Rev. Freakchild ROAD DOG DHARMA Treated and Released Records
A Totally Bonkers Mix of Outtakes, Radio Interviews and Amazing Cover Versions.
It’s fair to say Reverend Freakchild is ‘left of centre’ with his music; which sort of straddles the Blues, Rock and possibly even the Folk fences with a Zappa like arrogance; and so much so that even I’ve struggled to get my head around his work. So much so; that when I reviewed his Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues album for No Depression I received copious hate mail from his fans! Which brings me to his latest release, a left of Left of Centre mixture of outtakes and live tracks interspersed with snippets of radio interviews from across the US of A. I rather like the way the album starts with someone dialling in the radio station followed by a fragment of The Reverend singing before the dial gets switched again! This is followed by someone called Cornel on WNCD out of Youngstown Ohio;who has a voice so deep, it sounds like a stereotype DJ that turned up on Happy Days or the American Pie albums; interviewing our man. While all of these interviews are at the least, ‘interesting’; I just love the way The Reverend tends to ignore the inane questioning and, like a politician just goes off on his own merry way to get his message across at 100 mph, whether that be an album or local live date. While I’m on the subject; who knew that there really are American DJ’s called Wildman, The Bluesman and even Big D? The first song on the album; Roadtrance starts like any other, then ……. well, it sparks off into half a dozen different directions all at once but based around a psychedelia-Folk riff and wanders off for over 7 minutes. Then, not long afterwards he delivers pretty straight version of JJ Cale’s Call Me The Breeze which made my reconsider my previous thoughts on his oeuvre. Freakchild shows what great taste he has by his choice of covers that are included and when he turns ZZ Top’s Jesus Just Left Chicago into a slow and moody Field Blues, or the straighter than straight, back to raw basics version of Rollin’ and Tumblin’ he more than makes up for the wacky interview tracks that are on offer here too. Obviously not the easiest compilation to select a Favourite Track from; but it’s always going to be a pleasure hearing someone cover Townes’ White Freightliner Blues but to merge it with a folk version of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows; just might be the mark of a Genius (as his fans referred to him in the green ink mail); and Hippie Bluesman Blues (Alt. Country remix) is another contender; but I’m going to throw caution to the wind and select the Rocktastic All Across America as the RMHQ Favourite Song here as it’s a bit of a keeper; and shows what this Cat can do when he really puts his mind to it. Regardless of whether I ever play this album or not ever again; I love being part of a World where The Reverend Freakchild not only exists but is adored by countless fans all over the world; and that’s exactly the world I want to live in.
A Charmingly Simple Production Masks Some Deeply Personal and Intricate Songs.
I can’t believe that it’s been five full years since Catherine MacLellan released RAVEN …… but it is. Where does the time go? Unlike Coldplay and the likes, Cat hasn’t been sitting on a beach contemplating her navel while sipping Champagne Cocktails in-between releases; nope she’s been as busy as ever celebrating the life and work of her father Gene MacLellan in song and on stage. Who he? Only the man who wrote the legendary Snowbird; among many other slightly less celebrated but still amazing songs. But that ‘break’ and presumably re-discovering her father’s masterworks, has given Ms MacLellan a fresh outlook on her own writing; or that’s how it seems to me on the mysterious COYOTE that opens the album. While a ‘simple’ love lorn Folk song at first hearing; the singer uses the marvelous imagery of the howling coyotes in the hills around her home, for the spirit of love that is missing from her relationship. “Coyote running through the fields Followed by the moon Wild thing you don’t bend or yield It’s me who gives in too soon” There’s a charming simplicity to all 14 of the songs here; but don’t fall into the trap that any of the songs are ‘simple’; Catherine has the ability to create beautiful, yet melancholic stories that paint vivid pictures in your head. Night Crossing; about her travelling on the night ferry from England to Holland is an odd subject; but add a Celtic fiddle and you feel your are standing in her place; and the loneliness she describes in Breath of Wind is heartbreakingly beautiful, in a way that I could never find the words to describe. That’s the thing with songwriters like Catherine; they have the ability to find light when the rest of us only shade; which is a true gift. Sweet By and By and Too Many Hearts are two perfect examples of the Songwriters Craft being used in a way mere mortals can never express. The first is a wonderful story of Cat meeting up with an old friend at a bar she was singing in and the cat