RMHQ Radio Show Ep16 @NovaRadioNE

RMHQ Radio Show Ep16

Sunday 28th 2022

It was a dilemma selecting the music for tonight as I’ve been having internet problems all week, meaning I couldn’t forward any ‘new music’ to the Nova Super-Computer; plus it was a Bank Holiday weekend; and baring in mind the listening figures have gone up every week; I decided to do a ‘seats of the pants’ show ….. making it up as I went along, playing a mix of tracks and artists already featured for the benefit of the new listeners.

Ep16Mark GerminoReb Bob Lowenstein
28/08/22Archie BrownOne cup of coffee
Dale WatsonYou think you’d no better
Eve SelisTear this house down
Jacob BryantDevil and An Old 6 String
Muddy WatersHoochie Coochie Man
Johnny WinterGoin’ down slow
Alejandro EscovedoRosalie
John Paul WhiteMy Dreams Have All Come True
Los LobosSail on Sailor
Annie KeatingCowgirl in the sand
John TurrellStella Maris
Kim RicheyChase Wild Horses
Bo DiddleyRoadrunner
Chuck BerryRock & Roll Music
3 Pairs of BootsOne Day at a Time
Markus RillFlesh + Blood + Bone
Our Man in The FieldIt is What It Is
ShipcoteOld Is Cool
Rod PicottWashington County
Slaid CleavesRacetracks and Rodeos
1957 Tail Fin Disaster65 Rioja
Rob Heron & Tea Pad OrchestraShe Hypnotised Me
The Big Gun Show00 Stud
Hanging StarsBlack Light Night
Dave AlvinJohnny Ace is Dead
Tom RussellNavajo Rug
Natasha HawsConstant Fairytale
Luke James WilliamsBreathe
Yola CarterWhat You Do

Canyons & Highlands CANYONS & HIGHLANDS

Canyons & Highlands
Canyons & Highlands
Black Dust Records

Top Shelf High Quality Americana via a Campervan in Scotland

To all intents and purposes, Canyons & Highlands is Scots singer-songwriter Norrie McCulloch alongside some Scottish and Americans friends/musicians who added their individual parts via the medium of the internet when inter-Continental travel was out of the question.
OK; that’s been commonplace with a lot of albums; but I’ve heard very, very few that sounds as clear or ‘warm’ this particular album does from start to finish.
Norrie, who recorded his parts in a campervan on the drive; as he didn’t want to disturb his wife, who worked for the NHS all through the pandemic; has always been a Folk Singer; of the modern persuasion who always erres on the side of Americana.
The first thing I noticed as opening track Pushing On/Wolves was the luscious harmonies that accompany McCulloch’s brittle Scots’ brogue on a song that’s is so deep, you’re left wondering if the singer can get back out the other end.
This is followed by the far less sombre Hurry Up Angel, which features some fabulous guitar parts that really add an emphasis to the words that sting your ears when you listen too closely ….
Hurry up Angel
Stop falling behind
There’s a Devil on our trail
Looks like he’s got a taste for blood
And he’s spent a night in jail
You’ve been kicking down doors
With no shoes on your feet
You’re gonna hurt something one day
I hope it’s not my heart”

Songwriting has always fascinated me; especially the imagination that drives someone to write what they do; and here McCulloch combines his own active imagination to combine words and lines from old postcards he’s been collecting on visits to the USA; as well as fragments of his own letters home to combine with current observations; which makes Down From the Mountain; Zodiac and of course; Other Side of the World all the more introspective and deeply fascinating and destined to squeeze every heartstring in the house.
Where does life seperate from Art?
There’s nothing not to like here; with the singer using his enigmatic voice as an extra instrument; adding his own special magic to the deceptively simple and windswept nod to Country Gothic, Took It To Heart which benefits greatly from Dave McGowan’s (Teenage Fanclub) haunting pedal-steel.
We Get By is a torrid heartbreaker, as the singer takes us on a journey through a relationship that’s headed for the rocks but keeps on keeping on …… and is then followed by Zodiac, which starts with the narrator phoning home to with his partner ‘Happy Birthday’ ….. but she’s already left for a night out with friends.
Just when you think you can get your breath back, you’re hit with the emotionally bleak Drifting Apart; obviously some kind of ‘break-up’ song; but the type that hasn’t got a definitive ending ….. will they just stumble along or will things get better? Who knows? But plenty of us have lived this song too.
Hopefully you will guess by now; Canyons & Highlands won’t be in the Easy Listening section at HMV!
Which in a roundabout way brings me to the final two songs on this magnificent record …. I Am the Blues and Deep Forest Green; which I’m still debating which to make my Favourite for reviewing purposes.
If I’m not over thinking it; I Am The Blues is dealing with the taboo subject of depression; as Norries talks (prays?) to his Mother as Iain Thomson’s fluid electric guitar licks channel Richard Thompson to create a fog that the listener is never sure they or he will ever escape from.
Then, there’s the final song; Deep Forest Green, which is how I best know Norrie McCulloch …. solo and with an acoustic guitar; pouring his heart out like a barman with a quality whisky from the top shelf.
Perhaps; and I hope that this is the case, Norrie McCulloch has always ‘had the songs’, but changing his given name to the mysterious Canyons & Highlands just might just be a ‘game changer’ for one of my Favourite singer-songwriters/Folk Troubadours.

