Jeb Loy Nichols & Clovis Phillips THREE FOOLS

Nichols and Phillips
Three Fools
Jeb Loy’s Yard

Top Quality and Relaxing Soulful Americana Straight Outta the Welsh Hill Country.

I have taken on too much recently, so when this album dropped from RMHQ it was touch and go whether time would be on my side to give it my fair attention.
Then I gave it a quick spin; and never before has an album so spectacularly hit the mark at the MOST perfect moment in my life!
A couple of listens in, it has now become the soundtrack to my day: 12 intimate, timelessly soothing growers by a duo who seem to hold your hand throughout the entire album.

I’m not surprised to learn that this collaboration is born out of a friendship, one between Wales based American roots singer songwriter Jeb Loy Nichols and Clovis Phillips, who accompanies with an array of instruments including guitar and mandolin. Their unity is evident, the instruments effortlessly compliment the vocals and vice versa.
What’s more the pair recorded, produced and mixed the album together in deepest Wales at Clovis’s Add a Band studios.
Both being new artists to me, I am struck by the charming juxtaposition of a vintage country/bluegrass/folk blend teamed with irresistibly soulfully smooth, tender-rich vocals that are on a par with the likes of George Benson, Seal and even dare I say Bruno Mars, staking this album firmly in the here and now.

‘Rain Falling on The Roof At Night’ lusciously opens the album with a pitter patter tempo ‘drip dropping’ us through the song.
It’s powerfully simplistic, a collection of memories sparked by the sound of the rain, the one thing that remains unchanged.
We are staring into puddles of reflections, from the perspective of a distant lover, a homeless man recollecting childhood memories and through to an aging lady in the back of a limo recollecting her youth.

A commanding start, but this is just the beginning….. Jeb Loy Nichols demonstrates he is the mature, accomplished songwriter (that his CV of 15 or so releases since 1997 would suggest!) with a bunch of clever love songs told from hugely original angles, forming the back bone of this new release.

‘Let Me Love You In My Own Way’ is a jauntily acoustic, confessional strum through the ups and downs of being in a relationship and houses one of the sunniest vocal performances on the album for me.
My eyes tight shut, I’m imagining picnicking in the Countryside with that special person:

‘I’ll bring you blackberries and pumpkin seeds,
I’ll make you soup from nettles leaves
A whole life long I’ll do my best but get it wrong
On that I think that we both agree
Let me love you in my own way.

There’s more than a hint of bluegrass blowin’ in the Welsh hills, circling around the happy break up song ‘That’s What It Sounds Like’.
We witness a couple discussing their non- existent relationship against the backdrop of retro Wurlitzer keys filling in with a catchy chorus complete with ‘Sha La La’s’, giving an old-time singalong feel.
Discovering that this singer songwriter spent most of his childhood listening to classic soul songs on the radio from greats such as Al Green and Curtis Mayfield, now makes sense of all the musical influences seeping through.
This album is as nostalgic as it is new: a winning combo for the likes of me.

In a similar vein, ‘It’s Terrible To Be In Love’ gently spills bitter sweet nuances, with a backdrop of soft harmonies that hint it’s all worth the pain in the end.

Talking of which, ‘Start Hurtin’ Again’ ventures into laid back Country territory, musing on the necessity for taking that first step to find love again, despite the risk of another broken heart.
Phillips’s playing is exquisite throughout the album and buried at the half way point here is a solo shimmering with a waterfall of acoustic notes.
More country tales with the single and title track ‘Three Fools’ which breezily describes a man’s life journey, a tale of yearning for a lost love, coupled with honest observations about humankind.

The only cover song on the album is the folky ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend’ which is a little-known track by the American songwriter Donnie Fritts who passed away in 2019.
It’s a touching tribute and sits well to wrap up the album.

Choosing a favourite was always between two tracks that both highlight the need to take a chill out from the demands of everyday life….. oh yes please!
Runner up ‘Number Four’ swings in with a melodic, hypnotic Latin groove, describing a blissful day filled with gentle activities designed to bring joy:

There’s an apple blossom tree that I wanna see
There are gravel roads I want to explore
I’ve got three things on my list to do today
And no working, working, working is number four’

The top slot goes to a song which takes this chillin’ mood one step further, describing a day of doing absolutely nothing at all.
The ballad lullaby ‘All I Want To do Is Sleep’, complete with Jeb Loy’s deeper, entrancing vocals, spells out the ultimate pyjama day:

Don’t come around here with any big plans
Making plans is what got me in this mess
Plans lead to doing and too much doing leads to ruin
So go away, go away I need a rest.

This heavenly album has got ‘Do not disturb whilst playing’ stamped all over it.
It initially releases with a limited vinyl edition which would sound just perfect on my old ‘70s stereogram; and if I can ever muster up enough energy to go out again, then catching this duo live will make it to the top of my revised to do list.

Review by Anita Joyce

Released 20th March 2023


RMHQ Radio Show Ep:37 AUSTRALIA Special @NovaRadioNE

RMHQ Radio Show
Ep:37 AUSTRALIA Special
Nova Radio NE

When I was having my break over December and January I got to thinking about doing ‘themed’ programmes; not every week, and probably monthly. Si I had a chat with a few friends; bouncing ideas around …. and coupled with a new PR coming on board sending me lots of Australian Roots Music …. so here it is.
There’s a handful of acts you will know but the vast majority will be new to you …. and that’s pretty much our ethos at RMHQ.
Of the names you will recognise, Olivia Newton John makes an appearance; but it’s not the song I hoped for…. a bit more poppy and synth related than I normally like!!