n mouse interplay that followed; whereas the latter is a dark slice of Alt. Folk describing the confusion we all feel when a relationship ends. “Too many hearts are broken over fear Too many hearts are broken here my dear So let’s not break these hearts of ours Send them up to the moon and stars.” Like most of her contempories Cat appears to have given up trying to write a commercial song that will become a radio hit (or should that be Spotify?); she writes from the heart; and whatever will be, will be; try listening to the engaging Come Back In or Roll With The Wind to hear a Master Craftswoman at work …… which also brings me to my Favourite track; Emmet’s Song. Even without the aid of a crib sheet, you know this is a deeply personal song about a real person; and so it is. ‘Emmet’ is Cat’s ‘troubled’ teenage nephew who came to live with her. This could have been about me during my own teenage years; or at least two nephews and a niece of my own ….. and I’m sure you will find someone close to you who has lived through the same experiences and, mercifully come out the other side without the aid of an Aunt like Catherine MacLellan. 10/10 all around. I’ve been playing this album amid the hub-bub of the early Holiday season alongside the most spiteful General Election I’ve ever known; and it’s been a perfect antidote to the utter madness that is currently surrounding me. There are as many fragile songs here as there are optimistic and even empowering songs; such is Catherine McClellan’s wonderful way with storytelling; that she can make them flow like life itself.
Jack Bruce & Friends The Bottom Line Archive Store For Music
A Fitting Epitaph For a Legendary Singer, Songwriter and Bass Player.
As a spotty teenager in the early 1970’s many of my musical discoveries came via my elder brothers record collections, and there collections were as varied then as mine is now……… coincidence? This was how I first fell in love with The Cream; albeit after they had already split up; and then Jack Bruce’s seminal solo albums HARMONY ROW and SONGS FROM A TAILOR, although I didn’t understand how he could be the bassist in Rock Band and also a Folk Singer (it still baffles me today); but both of these albums became ‘gateways’ into a whole new field that I may never have experienced at such a tender age. Always a Maverick, Jack Bruce’s career has spanned both Rock and Folk; but also Jazz (of both the Rock and Fusion varieties); and to some extent all of that finds it’s way into the songs on this amazing double album. Recorded during the final set of of a two shows a night, four night residency at the legendary Bottom Line in NYC on March 19th 1980 this is a veritable Supergroup of it’s time with Billy Cobham on drums, David Sancious on keyboards and guitar, Clem Clempson on lead guitar and of course Jack Bruce on bass. There’s a noisy reception from the crowd as the instantly recognisable intro to White Room fills the room; and the ensemble give them exactly what they want, with Jack sounding exactly like he does on the original recordings; but Clempson’s liquid guitar playing somehow sounds more intricate than Eric’s ….. not ‘better’, but certainly ‘different’….. in a good way. My memory’s not as sharp as it used to be, so I can’t tell you what songs come from which albums; but that matters not a jot once you immerse yourself in the magic that this quartet produce. Obviously to my generation the inclusion of Born Under a Bad Sign, Politician and the finale Sunshine Of Your Love are every bit as amazing as you’d hope in these hands; but it’s the other songs here that have not just stunned me; but impressed me beyond belief; mostly because this end of the Jazz/Rock spectrum hasn’t aged terrible well in other hands …… now has it? For the first time in a lot of years, the length of and ‘self indulgence’ in a few of these tracks wasn’t even noticeable the first twice I played this double album; even the intense 19 minutes and 5 seconds of Bird Alone seems almost ‘the right length’ for everything that is included therein, especially David Sancious’ spectacular piano playing ….. which surprised even me! With so many years now behind us, it’s been an absolute joy to re-discover Theme For an Imaginary Western and Running Out of The Storm again; albeit with completely different and exciting arrangements; but this has also been a way to appreciate Jack Bruce’s bass playing; which even though he was probably the greatest ever Master of that instrument is probably underappreciated. Post War and The Loner both had me sitting transfixed listening so intently to all of the bizarre constituent parts coming together in a way my brain finds it difficult to conceive; but my heart knows that this is something very, very special indeed. Speaking again of ‘self-indulgence’ the inclusion of drummer, Billy Cobham’s track Quadrant 4 didn’t make sense at first; but remember this was the band’s 8th performance in 4 days; and then this fire and brimstone Jazz-Rock fusion piece suddenly makes sense; and had I been in the room that night I’m not sure that my head wouldn’t