Released September 2nd 2022


Forrest McCurren OH ME, OH MY.

Forrest McCurren
Oh Me, Oh My

From the Foothills of the Ozarks to The World …. This Singer-Songwriter is The Real Deal

As I’ve said many times; one of the joys of this reviewing lark is discovering ‘my new favourite singer and/or band’ ….. which might be a Spoiler regarding what’s about to follow.
I neither recognised the singer or the publicist’s names when this arrived a couple of weeks ago; but out of professional courtesy onto the spreadsheet it went and the music was dutifully uploaded onto the RMHQ Supercomputer.
There it sat until last week, when I put it on as background while I edited some photos …… which soon got stopped and the music was returned to zero and the notebook came out.
As regular readers will know I have very eclectic music taste; but this little diamond ticked every box I have; AND Forrest sings like he is either a young sibling of Sam Baker or was brought up two streets away from the RMHQ Favourite.
I say ‘sing’ but it’s that ‘a bit faster than talking and a bit slower than actual singing’ style; if you know what I mean …. and drole too …. very very drole; although it does sound like he has a twinkle in his eye most of the time.
The show starts with a maudlin fiddle; followed by Forrest’s story of a man who didn’t see his marriage break up coming in Big Blue Space. How he manages to cram so much detail into just over four minutes; and never sound hurried leaves me both baffled and fascinated.
That’s the absolute joy here; McCurren sings and writes about the Blue Collar/Trailer Trash underbelly of America yet somehow always manages to make the mundane and the heartbreak sound …. romantic?
The Twangfest, Heavy Old Hearts certainly falls into the latter camp and the song that follows; With a Little Luck about his Batchelor Great Uncle Jim; who sounds like he himself had more stories than a library and a life well lived, probably does too.
Denver is a bit darker than the previous two I’ve mentioned; but l.o.v.e comes out of every groove on this glorious song about a first love that that the narrator still hankers for many years later.
I half hoped that Little Rock would be a cover of the Marilyn Monroe hit single; but sadly/thankfully it’s not; but actually a classy Alt. Country tale of a one night stand between a pil-poppin’ truck driver and a waitress; with crunchy guitars and some really snappy drumming; and shows what a staggering songwriter Forrest McCurren is ….
“I’ve seen moonbeams, dancin’ in your eyes
I found heaven, between your thighs
And it smells like roses just underneath your chin
Well I hope you know no matter where I go
I’m always coming back home again

We all know the ‘adage’ write about what you know; and McCurren has sure lived a fine life so far; if the sad and lonely, Hart Hill, Pray For the Sun are anything to go by; and using the same thread he takes his Father’s stand-by expression Oh Me, Oh My for not just the album title; but a rather inspirational song about ‘having to leave’ home and friends too …..
Adios all my amigos, I’m sorry I can’t stay
These long nights and booze-fueled fights are ruining my days
I’ll stop by if I need to get high or bum a cigarette
But I’m gonna try to find the blue sky
Gonna try some Nicorette, I’m gonna buy some Nicorette

….. it’s all in the detail!
We all got crosses we must bear, there’s no hate in my head
But before you go please throw away
The photo of me on your bed, naked on the edge of your bed

