Guy Clark – The Best of the Dualtone Years

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Guy Clark
The Best of the Dualtone Years
DUALTONE

A Consummate Collection Of A Master’s Latter Years.

Guy Clark? Where do I start? On a recommendation from the owner, a retrospective of his early recordings (priced £5.99) was one of the first Americana CD’s I ever bought in the long gone Goldrush Records, Perth Scotland and proved not to be just a gateway into his work, but that of Townes, Rodney, Nanci and Steve Earle….. and the rest is history.
By the time Guy signed for Dualtone Records in 2005 he was something of a ‘forgotten man’ and the industry probably presumed his best years were long gone.
As this retrospective of the Dualtone recordings proves…..how wrong they were!
This perfectly balanced Double Album opens with Rain in Durango, then saunters through Hemingway’s Whisky and My Favourite Picture of You……PHEW……find me a songwriter in the last 20 years who has wrote a better song than any of those three and I will be surprised….and remember this was meant to be the ‘tail end’ of Clark’s career!
Since his death in 2016 he has been mentioned a lot in the Press Releases I receive as an ‘inspiration’ and occasionally a ‘mentor’ for many much younger singer-songwriters; and you can hear and feel why that would be the way he couples simple observations with a beautiful way with words on songs like Out In The Parking Lot and Tornado Time in Texas to draw the listener in and keep them entranced.
Not a young man when he recorded Cornmeal Waltz but his voice sounds timeless and almost ethereal as he recalls the heady nights of his youth…….and I pretty much guess that there was a twinkle in his eye whenever he sang it.
For younger listeners there’s even the addition of four of his earlier/classic songs with The Cape, Dublin Blues, L. A. Freeway and the quirky Homegrown Tomatoes from his 2011 Songs & Stories album……which is well worth checking out for the stories alone.
As the vast majority of existing Guy Clark fans will already have the four albums these songs are culled from the ‘carrot’ for them is the inclusion of three previously unreleased songs.
I’m normally cautious about such things; but all three ‘demos’ fit in perfectly with what has gone before, with the first being the simple and haunting Just To Watch Maria Dance, then a co-write with Hal Ketchum The Last Hobo but Time, a collaboration with Marty Stuart shows that not all the good songs made it onto disc.
I could push a pin into the track list and tell you that song was my favourite; but I will point new readers to two songs that encapsulate everything I love in Guy Clark’s writing and singing.
As a master-craftsman who spent many long days making…..no creating handmade guitars, The Guitar is a love song that only a true musician could write and his attention to minutiae is astonishing; as is his own guitar playing.
The other is one of the ‘live recordings’; The Cape …….”A song about jumping off a garage” as Clark introduces it is…..well, just you go and find it and tell me you didn’t have tears in your eyes too.
Guy Clark will be sorely missed; but his legacy lives on in these songs and others; all of which will be studied and played for decades to come.

RELEASED March 3rd 2017

http://guyclark.com/

Scott H Biram – The Bad Testament

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Scott H Biram
The Bad Testament
Bloodshot Records

Red Raw and Blistered Country-Blues From The Pits of the Heart.