have exploded or even imploded as each band member sounds like their life depends on keeping time with each other as the track roars to a crescendo of an ending. If you’d asked me before hearing this album what my Favourite Track would be, I’d have probably said one of the Cream songs or probably Theme From an Imaginary Western; but there’s a song here I can’t remember hearing before and has absolutely blown me away. Jet Set Jewel is intricate, complex and just beautiful in the way Bruce delivers a bass guitar performance par excellence alongside Sancious’ amazing keyboard playing and Clem Clempson’s molten guitar in the background and you can set your watch by Billy Cobham’s meticulous drumming as Jack Bruce sings his little heart out. 10/10 all around. While the other band members here are all as exemplary as you’d expect ……. this is after all a Jack Bruce album and a fabulous reminder and a very fitting epitaph for one of my Favourite ever musicians.
Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson ‘The Bottom Line Archive Series: In Their Own Words: With Vin Scelsa’ The Bottom Line
Warts n All Interview and Performances from 1994.
When I first heard about a Lou Reed-Kris Kristofferson release I was half expecting some bizarre unearthed collaboration recorded in some back-alley New York recording studio. Alas – but perhaps fortunately, going on Mr Reed’s past patchy record of collaborative work, that is not the case here – it’s a radio show recorded at the Bottom Line in NY with both Lou and Kris chatting with Vin Scelsa, who of course doesn’t skirt around the awkward questions. In doing so, he gets some lovely dry humour from both the interviewees, but most hilariously from Lou Reed who could have easily had an alternative career as a straight man in stand-up comedy. Musically, this is recorded warts and all in the interview situation. Neither performer is renowned for the mellifluous beauty of their voices but here they’re both in tune and in good spirits, resulting in several spirited performances. It’s lovely to hear the obvious respect they have for each other too – Kristofferson enthusing about “Strawman” and Reed jokingly admonishing Kristofferson for his harmonica playing. Musically there’s a lot in common too, both in the narrative delivery of both artists and simple arrangements that frame the songs. To these ears, the most fascinating performances are at the end – Kristofferson’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” which suits his voice and delivery perfectly and Reed’s take on “Tracks of my Tears” which is pretty much exactly as you’d expect it to sound if someone asked you to do an impression of Lou Reed doing Motown – glorious! All in all, this release is one for the completists – it’s the kind of recording that has probably been circulating in bootleg circles for years, but its sonic quality and historical interest means that the committed musical fan should at least give it one listen, even though all but the most hardcore fans might not return to it too often.
Ruth Patterson (Holy Moly & the Crackers I’D GIVE IT ALL Pink Lane Records
The very first time I saw Holy Moly and The Crackers everything revolved around frontman and singer Conrad Bird as a) he is a live wire and b) has one helluva voice; but there was also ‘something’ about the pretty lass with the violin next to him, who supplied harmonies and also the odd verse here or there. Now; as the years have subsequently gone by the world (and Conrad) has finally caught up with my foresight; and Ruth Patterson, for it was she, is now, more or less the Front Person and Conrad has taken a tiny step backwards; to let her revel in the spotlight, as he pulls the strings like a benevolent puppet-master. The band’s latest album, Take A Bite predominantly revolves around Ruth’s dynamic and IMHO ‘amazing voice’ and the band’s overall sound is all the better for it (sorry Conrad; but you know I’m right #wink) Which finally brings us to this beautiful new single from Ruth herself, albeit with the band in tow; and I can only imagine it’s under her moniker as it is so very different from anything the band do as a unit it may confuse the average fan. In some ways, nay ….. most every way, this song is the most ‘Grown Up’ song I’ve heard from the combo. I love their whizz bang live shows, and the album certainly has ‘staying power’; but this song is in a whole new stratosphere. Sultry and almost Divaesque, Ruth digs deep into her Soul on a heart crushing love song that is seeped in so much windswept strings and piano you will pull up your collar to protect yourself from the Cool Chills it produces. Not only is this a stunning song that really emphasise what a stunning voice and range this young lady has; but the accompanying video is well worth 4 minutes (or more!) of your time too. For the uninitiated, there are hints of a mellow Dusty here as well as Carmel McCourt (for the cool and hip readers) and even that Nick Cave/Kylie Murder Ballad …… but first and foremost, this is Ruth Patterson from Holy Moly and the Crackers …… don’t you forget it!
Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles GUARDIANS OF OUR TIME Self-Release
Enlightened, Articulate and Often Challenging Folk Songs From the Heart.
Edd got in touch regarding this album a few weeks ago following our review of Danny Schmidt’s recent release, which he had bought on the strength of our words. So courteously I listened to the attached couple of tracks and ten minutes later sent an e-mail saying ‘I couldn’t wait to here the full album.’ Opening track When The Day Begins starts with the tweeting of the bird on the cover art, then neatly dissolves into a beautifully layered song that somehow sounds a bit like Nick Drake singing a Lloyd Cole song. Without being in the least bit pretentious, it’s very eloquent and articulate; in the way Lloyd Cole is on his records (which we still love at RMHQ). I don’t know either of Edd’s previous albums, but he tells me that this is a more DIY effort in his home, using the barest of technology. If that is true, he has a career as a Producer/Engineer in the offing if the songwriting thing doesn’t work out. His songs and stories are quite clever, bordering on the intellectual; which is a rarity these days; but they still manage to be accessible for plebs like me. I suppose that this album will more than likely fall into the Folk Category, as that’s the golden thread that weaves Meetings Adjourned, Whatever It Is and of course Folk Man Blues together, but in 2019 that moniker is something of a misnomer as Donovan dips into many different musical pots to paint his pictures with words. Hearing Bowerbird or Eva and Seen By The Road evoked memories of hearing Seth Lakeman or John Martyn for the very first time; such is the way Donovan makes a complex story and chord progression sound very easy on the ear, while still bamboozling the brain. Finally reading the accompanying Press Release this morning; without actually ‘giving the game away’ the two songs that I liked the best suddenly unravelled like a Dead Sea scroll. Edd Donovan continues working as a Mental Health Social Worker to supplement his burgeoning music career; he is also a ‘Political Activist’ which he very subtly slides into his songs; hence the magnificent title track Guardians Of Our Time now makes complete sense; with his subtle prose cleverly turning this humble and melodic song into an Anthem of Our Times; which brings me to my Favourite Song here JC, which is evidently not about the Son of God, nor a friend or relation of that name. No; it may or may not be about the Leader of the Left and Champion of the Poor; Mr Jeremy Corbyn …… not that he’s mentioned by name; but nudge, nudge, wink, wink ….. I’m pretty sure it is; and if it is my world is a whole lot better because this song exists. As well as doing almost everything himself, Edd has enlisted the beautiful voice of Emma Parker to harmonise with on several songs ; and while some of the instruments aren’t always instantly recognisable; but Chris Cundy (Timbre Timber/Cold Specks) provides Bass Clarinet (?); but that matters not a jot; as this is all about the songs themselves and Edd Donovan’s overall sound.; and it’s a fascinatingly beautiful sound at the end of the day.
Scott H. Biram Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram Bloodshot Records
A Hellfire and Brimstone Gospelish Compilation For Rock and Roll Sinners Everywhere!