Nicorette? Revenge porn? Where else are you going to get those things in a Country song?
There are also two absolutely special songs here too; just like Forrest did with his Father’s ‘expression’ ….. he plays around with something his Mom would say when things were getting tough “You have to go into the dark top see the stars” as the basis for Stars Still Shine, which shows what a wise old sage that lady was.
The other; Dime a Dozen, just about shades that as my Favourite, as Forrest channels his inner Springsteen and John Prine on a dour tale sung against a maudlin fiddle/bass/steel-guitar backdrop; about a hardworking young man stuck in his small town; and while he lives for Friday night ….. it’s more about drinking to forget than the fun shack so many others sing about.
Some folks, gotta chase a dream
I just want a bar where the drinks are cheap
Mama’s still kickin’, I know, she’ll need me
To drive her to bingo, twice a week

and even though I don’t really know what he means I love the was he describes a girl as having ‘handgun hair‘!
I listen to four or five albums most weeks from singer-songwriters; established and new and all have some merit …. but with Forrest McCurren it feels like I’ve discovered a genuine rough diamond that’s already the finished article.
He’s the real deal.

Released 19th August 2022


Andrew Combs SUNDAYS

Andrew Combs
Loose Music

Out of Darkness Comes a Terrible Beauty.

Andrew Combs is the type of act that leaves me scratching my head.
He first came to my attention in 2012 with his debut album; which totally blew me away as it did with the great and the good in Reviewland across both the UK and US; couple that to a fabulous work ethic where he was support act for acts with established followings plus he wasn’t afraid of playing a solo set to a handful of people on a Tuesday night in East Treestump, Nowheresville either.
Yet, singer-songwriters with far less talent IMHO are filling cavernous arenas and football stadiums and Andrew is ‘still working the clubs’.
Who knows why?
Hey ho ….. enough of the history lesson …. on with the music.
The first time I played this album I was left wondering; ‘is it me or is this a new direction’? There’s still something about the instrumentation (the drums? The keyboards?) that still makes this; his fifth album, different from what has gone before ….. I’m not complaining; just mentioning it.
What is still the same is Andrew’s beautiful and distinctive vocals alongside his heartfelt and instinctive songwriting.
The recent single (God) Less starts things in a very dark manner; with Combs singing just above a whisper while the accompanying backing builds the tension in a song that leaves as many questions as it does answers.
We are capable of such a mess, 
But God still lives on in godlessness.

The mood picks up ever so slightly on the next song; Anna Please; which juxtaposes Combs’ enigmatic voice with a sharp drum beat in the background; which I think ….. is deliberately annoying; like a headache that won’t go away; and left in to challenge the listener; as they wallow in Combs’ song of a skewed passion.
You’ve probably guessed by now; that this isn’t going to be the background music for your next dinner party. This is very much an album that you need to concentrate on …… maybe even hiding away in the corner listening on headphones to get the best from it.
The songwriting and storytelling is right up there with not just the best of Andrew Combs previous releases; but those of his contempories; The Ship and/or Down Among the Dead could (with its electro wig-out half way through!); in another life be Van Morrison songs circa Avalon Sunset; and fans of Nick Drake will adore both Still Water and the worn and whispering I See Me. Not that any of these are overtly ‘covers’ …. just the style Andrew employs brings those songwriters to mind.
One of the advantages of being a songwriter is using whatever is going on in your life as a starting point for a song; and only at this point will I casually mention that this whole album was pulled together following Andrew’s ‘breakdown’ in the Winter of 2020.
I’m certainly not advocating anything so horrific as a ‘career move;’ but Andrew certainly appears to have used it as a catharsis which makes these songs so deeply personal and desperately emotional on many levels.
When you first hear Andrew’s pearlescent voice and the drone behind it which could easily be a set of bagpipes; but isn’t, on Shall We Go, we know we are listening to a troubled soul ….. but one that sees light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.
While there are two ‘singles’ on this album; don’t expect to hear them on anything but the bravest radio shows (mine!) but that doesn’t stop a couple of songs being extra special; and ones many of us will come back to in our darkest moments …. looking for clarity and hope that there is a better world out there somewhere.
Andrew Combs captures those emotions quite brilliantly on Truth & Love; while Adeline proffers some welcome light relief (?) right in the middle; as Andrew reflects on a lost and young love, that still haunts him many years later.
For my Favourite Song I’m torn between The Ship and Mark of a Man; both of which are dark and mysterious; slowly evolving and letting the story and sentiment eek out in very small doses; but perseverance on the listeners behalf will be well rewarded over the course of time.
In the accompanying notes; Andrew goes into minute detail about the sparse arrangements and his reasons for recording this in Mono; while I don’t understand the mechanics; the end result is quite wonderful; and not just takes the songs into areas you don’t expect, but hopefully Andrw Combs’ career too.

