Anna Elizabeth Laube ANNAMANIA

Anna Elizabeth Laube
ANNAMANIA
Ah……. Pockets!

A Captivating Career Retrospective Plus a Couple of Unmissable Rarities.

With only four albums to show for a career that has spanned nigh on twenty years, this retrospective is quite startling in the quality of Ms. Laube’s songwriting and singing right from very first song, Sweet Boy From Minnesota.
Taken from the 2015 album Anna Laube, we are swept along the charming side of Country that we would normally associate with Nanci Griffith, Laura Cantrell or perhaps even Linda Ronstadt; and it’s fair to say Anna stands shoulder to shoulder with all three of those icons of my record collection.
What a way to start a Collection!
The mood drops somewhat for Track #II, Tom Petty’s Time To Move On; a haunting slow burner with only a piano and French Horn as backing. If you’re already a fan of Anna’s; this song is worth the entrance fee alone, and if you’re new to the songwriter, you will instantly be as smitten as I am.
The songs flit carelessly between Anna’s three albums and like that previous song, there are a couple of rarities thrown in too…… and while there’s an element of ‘moving on’ in direction; Anna Elizabeth Laube’s pearlescent voice and insightful songwriting weave a golden thread that pulls everything together as ‘one’.
Of the songs I know from the 2016 album TREE, Please Let It Rain in California Tonight and the title track Tree, itself still sound extraordinary in the way Anna captures your imagination with her words and music in a way I still haven’t heard since the first time I heard Joni’s BLUE many moons ago and Sunny Days is the perfect lead into a new song to me, Hippie Boyfriend with its San Francisco circa ’68 vibe.
With the divergent songs and tunes on offer I can only imagine an Anna Elizabeth Laube concert will be quite the event, with All My Running, If You Build It and I’m Gone being completely different in theme and construction; but sure to be highlights.
When you come back to this album for the second or third time, you will also get the feeling that Anna has been quite brave with her changes of direction throughout her career. Even the earlier acoustic based Singer-songwriter fayre aren’t always ‘obvious’ in the way many of her contemporaries would build a song; with Already There being a prime example. But that theory is even more prescient with the previously unreleased song Jardim de Estrela, with her now breathy vocals over an almost Classical guitar and accordion that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tom Russell song.
For a Favourite Track I’ve deliberately missed the songs from TREE, and gone for something new that has a) surprised me and b) stuck with me days after first hearing it/them.
Beautiful Boy from OUTTA MY HEAD, is the type of quirky yet lovely song that I love from singer-songwriters, a toe-tapping tune, slick acoustic guitar and words and melody that stick around and come back when you’re least expecting it.
The other is Oh My! (Oh Me Oh Me Oh My); a real oddity here, featuring the legendary Chuck Leavell on organ btw; and is a bit of a Big Easy Honky Tonker that will make you want to shuffle your feet and shake your hind end, as Anna enters into unchartered Maria Muldaur territory and comes out the other side totally unscathed.
With no discernible ‘hits’ to speak of, releasing a Career Retrospective’ may seem odd; but these songs represent 15 years or more of hard work; perhaps now is the time; and hopefully a stepping stone to Part II of a remarkable career.

Released 22nd January 2021
http://www.annaelizabethlaube.com/about.html

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
http://www.annaelizabethlaube.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html
Download & Stream only ……. and you should know which one makes the most sense!!!




Steve Earle and The Dukes JT

Steve Earle & The Dukes
JT
New West Records

There Is a Light That Will Never Go Out …….

The record is called J.T. because Justin was never called anything else until he was nearly grown.
Well, when he was little, I called him Cowboy,”
“For better or worse, right or wrong, I loved Justin Townes Earle more than anything else on this earth.
That being said, I made this record, like every other record I’ve ever made… for me.
It was the only way I knew to say goodbye.

explains Steve Earle

This is an album I knew that I was going to love before ever hearing the first note; and it’s also an album that I’ve kinda fantasized about over the years; but today feel so desperately sad that it has actually been made.
If you’re reading this it’s safe to presume that you are already a Justin Townes Earle fan or, more likely one of Steve Earle, whichever; you are going to find such warmth and solace in these songs you will surely come out the other end a huge fan of both.