Slim DustyWaltzing Matilda
Alyce PlattEverybody’s Talking
Matt GlassBrunswick
Paul KellyThe River Song
Ol’ ShepLocomotive Weave
Urban GuerillasThey Won’t Play My Song
Karl BroadiePaperback Book
Jay & The CooksI Just Came to Tell You I’m Leaving
Audrey AuldKiss Me
8 Ball AitkenNever Giving Up on You
Misty BlueWhere Your Blues Come From
WelterPhoebe Had a Blue Moon
Lachlan BryanA Portrait of the Artist as A Middle Aged Man
Misty HarloweDays of Summer
Heath CullenThe Song Always Remembers
Rick HartYour Name Don’t Rhyme With Heartache
Charlie LeFieveBarrier Line
Paul Kelly & Charlie OwenTo Live is To Fly
Paul Kelly and Neil FinnFor The Ages
Alan FletcherThe Point
Nick CaveAvalanche
Ryk GoddardEchoes
Slim Dusty ft Keith UrbanLights on the Hill
Jay & The CooksFront Line Worker Blues
Karl BroadieMoonlight Dancing
Gipsy Dave SmithBlue World
Olivia Newton JohnTwist of Fate
CW StonekingThe Thing I Done
Nick Cave & Kylie MinogueWhere the Wild Roses Grow


Janis Ian
Light At The End of The Line
Rude Girl Records

A Glorious Way To Say Goodbye From a Folk Legend.

I actually missed this album on its original release in January 2022; but thankfully the LP/Vinyl re-release in 2023 it’s landed on my doorstep.
I’m pretty sure I once saw Janis as a support act in my teenage years; but those nights are becoming ever more hazy; and I also have vague memories of appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test around that time too …. but I’m stumped if I can remember ever hearing an album of hers.
So leap forward 50 years and I’m listening to her Swansong …. as there by will be no more tour dates as vocal scarring resulting from a virus Ms Ian contracted in 2022 has left her unable to sing as she did.
So; is LIGHT AT THE END OF THE LINE a fitting tribute to a long and succesful career?
With nothing, save some very vague memories and nothing to compare it to; I’;’m still content to answer in the affirmative.
First and foremost; the vibe here isn’t what I was expecting at all …. and that’s probably a good thing; starting with I’m Still Standing which now takes on a whole new meaning; knowing what we now know. At the time of writing and presumably the original release date; it was a powerful ode to the aging process that comes to all of us … and will become an anthem for our generation who are constantly staggered at ‘being the same age as old people!’
The perceptive chorus of,
Another line
Another year
… I’m still standing here!

Is sure to have listeners of a certain vintage whispering “Ain’t that the truth Sister!”
Her first hit, ‘Society’s Child,’ written when she was just 14, spoke empathetically about interracial romance, and her indelible song ‘At Seventeen’ remains the anthem for ‘ugly duckling girls’ maligned by false beauty standards.”
The standards Janis Ian set back then still stand here; and perhaps even more so at times.
The acoustic rendering of that song lulled me into a false sense of security ….. but the following song Resist nearly blew my socks off! Janis Ian goes Electric!
This is Soft Rock of the finest hue; with snarling guitars, farfasa style organ and a rooty toot saxophone supporting this mighty powerful Feminine Anthem of our ages. If this had been by Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry or Annie Lennox it would never have been off our TV or radio ….. and the world would be a better place for it …. and still is; if the cognoscenti hunt this version out.
In a similar vein Perfect Girl treads a similar path; but this time it’s a heartbreaker with only Janis’s road worn voice and piano accompaniment.
There’s no real surprise at the quality of the song writing here; Janis Ian has been releasing albums for over half a century; but some of her subjects and even observations are from left of centre, full of Randy Newman style irony and show us a clever and masterful songwriter; none more so than Dancing With the Dark which precedes Dark Side of the Sun and come together like two sides of a collectable coin and are just as valuable.
Just when I was least expecting it, starting and ending with a penny whistle, Janis slides in a Celtic folk song called Swannanoa that left me almost breathless in its fragility and tragic beauty.
As I said earlier, Janis Ian still has the ability to surprise; none more so that her epic version of Better Times Will Come, which closes the album. It starts out a ‘Capella then touches on Bluegrass and closes out with some real dirty and grungy electric guitar …. which pretty much sums up this longstanding anthem.
For a Favourite Song I was initially tempted to choose Summer In New York which has something of a late night Jazz vibe in the way Janis plays the piano and smoozes her vocals; but I’m erring towards the deceptively complex Wherever Good Dreams Go which slowly unravels more and more of the story each time you hear it.
Under normal circumstances I’d have immediatly looked for tour dates after writing this review; but as we now know …. there will be no more tours and no more albums; so this really his the final swansong and Janis Ian is certainly going out on a high.

CD/Download release January 2022
Vinyl Release February 2023



Iris Dement
Workin’ On a World

21st Century Schizoid Folk Fuelled Americana For Grown Ups

Although releasing albums since 1992 Iris Dement has completely passed me by!
I can’t explain why …. she used to be a regular visitor to the Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle and I have a friend who (at least) once travelled to London to see her; yet I don’t think I’ve ever consciously heard a word from her prior to playing this album.
The fabulous title track, Workin’ On a World opens the album in a hearty manner. As with the rest of the album; which has taken six years to come together; sounds like a lot of time has gone into its creation, as Iris combines her views on a world going to Hell in a Handcart; but still somehow sees a glint of light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.
Now I’m workin’ on a world I may never see
Joinin’ forces with the warriors of love 
Who came before and will follow you and me.”.