I’ve only ever seen Scott H Biram play live once and it was so intense it was very nearly an epiphany for me. That night I doubt there were more than 30 in the Hall; but every single one of us stood enthralled and spell bound for nigh on two hours transfixed at the performance that we witnessed. That said, even though I’ve loved his last two albums I find them difficult to listen to as ‘entertainment’ ….. and that’s true of this amazing compendium of his ‘Religious’ songs too, but in the name of research I’ve persevered….. just for you. A crackling old radio starts track #1 Get Me Religion (Preachin’ the Blues) and when Biram and his guitar come into play you know you are in the presence of someone very special indeed. For an acoustic guitar Scott H Biram makes it sound louder and meaner than Tony Iommi ever managed in Black Sabbath! And, the song itself really does open the floodgates for what is to follow as Biram re-invents himself as travelling preacher from the 1920’s transported forward 100 years to deliver his Message to unbelievers and sinners like you and I. There’s a timeless quality to this collection, which crosses his 20 year recorded career and is aimed squarely at the members of “The First Church of The Ultimate Fanaticism”. Several years ago, when I had a radio show I actually received a letter of complaint after playing Biram’s John The Revelator; and I’m still staggered as to what any God Fearing person was doing listening to my show anyway; but if I had my time again I would play this power-hymn a second time just to really scare the bejaysus out of my angry listener! Now I think about it; it may have been Biram’s ‘crackling radio intros’ to songs like True Religion and Been Down Too Long that inspired me to do the same on other songs on that show; not that these two actually need any frivolities to catch your attention as Biram’s robust delivery and fascinating lyrics are more than enough in themselves to please the average fan. The nearest to a ‘commercial song’ here is probably Gotta Get to Heaven and the Bluegrass tinged Broadminded; although the lyrics are still so sharp and edgy enough to keep it off national radio …… more’s the pity. Choosing a Favourite Song here is always going to be based on my mood at a particular time; as two nights ago I was driving home in a storm when I See The Light/What’s His Name came on my i-phone and I automatically cranked the car stereo up to 11 and I felt like a character in Grapes of Wrath driving to the promised land. Then, of course there’s Biram’s definitive version of Amazing Grace sung in what sounds like pouring rain, which closes the album; and being the contrary curmudgeon I am, I could be tempted to put this on my ‘funeral list’ …… or perhaps not. But this morning, God Don’t Work (Like a Natural Man) sounds like the pivot that everything else sparks off; with Biram using his trademarked foot-stomps, assorted clicks, growls, screeches and a wheezy harmonica to fight the demons away and boy does the passion come out of the speakers in a way normally unknown in the world of Rock & Roll; so this wins the accolade. As a concept this compilation works a treat; although I doubt it will make its way into many Christmas stockings but fully paid up members of Scott H Biram’s “The First Church of The Ultimate Fanaticism” will scoop it up like manner from Heaven.
Rod Stewart (& The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) YOU’RE IN MY HEART Rhino Records
The Hits and More Re-Made and Re-Modelled.
Does the world need another Rod Stewart Best Of? As an owner of five compilations, probably not; is the answer; but when I heard he’d ‘re-recorded’ his Hits with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra I was intrigued; and thought …. “Why not?” The Deluxe double-album duly arrived on Monday, and I uploaded it to my i-phone, leaving the actual CD’s for Mrs. Magpie who, the next day was having a lazy day just doing housework, ironing and making my dinner; so she would have plenty of time to listen too. (Thankfully she doesn’t read my reviews!) That night we discussed what we’d heard over our meal; and the end result was bizarre as I couldn’t tell a note of difference between these songs and the originals, yet she went into great detail about swooping string sections and brand new arrangements ….. some she liked, some she didn’t. Well …… who knew that his new retrospective had the same title as a 5 year old Best Of on my i-phone! Feeling a bit of a fool …… back to tracks #1 & 2, Maggie May and Reason to Believe*. These Mrs Magpie vehemently didn’t and doesn’t like. Me? The originals played a pivotal role in my musical education and I respect Sir Rodney for doing them in this fascinating format; but nothing will ever beat these two songs on Every Picture Tells a Story. Now; things take a different course with the next song; Handbags and Gladrags ………. the Unplugged version; the Orchestra really do come into their own