I only discovered Scott H Biram 3 or 4 years ago when a good friend too me to The Cluny to see an ‘un-named’ singer after making me promise not to check the listing guides.
Suffice to say John is a wise man and knows my musical tastes……..I was absolutely blown away that night. Very, very few solo singer-songwriters can silence that noisy bar but Biram’s powerful and passionate songs and indeed their ‘delivery’ did just that and the applause each received was deafening.
Can that ‘magic’ be transferred to disc?
The album opens with a crackling radio message before ‘the band’ (Biram plays EVERYTHING himself) kicks in with the muscular Set Me Free; a freewheeling Country Rocker to stir the soul of every sinner out there.
This is followed by Biram playing acoustic guitar and pouring his heart out on the cold-hearted Still Around, showcasing some incredible guitar picking too, btw. Normally these two songs would be like chalk and cheese; but like the rest of the album Biram neatly balances styles and moods like the pharmacist in Breaking Bad.
I had to look twice to see that the rusty love song Crippled & Crazy was actually Scott, as he sounds uncannily like Willie Nelson after a good night out. Red Wine is in a similar vein and is just perfect for playing on the jukebox at five minutes to closing time.
Biram plays his guitars with guts, gusto and guile but its his way with words that make him stand out; Righteous Ways is intricately clever and beautiful in equal measure while Long Old Time is a multi-layered slice of Country-Blues that will have you pressing ‘replay’ over and over again.
Suffice to say music like this isn’t for everyone…..”What the Hell was that?” said Mrs. Magpie as I played the fire and brimstone infused Train Wrecker at full blast just as she walked through the door! Imagine Lemmy and the Waco Brothers rediscovering Bo Diddley…….or Jason and the Scorchers on steroids! She didn’t like it btw.
Me? Love it to bits!
Just because he can, and just because he doesn’t give a damn Scott even includes a couple of Country stomping, grin inducing guitar instrumentals with Hit The River and What Doesn’t Kill You blowing that Seasick Steve out of the water!
At times Biram manages to put the Alternative into Alt. Country, with Long Old Time being the sort of harmonica soaked song you would normally associate with both Townes Van Zandt and Merle Haggard without ever sounding like either.
My favoured song here really is a singer-songwriter at the pinnacle of his career; Swift Driftin’ is one man and a guitar but just like that balmy night in Newcastle is spellbinding; and the way Biram growls “It takes a real piece of shit to be a real piece of shit/ You should really just be headed on your way.” Perhaps it’s just the mood I’m in, but that song really does speak to me.
I don’t really know Scott H Biram’s 9 album back catalogue; but I’m pretty damn confident that his fans (acolytes?) will think of this as some kind of masterpiece; and if it’s not his other albums must be amazing!

Released 24th February 2017

http://scottbiram.com/

Mark Eitzel – Hey Mr Ferryman

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Mark Eitzel
Hey Mr Ferryman
DECOR RECORDS / MERGE RECORDS

Cool Crooning and Biting Lyrics.

Mark Eitzel’s ‘band’ American Music Club released something like 10 albums and friends of mine go weak at the knees whenever their name is mentioned; yet they somehow managed to fly under my radar; much the same as Eitzel himself until I was goaded into seeing him at the Jumping Hot Club 3 or 4 years ago…….wow; I was knocked sideways that night!
Hey Mr. Ferryman is his 17th (? possibly) solo album and as opening track The Last Ten Years oozes from the RMHQ speakers I was immediately reminded of those heady days when I was smitten with the enigmatic Scott Walker and indeed the Walker Bros. themselves.
While I-Tunes may list this album under ‘Rock’ on my computer this is Easy Listening for the 21st Century in anyone’s book. While the lyrics to The Road and perhaps An Angels Wing Brushed The Penny Slots appear frivolous on first listening; subsequent plays unravel mysteries of epic proportions.
Producer du Jour Bernard Butler has created a minor masterpiece here; creating multi-layered epics with La Llorona with it’s power-pop guitars and Let Me Go; but never straying from allowing Eitzel to glow in the spotlight.
As a newcomer to Mark Eitzel I’m astounded by his amazing use of language and the way he uses minor details to emphasise a point; much in the way Patrick Morrissey did years ago. When you hear the opening line of In Nothing and Everything ‘Night falls like a chain’ you know you are in for something special; and you are.
When I first received the album two titles caught my attention; Mr. Humphries and In My Roll as a Professional Singer and Ham. Naively I half expected both to be tongue in cheek; and I couldn’t have been any further from the truth. The former is as dark a song as appears here and in the latter he actually does sing about the camp character from a 70’s British sit-com yet imagining him in his later years living out his days in Room 5 in a seaside hotel. Heartbreaking only comes close to me feelings as I listen to them in the darkness.
Music effects me in many ways according to my moods; and this album came along at a very dark time (a family death); meaning I immersed myself in this for three days solid…..totally falling in love with Sleep From My Eyes and the enigmatic The Answer which takes my breath away each time I hear it.
So; Mark Eitzel is hardly a household name and this album won’t get him on daytime TV discussing its many merits; but in me he’s found a life-long fan who is about spend the Grand-kids inheritance on his back catalogue.

Released January 27th 2017
http://www.mergerecords.com/mark-eitzel

Tom Paxton EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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Tom Paxton Interview
by Cara Gibney

“You’ve got me all wound up here. Let’s talk about puppies and kitty cats or something.” Tom Paxton was talking politics and it was becoming fiery.