This immediatly followed by the jaunty Goin’ Down To Sing In Texas; which went over my head a couple of days; mostly because of the shuffling melody and Honky Tonky piano in the background … then …. BIFF! BAP! KERPOW!
It hit me like a Tyson right hook …. this is a protest song about Gun Control and the brave people who stand up against these horrendous weapons …. and while she’s on a roll, Iris sings ….
I know a couple of Muslims
They seem like decent people to me!

Man what a fantastic song ….. not unlike something Randy Newman would have written twenty or thirty years ago.
With articulate and dare I say it; intellectual songs like I Won’t Ask You Why and the swinging Country of Nothing For The Dead which seamlessly leads into Mahalia I’m staggered no one has tried to force feed me Iris’s back catalogue ….. everyone who knows me knows I love music and songs like these.
It can’t even be her distinctive voice; which sounds akin to both Nanci Griffith and Melanie Safka; both of whom I’ve adored for decades and really comes to the fore on Warriors of Love and Walkin’ Daddy too.
I love the piano playing on the beautifully intense Say a Good Word; then with barely a nod or a wink Iris Goes barroom Country on How Long and The Sacred Now; in between there’s the addition of windswept stylings as Iris’s vocals tremor on the dark and Presbyterian hymnal The Cherry Orchard.
With so much going in and these 13 songs that are full of light and shade; and with so many diverse styles involved; it’s very difficult to select a single song as a personal Favourite.
Going Down to Sing In Texas is an obvious contender; but among the less obvious Nothing For The Dead is a really special few minutes; Waycross Georgia ends the album in the most wonderful fashion; with Iris leaving us with plenty to think about …… but earlier the semi-classical piano led, theatrical Let Me Be Your Jesus has Iris using her voice in a whispering almost confessional way on a song that dabbles knee deep in Tom Waits almost Gothic territory as a haunting cornet (or trumpet?) wails in the background; so I’m picking that as my Favourite.
Checking through Iris Dement’s ‘story’ it looks like she’s ‘never recorded the same album twice‘ constantly pushing and challenging herself musically, which is something I truly admire …. and I now need to check out that intriguing back catalogue.

Released 24th February 2023


Buddy Mondlock FILAMENT

Buddy Mondlock

A Spellbinding Voice and Set of Songs that Blur the Lines Between Country and Americana

As regular readers can testify, I like to play albums a couple of times before reading the accompanying Press Release, so I can make my own mind up about what’s on offer musically …. but this time as I was downloading the album a name popped out on the e-mail that definitely caught my attention …. GUY CLARK!
After seeing Mondlock perform at Kerrville Folk Festival not only did Guy say “Pay attention to Buddy; he’s a great writer!” but the two became firm friends; but wrote several songs together; one of which; Rainy Night in The Day ends this album; but more of that later.
Over the ensuing years Buddy’s songs have ben recorded by a host of Nashville stars, from Garth Brooks to Nanci Griffith; so he must be worth investing a few hours of my time – right?
The title track, FILAMENT opens the album and uses the filament in a light bulb as a metaphor for the love of his life; letting us know how fragile love can be.
One song in; and I can easily see why Clark, Brooks and Griffith were attracted to his songs; Buddy Mondlock is articulate, observational and clever in the way he tells his stories.
As you’d expect most songs here are very personal to the singer/writer; but even a first listen to the charming Sunshine in My Pocket, with its ‘Caribbean lite riff’ or Come Back First and especially Ticket Taker Blues, where Mondlock inhabits a character who dreams of travelling around the world; but never leaves his small town and the booth he checks tickets in; you realise what a keen observer of the human race he actually is.
There are deeply personal love songs here too; but ones he shares with us, allowing the listener to believe that If You Will, the highly imaginative Woman In The Window and of course, Perfect could be about situations or relationships we too find ourselves in.
Speaking of ‘imaginative’ I’d heard Jackson Petty four or five times before I realised that it was actually a tale based around Mondlock’s Great Great Grandfather as a boy in the Civil War; who grows up to live through WWI when his own son is coerced into joining the Army just as the father had been ….American Folk music at its finest IMHO.
This neatly brings me to a stunning song called Weak; which Mondlock wrote alongside Iraq veteran Nick Holmes which, “chronicles how lessons learned to stay safe in a war zone don’t necessarily do the same back home. Melodeon and cello provide the light and shade for a lonesome oboe solo on this one.
Personally I think more veterans of war go through these emotions than the Gung-Ho ones we see at right wing political rally’s.
Because of the emotions that song have created for me I’ve been very tempted to make it my Favourite Song on a really special album; but there’s that co-write with Guy Clark, The Dark.
Even had I not known of Clark’s involvement it would still have been a great song on its own merits; and the slow way Mondlock recites the drole words alongside a haunting melody I’d have guessed it had been influenced by Guy Clark; and with all that in mind I’m making it my Favourite song.
Like many of his peers, Buddy Mondlock will probably be best known for the songs of his that others sing; but his voice and the musicality in these songs here; deserve your time and attention as they did mine. Don’t wait to hear any or all of these songs on your radio by someone in a Cowboy hat and boots; go back to the writer and you will enjoy them even more.