Released 19th August 2022


Gretchen Peters THE SHOW (Live From the UK)

Gretchen Peters
THE SHOW (Live From the UK)
Proper Records/Scarlet Letter Records

Even Better Than Any Studio Based Greatest Hits Package Can Capture.

My father used to say “God acts in mysterious ways” and I’ve often found solace in that adage when things that really can’t be explained happen in my life.
In this case, I’ve had this remarkable double album for a month now and played it in full; every couple of days, yet never felt ‘the right time’ for writing up a review. With the release date looming I decided that this morning would have to be ‘the right time’. So as I drank my morning tea perusing my Social Media accounts I stumbled on a friend forwarding the message that from June 2023 Gretchen and Barry Walsh would cease touring; while still recording.
That news somehow makes this Live Recording even more important; don’t ya think?
I presume Gretchen planned the release to coincide with that news; and that may or may not account for the sequencing that makes the haunting Arguing With Ghosts as the lead song …. my memory doesn’t tell me that it was or wasn’t the first song of the night when I saw her on this particular tour …. but it certainly makes for a fascinating intro.
This is followed by Hello Cruel World; again ….. was this a ‘secret message’ to her legion of fans …. or just a coincidence?
Enough of this ‘movement in shadows’ malarkey ….. let’s just talk about the music.
To some degree this Double Album is a Greatest Hits; but with a couple of left of centre songs from her 40 year career tucked in for good measure.
For your information; and you’d never know it; but these songs were recorded over three seperate nights at three seperate concert halls around the UK; yet the end result sounds absolutely perfect, so a huge round of applause to the producer and engineers (as well as the soundmen in the venues).
It’s a given at this stage, that Gretchen sounds pitch perfect (as does Barry Walsh btw) on every song; so for me it’s the song selection that is most noteworthy.
I was going to say that those first two songs were ‘recent’ yet; Arguing With Ghosts has just celebrated it’s 8th Birthday and Hello Cruel World its 11th!
These are followed by Secret of Life which is surely from the same vintage; but no ….. its 26 years old…. yet still hitting nails bang on the head in 2022.
I was late to the party and only discovered the musical delights of Ms Peters via the Hello Cruel World album which I reviewed for a magazine; pretty much unaware that her career went back decades earlier; and I’m sure the first time I saw Gretchen Peters it was just her and Barry Walsh on stage in true troubadour fashion, singing the likes of Hello Cruel World, Revival, The Matador and Five Minutes with just a guitar and piano for accompaniment; here they get the full nine yards; guitars (electric and acoustic), piano, bass and most importantly …. a full and sumptuous string section.
Which brings me to the part about what a great songwriter Gretchen Peters is; and always has been. These songs and more here; would all have sounded just as powerful when sung so sparsely in clubs and small theatres in their earlier performances; and lose not a jot when filled out for large concert halls.
I’ve been thrilled to hear songs like the majestic Say Grace and the very acutely observed When All You’ve Got is a Hammer, which opens the second album like an old friend re-entering your life.
As I implied earlier; I’ve been listening ever more intently this morning; which appears to have brought out even extra depth to Blackbirds, Disappearing Act and Everything Falls Away; as if they needed anything extra to make them any more special.
Of course the beautiful On a Bus To St. Cloud, Blackbirds and Say Grace in any format will always be Favourites of mine; but as usual I’m going off piste for Favourites on this particular album as I’d forgot how wonderfully observed Love That Makes a Cup of Tea and album closer Idlewild were … in fact I’d forgot that both were even Gretchen Peters songs.
If there’s one song that you should hear to understand why Gretchen Peters’ fans are so loyal (and vocal) it’s possibly Five Minutes, where she captures the minutiae of a Blue Collar woman’s life in …. Five Minutes.
Then; there’s When You Love Someone ….. WOW! What a song! Hearing Gretchen and Barry harmonising like the Everly Brothers has been like having my heart X-rayed.
Then, there’s the most pertinent song here (for me at least) …… When You Are Old; man oh man ….. one of her oldest songs here ….. written in 1991 when she was in her early 40’s yet somehow has a writer’s foresight to see into the future and hearing her sing this in 2022 with just as much heartfelt l.o.v.e in her voice nearly reduced me to tears, and the long applause at the ends shows that it’s not just me who thinks so …. making it my Favourite Track here.
There’s not a lot else to say; her fans were always going to buy this; and especially now Gretchen has announced her retirement from touring will bring a few more waverers to the party; and I can’t think of a better way to say farewell to this particular part of her life; possibly even better than any studio based Greatest Hits package can capture.