It’s absolutely pointless going into this tempestuous Father/Son relationship, apart from Steve must have felt that he’d had his heart ripped out on that August morning when he heard that his child had died.

No more tears; onto the music ……….
When you hear this for the first time, especially if you don’t know Justin’s songs, this is very much a modern, Folky/Americana Steve Earle album; and easily one of his most accessible in recent years; but the deeper you delve the more Justin’s spiky and almost punk influenced words get new life breathed into them via this new format; but by that same token, words that somehow breathe new life into Steve’s singing and arranging.
Opening track I Don’t Care sounds like a back porch Hillbilly Saturday night family hoedown; with a sparkling banjo alongside some razor sharp fiddle playing being the lead instruments as Steve rocks the socks off a song from Justin’s debut EP Yuma.
This is followed by a similarly celebratory rendition of Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving from the same year, 2007 and while it’s all too easy to re-write history with this choice of song; it’s actually just another superb piece of songwriting from one of Americana’s young shining lights.

They Killed John Henry is an age old theme played out many times over the last century in American Folk music; but when Justin included it on Midnight At The Movies it was considered quite the Agit-Folk piece of work; with JT going where his contempories feared to tread …….. and; if ever there was a song written for Steve Earle to belt out, this is it.
Please, please don’t read too much into the song titles; especially Turn Out My Lights as it’s actually a beautiful and heartfelt love song; just like the haunting Far Away in Another Town which has Steve squeezing ever last drop of pathos out of the songs chilling words.
As you’d expect from both Steve and Justin; there’s no party like an Earle Party and Champagne Corolla and Maria both get an added dollop of adrenaline to make you want to dance your socks off as you cry your heart out; which is quite some feat from both writer and singer/arranger.

Of the 11 songs here, 10 are from the pen of Justin T Earle and certainly show the world what a talent he most certainly was; but the Last Words are left to Steve himself, with a song of the same title which closes the disc and …… and ….. and ……. brittle?
Intimate?
Raw?
Honest?
Brave?

All of the above …….. if you thought you knew and understood heartbreak, just listen to this man mourning his son.
Phew …….. with emotions running so high; absolutely any of those songs could and indeed are among my Favourites but, arguably JT’s most famous song Harlem River Blues takes on a whole new life under his Father’s tutelage and had me crying and punching the air with delight when it was first released as a single; but there is one other here that actually surpasses not just Justin’s songwriting but also; and only by a whisker Steve’s passionate singing and that’s the title track from the young man’s most recent record; The Saint of Lost Causes.
A song that I liked a lot on the original album; but while I said not to use hindsight, with this mysterious and almost Americana Gothic song, you can’t help yourself and ……. wow …….. what a way to be remembered; I never felt it at the time but the words and construction are very Dylanesque and (this isn’t being lazy) but the man he was named after; Townes Van Zandt too; so it’s not too much of a stretch to think that it was going to be the beginning of a whole new and exciting chapter in the life of Justin Townes Earle.
I own all of Justin’s albums, saw him live four times and even interviewed and photographed him and can’t think of a more fitting tribute to a life that didn’t just flicker but burnt as bright as any shooting star; than this album by his grieving Father.

Justin Townes Earle (January 4, 1982 – August 20, 2020) 
https://www.justintownesearle.com/

Released January 4th 2021 (JT’s birthday).
BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
100% of the artist advances and royalties from J.T. will be donated to a trust for Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle.
https://store.newwestrecords.com/collections/steve-earle-the-dukes-j-t

Cathy Grier I’M ALL BURN

Cathy Grier & The Troublemakers
I’m All Burn
Self-Release

Imagine You’re Sitting in a Lonely Hotel Lounge One Cold Tuesday Night With Only 2 for 1 Cocktails For Company.