For 50 years Paxton has been a key feature of the folk music scene; ever since Greenwich Village in the early 60s. He has released an astonishing 62 albums with songs that cover love, life, protest and many songs for children. The immense list of renowned artists who have recorded his songs includes Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny and Marianne Faithfull among many others. For all this he has been awarded numerous honours, including the 2005 BBC Folk Award for a Lifetime Achievement for Song Writing. He has supported striking miners, performed at civil rights rallies and voter registration drives, and with great aplomb he has sustained his role as the ‘musical fly in the ointment’ of the establishment.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the American folk singer who wrote the impassioned “Buy a Gun for Your Son” in 1965 to discourage giving children toy guns to play with, has issues with present-day U.S. gun law. Or that the songwriter with a Pete Seeger endorsement on his website bio, thinks that the U.S. President “only cares about Donald Trump, the glory of Donald Trump…… and we’re in for a really rough ride.” Indeed, by the time we got to talk about the Dakota Access Pipeline, and how tragically relevant his 1970 classic “Whose Garden was This” still remains, he had started to talk of resistance. “… It’s only starting now” he told me. “But we’ll be hearing more about it.”

But this political fire wasn’t always in Paxton’s belly. Not even when he was at university. “I didn’t have any political conscience at all” he recalled. “I was studying drama. I was kind of apolitical actually.” It was when he joined the army around 1960 that everything changed, and not for the reasons you may be thinking. “I was mainly in training while I was there” he explained. “But the army took me up to the New York area and I would get into Greenwich Village where I began to make friends, and began to sing here and there … And then when I got out of the army I just stayed in New York and the rest ,as they say, is misery,” he laughed.

It was there that he started to hear Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger; he started to hear “their songs about social justice and it made sense to me … the Civil Rights Movement was just getting underway and once again it just seemed simple to me that segregation is just not right. My political consciousness began to develop once I got to New York.”

However, the music began years before that, with a Tonette (a plastic flute) that he played in school. Then at the age of 12 or so he picked up the trumpet, which he played until the age of 18. Simultaneously he discovered the ukulele at summer camp – “And I thought well how long has this been going on … Get me one of those.” Unfortunately it ended badly. “I had the ukulele until somebody sat on it and reduced it to sprinters.” Thankfully it didn’t end there. An aunt managed to “fish a guitar out of the back of her closet and said you might try this.” It worked, badly, but it worked. “It had God awful action on it. You needed pliers to put the strings down, but it was a start.” He moved onto a Gibson guitar later on, “and it’s been that way ever since.”

For many years Paxton has worked with multi-instrumentalist Fred Sokolow, who would accompany him on stage. Sokolow is equally at home with various styles of music, be it bluegrass or blues, but he may be better known as the author of instructional books/ DVDs for various instruments including guitar, lap steel, banjo, and Dobro. Sokolow has a son, Zac, a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin with a band called The Americans who were interviewed on Rocking Magpie last summer.

Zac, too, has played with Tom Paxton. “How do you know Zac?” Paxton laughed when I mentioned him in the conversation. “Zac has substituted for his dad when his dad couldn’t play for me” he went on to explain. “He played instead and it was just wonderful. I love him and his old man. His stepmom is a great bass player. She plays upright bass full. Zac is a very fine musician and of course his dad is amazing.”

For Zac the feeling is reciprocal. “Tom has been has always been incredibly gracious with me, and first brought me on stage to play with him at a time when I was pretty young and hadn’t really played in front of an audience much at all. Despite a lot of my energy being spent on trying not to completely mess everything up, I remember feeling fully engaged in his songs and storytelling along with everyone else in the room.”

“Tom often tells a story about how someone in Ireland was trying to convince him that his song “The Last Thing on My Mind” was an old Irish folk song and that he hadn’t written it at all. I was in Ireland a little while ago at a pub in Tipperary where there was a session going on, and I heard someone sing that song in between some old traditional songs and fiddle tunes. Having the ability to write a song that doesn’t feel out of place in that context is something very unusual.”

“A couple years ago I played a few shows with Tom that he closed by singing a powerful version of “The Parting Glass”, as a dedication to the Clancy Brothers who were friends of his. That’s an old song that’s commonly sung at sessions in Ireland, but I had never heard it before he sang it. I started playing it with The Americans, and we eventually made a recording of it with T Bone Burnett.”

Paxton was in Glasgow for Celtic Connections when we talked over the phone. At that stage he only had a few more nights left playing to packed houses in his UK Tour with folk/old-time/swing musicians Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer. Interestingly they toured together before, back in 2003. “Kathy recorded all of them on Mini Disc” he recalled. “And when she listened to them she said it sounded so good she produced a CD out of it, which got a Grammy nomination.”