Released 19th August 2022


The Magpies Festival 2022; Sutton on the Forest YORK.

As a contributing scribe for The Rocking Magpie I thought it would be prudent, no, obligatory to take in the 2022 Magpies Festival, located 8 miles North of York at Sutton-on-the-Forest which was indeed a
magnificent location, not too far to travel from Durham either and with the promise of the good things
to come with something of a folky vibe, I guess for the weekend I’d take on the guise of the Folkin’
Got to say, I’m not into those shiny mega-festivals; just way too big, too many people, too much choice, etc, etc.
Hence, one of the reasons why I’m at The Magpies Festival is because it really is a case of small is
beautiful. I even had a pot of tea at the adjacent Sutton Park Tea Room before putting my tent up under
the shade of a tree.
The bearded hipsters among us might well be justified in describing this as a ‘boutique’ festival experience, nonetheless, it feels just right nestled under the aforementioned tree drinking a glass of chilled white wine before heading off to catch John Smith, followed by Rob Heron and his
Tea Pad Orchestra.
Both were magnificent in very different ways. Smith armed with only an acoustic guitar and self-deprecating humour was heroic and Heron turned in a blistering set of old and new songs, rounded off with his protest against HS2 – ‘High-Speed Train‘.
If you ask the fat controller,
I’m sure he’d disagree but if it was up to me
I’d let everyone ride for free’
Well said Rob, we could all do with the occasional free train journey these days.
John Smith and Rob Heron were my two main stage highlights (Seth Lakeman was excellent too) but it
was a band on The Brasscastle Stage – The 309s that left me with the feel-good factor all good festivals
should aspire to.

Funnily enough, the band named themselves after a song about a train – The 3.09
which just happens to be the last song johnny Cash recorded before he passed on. Clearly then they are
making their musical influences overt before they even play a note.
Before their set drummer Tim Spencer explains to me

“There’s been a hell of a lot of music recorded since gramophones were invented and we are into the sound of the southern states of America, from 1925 to 1955.
This gives us quite a range, from Western Swing created in Texas by Bob Wills, through to Memphis and Rock ‘n’ Roll’s early days. We also take in sub-genres such as Country Boogie and Jump
Blues, now popular with jive dancers.
We’ve worked out what makes these songs tick and created the 309s sound.
Some of the live set is fast, a few are slow and romantic, and the rest are played so folks can
Since 2015 we have been adding our own songs to the mix; created to sound like Classics from
the 40s & 50s and you’d be hard pressed to know which of the songs are old and which are new.”

Tim showed me around his drum kit too – it’s all wood (except for the skins and symbols)) and he made it
himself, save for the bass drum which he salvaged from a marching band! It sounds lovely and warm and as you can imagine. A true work of art I must say.
Complete with a bunch of flowers.
Before they get started guitarist, Rod Boyes who also shares lead vocal duties with the [self-described]
‘raunchy’ Nancy Vero lets us know that their regular violin player has Covid but they have managed to
recruit a replacement – Emily Lawler from The Dan Webster Band.
They hadn’t previously met and had just run through a tune or two and the rest we are told, Emily will improvise. Her performance was simply stunning and the audience reaction proves my point with mid-song applause on more than one occasion.
Nancy’s face also told its own story, as throughout she just looked on, totally amazed by Emily’s
spontaneous solos.
As Tim had alluded to I was hard pressed to decipher which songs were covers and which ones were
their own compositions
You can have my husband but stay away from my man‘ I believe was recorded
by Irma Thomas in 1958 but the 309’s put there own spin on it; and Nancy’s vocal put me in mind of Amy
Winehouse rather than Irma Thomas.
From start to finish, the vocal interplay between Rod Boyes and Nancy created a party feel that really
lifted the already heady mood.
The afternoon session had featured some rather introspective singer/songwriters, so
this felt like a real game changer. The bar staff got busy and the crowd lapped up the beer and the music
and got their dancing shoes on.
A nice little waltz split the set in two when the band performed the Boyes penned song ‘So Many Tunes‘.
Then it was back into the foot tappin’ stuff, I particularly enjoyed a 309s penned tune ‘Mosquito‘,
It’s the hot places that I like
I’m going down to Louisiana where the Mosquito’s rock and roll’.