While we try to keep up to date with our reviews; getting them out as near to the release date as is humanly possible; sometime we have to make exceptions.
A few weeks ago Cathy Grier sent an e-mail asking if we’d be interested in listening to her latest album which had been released back in the Summer; and out of courtesy I responded in the affirmative.
Then heard nothing.
Until the postie delivered a package from the US of A with a handwritten note alongside a comprehensive Press Release and a cool looking CD.
So far; so good …… but with so much going on in November and now December I wasn’t sure when I could listen to it.
Then, yesterday morning I managed to squeeze in a ‘morning constitutional’ walk in the park; so played this as an accompaniment. Now; what I heard was nothing like what I expected from the imagery and artwork!

But Far Far Better, baring in mind it was a cold and grey morning and the rains came half-way round.
The title track, I’m All Burn opens with an intense horn section serenading us before Cathy glides in with a sultry ode to the feminist movement; but don’t let that put you off guys; as what Ms. Grier sings from her pumping heart is pretty much what my Mother preached to her sons half a century ago and my wife and I have passed on to our sons; and still stands upright today in 2020 …….. to paraphrase;
why does a woman have to work twice as hard as a man; to be treated as his equal?
I’m with you sister!
The sentiments that follow are pretty much dyed in the wool standard fayre; but boy oh boy can Cathy Grier not just sing a soulful Blues ballad but write a belter too.
There’s a wonderful ‘groove’ from start to finish that sent a shiver down my back while making me hold my breath at the same time; if that’s possible? Well; that’s how Roots Run Deep and Easy Come Easy Go; especially Larry Byrne’s swirling organ solos have; and still make me feel today.
Cathy dabbles her toe in Ma Rainey territory with the saucy Backroad Blues; which features some absolutely scorching harmonica from Steve Cohen as well as some slide from the legendary Greg Koch, to seal a very contemporary Classic Juke Joint love song.
I’ve quickly fallen in love with the bodacious Key To My Survival and What Fools Do; as they just somehow ‘speak to me’ in a way only The Blues can.
For a laid back style of album; there’s an awful lot going on behind Cathy Grier when she sings and plays guitar; and boy can she play a guitar …….. try listening to her solo runs on the slow and simmering Happiness Blues or Cool Trick and tell me you’re not hearing a Mastercraftsman; (or should that be Mastercraftswoman) at work and play?
While Cathy Grier has a very distinctive and smooth singing voice; she can still get low down and funky when she wants; most notably on Down On My Knees and Keep You Out, which both sound like they could have been recorded at Muscle Shoals back in the early 80’s.
There’s even a bit of a curve ball with the final track; Cathy’s Bike Song; which finds our heroine going solo and playing a Cigar-Box guitar; and it’s a lot darker than the ‘piece of whimsy’ that the title first suggested; and I’d sure like to hear a whole album in this particular style.
As is my won’t I’ve played this four times now before actually digesting the Press Release; and apparantly this is Cathy Grier’s 14th Album! FOURTEEN? And yet she looks so young and pretty.
Plus, she’s very proud that this has been recorded in Wisconsin using pretty much local musicians, and is her tribute to her new found home in Sturgeon Bay.
This is very much the type of album you will get the best from late at night when you are feeling very sorry for yourself; or sitting in a lonely Hotel Jazz Lounge one cold Tuesday night, with only 2 for 1 cocktails for company; therefore picking out one individual song to be my Favourite Track hasn’t been easy at all; but I’m going to take a punt on the Rhythm and Blues delight of Question Of Desire; but then again Protecting My Heart; which precedes it probably sounds like the single track that might sum up Cathy Grier’s ‘style’ …… oh this isn’t easy at all!
By the way, there’s one cover song here; and when I tell you that Cathy has put her own individual twist on Bobbie Gentry’s iconic Ode To Billy Joe you will hopefully what a brave risk taker Ms Grier is and, as it’s in keeping with everything else here, why I’m totally smitten with I’M ALL BURN.