The UK tour was a launching pad for Paxton’s new album Boat In The Water, indeed three or four songs from the new record were included in their set. “It’s not a very political album” he explained when I asked if he was addressing any issues that had wound him up so much earlier in the conversation. However, the track that he released as a single at the end of last year – “Christmas in Shelter” carries that Paxton trademark nod to the haves and have nots, the acknowledgement of the unfair. A song to the homeless at the most poignant time of year sung with simple piano, a lived-in voice, and harmonies that break any sense of being alone.

“But it’s a whole different tune
When a soup kitchen spoon
Is dishing your dinner tonight”

“I really empathize with the homeless” he explained as I asked if homelessness was an issue that stood out to him, amidst all the other issues out there. He goes to a shelter on Thanksgiving Day every year to help with the dinner. “It’s only one day a year” he told me, “I wish I could do more.”

“I think we’ll see more people sleeping rough” he continued. “There is a kind of religious philosophy that has equated wealth with piety. The pious will make more money. It’s just incomprehensible to me and I’m certain that Jesus would say ‘are you kidding? Are you kidding? These are my people!’ I feel that Christianity is being mocked by the people with their ‘you don’t deserve anything because you’re poor. Obviously god doesn’t love you. If God loved you, you would be prosperous like we are.’ I start spluttering at some point …”

“I’m very fond of this album” it’s very dear to my heart. The one before had some [political] stuff on it, but the new one is for the love of the music.” Then he paused. “I guess I’ll be writing a little more politically now with this asshole in the White House.”

It looks like he’s going to be busy. When I asked how he felt about events over the past 12 months he told me – “It’s not the last year that worries me, it’s the next four … It’s really hard to overstate how bad I think this man Trump is. I mean I thought Nixon was bad but he was nothing, nothing, compared to this man … [Trump] has no shame and every word out of the man’s mouth is a lie. It’s just the way it is.”

But it was the Dakota Access Pipeline that brought him to the end of his rope. At that point we thought it best to change the subject altogether, on to something more positive. “You’ve got me all wound up here” he groaned. “Let’s talk about puppies and kitty cats or something.”

Cara Gibney

Zac and Fred Sokolow

Adam Sweet Take Your Time

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Adam Sweet
Take Your Time
NEO Music

Tons of Sobs From the New West (of England).

Only a couple of years ago my heart sank when I received a disc from a British singer-songwriter; but there’s something going on in the British; or particularly the English music scene at the moment that’s a very good thing and always very interesting.
This EP opens with the edgy Move On; something of a ‘talking Blues’ at first then seamlessly moving into territory more associated with John Martyn or the acoustic songs of Rory Gallagher.
Sweet’s picking on his Gibson Hummingbird somehow manages to be both intricate and ‘choppy’ at the same time; really capturing my attention.
This is neatly followed by the intriguing Albertine. A dark poisonous love song, that should be from the Mississippi Delta; not the English Riviera! At times on the chorus Sweet’s voice is anything but what his name suggests.
That ‘mood’ continues on track #3 New Friend; but the addition of a Hofner Resonator in the background really makes the song shimmer in the evening light.
Four of the five songs here are co-writes with Steve Black; leaving space for one cover song; and what a song he has chosen…..Jackson Browne’s These Days! I genuinely didn’t recognise it at first; such is Adam Sweet’s expressive voice and his artful guitar playing alongside his own simple production; I presumed it was from his very own pen; well….he does make it his own.
Adam’s debut was actually a full length Rockier album in 2014; but his writing and playing have evolved into the acoustic direction that this EP represents over the ensuing years; which brings us to the final track…..and my personal favourite here, Take Your Time.
Phew….what a compelling four minutes this song is; harking back to the Acoustic-Rock days of the early 70’s; this song conjures up memories of Free and even a couple of Bad Company songs the way Sweet delivers the words and music.
In the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed and reviewed albums by stalwarts of the British Country scene Alan West and Steve Black; and both albums featured co-writes by A Sweet. A Sweet is Adam Sweet, a much younger, better looking and longer haired singer-songwriter who has learnt his craft alongside Alan and Steve.
Take Your Time is his debut CD and fits in perfectly not just alongside their music; but the ever burgeoning British Blues scene and the singer-songwriter market currently dominated by the likes of Ed Sheeran and James Arthur too.