Apt, as this particular Yorkshire day felt more like a day in the Deep South – it was indeed roasting. Mosquito featured more great violin playing and ever more accomplished vocal interchange, combined with some great guitar work by Rod; on what I later discover is an Ibanez guitar.
It sounded lush, especially during their clever take on The Johnny Cash tune ‘I’ve Been Everywhere Man‘ in which the 309s cleverly namecheck a bunch of GB towns rather than the original versions’ USA counterparts.
I could go on, but suffice to say The 309s were the highlight of my festival and I wouldn’t be surprised to
see them back on the main stage in 2023.
If you take a look at the media page on their website, they’ve uploaded a bunch of tracks and it’s well worth a listen, but better still go out and see them live.
For sure the 309s will provide you with a serotonin boost and will most likely leave you wanting more of the same.

Review by the one and only Folkin’ Magpie Graham!




Kirk Fletcher
Heartache By The Pound
Ogierea Records

Late Night Listening For Lovers Everywhere, From The Soulful End of The Blues Spectrum

In recent years the company who sent me this album have been sending more and more albums that Bluesy; but more notably Loud and Rocky; so this album sat on the desk unplayed and unloved for a couple of weeks.
Then after farming out the albums for the team to review there it was, looking up at me like Little Orphan Annie. So, into the office CD player it went ….. and within a minute I felt like I was having an epiphany of the musical kind!
That first song; Shine a Light On Love has more than a hint of both BB and Albert King about it for me to take it back to the start and hunt out the headphones so as not to be disturbed.
Kirk Fletcher has a voice like worn velvet and his guitar playing is pure liquid gold ….. just like the two Kings I mentioned earlier; and when the female backing singers cut in I was whisked back the days when the Old Grey Whistle Test would throw a random song like this into their weekly TV programme and change my world forever.
It turns out that this is the LA native’s seventh album and the Muscle Shoals production is all over it like a rash; with songs like The Night’s Calling You, Wrong Kind of Love and the title track Heartache By The Pound couldn’t have been recorded anywhere else; plus the pick of the litter session musicians aren’t here by accident either.
These songs are very much from the Soulful end of the Blues spectrum and destined for late night listening when either you’ve just fallen in love or broken a relationship; such is the cleverness in Fletcher’s writing; as many songs here can be interpreted in several ways …… listen carefully to the slinky Night By Myself or Wrong Kind of Love and tell me which they are; a ‘falling in love song’ or a ‘breakup song’.
On the other hand I Can’t Find No Love sounds exactly what you’d expect; it’s a Tearjerker Deluxe; and the type of 45 that teenage girls would wear out playing over and over and over again in their bedrooms. (I’m out of touch…. does that still happen with downloads and Spotify?)
There are so many singers I can compare Kirk Fletchers’ vocals too; but what’s the point? He sounds like his larynx is soaked in honey and the way he delivers his words you believe 100% that he means what he’s singing …. not least on another tearjerker; Hope For Us which may be a love song about a significant other or more likely; a love song for the world we find ourselves in in 2022 ….. and is sure to be the closer at his gigs.
That leaves two very different songs for me to choose my Favourite between; and again I can picture being a young man and hearing both on the radio and simply ‘having to buy them ASAP‘ ……. the powerful Afraid to Die, Too Scared to Live is very much a song ‘of our times’ and has the hallmark of a man who has lived the words in the story (which I’m not going to spoil… but the title tells you a lot).
The other is the most uptempo song here and a veritable Soul Stomper; the type we’d associate with Otis Redding at his best; but Wildcat Tamer is a Tarheel Slim song from 1959 that I’ve never heard before and deserves this funky makeover.
I seem to have spent the last few weeks listening to a lot of folky singer-songwriters with the occasional Alt. Country band thrown in for good measure; but Kirk Fletcher and HEARTACHE BY THE POUND has been a real antidote and been my ‘go to album’ at the end of the day ….. and I think it could be for you to.