here sprinkling magic dust all over a once beautiful and fragile Folk song; now giving it a complete and contemporary overhaul. While the advertising and Press allude to these songs all being with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; they aren’t not even everything on the single CD; but just about everything is an ‘Alternate’ and distinctively different version from Rod’s original recordings; which has been a bit confusing for me ……. but here goes – Here, Tonight’s The Night and I Don’t Want to Talk About It become luscious cinematic treat, without ever losing any of their original sparkle; and you half expect Fred and Ginger to be dancing on top of the speakers (or at least a hologram?). Now I’m listening to the correct album, it’s been a joy re-discovering You’re In My Heart which really does benefit from the gentle guitar and violins, which slowly build as the pathos in the song gets deeper and deeper. Plus, the edition of songs from the much maligned ‘Disco Years’ really do come to life and show what a great singer Rod Stewart always has been; Forever Young and Rhythm of My Heart instantly spring to mind; although I love Young Turks, it still has that synth-beat at heart, it could certainly have done with a full on stripping back and re-bore. While it paid for at least one of his mansions; I could have lived without Sailing being here; and the new song Stop Loving Her Today is fine and dandy, and had it been on one of his more recent albums would have been a stand-out track; but in this company pales by comparison. The other new track and the one getting most publicity is the duet with Robbie Williams, It Takes Two which again is fine; but the original with Tina Turner was Rockin’ Rod at his best. Another Classic that in my humble opinion shouldn’t have been tampered with is Stay With Me; a song that spawned 100 Pub Rock bands; and in this instance just sounds like the orchestra has been cut n’ pasted over the top of this iconic Classic. 2/10 But back to the good stuff ……. As a devotee for half a century choosing a Favourite Track has been difficult beyond belief; as I know everything here (bar the 2 new songs) inside out; but in 2019 who among us thought that The Killing of Georgie would still be as beautiful and brave as it ever was; making it an obvious contender, as are the cinematic execution Tom Waits songs Downtown Train and on Tom Traubert’s Blues, I felt my eyes well up just as I did when I first heard this song on the almost forgotten but underrated Lead Vocalist album. So; with those out of the running is it going to be ‘our song’ Have I Told You Lately or You’re In My Heart? Mrs. Magpie has selected the former and I the latter as both actually sound even better than the originals and should be released as a Double A-Side for Valentine’s Day 2020! Obviously and by default I will always go back to the albums these songs came from; as each and everyone holds a special place in my heart; but I won’t be surprised if this album comes out of the wrapper on Christmas Day afternoon while I’m washing the dishes.
Kim Richey Jumpin’ Hot Club Live Theatre Newcastle November 16th 2019
Despite what I often imply, Mrs. Magpie and I agree on a lot more music than we actually disagree on; and top of that list is Ms Kim Richey; so tonight was a highly anticipated gig in our household. With hindsight, opening act Jimmi Mack was an odd choice, simply because he is a bonafide Olde Schoole Folke Singer. Nothing wrong with that in the right setting of course; but tonight his deeply intense and often personal songs jarred with what the audience had come to hear from the headline act. On another night, and in another setting Mack’s delicate and fascinating guitar playing on the ‘Allen Ginsberg inspired’ instrumental and his songs Wander and Soon would have been spellbinding; instead of the polite applause afforded them by the Sold Out crowd. After a 15 minute break Kim Richey was guided through the packed room with guitar in one hand and a Star Wars coffee mug in the other. With no disrespect intended to Jimmi Mack, the evening took an immediate upwards turn right from the opening bars of Every River, which was greeted with a roar of approval and loud applause as the final guitar flourish left the speakers. With a back catalogue dating back to 1995 Kim regaled us with a veritable Best Of for the next 90 minutes, and being a natural raconteur interspersed them with the most charming of stories. We are ‘late to the party’ so songs like Chinese Boxes and Thorn in My Heart were not just new delights but very, very special songs indeed. Early on the singer said she was happy to sing any requests we had; although ‘she couldn’t guarantee she could remember everything!’ The first was A Place Called Home, with its lovely rolling guitar parts and delicate phrasing; and now I’ve just ordered the album to hear it again. With Edgeland from 2018 being her most recent release and nothing new to promote, tonight was a refreshing change with the songwriter just singing songs that ‘just took her fancy’ as the night progressed. While apologising for constantly re-tuning her guitar Ms Richey reminded us that the beautiful, and in this setting ‘stark’ Pin a Rose was a co-write with Chuck Prophet! This was the first of three songs from that album; with her Goddaughter’s favourite Wild Horses sounding even more powerful without the ‘big backing’ of the recorded version and only her power-chords accompanying this outstanding song. The night flew by and Kim Richey had already been on stage for 90 minutes when I looked at my watch for the first (and only) time! The concert drew to a close with some more new songs to us; you could hear a pin drop during the heartbreaker The Absence of Your Company and the story behind the title of Angel’s Share added extra pathos to a song that was always destined to have us wiping tears from the eyes. One of the many reasons I love ‘live music’ is that I’m going to see and hear something that no one else will ever see or hear apart from the others in that very room; and tonight during the finale I’m Alright Kim fumbled on the guitar parts! Goodness knows how many times she’s played this song over the years, but fumble she most certainly did. Laughing off the faux pas, Kim then went ‘off mic’ for the obligatory, “I can’t believe it’s not an encore, encore” and tonight the choice was exemplary; Sunday Morning, Coming Down. I’ve heard many versions over the years; but in this intimate setting Kim Rung every ounce of emotion possible from Kristofferson’s modern day classic; and when the lights came up the audience; as one rose to their feet in noisy adulation and praise.
As regular readers will know, we receive releases from all over the Western World that come in all formats known to man (but I still ignore everything on Spotify btw!); so some things can fall by the wayside; until my trusted I-Phone ‘shuffle’ finds things for me. Singer-songwriter Josh Beddis sent this EP several weeks ago and has lain dormant on the computer ever since; then on Sunday we were on a road trip to Yorkshire when first song The Old House turned up on the car stereo; straight after a Slaid Cleaves song; and I made a mental note to follow it up. So; on Tuesday I set aside an hour to find out more. There isn’t much more, Josh hails from Wales and is married …… that’s about it! But what else do we need to know? His star sign and favourite colour? Methinks not. Never in a million years would I have thought The Old House was recorded by anyone other than a whiskery and windswept singer born and bred in the American Heartlands. Apparently not, as Josh Beddis is from Wales and has a delightfully warm and expressive voice, with the type of subtle rasp that makes him sound ‘world weary’ and perhaps ‘insightful’ at the same time; especially so on this song. It’s possible that the song is a metaphor for the socio-political world we find ourselves in; or more than likely it’s a tale of a decayed family house that holds memories that shape a man. You can decide. Beddis has a very imaginative way with his storytelling; choosing subjects that everyone can relate to; then wrapping them in gold to make them timeless Folk songs in the Americana tradition, none more so than City Lights, which is a story of a young man ‘jumping on board a South Bound train’ in his quest to find fame and fortune. Listening to the lilt in his voice you immediatly picture the train hurtling towards Austin or Memphis; whereas a Southbound train for Beddis would end up in Swansea; which isn’t quite as romantic; is it? Josh’s song though chugs along like the train itself and the imagery he conjures up makes even the likes of me think running away may be a good idea. The rather lovely If I’m Dreaming follows; with Beddis strumming some fascinating acoustic chords while a harmonica weeps and wails in the background. This is going to sound a bit brave; but there are more than a few hints of After the Goldrush era Neil here; and across the other songs on this fascinating EP too. The EP closes with Josh and Jodie Marie ( from blues duo Sister Bohdi ) singing the opening verse of Amazing Grace, then gliding into another romantic missive that only comes to life courtesy of his dramatic use of imagery and a distinctive voice. For my Favourite Song I’m throwing caution to the wind and choosing the folkiest song here; She Sleeps Among The Bluebells & Pines. Folk – yes. Country- probably? Romantic? Most definitely; so with albums like After The Goldrush and Sweet Baby James in mind, Beddis captures the spirit of Americana, rolls it around and adds some luscious harmonies to his razor-sharp observations and the result is a truly beautiful song. Sometimes three page Press Releases can cloud my judgement; so in this case knowing nothing about the singer meant I could judge the songs on their own merits and I think I’ve discovered a gem here.