Released 17th February 2023


EXCLUSIVE Jarrod Dickenson Interview

Jarrod Dickenson
February 2023

by Kristine Hughes.

At the end of January I had the pleasure of chatting with Jarrod Dickenson. His new album ‘Big Talk’ was about to be released and he was gearing up for tour dates (some of which are in the UK in March). I gave Jarrod some general questions but also the room to go off piste.
He was happy to oblige.

I asked Jarrod what his angle was when he started pulling songs together for ‘Big Talk’. 

He told me when he first started writing the songs there wasn’t really a theme in mind.
‘I was just writing as I do for any record. But the years following the previous record and my experiences certainly influenced what I was writing about and it became clear early on that there was a theme to the new record. That theme was one of resilience and defiance. Not allowing the circumstances you’re in and the obstacles you face to dictate how you live your life and not letting them win. Once I had a handful of songs written, I wasn’t trying to stick to that theme but that is what kept coming out.’
(I think so many of us can relate to this theme!)

‘For those that aren’t entirely sure what I’m dancing around here – my last album ‘Ready the Horses’, much like this one, I made on my own. It was a totally independent affair – self financed and produced. We shopped it around several labels and it ended up getting picked up by a label primarily based in the UK.
Which was a good thing – or so we thought.  It’s a story as old as time. That relationship wasn’t a particularly harmonious one. The people who were handling the record at the label didn’t give it much care or attention and we struggled to get plans set in place.’

‘This happens all the time to thousands of artists but when you’re in the middle of it it’s frustrating.
You hope to find a group of people dedicated to helping you get a record out and support it but in this case they became more of a hindrance than a help and we spent about a year and a half getting the rights back to the record.
They were essentially going to shelve it for most of the world where it would never get released.
And I didn’t like that. As you can imagine.’

‘So that’s where songs like ‘Buckle Under Pressure’ came from. That song I wrote entirely in my head – I’m not one to usually do that.
I need an instrument in my hand to work it all out at the same time. But I was making the 12 hour drive from Texas back to Nashville. It was the day after this record label told me they were going to shelve the record, they weren’t going to give us the rights back either. So this was me gearing up for that fight.
Which we won.
We got the rights back which doesn’t always happen for a lot of artists. But we did win and this was me saying I’m not going to back down.’

‘I think that song with its attitude and defiance, paved the way for a lot of the record. Not only geared toward my experience with the label but the music industry in general.
Streaming has made it nearly impossible for independent artists to make a living out of their art.
How we’re all on the road all of the time now just to have any chance at making a living.’ (Jarrod chuckles)
‘Well, making a living is almost a pipedream in our world.’

‘Thankfully I love being on the road and I would tour 300 days a year if given the opportunity, but it’s also a necessity for people like us. So those were some of the themes that were tied into this record.
And of course then the pandemic hit just as I was getting ready to go into the studio so that played a part as well. There are a couple of songs that deal with that and also the political landscape that was happening at that particular time, not that it’s changed all that much.
So all of that is in there. I’m happy with the way it turned out and I hope other people are as well.’

I tell him I think the record sounds really good.
It puts me in mind of Tom Petty (Jarrod appreciates that comparison).
I tell him he’s knocked it on the head with the ‘3:30 minute song length 10 song’ beauty. It’s a tip of the hat to craftsmanship when you can get everything you want to say and structure the song in such a way that you really can stick to a 3:30 minute window. Jarrod says ‘I remember being told that by publishers.
‘I really like the song but could you trim 15 seconds off’ and I’m like, man, I don’t think in those terms.
It was a nice surprise to see that a lot of the songs did hover around that 3 minute mark because it doesn’t always happen that way.’ I add it’s not just a radio or publishing thing but also when a fan is listening and ‘oh! The song is over!’ they’ll go back and listen again.
I know I do that. 

I ask Jarrod about his team. Who came first and what does that look like now? Did you find them or did they find you?

‘A bit of both actually. Some of it hasn’t changed all that much.
I have a friend called Joe Haddow who has been my manager now for a good number of years.
It’s been a labour of love on his part because it’s not helping him pay the bills.
He helps any way he can.
We’ve had a few different UK and European agents.

We now work with Beth Morton (United Talent Agency) for UK and Europe and a new agent in North America named Joy Collingbourne (MOB Agency), although she’s from Yorkshire.

In fact both of my agents are Yorkshire women which I’m happy with. I’ve had the same publisher for a good number of years, although the guy I started out with passed away a few years ago and a family member has taken over.

In terms of the team not much has changed because we’ve been independent from the beginning. But the way we are getting the music out has become more independent and in a controlled way.’

I asked Jarrod about censoring his songs or not being afraid to tell it like it is.

‘No, I’m not afraid to share my feelings on any subject, that said, I do think there is a way to be tactful or not too blunt. If you’re too specific about your own gripes and grievances it’s harder for someone else to connect to it when what you’re experiencing is a universal thing.

Choosing your words wisely but not sugar coating them either.’

When I ask him about his most surprising fan support – either from far flung places or fans that surprise him – he goes straight to the UK.
‘The UK is our biggest audience and has been for a long time. It’s been very grassroots, growing it over a decade of touring and doing support gigs for other people and gaining loyal fans that way. I’ve been very grateful for that.’ 

‘During the pandemic and lockdown, we were doing these weekly live stream shows for about a year, almost every week, and I couldn’t believe how many people were tuning in every week and tipping very generously which was a huge part of how we managed to survive while not being able to tour.
We are very lucky to have a humble but very loyal fanbase primarily in the UK but also parts of Europe and here in the US.’