Released 6th January 2017

https://www.adamsweetmusic.com/

Nell Bryden – Bloom

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Nell Bryden
Bloom
157 Records

New Yorker Trumps the Rest With Her Finest Album To Date.

She won’t remember, but Nell Bryden once provided me with 5 of the finest minutes of my life. Several years ago I had a radio show and interviewed Nell in her dressing room at Sage Gateshead and, as agreed sang a song to be played ‘exclusively’ alongside the 15 minutes of conversation.
I’ve heard a lot of music in my time, but sitting barely three feet away from her as she sang Sirens for and too me was genuinely spine-tingling and will stay with me forever.
Which brings us to the New York singer-songwriter’s fifth album Bloom, which finds Nell at the piano on the delightfully dark and edgy 1 In The Morning. As the song finally faded away I couldn’t help thinking that now married and a mother, the singer has at last grown into her amazing voice and is using it in all its glory.
Like all good songwriters Nell has a wonderful and expressive imagination which comes across in songs like Gunshot Grey and Holes In My Shoes which both shine like raindrops I the morning sunshine.
Others; and I’m thinking Feels So Good To Cry appear to be from her own life; but rounded out for popular consumption and will really tug at your heartstrings.
Perhaps it’s the production here; which really brings out the best in Nell’s performance and storytelling but there is an ‘Epic’ sound to the powerful and slightly unsettling What Is It You Want? But nonetheless a song that will resonate with most people who hear it; especially as it is the first single from the album and already play-listed on daytime Radio 2.
Although Thought I Was Meant For You was a strong contender, my favourite track though is City Rose. Another song primarily featuring the piano is the type of introspective song every parent will wish they could write; but will seek solace from the fact Nell Bryden has.
As we haven’t played her previous albums for a while I did a ‘blind tasting’ for Mrs. Magpie on a car journey; and the result, while positive (she tapped her fingers from track #1) but her eventual comment not just surprised me; but showed how my wife’s mind works.
Just after tapping her toes along to the frenetic beat of Dared The World and Won her eyes furrowed during the deep melancholic Never Too Late, which immediately follows, “Is this Annie Lennox?” she asked.
Slightly bemused; I had a ‘light-bulb moment,’ “No; but it could be.” I replied.
While very much her own woman in every way; for the uninitiated there is a definite ‘feel’ of the legendary Eurythmic running throughout BLOOM and that is certainly meant as a huge compliment at RMHQ.

Released 27th January 2017

http://www.nellbryden.com/

Robert Vincent – I’ll Make The Most of My Sins

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Robert Vincent
I’ll Make The Most of My Sins
At The Helm/Last Chance Records

Compelling and Introspective Lo-Fi Alt. Country Meets Folk.

For the third time in as many weeks I have to write ‘this wasn’t what I was expecting’.
Rob Vincent has sort of been on my radar for a couple of years now, with several friends raving about him and telling me ‘you will love his music.’ Yet I somehow totally missed his debut album, Life In Easy Steps and his high profile support slots for James Blunt, Squeeze and Paul Carrack among others.
It doesn’t matter what I was actually expecting; because opening song Mobius knocked me sideways right from the moody almost classical opening few bars and right through a gut wrenching love story which is both articulate and intelligently written. Plus the inclusion of some sweetly ragged harmonica is always going to catch my attention.
A beautiful and well written song, So In Love captures the very essence of the sort of nail-biting dark and broody Alt. Country I’ve loved since I first discovered the likes of Cowboy Junkies many years ago.
A week after playing this album 2 or 3 times a day I can now see why my friends would think I would like Rob Vincent.
The Liverpudlian writes from the very bottom of his heart, Time Won’t Wait and Denial are the type of songs you would normally associate with Master Craftsman singer-songwriters from the Americas, not a young man from Liverpool still beginning his career.
I absolutely love it when a songwriter I’ve never met somehow manages to put my own idiosyncratic feelings into words. All Of You; about a man willing to change his ways for the love of another is just such a song; and will touch most of the people who ever hear it.
The title track is quite staggering in its complexity, yet still manages to be accessible for the average listener like me . Almost poetic in the way Dylan and Townes Van Zandt could mould the two idioms into one I’ll Make The Most of My Sins finds Vincent singing in an almost Gospel manner as the band swoop and soar behind him in minor keys. Lo-Fi at its absolute finest!
Which brings us to the ‘RM Favourite Track’ accolade…..Dancing With Devils. Another song that will make you think it’s about you, and you alone. Vincent obviously has his own demons; which he writes about here, but they are a lot more common than most of us are prepared to admit and the young man captures them in intimate detail and sings them over a gloriously uptight tune that showcases a superb band.
Easily sliding between lonely singer-songwriter mode to a full band profile, Robert Vincent has managed to create a bunch of songs that will be listened to late at night when all alone and lonely; but will just as easily be transferred to the stage and create a great evenings entertainment. Quite some feat.