Released July 29th 2022


Faye Fantarrow at SUMMER STREETS FESTIVAL Sunderland

Faye Fantarrow
Summer Streets Festival
9th July 2022

‘Discovering New Music’ has always been something of a mantra for me; so when I decided on
a trip to Cliffe Park, Sunderland for the ‘Summer Streets Festival‘ it was the line-up on the
BBC Introducing stage that caught my eye, in particular Faye Fantarrow who piqued
my interest – in 2021 Faye had received the prestigious Alan Hull songwriting award so I was curious to
see what the self described ‘19 year old female singer/songwriter….[playing] indie/pop with a
hint of folk
‘ would conjure up on a warm July afternoon.
It didn’t take long; a few lines in and I was hooked.
Faye, strumming a few simple chords on acoustic guitar allows her rich voice to dominate; but it’s the lyrics that draw me in. She does acknowledge Sam Fender as an influence on her songwriting and that much is clear, but as I scramble around in my brain for other influences, I struggle.
Maybe there is something of a young Kirsty MacColl in there, but Faye struck me as a young woman forging her own style rather than being overly moribund by those who have gone before, like so many other bright young singer/songwriters these days.
Her songs are observational and even hint at her political leanings without being ‘preachy’ in any
‘Contraband Kisses’ tells the story of a night out in Sunderland with a guy who ‘pops
pills while I do lipstick
It’s a song that reflects on the drink/drug culture that dominates our cities and towns at weekends.
A culture that clearly troubles Faye – later in her set she states that ‘the drink and drugs don’t fix me they eclipse me‘.
Between songs she tells the audience that she’s ‘Happy Boris Johnson is gone‘ and is ‘sick of
living under a blue regime
‘ and goes on to sing that she can ‘barely pay my way….that’s real
In a stripped back version of her single Noughties; Faye makes the statement that
we’re the 3 zero babies, we make the world crazy’.
Take it back to the 90’s‘ she implores.
You wonder if it’s a plea for a simpler lifestyle, nonetheless I’m struck by what appears to be
a nostalgic view of the world by someone so young.
Then again, it’s probably more of a reflection on the mess the ‘boomers’ in the room have created throughout her lifetime.
My scribbled notes on the day concluded ‘A mix of blues, jazz with a hint of rap – sparse use
of guitar – it’s the voice, vocal style and the lyrics that really engage; hard to define
That about sums Faye Fantarrow up for me, one thing’s for sure I really like what she’s doing.

Review by William Graham.
#Photo courtesy Iam Burn


Rod Picott GIG REVIEW Greystones, Sheffield

Rod Picott
The Greystones

30th June 2022

Times are hard for the travelling musician and it was a sign of the respect that Rod Picott has garnered over several trips to this side of the pond, that the back room in Sheffield’s Greystones pub was comfortably filled with an appreciative crowd.

Promoter Craig Allen of Wagonwheel Presents must have been searching through his contacts book for a double-header of artists with back pain – Rod has suffered in the past and support Paul Handysides apologised for a lack of mobility down to sciatica – it didn’t affect his performance however, as, aided by Rob Tickell on open tuned lap guitar and a lovely Bigsby-accessorised Telecaster, he delivered a mature set of Country-laced songs mainly plucked his new album “Loveless Town”.

There was a brief hiatus to fix a lead/DI box/microphone connection issue and then Picott kicked off with a fiery take on “Welding Burns” and “Rust Belt Fields” with its
nobody remembers your name just for working hard” mantra
– the two songs divided with a tongue in cheek rant about the lack of an East-West motorway in England.

The set was largely constructed around songs from the latest album – “Paper Hearts & Broken Arrows” and song introductions fleshed out the stories behind the songs – personal highlights included “Washington County;” which still gets me riled up with its
once a month – we hit the foodbank” line,
a fierce take on “Revenuer” and the insistent “Dirty T-shirt”.
There was good discussion about boxing match fixing before “Sonny Liston” (the audience seemed to agree with Rod’s theory that he threw the fights against Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali) before the achingly beautiful “Lover”, followed by ”Trouble Girl” and a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire;” forming a well-sequenced trilogy of the multi-faceted pain of loneliness and relationships – or the lack thereof.

There was time for a shout request for “Broke Down”, a genuine confession that the warmth of the audience had made it feel like playing for friends, before a closing “Your Father’s Tattoo” and an encore of another Springsteen song – “Badlands”.

An hour and a half in Rod Picott’s company flew past and if it hadn’t been for the venue curfew, everyone would have stayed for more.
In times like these, of austerity and medical uncertainty it’s tough for musicians and promoters to put bums on seats, but when the quality of the performance (Rod’s in the best vocal form of his life) and the material (he’s just released one of his best albums IMO) are this high, you’d be missing out big style if you don’t catch a performance. If you read this before Rod’s on the flight back home, do your best to get out and see him – you won’t be disappointed.

