word and stanza in a Ty Taylor aka Vintage Trouble kinda way; making this a bit of a Soulful Belter.
Only two songs in and you see my dilemma as a Casual Listener; it’s a thematic Various Artist album with each version being entirely different from each other.
That said; there are a couple of absolute beauty’s among these seven songs ……. Emily Holden’s ethereal adaptation of The Kiss feels like something you’d expect from Kate Bush, but Emily’s golden voice is far, far easier on the ear.
Bobby Hawk and Kate Ferber take The Phoenix on a cluttered Alt. Country journey that I certainly wasn’t expecting; but have come back to a couple of times.
Weirdly, I’ve also been drawn to Crayon Angels and technically I shouldn’t as the Avant-Garde and slightly overwhelming backing detracts from Grace McLean’s gorgeous voice …… challenging? You bet!
That leaves two songs; obviously Ms Sill’s epic Jesus Was a Crossmaker is here; and it’s fair to say Michael Cerveris does it justice, but producer Lorenzo Wolff still gets carried away with the electronics; attempting some kind of sub-Krautrock tempo and commotion behind a very passionate singer and song.
Then; there is There’s a Rugged Road …… phew; still sounding nearer to Post-Punk than Bedsit singer-songwriter, this adaptation using Osei Esed’s rich baritone is by far and away the best and most memorable song here; making it my Favourite.
Even now three days and five attempts at playing it all the way through; I’m not sure what Lorenzo Wolff’s intentions are; as I doubt this will appeal to Judee Sill fans and/or casual music fans like my good self. The good thing though is I think I’ve discovered some really interesting sings …… so some good has come out of this.

Released March 12th 2021
https://www.facebook.com/lorenzowolff

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Dan Israel LATE AT NIGHT (E.P)

Dan Israel
Late At Night
Bandcamp

More ‘Grown Up Pop Music’ For the Alt. Generation.

We rather like Dan Israel around these here parts; and his SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER album was not just the coolest title I may ever have encountered; but we still stand by our stance that it was “An Album of ‘Grown Up Pop Music’ For the Alt. Generation.
Now leap forward a year or so and he’s back again, only this time with EP in the truest form; i.e an ‘extended play single’ where we get two really classy ‘Grown Up Pop/Rock Songs’ plus them in demo form and an extra demo for good measure …. plus it’s only available on our Favourite Music distribution site Bandcamp.
In keeping with many of his peers, the last 12 months have taken their toll on him and with the help of on Pandemic Blues he sounds like he’s filtering Righteous anger and bile on behalf of all of us, through a Rock and Roll filter bought on EBay.
I love the ‘Grungy’ feel to it; we need more songs that sound like this.
I’ve purposely avoided a lot of songs on this theme; but one way or another Dan has captured the zeitgeist better than most everyone else:
The pandemic blues, like Groundhog Day, everywhere you look, someone holds your fate,
You read a book, or you make a date, you stay inside, don’t go past the gate,
Oh, oh, the pandemic blues,
Oh, oh, the pandemic blues
.”

The title track; Late At Night follows and while a completely different subject captures the subject of loneliness like a punch to your heart Dan Israel takes this uncomfortable subject and wraps it in crisp cotton leaving you feeling a little bit better about yourself after a break-up.
There are others around the world, looking at the stars just like you are.
Now, as a non-musician I’ve always been in awe of musicians who can turn a song and/or melody upside down and inside out …… this started with hearing Crossroads by the Cream and then discovering it was originally a Robert Johnson song.
Here; I love the rough and ready version of Pandemic Blues perhaps a tad more than the single; but it’s so different with Gripka playing all of the instruments in his basement as to make compare and contrast is futile; but the slide-guitar here certainly makes up for loud electric guitars in the ‘piss n vinegar’ stakes!
Late At Night, on the other hand breathes a little more freely, allowing Dan’s ultra-fine thoughts and words to drift in and out of your consciousness like the very air we suck in Late At Night.
In the last year; because of circumstances I’ve listened to a lot of stripped-back acoustic albums from artists normally associated with the electric format of Americana; some work but many have fallen by the wayside because the act has forgotten how to use the subtleties/nuances of the acoustic format to their advantage.
Dan Israel hasn’t that’s for sure!
The fifth and final track here should be a kind of throwaway or ‘filler’ ….. HECK NO!
Drove So Far/Lose The Plot, with Dan showing what a clever guitarist he is; is actually a real smart snapshot of why I love Americana Music. It follows perfectly well from the other two ‘demos’ but; as they do too …… actually sounds fully formed and ready to make its own way in the world.
Then, I sit back and re-read my words ….. and not for the first time recently, sigh at the thought that while Dan Israel has a dozen or more albums under his belt; but instead of being the cover star of Rolling Stone that his talent deserves; he’s dependent on the likes of RMHQ to get his songs across to the populace at large.
Life isn’t always fair; but you can do the right thing for yourself and Dan; buy the Bandcamp Exclusive this week ….. but it will prove expensive in the long run; as it will mean you will keep dipping into his back catalogue for weeks to come.
You’ve been warned!

Released February 12th 2021
http://danisraelmusic.com/

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