Released July 2020
https://cathygrier.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://cathygriertroublemaker.bandcamp.com/track/down-on-my-knees




Anna Lavigne ANGELS IN SANDSHOES

Anna Lavigne
Angels in Sandshoes
Barbaraville

A Cornucopia of Musical Loveliness

While I know Anna Lavigne; as I’ve met her a couple of times; when she’s been with her partner; who is a good friend of mine; I had absolutely no idea she could ‘sing,’; so was surprised when said friend asked if I’d mind having a listen to her new album; which he had produced.
So; out of courtesy I did just that.
Oooooohhhhhhh ….. what a delicious surprise this has been; and nothing like what I’d expected at all.
The opening stanza to Every Kind of Heaven threw a curve ball; as I half expected a reggaeish tune to follow; and what you get is a rather quaint and dreamy pop song that sounds like it falls somewhere between Sandie Shaw and Eddi Reader in her Fairground Attraction days; and the ‘hook’ had me hooked straight away.
Next up; Anna ups the pace on a Twangtastic Country song; Dare to Dream which conjures up memories of Kirsty MacColl at her finest.
Do you get the picture yet? I certainly hope so.
There are no two songs here alike; which is a totally wonderful treat, with the golden thread that is Anna Lavigne’s warm, rich and eloquent songwriting weaving every single element together.
The evocative *duet, Paris in the Rain has a neat Ragtime guitar melody accompanying two voices that were meant to sing together; like a British Folkie Gram and Emmylou; if that’s not too grand.
On Cigarette, we are whisked away to a seedy nightclub; in the exotic part of town where Anna ‘talks’ the story directly to you; as if she’s letting you in on a very dark secret about that woman called; Cigarette.
There’s even a hint of slow, sexy and slightly greasy Rockabilly on the I Love The Way You Move which will have you turning the lights way down low and then shuffling around the kitchen like a teenager on heat.
Speaking of dancing; Dance The Last Goodbye sounds like a great lost ‘Teenage Opera’ from someone like the Shirelles or Shangri-La’s and won’t be out of place on Strictly Come Dancing one Saturday night.
It’s odd how the saxophone has gone out of fashion in recent years; but a judicious use off said instrument at the beginning of A Life of Her Own, which closes the record is a masterstroke as it echoes the darkness in the words and the pathos in Ms Lavigne’s stunning delivery.
Now, dear reader as you will suspect; selecting a Favourite Song has been very difficult indeed; simply because every song here could be a Hit 45, if the music world knew what it was doing.
But; I’ve managed to narrow it down to two; another ‘sexy song’ the Hot Club de Brady Square inspired La Demise de la Bise*; which finds Anna dropping her voice an octave or two as she purrs alternate verses in French and English; which has the capacity to make a man’s heart skip a beat or two.
The other; and initially my first choice, Seashore Roses is an enchanting duet with the man in her life; none other than Martin G Stephenson esq. who knows his place and that’s alongside, if not behind Anna Lavigne’s timeless performance on a song that just cries out to be in a Summertime Blockbuster movie.
I’ve kept Martin’s name to the end; as although he produced the album and co-wrote most of the songs with Anna; this is very much Anna Lavigne’s album and nothing should be allowed to diminish her undoubted talents and …….. rather lovely singing voice.

Released December 22nd 2020

*La Demise De La Bise means that  cheek kissing greeting that the French always use – or used to before covid, so in a way quite unexpectedly relevant! The end of the kissing?
BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://daintees.bandcamp.com/album/angels-in-sandshoes



The Bob Frank Documentary: Bob Frank Within a Few Degrees

Bob Frank Within a Few Degrees:
Light In The Attic


The best summation of Bob Frank comes from songwriter Jim Dickinson:
The best songwriter you never heard,” he famously said.
I first came across Frank some years ago, while researching murder ballads and discovered the album he made with John Murry, World Without End, which is so full of darkness, senseless death, mayhem, and troubled humanity that most folks who hear it can’t make it all the way through, which—to my mind—makes it one of the most beautiful albums of all time, and one of my absolute very favorites.
Trying to find out more about these two elusive songwriters (Murry had yet to release any other music at this point) I came across the one album Frank recorded in the early seventies for Vanguard and was instantly hooked.
His songs were simple, yet fully realized, there was a sincerity in his singing and he had a rather unique way of fingerpicking the guitar that emphasized his vocal delivery. He was as much Rock ‘n’ Roll, as he was Country and Folk.
With each song I discovered myself falling down that rabbit hole, looking for more of Frank’s music, which was hard to come; by but not impossible to find.
Eventually I reached out to Frank himself and interviewed him via email for my blog on songwriting. Frank was honest, humble, courteous, and very forthcoming about the elusive magic of songwriting.
When I heard that someone was making a documentary about him I was elated.
When I heard that he had died from pancreatic cancer rather suddenly I was devastated.
I had never met the man in person, yet talking with him, and listening to his music, I felt as if I knew him to a certain degree.
I am so grateful to Isaac Pingree for taking the time to sit down with Frank and several of the folks who knew him best and create this film. Bob Frank, telling his version of the events that led to Vanguard Records dropping him are pure gold, as is the footage of Frank playing guitar with calm gusto and singing some of his finest songs.
The cornerstone of the whole thing is the 76-minute long documentary on DVD produced by Isaac Pingree, but the icing on the cake are the two compact discs of demos; some recorded by Frank when he was working as a songwriter for hire in Nashville, and some recorded by Frank himself on a cassette recorder after moving to California and working in the Oakland Parks Department.
So what we get from these 37 demo tracks is a few instances of Frank trying to write a song that would work for any up and coming Country artist. His songs aren’t as generic as some of the “written by committee” Country songs we get nowadays, it seems that Frank still couldn’t completely shed his skin in order to eek out a living.
His songs have a whole lot of Bob Frank himself in them, which ain’t a bad thing if you’re writing songs for yourself, but don’t always work if trying to sell them.
We get songs about songwriting itself (“Wailing Mountain Wind“), a few obligatory love songs, songs about folks searching for that one bit of elusive truth which could change their life.
I don’t know for a fact, but I suppose that Frank wrote many of these off the cuff, just spittin’ them out as they came to him, needing to get them down before he lost them.
A songwriting dynamo that’s for sure!
This entire package is a fantastic entry for anyone interested in learning about one of songwriting’s greatest ever, if slightly unknown, musical geniuses, buy it straight from Light in the Attic.

Pitchfork said: “HE WAS TOUGHER THAN KRISTOFFERSON AND MORE SPRY THAN CASH, AN OFTEN-JOLLY LIGHT IN TYPICALLY DARK CORNERS.
HE DELIGHTED IN TROUBLE, DID EVERY DRUG, WASTED MOST WEEKENDS.”

Release Date: December 11, 2020
Review by Roy Peak

Light in the Attic link: https://lightintheattic.net/releases/7321-within-a-few-degrees…
Documentary website: https://bobfrankmovie.com

Emily Zuzik & Ted Russell Kamp THE CHRISTMAS STAR

Emily Zuzik & Ted Russell Kamp
The Christmas Star

It’s Christmas in The New Old Fashioned Way!

What’s not to like after one of the rottnest years of my life?
Our new discovery, the lovely Emily Zuzik and the magnificent Ted Russell Kamp putting the glitter and camp back into our lives …….. your Granny and the kids are gonna love this too!

A great, brand-new Christmas song Zuzik wrote and recorded together with Ted Russell Kamp, the producer of her album, Torch & Trouble. After initially having the idea for the initial chord progression and verse melody, the y got together and wrote the rest of the music very quickly and worked up the lyrics over the next few days.
This song was itself a Christmas gift to us because it came so fast and flowed so freely and naturally.The biggest argument we had through the whole process was deciding if the bridge should go to C# major or C# minor (not that big a conflict!). 
As it’s been a tough year for everyone on the planet, maybe it’s time to have a little levity at this time of the year.

OUT NOW

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://emilyzuzik.bandcamp.com/track/the-christmas-star
http://www.emilyzuzik.com

www.tedrussellkamp.com

Terra Spencer CHASING RABBITS

Terra Spencer
Chasing Rabbits
Self-Release

Canadian Folk Songs that Flow With Grace and a Delicate Intimacy.

This is another album that nearly fell by the wayside; primarily because I had mis-filed it on my I-Phone; only for it to ‘pop up’ quite by accident one morning last week, on my constitutional stroll around the ‘hood.’
While I was actually expecting some loudish Country Rock; the starkly beautiful Melt took me by surprise that I actually stopped in my tracks. At first it was to find the album I wanted, but by the time I’d took my gloves off and was fiddling with the buttons; I was already smitten.
WOW!
What a beautiful and pearlescent voice this young lady has; and the chill in this tale of lost love actually made me glow faster than a bowl of Ready Brek.
Coincidentally Terra uses the metaphor of a melting snowflake for the ‘warmth her lover’ showed her; which shows what an articulate writer Ms Spencer is.
Although my walk was meant to at quite a fast pace; this collection of delicate and languid stories was the perfect accompaniment; possibly because of the bright Autumnal sunshine and cold wind; or possibly because I was just in an old-romantic mood.
Normally with Folk Singers; and that’s undoubtedly what Terra Spencer is; I try to imagine what the songs will sound like stripped back to just an acoustic guitar when played live; but not this time.
As most readers know, I try not to read Press Releases too early; as I like to make my own mind up about the music; and I’d already decided Terra must be Canadian when I got home and read her bio; and she is; from Nova Scotia actually.
I don’t know why but Canadian singer-songwriters have a ‘certain something’ that other English speaking nations don’t ….. go figure.
While the bio says the songs are all written with a ‘Canadian Winter as a backdrop’; I can’t disagree; but to me there’s a sense of loneliness and longing that weaves their way through too; most noticeably on the intense and theatrical In The City; which is just waiting to be included in a sad Rom-Com; just before the couple ‘accidentally meet and get back together again’ IMHO.
At first the title track Chasing Rabbits sounds like charm personified; as Terra compares herself to her slightly faulty puppy dog; but listen two, three or more times and her words unravel like a stray thread on your favourite sweater and if you don’t then have tears in your eyes; you’re listening to the wrong LP!
It’s a brave songwriter who can pull off a song like Coyotes. I’m not going to spoil it for you; but the first time I heard it I couldn’t believe my ears as it actually sounds like a short ‘Thriller Story’ bordering on the Gothic; but I’ve come back to it several times in the last few days.
To some intents and purposes CHASING RABBITS is for playing on a long dark and preferably cold evening, snuggled up on the sofa with the lights turned down low and a flickering fire across the room; only then; like a good robust red wine; will you get the best out of Lunenburg Moon, Manitoba Maple and most importantly Training to Fly (which is another weepy).
No two songs are the same here; be that in setting or actual musical construction; but there’s a definite golden thread that holds them all together; which is best shown by the two songs that close the record and actually tie for the accolade of Favourite Song.
While I can only presume there’s at least a little bit of Terra’s own life in every song here; the words and story in Feels Like Home surely must be autobiographical?
Another song that I really and truly don’t want to spoil for you; but Terra Spencer really captures the loneliness someone can feel moving away from home to ‘live the dream’ in a way I’ve not heard for many years.
This is followed by Saigon; which could easily be the same young woman several years later; deeply in love … but is the magic and romance still there?
Who’s to say?
You’re left to make your own mind up.
Terra Spencer’s songs flow and grow with a grace that comes from her luscious and intricate arrangements; be that the occasional flourish of electric piano, a swooping cello or violin and when that trumpet makes an appearance the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
These songs aren’t for small Folk Clubs, they are destined for Concert Halls with audiences sitting in awe of the talent on stage.

#I haven’t even mentioned that in her parallel life; Tera Spencer is an actual Funeral Director!

Released November 6th 2020
https://terraspencer.ca/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://terraspencer.bandcamp.com/


Ben Glover SWEET WILD LILY (ep)

Ben Glover
Sweet Wild Lily (EP)
Proper Records

A Storyteller of the Finest Hue, Using the Medium of Music to Reel the Listener In.

Good luck to Northern Irish singer-songwriter Ben Glover, who has made quite the name for himself in recent years as a ‘go to’ co-songwriter; most notably with the delectable Gretchen Peters; but a multitude of others too.
But …… and this is a very personal ‘but’ …… I just wish that fame and (hopefully) fortune had come via his own solo work; because it certainly deserves it.
He’s been a busy lad in the last few years; meaning this Four Track release is his first since SHOREBOUND in 2018; and has been a very welcome surprise at RMHQ this week.
The ever so delicate and charming title track Sweet Wild Lily opens the proceedings in a timeless and almost haunting manner. Glover’s distinctive voice aches with longing as he tells the tale of lost love; or is it just plain unrequited as the target of his admirations treads her very own path that doesn’t always include him.
Without reading the accompanying Press Release; I’m not sure if I’ve heard Arguing With Ghosts before; it certainly sounds as if I should have, if I haven’t*. Written alongside the enigmatic Matraca Berg; Colm McLean’s shimmering guitar makes an already haunting tale almost frightening in it’s delivery.
A little part of me was hoping that Broke Down would be Slaid Cleaves’ song of the same name; but nope, it’s actually a Glover/Gretchen Peters song; and as Country as I’ve ever heard Ben; courtesy of a nascent banjo/pedal-steel combo in the background ……. but it will be his stinging words what you remember hours and even days afterwards.
This only leaves the single Fireflies Dancing to tell you about. But that’s not as easy as you’d imagine.
Put simply; this is one of the finest and deepest songs I’ve heard this year – and I’ve heard a lot.
A relatively simple production and arrangement masks a song that I’m 99% sure is destined for numerous Country/Americana albums in the next few years; sometimes sung solo alongside an old acoustic guitar and also when it’s almost unrecognisable with a big ole rocking band and a singer in a Trucker cap and Redwings; and it lends itself to everything in between too.
Ben Glover is first and foremost a storyteller of the finest hue, one who uses the medium of music to reel the listener in; and he does it like an age old Irish Mystic.

*Doh!! Of course Arguing With Ghosts is the opening track on Gretchen Peters’ DANCING WITH THE BEAST from 2018!

Released November 13th 2020
https://www.benglover.co.uk/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://www.propermusic.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=ben+glover

Gianna Lauren – VANITY METRICS

Gianna Lauren
Vanity Metrics
Forward Music Group

Deeply Felt and Dreamy Canadiana For The Lovelorn Everywhere.

Although I had heard of Gianna Lauren I have to admit to not being an expert on her work; so reviewing a 5 track EP certainly falls into the ‘new artiste’ category for me, even though she has had at least one album released in addition to a couple of EPs.
I seem to have become the reviewer ‘of choice’ when it comes to our Canadian cousins recently, as this is the 4th I have listened to in the last month or so, and hopefully this would maintain the high standards of the previous three.
As with almost every release in 2020 regardless of the artist or the genre, the effects of the various lockdowns and pandemic have, to differing degrees, had an impact on singer/writers, and Gianna has confirmed she was similarly affected.
‘Spark’ is the opener, and the gentle drum and guitar entrée suggests a very moody Folkie type of Rock in a fairly stripped back arrangement, to accompany a sweet vocal and a female backing before ending on an even more idyllic note.
The song was written during a late night studio combination session of both writing and recording, with the aim of Gianna putting forward her views in social injustice and the position of not being able to help to any appreciable amount.
Before I die I wanna tell you I love you
BUT while I’m alive I’m just gonna hide
’.
Track 2, ‘Whoa’ is aided by a lovely horn section that works perfectly as the guitar middle section neatly dovetails with a light string accompaniment. Another very articulate and ‘easy on the ear’ track.
The guitar picks out the opening to ‘Closed Chapter’ as an attempt to ‘point in the right direction’ always seems to meet a ‘set of deflections – the same old story’.
No matter how hard you try sometimes things just don’t come out the way you want.
‘Innocent Tourist’ is for me the track that offers the best way to listen to; and to appreciate Gianna’ distinctive vocal styling – much more of a traditional female working of a song, leading up to a dramatic denouement.
The short set ends with ‘Disappear’ and the plea to
go get dressed as you can’t wear that tonight as we are going out
knowing that it’s inevitable that as soon as
you get there
you go on and disappear’.
Very much a late night Jazz trio type of song, with the crowd cowed and silent, picking up and on every word of the song.
Possibly one of a couple of songs that aren’t always on the same wavelength, once out of the safe environment of home.
There is certainly one thing that both Gianna and myself agree on  – listening to music on a walk is the best way to really get into either an album or some specific track.
This is exactly how I listened to her delightful set.
The nicest thing I can say, is that these 5 tracks have got me looking for some of Gianna Lauren’s previous work(s) – and I am pretty confident I won’t be disappointed.
I would like to hear her take on some slightly more upbeat numbers; but I may get that on my next few music walks anyway, but whatever I find out I hope that horn backing is more prominent – it’s brilliant.
Canada wins again!!!
And without taking days for a re-count.

Reviewed by Billy Redhead
Released 13th November 2020
https://gianna-lauren.squarespace.com/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
https://giannalauren.bandcamp.com/album/vanity-metrics



Doug Schmude MILEPOSTS

Doug Schmude
Mileposts
Self-Release

Charming Alt. Country With a Folk Troubadour’s Insight Into Our World.

One of the biggest dilemmas we face here in Reviewerland is actually remembering all of the albums we’ve reviewed!
I’m pretty good with names; but the music? Hmmm ….. not always.
So when Doug Schmude got in touch a few weeks ago like a long lost friend, his name rang a bell but it took two days for me to find the 2018 album I had raved about, but I had and it was with genuine pleasure that I said ‘yes’ to a copy of his latest EP of Alt. Country-Folk, Mileposts.
The first word that comes to mind now I’ve played it a few times is ‘charming’; and that’s meant in a positive way; especially as many of the albums we hear are ‘worthy’ and ‘angsty’ and very occasionally ‘piss n vinegary’ all of which have a place in my heart; but sometimes I just want to hear happy pleasant music; sung with joy and love.
MILEPOSTS falls into this latter category; starting with Ballad of Early, which took a couple of days to unravel; but when it did I let out a ‘tee hee.’ A genuinely clever song with a neat twist that you sort of expect; but when it does still comes as a surprise.
As someone with not a single musical bone in my body; I’m always impressed when I hear a songwriter take a tired old ‘theme’ like breaking up with a loved one; and putting their own distinctive stamp on it …… which is exactly what Schmude does with Lines on My Face; arguably the type of song Guy Clark may have written on his last couple of records.
The title track Mileposts is a real ole toe-tapper which will appeal to fellow troubadours and people with itchy-feet, who can’t stay in one place too long; never putting down roots and developing grown up relationships …. which is a pretty brave thing to write about, when you think about it.
Let’s skip back to track #2, Crow.
Probably the most charming song here; the Hill Country toe-tapper Crow; and the first time I played it I thought, “is this a John Prine song?” Checked, and obviously it isn’t but sounds as if it’s been heavily influenced by our dear departed friend.

I mention this because the final song here is ……. A World Without John Prine, which will squeeze the tears out of your eyes like very few others as this year develops; and given a fair wind could be picked up by other singers for inclusion on their albums and/or at least House Concerts.
Then there is Maybe I Won’t Go Home.
WOW!
It would have been far too easy to choose the John Prine song as my Favourite; but Schmude’s acutely observed tale Maybe I Won’t Go Home deserves the accolade for the intelligent way Doug tells his sorrowful tale in a clear, succinct and just short of tearful way.
Here the Californian (out of Oklahoma) channels his inner Woody Guthrie and Tom Paxton, as he articulates a tale that will resonate across every town, city and state in the USA but across the whole Western World.
I somehow doubt this song will make him his fortune or win a Grammy; but trust me ……. Doug Schmude can be a very proud man for writing this song.

Released November 6th 2020
http://www.dougschmude.net/

BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
http://www.dougschmude.net/purchase2.html