http://robertvincentmusic.com/

Released January 27th 2017
UK http://www.atthehelmrecords.com/
US http://www.lastchancerecords.com/

Citizen K – Second Thoughts

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Citizen K
Second Thoughts
Paraply Records

Mind Expanding Poplicious Psychedelic-Folk.

I thought my musical tastes were eclectic, but they are nothing like those of my friends at Hemifran in Sweden, who keep sending me large parcels of eclectic CD’s that cover the musical spectrum in ways not seen since the heady days of Volume and Oz Records in the backstreets of Newcastle during my formative teenage years. .
The absolute gem this month is the double album, Second Thoughts from Sweden’s Klas Qvist aka Citizen K.
Teased by the enigmatic album cover I delved in without looking at the press release.
Wow….and indeed WOW!
Disc #1 opens with the twee sounds of birds twittering just before a mournful cello slowly leads us towards a heady late 60’s influenced intense song called Mindexpander 1 & 2 and memories of long, lonely nights in my bedroom wearing huge stereo-headphones ‘trying to discover the meaning of life via music’ came flooding back.
Track #2 Song of Adjustment begins sweetly enough but quickly builds and builds until it reaches a wailing crescendo; which is quite an achievement in under 3 minutes.
Qvist claims to have immersed himself in the Beatles White Album prior to recording this, and to some extent I can hear that in the diversity of songs on offer; but so many other bands from that era like The Moody Blues, King Crimson and more recently Electric Light Orchestra are here too.
Citizen K give us huge sweeping melodies like Train of No Forgiveness and King of Second Thoughts; but temper these with dark introspective Folk ditties like Floor 13.
Disc #2 starts as if it may turn into a concept album; but doesn’t mercifully. Track #1 In Holland is a delicious song featuring Qvist not only singing but somehow managing to play the Grand Piano, Hammond Organ, Keyboards, acoustic guitar AND electric guitar simultaneously…..quite some feat! This leads into Wasps & Cars then Dutch Coffee, which are something of a minor trilogy; but are immediately followed by the Ben Folds inspired So This is Life.
I stand by my lifelong mantra that there is no such thing as a ‘great double album’ and Second Thoughts is no exception; with at least 8 or 9 of the 23 tracks being ‘filler’ or ‘fluff’; but then again these (nameless) songs could have been a separate album aimed at a different market.
For me, the stand out tracks here are Something Truly Magic, This Is Our Town and especially King of Second Thoughts; all of which showcase Qvist and friends myriad of talents and bode well for future releases.
Now I think about it, there is an almost Musical Theatre ‘feel’ to Second Thoughts, with all of the pieces telling their own story but when added together you get a much bigger story by the end….or perhaps I’m over thinking it.
Now I’ve played Second Thoughts twice I’m still struggling to get my head around it as this isn’t what I normally listen to…..but will certainly keep it close at hand for when I need to disappear inside the music for a couple of hours.

Released January 27th 2017

 

 

 

 

Cris Jacobs – Dust to Gold

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Cris Jacobs
Dust to Gold
Self-Release

The Sound of the Swamps on a Sultry Sunday Night.

This is one of those albums that you dream of discovering quite by accident, and speak of in hushed tones to a select few.
Singer-songwriter Cris Jacobs was in a Baltimore based band called The Bridge for 10 years, releasing 5 albums and filling halls across the region; but decided enough was enough in 2011 and went solo, releasing an album in 2012 that came to the attention of Stevie Winwood who personally asked him to open a US Tour, as did Sturgill Simpson a year later.
Enough of the history lesson!
With a glut of new albums arriving with 2017 release dates this nearly got lost; but thankfully the ‘random play’ button on my I-Phone found opening track he Devil or Jesse James for the first time in weeks and I ‘had to’ delve into the album again.
Jacobs deep and warm voice takes us on an eloquent journey along the Southern back-roads in a way I’ve not really heard since Willin’ by Little Feat.
Jacobs sound is a lot quieter, introspective and claustrophobic than Little Feat or Lynard Skynard; but they are the two bands that spring to mind on songs like Hallelujah Hustler and Bone Digger, which both drip sensual sweat in every groove.
Jacob’s band are as tight as a duck’s backside throughout the album; with Delivery Man and Cold Carolina featuring some mighty sharp guitar playing alongside a rhythm section that would do Muscle Shoals proud.
For an album that sounds so simple, there’s a lot going on in Turn to Gold and Jack The Whistle, and I don’t just mean the razor sharp lyrics….this band can play…..I mean ‘really play.’
That first track is right up there; but my favourite song here…..and I don’t really know why, is the easy on the ear Leaving Charm City with only Jacob’s voice an acoustic guitar and a pedal-steel. It’s deep, gut wrenching and beautiful all rolled into one song. What’s not to like?
Dust to Gold is the type of timeless Soulful Southern Rock that was a staple of AOR Radio in the 70’s and 80’s but Cris Jacobs has managed to slightly rough up the over-polished edges and create something that is perfect for late night listening when you are sitting in the darkness with the one you love……or sitting alone thinking about the one you used to love!

Released November 2016

http://www.crisjacobs.com/

Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins

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Chuck Prophet
Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins
Yep Roc Records

The Coolest Cat in Americana Re-Defines Cool Americana Music.

Chuck Prophet’s last album Night Surfer was the RM Radio Show Album of the year in 2014 and in his previous incarnation the original Green on Red were the first Alt. Country band I ever saw, ‘blowing my mind’ at the legendary Riverside Club, Newcastle many moons ago.
Although a regular visitor to our fair city in the intervening years it’s fair to say Prophet never captured his ‘on stage magic’ on vinyl until Temple Beautiful in 2012…..and now, five years later….phew, the kid can now really write as well as he plays!
The album opens with a BOOM! The title track Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins is a trademark Chuck Prophet ‘three to the floor’ rocking, chug-a-lug boogie slice of Americana, with the Mission Express supplying a fantastic chorus in-between verses hailing a forefather of Rock n Roll.
Your Skin follows, and it’s the first of several surprises as it has a slightly psychedelic feel to the beat, especially Prophets’ fuzzy guitar licks and Stephanie Finch’s almost Floydian keyboards.
Similarly, Killing Machine takes a dark story and adds a hypnotic Doors type feel to the back-beat; and I can only presume (hope) that both songs get the light-show they deserve when the band play them live.
Prophet even has the confidence now to take a stroll back to his earlier albums, with Jesus Was a Social Drinker, in as much as it has a glorious Pop-Rock feel to it much like those albums alluded too.
One song that will probably get lost in the annals of time, but doesn’t deserve it, is Post-War Cinematic Dead Man Blues; as it has entangled it’s way into my brain and won’t come out. It’s a tune that is difficult to pin down as it nods towards several 60’s songs without ever sounding like anything in particular and Prophet really, really makes his Strat sizzle at times!
The song most reviewers will pick up on, Bad Year For Rock & Roll, will surely become a stage favourite as it mentions David Bowie and Peter Sellers directly and alludes to the raft of other famous artistes who passed in 2016. Plus, it’s a cracking ‘rocker’ too….straight from Prophet’s #1 play-book.
I genuinely love this album from start to finish, but picking a ‘Favourite Track’ has been relatively easy; although it is a tie.
The album closes with red-hot rocker called Alex Nieto and Prophet claims this to be his first ever ‘protest song’ and his ire and anger come through in every single note as he tells us about the young Latino who was killed in a hail of bullets by the LAPD in 2014.
The other is a lot more frivolous. If I was Connie Britton sees our hero Chuck, pen a loving ode to the flame-haired star of Friday Night Lights and now Nashville. I too am smitten with Coach Taylor’s wife and swooned the first time I played the song; and even now two weeks later I still get giggly at the lyrics. 10/10 Chuck….10/10.
Because of his distinctive voice this is obviously a Chuck Prophet record; but the way he glides between 60’s Psychedelia and Garage right through to 21st Century Rock n Roll, as well as including the occasional sensitive singer-songwriter ballad (We Got Up and Played) our hero proves he ain’t no one trick pony; he’s a thoroughbred ….pure and simple.
What more can I say, apart from I will be amazed if I review 10 better albums this year.

Released February 10th 2017

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