Is there anything about this record or the tour that you’re really excited to share or any surprises? ‘Well first and foremost we’re just happy to be back on the road again. It’s been a long time coming.
We, along with so many others, were sidelined for so long. Both musicians and music fans.
We’re thrilled to have a lot of dates coming up. I’m approaching it carefully – there is still plenty that could go wrong. We are still seeing tours get cancelled because of Covid.
We’re gonna be as safe as we can be to make it happen.
We’re delighted to be doing a full band tour in the UK for the first time in a handful of years. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.’

Who makes up the band?
‘The band is a group of friends and my wife.
Claire is the mainstay, singing and playing percussion. She navigates the ship.
And we have Joe Haddow, my manager, who is a drummer as well.
One of the best people to have on the road. Our buddy JP Ruggieri, who has played guitar on my last few records. He also mixed this new record.
He’s one of these guys who is annoyingly talented at a lot of different things. He’s such a great guitar player but also great at mixing and recording. He also has a record coming out (March 10) so he’s going to open all of the shows.
And then we’re rounding it out with another dear friend of ours, David Ford, who’s gonna play in the band and then in Ireland he’ll be playing opening sets as well.
We’ve all toured together over the years so it’s nice to get the gang back together.’

With streaming over the pandemic and the need to keep the home-fires burning, as an independent artist often we have to think outside the box – we have to generate alternate revenue streams.
I ask Jarrod if there is anything that he’s stumbled upon that has proven to be a lovely thing to offer or include that helps both financially but also the fans enjoy?
‘Not really, we’ve offered test pressings and handwritten lyrics, but mostly touring and selling merch.
Now, that said, Claire and I have stumbled upon a little side hustle that is not at all music related.
When we moved into the house we’re currently in, we started trying to furnish it.
We both love mid-century furnishings and quickly filled up the house and realised we could turn around and sell the pieces we didn’t want to keep.
It’s like treasure hunting that we both enjoy and a little extra cash in the bank.’

I ask if there is a favourite find – like an antique bedframe.
‘A couple of chairs and coffee tables. An Adrian Pearsall chair we found at an estate sale and we bought it for far less than you should be able to buy it for which is why it’s in our house.’

I turn the conversation back to the new record.
Where did the name of the record come from?
‘Big Talk is a line in Bamboozle.’
(I tell him I like it for its New Orleans/Delta blues sound which he replies ‘that was what I was going for.’)
‘I should say this is the second album title that David Ford has come up with a winner. On ‘Ready the Horses’ it was ‘Ready the Horse’ which was a line from ‘Goldrush’.
He said you should make it ‘Ready the Horses’, it sounds more inclusive and just sounds better and then I’m thinking oh, shit, he’s right, that does sound better.
This record was going to be ‘Promises and Big Talk’ and he said ‘nah, kill that off. It should just be ‘Big Talk’. Damn, he’s right again!’ (I say maybe this is David’s side hustle and Jarrod says maybe but he won’t make any money from it and we share a laugh.)

With just a couple minutes left to chat, we touch on what happens after this tour. What does the future hold for this record? ‘Hopefully festivals. We’re throwing our name in the hat. So hopefully be back over for that. And more dates in mainland Europe as well.
A lot more touring in the States. And then just see where it goes. Hopefully more touring, more writing and more recording. That’s pretty much all I’m after. Keep the cycle going. To keep doing what I’m doing.’

And merch for fans?
‘CDS, vinyl, hopefully a new T-shirt and probably some little strange merch item people will like.’

I feel the new album would be a great album to see performed live.
So get to a gig if you can.
They’re anxious to get over here and get it started.
I’m sure their pent up pandemic energy will be evident and I wouldn’t miss it.
And you won’t meet a nicer guy.
Go out and support him and his great band on tour dates mid-March in the UK. Stream or buy ‘Big Talk’ now. 

Review by Kristine Hughes


Kim Edgar
Quietly Fantastic Music

A Fully Packed and Exquisite Calendar of Thought- Provoking Folk-Pop, Made in Scotland With Friends From Home and Away.

Serendipity is at play here: after ending 2022 reviewing a superb album for Rocking Magpie decorated with a butterfly, here I begin 2023 with another!
This time it is courtesy of an established Scottish Singer Songwriter and pianist too. Dividing her time between the folk band Cara alongside her solo projects, Kim Edgar has already notched up 4 solo albums but this latest release is unique to say the least.
The project is wrapped up in a rather ambitious, self- inflicted challenge: recording a new song every month from Oct 2021 to Sept 2022. Furthermore, each track is born out of collaborating with a different artist; some fellow Scots and others from around the Globe. A quick role call includes amongst others: Taiwanese musician Stone, French/Canadian artist Sandra Le Couteur, Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott and folk musician Rachel Sermanni from Scotland.
A lot to take in on first play, yet the whole concept is rather intriguing. Many spins in and I feel like I’ve spent a whole calendar year with this new to me artist:
If you are looking for something really different, thought provoking, brave and just simply beautiful then stay put.

A piano-driven, theatrical dreamscape proportioned track ‘Any Wishing Star’ softly soothes us into the album. Written with Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, adapting his Twitter poems as a starting point, the pair communicated by email.
In fact, it seems all forms of digital communication and social media were used during the making of this album!
This opener showcases Kim Edgar’s expressively atmospheric vocals, a really touching appeal for kindness and hope to win the day despite life not being easy.
The lyrics are strikingly personal and reflective:
It’s so easy to feel defeated
When the day ain’t even started yet
Many dreams still need to be completed
Many promises we can’t forget”

Be warned as the gears shift down for a much darker ride across the next few tracks: “Save Myself” (Run Away), a dramatic collaboration with a fellow Scottish artist Horse McDonald, swoops in with an urgent menacing pace and I get carried away thinking this rift would be epic in a cool cult apocalyptic movie.
The message is one of self-preservation, shutting out feelings in order to emotionally survive traumatic experiences, in this case based on personal experience of child abduction by the guest artist herself.
Wow, I told you this album was brave.

Next, English singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine hops in the chair for “The Edge of Shame”, darkness all around, still with a mood of slow Big Brother discord, inspired by the cruel attitudes and shame unmarried mothers were subjected to in decades gone by:

Her voice still wavers when she talks
It wasn’t her who made the rules
We are on the edge of shame
We are told what’s right and wrong

Although still a stark warning against the dangers of gambling addition, I love the contrasting electro pop hook of the short, snappy “Fifty To One”.
With the rousing brass section and chorus, it whisks me away to a modern day edgy Fifth Dimension with Ms Edgar working alongside Edinburgh’s Goodnight Louisa.
An equally upbeat mood strikes me on the most excellent “Cornerstone”, another Scottish team effort this time with Glasgow’s James Grant.
A delicious duet which nearly made the top slot: acoustic guitar carving out a cool contemporary groove and their sweet, irresistible harmonies first fooled me into thinking this was a love song.
Well, in a way it is but directed at books! This song wonderfully transports me back to memories as a kid, my weekly visits to the library and feeling the wave of excitement clutching my new selections:

You explain me, teach me where I’m from
Entertain me,
Help me to belong”

This album says so much, song after song, encouraging us to assess our own footprint of “Consequences”.
Significantly the emotive single, made with J-P Piirainen from Finland,“It Only Takes A Silence” was written the day that Russia invaded Ukraine with the urgency for us all to speak out:
United voices gaining traction,
Division cannot win”

It’s the perfect expression of unity that this collaborator plays the guitele, a blend of the acoustic guitar and the Finnish instrument the Kantele.
Another song of note “In The Long Run” focuses on the innocent casualties of conflicts.
Teaming up with Australia’s rocker William Crighton, I can’t lie, it’s a difficult listen if you zone into the lyrics but that’s what makes it so impactful coupled with the sombre military beats of drums and brass.

Environmental themes are explored throughout and “The Rolling Sea”, narrated from Planet Earth’s perspective is my favourite track. It’s another duet, this time with Welsh musician Dan Bettridge: his atmospheric guitar eerily rings out like a death knoll. Trouble gently builds with the soft waves of thunder drums, creating a striking contrast to the calmness of the wistful vocal harmonies that are stunning btw.
It’s stripped back, compelling and a simply beautiful heart tuggin’ appeal for mankind to start looking after the world:

This is the highest tide I have ever known
I wish you would treasure what we have here
There’s only so much I can take
I love you, still I need to warn you
Tread lightly, tread lightly”

Whether by Text, WhatsApp, Messenger or Zoom, creating this extraordinary album with a bunch of artists, most of which Kim Edgar had never met in the real world, feels like an epic testament to her openness and creative versatility.
The impact and intimacy achieved within these 12 songs are ultimately her own triumphant consequence of Lockdown in my book: despite the dark places she transports us to, the whole experience has left me with the serene sense of hope that I felt whilst listening to that very first track.
Take this gap year with her, I guarantee you’ll tread a little lighter.

Review by Anita Joyce

Released 3rd February 2023



Sean Taylor
Blues in the Bar
The Georgian Theatre
Stockton on Tees

Sunday, 12th February 2023

Having travelled from his London base for a trio of northern dates, first in York, then Durham City and finishing up with a late Sunday afternoon gig at The Georgian Theatre, Stockton, Sean Taylor was primed and ready to go thanks to a classy, well received set of original, thoughtful tunes by Hartlepool’s JP Riggall.
‘Anxiety Blues’ he calls it, and I for one enjoyed it, especially the track Magic River. 
It was an early start –  4pm, which judging by the full room is something that could well catch on in these parts.
Sean Taylor, we are informed has been nominated for a UK Blues award but maybe describing him as a Blues artist does him a dis-service.
He’s got so much more than ‘just’ Blues in his tank and he tells us as much early in his set. His influences are wide and varied and this is evidenced as throughout he treats us to a rich blend of Blues, Folk, Americana, Psychedelia, Jazz, Hip-Hop with a smattering of Hard-House and even Classical to boot.

Sean has recently released a live album and the first four songs this afternoon are lifted in track order from Sean Taylor Band Live; opener, Number 49, is followed up by This is England, Life Goes On and Texas Boogie.
He tells us that This is England is his alternative national anthem and it’s clear he’s not happy with the direction of English travel. It starts with the line 
‘Born and raised under Maggie’s cane
and proceeds to take us on a hip-hop influenced spoken-word trawl through some of the low points of what is getting on for 45 years of turbo-consumerism and greed that certainly has it’s roots in Thatcherism.
It’s a fine piece of social commentary, and I get the sense that the folks present today are on the same page as the troubadour in our midst. He goes on to re-dress the balance with the laid back Life Goes On, which is a more positive, individualistic take on the trials and tribulations of the everyday experience.
To my mind, he’s getting philosophical and telling us to be in the moment and enjoy life. Judging by the reaction of the crowd they are very much enjoying life this evening and the JJ Calesque Texas Boogie does exactly what it says, namechecking Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lightning Hopkins and Townes Van Zandt as the song sonically weaves it’s feelgood way around the packed room. 

Sean’s between-song stories are full of insight and wisdom that transcends his 39 years.
He tells us how, at the age of 16 he went to Glastonbury Festival for the first time and returned transformed; immediately giving up playing football, and asked to take a drugs test before proceeding to immerse himself in music – this intro cleverly led into [his description] a football song – it turned out to be his take on the Liverpool FC fans anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
The song itself began life in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel and as we all know has since taken on a life of its own but I sense not many folks would have the guts or creativity to re-imagine it in the haunting, dreamy way Taylor does. I suspect by doing so he’s trying to build a metaphorical bridge between lovers of the performing arts and followers of the beautiful game and I must say the album version, with added percussion and base is well worth a listen. 
For me it works perfectly.

Through his song-writing he invites the audience into his world, which appears to be something of a live dichotomy; on the one hand lamenting the way the world around us seems to be spinning out of control, to turning that despair on it’s head and singing of the joys of just being alive, such as on the second of two songs he plays on piano – The Beat Goes On. 
It’s an infectious boogie-woogie laden, biographical tale of his experiences of being on stage and losing himself in the joy of moment.
Listening to him, I sense that, like all of us, Sean Taylor has good days and bad days and much like those of us who love music, it’s primarily that which lifts him up when he feels down.
I certainly felt enriched when he played the beautiful ‘Heart of the Ocean’ on piano, his words poetic and his musicianship drifting off into Classical territory. 
He’s an engaging performer and I loved the hypnotic, psychedelic trance he builds during an extended version of ‘So Fine’. Taylor sounds like he’s playing three guitars at once, such is the wall of sound he manages to conjure out of his 6 string acoustic.

After just over an hour he is returned to the stage by  way of rapturous applause for one final song.
First though, he tells us that his favourite clip of music-related film is when the crowd at Woodstock 69 rises to their feet as Richie Havens sings the final song of his set – Freedom. 
Sean Taylor proceeds to cover the tune and remarkably for those of us privileged to be here he manages to summon up the spirit of Woodstock and hippy idealism as the audience rises as one on a winters afternoon in Teesside and joins him in a renewed call, not only for freedom but you get the feeling, for some much needed social justice too.  

William Graham


Karen Jonas
The Restless
Goldrush Records (Self-released)

Superbly Performed and Written Soulful Vignettes of Emotional Life, Change and Desire

As a late comer to Karen Jonas’ work, I had to start with “The Southwest Sky And Other Dreams” and work backwards – in the process, finding a writer with a keen ear for melody and well-crafted observational lyrics. “The Restless” takes these core strengths and takes several big steps forward.

Throughout this release there are tales of travel – the mythology of French style crops up in a few places on the album, from the French-acquired furniture on the cover to the songs set in named Gallic locations. This adds a warm sensuousness – there’s also more first person than third than I’ve previously noticed, which builds up and forms a series of character-led confessionals.

“Paris Breeze”, the opening track, is typical of this feel
it grows suffocating here with you near enough to touch me in the bedsheets
we’re breathing lavender and jasmine and the dust that’s fallen off of some great painting.”

Tim Bray and Seth Morrissey who toured the UK recently with KJ are both on this release along with drummer Seth Brown, plus multi-instrumentalist Jay Starling and together they create a warm, full complementary, soulful sound. This manifests itself wonderfully on the dry flirty humour of “The Breakdown” – musically it’s Southern soul, but lyrically it draws character with the fine critical and tongue in cheek observation that a modern day Jane Austen might do –
“this morning out shopping I saw your ex-wife
but I’m not even sure what she looks like
so just to be careful I hid in the frozen food aisle
and I guess I don’t know how you left it with her
but I assume you went through with the divorce
now she’s buying waffles and I’m looking for dessert.”

(Insert emoji of someone choking with the audacity of that last line here!)

“Lay Me Down” continues a soulful path, with soaring, classic epic guitar from Tim Bray (the guy is one of the most underrated players out there. Go see him live and you’ll see).
It’s an embracing of love, even if it’s gong to include heartbreak – the same song (in an acoustic form) bookends the album and it works differently, but equally well – the full band version is a bold declaration of taking on love, warts and all, whereas the acoustic version is a more intimate, fragile (yet still bold) confessional of the same sentiment.

Twang, punctuated by brushed snare takes the stage with the opening of “Elegantly Wasted” set in a lyrical wordscape of Parisian everyday decadence.
Did I say “sensual”?
That too.
“That’s Not My Dream Couch” which follows is vocally reminiscent of Noosha Fox (remember her?) with Jonas’ breathy delivery (and she sings some bits in French) being (cough) very persuasive.
Some loosening of one’s tie may be required after listening to this…

“Forever” is one of those songs that’s going to end up being someone’s “special” song – it’s got that universality and tenderness – and melody – that ought to make it so – but it’s also way too clever lyrically for cliché.
“Rock the Boat” which follows, was the lead single off the album – starting with telephone voice-mic-ed vocal, it’s a late-Dylanesque rhythmic narrative, where – as Jonas herself says –
‘it’s hard to separate her from the song’s core character.’
Personally I found it a slightly strange choice as the first single, as it’s atypical of a lot of the album – it’s a strong track in its own right, but is musically darker than a great deal of the other tracks on offer.

“Drunken Dreamer” swings along in a Honky Tonk style, but does that trick of happy tune/sad sentiments, written as it was, in the aftermath of Justin Townes Earle’s passing.
It revisits themes of doomed dreaming, exhibited on the likes of “Lay Me Down” but here it’s at its most explicit. “We Could be Lovers” takes a mellow step back in pace and mood into late night deep soul territory. Swirly reverb on the guitars, glimpses of dobro and a late night discursive vocal create a hazily sensual mood.

The dobro continues on “Throw Me To the Wolves” – the song is a bit more upbeat than its predecessor, but we’re still in soul/blues territory.
The juxtaposition of hope and acceptance of disappointment is rounded off
So throw me to the wolves then
go find someone new
the stars always said
I wasn’t meant for you
there’s an inevitability about disappointment (but ironically almost a comfort) before the coda of the acoustic “Lay Me Down” with its “never say never” fragility.

Karen Jonas on “The Restless” continues to grow and impress, in an organic and mature way, both lyrically and musically. She’s a well-kept secret amongst those who’ve heard her, but there’s absolutely no reason why these superbly performed and written soulful vignettes couldn’t cross over to something much bigger.

Review from Nick Barber
Released March 3rd 2023


Sean Taylor Band LIVE

Sean Taylor Band
Sean Taylor Songs (Download)

British Troubadour At His Best, Live on Stage.

Sean Taylor is the type of act that; on paper wouldn’t normally attract my attention …. but when I reviewed his THE BEAT GOES ON album a year ago I was smitten.
He’s basically a Folk Singer or a Troubadour, if you will; but not one that ply’s his trade copying the greats of the 1960’s or tagging on the coattails of what was invented by Mumford & Sons; he’s very much his own man; ploughing a very individual furrow …. ‘to Hell with the rest’ and making very individual music…. picking up a legion of fans along the way.
I love the back story as to how this recording came about; Taylor had only recently added Mike Seal on double bass and the Thompson Twins percussionist Paulina Szczepaniak to become his ‘band’ …. and at the end of the evening the sound man mentioned he’d recorded the gig and would Sean ‘like a copy’.
Sometime later he played it and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the recording; and the idea of releasing it a teaser for the next tour sprang to mind!
The gig/album starts with the plaintive Number 49; and as Sean says in his introduction, is about ‘going out and creating mischief’ until the last bus beckons. His breathy vocals, punchy acoustic guitar and powerful harmonica solos; aligned to the intense playing by Seal &  Paulina Szczepaniak make for a thought provoking few minutes; with many of us recalling many similar nights ourselves.
Next up is This Is England and Taylor drops a massive surprise with what can only be described as a Folk-Rap as he describes the current mood and disparate observations of England’s green and pleasant land post-Brexit. It’s Folk Music Jim; just not like we know it!
“A broken generation left behind
Buy one and get one free
More for you and more for me
Look at the deals unlimited texts
Hands free and more minutes to get
Lots of noise but nothing to say”

This what makes Sean Taylor stand out from the current crop of Folky singer-songwriters; he’s very confident in his own songs and the way he sings them; which comes to the fore on Perfect Candlelight, Life Goes On and the almost theatrical So Fine, all of which will make you sit up to attention as you don’t want to miss a single word.
Just when you least expect it, Taylor and Band drop the intense Texas Boogie into the mix; yes it has hints of Americana in it via a the chunky beat; but this is a song that isn’t that simple to pigeonhole …. just listen and learn is my advice.
Townes Van Zandt I heard him say
Too live is too fly
come what may Rock to the rhythm
move to the beat Rock to the bassline down on Congress Street
That old Texas boogie gonna get you high
Don’t matter if you are lit on whisky or wine
Lightnin Hopkins sang with his heart and soul

Another surprise comes with his rendition of the old ‘show tune’ You’ll Never Walk Alone; totally unrecognisable from any version you’ve heard before as it’s almost Gothic in construction and just perfect for one of those Scandi-Noir dramas; especially the Welsh ones, as it conjures up all kinds of weird and amazing imagery.
As is the job of the wandering Troubadour and Folk Singer; Sean Taylor dabbles with affairs of the heart in the same way he treats politics and the like; which brings me to my two Favourite Songs here; the mean and moody Heart of the Ocean, which sounds like it’s also from a theatrical production in the way the cymbals shimmer and the piano sounds like it’s being played by the Devil himself is amazing; but later and with no introduction he segues into the powerful and angry Grenfell ….. a story we all know about in the UK, but outsiders in the USA etc. need to Wikipedia the name when they hear this pained and sharply observed heartachingly beautiful song about one of Britain’s greatest ever disasters …. that could and should have been avoided.
Then as we barely have time to take a breath the gig closes with the gritty, punchy and raw Freedom; one of my favourite ever songs by Ritchie P Havens of course …. which just adds to the light and shade of these songs with not just self-righteous anger but aplomb too!

Spring 2023 UK tour dates
10th February (UK) Newbald @ Newbald Village Hall Tickets
11th February (UK) Durham @ Claypath Deli Tickets
12th February (UK) Stockton On Tees @ Georgian Theatre Tickets
21st April – Manningtree @ Red Lion
22nd April (UK) Leamington Spa @ Temperance ** Tickets
24th April (UK) Ash Vale @ Midnight Special Blues Club Tickets
15th June – Lewes @ Hilltop Sessions

Released February 10th 2023