Review by Nick Barber
Gig Photos – https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzWv3L


Black Deer Festival 2022

Black Deer Festival 2022
Eridge Park,
Royal Tunbridge Wells

A successful return for the UK’s biggest Americana focused festival

Initial disclaimer – I’ve never been a big fan of outdoor festivals ever since the time my tent flooded at Reading Festival in the late 80s, but this time I’d got a lovely AirBnB to retire to of an evening, so I thought I’d give Black Deer a go – its lineup of largely Roots and Americana acts, with a sprinkle of more populist acts like James and Imelda May promised a fine weekend’s entertainment.

Friday, the first day, somewhat overdid things on the weather front – temperatures in the mid-thirties Centigrade meant that acts in shadier environments became more appealing – on that score, I caught the songwriters’ circle in the Ridge tent at the start of the day, where Irish Mythen set a personal benchmark with an effervescent and lively performance: Emily Barker and Caroline Spence contributed acute observational songwriting on ecology and relationships before Imelda May, delayed in traffic and rounded things off with a poem about the female orgasm!

Caroline Spence made a solo appearance with CJ Hillman, immediately afterwards and her summery voice and acoustic arrangements won over many. The Felice Brothers, over on the main stage produced a fiery, rebel rousing set before the polish of Imelda May – after that I decamped to the Ridge tent for reasons of self-preservation and musical choice to see well-received sets from Israel Nash and Shovels & Rope, whose boisterous performances fired up the crowds. Highlight of the day for me though was the “Ozark Holler Hootenanny” over in the smaller Haley’s Bar – a collection of artists based around the trio of Dylan Earl, Jude Brothers and Will Carlisle with a guest appearance from Lady Nade, who delivered a hugely entertaining collection of songs from Arkansas.
A fine end to day one.

Day two and while less sunny, was incredibly humid.
Early performances by Lady Nade in Haley’s bar and slide-blues maestro Jack Broadbent did nothing to lower the temperatures and provided fine evidence of the breadth of UK roots talent. The much anticipated (not least by me) appearance of Courtney Marie Andrews on the main stage was a brave set, with four as of yet officially unreleased songs taking their place amongst CMA’s strong back catalogue. Wilco’s only UK appearance on their current tour followed immediately after and a festival pleasing set including personal faves like “Impossible Germany” went down well – and Courtney Marie Andrews and band were invited back on to join on the band’s performance of “California Stars”.
Things started to take a turn towards the apocalyptic near the end of an energetic set from the Waterboys when the decision was taken by the organisers to evacuate the arena due to rapidly approaching electrical storms – and a correct decision it was too, as the festival site was battered by one of the worst storms I’d seen outside of travels in the US and mainland Europe. It took over an hour to get off the car park but at least in our case there was dry accommodation at the end of our escape.

Incredibly, Sunday saw the site looking as though nothing had happened – a combination of fortunate geology and hard work meant that, other than a last minute pull-out by The War & Treaty, things were unaffected.
Irish Mythen continued her plan for world domination to a supportive crowd on the main stage, whereas Hiss Golden Messenger drew a rapidly growing audience in the Ridge tent – as did John Smith, in trio format with the core of Lauren Housley’s band. At the end of the day, the Americana punter was faced with a stark choice – the Dead South on the main stage or the Drive-By Truckers in the Ridge Tent – this reviewer stuck with the guitar assault of the DBTs and enjoyed it greatly, right up to the emotional denouement by Patterson Hood, dedicating the final song of their set to his terminally ill father-in-law who he would be rushing home to see post gig (and tour).

All in all, this was an entertaining and enjoyable weekend. Audience numbers were good enough to pack the different stages, but not too full to make movement around the site difficult and there was a pleasingly varied mix of people in attendance.
Black Deer isn’t perfect by any means – there were logistical issues for audience, performers and press that could be tightened up – but such is the friendliness of the whole affair, that you’ll struggle to find anything else that succeeds in bringing Roots and Americana to a mass audience in such a successful way. Other festivals with a similar musical focus are often preaching to the musically converted – Black Deer is bringing new and younger ears to the herd.

Review by Nick Barber

#Photo – Mike Scott of the Waterboys.
More photos from Nick here: